Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
What if Freud were right? What if his identification of homosexual denial--the fear of being changed from a man into a woman--as the psychogenetic mechanism of paranoia is not an embarrassing example of Freud's naive sexual reductionism, but an indicator of something more interesting: of a pattern of culturally hegemonic narrative convention linking a certain kind of masculinity to a certain kind of body to a certain kind of thinking, a pattern that fundamentally informs dominant articulations of sexuality, corporeality and agency in the first half of the twentieth-century? This study examines the way in which gender is configured in certain narrative patterns available for expressing self-understanding in the late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth century. Noticing the way in which Freud's notion of paranoia yokes a profoundly isolated, anxious and radically suspicious subject to the fear of being changed, physically, from a man into a woman, the project follows this path in both directions, looking both at the way in which the paranoid "attitude" is enmeshed in larger cultural patterns of self-understanding and with cultural anxieties about the relation of "masculinity" to the male body.
After providing an account of the ways in which paranoia has been used, the project considers the way this connection between masculine anxiety and paranoid suspicion is figured in the narrative of Freud's paradigmatic paranoid, Dr. Schreber, and the way those figures are reproduced in Freud's own thought. Next, I examine the hard-boiled detective genre through Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye to articulate the ways in which this relationship between masculinity and characteristically paranoid self-understanding was narratively configured as a model of popular heroism. Finally I look at the way in which the terms of "paranoid" masculinity inform narratives that attempt to articulate exactly that which Schreber most feared: the physical change from a man into a woman. The autobiographies of early male to female transsexuals, I argue, work within the gender framework that informs both Schreber and Freud's understanding of sexuality, while inverting the valuation of "masculinity" and the significance of the male body.
This study explores the way in which the latently paranoid narrative these two different mid-twentieth century genres functions in three ways to structure self-understanding: (i) in establishing the nature of valid individuality with regard to some kind of extra-individual agency, (ii) in establishing the relation of that individuality to a notion of masculinity associated with (among other things) a privileging of the active over the passive and instrumental (intellectual) over empathetic object relations, and, (iii) with establishing narratorial legitimacy by indicating, via a first person protagonist that works to establish itself as a figure of identification, that true reality is not what is apparent or culturally understood to be true, but is in fact a deep structure formed in accordance with a powerful, hidden Agent with a special connection to the protagonist/narrator.
Paradis, Kenneth Gordon, "Madness, Masculinity and the Modern Individual: Paranoia and Gender in mid-Twentieth-century Narrative" (2000). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2616.