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Letters from Lacan : reading and the matheme Aoki, Douglas Sadao 1998

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LETTERS FROM LACAN: READING AND THE MATHEME by DOUGLAS SADAO AOKI B.Sc. (Specialization), The University of Alberta, 1976 M.A., The University of British Columbia, 1993 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Interdisciplinary Studies We accept this thesis as conforming to the^quired standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA June 1998 © Douglas Sadao Aoki, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of /MfiDtSC/tiUNMY Sm»ES The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date lo #9# DE-6 (2/88) ii ABSTRACT This is a study of reading and how reading is complicated by an extraordinary letter delivered by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. That letter is the matheme, which is part ordinary language and part technical jargon, part literature and part science. For many readers, such a mongrel heritage means that the matheme becomes unreadable. I argue that the matheme can indeed be read, but only if the reader is willing to reconsider the nature, practice and limits of conventional reading. As a condensation of Lacanian theory, the matheme can only be read by wading into the densely intricated paradoxes of that theory. To cross the famous three registers of Lacan, the imaginary of the matheme—its image, line, and spatiality—reveals a real insufficiency and disruption of symbolic textuality. The matheme always frustrates and complicates reading, but from a Lacanian standpoint, this means that it illuminates the psychoanalytic politics of reading via its strategic opacity to the reader. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract iTable of Contents iii List of Figures v Acknowledgements viDedication ix PREFACE An Invitation to an Esoteric Letter 1 CHAPTER ONE Reading, Language and the Matheme The Art of Clarity 7 Translations of Clarity 12 Jargon and Exclusion 21 Imaginary Meaning and All the Registers of Language 26 The Sociology of Exclusion 30 The Terror of Language 8 Letters from Lacan 47 Reading the Matheme 52 CHAPTER TWO S: Rendering the Subject 60 The Passion of the Signifier 71 Being Alienated 93 CHAPTER THREE The Phallus, the Schemata and the Object Lacan Is a Prick 106 The Names of the Schemata 114 The Subject and All Its Others 125 SCHEMA R: The Fantasy Circus 132 The Name of the Father Is the Phallus 144 objet a: Desire Must Be Taken Literally 151 CHAPTER FOUR SO a: Fantasy 157 The Heart of Fantasy: hepoin$on 159 The Discourse of the University 166 From Four to Two: The Formal Structure of 0 171 Three: Fantasy and the Schemata of the Visual Field 180 Diagram 1: The Look and the Subject-as-Look 182 Diagram 2: The Gaze and the Subject-as-Spectacle 184 Diagram 3: The Subject and the Gaze 185 The Place of Fantasy: Between Meaning and the Lack of the Other 188 iv CHAPTER FIVE Imposing the Matheme 201 Topological Deformations 219 The Logics of the Language of Mathematics 222 Imaginary Numbers and Imaginary Words 5 CHAPTER SIX Translations of Love God Is Clearly Love 237 Coming Home With Lacan 246 Teaching as the Excess of Translation 252 Amusing Lacan 258 A Caricature of Lacan 266 WORKS CITED 274 APPENDIX 1 Elaborations on SCHEMA L 290 V LIST OF FIGURES 2.1 The elementary cell of the Graph of Desire 73 2.2 The signifying chain as a necklace of necklaces 75 2.3 Capitonnage 76 2.4 The birth of the subject 80 2.5 Graph II 88 2.6 The vel of alienation 95 2.7 The Cartesian subject 98 2.8 The Lacanian subject 99 3.1 SCHEMA L 115 3.2 SCHEMA £ 117 3.3 SCHEMA L 117 3.4 SCHEMATA L 118 3.5 SCHEMA L according to Dylan Evans 120 3.6 SCHEMA L according to Robert Samuels 121 3.7 SCHEMA L according to Ellie Ragland Sullivan 121 3.8 SCHEMA L according to Catherine Clement 122 3.9 The meconnaissance of • for O 127 3.10: The migration of the mark 129 3.11: SCHEMA R 132 3.12: SCHEMA R 134 3.13: The imaginary half of SCHEMA R 134 3.14: The symbolic half of SCHEMA R 135 3.15: The field of reality 135 3.16: The field of the imaginary 137 3.17: The Second Graph of Desire 138 3.18: The mirror stage 139 3.19: I and i 140 3.20: The return of the phallus 141 3.21: The symbolic triangle and three vertices of SCHEMA L 144 3.22: Miller's paternal metaphor as point de caption 147 3.23: The field of reality 148 3.24: SCHEMA I 150nl46 3.25: Che Vuoi? 152 4.1 The vectors of the poinpn 177 4.2 The schemata of the visual field 180 4.3 Translating the schemata 181 4.4 The translated schemata 181 4.5 Diagram 1: The look and the subject-as-look 182 4.6 Diagram 2: The gaze and the subject-as-spectacle 184 4.7 Diagram 3: The subject and the ga2e 185 4.8 The isomorphism of the screen and the poinfon 188 4.9 The place of fantasy in the Graph of Desire 189 vi 6.1: Raymond Tallis's imaginary Lacan 266 6.2: Jerome Hebert's imaginary Lacan 7 6.3: My imaginary Lacan 269 7.1: SCHEMA L as the subject and the other 290 7.2: The arrow of speech 293 7.3: The subject and the other 5 7.4: The four poles of the subject 297.5: From the subject to the other 8 7.6: Wo Es war, solllch werden 299 vii Acknowledgements An acknowledgements section of a dissertation is not ordinarily where an author congratulates her/himself, but, true to character, I will do exactly that. I commend myself for my choice of committee members, for I could not have made any finer selections. The wisdom and grace of Nancy Frelick demonstrated that it is possible to be a good Lacanian without being a sociopath. Richard Cavell was always the exemplary embodiment of "le style est I'homme mime." Dawn Currie's pragmatic social conscience meant that she had reservations about some of my theoretical ambitions, but it also meant that she always provided the practical advice and support that every doctoral student needs but too often never receives. Tom Kemple provided happy proof that sociological theory can, at least in particular theorists, rise above its disciplinary doldrums. Above all, Valerie Raoul, through her scholarship, acuity, integrity, and generosity, defined an ideal of supervision to which I will always aspire in my own career. I had the great fortune to study under some exceptional teachers, who fundamentally changed and informed how I think: Derek Gregory, Lorraine Weir, Kaja Silverman, John Forrester, Diana Fuss, and especially Judith Butler. I was also blessed with the support of some exceptional colleagues, who made my studies more productive and much more pleasurable: Sharon Fuller, Kevin Haggerty, Caroline Desbiens, Alan Segal, Gustavo Guerra, Jamie Lampidis and Erin Soros. I am particularly indebted to Chris Bracken, who was and continues be one of my finest teachers and most cherished friends. There were two heads of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia during my program, Laurence Ricou and Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe, and both aided me immensely. Derek Sayer, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta, hired me ABD and must now be relieved at not viii having to fire me for still being so. I am very appreciative of the efforts he made on my behalf; I hope that he will not have cause to regret them in the years to come. The fellowship support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada was crucial, and it is gratefully acknowledged. Finally, Ted and June Aoki never quailed under the burden of still parenting a middle-aged student, showing a steadfastness which I, as a new father, find terrifying and astounding. Thank you, Mom and Dad. It ix Dedication Every work could be better than it is, but no matter how much better this one might be, if I were more talented or industrious, it would always pale beside what is best in my life: my wife and my son. This dissertation is therefore dedicated to Lucy and Alex, without whose love the world would be impossible. 