The writings of J.G. Ballard respond to the sciences in multiple ways; as such his (early) writing may productively be discussed as science fiction. However, the theoretical discipline to which he publicly signalled most allegiance, psychoanalysis, is one whose status in relation to science is highly contested and complex. In the 1960s Ballard signalled publicly in his non-fiction writing a belief in psychoanalysis as a science, a position in keeping with psychoanalysis’ contemporary status as the predominant psychological paradigm. Various early Ballard stories enact psychoanalytic theories, while the novel usually read as his serious debut, The Drowned World
, aligns itself allusively with an oft-cited depiction by Freud of the revelatory and paradigm-changing nature of the psychoanalytic project. Ballard’s enthusiastic embrace of psychoanalysis in his early 1960s fiction mutated into a fascinatingly delirious vision in some of his most experimental work of the late 1960s and early 1970s of a fusion of psychoanalysis with the mathematical sciences. This paper explores how this ‘Marriage of Freud and Euclid’ is played out in its most systematic form in The Atrocity Exhibition
and its successor Crash
. By his late career Ballard was acknowledging problems raised over psychoanalysis’ scientific status in the positivist critique of Karl Popper and the work of various combatants in the ‘Freud Wars’ of the 1990s; Ballard at this stage seemed to move towards agreement with interpretations of Freud as a literary or philosophical figure. However, despite making pronouncements reflecting changes in dominant cultural appraisals of Freud, Ballard continued in his later writings to extrapolate the fictive and interpretative possibilities of Freudian and post-Freudian ideas. This article attempts to develop a deeper understanding of Ballard’s ‘scientific’ deployment of psychoanalysis in The Atrocity Exhibition
within the context of a more fully culturally-situated understanding of psychoanalysis’ relationship to science, and thereby to create new possibilities for understanding the meanings of Ballard’s writing within culture at large.
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