Mihăilescu’s approach to Orwell’s novel ”1984”, regarded by Lidia Vianu, as being the extreme representation of social and political alienation caused by the communist regime in Eastern Europe countries, has originally tackled Lacan’s psycho-cognitive model that comprises three registers of human reality: the imaginary, approached in terms of the spectacular, the symbolic, approached in terms of meanings attached to those things around us and the real, characterized by the meaninglesness and the absurdity of the world we live in.
The author of this contribution has proved to be extremely committed to properly understanding and interpreting such political issues from a correct sociological perspective and, thus, she has assumed that the ethical dimension of Lacan’s theory arises from the symbolic level. Lacan’s ”symbolic structures” have been related by her to those of the Communist Party and state which ”are not consciously perceived” and as such ”they can organize and govern the working of a society and, indeed, the mind of the individual” (70).
Huizinga’s opinion that the artifacts of cultural history symbolyze various forms and functions of civilization identifiable in the history of peoples and socilal groups (65) together with his conviction that linguistics has shifted from the ”external morphology of the Junggrammatiker” to the ”internal morphology of the expression of thought” (65) have paved the way to Mihăilescu’s extended approach to Orwell’s novel via a coginitive perspective, more precisely through Soja’s theory of Thirdspace.
Soja’s Thirdspace, regarded as another way of thinking about the social production of human spatiality, incorporates both the Firstspace of objects and the Secondspace of thought and it also enriches the complexity of the geographical or spatial imagination. As such, it has been employed to depict and interpret the devalorization of humanity described under its various forms in Orwell’s novel.
The Firstspace and the Secondspace related both to the level of objects and that of thought interrelate with one another as ”language-objects”(Sandu, 40) which can be identified in the novel under the form of ”telescreen”, commented by the author of this intensely researched topic, as an ”organ of anxiety” (a concept borrowed from Lesley Saunders’ Notes attached to her volume of poems ”The Walls Have Angels”, also approached by Mihăilescu from a cognitive perspective, where angels stand for those memories which we are never allowed to disregard or to forget).
The negative approach to manipulation and the negative feelings associated with it also derive from the concept of ”organs of anxiety” which has further been commented in the article in association with ”logos” (the thinking part) and ”pathos” (the emotional part), because, when they are dissociated, they might lead to profound frustrations on the part of the ethical self totally deprived of his liberty to act according to his convictions and to fulfil his social mission.
Moreover the word anxiety has opened Mihăilescu the door to Kelly’s psychological constructs where people are supposed to undergo changes on both the intuitive and logical preceptual planes. On the emotional plane, a person finds himself in a state of anxiety, thus unable to form correct predictions regarding his future actions. On the logical plane, the morally wounded people by the rigid and tyranical leaders have been interpreted as standing for what Bachelard called ”the horizontally leveled human nature” (56), brain-washed and morally abused by the inhuman authorities.
Mihăilescu’s analysis opens up its scope and complexity through the fact that the space depicted in the novel is no longer exterior but rather interior, being concieved in the mind of Orwell himself as ”a really sick world not as a virtualy compensatory projection of the postwar moral and political crisis”.
The crisis depicted in the novel reaches a climax, in the author’s opinion, through the telescreen already commented by us, but this time construed via the lens of Lacan as the word ”trapped” in the body and mind which constantly generates fear of being seen or heard, even by one’s closest relatives.
Mihăilescu further focuses on the sinister ”thougtcrime” and Big Brother, regarded by her as the Lacanian representations of ”the ego in the mirror phase”(29) and approached via the syntagm ”alienation in the register of language”(29). Following Lacan, the Big Brother has also been interpreted as ”the ego in the mirror phase” (29) whose task is that of maintaining a general appearance of coherence and stability, the more painful as it is experienced under such bleak circumstances.
It is also revealed the fact all the citizens of Oceania, or al most all, have been construed as ”falsifying egos” due to the fact that they live a false experience of their apparent coherence, living in paranoia, a sort of mental decomposition. Even the babies are bound to similar images, their identity depending on how they are inclined to assume their parents’ words and behaviour. Consequently, chidren got used to spying on their parents and to betraying them. According to Lacan, language blocks identity and as such the author has assumed that those citizens also experience ”alienation in the register of language” (73). This is due precisely to the fact that in Oceania they only find an abstract and, as such, intrinsically alien social or political structure.
Since Soja’s thirdspace is that of experience, being regarded as ”simultaneously real and imagined”, it has extensively been depicted in relation with Winston Smith and his dramatic experience with the Ministry of Truth he works for, referred to as Minitruth in Newspeak, the new official language of Oceania. Mihăilescu has interpreted this ministry depicting its vertical coordinate dimension which is represented by its most hidden aspects, such as the fact that it is preoccupied with concealing the truth, with rearranging old documents and bringing them up to date, by eliminating the contradictions between past and present details, with annihilating memory.
The distorsion of truth, the anti-democratic issues he confronts himself with make him rebel against Ingsoc, the type of society that has brought about so much alienation. It makes him start writing in his diary about it, convinced that this is the only alternative for him to survive. Further details meant to emphasize the anti-democratic regime in Oceania refer to the fact that the society is divided into the party members who enjoy all favours and the proles who are uneducated, misinformed, poor, obedient and easy to manipulate.
Emmanuel Goldstein, besides Winston, has also taken a place in the ”symbolic world”. In Lacan’s terminology, it stands for those who have left the world of the image. Goldstein ends being betrayed and so, forced to vanish for one reason only, that of having demanded freedom of speech and of thought.
Operational research methodology may not always provide the best method of inquiry, and yet, in the case of Mihăilescu’s approach to Orwell’s novel 1984, her research method has followed the interesting challenge of finding out whether an interdisciplinary grid can establish or better said re-establish objective knowledge, and construe any falling short of this ideal as a temporay imperfection.
In order to find it out, all such imperfections depicted in the novel have been tackled via Soja’s Thirdspace of experience, an experience culminating in what Vianu calls ”utter annihilation” (32) and mental reformation. What actually came out of Orwell̕ s novel – a brilliant combination of literature with journalism and political theory, was the drastic warning addressed to humanity regarding the danger of totalitarian societies, warning which proved to be efficient if we take into accout the democratic revolutions from Eastern Europe. The pertinent depicting of Orwell’s personal and social ethos within Mihăilescu’s analysis, encourages us, her literary reviewers, to highly appreciate her expertise and commitment, which also arise from a rich bibliographical list of authors and their sociological, aesthetic or psycho-analytic contributions.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Gabriela Mihăilă-Lică, Academia Forțelor Terestre, Sibiu
Recenzie publicată în revista Demersuri Creative nr. 27/ iunie 2018