High-Rise by J.G. Ballard intriguingly contains a pivotal character named Dr. Robert Laing, surely an allusion to the then influential psychiatric writer, Dr. R.D. Laing. Re-reading Ballard's classic text through the prism of Laing’s theories, with further explication of the role of flat affect via Lauren Berlant, this article presents a new interpretation of a classic text that argues that Ballard ingeniously misdirected his readers into making identifications with precisely the wrong characters and the wrong actions. Re-focusing a subject gaze in accordance with these theoretical analyses, allows for an entirely alternative understanding of the text in which Ballard was more than a pessimistic prophet of inexorable urban breakdown, he foretold societal rehabilitation as well. High-Rise is read as a classic of psychogeography, an established genre which is argued to be of great relevance to the study of society and space. This article therefore engages in a reading of a psychogeographical text via theory implicitly alluded to by the text itself.
- literary theory
- flat affect