2-1 | Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/10.17742/IMAGE.crypt.2-1.8 | Kolarov | Lanck­owsky PDF


This con­tri­bu­tion looks at the way instinct is trans­mit­ted and rep­re­sent­ed as ghost appear­ance. The essay elab­o­rates two basic the­ses: first, that instinct is not defined by crea­ture­ly her­itage, since it is not a testable struc­ture in itself, nor sub­ject to mourning—and developmental—processes; and sec­ond, that works of fine lit­er­a­ture and pop oeu­vres alike may serve as car­ri­ers of a ghost trans­mis­sion charged with instinc­tive her­itage. The study rep­re­sents a mod­el for read­ing ghost­ly genealo­gies that com­ple­ment the famil­iar and famil­ial repro­duc­tive ones as it draws on tra­di­tions such as the adul­tery nov­el, con­ti­nen­tal phi­los­o­phy, psy­cho­analy­sis, and Dis­ney.


Cet arti­cle exam­ine la façon dont on représente l’instinct comme un fan­tôme et com­ment on le trans­mit de cette manière. Il entre dans les détails de deux thès­es fon­da­men­tales. La pre­mière dit qu’on ne définit pas l’instinct à tra­vers l’héritage humain puisque l’instinct n’est pas une struc­ture évalu­able et, en plus, il ne se soumet ni au proces­sus du deuil ni à celui du développe­ment. La deux­ième dit que les œuvres lit­téraires clas­siques, ain­si que celles pop­u­laires peu­vent servir à trans­met­tre un fan­tôme chargé de l’héritage instinc­tif. Cet étude représente un mod­èle de lec­ture des généalo­gies fan­tômes qui com­bine les famil­ières repro­duc­tives avec les famil­iales repro­duc­tives puisqu’il fait appel aux tra­di­tions telles que le roman de l’adultère, de la philoso­phie con­ti­nen­tale, de la psy­ch­analyse et de Dis­ney.

Vio­la Kolarov | Images: Susanne Lanck­owsky

On Hamlet’s Crypt:
Effi Briest, Asta Nielsen, and Britney Spears


I’m plagued by fear at my duplic­i­ty. I don’t have the right feel­ings.”
Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest (1895)

I am a play­thing. That I have feel­ings has been for­got­ten.”
Asta Nielsen as Ham­let (1920)

I know I may be young, but I’ve got feel­ings too.”
Brit­ney Spears, “I’m a Slave 4 U” (2001)

In crypt trans­mis­sions, the bor­ders between recip­i­ents, oth­er­wise scrupu­lous­ly main­tained by Oedi­pal iden­ti­ties, sig­na­tures, biogra­phies, nar­ra­tives, and lan­guages of pure and per­fect trans­lata­bil­i­ty, dis­ap­pear, not because they are destroyed or in any way tam­pered with, but because the dis­tance between receivers is so great that the crypt can repli­cate itself per­fect­ly with­out endan­ger­ing the Oedi­pal edi­fices. The philosopheme crypt was reval­orized by Lau­rence Rick­els in the course of his engage­ment with psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic writ­ings on aber­rant con­di­tions of mourn­ing.[1] Most gen­er­al­ly, the crypt holds stow­away loss in the pre-Oedi­pal phas­es or lay­ers of libid­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion, which remains pre­served intact because the crypt is unrec­og­nized and unmourned, and capa­ble of instant repli­ca­tion upon con­tact with host Oedi­pal struc­tures. The neote­nous state[2]both pre­ma­ture sex­u­al­i­ty and reten­tion of ear­ly fea­tures in the mature formof the crypt’s inhab­i­tant makes it the per­fect can­di­date for devel­op­ment in the nov­el, film, and pop cul­ture.

Our abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy with the crypt’s inhab­i­tant, heir to our most intense pre-Oedi­pal plea­sures and trau­mas, may go back to Shakespeare’s Ham­let, the play about the prince who failed in the suc­ces­sion of Oedi­pal pow­er struc­tures, while retain­ing his child­hood fea­tures in adult shape. J. W. Goethe first not­ed and devel­oped this high­light of the play in his edu­ca­tion­al fan­ta­sy nov­el, Wil­helm Meis­ters Lehr­jahre (Wil­helm Meister's Appren­tice­ship). The Ham­let image Goethe con­jures is of a flower’s vio­lent meta­mor­pho­sis into a tree whose branch­es and roots shat­ter the frag­ile ves­sel that nour­ished it. The alle­go­ry reflects what psy­cho­analy­sis dis­cov­ered at the core of our deep­est long­ings that, although shat­tered by lat­er stages of devel­op­ment, remains and retains the libid­i­nal and instinc­tu­al draw of our indi­vid­ual des­tinies. As a method and prac­tice of media trans­mis­sion, psy­cho­analy­sis was found­ed as the receiv­er of Goethe’s dis­cov­ery[3] and pro­vid­ed a new forum for writ­ing on and from crypts that remained com­pat­i­ble with mod­ern dis­cours­es that shunned fic­tion.[4] Anoth­er his­tor­i­cal line of crypt suc­ces­sion goes from the pre­sumed adul­ter­ess Mary, Queen of Scotts, who embod­ies the loss of con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean her­itage, to the new mar­itime world order pur­sued by Queen Elis­a­beth of Eng­land,[5] through Effi Briest’s and Friedrich Nietzsche’s sac­ri­fices to Ger­man uni­fi­ca­tion (the first one, in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry), to Asta Nielsen’s embod­i­ment of WWI trau­ma and the local-glob­al­ist trag­ic recep­tion of Brit­ney Spears’ work. As an effect of the crypt, how­ev­er, every sto­ry, as work of fic­tion, becomes the fore­court or pref­ace[6] to anoth­er sto­ry con­sol­i­dat­ed under names like Effi Briest or Brit­ney Spears, names that, after Shake­speare, trav­el intact over abysses of crea­ture­ly ruin, trans­mit­ted through var­i­ous media.

Suf­fer­ers of war and love neu­roses proved par­tic­u­lar­ly suit­able media receivers of a black and blue­print like Shakespeare’s Ham­let, per­haps because Freud began to think the neu­roses while read­ing the play or, bet­ter yet, because instinc­tive life sim­ply finds a way to trans­mit itself over vast expan­sions of time and place via tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties or chron­ic break­downs. What makes neu­rotics such good recip­i­ents of crypt trans­mis­sions is the inter­nal split that dri­ves them. Friedrich Niet­zsche is the only—at least to my knowledge—philosopher-informant of this con­di­tion, which he also likened to preg­nan­cy, thus giv­ing us the first inkling of an arti­fi­cial womb. The first “arti­fi­cial” repli­ca­tion of a womb is record­ed in the myth of the Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion where the ear becomes the receiv­ing and con­ceiv­ing organ. Shake­speare also used the ear as repli­ca of the womb and its func­tions: the organ receives the weapon that kills the king and “Father and Moth­er” Ham­let, father and moth­er being one flesh at the moment of con­cep­tion, as Ham­let tells us in act 3, scene 1. When “Father and Moth­er” is replaced by “Uncle and Moth­er,” Oedi­pal iden­ti­ties split.

