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REDEMPTIVE CRITICISM: SIGMUND FREUD, · PDF fileREDEMPTIVE CRITICISM: SIGMUND FREUD, WALTER BENJAMIN, STANLEY CAVELL, AND DEMOCRATIC CULTURE By Lara K. Giordano

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  • REDEMPTIVE CRITICISM: SIGMUND FREUD, WALTER BENJAMIN, STANLEY

    CAVELL, AND DEMOCRATIC CULTURE

    By

    Lara K. Giordano

    Dissertation

    Submitted to the Faculty of the

    Graduate School of Vanderbilt University

    in partial fulfillment of the requirements

    for the degree of

    DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

    in

    Philosophy

    May, 2015

    Nashville, Tennessee

    Approved:

    Gregg M. Horowitz, Ph.D.

    Jos Medina, Ph.D.

    Lisa Guenther, Ph.D.

    Rebecca Comay, Ph.D.

  • ii

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    This work would not have been possible without the financial and academic support of

    the Vanderbilt Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities nor without the intellectual

    and moral support of Michael Alijewicz, Elizabeth Barnett, Cory Duclos, Cari Hovanec,

    Paddy McQueen, Rosie Seagraves, and Jen Vogt, the wonderful Fellows with whom I

    spent the 2012-2013 academic year. Many thanks to Dr. Lisa Guenther and Dr. Jos

    Medina, who served on my dissertation committee and from whose experience and

    research I have benefitted so much, as well as to my outside reader, Dr. Rebecca Comay.

    Im also grateful to my friends and colleagues for the patience and enthusiasm that they

    brought to the many hours of conversation through which I found my way through this

    project. Most importantly, I would like to acknowledge the depth of my gratitude to Dr.

    Gregg Horowitz, my dissertation chair. A more supportive, generous, and inspiring

    mentor is, to me, unimaginable.

  • iii

    LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

    Works by Benjamin

    AP Arcades Project

    OGT Origin of German Tragic Drama

    SW1 Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926

    SW2 Selected Writings, Volume 2: 1927-1930

    SW3 Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1931-1937

    SW4 Selected Writings, Volume 4: 1938-1940

    Works by Cavell

    CR Claim of Reason

    CT Contesting Tears: The Hollywood Melodrama of the Unknown Woman

    MWMW Must We Mean What We Say?

    PH Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage

    PP Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises

    QO In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism

    WV The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film

    Works by Freud

    CD Civilization and its Discontents

    FI Future of an Illusion

    GP Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego

    TT Totem and Taboo

    Other Works

    SC Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (Stanford: Stanford University

    Press, 1988)

  • iv

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Page

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...ii

    ABBREVIATIONSiii

    Chapters

    I. Introduction: Toward the Concept of a Redemptive Form of Critique.1

    II. The Myth of the Primal Horde and the Fate of Post-Revolutionary Politics: Freuds Critical Redemption of Anthropology....23

    Negotiating Patriarchy and the Authority of Patriarchal Myth:

    Pateman on the Primal Scene33

    The Conservative-Revolutionary Powers of Myth-Making:

    Hunts Family Romance54

    The Myth of the Primal Horde:

    Freuds Natural History of Secularism......72

    At the Limits of Psychoanalysis as Social-Political Theory:

    The Paradox of Cultural Psychoanalysis.....84

    III. Seeing Past the Freudian Prohibition on Cultural Psychoanalysis: Benjamins Weak Messianism & the Critical Redemption of History........96

    The State of Emergency...............................116

    Naturgeschichte and the Allegorical Intention....131

    Part I: Naturgeschichte in Marx, Lukcs, and Benjamin...134

    Part II: Benjamins critical method of allegoresis.146

    The Limits of Weak Messianism for the Purposes of Democratic

    Theory..160

    IV. The Dialectic of Privacy and Publicity in the Writing of Stanley Cavell & the Critical Redemption of the Movies172

    Skepticism, Anti-Skepticism, & the Dialectic of Privacy and Publicity

    Skepticism as fantastic discourse.....175

  • v

    Criteria and Convention or Cavells Natural History..193

    Secularity & Its Discontents..205

    The Power and Limits of Acknowledgment in Cavells Anarchic

    Cinema...........................................................................................................215

