<<< Inhalte und Formen unterschiedlicher Epochen der künstlerischen Moderne vom 18. ins 21. Jahrhundert
The Mirror, the General Equivalent and the Missing Object of Desire. Narratives and Representation in Britain in Late Modernity
Ferenc Zsélyi (Szeged) [BIO]
British culture was transferring into a new paradigm between 1875 and 1945 in which basic units of social narratives – family, money and exchange value, hand-made and hand-processed goods, procreative desire, historical knowledge, progress, units of time – were either losing ground and significance or they were turned inside out. Visual and plastic arts, literature and, generally, "Modernist" narratives were rescheduled because they had been deprived of the 19th century logic of progressive causality which was supposed to be leading toward higher stages of economic, conscious, scientific, organic, social, cultural, and – most of all – technological evolution.
Modernism may be conceptualized as the period in which Modernity was getting fed up with itself – which, practically lead to the conscious questioning of the paradigms of Modernity – the ego (questioned by the self and the unconscious), beauty (questioned by the bittersweet stylistic discourses of art nouveau, decadence, symbolism, cubism), history and democracy (questioned
by the new science of myth and cultural anthropology), human dignity (challenged by theories of devolution and criminology), subjectivity and sexual identity (problematized by psychoanalysis), the family as the unit of bourgeois life (questioned by the new woman and by all the challenges already mentioned).
All the "economies" were in operation, during the period concerned, on account of the end-of-the-century novelties - and the havoc caused by them – arising. The forms of Modernity were undergoing a thorough self-reflection the result of which was the recognition of the basic narcissistic nature of Modernity. This also meant the dominance of semiotic formations in which things, organic reality (Lacan's Real), even the Judeo-Christian monotheistic God were replaced, displaced, substituted, sublimated, mirrored, serialized into words, signifiers, reflections or scientific paradigms. While this was happening these new symbolic formations started to simulate their "origins" and an absolutely and absurdly free play of the signifier started to dominate the stages of discursive economies.
Nothing new happened, very old – ancient – forms were recycled, late 19th century technologies were reflecting primal parts of the psyche, the nation, value exchange, manhood and femininity, society. The whole period was like a huge palimpsest, an archive of its own present and future which castrated not only the son of the Oedipal family but also the political son (the colonized nation), and the economic son (the share-holder), and the desiring son (the reader), and the creative son (the artist).
Transformation, mirroring, regress, compulsion to repeat, castration and hysteria – these were the new-old technologies that generated a culture that was based on kernel changes ("crossings") and overall serialization ("fugue").
My thesis is that cultures and economies have not been able to overcome this compulsive reflexivity ever since; which has, on the one hand, formed very successful political units (20th century Great Britain) and, at the same time, has made cultural subjects pay a huge price: forcing them to give up every way in which they may have constituted the identities of their own. Everyone is someone else. No one is himself. By the time Freud, Saussure and Joyce started to write the world had become a semiotic matrix.