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«Obscene Fantasies»

Elfriede Jelinek’s Generic Perversions


Brenda Bethman

This book examines Elfriede Jelinek’s investigation of Austria’s and Western Europe’s «obscene fantasies» through her «perversion» of generic forms in three of her best-known texts ( Die Liebhaberinnen, Lust, and Die Klavierspielerin). Each chapter investigates a central psychoanalytic concept (alienation, jouissance, perversion, and sublimation) and reads a Jelinek text in relation to the genre that it is perverting, exposing the «obscene fantasies» that lie at its heart. This book argues that the disruption of genres is one of Jelinek’s most significant literary contributions, with her works functioning to create a «negative aesthetics» as opposed to a positive reworking of generic forms.


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Chapter Three: Portrait of the Artist as a (Not-So) Young Pervert: Pianos, Perversion and Sublimation in Die Klavierspielerin 74


• C H A P T E R T H R E E • Portrait of the Artist as a (Not-So) Young Pervert: Pianos, Perversion and Sublimation in Die Klavierspielerin She knows about the form of the sonata and the structure of the fugue. That’s her job, she’s a teacher. And yet, her paws ardently grope toward ultimate obedience. —Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher (102) Sie hat Kenntnis von der Sonateform and dem Fugenbau. Sie ist Lehrerin in diesem Fach. Und doch: ihre Pfoten zucken dem letzten, endgültigen Gehorsam sehnsüchtig entgegen. —Elfriede Jelinek, Die Klavierspielerin (106) ie Klavierspielerin relates the story of Erika Kohut, piano teacher at the Vienna Conservatory, her development as a (perverse) sexual subject, and her ultimate failure to achieve a stable sexual position. In Lacanian terms, a sexual posi- tion as “male” or “female” is not related to biology or identification with the mother or father (as it was for Freud); rather, it is the “re- lationship with the phallus which determines sexual position” (Ev- ans, Dictionary, 178). Developing a stable sexual identity is difficult for both sexes, but especially so for women, since, as La- can notes, women face a “detour” (identification with the father) in their path through the Oedipal complex (see Evans, Dictionary, 179, and Lacan, S3, especially chapters XII and XIII on the hyster- ic’s question). D •PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST• 75 In other words, for Lacan, as for Jelinek, becoming a “woman” is no easy process. Indeed, Die Klavierspielerin (and the...

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