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The Demolished Man
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2013 Reads > TDM: Freudian/Lacanian Elements

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Lit Bug | 287 comments I could pick out a few Freudian/Lacanian elements in the novel and was interested in how they are explored.

For one, I clearly saw the grading of the Espers on the basis of the Lacanian model of the conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious - which was in turn derived from Freudian model of Id, Ego and Super-ego. The grading of the Espers was upon their ability to penetrate these layers of the mind.

Secondly, (view spoiler)

Also interesting was the trope of The Man With No Face - he is, in my opinion, (view spoiler)

I figured it was interesting to pick out psychoanalytical tools in an SF novel...


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Except that the general consensus now is that Freud was mostly full of...ordure.


Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments But one has to understand the book in the context it was written, and in the Post War era Freud and psychoanalysis were a huge cultural influence. Even mainstream movies used Freudian concepts as central elements of the plot -- see, for example, Preminger's Whirlpool or Hitchcock's Spellbound.

Freud's theories may be wrong, but no more so than faster than light spaceships and time travel. Or even psychics.


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Sean wrote: "But one has to understand the book in the context it was written, and in the Post War era Freud and psychoanalysis were a huge cultural influence. Even mainstream movies used Freudian concepts as c..."

Y'know, I must really just suck at trolling. Fine.

You do make a good point. I was reading some early 80's era Robin Cook (bear with me, I know) and it was chock-full of racism, homophobia and if not misogyny, no it was misogyny. Every tortured killer had a mean mommy who made him feel like his privates were icky, or he/she was gay. It was disturbing, because when I read these the first time (in the 80's) I hadn't noticed. The background society was reinforcing exactly those messages so I didn't find them odd and off-putting.

It's a bit like reading The Forever War and suppressing the eyeroll at his disquisition on "collapsars".


Lit Bug | 287 comments Well, that way, even Shakespeare cannot be forgiven for being somewhat racist, sexist and colonialist in attitude - the point is, rather, to consider the era these works were written in, and though we don't overlook these cultural issues, we also must remember that they were products of a certain time, which reflects its ideologies through the work.


By today's standards, even The Demolished Man is heavily sexist and unpalatable.


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Lit Bug wrote: "Well, that way, even Shakespeare cannot be forgiven for being somewhat racist, sexist and colonialist in attitude - the point is, rather, to consider the era these works were written in, and though..."

I usually default to Kipling, but yes. By today's standards most of the SF written before 1980 is likewise. Heck, I was recently reading Herland and it made me uncomfortable. A: that it was not recognized as satire of a sort and B: that it was that heavy-handed. Even the capitalization of "Black" or calling Lady Blue a "Negress" seemed really odd in Houston Houston, Do You Read.


Lit Bug | 287 comments Yes, even feminism has often been accused of being focused on 'white middle class women's issues", and I agree to it - Tiptree did write feminist stories, but they were from that narrow perspective...


And wait, is spelling Blacks with a capital B offensive? We're being taught it is a respectful way of addressing a dark person of African race...


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What bugs me about older scifi books is that they invision so many fantastical things that might happen in the future yet they often enough fail entirely on the topic of equality. With The Demolished Man it was kind of the same. The women in the books were referred to as "girls", "pretty" and the like almost throughout the entire story. They served no purpose other than being pretty. I simply cannot understand how equality between men and women was never a topic to be included in scifi works. You gotta give Roddenberry credit where it's due for putting a woman on the bridge of the Enterprise, a dark-skinned woman at that. Sure the execution itself was never perfect but at least he tried. That's more than I can say about some of the so-called scifi-classics I have read.


Lit Bug | 287 comments I've learned that advanced technology does not always correspond with advanced humanism. Asimov has been so eerily correct in saying “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

We might be great innovators and highly imaginative, but we are very poor humans indeed!


message 10: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Lit Bug wrote: "And wait, is spelling Blacks with a capital B offensive? We're being taught it is a respectful way of addressing a dark person of African race..."

I read an essay by Samuel R. Delany a while back and I happen to recall this bit:
"[]and you’ll forgive me if I stick to the nomenclature of my young manhood, that my friends and contemporaries, appropriating it from Dr. Du Bois, fought to set in place, breaking into libraries through the summer of ’68 and taking down the signs saying Negro Literature and replacing them with signs saying “black literature”—the small “b” on “black” is a very significant letter, an attempt to ironize and de-transcendentalize the whole concept of race, to render it provisional and contingent, a significance that many young people today, white and black, who lackadaisically capitalize it, have lost track of."

The whole thing is actually worthwile reading. It's a pretty great piece on racism in the SFF community through the decades. It gave me (Western European white middle class guy) some new insights anyway. http://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-scien...


Lit Bug | 287 comments Sigh... it was shocking - and well, I'll be using b now rather than B... Thanks for sharing the article!


Casey | 654 comments Lit Bug wrote: "The point is, rather, to consider the era these works were written in, and though we don't overlook these cultural issues, we also must remember that they were products of a certain time, which reflects its ideologies through the work."

Thank you. It's easy to bag on a book when you don't like it. It's not always an easy thing to remember this point above.

If I were teaching Lit 101 this fall, this book would be ripe for papers.


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Lit Bug wrote: "Yes, even feminism has often been accused of being focused on 'white middle class women's issues", and I agree to it - Tiptree did write feminist stories, but they were from that narrow perspective..."

