DIANA FUSS: IDENTIFICATION PAPERS

“If one has lost a love-object, the most obvious reaction is to identify one-self with it, to replace it from within, as it were, by identification.” Sigmund Frued, An Outline of Psycho-Analysis

“What one cannot keep outside, one always keeps an image of inside. Identification with the object of love is as silly as that.” Jaques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis

In Identification Papers, Diana Fuss embarks on a fascinating discussion regarding the psychological, cultural, and political dimensions of the process of identification. Fuss likens the “problem” of identification to a systematic “detour through the other that defines the self” essentially resulting in a perpetual paradox. The self becomes an eternal substitute for the other that can never be known. She expands and amplifies the slippery nature of identification as it has been named and constructed by western psychoanalysts such as Freud and Lacan. Skillfully employing theoretical discourse by great thinkers such as Judith Butler, Eve Sedgewick, D. A. Miller, Lee Edelman, and others, Fuss destabilizes the essential nature of identification, queering the process in a certain regard.

Fuss writes with purpose and with clarity. I appreciate the way she welcomes contradictions and folds arguments back into themselves. Her scholarship feels interesting and exciting to me in a way that is open and inquisitive. I admire the manner in which she teases out her critiques of theoretical discourse by paying as much careful attention to what isn’t said as to what is when a statement is made. She also seems to welcome opposing thoughts into existing theoretical frameworks. This invitation into variance seems to liberate both the writer and reader.

This book’s series of excellent essays are also quite useful on their own. Most interesting to me are Fuss’s discussion of orality and anality Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and the case of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. I also found her work in Sexual Contagions: Dorothy Strachey’s ‘Olivia’ to be particularly eloquent regarding the relationship between hysteria and the institution (hospital/school/etc).

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