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Paris And The Fetish: Primal Fetish Review

Who was Freud?

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who invented psychoanalysis, a clinical method for assessing and treating psychiatric problems based on a patient-psychoanalyst interaction like primal fetish.

Paris and the Fetish

Alistair Rolls’ research uses Sigmund Freud’s 1927 essay on fetishism as a jumping off point for a look at five primarily literary Parisian crime scenes. This ‘fetishistic world view’ is linked to the scenario of two seemingly mutually incompatible criminal narratives coexisting in the same book.

Rolls expands his analysis of the supremacy of textual fetishism in these times of deconstructive potential, drawing on Baudelaire’s prose-poems, particularly ‘une passante,’ Barthesian poststructuralism and the separation between the readerly and writerly text, and the Yale school of deconstruction. Rolls examines the sexual/textual poetics of Frédéric Cathala’s L’Arbalète: la vraie vie commence, Fred Vargas’ L’Homme à l’envers, Sartre’s La Nausée, and Léo Malet’s Nestor Burma contra CQFD and Les Eaux difficulties de Javal via this lens. From the 1947 attack on a Christian Dior New Look model on the streets of Montmartre to the textual doubling of female murderers, their guilt, and their innocence in Malet’s Nestor Burma mysteries set in the ‘double metropolis’ of the late 1940s and 1950s Paris, Paris and its cityscapes — imagined and real — play a key role in all narrative instances of the textual fetishism that Rolls explores.

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What appear to be depictions of sexuality can be analysed as something else, as Rolls reveals throughout his work, showing “their reflective, and thus largely textual, aim”. Rolls’ work will appeal to scholars who are aware of the creative potential of a fetishistic world view as a means of re-imagining Paris through its literary crimes, thanks to its inventive re-invention of five Parisian crime tales.

The traumatic fact of the mother’s sexuality, which dominates the present moment by sustaining, alongside but not in place of it, a parallel storey of the past of the phallic mother myth, is helped by Freud’s 1927 paper on the creation of a screen memory, or fetish. In this book, Freud’s primal fetish theory is used to propose radical new solutions to a range of Parisian crime stories, particularly this strategy of allowing two opposed and supposedly mutually conflicting narratives to coexist. 

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The fetishistic worldview of Charles Baudelaire’s poetics will be shown to provide the template for all overvalued instances of women passing by; specifically, the famous assault on one of Christian Dior’s models while she was displaying the New Look for the first time in Montmartre in 1947 will be seen to be based on a fetish erected in the poem “une passante.” In works by Fred Vargas, Léo Malet, and Frédéric Cathala, the same Paris streets allow red herrings to be elevated to the status of fact. The finding of a primal fetish scene in these works allows for the casting of doubt on authorial answers and the discovery of new murderers or victims. In Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausée, fetishism at work is demonstrated to have harboured a serial killer in a location where no crime had previously been suspected. To question the way we interpret literature, these studies map fetishism onto prose poetics, intertextuality, and deconstruction. More crucially, rereading these works allows us to perceive fetish as a force for constructive, creative meaning-making in a new perspective.

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