Ella Free­man Sharpe’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the play pro­ject­ed the break­down of Hamlet’s psy­che, con­ceived as proxy for Shakespeare’s con­di­tion, into the char­ac­ters in the play.[7] She rec­og­nized only Ophe­lia, the fem­i­nine dou­ble of Ham­let, as a legit­i­mate nar­cis­sis­tic object, but the play abounds with them. Her sui­cide, argues Sharpe, rep­re­sents Hamlet’s fate in minia­ture. Since Ham­let is unable to act, his sui­cide is illic­it and indi­rect, brought about by so many uncon­scious events.[8] The beloved, as a clus­ter of repressed items from the uncon­scious con­sol­i­dat­ed under the name Ophe­lia, remote-con­trols Hamlet’s fate from the posi­tion of her sui­cide. Their rela­tion­ship is the pro­to­type of all crypt trans­mis­sions where trans­mit­ting and receiv­ing instances repli­cate one anoth­er in the place of their dif­fer­ence. The absence of Ophelia’s moth­er shows the way in Hamlet’s uncon­scious to a place where the unwant­ed get dumped. Ophe­lia is dumped, twice, as a girl and as her father’s daugh­ter.

Hamlet’s dag­ger meets the wrong/right tar­get Polo­nius. Like Claudius, Polo­nius rep­re­sents the machine womb. Both char­ac­ters pro­voke bril­liant ver­bal repar­tees that repli­cate oth­er­wise unavail­able lin­guis­tic pat­terns, illus­trat­ing the unpre­dictabil­i­ty and end­less ver­sa­til­i­ty of the machine in rela­tion to a sub­ject stuck at a nar­cis­sis­tic stage that is pri­ma­ry and strick­en with the con­science of sec­ondary dif­fer­ence. Like Freud, Polo­nius diag­noses Ham­let as a neu­rot­ic of love. Love can make one sick not only when oth­er demands act upon and deny its con­sum­ma­tion, but also when nar­cis­sis­tic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the beloved caus­es a ver­ti­go-induc­ing split in the lover. The only oth­er dri­ve that is strong enough to coun­ter­act love is born of its loss: the wish to elim­i­nate a loved one for his or her infi­deli­ty or what­ev­er else. One quick way to chill—and intensify—the long­ings love incites is to ren­der the loved one, via the mag­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion of a death wish against them, inan­i­mate, dead, like a machine or a ghost. Once the ghost usurps every chan­nel of libid­i­nal dis­charge for Ham­let, Ophe­lia doesn’t stand a chance of sur­vival. She too becomes a ghost, Hamlet’s tech­no dou­ble, heiress to the mir­ror and its dis­in­her­it­ed orphan. Man against machine, the old sto­ry of misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the tech­no dou­ble rep­re­sents the cen­tral dra­ma of the play.

Niet­zsche asso­ci­at­ed his abil­i­ty to pick up ghost mes­sages with ‘hav­ing small ears,’ nor­mal­ly reserved for the ‘eter­nal fem­i­nine.’ As recip­i­ent of a crypt trans­mis­sion, Nietzsche’s cor­pus proved inter­change­able with media genealo­gies that like­wise record­ed the ‘birth of music’ as ‘ear poi­son.’ The undis­putable pow­er of the dead over the present and the future feeds on the melan­choly dis­po­si­tion Niet­zsche did not share with some of his polit­i­cal­ly extrem­ist read­ers. Even his self-pro­fessed get­ting over the fatal first book and doc­u­ment of his war neu­ro­sis, Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geist der Musik (The Birth of Tragedy) means not much more than his will­ing­ness to rewrite the future—and the past. Melan­cho­lia, often implied in or as the state of encrypt­ment, is on the con­trary, an inten­si­fied and pro­longed mourn­ing that requires the admis­sion and admin­is­tra­tion of a death wish against some­thing or some­one who once stood near­by, inim­i­cal to the crypt’s trans­mis­sion. Melan­cho­lia feeds on neg­a­tive libido and destroys crypts as it pur­sues their con­tents sin­gle-mind­ed­ly. The crypt can­not sur­vive the con­di­tion of mourn­ing or melan­cho­lia as it is the reser­voir of the pos­i­tive libido of instinct.

The term instinct func­tions dif­fer­ent­ly in the var­i­ous tem­po­ral and topo­graph­ic phas­es of psy­chic devel­op­ment in Freud. There are the obvi­ous instincts we rec­og­nize from taboos and Oedi­pal crimes and pun­ish­ments. There are the bewitch­ing instincts born of retroac­tive pro­jec­tions of Oedi­pal instinct onto the orga­ni­za­tion of pre-oedi­pal rela­tions. The instinct trans­mit­ted via the crypt is what keeps us glued to the mag­i­cal­ly pro­duced world of the dyadic idyll “from whose bourn/No trav­el­er returns.” “The undiscovere’d coun­try” may be the land of death only in name (Shake­speare, Ham­let III.i). It also hosts fan­tasies of return to the womb. Since death is unimag­in­able, the dream world is installed in its place, and once tast­ed, the womb/tomb of dreams is nev­er aban­doned.

Man­ic-depres­sion, also known as bipo­lar dis­or­der, is the mis­tak­en pop-psy­chol­o­gy diag­no­sis for a num­ber of fem­i­nine ver­sions of Hamlet’s ill­ness in the nov­el and mass media, includ­ing Effi Briest and Brit­ney Spears. An inter­me­di­ary, the muse of the major stu­dios of Berlin around 1920, Asta Nielsen, gives us the first cin­e­mat­ic expo­sure to the syn­drome with her inter­pre­ta­tion of Ham­let as the sto­ry of a girl raised as a boy and heir to the Dan­ish throne. Not only does this Ham­let nev­er become a boy, but she also fails to grow up and become a ruler. Secret­ly in love with Hor­a­tio and with her father, this Princess Ham­let becomes a top-rank­ing trend­set­ter, a crypt com­pan­ion, a poster girl for trau­ma­tized shell-shock vic­tims, a trou­bled pres­ence, and the emo­tion­al spon­sor of the cul­ture indus­try. In this ver­sion, every enig­mat­ic, preter­nat­ur­al, or aber­rant fea­ture of the orig­i­nal Shake­speare char­ac­ter and play is usurped by the cryp­tic fem­i­nine libid­i­nal con­sti­tu­tion, which is expe­ri­enced as a com­pul­sive, irre­me­di­a­ble, and fat­ed-to-be-AND-not-to-be love bond, a typ­i­cal love neu­ro­sis. Although Asta Nielsen’s ver­sion seem­ing­ly brings us back to an ear­li­er and less mature Shake­speare play, Romeo and Juli­et, it also calls on Ham­let and, via Freud on Ham­let, sum­mons the pathol­o­gy behind teen girl fan­tasies.