1 Preface An Invitation to an Esoteric Letter My Ecrits are unsuitable for a thesis, particularly an academic thesis.1 —-Jacques Lacan This dissertation is an invitation to the esoteric of the letter. This particular letter is from Jacques Lacan, but because he rarely yields to any direct confrontation, an indirect salutation becomes necessary. Since the dissertation is written from my own perspective as a sociologist, I will turn to the elegant mediation of Pierre Bourdieu: "Sociology is an esoteric science—initiation into it is very slow and requires a real conversion in your whole vision of the world—but it always seems to be exoteric."2 Bourdieu is not referring to Lacan, explicitly or implicitly, but his revelation of the seemingly exoteric as definitively and comprehensively esoteric is germane nonetheless. The specific object of this research project is the matheme, which is a "little letter," like 8 or a. It is a sociological commonplace that what makes us human is language, and if that is true, then nothing could be so exoteric to literate human experience as that fundamental unit of writing, the letter. Lacan's notion of the entry of the subject into the symbolic order is aptly figured by the ordinary marvel of a child learning her/his letters, her/his ABC's. In a way, this dissertation is an invitation to return to those homely basics. 1 Jacques Lacan, preface to Jacques Lacan, by Anika Lemaire and trans. David Macey (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977), vii. "Mes Ecrils sont impropres a la these, universitaire specialement" (Jacques Lacan, preface to Jacques Lacan, 7* ed. (revised), by Anika Lemaire [Brussels: Pierre Mardaga, 1977], 6). 2 Pierre Bourdieu, "Landmarks," in In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology, trans. Matthew Adamson (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1990), 53. "La sociologie estune science esoterique —Pinitiation est tres lente et demande une veritable conversion de toute la vision du monde — mais qui a l'air exoterique" ("Reperes," in Choses dites [Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1987], 68). 2 In our academic histories, the painstaking attention to such letters fades quickly, as we put aside our horn-books and other childish things.3 The marvelousness of literacy is rapidly effaced by the ordinariness of reading, so much so that the letter itself becomes eclipsed. Schooling and practice raises the fundamental unit of reading from the letter to the word and the phrase, even though we may still sound out new words phoneme by phoneme. Hence Saussure's concern for the structure of the verbal sign, in which the letter has already been subsumed by the signifier. In the practice of language in the academy, the concern for the letter is mostly reduced to a matter of spelling, which, while still crucial, may nonetheless be relegated to scrutiny by software. The letter makes an often unwelcome pedagogical return in algebra, physics and other sciences, resulting in variable student stress over s = s0 + vt + Viat2 and other formulae, portending the potential horrors of calculus and differential equations. This return of the letter is therefore not a homecoming to any nostalgic childhood basics, but rather their defamiliarization by mathematical notation. X no longer represents "xylophone" or "x-ray," but instead "the unknown," which has both forbidding and seductive connotations (as any devotee of The X-Files can affirm). The chasm between C. P. Snow's "two cultures" opens up; the division between the sciences and humanities is pre-configured in the difference between their treatment of letters. At university, those for whom mathematics remains an alien tongue flee to the arts, and sometimes to the social sciences, like sociology. Psychoanalysis has traditionally straddled this division, with its historically fraught relations to both science and literature. However, psychoanalysis in its Lacanian mode has been heretofore heavily on the literature side of that binary. In North America, Lacan has 3 A horn-book is a primer or battledore. Originally, it was an abecedarian tablet, often also inscribed with the Lord's Prayer. 3 been read mostly by those working in literary criticism, film studies, and women's studies. Lacan's matheme is distinct in its way of moving discourse back to some point closer to the sciences, at least in appearance, "a" is the first letter of the alphabet, and therefore a figure for the language of literature, but also a universal mathematical designation for a constant (in part because it is the first letter). Yet the matheme is not some congenial meeting of literature and science; it is not the place where they both overlap in what they give us to read. Instead, it is the opposite: the place where they give us nothing to read, at least in any accustomed sense. The mutual exclusion of Lacan's matheme in general from the fields of reading is incarnated in the specific matheme S, which is the S of the word-signifier crossed out, as if made illegible. 8 is esoteric to both literature and science and therefore invites us to a mode of language which cannot be easily accommodated to either. I was not one of those who fled mathematics because of the strangeness of the mathematized letter. My academic turn went the other way, at least early on. In high school, I found physics to be the most straightforward of my studies. There was a satisfying sufficiency in the translation of "problems" into calculable formulation, so different from the personal inadequacy that ensued when I compared the elegance of the literature that I loved with the gaucherie of what I wrote. Motivated largely by that somewhat negative rationale, I became a physics major in university, following a carefully arranged program that would not demand a single essay. Four years later, I had earned a B.Sc. in physics and a conviction that the discipline was, for me, neither sufficient nor satisfying. Eventually I ended up shifting to sociology at a graduate level, reading Lacan and finally learning to write, after a fashion, despite and because of old and abiding qualms. Something of that story is told in Chapter Six, but for now, I mention it merely to explain how my own approach to > 4 reading is situated by a passion for the letters of literature and a relative comfort with the letters of mathematics. My contention is that the necessary (but not sufficient) condition for reading the matheme, as a peculiar letter from Lacan, is such a passion and such a comfort, wedded to the recognition of the insufficiency of both. Chapter Five examines the resistance that results when competence in mathematics and science is held to be adequate for reading the matheme, as in the case of the recent attack on Lacan by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. Chapter One examines the parallel resistance manifested by two positions distinguishable from that of those two physicists. First, the resistance to the matheme by those, like Jane Gallop, whose passion for literature has as its corollary a disinclination towards the formalism of mathematics. Second, and more pervasively, the resistance to the matheme by those whose passion is for neither literature nor mathematics, but rather clear writing and plain language. The aim of this dissertation is to show that the matheme can indeed be read, but only if the reader is willing to reconsider the nature, practice and limits of conventional reading. Lacan says that "it is not the same thing to read a letter as it is to read."4 The matheme, as a condensation of Lacanian theory, can only be read by wading into the densely intricated paradoxes of that theory. The premise is that the matheme always frustrates and complicates reading, but from the Lacanian standpoint, this means that the matheme illuminates reading via its strategic opacity. The first necessary additional caution is that this dissertation, like every reading of Lacan, goes "against" Lacan, inasmuch as he declares 4 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar ofJacques Lacan: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge: Book XX: Encore: 1972-1973, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 1998), 26. "Ce n'est justement pas la meme chose de lire une lettre ou bien de lire" (Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan : Lime XX: Encore, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller [Paris: Seuil, 1975], 29). 