Freud's Jaw and Other Lost ObjectsFractured Subjectivity in the Face of Cancer

Freud's Jaw and Other Lost ObjectsFractured Subjectivity in the Face of Cancer

Lana Lin

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780823277711

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

Freud’s Jaw and Other Lost Objects examines the vulnerabilities of the human body, in particular how cancer disrupts feelings of bodily integrity and agency. Employing psychoanalytic and literary analysis of atypical autopathographies, the book tracks three exemplary figures, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, poet Audre Lorde, and literary and queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Freud’s sixteen-year ordeal with a prosthetic jaw, the result of oral cancer, demonstrates the powers and failures of prosthetic objects in warding off physical and psychic fragmentation. Lorde’s life writing reveals how the loss of a breast to cancer is experienced as yet another attack directed toward her racially and sexually vilified body. Sedgwick’s memoir and breast cancer advice column negotiate her morbidity and mortality by disseminating a public discourse of love and pedagogy. Freud’s Jaw suggests that violences stemming from social, cultural, and biological environments condition the burden of surviving in proximity to one’s mortality. Drawing on psychoanalyst Melanie Klein’s concept of “reparation,” wherein constructive forces are harnessed to repair damage to internal psychic objects, Freud’s Jaw proposes that the prospect of imminent destruction paradoxically incites creativity. The afflicted are obliged to devise means to reinstate, at least temporarily, their destabilized physical and psychic unity through creative reparative projects such as love or writing. The book concludes with an analysis of reparative efforts at the rival Freud Museums. The disassembled Freudian archive, like the subjectivities-in-dissolution upon which the book focuses, shows how the labor of integration is tethered to persistent discontinuities.