Jacqueline Rose

Jacqueline Rose’s On Violence and On Violence against Women is out now in paperback.

To Die One’s Own Death

Jacqueline Rose, 19 November 2020

What is left of the inner life when the world turns more cruel, or appears to turn more cruel, than ever before? When it reels from inflicted blows – pandemic, war, starvation, climate devastation or all these together – what happens to the fabric of the mind? Is its only option defensive – to batten down the hatches, to haul up the drawbridge, or simply to survive? And does that leave room to grieve, not just for those who have been lost, but for the broken pieces and muddled fragments that make us who we are? Barely six months after the outbreak of the First World War, on Christmas Day 1914, Freud wrote to Ernest Jones to lament that the psychoanalytic movement ‘is now perishing in the strife of nations’ (the two men were on opposite sides in the war). ‘I do not delude myself,’ he wrote. ‘The springtime of our science has abruptly broken off . . . all we can do is to keep the fire flickering in a few hearths, until a more favourable wind makes it possible to light it again to full blaze.’ At a time of pandemic like the one we are living in today, is there room for anything like the complex reckoning with life and with death that is the unique domain of psychoanalysis?

Pointing the Finger: ‘The Plague’

Jacqueline Rose, 7 May 2020

Ever since​ the arrival of Covid-19 – in Western Europe, roughly at the end of January – sales of Albert Camus’s The Plague, first published in 1947, have increased exponentially, an upsurge strangely in line with the graphs that daily chart the toll of the sick and the dead. By the end of March, monthly sales of the UK Penguin Classics edition had grown from the low...

There is a risk in recounting these stories. To describe what is being done to these women may seem to reinforce their status as victims, embedding them further in an unjust world with no – or only a forced, one-way – exit. Yet not to do so is to be complicit with the women’s invisibility, to cultivate the ‘cultural production of ignorance’ which helps keep national identity in place. Strange undercurrents of fascination pulse through the worst stories of our time. Think of the images of the little girl wailing at the US border; or of three-year-old Alan Kurdi cradled in the arms of the stricken man who in September 2015 discovered his body washed up on a Turkish beach. Or the image of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter, not yet two years old, drowned as they tried to cross into the US. The Guardian headlined one of its reports about Alan Kurdi: ‘Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees.’ ‘Tragic’ and ‘plight’ should give us pause: they make the agony timeless, turn the drowned child into an object of raw pity, obfuscate the human agency, historical choices and wilful political decisions that lead to such outcomes.

Where is trauma meant to lodge itself when the mind, like the body, in shreds or shot to pieces, is no longer anything that might remotely be called home? The very persistence of horror in South Africa tells us that thinking about trauma in relation to language, circling endlessly around the question of whether or not it can be spoken, which has tended to dominate academic discourse, is not enough.

I am a knife: A Woman’s Agency

Jacqueline Rose, 22 February 2018

Reading the stories of sexual harassment both here and in the US, I have started to feel that all the attention has served not only to bolster the urgent call for a better world but, oddly and at the same time, as a diversionary tactic to help us avoid having to think about sex. Or, to put it another way, if harassment and sexual violence are, as a certain version of radical feminism would have it, the whole story of human sexuality, then we may as well lock the door on who we are and throw away the key. How can we acknowledge the viciousness of sexual harassment while leaving open the question of what sexuality at its wildest – most harmful and most exhilarating, sometimes both together – might be?

Boris Johnson’s japes are comparable in neutralising effect to the softening charm of Tony Blair. How can such a matey, blokey person, ‘someone you could have a pint with’, possess darker, colder...

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‘Profonde Albertine’, the narrator writes close to the end of Proust’s novel. By ‘deep’ – profonde – he means ‘unreachable’. She was mostly...

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Jacqueline Rose has written a timely and courageous book. One immediate sign of this is its dedication to the late Edward Said, and its rewriting of the title of one of his most important books,

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There are good reasons, and a few bad ones, for lifting minor characters out of famous texts and putting them centre-stage. One bad reason might be that refiguring a large reputation quietly...

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Homelessness

Terry Eagleton, 20 June 1996

In the days of F.R. Leavis, English literary criticism was wary of overseas, a place saddled with effete, Latinate languages without pith or vigour. Proust is relegated to a lofty footnote in...

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Slick Chick

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 1991

We all know the story. A brilliant, neurotic young American woman poet, studying on a fellowship at Cambridge, meets and marries the ‘black marauder’ who is the male poet-muse of her...

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