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It does mean that, if and when such changes are sufficiently radical, the texts that introduce them enter into a different relationship with the genre they criticize it, deconstruct it, satirize it, etc. In this sense, perhaps the genre never does truly change in a profound way. Clearly, what makes us anxious can and does change. Interestingly, this argument is also made in one of the more recent attempts at formulating a monster taxonomy.

Working within a psychoanalytic framework quite different from my own, Steven Jay Schneider nonetheless reaches the same conclusion: both monsters and the manner in which they are depicted change precisely so that their effects can remain the same. Certainly, changes within a Hollywood genre are always interesting. But we should not rule out the possibility that what is constant within a genre can also be interesting.

I would not, in short, presume the validity of my claim to be universal. Let us turn to an example of the particularist approach.

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Are we to understand that every modern horror film viewer is assumed by the particularists to be such a subject? Every North American one? Do contemporary Italians experience social fragmentation to the same degree? Every urban North American one?

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It is in the length of the period examined mine is longer. Is the ambiguity and fluidity of bodily boundaries typical of postmodern horror? The true difference between them — for of course there is one — lies in the fact that my approach presumes the necessity of referring to a psychoanalytic theory of psychical functioning although not to such a theory alone in order to understand the relationship between viewers and mainstream horror films.

Psychoanalysis may or may not be included among these discourses. The Bomb and Communism marked the s. And, as Tudor notes, the risk of bodily and social fragmentation is easily recognizable as our very own contemporary form of anxiety. This, of course, is where psychoanalysis meets cultural history, and here I am in total agreement with Tudor that the two must meet.

The suggestion implicitly raised by my argument is that a specific affect, anxiety, quite rapidly assumes for reasons that would be well worth examining a much greater importance in Western societies in the twentieth century than in the past. Following this line of thought, we might consider rephrasing the question about the paradoxical nature of horror spectatorship. Let us look at a couple of specific examples. In the essay cited earlier Urbano , I argue that, like the Melanie scene from The Birds, two scenes from the Alien series can also be read as almost self-reflexive embodiments of two different accounts of the nature of horror film spectatorship.

Terrified, she hides in the spacesuit compartment. From this moment on, I take her actions as paralleling what one school of thought believes are the actions and motives of horror viewers. What does Ripley do? Now the alien starts to move slowly toward the chair, effectively forcing Ripley to peek at it from the side of her helmet. Clearly Ripley cannot bear to look at the alien, and yet she also knows that she must look at it.

Now we understand why she willingly submitted to the terrible experience of tying herself down into the chair, luring the monster out from its hiding place, and forcing herself to look at it: to wipe the alien out. One submits to the horror experience in order to get rid of the monster s. The pain and discomfort experienced during the watching of the films is considered something necessary and inevitable in order to achieve the presumably pleasurable final victory. Even when embraced by psychoanalytic film scholars who usually suggest that the monster signifies the return of the repressed , I tend to find this account of horror spectatorship very unsatisfying, mainly because it seems totally inadequate to explain the fascination, and often the great commercial success, of horror films in which there is no ostensible monster e.

Moreover, this account seems inappropriate if one considers the genre itself. Think of this particular case, the Alien series. Again this is actually a brief scene within a longer sequence.

When one of the soldiers walks by a cocoon, the woman trapped inside suddenly opens her eyes wide and, with fear and pain ringing in her voice, begs him to kill her. That is, she is depicted in what is clearly a passive and very painful spectatorial role. Far from the action like ourselves, she can only watch and clutch her stomach in empathy with the victim. The scene thus stands as a perfect literalization of both major claims made by Carol Clover in the final chapter of her book, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Horror Film.

Instead of assuming a desire for mastery on the part of the viewer typically held to be, first of all, a male viewer , the suggestion is now often made that the central desire may in fact be for precisely the opposite of this: a controlled loss of mastery. The fantasy concerns a complex ritual in which a number of young men are to be sacrificed to an ancient barbaric idol.

The patient does not imagine himself being mutilated and killed by the high priest; rather, he operates through a third-person surrogate. His immediate point of insertion occurs via the young man who will be the next to fall victim. Many, including Tudor, have found this line of psychoanalytic inquiry fascinating.

This is mainly, I submit, because we have the sense that Clover is asking the right questions. And while her answers are perhaps not always completely convincing I am not so sure, for example, that masochism necessarily results in a radical denaturalization of gender roles , nevertheless her account of spectatorial activity seems right on target.

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Presumably, this is because it corresponds to the experience of viewing these films as we remember it, and because it is more cogent and coherent than the alternative hypothesis discussed earlier the catharsis explanation. Clearly, Tudor is caught in a dilemma here — how to justify the cogency and validity of a specific psychoanalytic interpretation without simultaneously praising the discipline that produced it. On the other hand, perhaps they would feel even more alienated, for, after all, it is easier to push aside weak, repetitive, and dogmatic works than strong, well-rounded, and intriguing ones.