It's a twenty-plus year old affectation. If you're going to capitalize Black, then you should also capitalize White. Which if course, since "white" is the default, authors rarely do.


message 14: by Firstname (last edited Sep 02, 2013 10:44AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Lit Bug wrote: "And wait, is spelling Blacks with a capital B offensive? We're being taught it is a respectful way of addressing a dark person of African race... "

BTW, "African" is not a race, it's a region (continent) which includes North Africans, who are primarily Arab and not particularly dark, mixed-race people with citizenship in African countries, and also white South Africans. Tanzanians in particular encompass a great many shades, not all of them "dark".


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments One of the things I'd like to start seeing is people being described by how they look, not assuming that every person of X descent looks a certain way. "Americans" are not all white, not necessarily citizens of the U.S., etc. For example how would one write about a mixed race person of black, French-Canadian, and Inuit descent? They do exist.


message 16: by Lit Bug (last edited Sep 02, 2013 10:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lit Bug | 287 comments Firstname wrote: "Lit Bug wrote: "Yes, even feminism has often been accused of being focused on 'white middle class women's issues", and I agree to it - Tiptree did write feminist stories, but they were from that na..."

Well, I actually always capitalize White - I thought the capitalization was used to differentiate Black and White as a racial concept/cultural concept from the concept of simple colors like red or green.


Lit Bug | 287 comments Firstname wrote: "Lit Bug wrote: "And wait, is spelling Blacks with a capital B offensive? We're being taught it is a respectful way of addressing a dark person of African race... "

BTW, "African" is not a race, it..."


Well, right - I was only referring to genes when I said Africans - didn't know what else to use while I was typing...


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Lit Bug wrote: "Firstname wrote: "Lit Bug wrote: "And wait, is spelling Blacks with a capital B offensive? We're being taught it is a respectful way of addressing a dark person of African race... "

BTW, "African"..."


Well, yes, I know. But by genetics alone, we are all "Africans". Countries/regions/tribal groups don't split neatly along genetic lines, sadly, see Rwanda.


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Lit Bug wrote: "Firstname wrote: "Lit Bug wrote: "Yes, even feminism has often been accused of being focused on 'white middle class women's issues", and I agree to it - Tiptree did write feminist stories, but they..."

If you always capitalize White, then carry on.


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Serendi | 832 comments Out of curiosity, I Googled "Angry Black Woman" (I was expecting a one-person Livejournal, and I think she's one of the women on the larger site I found). Other than some stuff quoted from another blog, the posters seem to use lowercase for "black" and "white".

Not definitive, of course. The problem is that usage in politically charged areas tends to vary over time, geography, and political position. So I figure you just do your best.


Daniel Eavenson (dannyeaves) | 127 comments Sean O'Hara wrote: "Freud's theories may be wrong, but no more so than faster than light spaceships and time travel. Or even psychics." Except those things are still possible. It's more like reading ancient people talk about humors and the world being limited to the four elements.


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Daniel wrote: "Sean O'Hara wrote: "Freud's theories may be wrong, but no more so than faster than light spaceships and time travel. Or even psychics." Except those things are still possible. It's more like read..."

Y'know, that's a really good way of looking at it. Thanks.


message 23: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 32 comments Re the Delany statement:

"the small “b” on “black” is a very significant letter, an attempt to ironize and de-transcendentalize the whole concept of race, to render it provisional and contingent, a significance that many young people today, white and black, who lackadaisically capitalize it, have lost track of."

I don't think that people who began to capitalize "black" did so with an eye to "transcendentalizing" the word.

I think it quite possible that they did it because they wanted a word that would be distinguishable from the color 'black,' one that would serve in the place of the taboo word 'Negro.'

I'm at least certain that this is the reason I've used capital-B black.

I might add re: this "transcendalization" thingie-- if it's such a big deal, why don't whites also want to capitalize the word "white" as it refers to race?

Could it be because they can still interchangably use 'Caucasian' in a pinch?


message 24: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 32 comments 'BTW, "African" is not a race, it's a region (continent) which includes North Africans, who are primarily Arab and not particularly dark, mixed-race people with citizenship in African countries, and also white South Africans. Tanzanians in particular encompass a great many shades, not all of them "dark".'

Second verse, same as the first:

People-- and no, not just white people-- attempt to use "African" and "African-American" because they know words like "Negro" and "Negroid" are taboo.

Now, I can see why those words have acquired a bad odor. But there seems to be an attempt to assert that there can be no common word for a particular set of physical characteristics, evolved for a particular set of environmental circumstances-- and that absence seems to be, more than anything else, an attempt to "transcendentalize" a group.


message 25: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 32 comments As for Freud, his theory as a whole doesn't hold up, not least because it's not scientifically verifiable. But it can make good drama-- which is probably the real reason we sometimes include "Freudian myths" or "Freudian fiction" long before Freud lived. The reason is not that there exists an Oedipal pattern that appears in the majority of people. The reason is because the basic Oedipal idea makes a good story.


Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Gene wrote: "'BTW, "African" is not a race, it's a region (continent) which includes North Africans, who are primarily Arab and not particularly dark, mixed-race people with citizenship in African countries, an..."

Aside from melanin content, all other features show up in all types of people. Back to the drawing board.


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