Plunging Jacqueline Rose’s States of Fantasy

Rose, Jacqueline. States of Fantasy. The Clarendon lectures in English literature, 1994. Oxford [England]: Clarendon Press, 1996.

I never completely understood Rose’s concept of fantasy, though she repeatedly defines it throughout her book. Part of my confusion signals the counter-intuitive meanings that Rose is attempting to pull out of this term, from being thought of as “supremely asocial” to an always progressive, one which is tied to the material world that “binds more powerfully” one into different social groups. “Fantasy,” as Rose says, “is not therefore antagonistic to social reality; it is its precondition or psychic glue” by fueling its “collective will” (3). By bringing fantasy into the political and material realm, Rose attempts to trace how fantasy becomes collectively appropriated to form collectivities and sites of belonging. Rather than being antagonistic to the state, but “plays a center, constitutive role in the modern world of states and nations” (4). Her example is Israel since 1948, which had the peculiar quality of forming a nation out of a diaspora, rather than vice versa. The “traumatized intensity of longing” felt by the diasporic nation of Israel also became the fantastic means by which it constituted itself.

Rose attempts to read fantasy into political statehood as a solidifying force, not one that takes on the colors of resistance. Fantasy is always inward turning, though this not be limited to the individual. As an inward turning of a social group, fantasy has the ability to build ties among a group, while at the same time, buildings walls of “defensiveness” that excludes others (5). One such building of walls occurs through transgenerational haunting, which to Rose most often comes in the form of shameful family secrets, and “which hover in the space between social and psychical history, forcing and making it impossible for the one who unconsciously carries [remembrance] to make the link” (5).

While attempting to reframe fantasy as a public phenomenon, Rose likewise situates ‘state’ “into the heart” (6). A ‘state’ to Rose, “rejoins that of fantasy in one of modern, psychoanalytic definitions” (7). A ‘state of dissociation,’ for example, is a seat of action, while fantasy takes the authority situated upon the ego, threatening it into submission. Rose then attempts to use ‘state’ as the ‘state’ of the political condition of the modern world, where fantasy, by contrast, “keeps sight of the peculiarities with which identities, not only consciously but also unconsciously, make and unmake themselves” (14).

One of the effects of Rose’s work is a to recenter the language of psychoanalysis on a social group and cultural form (Jewishness) but also to put the notion of ownership of a culture, as Freud points out implicitly in Fantasy, under interrogation.

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