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?