ONE of the major shortcomings of Todorov’s book on the fantastic is its reluctance to engage with psychoanalytic theory and, related to this, a relative lack of attention to the broader ideological implications of fantastic literature. Ideology-roughly speaking, the imaginary ways in which men experience the real world, those ways in which men’s relation to the world is lived through various systems of meaning such as religion, family, law, moral codes, education, culture, etc.—is not something simply handed down from one conscious mind to another, but is profoundly unconscious. It seems to me that it is important, when dealing with a kind of literature which deals so repeatedly with unconscious material,
and the human subject, Todorov adamantly rejects psychoanalytic readings, insisting that ‘Psychosis and neurosis are not the explication of the themes of fantastic literature’ (p. 154). Yet his attention to themes of self and other, of ‘I’ and ‘not-I’, opens on to issues of interrelationship and of the determination of relations between human subjects by unconscious desire, issues which can only be understood by turning to psychoanalysis. As Bellemin-Noël points out in his article which provides a critique of Todorov’s position, it is a mistake to suppose that the only use of psychoanalysis would be to account for the content of fantasy. On the contrary, the problem is one of examining ‘how the formal aspects of the fantastic are themselves in liaison with the workings and/or the configurations of the unconscious discourse’ (Bellemin-Noël, p. 117).