‘An Unrehearsed Theatre of Technology’: Oedipalization and Vision in Ballard’s Crash

  • Nick Davis


Ballard’s novels of the early 1970s offer themselves as the revelatory annals of a world which has turned apocalyptic, and where received, normative systems of representation operate as a blocking of this fearful knowledge. The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) and Crash (1973) explore shared conditions of life which are catastrophic in ways that characteristically elude consciousness. What is restrictive in the ordinary workings of consciousness becomes clear through the novels’ direct dealings with scenes and situations of catastrophe, whose function here is to disrupt the normalizing vision — a field made up of what Ballard elsewhere terms ‘the conventional stage sets that are erected around us’3 — revealing what this vision masks. But in what sense might the novels be considered to be bringing to light a hidden knowledge? If, say, they are concerned with the bodily and psychic risks of inhabiting a highly technologized world, then the sense of risk could be said to be one that many of this world’s inhabitants consciously share. For the purposes of answering our question it is useful to take seriously Ballard’s declared interest in the thought of Freud: the novels’ reflections on the relationship between psyche and the ambient culture are a recognizable development out of a central psychoanalytic concern and form of enquiry.


Conscious Knowledge Oedipus Complex Cultural Authority Ambient Culture Road Research Laboratory 
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    Jean Baudrillard, ‘Ballard’s Crash’, trans. Arthur B. Evans, Science-Fiction Studies, 18 (1991), p. 314.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • Nick Davis

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