It remains to be seen whether, at this point in its history, psychoanalysis is able — and willing — to try to regain the ground that has been lost.

A criticism that, of course, is aimed not only at psychoanalysis. There is another, perhaps even greater, problem with particularist approaches. However, the falsifiability in principle of a scientific theory has to be interpreted in a way suitable to the theory in question.


It is clear that psychoanalysis is not going to be falsifiable in principle in the way that the physical or biological sciences are — that is, by producing an experiment that can conclusively falsify it. Nevertheless, as I will argue, aspects of psychoanalysis certainly are falsifiable, and indeed have been falsified. Many philosophical theories — whether broadly or narrowly construed — are unscientific and true, though it may be difficult to say which are the true ones.

Similarly, some very general theories in social science may be true but unscientific according to the standards of the physical and biological sciences. In what follows, I shall discuss the general objections before considering a sample of more specific ones. I argue that the general objections to psychoanalysis are unfounded, whereas the specific ones are often based on a misunderstanding of fundamentals of psychoanalysis.

This is the case even allowing for the wide variety of disparate views among psychoanalytic theorists themselves. One final preliminary note: Psychoanalytic approaches to film are often contrasted with cognitive approaches, those who support the latter typically eschewing the former.

Freud, however, would have rejected this dichotomy. A psychoanalytic approach to film would be regarded by Freud and most psychoanalytic theorists as a cognitive approach. Those who favor cognitive approaches to film err in not recognizing this that is how it sees itself and in pointing to cognition as a firm basis for distinguishing their own approach from that of psychoanalysis.

What constitutes a scientific theory? Because a theory can be true without being scientific it is a mistake to see psychoanalysis as false if not scientific. He refers to the conjunction of these claims as the Necessary Condition Thesis. It is unlikely that psychoanalysis would have received the attention it did had it not associated itself early on with the mystique of science in a scientistic age.

He understood only too well the presence of mitigating factors and the difficulty of achieving a psychoanalytic cure. Textual evidence notwithstanding, he never strictly adhered to the Necessary Condition Thesis.

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Freud carried his couch around with him. In psychoanalysis, like anything else, too selective or too close a reading can at times be as misleading as the alternatives.

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What then is the evidence for the validity of psychoanalytic theory? According to Jim Hopkins, psychoanalytic explanation is an extension of commonsense or folk psychology.


The relevance of thematic affinity e. Thus, the view that our strongest denials are often affirmations; that slips of the tongue are often meaningful; that individuals regularly deploy a variety of ego defence mechanisms at their disposal — all are Freudian insights that have now become commonplace. They can jointly be taken as part of the evidence for the truth of psychoanalytic theory. Together, they allegedly support the inference that psychoanalytic explanations of these phenomena are often the most plausible ones.

This charge of unreliable data is just another way of systematically rejecting the kinds of support for psychoanalysis that are in fact available. Of course there is going to be disagreement among theorists as to what those criteria are, both generally and in specific cases. And of course those criteria are going to be very different from the criteria for theoretical adequacy in, say, the physical sciences. Freud constantly revised his theories in view of theoretical concerns and new data.

Perhaps the most recently notorious example is his revision of the seduction theory. Freud first claimed that actual childhood seductions were the cause of various neuroses. He later claimed that imagined seductions could suffice in terms of the aetiology of neuroses, given all the other conditions of susceptibility, instinctual endowment, etc. Wishful fantasies of various sorts came to be considered important, including fantasies of seductions e. Both the original and altered positions were heavily and vehemently criticized, although for different reasons.

The conflict between libido and ego-instincts becomes a conflict between eros and the death instinct. There is also his revision of the account of anxiety in first he thought that anxiety was transformed libido; then he realized that signal anxiety was a reaction to threat from the external world, the superego, and instinctual forces. Such revision — and the extent to which he revised truly is striking — goes hand-in-hand with the falsification of earlier theory and interpretation.

The work of Melanie Klein, for example, and of David Winnicott accept as well as revise aspects of Freud. The ongoing development of psychoanalysis is indicative of the fact that it continues to be revised, refined, and in many cases corrected. By its own light, aspects of psychoanalysis — even key aspects — are falsifiable. But even those in psychoanalysis who claim that it is science have never claimed the standards to be the same — or if they did, they were confused and mistaken.

If the demand for criteria of falsification is a demand for criteria of the falsification of psychoanalysis in its entirety, then this is a different kind of demand and standard. It is more akin to asking for criteria of falsification not just for a theory or aspect of physics, but for physics per se. And it would seem that there is no more readily acceptable standard of falsification for physics per se than there is for psychoanalysis as such.

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