Post #5 Eldelman

In the first chapter of No Future, Edelman presents his idea that “the queer” is the figure onto which our Symbolic order (language, representation, intelligibility) projects a death drive and thereby protects itself/us from awareness of vulnerability and decay. “The queer” is despised and attacked (or allowed to die, as in the refusal to fund AIDS research), while “the Child” is valorized as the figure of the future that goes on forever and does not decay.

In chapters 2 and 3, Edelman develops the idea that Desire opposes Jouissance much as the Child negates the queer (or the sinthomosexual, as he says in chapter 2). Desire obeys the law and is oriented toward the future (satisfaction), but in order to remain what it is (Desire), it must defer satisfaction endlessly (as the law of the Father requires: thou shalt not enjoy thy mother). Desire, therefore, endlessly posits a future and progress toward it. By contrast, jouissance (enjoyment or ecstasy, as we said in class) is oriented only toward the present, never toward the future; in ecstasy, the future is meaningless and only right now matters.

Jouissance implies the loss of self. We might say that “one loses oneself in the moment.” Proper, dignified people are in control of themselves; they don’t lose themselves; they always remember who they are and where their boundaries are. They are responsible. They calculate and plan for the future. In jouissance, no one is control and boundaries cease to hold. From the perspective of proper people, jouissance is therefore very scary.

Edelman traces expressions of these fantasies of control and propriety in cultural productions such as Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.” In the course of those analyses, he critiques “compassion,” especially the compassion called for by Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Gary Bauer, and the Concerned Families of Maryland. He suggests that compassion is not really “love of the neighbor.” What is it, instead? And what would real “love of the neighbor” be, according to Edelman’s work? How might such love relate to jouissance?


Professor of English Lee Edelman poses for a portrait at East Hall on Sept. 30, 2013. (Kelvin Ma/Tufts University), Medford/Somerville, Massachusetts.

In the third chapter of his 2004 polemical queer theory essay No Future, Edelman argues that the “compassion” the people feel towards sinthomosexuals is not a positive and true feeling, but a negative and “false” (67) one. That compassion is not true—it is not (the) Real—and creates and justifies a collective oppressive “fantasy” (71) against the abnormals or the Others or the sinthomosexuals in order to preserve the collective fantasy of futurism and meaningfulness of the world.

What non-sinthomosexuals see in sinthomosexuals is a kind of wrongness, a difference which contradicts their fantasy, and, then, by this contradiction, paradoxically reassures and strengthens their identity (that is, their feeling of being normal and one).

Compassion is the feeling felt for those who have no future—“that’s such a pity!”,“you ruin your life”, “think about your future”. Compassion is deeply linked with the fantasy of “the Child” which “secure[s our] existence” (66). (We will not disappear, I will survive in them). Compassion is one of the words on which is based futurism, and that creates the figure of the queer who embodies the death drive and, consequently, a threat, a “threat to the law (understood as the lax of desire)” (92). Such a compassion is, thus, not really “love of the neighbor.” It is the love of the sameness, and the latent hatred of the difference.

The real “love of the neighbor”, then, would be the acceptance of the death drive, of the difference, of the Other.

That love would be related to jouissance because it will negate compassion and, so, desire. The  “sinthomosexuals acts” are not aimed to the future. That’s why people hate the queers and feel this false and perverse compassion toward them. Jouissance is “the presence” (89), whereas desire is the satisfaction by proxy and in the future. Edelman’s love of the other is promoting jouissance. Loving the other as a presence jouissance.

I would not add something to this post.


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