On the Threshold: Psychoanalysis and Cultural Studies

  • James Donald
Part of the Communications and Culture book series (COMMCU)


When I was invited to organise and chair a series of talks on psychoanalysis and cultural theory at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, my first reaction was to reach for my address book and suggest better qualified alternatives. Then I hesitated. After all, wasn’t the folk hero of this Thatcherite age the ill-starred brickie Yosser Hughes in the television series Boys from the Blackstuff, for whom one of life’s great mysteries was that ignorance or incompetence should be a bar to employment? ‘I can do that,’ he’d have said, ‘Gi’us the job’. Hastily translating that into an academic justification, I recalled a question I had come across in Shoshana Felman’s essay on ‘Psychoanalysis and education’: ‘How can I interpret out of the dynamic ignorance I analytically encounter, both in others and in myself? How can I turn ignorance into an instrument of teaching?’ 1


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  1. 1.
    Shoshana Felman, ‘Psychoanalysis and Education: Teaching Terminable and Interminable’, in Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. amp; London, 1987 ), p. 80.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Stuart Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left (Verso, London, 1988), esp. chs 18 amp; 19; also his ‘Minimal Selves’, in Lisa Appignanesi (ed.), Identity: The Real Me (ICA, London, 1987) and ‘New Ethnicities’, in Kobena Mercer (ed.), Black Film, British Cinema ( ICA, London, 1988 ).Google Scholar
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    Rose, Sexuality in the Field of Vision pp. 90–1 (see note 2).Google Scholar
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    E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1968 [1963]), pp.9–10.Google Scholar
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    Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1965), p. 64; Marxism and Literature ( Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977 ), p. 132.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Williams, ‘Crisis in English Studies’, in Writing in Society (Verso, London, n.d.) p. 210; ‘The Uses of Cultural Theory’, New Left Review, no. 158 (1986), p. 26.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis ( Hogarth Press, London, 1977 ), p. 56.Google Scholar
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    Louis Althusser, For Marx ( New Left Books, London, 1977 ), p. 233.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics ( Verso, London, 1985 ).Google Scholar
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    Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge Colin Gordon (ed.) (Harvester, Brighton, 1980), pp. 196, 213.Google Scholar

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© James Donald 1991

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  • James Donald

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