The Oblivious Transfer:
by Lesley Stern
Analyzing Blue Velvet
This paper was presented at the Brisbane Center for Psychoanalytic Studies conference," Psychoanalysis, Perversions, and the Cinema" in September, 1991.
published in Camera Obscura, May 1993, pp 76-91
- Me Jane
- You Freud?
- You Freud, Me Jane?
- Cracking Up
- Lip, Slip, Slap: The Slippery Slide Of Sadism
- Postmodernity and The Oblivious Transfer
- Bringing Up Baby
- The Sound of My Own Breathing
1. Me Jane
Before 1 begin there is something I want you to remember. Whatever I have
to say, today, about Blue Velvet I say in the capacity of a Blue Stocking,
or perhaps a Plain Jane.
2. You Freud?
Q: What is it that the patient most desires?
A: The analyst's ear.
3. You Freud, Me Jane?
In the Hitchcock film
Marnie the heroine, a compulsive thief, is caught in
the act by a man who saves her from the law by marrying her. Then he tries
to help her. She turns on him and asks: «You Freud, me Jane?»
She recognizes that there is a thin line between the law of the jungle and
the law that is instituted in the name-of-the-father. Or between the
jungle and psychoanalysis itself. Speaking of perversion, speaking
academically that is, as a blue stocking, to a gathering of psychoanalysts,
I feel a similar trepidation to what I imagine Jane must have felt entering
the jungle. This simile is not entirely fanciful or inappropriate to our
context, for Blue Velvet alludes to a jungle scenario. The curious
sounds that issue from somewhere "within" the body of the text (the body
from which the ear has been severed) suggest the jungle not as a
prelapsarian paradise but as a "voicing" of the discontents of
civilization. To the jungle, then, I come bearing gifts, or at least to
propose an alliance, or to put it more bluntly an identification.
Between Freud and Jane, between Tarzan and the Blue Stocking, between you
and me. I ask you to consider an heuristic equivalence between two notions
of the term "analysis," that is, between the psychoanalytic sense and the
critical sense, I propose to conflate the role of the academic analyse (she
who reads and interprets the text, in this case, the film) and the
psychoanalyst (she who listens to and enables interpretation of the
analysand's discourse). This also assumes an identification between two
kinds of text the patient's discourse and the filmic discourse.
You might consider this to be a somewhat wild approach. And you would be
right. As a feral bluestocking faced with a perverse text I claim the
right to a form of "wild analysis," what Ferenczi described as a kind of
"compulsive analyzing."  He explained it in terms of a
resistance of the analyst to a particular analysis in which he is involved,
inciting him to over interpret or offer ready-made interpretations. To
isolate a dream or a dream-fragment from its context, he argued, is merely
"seeking to enjoy a gossamer omnipotence." Gossamer omnipotence seems to me
quite an appropriate attitude to take to
Blue Velvet in which there
is no coherent context or whole, in which the text is littered with
part-objects and fragments, and self-consciously so. My analytic
interpretation will then be based upon free association around the
part-elements of the formations of the film text, privileging what seems to
me part-object par excellence - the ear. But there is another reason for
adopting such an attitude. In the jungle it is in fact Jane who teaches
Tarzan to speak, just as, it is sometimes argued, the enigma of femininity
enabled Freud to develop the theory of psychoanalysis. However, I want to
go further than positing the feminine in an enabling function. Although I
have suggested an identity between Jane and Freud, I want now to suggest
that there is also an opposition or conflict, and moreover to suggest that
this tension is central to both Blue Velvet and psychoanalysis as an
institution. It is manifested as a struggle around the sexual identity of
the analyst. What I mean by this will become clear later, but for the
moment let me just point out that when I refer to the analyst as "she" I do
so not simply from a position of biological autism because I speak as a
woman but in order to indicate a drama central to the transference
involved in analyzing Blue Velvet.
J. Laplanche and J-B Pontalis, The Language of
Psychoanalysis, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (London; The Hogarth
Press, 1973) 481.