A cou­ple decades before Asta Nielsen’s film reached its war-rav­ished audi­ences, Theodor Fontane changed the gen­der of Prince Ham­let in a lit­er­ary work. His mas­ter­piece Effi Briest is a veiled com­ing to terms with Shakespeare’s Ham­let, which he trans­lat­ed into Ger­man, in the terms of the mod­ern genre of Euro­pean adul­tery. Fontane stands at the end of that tra­di­tion as it pre­pares to make a new tran­si­tion, or at least give over some of its fran­chise, to cin­e­ma and the tech­no media. This junc­ture puts Fontane in the posi­tion of bring­ing the genre to some kind of con­clu­sion, while send­ing the geneal­o­gy of the tech­no heiress to the insti­tu­tion of girl edu­ca­tion. The adul­tery nov­el was, with­out a doubt, also intend­ed to edu­cate young wives to be. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Emma Bovary, and Anna Karen­i­na were bywords in the cau­tion­ary instruc­tion of young women. Unlike her pre­de­ces­sors, Effi Briest acquired the metal­lic ring of the Ham­let-machine. She rep­re­sents the first affir­ma­tive case—at least in the genre con­ceived with Ham­let, as Shakespeare’s hard-won accep­tance (or admis­sion) of the pre­ma­ture loss of his son and, more gen­er­al­ly, of teen sui­cide. Fontane was aware of his unique posi­tion and Effi is his mechan­i­cal child born of loss (the loss of old Prus­sia), a del­e­ga­tion that par­al­lels so many case his­to­ries of female film and pop stars. Effi is not about cau­tion and dis­ci­pli­nary drilling, but about enjoy­ment in the ‘class­room’ of fem­i­nine instruc­tion, about inhab­it­ing the “undis­cov­ered coun­try” or pros­thet­ic womb of death and sleep through a rever­sion to the dyadic rela­tion­ship of pre-Oedi­pal bliss. Niet­zsche had envi­sioned his school in much the same vein. The ele­ment bind­ing Effi’s edu­ca­tion­al des­tiny in Fontane’s school for girls to Nietzsche’s utopi­an gym­na­si­um, pro­ject­ed from the “entrails of the present” in “On the Future of Our Edu­ca­tion­al Insti­tu­tions,” is instinct.

Fontane also inti­mates at the end of his Ham­let work that, his­tor­i­cal­ly, instinct remains buried with the loss­es or losers. Rol­lo, Effi’s dog, refus­es to sur­vive his mis­tress and con­sume her remains. He stops eat­ing and lays him­self down to die at her grave, effec­tive­ly let­ting his heart stop beat­ing with hers. In a fleet­ing inter­pre­ta­tion of The Tem­pest, Vicky Hearne links the mag­ic of ani­mal training/domestication to that of the poet, both of which rely on intimate—and dangerous—knowledge of a fine­ly tuned instinc­tu­al appa­ra­tus.[9] As his final play, The Tem­pest revis­its much of what had occu­pied Shake­speare through­out his career as play­wright. It is a com­pan­ion piece to Ham­let, among oth­ers, where a broth­er is betrayed and sent to the (is)land “from whose borne no trav­el­er returns,” but, rather than appear as a ghost to a son and demand revenge, prac­tices the mag­ic of train­ing a daughter’s instinc­tu­al make­up to right the wrongs done to them.

Ariel is Miranda’s wild instinc­tive imag­i­na­tion placed in the ser­vice of her father’s book arts, just as Cal­iban is the crea­ture of pure dis­ci­pline and no instinct. Effi is also known as a “daugh­ter of the air,” and her name sug­gests ephemer­al breeze, Effi Briest. Asta Nielsen and Brit­ney Spears are like­wise trans­mit­ted “on air,” just as the mate­ri­al­i­ty of crypt trans­mis­sions and their abil­i­ty to trav­el across Oedi­pal bounds is, tech­ni­cal­ly, ethe­re­al. The crypt itself is her­met­i­cal­ly sealed by instinct, but its trans­mis­sions need air. A ghost is said to mate­ri­al­ize out of thin air, and Hamlet’s orig­i­nal wish, before he met the ghost, was to melt into dew: “Oh that this too too sol­id flesh would melt/ Thaw and resolve itself into a dew” (I.ii).

Air, unfor­tu­nate­ly, also brings about decay. The tragedies are not far off, since instinct can­not be aired and must go under: Miran­da is pur­sued by Cal­iban, Effi is snatched into unhap­py mar­riage to Innstet­ten, Asta Nielsen suf­fers the fate of her Ham­let, and Spears faces all of the above. Harassed by sadis­ti­cal­ly trained imi­ta­tion crea­tures from the wider view­er cir­cle of the Mick­ey Mouse Club, Brit­ney ends up in an unhap­py mar­riage to one of them as she also suf­fers the neces­si­ty to uphold their hyp­o­crit­i­cal moral code that is no match for her instincts. The pop and film ver­sions are less obvi­ous as the com­pos­ite image of the crypt inhab­i­tant is not con­tained in a sin­gle work, but often acquires its attrib­ut­es from dif­fer­ent media. Asta Nielsen, for exam­ple, became the face of WWI Ger­man loss­es, just as Effi embod­ies those oth­er loss­es that attend vic­to­ry and uni­fi­ca­tion. In Asta’s case, how­ev­er, the films and pho­tographs take an active part in trans­mit­ting her tex­tu­al lega­cy. Like her Ham­let, Asta suf­fers under an imposed male iden­ti­fi­ca­tion: shell-shocked sol­diers see the dead eyes of the fallen–friend and ene­my alike—in her pub­lic­i­ty pho­tos.

When Freud linked love and war neu­roses, he opened a two-way street that was always already part of the alle­gor­i­cal cor­re­spon­dence and trans­fer­ence between the two con­di­tions. The lyrics to “Out from Under” from Spears’ 2008 album Cir­cus trace a rudi­men­ta­ry crypt for­ma­tion in the con­text of tam­ing instinct. In the diur­nal world of the “office space,” which includes every space of writ­ing and account­ing, every film set, and the edit­ing machine itself, “out from under” means (like nor­ma­tive mourn­ing) the end of the work­day or of over­whelm­ing larg­er-than-life work assign­ments. The office hand and the cir­cus ring­leader have this much in com­mon: they super­vise what hap­pens “under.” The magi­cian Hearne writes about in her con­tem­pla­tion of the ani­mal train­er has the task of super­vis­ing the uncon­scious mourn­ing that takes place when nor­ma­tive mourn­ing is refused, as the lyrics of "Out from Under" [10] announce. The per­son­al loss of “all the things that nev­er were,” nor will be, becomes the ver­i­ta­ble ghost­writer of instinct. That, of course, threat­ens the office hand with being stuck on the unmourn­ing stage, like Ham­let is on the “or” between to be and not to be. This ill­ness pre­cip­i­tates cross-gen­der iden­ti­ty in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and finds its first major broad­cast in Asta Nielsen’s ver­sion of Princess Ham­let. Uncon­scious mourn­ing records instinct that goes from the open fields of untamed nature into every ges­ture and move­ment of the body’s dai­ly rou­tine in the house­hold, on the race­track, or in the office. When Effi’s moth­er begins soul-search­ing on her daughter’s grave and asks her hus­band if her death may have been their fault, old von Briest refus­es to go into the “open field” of the wild ques­tion of guilt or cause and effect, which require the “either/or” unknown to the uncon­scious: “Ah Louise, don’t go on.… That is too big a sub­ject” (Effi Briest 266). In the orig­i­nal Ger­man “too big a sub­ject” is “ein zu weites Feld,” which echoes Old Briest’s ear­li­er com­ment to Louise about Rollo’s self-imposed star­va­tion beside his mis­tress’ grave: “Ah yes, Louise, the beasts [Krea­tur] of the field. That’s what I’m always say­ing. We’re always talk­ing about instinct. All in all, it’s real­ly the best thing” (Effi Briest 267). Old Briest knows this loss inti­mate­ly, since he too endured a love­less mar­riage.[11] What he affirms with the last words of the nov­el is the exis­tence of the kind of love instinct that goes beyond the rec­i­p­ro­cat­ed Oedi­pal bond of ful­fill­ment if only because it has been giv­en up. Britney’s Cir­cus is built on the strength of the rela­tion­ship old Briest offers in the end: the uncon­di­tion­al devo­tion of the trainees to the ring­leader in the con­test of Oedi­pal desire, which, ulti­mate­ly, is also con­ceived at the ear­li­er phase of instinc­tive psy­chic devel­op­ment and, there­fore, can­not be an end in itself.


A nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry pre­de­ces­sor to the pop song, the post card was invent­ed to trans­mit mes­sages from shell-shocked sol­diers to their loved ones back home (Der­ri­da, Post Card). “Back home” is the uncan­ny place we were sup­posed to leave behind, but that sur­rounds, and sen­sur­rounds us, every­where we go. A deeply felt loss and its cor­re­spond­ing death wish are inscribed in these trans­mis­sions, which rip the mes­sage into the two inter­change­able sides, the mass-pro­duced image cut­ting along the edge or con­tour of the future pupil of our edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions. In his Ein­leitung zur Psy­cho­analyse der Kriegsneu­rosen (Intro­duc­tion to Psy­cho­analy­sis and the War Neu­roses, SE 17: 205-216) Freud dis­cov­ers the mech­a­nism that pro­duces the “bureau­crat­ic” doc­u­ments of mass-for­mat­ting per­son­al grief, among which we count the post­card, open to all, and the pop song, also an open address that unfolds an inti­mate mes­sage. The pro­duc­er here is the neu­rot­i­cal­ly inhib­it­ed “sol­dier nev­er to be,” or "toy sol­dier" [12] whose orig­i­nal role mod­el is the neu­rot­i­cal­ly inhib­it­ed girl unable to grad­u­ate to fam­i­ly and moth­er­hood. One ver­sion of the eti­ol­o­gy doc­u­ment­ed by the girl school of rock explod­ed all over the screens and screams in the 70s and Brit­ney did not fail to pay trib­ute to the fall­en toy sol­diers in the con­text of her 2002 road trip film Cross­roads that re-opened the road to matu­ri­ty for the embat­tled office hand: ("Cher­ry Bomb" [13] from The Run­aways, Joan Jett’s "I Love Rock ‘n Roll" [14], and Britney’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” [15]). Away from the action, at the home front, she sits behind the con­trol (school) desk from whence she mass-pro­duces and projects her own image of the crip­ple become medi­um: "If You Seek Amy."[16]

In his own con­tem­pla­tion of the “future of our edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions,” Jacques Der­ri­da cites Nietzsche’s “On Redemp­tion” (Thus Spoke Zarathus­tra) on “inverse crip­ples:” “This is what is ter­ri­ble for my eyes, that I find man in ruins and scat­tered as over a bat­tle­field or a butch­er-field” (Ear 3). The image is rem­i­nis­cent of Freud’s def­i­n­i­tion of mod­ern man as a “pros­thet­ic god” who grew tech­no exten­sions in the place of miss­ing body parts, and of anoth­er crip­ple with over­sized ears and hands, Mick­ey “the Mouse who roared” or, less cyn­i­cal­ly put, sang our lul­la­bies. His club of perpetual—nihilistic—childhoods is the edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion next to the haunt­ed play­ground that grad­u­at­ed Brit­ney Spears to "Slave 4 U." [17]

Slaves, like machines, pros­the­ses, and girls are not expect­ed to have autonomous feel­ings out­side the range of those onto­log­i­cal­ly felt by more appro­pri­ate sub­jects like dad, the mas­ter, the engi­neer, and any Oedi­pal body-pro­pri­etor, aka the phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal Sub­ject. Yet, Brit­ney tells us in this song that she has feel­ings, over­sized feel­ings of her own. She grows them in the place where they over­step the ring or glass cas­ket hold­ing the exquis­ite remains and per­fect body parts of “Hol­ly­wood Girl Lucky” or Snow White with the “per­fect smile,” and in the place where Joan Jett and Cherie Cur­rie fell. Feel­ings then copy the song lyrics to the syl­la­ble at the point of loss, the “bat­tle­field” of scat­tered remains giv­ing rise to self-reflex­iv­i­ty. Mick­ey Mouse too sings along with Brit­ney: “I know I may be young, [for­ev­er], but I got feel­ings too.… So let me go and just lis­ten” (“Slave 4 U”). What Mick­ey and Brit­ney feel is what binds them to us via YouTube and via the let­ters of the name to be filled in the appro­pri­ate breach or brack­et of an office doc­u­ment. Britney’s name, already giv­en at the front or office, is all feel­ings, and feel­ings, Shake­speare taught us, break through to real­i­ty at the point of dis­joint­ed time or men­tal derange­ment. Walt Dis­ney too suf­fered a ner­vous breakdown—or post­par­tum depression—once Mickey's image was com­plete and unchange­able. Along the crypt par­ti­tions that carve out the unal­ter­able image in let­ters, Britney’s voice traces the lat­est record of the breath that filled Mickey’s and Cherie’s lungs, giv­ing us hope that Britney’s appren­tice­ship may lead to grad­u­a­tion in some still stand­ing tow­er or oth­er.

When Brit­ney heard her audi­ence cry “Gimme More,” [18] after her career had alleged­ly fall­en through the cracks of men­tal ill­ness, she respond­ed with a song that left no illu­sion she had weaved untorn. “It’s Brit­ney, Bitch” is addressed to the “(h)and” or spear that links her name to Shakespeare’s sig­na­ture stretched across the crim­son instinc­tu­al make­up of her audi­ence. A bitch it is to look the uncan­ny, that which was sup­posed to remain hid­den, in the face. With Brit­ney, Walt Dis­ney final­ly got to “heir” the home front that got swept under the red car­pet once Mick­ey was com­plete. What were once a guar­an­tor of immor­tal­i­ty and car­ri­er of the jubi­lant per­fect smile returns as the fright­en­ing ghost of a mur­der vic­tim, who ini­ti­ates the haunt­ed line of suc­ces­sion and inher­i­tance. The male voiceover from “Gimme More,” announc­ing the per­ma­nence of her appeal, echoes the demand of the slave who can­not keep up with the sui­ci­dal jump into the abyss he requires of his mas­ters and remains naive­ly stuck on an illu­so­ry nar­cis­sism of pow­er. On the oth­er end is the bitch of hav­ing to iden­ti­fy with the fall­en one.

In his study of the Ger­man mourn­ing pageant, Wal­ter Ben­jamin para­phras­es Nietzsche’s find from the book that doc­u­ment­ed his war neu­ro­sis, The Birth of Tragedy, his vision of a pow­er­ful ruler of the dead, the trag­ic fig­ure, leap­ing over the abyss into which he saw him­self fall. Ben­jamin writes, “ancient tragedy is the fet­tered slave on the tri­umphal car of the […] mourn­ing play” (Ori­gin 100). Unlike tragedy, which enacts a judg­ment over a pow­er­ful fig­ure, and con­demns it for all eter­ni­ty, the mourn­ing pageant is devot­ed to the sim­ple con­sump­tion of its exquis­ite corpse. Ben­jamin thus gave us a hap­py Hegelian for­mu­la for the con­tain­ment of trag­ic break­throughs that, nev­er­the­less, fails to count the loss of a cer­tain heir. The judge who took Britney’s kids was not serv­ing jus­tice as much as the plea­sure prin­ci­ple of mod­ern spec­ta­cle pro­duc­tion, which brings tragedy back in our midst.