5 himself to be unreadable.5 The second caution is that when I refer to mathemes, I mean precisely the little letters and other letter-like symbols that are the elements of Lacanian algebra. Mathemes in this sense are distinguishable from Lacan's algorithms (such as those of metaphor and metonymy in "The Agency of the Letter"6), from his topology and knot theory (including the Borromean knot), and from his graphs (such as the Graph of Desire).7 These are all related to the matheme, and while they will be referred to in the dissertation, they are not its central concern. Likewise, reading the matheme entails at least a brief engagement with a whole range of Lacanian concepts whose complexity and depth cannot possibly be adequately addressed here. For instance, Chapter Two deals with S, which turns out to be not merely the crossing out of the signifier, but also the matheme for the subject. Bruce Fink wrote an insightful book on the Lacanian subject, and in his afterword still noted that "everyone will think that I have not adequately dealt with the theoretical issues most important to them in their respective fields."8 My chapter will obviously be much less adequate. The goal is more modest: to read the matheme, within the limitations and exclusions that reading must always impose on itself, through tactics of Lacanian theory. No doubt some will dispute whether the tactics I employ are truly "Lacanian." The followers of 5 "I won't tell you to read Philippe Sollers, who is unreadable, like me as a matter of fact" (Lacan, Seminar XX, 36). "Je ne vous dirai pas de lire Philippe Sollers, il estillisible, comme moi d'ailleurs" [SeminaireXX, 37). 6 Jacques Lacan, "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud," in Ecrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977); "L'instance de la lettre dans l'inconscient ou la raison depuis Freud," in Ecrits (Paris: Seuil, 1966). Throughout this dissertation, the English versions of passages from various papers in Ecrits are taken, except for noted exceptions, from Sheridan's partial translation, Ecrits: A Selection. Unfortunately, the new and complete translation of Ecrits by Bruce Fink was not yet available at the time of this writing. 7 Algorithms and graphs have been discussed extensively elsewhere by others. Jane Gallop and Elizabeth Grosz, among others, have examined the algorithms for metaphor and metonymy (Jane Gallop, "Metaphor and Metonymy," in Reading Lacan [Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985]; Elizabeth Grosz, Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction [New York: Routledge, 1990], 101-102). The Graph of Desire has been analyzed by Slavoj Zizek ("Che VuoiV" in The Sublime Object of Ideokg) [London: Verso, 1989]). The graph known as SCHEMA L has been standard fare for Lacanian commentators. 6 Lacan can sometimes be vociferous about the correctness or orthodoxy of readings, although their convictions seem to run counter to Lacan's insistence on the slippage of signification and the idiosyncrasy of the psychoanalytic scene. Moreover, the ever-increasing factionalism of Lacanianism across the world9 undermines each and every claim to authenticity and correctness. Ultimately, I cannot assert the "right" meaning of the letter; I can only say that I have tried to read the letters from Lacan, despite his warning that what he wrote was not meant to be read or included in a university dissertation. Given that so many refuse to read it, I hope the attempt is what counts. 8 Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1995), 148). 9 The April 1998 public fissure of the dominant North American Lacanian organization, the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society, and the subsequent birth of the new American-Lacanian link, is one manifestation of this fracture, which recapitulates the fractious tribulations of the Parisian scene after the death of Lacan. 7 Chapter One: Reading, Language, and the Matheme I propose an exercisefor you. Reflect a bit on what reading is.' —jacques Lacan The Art of Clarity Shortly after Diana Fuss published Essentially Speaking, she discovered that her family had invented its own parlor game: someone would open the book, read aloud a sentence like . . . It is not Irigaray who erects the phallus as a single transcendental signifier but Lacan: Irigaray's production of an apparently essentializing notion of female sexuality functions strategically as a reversal and a displacement of Lacan's phallomorphism.2 . . . and everyone would burst into laughter.3 Of course, they were laughing at Fuss's writing. Or were they? The quoted passage shifts discursive responsibility from Irigaray to Lacan, and even invokes a trademark phrase of the latter, transcendental signifier. Is Lacan also to blame for Fuss's familial reception? It would hardly be surprising if this were so. Lacan is arguably most well known for being "impossible" to read or understand. His notoriety is so marked that the invocation of his name can ignite a furore. An example of this actually occurred in late 1996, on the internet's Teaching Sociology list. I must confess to being the instigator. I posted a message citing Lacan's theorization of the difficulties of language in order to contest the transcendental virtues of clear writing. The response was immediate and mixed, although mostly strong and negative. Some members 1 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book III: 1955—1956: The Psychoses, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Russell Grigg (New York: Norton, 1993), 207. "Je vous propose un exercice. Reflechissez un petit peu a ce que c'est que la lecture" (Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan : Livre Til: Les Psychoses: 1955—1956 [Paris: Seuil, 1981], 234). 2 Diana Fuss, Essentially Speaking: Feminism, Nature & Difference (New York: Routledge, 1989), 59. 8 appeared to be especially vexed at Lacan's troublesome intrusion because of the list's devotion to teaching? One professor of sociology posted this pedagogical creed: The art of teaching is to translate complex materials into plain language that can be understood by others. If you are unable to do that, you need to go back to the drawing board. Given enough time, even the most complex ideas can be translated into plain language. On the list, many stood up on their virtual chairs and cheered; a few, like myself, were not so sanguine. Suppose that, like so many teaching sociologists, we accept this definition of the "art of teaching." The enthusiasm of its reception—reminiscent of the laughter of the Fusses—both reveals and obscures the enormous ambition beneath the modesty of its presentation. The set of "even the most complex ideas" casually encompasses not only the entirety of humanity's intellectual history (every subtle thought ever thought), but also the totality of all its possible futures (every subtle thought that might ever be thought). The infinitude of scope is even more troubling in its implication. It places the claim for universal translatability beyond any possible substantiation, for we can never anticipate the susceptibility of all imaginable ideas. Likewise, the qualification of that claim— "given enough time"—places it beyond any possible refutation, for we can never foreclose the prospect of translation in an utterly unlimited future. This version of the art of teaching, 3 Diana Fuss, personal communication 28 July 1995. 