The Dark Side of Fredric Jameson’s Moon

As I type out these words, my fingers are still trembling. I think what happened earlier today will go down in the annals of history, an event which was both awesome and terrifying in its implications. For the decades following, the chroniclers will write about it – it will provide the fodder for countless novels and made-for-TV movies; it will become as much a part of our everyday vocabulary as the phrases ‘moon landing’ or ‘September 11th’. But I am still reeling, still trying to understand it in the here-and-now, to process it on a more modest and personal level.

The reports coming in all say the same: they say that the man – one Professor Fredric Jameson – was giving a speech in a university auditorium when it happened. A few of the students – those capable of providing some kind of stammering, shell-shocked account from Ground Zero in the aftermath – reported that Jameson was holding forth when they began to hear an audible, sucking sound. That sound grew louder and louder, until there was a powerful rush of what felt like a very hot, stale wind.

And suddenly, with a whizzing “pop”, just like that…Fredric Jameson was gone.

This was the moment.  A moment which is destined to become one of those iconic points in US history.  Up there with Neil Armstrong taking those first steps across a grainy and otherworldly landcsape or JFK himself – in that open-topped car – waving cheerfully in the bright of the sun just before his violent and bloody demise.  Indeed, many years from now your grandchildren are bound to ask in tremulous, awe-struck tones…. ‘But where were you Gramps, where were you Grammy….when it actually happened?  When Fredric Jameson finally disappeared up his own arse?’

But any thoughts of the future must be relinquished before the reality of the present.  And Jameson himself.   What did he feel in those moments before he was engulfed by the infinite vastness of that black-hole of an anus? Did he finally manage to encounter the Lacanian ‘Real’ – that mysterious entity he spent many books (oh so many) enlightening us about? Was his ‘symbolic experience of libidinal gratification’ finally gratified?   Perhaps we will never know.

Because such questions are beyond fragile, finite minds such as ours. Rumour has it that there is a British professor – one Terry Eagleton – who is already penning a book in honour of his departed colleague – a book on how disappearing up one’s own arse provides the ultimate radical challenge to the Hermeneutics of power at work in the Nexus of Discourse and Authority which lies behind the Symbolic Order as a Field Horizon of Discursive, Decentralized Control.

But, for my part, such ruminations are beyond me.  I would simply like to honour Professor Jameson – a great literary theorist but also a real, flesh-and-blood man who was, ultimately, prepared to make the greatest sacrifice of all.  To fall on his own anus.  I wish to honour him by recalling his last words in the moments before he was swallowed by the vastness of his own behind.   Here he is, as he was in life, here is how I would like you to remember him:

“‘Greimas’ scheme, constructed by means of purely logical or analytical negations, by its very exhaustiveness, opens up a place for the practise of a more genuinely dialectical negation in the tension between the realised and unrealised terms; what for Greimas is to be formulated as a structural homology between the various levels on which the semiotic rectangle reproduces itself, for us, on the contrary, becomes powerfully restructured into a relationship of tension between presence and absence, a relationship that can be mapped according to the various dynamic possibilities (generation, projection, compensation, repression, displacement)…So the literary structure, far from being completely realized on any one of its levels tilts powerfully into the underside or impense or nondit, in short, into the very political unconscious of the text, such that the latter’s dispersed semes – when reconstructed according to this model of ideological closure – themselves then insistently direct us to the informing power of forces or contradictions which the text seeks in vain to wholly control or master…Thus, by means of a radically historicizing reappropriation, the ideal of logical closure which initially seems incompatible with dialectical thinking, now proves to be an indispensable instrument for revealing those logical and ideological centres a particular historical text fails to realise, or on the contrary seeks desperate to repress…”

Tony McKenna’s journalism has been featured by Al Jazeera, Salon, The Huffington Post, ABC Australia, New Internationalist, The Progressive, New Statesman and New Humanist. His books include Art, Literature and Culture from a Marxist Perspective (Macmillan), The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine: A Political Account of Joseph Stalin (Sussex Academic Press), a first novel –  The Dying Light (New Haven Publishing), Toward Forever: Radical Reflections on History and Art  (Zero Books) and The War Against Marxism: Reification and Revolution (Bloomsbury). He can be reached on twitter at @MckennaTony