Benjamin’s study exam­ines the Ger­man mourn­ing pageant only in name. The cor­pus on which he writes is Shakespeare’s. Like many oth­er Ger­man trans­la­tors and inter­preters of Shake­speare, Ben­jamin sought the for­mu­las of the self-engi­neer­ing genius of mod­ern dra­ma in the Ger­man trans­mis­sion, which proved capa­ble of devel­op­ing the oth­er­wise illeg­i­ble neg­a­tive or sup­ple­men­tal print. A trance movement—transcendence, trans­la­tion, transference—is inher­ent in the fig­ure pro­duced by the Ger­man over­ture, the fore­court and ecsta­t­ic heart of Shakespeare’s dra­mas. The ele­ment and expe­ri­ence of ecsta­sy was record­ed by the first lit­er­al trans­la­tor of Shake­speare into Ger­man, Moses Mendelssohn, who chose Hamlet’s teen diary for­mat­ted solil­o­quies to illus­trate, and at the same time invent, the mod­ern update to the ancient aes­thet­ic cat­e­go­ry of the sub­lime.

The con­ti­nu­ity shot to the clas­si­cal peri­od Mendelssohn cut into his spec­u­la­tions was, how­ev­er, illu­so­ry. The con­di­tions for Hamlet’s trans­fer to Ger­man let­ters were set in motion by Guten­berg and Mar­tin Luther’s trans­la­tion of the Bible, in oth­er words by tech­no­log­i­cal inven­tion and reli­gious reform, both spon­sored by Chris­tian­i­ty. The trans­la­tion project cre­at­ed not only the first read­ing com­mu­ni­ty of trans­gres­sors, who from then on hung, along with thieves and crim­i­nals, on the noose called image or dam­age, but also grant­ed child­hood, via the new lit­er­a­cy require­ment of social­iza­tion, onto­log­i­cal sta­tus and chil­dren human­i­ty. Goethe signed an eter­nal con­tract of infi­nite trans­lata­bil­i­ty between the two cor­pus­es when he set out to sup­ply the invis­i­ble space of child­hood and turned the hor­rors of Shakespeare’s dra­mas into child’s play. Freud chan­neled this insight when he set out to sys­tem­atize the sci­ence of child­hood and child rear­ing. The project began with the demand to heal a “fem­i­nine” inva­lid­i­ty, a cer­tain psy­chic infer­til­i­ty, which had beset a gen­er­a­tion of women in Europe fol­low­ing the explo­sion of a bureau­crat­ic indus­try and cul­ture that employed women for the first time in his­to­ry. The forms of female ill­ness – inno­cent child­hood dra­mas -- and records of the var­i­ous stages of reach­ing matu­ri­ty, shape the prod­ucts of the office and the record­ing stu­dio, home of our enter­tain­ment.

Gimme More” is not Britney’s first song from beyond the plea­sure prin­ci­ple, but, like “Slave 4 U,” it stages the point of bro­ken and hence dou­bly-for­ti­fied iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. As a fig­ure for the pros­thet­ic breast that keeps audi­ences glued to the screens and sen­sur­round of child­hood, Brit­ney had to go all the way to the front, to the front of the line that retains the dif­fer­ence between the word and the deed. Ham­let is the clas­sic fig­ure stuck on the impos­si­bil­i­ty of decid­ing between the medi­at­ed and the real, to be or not. “Gimme More” is more than a slide into the abyss. Hav­ing sent her away, in a fit of anger at her betray­al, the audi­ence brings her back to play, but this time as the invalid, which rein­stalls the blood dri­ve of the remote as it trans­fig­ures the con­trolled body into the image. How to play this role is some­thing Brit­ney could have learned only from Uncle Dis­ney, who raised her. The only imped­i­ment to the death dri­ve of want­i­ng the same, gen­er­a­tion in gen­er­a­tion out, is the loss of body parts and bod­ies, Every­Bod­ies look­ing and watch­ing and look­ing for some … body … parts … that would once more allow one to par­tic­i­pate in the life of the group body (“Every­body”).[19]

Psy­cho­analy­sis is a late­com­er on the scene of trans­gres­sive mass for­mat­ting, but since its inven­tion coin­cides with a major stopover in media his­to­ry, the deploy­ment of film tech­nol­o­gy in the libid­i­nal life of West­ern civ­i­liza­tion, the human sci­ence par excel­lence proved an effi­cient chem­i­cal devel­op­er in pro­fil­ing fem­i­nin­i­ty. In The New Intro­duc­to­ry Lec­tures (SE 22) Freud argues that weav­ing, knit­ting, and, by exten­sion, text pro­duc­tion are among the only achieve­ments females have con­tributed to civ­i­liza­tion. The nat­ur­al coun­ter­part to this cul­tur­al accom­plish­ment, Freud writes, is gen­i­tal hair, designed to cov­er up the miss­ing body part or the dif­fer­ence between the sex­es. Once text and tex­ture are devel­oped, gen­i­tal hair, of course, becomes super­flu­ous. Text is among the ear­ly media cross­ing the divide of gen­der iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, falling or fol­low­ing through the cracks of our sep­a­ra­tion from the body.

Britney’s first break­through came with “Hit Me, Baby, One More Time,” [20] a record that tracks the female mode of long­ing and weav­ing fan­tas­tic instinc­tu­al sat­is­fac­tion in the place of a miss­ing some­thing or some­one. The sadis­tic moment in the fan­ta­sy of oral con­sum­ma­tion of the miss­ing part or body cor­re­sponds to the oth­er “hit,” the hit of tox­i­c­i­ty, or fist of destruc­tiv­i­ty, when the fan­tas­tic for­ma­tion breaks through the tex­ture of medi­at­ic over­ex­po­sure and takes hold of libid­i­nal bonds. Anoth­er hit, “Tox­ic,” [21] which, in spite of the imme­di­a­cy announced in the title, belongs to the play­ground of the Mick­ey Mouse Club. “Tox­ic” came to life for Brit­ney when the intrapsy­chic appa­ra­tus of her text pro­duc­tion, oth­er­wise sup­port­ing an alle­gor­i­cal milieu of minia­tur­ized tokens of child­hood, mate­ri­al­ized as fake mar­riages, over­ex­posed ques­tion­able sex, falling or for­sak­en babies, and pub­lic break­downs. The trou­bled rela­tion­ship to the fam­i­ly already indi­cates a lev­el of tox­i­c­i­ty in Britney’s love bonds, which include her audi­ence. The ear­ly sep­a­ra­tion spark­ing fan­tasies of merg­er, required by her mem­ber­ship in the Dis­ney group, has trou­ble with moth­er as pre­req­ui­site. In her place, the life of the group grows uncon­trol­lably intox­i­cat­ing both in the frame­work of the nar­cis­sis­tic rela­tion to one's image and as a point of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the group ego ide­al, which spells out the even­tu­al demise of the lat­ter in the fail­ure of the moral sys­tem. The sto­ry was first ghost-sight­ed by Shake­speare when he wrote his Ham­let. The suc­ces­sion to the throne, of Elvis, goes over a tox­ic rela­tion­ship to a ghost pro­duced by the per­ceived crime of a moth­er and an uncle, and who mod­els the sur­veil­lance appa­ra­tus that caught it in its Web.