4 Some months later, an idea bruited about the Teaching Sociology list was that of a "Sociology Bowl": a jeopardy-like game-show competition for undergraduate students. Various list members enthusiastically endorsed the idea and discussed its implementation, including how it could be organized into state and regional finals, culminating in the "Super Bowl of Sociology," to be staged at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. The problem is that the Sociology Bowl presumes the value, and even the possibility, of completely true or false statements of and about sociology. I would argue that the idea of the Bowl actively works against the provocation to think that I believe is the best part of sociology. Could the Bowl ever have a question about, say, Foucault's critique of regimes of truth, so germane to the concept of the Bowl itself? Moreover, the possibility of the Bowl is grounded on the very communicability of language that Lacan puts into question. 5 Post to the Teaching Sociology e-mail list, 11 Dec 1996. 9 based on its absolutist and unfalsifiable claims, is ultimately upheld by no more than its appeal to self-evidence. Yet such a radical lack of substantiation only makes the "art of teaching" more compelling, for it thereby partakes, as do so many creeds, of the vague but potent authority of common sense. The archetypal creed is the commonplace. It is only the obviousness of common sense and the putative radicality of its democracy—common sense belonging to everyone—that permits the immodesty of the "art of teaching" to be inverted as humility. This is accomplished in two steps: first, the unification of the entirety of teaching into a manageable, stable and reassuring Gestalt, second, the mass identification of teaching sociologists with the image of the teacher-as-artist consolidated by that Gestalt. This process can be figured as finding oneself—or at least one's ideal self—in the mirror of the "art of teaching."6 Lacan would call such a double movement imaginary, in his peculiar use of the term, and the criticality of this imaginariness will be explored below. For now, it is sufficient to note that the "art of teaching" is imaginary because the impossibility of its proof necessitates that it be sustained purely by a desire that common sense refuses to acknowledge.7 This, I propose, is dangerous ground on which to found pedagogy.8 The Teaching Sociology subscribers were anything but deviant in their collective anger at an attempt to introduce obscure writing into their classrooms. The call for papers for the 6 To be more precise, it is the ideal ego or Idealich in the mirror. The solidification of the ego as a Gestalt is a crucial element of Lacan's theory of the mirror stage ("The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I," in Ecrits: A Selection; "Le stade du miroir comme formateur de la fonction du Je," in Ecrits). 1 I am playing a httle loose with Lacanian theory here, inasmuch as Lacan figures desire as metonymy, and therefore as more symbolic than imaginary. Nonetheless, desire and the imaginary have their own connection, as demonstrated in the mirror stage's desire for the image of the self. 8 The crucial difference between this unacknowledged desire and the desire that is central to the Lacanian project will be discussed below. 10 1997 meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA), the largest academic association for education on the continent, makes precisely the same claim on behalf of its membership. It opens with a warm invitation to create a "circle of communication among professional educators, researchers, and other publics vested in education."9 That invitation turns explicitly away from any private or obscure language and implicitly towards a professional lingua franca, inasmuch as the general accessibility of language is presumed to be the condition of inclusiveness and communication. Likewise, when the call for papers unsurprisingly includes the "quality of writing" as a criterion for acceptance, the first measure of quality invoked is clarity. Plain language is thus not only an object of desire, but also an institutionally mandated demand—the same demand made by Teaching Sociology when it orders incompetent artists of teaching back to the drawing board. Implicit to that demand is a corresponding regime of legibility—a comprehensively institutionalized regulatory system, in part constitutive of and constituted by what Foucault calls regimes of truth10— which, by determining the nature of reading practices, performatively produces legibility. My argument is that Lacan is disruptive of the regime of reading now hegemonic across education and the social sciences, that he challenges that hegemony in a way that makes it visible.11 There are other influential dissenters to that regime. Pierre Bourdieu, for one, who points out the hazards of the collating of clear writing and common sense: 9 American Educational Research Association, 1997 Annual Meeting Call for Proposals. 10 Michel Foucault, "Truth and Power," in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings: 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 133. 11 It could be said that this regime enjoys hegemony. Enjoyment, in any Lacanian discourse, always invokes the notion of jouissance. "'Enjoyment' conveys the sense, contained in jouissance, of enjoyment of rights, or property, etc" (Alan Sheridan, translator's note to Ecrits: A Selection, by Jacques Lacan, x). However, other regimes of legibility obtain in other disciplines, as will be touched on below. 11 In any case, what is certain is that I am not out to make my writing clear and simple and that I consider the strategy of abandoning the rigour of technical vocabulary in favour of an easy and readable style to be dangerous. ... I don't believe in the virtues of "common sense" and "clarity," those two ideals of the classical literary canon ("what is clearly understood can be clearly expressed," etc.). When it comes to objects of inquiry as overladen with passions, emotions and interests as those of social life, the "clearest," that is simplest discourses, are probably those which run the greatest risk of being misunderstood, because they work like projective tests into which each person imports his or her prejudices, unreflective opinions and fantasies.12 Bourdieu's comments are a prologue to an invitation to sociology as an esoteric science, as mentioned in the preface, but his linking of social discourse to passions, emotions and interests aligns such a sociology with two defining axes of Lacanian psychoanalysis: language and desire. While artful teaching sociologists and the AERA set out from a mutually shared position exactly polar to that of Bourdieu's, they end up even more emphatically in the same place—the language and desire of their rhetoric being supplemented by yet another Lacanian fundamental: demand. The creed of the "art of teaching" has its correlative in the contemporary reconfiguration of the university as a business whose customers are its students. In that case, consumer demand is regularly articulated as accessibility, in all its senses. Sometimes that demand is couched in the terms of "appealing" to students. As might be expected, the stark contrast is provided by Lacan, whose teaching was conducted in a sheer inaccessibility that, in its Parisian context, only heightened his popularity. This phenomenon is not as culturally specific as it may at first appear, for it has its parallel in the familiar attractiveness of what remains always beyond one's grasp. The matheme is a peculiar 12 Bourdieu, "Landmarks," 52. En tout cas, il est certain que je ne cherche pas a faire des discours simples et clairs et que je crois dangereuse la strategic qui consiste a abandonner la rigeur du vocabulaire technique au profit