Althusser's achievement is that he redefined Marxism. He reconceptualizes history and totality in terms of different times, construes knowledge as the outcome of a process of construction, and interprets subjectivity as an effect of ideology and unconscious processes. Unfortunately, Althusser's functionalist view of ideology claims that the subject recognizes itself as a subject because it duplicates— reflects—an absolute subject. However, Lacan's notion of the mirror stage remedies this fault. Lacan's subject always misrecognizes itself in a process of contradiction that threatens the stability of any given social order. Moreover, unlike Foucault's subject, which is limited in that subjectivity is folded back into a vaguely expanded notion of "power," this revised Althusserian subject allows careful reading of texts. The critic does not simply read against the grain; he or she exposes the multiple points of identification offered the reader. For example, Wordsworth's "The Solitary Reaper" installs the reader in multiple positions: a devotee of high culture and the national canon, a lover of the verbal signifier and its play, a consumer of confessional discourse, and a masculine "I" desiring a laboring, singing woman.
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"Text and Subject Position after Althusser,"
Studies in 20th Century Literature:
1, Article 9.