The “achieve­ment” Freud attrib­ut­es to the fem­i­nine func­tion is, on the one hand, a con­tri­bu­tion to cul­tur­al advance­ment respon­si­ble for the con­tain­ment of destruc­tive fan­tasies with­in a liv­able and medi­at­ed envi­ron­ment and, on the oth­er, a con­stant threat of epi­dem­ic break­outs. Accord­ing to The New Intro­duc­to­ry Lec­tures, the devel­op­ment of the female dif­fers from that of the male by the two addi­tion­al phas­es of psy­chic for­ma­tion the girl must work through before she matures as woman or moth­er. Although the Oedi­pal phase is the same for both sex­es inso­far as it is held togeth­er by the fan­ta­sy of rean­i­mat­ing a totemic moth­er, boys and girls give up the object on entire­ly dif­fer­ent hands. Boys get in trou­ble with the law of the father, which for­bids self-sat­is­fac­tion along with the desire for moth­er, who remains the object of strife. The totem stands in the way of an oth­er­wise unchanged object of sat­is­fac­tion. Girls, in com­par­i­son, give up moth­er and the organ of self-sat­is­fac­tion, any body part that marks a dif­fer­ence, because both are deval­ued in the econ­o­my of plea­sure. The organ of sat­is­fac­tion grows loath­some and is either hid­den, vom­it­ed inside, or flushed as feces. In the last case, the girl regress­es to anal rela­tions with the moth­er, which entail sadis­tic mas­tery and the gift­ing of anal babies. The girl is only able to make good this fail­ure in acts of sub­li­ma­tion, whether in pop, as mass for­ma­tion, or in high art, as indi­vid­ual achieve­ment. In the case of inter­nal vom­it­ing, con­verse­ly, she is able to progress along the “nor­mal” path of devel­op­ment, but also retains an expan­sive mem­o­ry bank that not only holds the past with­in liv­ing reach, but also, from the posi­tion of hid­den iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the for­sak­en moth­er, is capa­ble of remote con­trol­ling the libid­i­nal life of the group.

The dou­ble func­tion of weav­ing, to hold and to imper­il, cor­re­sponds to the two phas­es in the devel­op­ment of fem­i­nin­i­ty we find out of joint with the time of matur­ing mas­culin­i­ty, name­ly, the require­ment to give up moth­er as the beloved in order to ush­er in the girl’s Oedi­pal phase. The renewed iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the renounced object upon the arrival of chil­dren is the sec­ond addi­tion­al phase, which, how­ev­er, over­laps with mass for­ma­tion and as such can be shared with boys, albeit under dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances. The cul­tur­al work of preser­va­tion falls in the province of the female func­tion. The mount­ing mate­r­i­al from the ongo­ing work of repres­sion can break through resis­tances and back into the real only by path­ways that lead the girl to the mater­nal posi­tion, which is also the posi­tion required for the social­iza­tion of boys.

Freud nev­er stat­ed the con­nec­tion between the out-of-joint phas­es of fem­i­nine devel­op­ment and Hamlet’s predica­ments explic­it­ly, but as first patient of psy­cho­analy­sis and the under­ground “mole” of the clas­sic Oedi­pal sce­nario, Ham­let qual­i­fies as female. The bond grows vis­i­ble in the vam­pir­ic mode of film devel­op­ment. Like a girl, Ham­let has to give up moth­er as the object and fall in love with father. This means Ham­let has to take the call to revenge, and then arrive at per­fect iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with moth­er when he cra­dles Ophelia’s dead body in the grave, sure­ly the begin­ning of his cure, but which comes too late. That sce­nario was unveiled in Asta Nielsen’s inter­pre­ta­tion. In this neg­a­tive devel­op­ment, Ham­let is forced into life-long trans­vestism by her moth­er, whose ambi­tion to pre­serve the Dan­ish crown for a male heir in the wake of the false news of King Hamlet’s death on the bat­tle­field spills over the bounds of gen­der dif­fer­ence and sac­ri­fices a daugh­ter. Ophe­lia, whose moth­er is miss­ing, is the “nat­ur­al” mod­el for this type of sac­ri­fice. Hamlet’s intense attach­ment to his father and to Hor­a­tio thus gets a makeover under the sil­ver light of inces­tu­ous teen girl fan­tasies. The film dou­bles, then, as the blue­print for the gen­e­sis of the female pop star.

A good num­ber of Britney’s songs, like “Lucky,” “Oops, I Did It Again,”[22] “Me Against the Music,”[23] are pred­i­cat­ed on the kind of inac­tion or inabil­i­ty to step into the real that we know from Hamlet’s teen diary mono­logues. The girl with the bow of Cupid, her­self imper­me­able to her own weapons, derives the psy­chic pow­er of her last­ing appeal from the revenge fan­ta­sy that Freud dis­cov­ered is ener­get­i­cal­ly counter-attacked, by sav­ages and neu­rotics, with a “taboo on vir­gin­i­ty.” The dimin­ished capac­i­ty for jus­tice Freud observes in women is due to the neces­si­ty to over­come envy, which is a con­sti­tu­tion­al fac­tor, albeit trans­formed, in the prac­tice of jus­tice. The tex­ture that cov­ers up the miss­ing cov­et­ed object also dis­pos­es of the demands posed by revenge fan­tasies, which sup­port the cir­cu­la­tion sys­tems of the court. A lat­er phase in the devel­op­ment of the female, the venge­ful reac­tion to the nar­cis­sis­tic injury of deflo­ration is per­haps bet­ter suit­ed to act as a diges­tive for the bit­ter­ly denied “penis envy,” pos­si­bly Freud’s most con­tro­ver­sial for­mu­la­tion. The inabil­i­ty to metab­o­lize envy, which is an absolute require­ment on the way to motherhood/womanhood, belongs to a par­tic­u­lar clus­ter of symp­toms that hangs on inad­mis­si­ble anal rela­tions with the moth­er.

The ques­tion for Ham­let, we know, was nev­er “to be or not,” but rather how to get off the “or,” heard in Ger­man as Ohr, ear. Indeed, it wasn’t until the Ger­man trans­la­tion of Ham­let, which required the large-scale metab­o­liza­tion via Goethe’s Roman­ti­cism and Clas­si­cism, that psy­cho­analy­sis received the lost “hair,” laid him flat, and began to think fem­i­nin­i­ty as com­pat­i­ble with the media-tech­no­log­i­cal advances since Guten­berg. Ohr occu­pies the place (in the body as in gram­mar) that sep­a­rates, divides, and injures. As such it also becomes the recip­i­ent of the hottest fan­tasies of com­pen­sa­tion for loss and pain.

