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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, June 18, 2012


By "Sigmund summary" I'm referencing my FINDING SIGMUND essays, seen here, here, and here.  In this series I explored some possible modern applications of Kant's dichotomy of the "reproductive imagination" (whose "synthesis is entirely subject to empirical laws") and the "productive imagination," which follows "principles which reside higher up, namely, in reason (and which are just as natural to us as those which the understanding follows in apprehending empirical nature.)"  The essential point of the essay-series was to provide a theoretical structure which would enfold the relevant aspects of Freudian criticism without being absolutely determined by those aspects.

That said, Freud wasn't always the go-to guy even for those literary works dominated by the reproductive imagination. Steranko advanced a sketchy argument for an Adlerian reading of superheroes (quote here), and while I would still hold out for the superiority of Jung, certain superheroes and their kindred in other genres are sometimes better understood through theories framed via "empirical laws."

This quick summary is a prelude to a glance at one such "kindred" figure: the Phantom of the Opera, a "masked mystery man" of a villainous rather than heroic stripe (though Leroux also penned his share of unusual heroes).  I've just reread the novel for the first time in several years, and I'm impressed with the fact that while it contains all the makings for the Freudian "family romance"-- some of which have been exploited in film-adaptations-- Leroux plays down or elides those elements that might seem to suggest the family romance.

Were Freud made aware of such a counter-argument, he would almost certainly claim that the elision was merely a form of displacement: that the universality of the Oedipus complex made it inevitable that all men and women should have their romantic leanings determined by their parental units-- or, in a pinch, by sibling-figures who were merely dopplegangers for the parents.  With this logic Freud asserts that Hamlet's hatred for his uncle, the man who murdered the Prince's father, is actually hatred for the father.

In the FINDING SIGMUND essays I chose to focus upon two examples of the "productive" and "reproductive" forms of imagination, both of which were based on works that were written before Freud made his inroads into intellectual history.  For the "reproductive" type I chose Lawrence Olivier's very Freudian version of HAMLET, while for the "productive" type I chose Rouben Mamoulian's DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. 

However, in one respect PHANTOM OF THE OPERA might be an even better representative of the "reproductive imagination" than the Olivier HAMLET, since the former is, after all, an original work.  Perhaps in a future essay, for sake of symmetry, I'll address another original novel that captures the essence of the "productive imagination."

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