The Psychoanalytic Geography of Stories

by Ken Sanes

Many works of fiction are based on a psychoanalytic geography, full of  images of physical spaces that are disguised representations of elements from childhood fantasy.  The characters who travel through these spaces take us into representations of human bodies; into the recesses of mind; and into the household of childhood as it looks after it has been transformed by our nightmares and desires.

These spaces can devour and expel, entrap and protect, and reveal wonders and hidden truths. They are full of mazelike routes, trap doors, secret passageways and lurking dangers. Today, in fantasy and science fiction, these spaces are everywhere, swallowing popular culture like the giant cavern that the characters of the Star Wars saga  found themselves in, which turned out to be the belly of a very large beast.

In the movie, Logan's Run, for example, we see an enclosed city that is simultaneously like an entrapping household and like a mind defended from the outside and like the body of a woman who gives birth to the fleeing characters. In haunted houses, we see characters trapped in what looks like the household of childhood, which has been turned into a living nightmare by early fears, with all those spaces that open under the bed and creatures that lurk behind closet doors. In Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,  we see a hero who travels between various entrapping and protecting spaces, from a bowel-like underworld  to a womblike oasis in the desert in which children are waiting to be born into adulthood. The movie is like a disguised anatomy lesson, although the anatomy it shows us is the anatomy of fantasy.

This site is interested in how the stories we tell, especially  in movies and television, reveal the landscape of the mind in many of its aspects. As part of that, some of it takes the reader on a trip across the psychoanalytic geography of popular culture, in which we discover that the fictional settings, and the characters, societies and forms of technology that occupy these settings, can all embody our perceptions of good and evil. The ultimate goal is to see that these stories are fictionalized accounts of our own lives. The characters who travel through these settings are us in search of the selves and relationships and societies that we know should exist. They are expressions of our own desire to embark on a similar journey, which will make up in the reality of lived experience what it lacks in the  excitement of fantasy.

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  1996-2012 Ken Sanes

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