S-Space Researcher Institutes (연구소) American Studies Institute (미국학연구소) 미국학 미국학 Volume 31 Number 1/2 (2008)
The Ethics of Melancholia in James Baldwin;s Essays
- Kim, Eui Young
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 미국학연구소
- 미국학, Vol.31 No.1, pp. 267-286
- This paper utilizes Sigmund Freud's theorization of the lacking subject to read James Baldwin's "Notes of a Native Son" and The Fire Next Time. In Freud's universalizing account, it is only the anatomical difference between the sexes that results in a lacking subject. Baldwin's account of the psychic dimension of racial subjection introduces race as a valid complication to Freud's theory, injecting the social back into psychoanalysis. Baldwin's texts, in tum, are illuminated by the psychoanalytic terms of melancholia and narcissism provided by Freud. "Notes of a Native Son" is a searing examination of Baldwin's problematic relationship to his father. His turning away from the black father results in the psychic economy of racial melancholia. At his father 's funeral, Baldwin retrieves the memory of proud identification between himself as a small boy and his father. This then becomes the beginning of a life-long task of redemptive symbolization that retroactively revises the father-son relationship. His efforts reach a momentary resolution in his famous The Fire Next Time where he proposes love as an active principle for antiracist struggle. Baldwin's psychic journey is a vivid testimony to the possibility of an ethics of melancholia, the possibility of rupturing the closed loop of narcissism. The closed loop of ego and ego-ideal being the basis of group psychology and large-scale violence, the political potential of melancholia has significance beyond the healing of the individual psyche.
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