chapter  8
16 Pages

Walking contradiction

Johnny Cash and the instability of the subject
ByKaryn Sproles

Johnny Cash is easily recognized as a symbol of loss, but the story he tells about himself challenges the stability of the cultural icon of the Man in Black to instead demonstrate the process of transformation. Cash as the Man in Black represents this empty ego as a walking suit of regret. Cash himself participated, accepted, and struggled with this constructed identity. Transformational narratives may use strategies like Cash's that surprise, unsettle, haunt, and put us on the spot. Even as Walk the Line strives to resist the one-dimensional icon of the Man in Black, he returns as another stable narrative figure. Reading produces a powerful transferential response, which has the potential to admit an intervention that will profoundly affect the reader even if the reader is not aware of this process. To engage in the question of how such a change might be produced, one must recognize the role of the unconscious in the reading process.