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metacommentary


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American cultural critic Fredric Jameson's term for his comparative analysis of competing interpretive methods. Jameson says that the metacommentary implies a model not unlike Sigmund Freud's conception of the relationship between the symptom and its underpinning, but repressed idea (minus his theory of the libido, of course). The content of a text is the distorted product of lived experience subject to censorship—there are always certain ideas, thoughts, phrases, and so forth that are not appropriate in a particular historical context so they have to be distorted to escape that censorship. This is Freud's basic idea for dream analysis: dreams are distorted images of our unconscious thoughts created in such a way as to escape censorship. So understanding a text means coming to grips with this process of censorship, which Jameson suggests can be accomplished by means of a reconstruction of its original context. What must be explained, then, is why a particular text had to be distorted in that way. A simple, literal example of this is the much discussed effects of the Hays Code on Hollywood: for instance, since the act of sex could not be depicted explicitly, visual metaphors for it had to be found, hence the famous smoking in bed scene following the first kiss which became a universal symbol of sex. In his later works, Jameson tends to use the term dialectical criticism rather than metacommentary to describe his analytic approach. See also transcoding.

Further Reading:

F. Jameson Marxism and Form (1971).


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