p. Abstract | Text | Bibliography | Notes | References | About the author 1 The criticism on Bobbie Ann Mason’s fiction centers largely on the individual’s. “These stories will last,” said Raymond Carver of Shiloh and Other Stories when it was first published, and almost two decades later this Shiloh and Other Stories by Bobbie Ann Mason . “Mason is a full-fledged master of the short story. “These stories will last,” said Raymond Carver of Shiloh and Other Stories when it was first published, and almost two decades later this stunning.
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The Return to Shiloh: Family and Fantasy in Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh”
This relationship of the individual to the family, moreover, has fairly recently become the primary focus of psychoanalytic semiotics, most notably in the work of Kaja Silverman. When Leroy injures his leg in a traffic accident, he can no longer drive his wheeler. Confined to the house to convalesce, Leroy passes time by smoking marijuana and putting together craft kits.
Ironically, however, in the middle of their picnic lunch, Norma Jean tells Leroy that she wants to leave him. The story ends when she turns back to Leroy and waves her arms.
However, their trip, as I argue in fhll essay, functions only as the physical manifestation of a more important psychic trip: That is, Mabel desires Norma Jean and Leroy to travel to Shiloh because the trip embodies her imaginary return to it, a fantasy that not only represents the unity of the family for her, but one that also signifies her shilog unity and adequacy—the wholeness and sufficiency of her subjectivity.
In a reverie about the battle at Shiloh, Leroy thinks: The next day, Mabel and Jet visited the battleground, and then Norma Jean was born As the story unfolds, moreover, we see that perhaps Mabel was the primary source of that stress. She becomes the sole proprietor and the sole executor of the phallus. Very quickly, Norma Jean and Leroy have a baby, a son, Randy.
With all the elements in place—father, mother, child—Mabel can assume her role as the doting grandmother. Her subjectivity—her positionality vis-a-vis the family structure–is secure, clear, and adequate.
Bobbie Ann Mason
This family, too, however, is not quite as normative or as unified as it first appears. Norma Jean and Leroy marry because Norma Jean gets pregnant, a fact that not only shames Mabel but one that she entirely blames on Leroy. Just as she blamed Leroy for her loss of Norma Jean—and thus her place in the first family structure—Mabel blames Norma Jean for her loss of Randy—and thus the loss of her place in the second family structure. For Mabel, the loss of her positionality within the first two family structures constitutes a form of castration.
The physical and psychic losses which she experiences, however, function primarily as symptoms of an earlier, more profound, lack. By blaming Leroy for bobbe loss of her place within the first family structure and by blaming Norma Jean for a similar loss within the second family structure, Mabel desires to keep her power and privilege by maintaining possession of the phallus.
Shiloh and Other Stories Reader’s Guide
In order to do so, she has resorted to two of the conventional masculine strategies to cover over her castration: Because of his wound, Leroy is forced to stay at home. Rather than create a bond, a renewed intimacy between him and Norma Jean, his presence ironically produces their complete estrangement. And Mason carefully crafts this third family structure. In addition, Leroy talks more openly and more personally with Mabel than he ever did with Norma Jean: She used to go to bed with the chickens.
Indeed, within this family structure, Norma Jean feels like an adolescent caught between two well-meaning but oppressive parents. I feel eighteen again. That is, as Freud suggests in The Interpretation of Dreamsthe center of subjectivity lies in the unconscious, not consciousness. Freud considers consciousness as a repository for external stimuli, which then become psychically processed. For the psyche, fantasy possesses all the power and truth-value of actuality Silverman Because she has lost her positionality within the dominant fiction and because she has lost her sense of wholeness, Mabel psychically becomes nothing and lives nowhere, but since every subject lives its desire from someplace, and it articulates its position by means of fantasy, the scene within which desire is staged concerns itself with the placement of the subject.
Describing the close connection between fantasy and fetishism, Silverman writes: Because she and Jet went there on their honeymoon and because Norma Jean was conceived there, Mabel manipulates Norma Jean and Leroy into taking the trip to Shiloh in order to overcome her lack and to fulfill her desires.
Before Norma Jean can speak, though, Mabel reveals her ulterior motive for suggesting the trip: When Norma Jean tells Leroy that she wants to leave him, Leroy responds: Indeed, rather than effect a re-union, Norma Jean takes the trip to get away from Leroy, Mabel, and the idea of conceiving another child.
At the end of the trip to Shiloh and at the end of the story—which are both her trip and her story–Mabel remains a desiring subject—and a subject of desire. Selected Stories of Bobbie Ann Mason.
The Ecco Press, Male Subjectivity at the Margins. The Subject of Semiotics. Oxford University Press, A Journal of the Arts in the South A Journal of Contemporary Thought However, since Mabel, in each of the three previous family structures, has unilaterally and imperialistically wielded the phallus to ensure her power, privilege, and wholeness, we can only imagine that she would carry the pattern into the fourth family structure as well, for her fantasy-fetish defines her subjectivity and her positionality; they are the elements that constitute her desire and identification.
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