Ernest Jones traced the cre­ation fan­ta­sy of “insem­i­nat­ing” the ear with the spir­it of the father to the anal phase of libid­i­nal devel­op­ment. In his study “The Madonna's Con­cep­tion through the Ear,” he argues that the notion of a high­er spir­it is a dis­placed, sub­li­mat­ed ver­sion of anal emis­sions (Con­cep­tion 266-357).[24] The con­cep­tion of one’s own and God’s cre­ativ­i­ty is ini­ti­at­ed by this stage of ear­ly repro­duc­tive research when fer­til­i­ty is imag­ined along the lines of anal rela­tions with the mater­nal body, which receives the gift and demands the stim­u­la­tion of par­tic­u­lar organs. In their sub­li­mat­ed forms, these fan­tasies fuel art pro­duc­tion, which counts on a cer­tain self-suf­fi­cien­cy of an agency that is not nec­es­sar­i­ly with­in one’s reach—we call it “inspi­ra­tion.” Britney’s “Breathe on Me” blows re-cre­ation­al pow­ers to the pun­ished or cut-off “touch­ing” body part (hand Ohr ear Ohr some­thing), in which place she appears as the pros­thet­ic device allow­ing boys and girls to par­tic­i­pate in the mater­nal dis-posi­tion, to con­jure the face that inspires. Art and reli­gious exer­cise, Jones argues, car­ry out the task of sub­li­mat­ing the wish­es and com­pul­sions attend­ing the anal phase. That some of the imi­ta­tions and imper­son­ations of pop artists are par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­turb­ing and unrec­og­niz­able only goes to prove that regres­sions and desub­li­ma­tions, which undo the achieve­ment of the artist, are of the order of a per­verse glob­al recep­tion. The sale of Britney’s hair high­lights the glob­al tra­jec­to­ry of pop art in break­down mode. The loss of a prop­er heir to a pop icon is inevitable and of the order of tragedy, our tragedy. Brit­ney illus­trat­ed the tragedy with a bril­liant act of self-inoc­u­la­tion against the loss­es her lyrics track when she dis­posed pub­licly of the Rhein­gold locks. Yet the removal of the work from the con­text in which it is con­ceived, an achieve­ment of the “female” in a West­ern frame of ref­er­ence, reduces the her­itage to the dis­pos­able same­ness of feces, or mon­ey, or noth­ing­ness. When Brit­ney can­celled a con­cert in Mex­i­co City for fear of light­ning storms, she instinc­tive­ly guard­ed against the kind of Franken­stein­ian recre­ation that threat­ens to reduce her lega­cy to the undif­fer­en­ti­at­ed same­ness of inter­change­able dead body parts.


Although Freud set out to “cure” female inva­lid­i­ty, his sci­ence pro­vid­ed the instruc­tion­al man­u­al to the new woman who is no longer lim­it­ed to trans­mit­ting clan­des­tine his­to­ries via repro­duc­tion or by bury­ing unmourn­able loss­es in her children’s bod­ies, but has the media tech­no­log­i­cal appa­ra­tus at her dis­pos­al to repli­cate what could not be put to rest in peace. The avun­cu­lar struc­ture sup­port­ing this line of trans­mis­sion of tra­di­tion is already cod­ed in Shakespeare’s Ham­let, but was with­drawn from mass release until WWI deployed the new meta­physics that required the aban­don­ment of birthright posi­tions and sex­u­al iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, as well as an active dis­po­si­tion, and forged clan­des­tine affect out of play­grounds such as the Mick­ey Mouse Club or an MTV line of roy­al suc­ces­sion. The ear is both the priv­i­leged organ of covert affects and plea­sures and the one that is lost to a cer­tain inabil­i­ty to sub­sti­tute for or artic­u­late one’s loss­es. The pros­thet­ic exten­sion receives mes­sages from the undead, stereo enhanced, and pro­duces for­mats such as Effi’s love let­ters, the post­card, or the pop song out of the rub­ble that lit­ters media bat­tle­fields with human body parts. Trag­ic loss thus gets a per­fect makeover on con­densed, con­demned, and hence inac­tive, mourn­ing stage sets. The inside-out­side chance of ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tion comes when Brit­ney hits home, one more time, with the force of some spear of ecsta­sy or acidic arrow sig­na­ture.


[1] Rick­els begins his con­tem­pla­tion of the crypt medi­um with his 1988 study Aber­ra­tions of Mourn­ing: Writ­ing on Ger­man Crypts (WSUP) and trans­plants the Ger­man-bred finds onto Hol­ly­wood ter­ri­to­ry, while pur­su­ing a crypt trans­mis­sion, with his 1991 Case of Cal­i­for­nia.

[2] Rick­els writes: “The slow­down of devel­op­men­tal rates which under­lies our neote­nous species takes the form of long peri­ods of ges­ta­tion, extend­ed child­hoods, and the longest life span among mam­mals. That we are always in a state of devel­op­ment we owe to our neote­nous nature. Mick­ey Mouse, too, devel­oped up to a point—of per­pet­u­al­ly adorable youth­ful­ness. From the Mick­ey Mouse Club to MTV, neot­eniza­tion is the cho­sen chan­nel: to become what one is becomes the other—nihilistic—program of child­hoods. A cer­tain back­fire of ado­les­cence fueled by MTV has required inclu­sion of edu­ca­tion­al spots with­in the ongo­ing music-video show since count­less addict­ed ‘chil­dren’ are tied, like their teen mod­els, only to the tube” (Case 68).

[3] Avi­tal Ronell presents the haunt­ed trans­mis­sion between Goethe and Freud in her 1986 study Dic­ta­tions: On Haunt­ed Writ­ing.

[4] Abra­ham and Torok’s case study of one of Freud’s famous patients, Sergei Pankeiev, made the “crypt” a psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic con­cept and byword par excel­lence. They reopened a closed case along the par­ti­tions of the ver­bal remains it left behind and pur­sued the encrypt­ed inhab­i­tants of a fam­i­ly the­ater with a sense of aes­thet­ics com­pat­i­ble with post­war sen­si­bil­i­ties, which often con­flat­ed the crypt as repos­i­to­ry of unmourn­able loss and the crea­ture as the mourned dead. Rick­els’ and Ronell’s stud­ies rein­state the dif­fer­ence.

[5] In his post­war lec­ture series, which cul­mi­nat­ed in the pub­li­ca­tion of Ham­let oder Heku­ba: Der Ein­bruch der Zeit in das Spiel (Ham­let or Hecu­ba: Break­through of his­tor­i­cal time in the play) Carl Schmitt argues that the cen­tral con­flict of the play is the his­tor­i­cal con­test between the two queens, Elis­a­beth of Eng­land and Mary of Scot­land. Although the study, a pre­cur­sor of Amer­i­can new his­tori­cist crit­i­cism, favors the his­tor­i­cal win­ner, Elis­a­beth over Mary, it also rep­re­sents a com­ing to terms with WWII loss­es.

[6] Jacques Der­ri­da wrote the pref­ace to Abra­ham and Torok’s reread­ing of the Wolf Man Case for the orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion in French in 1976. In “Fors,” then, he linked the task of writ­ing a pref­ace to the task of trans­mit­ting crypt con­tents. The pref­ace func­tions much like an encryp­tion that repli­cates itself in the main course of read­ing. Der­ri­da thus direct­ly impli­cat­ed his prac­tice of read­ing and writ­ing, famous­ly dubbed decon­struc­tion, as explic­it­ly cryptonymic.

