Tag: anxiety

So I Want to Kill This [Spritzhead]: Paranoia in Tori Amos, Hothead Paisan, and reading/writing generally

by on Oct.26, 2010

1.

In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” a chapter in Touching Feeling, Sedgwick addresses the paranoid reading practices that she argues have come to monopolize critical theory, including New Historicist, deconstructive, feminist, and psychoanalytic studies, and especially queer studies: in these fields, she claims, “to apply a hermeneutics of suspicion is widely understood as a mandatory injunction rather than a possibility among other possibilities” (125).

To explain what she means by paranoid reading, and to contrast it to the reparative reading mode towards which she desires queer studies to turn, Sedgwick adopts Melanie Klein’s formulation of two affective positions, the schizoid/paranoid and the depressive/reparative. These are positions, importantly, not developmental stages, and so they are temporary, changing, and relational, each subject to oscillation into the other. Klein sees the depressive position as a reprieve from the schizoid/paranoid position: its “terrible alertness,” its government by “hatred, envy, and anxiety.” From the depressive position, it is possible, Sedgwick explains:

to use one’s own resources to assemble or ‘repair’ the murderous part-objects into something like a whole — though, I would emphasize, not necessarily like any preexisting whole…a more satisfying object [that] is available both to be identified with and to offer one nourishment and comfort in turn. Among Klein’s names for the reparative process is love. (128)

I want to look at two performances of the oscillation between Klein’s paranoid and depressive positions within art — then return to Sedgwick and think about paranoid writing. I don’t understand why my writing here is so forced and I can’t break out. You’re going to point out every interpretive error, aren’t you, sneer that it’s obvious I’ve never read Klein. Stop it I hate you. Fuck you all.

Tori Amos’s “The Waitress” has radically evolved since its original 1994 recording on Under the Pink. The original version is pure murderlust, its speaker, a waitress, announcing her desire to kill a fellow waitress, a desire suppressed only by the speaker’s belief “in peace, bitch.” In this version the speaker is ruled by the “hatred, envy, and anxiety” that characterize Klein’s paranoid/schizoid position. The speaker is stuck, paralyzed by her “terrible alertness” to the threat posed by the presumably more-powerful waitress.

The version that Tori played on her 1998 Plugged tour is vastly transformed from the original and is improvised slightly differently in each performance. This clip  is pretty characteristic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rolRKCIAi0

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