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Festival

The advantages of having friends in publishing is that they often here about literary events well before you do. Last week, news quickly spread in the office at Penguin of the Melbourne Writers Festival ticket sales. My friend managed to nab two tickets to see Jacqueline Rose speak with Justin Clemins and she kindly invited me to come with her. I said yes, unaware of who Rose was, but having full faith in my friends judgment of what I would enjoy.

Rose is a world-renowned literary critic and scholar. She has written on a broad range of topics within the literary and the political, most notably psychoanalysis, Zionism and feminism. She fluidly combines these two fields that are so rigidly divided in most educational institutions. Her most amazing feat is her application of a psychoanalytic framework on the state of Israel.

I spent much of the one-hour event completely astounded as she so articulately discussed this analysis. She stressed the importance of what lies beneath, of the details, of what gets pushed back and censored out of everyday life. With Israel, it seemed that her shock lay mostly with the wide acceptance of it as a home for ALL Jews, not just Israelis. Much political rhetoric that is unquestionably accepted needs to be examined in most cases. The problem is that we don’t question. We are told what to do and we shut-up and do it.

What is so supremely cool about her work is the way she breathes life and relevance into longstanding theories, such as Freudian psychoanalysis. She has, of course, received a world of criticism for it. In an article for The Guardian, she provided a defence:

I think it’s Nietzsche who says somewhere that it’s the people who are walking around happy, as if everything’s perfect, who have something to be ashamed of. For psychoanalysis, psychic difficulty is your birthright and it’s our attempt to repudiate it that makes it worse. So the point for me in using psychoanalysis to understand why a traumatised people might find locking themselves into a traumatised identity is to treat them with the greatest respect.”

Meeting her after the event made me bashful and weak at the knees. Not often do you find a women at the forefront of her field so genuine and engaging. I want to end up working in a job somehow related to books and international affairs, and Jacqueline Rose was another affirmation of that goal.

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