d'un style lisible et facile. . . . Je ne crois pas aux vertus du « bon sens » et de la « clarte », ces deux ideaux du canon litteraire classique ( « ce qui se concoit bien»..., etc.). S'agissant d'objets aussi surcharges de passions, d'emotions, d'interets que les choses sociales, les discours les plus « clairs », c'est-a-dire les plus simples, sont sans doute ceux qui ont les plus grandes chance d'etre mal compris, parce qu'ils 12 bridge between these versions of teaching. It takes the letter, as the fundamental condition of accessible written/read communication, and relocates it in the dire inaccessibility of Lacanian psychoanalysis. The matheme is therefore a letter which, through its demands on reading, moves teaching to a different, more difficult and, I maintain, more productive place. Translations of Clarity The issues of reading have been raised by many contemporary theorists for whom interpretation is a central concern—Jauss, Iser, Culler, Fish, Hirsch, and Derrida prominent among them.13 Norman Holland elaborated a psychoanalytic reader-response theory;14 Derrida, although by no means a reader-response theorist, made a critical book-length fontionnent comme des tests projectifs ou chacun apporte ses prejuges, ses prenotions, ses phantasmes. ("Reperes," 67-68) 13 Some representative references: Hans Robert Jauss: Towards an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1982). Wolfgang Iser: "Indeterminacy and the Reader's Response in Prose Fiction," in Aspects of Narrative: Selected Papers from the English Institute, ed. J. Hillis Miller (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1971). "Interaction Between Text and Reader," in The Reader in the Text: Essays on Audience and Interpretation, ed. Susan Suleiman and Inge Crosman (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1980). Jonathan Culler: Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature (London: Routledge, 1975). "Prolegomena to a Theory of Reading," in Reader in the Text, ed. Suleiman and Crosman. On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism After Structuralism (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1982). Stanley Fish: Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1980). E. D. Hirsch, Jr: Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1967). The Aims of Interpretation (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1976). Jacques Derrida: Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1977). Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978). Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1981). 14 Norman Holland, Poems in Persons: An Introduction to the Psychoanalysis of Literature (New York: Norton, 1973). Norman Holland, "Re-Covering 'The Purloined Letter': Reading as Personal Transaction," in Reader in the Text, ed. Suleiman and Crosman. 13 response to Lacan based on an analysis of his (un)readability.15 Reading specifically as a sociologist and as a teacher raises related but different issues. First, Lacan's approach to psychoanalysis is very much a teaching, in part because Freud deemed teaching an impossible profession.16 Lacan taught his famous seminaire for nearly thirty years, not only to analysts, but also to intellectuals and lay people of all types, who were his auditors, students, interlocutors, and hecklers. Among those who attended were Sartre, Beauvoir, Ricoeur, Foucault, Derrida, Kristeva, Sollers, Irigaray, Deleuze, Guattari, de Certeau, Castoriadis, Hyppolite, Barthes, Bataille, Leiris, Merleau-Ponty, Jakobsen, Pontalis, and Laplanche. Second, as Shoshana Felman notes, Lacan "has shifted pedagogy by radically displacing our very modes of intelligibility"-}1 his teaching is centrally concerned with clear writing, plain language, and their difficulties. Third, that displacement is produced by Lacan through a theory of reading staged by a particular practice of reading and writing. Lacan's return to Freud is actually a provocation to a new way of reading.18 And fourth, as Lacan himself declares by his appropriation of Buffon's axiom, his psychoanalysis aspires through its stylized practice to the transformation of subjectivity itself: "Le style est I'homme meme.,A9 The style of Lacan, the man himself, is, to say the least, controversial. Even his supporters are at times bemused by it. John Muller and William Richardson, authors of a 15 Jacques Derrida, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987). 16 Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1953-1974), vol 19, 273. 17 Shoshana Felman, Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1987), 75, emphasis added. 18 Felman, Adventure of Insight, 23. 19 "Style is the man himself." These words from the 17th century French rhetorician Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon open Lacan's Ecrits in its original French form, although they do not appear in the abridged English translation by Alan Sheridan (quoted in Jacques Lacan, "Ouverture de ce recueil," in Ecrits, 9). Gallop observes that the sentence could also be translated as "Style is the essence of [the] man" or "Style makes the man." She 14 widely praised and consulted guide to reading Lacan's infamously difficult Ecrits: A Selection, aver that Lacan's texts are of crucial significance. Yet they are forced to qualify that conviction with the admission that an "extraordinarily painful ascesis" is necessary to read them and that their own painstaking exegesis is consequently "not exactly guesswork, but, nonetheless, a highly precarious business."20 For them, Lacan's ecrits only too fittingly comprise a rebus, demanding the same intense and uncertain decryption as the interpretation of dreams. Likewise, Juliet Mitchell, the co-editor of a partial English translation of Lacan's seminar Encore, bluntly notes "the preposterous difficulty of Lacan's style."21 Ellie Ragland, who went on to become a champion of Lacan in the United States, says that at first, Lacan's prose nauseated her.22 Lacan's detractors are more curt. He is "the intellectual junk-bond king" for Pamela McCorduck, "the Pisser" for Andrew Gordon.23 Raymond Tallis expands a little: Future historians trying to account for the institutionalized fraud that goes under the name of "Theory" will surely accord a central place to the influence of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. He is one of the fattest spiders at the heart of the web of muddled not-quite-thinkable-thoughts and evidence-free assertions of limitless scope, which practitioners of theorrhea have woven into their version of the humanities.24 continues, "I can probably convey the spirit, but what gets lost in my translation is precisely the style" (Reading Lacan, 115, bracketed text in original). 20 John P. Muller and William J. Richardson, Lacan and Language: A Reader's Guide to Ecrits (New York: International Universities Press, 1982), 24, 415. 21 Juliet Mitchell, "Introduction—I," Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the e'co/e freudienne, ed. Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, trans. Jacqueline Rose. New York: Norton, 1983 (New York: Norton, 1983), 4. 