Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 29 (Jan 1996) p. 27.


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Signs of Ideological Re-form in Two Recent Films

Towards Real Subsumption? \Z\Madhava Prasad

The American cultural theorist Fredric Jameson, in his book on the 'political unconscious', has offered one of the most comprehensive accounts of the possibilities held by Marxist cultural analysis. His theory of interpretation distinguishes between three related horizons or 'concentric frameworks' of textual analysis, each with its own specific object. These three horizons are identified by reference to their field of pertinence, the ground in which the interpretive act specific to these horizons places the textual object. The first, and narrowest, is the ground of political history, the yearly turnover of events; the second horizon is society, in its appearance as 'a constitutive tension and struggle between social classes'; and the third, most comprehensive, is the ground of history, 'conceived in its vastest sense of the sequences of modes of production and the succession and destiny of the various human social formations' (Jameson, 75). These semantic horizons are not just different contexts in which 'the same' textual object are to be placed they differ from each other in the way they construe or reconstruct their object, the text.

Within the first horizon, the text continues to be construed in its individuality, as a symbolic act. Here the attempt is to comprehend the text as a work of resolution of a contradiction that is inherent in the given historical moment and the interpretive act is not complete until it is possible to point to the 'fundamental contradiction' which the 'work' of the text tries to resolve. Thus it is not enough to point to the 'reflection' in the text, of a social context. The contradiction in question is not a direct reflection of a distant and separate reality, but one that must be reconstructed through analysis in the specific form in which it is posed by the text. The text 'brings into being that very situation to which it is also, at one and the same time, a reaction' (Jameson, p. 82). These formulations of the real that are encountered in texts are the only access to the real. Thus the 'ultimate subtext' of social contradiction, which is only accessible textually, is not to be identified

Number 29


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