Uncanny Vale

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of Erin Wilcox

Custer's Ideological Fantasy (excerpt)

TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses (2007)

William Heyen contrasts two cultures in his book of poems Crazy Horse in Stillness (1996), through his portrayal of Crazy Horse (1849-1877), Lakota warrior, and General Armstrong Custer (1839-1876), leader of the United States’ Seventh Cavalry. Heyen’s Custer, a cultural hero, sees himself as the instrument of manifest destiny, of American expansionist freedom, and thus finds it possible and necessary to repress feelings of guilt and feelings of emotional connection to the culture it is his duty to annihilate. Crazy Horse is portrayed as more open to his feelings and dream visions, and could be said to represent a sentimental culture - where sentimentality is defined as that which is characterized by feeling at least as much as reason. Custer’s culture is in the grip of an ideology of Logos, of reason, which is sustained and propelled by an ideological fantasy that symptomatically reveals its own unconscious desire - to come to terms with its other, sentimentality. Today, the United States and Western civilization still operate within an ideology of Logos, and therefore, for the contemporary writer invested in developing a sociological poetics, confronting the Real of this cultural desire may inform aesthetic decisions and literary taste.