22 Andrew M. Gordon, "Trouble in River City, or Lacan's 'The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious,'" PsyArt, on-line journal, article 970403 (1997), URL: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/articles/gordon01. htm. 23 "Sex, Lies and Avatars: Author Pamela McCorduck on Sherry Turkle," Wired 4.04, URL: http://www. wired.eom/wired/4.04/toc.html; Gordon, "Trouble in River City." 24 Raymond Tallis, "The Shrink from Hell," The Times Higher Education Supplement 31 Oct. 1997: 20. Quite independently, Gilbert Chaitin offers a parallel metaphor: "From the gaps of the real emerges a text, like the strands of a web from a spider's belly" (Gilbert D. Chaitin, Rhetoric and Culture in Lacan [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996], 9). Yet Chaitin is being positive about Lacan. Like the Kleinian breast, spiders can apparently be good or bad. 15 Something in Lacan provokes comparisons binding the bestial and the French. Stanley Leavy is much more sympathetic towards Lacan, but he still maintains that "Lacan comes to us as an exotic, some great uncouth bear speaking a combination of Mallarmean verse and French intellectualese, that turns into an English never before heard on land or sea."25 William Kerrigan, on the other hand, is not sympathetic at all: "Few readers of Lacan doubt that whatever else may be said of the imperial expositor enthroned in his texts he is for sure, to put the language of the street on it, a sonuvabitch." Kerrigan also joins the culture wars, accusing Lacan of being "caught up in insufferably nationalistic polemics."26 Yet the problem is not just the usual anglophone suspicion of French letters, for the critics of Lacan include other formidable theorists, French and otherwise. Ricoeur calls Lacan's writing uselessly difficult and perverse;27 Foucault admits that Lacan's impenetrable prose left him baffled.28 Even Heidegger, whom Lacan translated, admired and befriended, disparages both Ecrits—"I haven't so far been able to get anything at all out of this obviously outlandish text"—and its author—"It seems to me the psychiatrist needs a psychiatrist."29 Noam Chomsky maintains that Lacan "was a conscious charlatan, and was simply playing games with the Paris intellectual community to see how much absurdity he could produce 25 Stanley A. Leavy, "The Image and the Word: Further Reflections on Jacques Lacan," in Interpreting Lacan, ed. Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1983), 5-6. 26 William Kerrigan, "Terminating Lacan," South Atlantic Quarterly: Rereadings in the Freudian Field 88.4 (1989), 998-999, 997. Kerrigan is one of many psychoanalytic thinkers who embraced Lacan and then vociferously rejected him. 27 Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan & Co.: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925—1985, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990), 392. This is an interesting translation of "Inutilement difficile et perversement suspensive" (Elisabeth Roudinesco, La batailk de cent ans: Histoire de la psychanalyse en France.2: 1925—1985, (Paris: Seuil, 1986), 400), since suspensive is a perfectly good, albeit unusual, English word. 28 James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 135. See Jacques-Alain Miller, "Michel Foucault et la psychanalyse," Michel Foucault, philosophe: Rencontre internationale, Paris, 9, 10, 11 Janvier 1988 (Paris: 1989). 29 Martin Heidegger, quoted in Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan, trans. Barbara Bray (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1997), 231. 16 and still be taken seriously."30 The world is full of learned readers who find it hard to read Lacan, so the issue is patently not one of insufficient intelligence or perspicacity on the part of those he frustrates. Without a doubt, Lacan's style fails hegemonic North American professional standards. He would never have had a proposal accepted by the AERA; its inclusiveness doesn't extend nearly so far (Derrida, Heidegger, Foucault, Kant or Hegel, among others, would have had a hard time getting accepted as well). Contra the strictures of the AERA's call for papers, Lacan says, "La communication, fa me fait rire."iX However, Lacan's significance to contemporary French thought cannot be denied. As Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen notes, despite his often sharp criticism of Lacan, "because of Lacan's philosophical 'return to Freud', psychoanalysis has become the dominant theory in France; the fact is that you can hardly be a philosopher or an intellectual there without dealing somehow with things psychoanalytic."32 Leavy concurs: "Before the challenge of Lacan, French psychoanalysis was hardly an indispensable resource, and worse still, it was not of much influence in France. That has all changed."33 Henry Sullivan is only partly joking when he compares the impact of Lacan in the France of the 1960s with that of his contemporaries, the Beatles, in Britain.34 "In the French case this means the kindergarten teacher who takes a training course that includes a watered-down Lacanianism, the lyceen 30 Noam Chomsky, "An Interview," Radical Philosophy 53 (Autumn 1989): 32. 31 "Communication, that makes me laugh" (my translation). Jacques Lacan, quoted in Dennis Porter, "Psychoanalysis and the Translator," in Lacan & the Human Sciences, ed. Alexandre Leupin (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1991), 159. 32 Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, "Basta Cosi!: Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen on Psychoanalysis and Philosophy," interview by Chris Oakley, Returns of the 'Trench Freud:" Freud, Lacan, and Beyond, ed. Todd Dufresne (New York: Roudedge, 1997), 213, emphasis in original. 33 Leavy, "Image and Word," 5. 34 Henry W. Sullivan, The Beatles With Lacan: Rock '»' Roll as Requiem for the Modern Age (New York: Peter Lang, 1995), 2. 17 who learns about Lacan when she prepares the new 'Freud question' for the baccalaureate, the reader of the newly psychologized advice columns."35 Yet, as already noted, just reading Lacan is a forbidding labor. He doesn't deny the difficulty involved; he revels in it, proclaiming that he is determined "to leave the reader no other way out than the way in, which I prefer to be difficult."36 This caveat lector, plain enough itself, seems to warn that the only way in or out of the text will be anything but plain, or at least it declares that such is Lacan's desire. The clarity of this promise of »»clarity appears to rebut itself in its very articulation—or does it merely thwart Lacan's own desire? This question has a larger pertinence than it may at first appear, for despite all the fuss about the convolution of his writing, much of it is, like this warning, clear and orderly enough to satisfy any champion of the "art of teaching." As Malcolm Bowie notes, "One element of Lacan's writing. . . notably absent. . . from the indignant talk to which the dense verbal texture of / ..... • 37 * his Ecrits has given rise ... is his capacity to be memorably simple." The prior question, as Lacan points out elsewhere, is one of "knowing what clarity and order are. ... it still needs to be stated what this means." But he adds an ominous tag: "and this will by its very nature call into question the notions concerned."38 Is it possible that understanding the nature of clarity and order can cast suspicion on the very ideas of clarity and order? There are those who would say yes, including Bourdieu, 35 Sherry Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 1992), xiv. 36 Lacan, "Agency of the Letter," 146. " . . . ne doit laisser au lecteur d'autre sortie que son entree, que je prefere difficile" ("L'instance de la lettre," 493). 37 Malcolm Bowie, Lacan (London: Fontana, 1991), 3. Michael Clark adds that Lacan "repeatedly and painstakingly described the principal tenets of his approach to psychoanalysis for interviewers from magazines and newspapers, and the clarity of his remarks in many of these interviews belies the charges of deliberate obfuscation so often levied against him by reviewers and by rival figures such as Foucault, Derrida, and eventually Althusser" (Michael Clark, Jacques Lacan: An Annotated Bibliography [New York: Garland, 1988], Iii). 