The utopian component of mass dreams and fantasies


“It is important not to overlook the utopian component of mass dreams and fantasies, as [Fredric] Jameson, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and others have recently pointed out. The Frankfurt School strenuously denied this component, insisting that only ‘great’ art could give us foreshadowings of a better world to come. As Herbert Marcuse, waxing poetical, puts it: ‘There is no work of art which does not, in its very structure, evoke the words, the images, the music of another reality, of another order repelled by the existing one and yet alive in memory and anticipation, alive in what happens to men and women, and in their rebellion against it.’

But Jameson accurately notes that precisely in order to legitimatize the status quo, the works of mass culture must ‘deflect… the deepest and most fundamental hopes… of the collectivity to which they can therefore… be found to have given voice.’ To commit ourselves to a search for the utopian promises of mass art for women, or as I put it…, to a ‘search for [-p.31] tomorrow,’ is to put ourselves in the way of answering the great vexed question of psychoanalysis first posed by Freud: ‘What do women want?'” (p.30)

Ref: Tania Modleski (1982) Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-produced Fantasies for Women. Archon Books: Hamden, Connecticut


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