chapter  2
18 Pages

Keeping Our Selves in Suspense: The Imagined Gaze and Fictional Constructions of the Self in Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe

Thus, even as we live our life with an illusion of autonomy, we are in a constant state of suspense in case something in our myth of the self should be undermined or subverted by something unexpected that intrudes on our conscious life. The bad dream, or nightmare, which typically involves a feeling of intolerable suspense, is a reminder that more is going on in our conscious life than we can afford to understand. This is like the character in a suspense novel or film who misses clues because the truth they point to is at odds with what he or she regards as the truth about his or her self. But although the clue can be misread or ignored, it can not be vanquished, and its refusal to go away, even though it doesn’t make any sense to the character’s view of reality, serves to generate an atmosphere of suspense, often described as “nightmarish.” A Lacanian analysis of suspense suggests we willingly read a suspenseful book, or attend a suspenseful film, because we derive vicarious pleasure from watching a character stumble on, endure, and transcend a feeling of suspense already at the base of identity construction in the human subject.