18 given his conviction that clarity is too frequently a name for fantasy. Daniel Cottom makes a similar point about that other infamously writerly Jacques: "Those who complain that Derrida writes in a deliberately difficult way might do well to read the plain English of [others] and see if it does not turn on them, when it is read carefully, as much as Derrida's writing does."39 Lacan, despite his well-known disputes with Derrida, agrees, at least in principle: "The closer one gets to the text the less one manages to understand it."40 Even the champions of clear writing would surely admit that Cottom's and Lacan's convictions obtain at a plainly discerned level. Teaching itself is clear enough as a concept and plain enough as a word to enter reflexively into the discourse of the "art of teaching," but the meaning of teaching, carefully considered, turns into something—translates into something— very unsimple and unobvious. Indeed, in the nuanced relations between teacher and student, and classroom and curriculum, it translates into something much more than translation, no matter how adept or otherwise. The chasm between the teaching of Lacan and the "art of teaching" can be figured thus: plain language is valorized for the immediacy of its understanding, but it is that very velocity that Lacan finds suspect. For him, "it's always at the point where [readers] have understood, where they have rushed in to fill the case in with understanding, that they have missed the interpretation that it's appropriate to make or not to make."41 As Sherry Turkle notes, "in any psychoanalytic experience, there should be no expectation that things will happen quickly."42 38 Lacan, Seminar HI, 18. "Mais il s'agit de savoir ce que sont clarte et ordre. . . . encore faut-il preciser ce qu'on entend par la, et cette interrogation est de nature a mettre en cause les notions dont il s'agit" {Seminaire III, 27). 39 Daniel Cottom, Text & Culture: The Politics ojInterpretation (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1989), 66. 40 Lacan, Seminar TU, 149. "Plus on se rapproche du texte, et moins on arrive a le comprendre" {Seminaire III, 170). 41 Lacan, Seminar HI, 22. "C'est toujours le moment ou ils ont compris, ou ils se sont precipites pour combler le cas avec une comprehension, qu'ils ont rate l'interpretation qu'il convenait de faire ou de ne pas faire" 19 The same painstaking discovery of difficulty applies no less to every other term by which the "art of teaching" is defined: art, language, understanding, translation, time, idea, the other. "Every symbolization is in the last resort contingent."43 The more one considers any of these familiar concepts, the more they slip into ever-increasing complexity and elusiveness. What is the categorical definition of art? Of language? Of understanding? To reinvoke Derrida, the slippage of terms—one incarnation of differance—is the general condition of language.44 As Jane Gallop observes, "Not just Ecrits, but all writings lead elsewhere."45 Lacan's version is that the signified slides incessantly under the signifier.46 In this glissade (glissement), the other is always becoming something else, just like every word and every instance of discourse. "The signifier in itself is nothing but what can be defined as a difference from another signifier. It is the introduction of difference as such into the field."47 Lacan claims that "language entirely operates within ambiguity, and most of the time you know absolutely nothing about what you are saying. In your most ordinary conversations language has a purely fictional character, you give the other the feeling that you are always there, that is to say, that you are capable of producing the expected response."48 (Seminaire III, 31). Actually, here Lacan is talking explicitly about analysts, but, as he himself points out, he believes that analysis is all about reading. 42 Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics, 232. 43 Zizek, Sublime Object, 97. 44 This grafting of Derrida onto Lacan is admittedly perilous, and deserves more justification than can be afforded here. Briefly, I think that the dispute between the two thinkers and Zizek's determination to oppose the two obscure strong agreements between them. I will continue to use differance here because its condensation of difference and deferral aptly captures Lacan's renovations of both Saussure linguistics and Freud's nachtraglich temporality. That use is not meant to gloss the substantial differences between Derrida and Lacan. 45 Gallop, Reading "Lacan, 34. 46 Lacan, "Agency of the Letter," 154; "L'instance de la lettre," 502. 47 Lacan, Seminar XX, 142. "Le signifiant en lui-meme n'est rien d'autre de definissable qu'une difference avec un autre signifiant. C'est l'introduction de la difference comme telle dans le champ." (Seminaire XX, 129) 48 Lacan, Seminarlll, 115-116. 20 The clarity of the "art of teaching" is further smudged by its centering of translation (" . . . even the most complex ideas can be translated into plain language . . ."), for translation is conventionally a relation of one language to another language, not a relation of language to ideas, complex or otherwise. The "art of teaching" must therefore assume that complex ideas naturally map onto complex language; its art is actually the subsequent translation of that complex language into simple terms. This isomorphism of complexity across the registers of ideas and language paradoxically converges the defense of clarity to Bourdieu's valorization of a rigorous vocabulary. Moreover, translation's other meaning is that of displacement: a movement from one space to another, vividly embodied in the sliding of the signified with respect to the signifier. From this point of view, the problem with the absolute faith of the "art of teaching" in the translatability of ideas is not an excess of conviction but a poverty of application: it does not go nearly far enough. Lacan would say that translation never stops; the glissade of the signifying chain never ceases. Each slip of the signifier sparks a new slide or cascade of signifieds, as if related dictionary entries were to serially spill all their multiple definitions upon the slippery page. The "art of teaching" is right, in that translation can always be accomplished. However, the realization of translation can never be the guarantee of its goodness, in either a qualitative or ethical sense, for translation is never fully accomplished. It never ends. Even plain language must be translated; even teaching must be constantly re-read, re-written, re-interpreted, and re-located; even clear writing cannot avoid being further translated, which is why it cannot avoid leading elsewhere. Le langage joue entierement dans l'ambiguite, et la plupart du temps, vous ne savez absolument rien de ce que vous dites. Dans votre intedocution la plus courante, le langage a une valeur purement fictive, vous pretez a l'autre le sentiment que vous etes bien toujours la, c'est-a-dire que vous etes capable de donner la reponse qu'on attend. (Seminaire UI, 131) 21 Jargon and Exclusion Such complications of teaching and understanding and the rest in no way deny their quotidian and utilitarian clarity. Knowledge that can be handled and transmitted as objects can perhaps be best taught plainly and clearly. Such is the pragmatic advantage and profound attraction of the regime of legibility that underwrites the "art of teaching." We can teach well (we hope) even though we will never fully know what teaching is. The meaning of teaching is clear enough, for all practical purposes.49 The caution that is being added here is that a fundamental and inescapable unclarity is nonetheless immanent to clarity. Even the ultimate expression of the "art of teaching," plain language, is itself ultimately not plain, even if it is familiar.50 Lacan observes that "this is the reality of discourse. We are nevertheless well aware that the signified is sufficiently captured by our discourse for everyday purposes. It's when we want to do a bit better, to get to the truth, that we are in total disarray, and rightly so."51 The Lacanian point is that teaching should want to do better than such artfulness; the ethical point is that it has an obligation to do so. Nevertheless, while the immanent unplainness of plain language troubles the boundary between clear and obscure writing, it obviously does not dissolve it, insofar as the form of unplain language is easily recognizable. The complexity of Lacan at his most hermetic is anything but subtle, as even the most careless of readers can discover. In its purposeful impenetrability, his texts seem quintessential exemplars of the private language abjured by the AERA. Accusations of the use of jargon are a standard measure of that 49 On the other hand, Felman performs a virtuoso reading of Freud's contention that teaching is an impossible profession ("Psychoanalysis and Education"). 