A Rose for Emily Psychoanalysis

Topics: Black people, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, William Faulkner, Patriarchy / Pages: 10 (2438 words) / Published: Jul 22nd, 2010
Psychoanalysis teaches that ignorance "is not a passive state of absence-a simple lack of information: it is an active dynamic of negation, an active refusal of information" (Felman 29-30).
The isolation of signifying elements is traditionally the province of formalist criticism, which specifies (after the New Criticism) that we note point of view or imagery or metaphor in our analysis. The interpretation of these elements, the making of meaning out of them, then depends on the context or method of interpretation we apply to them. Thus we can easily see why a signifying elementlike the figure of the father in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"-has so many different meanings. Do we interpret him historically as a metaphor of Southern manhood? Psychologically as the cause of Emily's neurosis? In a feminist context as a symbol of the patriarchal repression of freedom and desire? Do any of these meanings seem more comprehensive than the others in accounting for the other signifying elements of the text? What procedures would we follow in testing the significance of these interpretations, or in trying to tie them together?
The political version of Lacanian interpretation appears peculiarly well-suited to
Faulkner's texts, in that they so demonstrably involve the positional conflicts of masters and slaves, aristocrats and rednecks, patriarchs and daughters in anguished narratives that dramatize our historic choices of what and how to value.
Whereas a conventional psychological reading might emphasize Miss Emily's
"insanity" or "hysteria," a Lacanian one would focus upon her position in a community of structuring institutions. As Judith Fetterley has shown, "it is a story of a woman victimized and betrayed by the system of sexual politics" (351, or in Faulkner's own words the tale of a young girl "brow-beaten and kept down by her father, a selfish man who didn't want her to leave home because he wanted a housekeeper" (Gwynn and Blotner 185). Miss Emily's position is most

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