chapter  13
17 Pages

Repudiating the feminine

WithMONIQUE SCHNEIDER

Exiled to the heights Is it better to look upwards or downwards? This is not just a question about the nature of the masculine, preoccupied by its search for the father, but one which, in a more radical sense, has a bearing on the nature of the human. In Civilization and Its Discontents, in a footnote, Freud establishes a link between the theme of the ‘civilizing process’ and that of the ‘raising up’ (Aufrichtung) which makes every human being an embodiment of Homo erectus. This suggests that the meaning of the human as such – whether male or female – is tied to this movement of ascent that is the defining characteristic of the civilizing process. Yet the jubilation that lies beneath this theoretical formulation nevertheless opens out onto an acknowledgement of loss – the loss involved in what Freud terms ‘organic repression’. Whereas in the Mosaic strand of Freud’s work, the civilizing cut is located in the Wendung (‘conversion’ or ‘transition’) by which the individual turns from the sensory to the spiritual, this footnote from Civilization places that cut elsewhere. Rather than being repudiated en bloc, the field of sensory experience is subjected to a process of internal reorganization which modifies its hierarchical structure. While remaining firmly within the domain of the senses, the individual nevertheless comes to abandon a sensory regime founded on smell in favour of another sensory mode, a transcendent dimension accessed by way of ‘visual excitations’.