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«Obscene Fantasies»

Elfriede Jelinek’s Generic Perversions

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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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Notes 101

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Notes Introduction 1 For the purposes of this book, I use the terms “Marxist feminism” and “socialist feminism” interchangeably, for as Rosemarie Tong points out, it is difficult to distinguish between Marxist and socialist feminism. Tong goes on to state that she has come to view the differences between them as “more a matter of emphasis than of substance” (94). For example, Marxist feminists often “identify classism rather than sexism as the ultimate cause of women’s oppression,” while socialist feminists “insist the fundamental cause of women’s oppression is neither ‘classism’ nor ‘sexism’ but an intricate interplay between capitalism and patriarchy” (Tong, 94). Both Marxist and socialist feminists, however, share the conviction that “women’s oppression is not the result of individuals’ intentional actions but is the product of the political, social, and economic structures within which individuals live” (Tong, 94). 2 For a definition of an “older, Modernist tradition,” see Callari and Ruccio, who explain: “As a modernist discourse, classical Marxism was characterized by two mutually supporting forces: the protocols of scientism and a nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century notion of progress…Marxism tended to deny the ‘constitutive’ (as opposed to a ‘supportive’) role it played in the shaping of history and to believe that it was merely ‘revealing’ a predetermined historical trajectory. Its belief in notions of progress…certified the inevitability of social change, and this, in turn, supported the notion that the laws of history could be discovered scientifically” (11). As I shall make clear in this book, Jelinek’s texts cannot...

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