Althusser, marxism, redefined marxism, history, totality, construction, knowledge, time, subjectivity, ideology, unconscious, subject, subject recognizes itself, duplicates, reflect, reflects, absolute subject, mirror stage, Lacan, misrecognizes, itself, self, contradiction, social order, stability, power, Althusserian subject, careful reading, identification, Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper, high culture, national canon, verbal signifier, masculine I, woman, confessional discourse
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.