Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative Literature Chen Edelsburg attended the 2019 NAPH Conference hosted by Boston University on June 24-26, 2019.
My presentation on "Love and Hysteria in the Author-Reader Relationship"examines the ways in which hysterical narration constructs and effects the reader’s subject position. Although hysteria was widely studied as a form of storytelling, the relationship it manifests with readers has yet to be explored. I focus on works in Hebrew literature that were written by women authors and depict women heroines. These works serve as a test case for demonstrating how writers can distort language, syntax and punctuation in order to manifest what I would like to call “hysterical narration,” and create a place for themselves in what used to be a mostly masculine domain. Hebrew literature presents an especially complicated example, as hysteria was often associated with the Jewish exiled male, reacting to his marginal, feminine or rejected identity, internalizing anti-Semitic portrayals. The paper describes the ways in which hysterical narration encourages readers to use symptomatic tools of interpretation in response for the heroines’ need for love and desire, the tools Freud saw as “substitutes for love.” However, these tools are bound to fail, as the hysterical text resists this kind of interpretation. Readers are left with a much more passive reading position that relies on affect and sensuous aspects, a kind of surface reading, as their only option. The dismantling of readers from some of their intellectual abilities is a form of projective identification, that allows the narrators to make us experience the deprivation of intellectual abilities that characterized the lives of their heroines.