The Case of Peter Pan or The Impossibility of Children’s by Jacqueline Rose

By Jacqueline Rose

Peter Pan, Jacqueline Rose contends, forces us to question what it really is we're doing within the never-ending creation and dissemination of kid's fiction. In a preface, written for this version, Rose considers a few of Peter Pan's new guises and their implications. From Spielberg's Hook, to the lesbian creation of the play on the London Drill corridor in 1991, to debates within the English condo of Lords, to a newly claimed prestige because the icon of transvestite tradition, Peter Pan maintains to illustrate its extraordinary renewability as a cultural fetish of our times.

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For Freud, it is thought, what they speak is sexual, for Jung mythical, but in terms of the concept oflanguage Peter Pan and Freud 19 and meaning which is involved, there is not much to choose between them. In both cases, the symbol contains a hidden meaning to which we possess the key. Although Freud did at times use this method, he introduces his own method for interpreting dreams (Freud, SE, IV-V, 1900, pp. 96-100, PF, 4, pp. 170-3) by castigating this type of symbolic reading as useless, and it is a concept of meaning which everything else in his work undercuts.

We use language to identify ourselves and objects in the world. of the dream, our ability to lie, or merely to deceive ourselves, all too clearly demonstrate. Objects are defined in language, but the relation between the linguistic term and its referent is arbitrary (this was for Locke the 'imperfection' of words (Locke, 1700, pp. 280-9)); and the meaning of one word can only be fixed with reference to another, in a process wh ich finally has us going round in circles (the chase through the dictionary from one entry to the next to find out what a word really means).

Bettelheim's work is distinguished by its attention to the complexity of unconscious process for both adult and child; but the concept of mastery - with its associated meaning of coherence in psychic and sexuallife - is none the less the central term through which this complexity is conceived and by means of which it is finally resolved. The unconscious does not therefore challenge the human ego, its seeming coherence and identity; the unconscious 'enriches' the ego, and, much as a quantity of energy or a current, it can be transferred into the ego where it becomes neutralised and safe.

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