Too long in the library #3


The Dream by Pablo Picasso

When people ask me what my PhD is about (almost a weekly occurence), my current answer is that it’s on Thomas Pynchon and [blank]. At the moment I’m trying some different words in this space- ‘visions’, ‘utopia’, occasionally ‘time’. The combination of these words led me to Frederic Jameson’s Archaelogies of the Future, a book about the constructions and uses to which utopias have been, and might be, put. Though I have a passing familiarity with Jameson’s work from his reviews in the LRB, this is the first time I have been exposed to a book-length display of his erudtion. He quotes this passage by Freud about creativity as a kind of wish fulfilment:

You will remember how I have said that the day-dreamer carefully conceals his phantasies from other people because he feels he has reasons for being ashamed of them. I should now add that even if he were to communicate them to us he could give us no pleasure by his discolsures. such phantasies, when we learn them, repel us or at least leave us cold… The essential ars poetica lies in the technique of overcoming the feeling of repulsion in us.

Jameson puts this is in simple terms I think we can all relate to.

Anyone who compares the fascination we often feel for our own dreams with the boredom that suddenly overcomes in listening to the account of another will know what Freud means.

Art, then, consists of disguising and softening the egotistic content of such day dreams or phantasies, by bribing the reader, viewer, or listener with aesthetic pleasure. In my opinion, there is nothing that needs more disguising than a dream itself. But in their efforts to make the dreams of others interesting, most writers or film makers usually end up with too simplified a product, whose symbolism is too overt. The demons our heroine is pursused by are those we have already seen.

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