Leroux’s Sublimations of Cultural Politics
The “burial” of inconsistent, unsociable, and thus “unconscious” longings in Leroux’s Fantôme, we now see, occurs within a definite bourgeois agenda that is strikingly visible in the novel. This agenda, meanwhile, as I now want to show, rests on a shaky ground of numerous cultural conflicts. Indeed, the novel’s Freudianism seems almost innocuous today compared to its “undergrounding” of many social outcasts from Leroux’s time and place, several of whom are composited in the figure of Erik and some of whom appear briefly in other characters as well. It is not simply that the oxymoronic states of being infantile/cadaverous or inside/outside the mother are reembodied in Erik’s French/Germanic, Gentile/Jewish, and Occidental ‘Oriental conditions, with each second element being the more “other” of the two. It is that “unconscious impulses” of rising-middle-class desire, all revealed as the products of pursuing an ideology of the “normal,” arc not as truly shocking, and not as often suppressed by the adaptations of the novel, as the moments when Leroux’s phantom appears to slide undecidably between races, genders, classes, and other levels of existence that are sharply differentiated and politically charged in Western culture.
KeywordsParis Opus Cultural Politics High Culture National Opus Sexual Deviance
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