    Cavell and Benjamin on audience-formation... 226

    Photogenesis as allegoresis: the cinematic redemption of skepticism..231

    V. Conclusion: Redemptive Criticism and Democratic Institutions.......243

    REFERENCES..254

  • 1

    CHAPTER I

    INTRODUCTION: TOWARD THE CONCEPT OF A REDEMPTIVE FORM OF

    CRITIQUE

    To my knowledge, there is but a single text that brings together the names of

    Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, and Stanley Cavell. This essay, entitled Remains to

    be Seen, is written by Cavell himself and he undertakes, in its four pages, a curiously

    intense yet elliptical engagement with the Walter Benjamin of the Arcades Project on the

    occasion of that texts English translation and publication. In this piece, Cavell manages

    to surpass the indirection that characterizes even his most comprehensive pieces. His

    citational tendencieshis predilection for the epigrammaticemerge in full-force,

    perhaps in homage, perhaps simply aroused by this assignation with the Arcades, the

    ambition of which was to develop to the highest degree the art of citing without

    quotation marksits theory intimately related to that of montage.1 And it is in this

    mode of abridgement and referentiality that Cavell links his own particular activity of

    philosophizing to that of Freud and Benjamin. He writes:

    I should not forbear seeking, or questioning, another of my nows in the

    antitheological Freudwhen early in the Introductory Lectures, Freud confesses:

    The material for [the] observations [of psychoanalysis] is usually provided by the

    inconsiderable events which have been put aside by the other sciences as being

    too unimportantthe dregs of the world of phenomena. This picks up Benjamin.

    Method of this project:I shall purloin no valuablesBut the rags, the refuse

    these I willallow in the only way possible to come into their own: by making

    use of them. Freuds dregs and Benjamins refuse are each interpretable with

    Wittgensteins ordinary; the differences are where I come in.2

    1 AP, 458; N1, 10

    2 Remains to be Seen, 261-2

  • 2

    Where Freud, concerned with the suffering of private persons, made the abortive attempts

    of individual expression (obsessive behaviors, parapraxes, dreams, etc.) the fundamental

    stuff of psychoanalysis and Benjamin, for his part, found, in the detritus of capitalism, the

    essential material for his critique of culture, Cavells efforts have been largely devoted to

    the rescue of pieces of intellectual inheritance dismissed by American academe as being

    below the level of philosophic regard. As he comments of his work in Pitch of

    Philosophy, [The essay Must we Mean What We Say?] is explicitly a defense of the

    work of my teacher Austin against an attack that in effect dismissed that work as

    unscientific, denied it as a contender in the ranks of philosophy at all. (Since a response

    to some denial was part of my cue in taking up Thoreau and Emerson, even in thinking

    about Shakespeare and then about film, there is the sense of a pattern here, perhaps of

    further interest).3

    Such is the interest of the following pages, which seeks to bring into focus the

    pattern writ large in the work of Freud, Benjamin, and Cavell. While it was already some

    months into this project when I encountered Cavells telegraphic piece in which he forms,

    in and under the sign of redemption, an indefinite constellation between his work and that

    of Benjamin and Freud, the central preoccupation of my research was already,

    unbeknownst to me, dedicated to the decoding and concretization of this claim that

    remains, in Cavells essay, a mere suggestion, constrained to these eight lines of text.

    This dissertation offers a sustained investigation of the insight glimpsed in and by Cavell

    that, between his critical hermeneutics and that of Freud and Benjamin, there is an

    essential isomorphism and that, further, in his uptake of ordinary language philosophy,

    3 Ibid, 9

  • 3

    Cavell renders thematic the differences between his two predecessors, Freud the critic of

    private life and Benjamin the critic of the public.

    Freud, Benjamin, and Cavell are all, one could say, episodic or occasional

    thinkers in the sense that their work is always devoted to some particular object or text.

    This characteristic preoccupation with the particularwith that which defies easy

    subsumption under and by a ready concept and thus has the potential to contest our

    concepts as they standhas left Freud, Benjamin, and Cavell largely unclassifiable in

    terms of extant philosophical categories.4 While Freud is one of the seminal thinkers of

    the 20th

    century and the writings of Benjamin have, in recent years, earned him a small

    but fervent following, and Cavell, for his part, has had what is undeniably a successful

    career within academic philosophy, these three remain nonetheless without a proper

    philosophic home, unassimilated to any particular sch