[7] In her 1929 essay “The Impa­tience of Ham­let,” Ella Free­man Sharpe argued that Shake­speare avoid­ed a ner­vous break­down by pro­ject­ing the var­i­ous con­flict­ing agen­cies in his psy­che onto the char­ac­ters of the play. She was also among the first psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic the­o­rists to rec­og­nize Ophe­lia as a prod­uct of the nar­cis­sis­tic phase and fem­i­nine dou­ble of Ham­let, and not as an Oedi­pal object, which is how Freud and Jones treat­ed her.

[8] Jacques Lacan’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the play, fea­tured in the sem­i­nar and pub­lished as “Desire and the Inter­pre­ta­tion of Desire in Ham­let,” reads Hamlet’s fate as a relent­less race toward a fatal appoint­ment with desire deter­mined by uncon­scious motives.

[9] In the chap­ter “Rights, Autism, and the Rougher Mag­ics,” Vicky Hearne offers an analy­sis of the poet­ic task among the many tasks that bind us to language—and the rest of the media—via our rela­tion­ship to ani­mals.

[10] “Out from Under”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​v​P​I​_​X​O​I​K​I9c.

[11] In her study “Effi Briest. Die Entwick­lung ein­er Depres­sion” ("Effi Briest. The Devel­op­ment of a Depres­sion") Gisela Greve argues that Effi’s depres­sion devel­ops out of an ear­ly child­hood expe­ri­ence of a love­less mar­riage. Hav­ing lived with a father who is unloved by his wife, Effi finds her­self betrothed to a sim­i­lar­ly dis­tant and unlov­able hus­band.

[12] “Toy Sol­dier”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​Z​M​s​2​b​E​x​h​y​r​8​&​f​e​a​t​u​r​e​=​r​e​l​a​ted.

[13] “Cher­ry Bomb”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​p​M​D​n​6​V​7​Z​LhE.

[14] Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​M​3​T​_​x​e​o​G​ES8.

[15] Britney’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​X​w​3​U​b​w​w​0​7Ew.

[16] “If You Seek Amy”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​B​r​i​t​n​e​y​S​p​e​a​r​s​V​E​V​O​#​p​/​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​0​/​0​a​E​n​n​H​6​t​8Ts.

[17] “I’m a Slave 4 U”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​B​r​i​t​n​e​y​S​p​e​a​r​s​V​E​V​O​#​p​/​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​0​/​M​z​y​b​w​w​f​2​HoQ.

[18] “Gimme More”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​B​r​i​t​n​e​y​S​p​e​a​r​s​V​E​V​O​#​p​/​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​0​/​e​l​u​e​A​2​r​o​foo.

[19] “Every­body”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​y​U​O​H​b​e​q​f​Wio.

[20] “Hit Me, Baby, One More Time”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​B​r​i​t​n​e​y​S​p​e​a​r​s​V​E​V​O​#​p​/​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​0​/​C​-​u​5​W​L​J​9​Yk4.

[21] “Tox­ic”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​B​r​i​t​n​e​y​S​p​e​a​r​s​V​E​V​O​#​p​/​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​0​/​L​O​Z​u​x​w​V​k​7TU.

[22] “Oops, I Did It Again”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​B​r​i​t​n​e​y​S​p​e​a​r​s​V​E​V​O​#​p​/​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​1​2​/​C​d​u​A​0​T​U​L​now.

[23] “Me Against the Music”: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​B​r​i​t​n​e​y​S​p​e​a​r​s​V​E​V​O​#​p​/​u​/​1​1​/​c​l​w​L​K​J​2​9​4u4.

[24] See Rick­els’ trans-val­u­a­tion of this inter-text in Aber­ra­tions of Mourn­ing (chap­ter 4).

Works Cited

Abra­ham, Nico­las, and Maria Torok. The Wolf Man's Mag­ic Word: a Cryptonymy. Min­neapo­lis: U of Min­neso­ta P, 1986. Print.

Ben­jamin, Wal­ter, and George Stein­er. The Ori­gin of Ger­man Trag­ic Dra­ma. Lon­don: Black­well Ver­so, 1998. Print.

Der­ri­da, Jacques, and Christie McDon­ald. The Ear of the Oth­er: Oto­bi­og­ra­phy, Trans­fer­ence, Trans­la­tion: Texts and Dis­cus­sions with Jacques Der­ri­da. Lin­coln: Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka, 1988. Print.

---. The Post Card. Trans. Alan Bass. Chica­go U P, 1987. Print.

Freud, Sig­mund, James Stra­chey, Anna Freud, Car­rie Lee Rothgeb, and Angela Richards. The Stan­dard Edi­tion of the Com­plete Psy­cho­log­i­cal Works of Sig­mund Freud. Lon­don: Hog­a­rth, 1953. Print.

Fontane, Theodor, and Hugh Ror­ri­son. Effi Briest. Lon­don: Pen­guin, 2000. Print. Goethe, Johann Wolf­gang Von, Eric A. Black­all, and Vic­tor Lange. Wil­helm Meister's Appren­tice­ship. Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton UP, 1995. Print.

Greve, Gisela. “Effi Briest. Die Entwick­lung ein­er Depres­sion.” Jahrbuch der Psy­cho­analyse 18 (1986): 195-220. Print.

Hearne, Vic­ki. Adam’s Task: Call­ing Ani­mals by Name. New York: Knopf, 1986. Print.

Jones, Ernest. “The Madonna’s Con­cep­tion Through the Ear.” Essays in Applied Psy­cho­analy­sis. Vol. 2. New York: Inter­na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1964. 266-357. Print.

Lacan, Jacques. “Desire and the Inter­pre­ta­tion of Desire in Ham­let.” Trans. James Hul­bert. Yale French Stud­ies 56-57 (1977): 11-52. Print.

Niet­zsche, Friedrich Wil­helm. Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (Griechen­tum und Pes­simis­mus). München: W. Gold­mann, 1959. Print.

---. On the Future of Our Edu­ca­tion­al Insti­tu­tions. Trans. J. M. Kennedy. Edin­burgh: Foulis, 1909.

Rick­els, Lau­rence A. The Case of Cal­i­for­nia. Bal­ti­more: Johns Hop­kins UP, 1991. Print.

Ronell, Avi­tal. Dic­ta­tions on Haunt­ed Writ­ing. Lin­coln: U of Nebras­ka P, 1993. Print.

Schmitt, Carl. Ham­let oder Heku­ba: Der Ein­bruch der Zeit in das Spiel. Stuttgart: Klett-Cot­ta, 2008. Print.

Shake­speare, William, and David Bev­ing­ton. The Com­plete Works of Shake­speare. New York: Pear­son Long­man, 2004. Print.

Sharpe, Ella Free­man, and Mar­jorie Brier­ley. Col­lect­ed Papers on Psy­cho-analy­sis. Lon­don: Hog­a­rth, 1950. Print.

Spears, Brit­ney, perf.. “Out from Under.” Cir­cus. Song­writ­ers: Arthor Bir­gis­son, Wayne Antho­ny Hec­tor, Shel­ley Peiken. Sony, 2008. CD.

This arti­cle is licensed under a  Cre­ative Com­mons 3.0 License although cer­tain works ref­er­enced here­in may be sep­a­rate­ly licensed, or the author has exer­cised their right to fair deal­ing under the Cana­di­an Copy­right Act.