November 7 Lecture: Subjectivity
- Language is the way we make the world ‘mean’ it’s how we make culture
- Who controls how we signify the world, how we make meaning?
- Who we think we are is conditioned by the people in charge (the 1%) is Marxist view
- Althusser suggests that there is no outside ideology. How can there be a world where we don’t
have consistent values? There is just a whole bunch of ideologies out there competing for us.
This is where hegemony comes in.
- “Ideology acts or functions in such a way that it recruits subject among the individuals (it
recruits them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and
which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police hailing: Hey,
1. A free subjectivity, a centre of initiatives, author of and responsible for its actions
2. A subjected being, who submits to a higher authority, and is therefore stripped of all freedom,
except that of freely accepting his submission.
- The idea that we aren’t in control, not in control of our fate. We submit to a higher authority,
like being a subject of the state, or being subject of an interrogation.
- There are two different inflections of subjectivity. When we are subjected, we are actually
stripped of freedom.
The Subject vs. the Individual
- Part of a collectivity
- divided psychic activity/incoherent
- not entirely knowable
- culturally determined and specific
- intellectual “free agent”
- How do we become who we are? How do we learn to think about ourselves in certain ways?
What is the role of media and culture in this process where we make ourselves?
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
- How does the human being develop a specific personality and a specific sexual identity within
society and culture? - Developed psychoanalysis in process of answering this question
- He invented the idea of the unconscious. Before him no one had thought about that before
- As members of society, we have to repress the pleasure principle in favour of the reality
- Freud and Marx were similar because they take the individual as a stable, coherent person,
who is the master of their own destiny; they take the human and take them out of the center of
- We think we’re masters of our own destiny, but we’re being driven by something else.
- The unconscious comes into being by the very fact of repression, as we become differentiated
subjects in the social world.
- The unconscious is constituted by a dynamic play of desires and impulses bubbling beneath the
surface of our controlled, ego driven consciousness.
- We are not born with an unconscious, it comes into being.
- As humans we want to gratify ourselves.
- We have to endorse the rules of our society, or we live in chaos. We have to repress our drive
for pleasure in order to get along.
- The unconscious comes into being the very moment we begin the process of repression.
Happens as we become subjects in the world, when you’re small children.
- The Oedipal Phase
- plenitude (don’t have self awareness)
- notices phallus, recognizes mothers lack
- wants to battle father for love of mother
- disavows love for mother aligns with father
- is properly socialized as a ‘male’ subject
- plenitude (don’t have self awareness)
- notices phallus, recognizes her own lack
- penis envy, repudiation of the mother, aligns with father (although connection with
mom is still strong)
- desire to father a male child
- is properly socialized as ‘female’ subject
- humans are constantly trying to regress back to the state of plenitude (eg. losing yourself in a
movie) because it’s lonely being a self.
- We become genderized subjects when we recognize difference (meaning comes through
difference; when we realize some people have penis’ and some don’t) At this moment, our
unconscious is born.
- marks emergence of unconscious
- the emergence of the unconscious marks our entry into culture and subjectivity
- but the subject that emerges is split ; between the conscious self and the unconscious repressed
desires that structure and produce it. (iceberg image)
- the personality you develop isn’t because you decide it. it’s because you’re being driven by
forces underneath the surface.
Fort/Da Game - A young child manages his anxiety about his mom’s absence or loss with a toy.
- Symbolic mastery of a real-life sense of loss
- The ability to symbolically represent relationships and concepts marks our entry into culture
- When we enter language we start managing symbols.
Implications for the study of media and culture
- We are the effects of psychical processes
- meanings is never manifested on the surface of things
- art, cultural production are ways to manage our anxieties, to channel or deal with the
forces of our unconscious minds
- what desires or anxieties are particular cultural forms expressing?
- French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst
- Influenced by de Saussure
- Subjectivity occurs when we learn to recognize social symbols through the rules of language.
When we learn to talk.
- Unconscious is not the site of repressed desires, but of repressed symbols and meanings
- Barthes, Levi-Strauss, Foucalt and Althusser attended his seminars.
The Mirror Phase
- Between 18 months and 3
- Child recognizes him or herself in the mirror as whole and coherent
- But this is actually a mis-recognition - we understand ourselves by means of a fiction
- This fiction marks the beginning of the ego ideal
- Realization “I’m a master of myself” The fiction is we think we’re better than we are when we
see ourselves in the mirror
- This specular image, this fiction, is the beginning of what Lacan calls the ego ideal. For the rest
of our lives we’re walking around with this idea of ourselves better than we actually are. We
negotiate with this ideal every time we look in the mirror.
- “The mirror stage is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated through insufficiency to
anticipation -- and which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial
identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body image to a
form of its totality” (83)
- Between “I” who is watching and the I in the mirror who is watched
- We are forever oriented toward a dependence on human images to figure out w