50 See the discussion below on Lacan's assertion that something makes sense when it integrates into the pre existing order of things. 22 privacy, and Lacan flagrantly violates its prevailing limits. Not only does he fill his texts with the unfamiliar and the neologistic—want-to-be, transcendental signifier, objetpetita, The-Name-of-the-Fatber, das Ding, the matheme and its various species (S, S 0 a, S(0), O and the rest)— he refuses to define his terms; he demands that they not be translated from French; or, perhaps worst of all, he defines them in multiple and conflicting ways.52 And this is not all. He supplants the various Freudian topographies of the psyche with his own tripartite topology of the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real, and the first lesson of that fundamental is that none of these terms means what it seems to mean. Lacan is not content merely to produce and deploy jargon; he is bent on turning even familiar words into jargon.53 There is nothing so unreal as the Lacanian real.54 The reaction of Diana Fuss's family to her re-deployment of obscure Lacanianisms is not surprising, but many people read Essentially Speaking as something other than a joke— to start with, those feminist theorists who have bothered to read Ecrits. Jane Gallop, for one, spends nearly two hundred fluent pages on Reading Eacan. Judith Butler, who is presumably read by more than a few teaching sociologists, explicitly situates herself between Foucault, 51 Lacan, Seminar UJ, 155. "C'est cela, la realite du discours. Nous savons bien tout de meme que le signifie est suffisamment pris dans notre discours pour nos usages de tous les jours. C'est quand nous voulons faire un peu mieux, aller a la verite, que nous sommes en plein desarroi, et a juste titre" {Seminaire Til, 176). 52 For instance, as Alan Sheridan notes, Lacan does not define objet petit a or the grand Autre, but leaves the reader "to develop an appreciation of the concepts in the course of their use" (Sheridan, translator's note, xi). 53 Of course, defamiliarization is a familiar literary theoretical tactic, perhaps most associated with the Russian formalists. 54 The Lacanian real is, in many ways, opposite to reality. For Lacan, reality, insofar as we can make sense of it —that is, structure it, understand it, articulate it—belongs to what he calls the symbolic, the register of language and culture. The real is precisely what is outside the symbolic, what is unassimilable to structured and named reality. In other words, the real is what is unreal in our familiar world—a characterization that does not suffice to define the Lacanian real. Some commentators, notably Anthony Wilden, attempt to clarify Lacan by sifting his sense of symbolic, imaginary, and realfrom their familiar meanings, and capitalize their references to Lacanian usages (Anthony Wilden, "Translator's Introduction," in Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis, by Jacques Lacan [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1981], xv). However, it is important to observe that this was not Lacan's own practice. 23 Derrida, and Lacan.55 To frame jargon as constituting private or specialist language is to imply an extant, if limited, readership. This suggests that if someone doesn't understand Essentially Speaking or Ecrits, s/he can always be taught to read them, which puts a twist on the "art of teaching." The translation of complex ideas necessitates engagement with those ideas. The "art of teaching" is thus definitionally linked with what is not immediately understandable, with exactly the opposite of its object. In order to exclude the complex (even if by translating it), the "art of teaching" is forced to include it, even if it never makes it to the classroom in that form. However, while people certainly can learn to read jargon, by definition they are not eager to do so. Even if difficulty is admitted to be immanent to clarity, pejoration is still immanent to every accusation of jargon. Webster's first definition of jargon isn't "specialist vocabulary," it's "gibberish." Jargon is language that someone or some institution is satisfied to repudiate as unintelligible. The judgement of something as jargon is a kind of legitimized liberation from reading that something. It's more than a little ironic to have academics complain about jargon and the inaccessibility of theoretical writing, when all they have to do is stroll a few blocks beyond their university gates to encounter intelligent people who will say exactly the same thing about academic texts praised for their lucidity. The Fuss family game repeats the time-honored extra-academic (dis)regard for the ivory tower and its presumed private languages. The AERA must be aware of people like a colleague of mine who once complained in general about Faculties of Education, "What's all this about pedagogy} Why can't they just say teaching}" (although that question makes the treacherous assumption that teaching is simpler than pedagogy). The practical project of eradicating jargon requires someone to decide what or 55 Judith Butler, personal communication, 23 October 1995. 24 whose language is jargon, which immediately entails the juridical problem of deciding who the judge will be, especially when that decision will ostensibly be made on the behalf of many others. This makes manifest the pressing theoretical problem with the "art of teaching": it implicitly levels all others (" . . .plain language that can be understood by others''). While any text is likely written for the other as an imaginary reader, such an other always remains imaginary and must be distinguished from real and heterogeneous others who read texts and sit in classrooms,56 and who can only be reduced to some symbolic other through procedural violence. The usual solution to the question of who decides what is jargon is one that merits scrutiny: assuming that the other is actually oneself, or that the representative of all others is oneself, so that an uncanny coincidence of self and other can be arrogated as the measure of the text. Hence, the explicit rhetoric or submerged logic of the rejection of jargon goes something like, "I have a pretty good vocabulary, and I don't know what objetpetit a, The-Name-of-the-Father, matheme, or [fill in the blank] means, therefore these are all jargon." This repeats the imaginary identification by some Teaching Sociology subscribers with the infinite terms of the "art of teaching". Moreover, by its self-defined logic, this measure for jargon remains always vulnerable to appropriation by anyone else's standard, within or without the ivory tower. The implied and imaginary "intelligent reader" necessarily dissolves into the infinite non-standard of any possible reader who can make claim to intelligence, and on that basis anyone can dispute anyone else's claims about the general intelligibility of any text. The contradiction at work here is evident, once acknowledged. Plain language is championed for its populism—the AERA's valorized inclusivity—and set explicitly against the posited elitism of private language, but the decision of what is jargon necessarily leads to 56 Robert Con Davis, "Freud's Resistance to Reading and Teaching," College English 49.6 (1987), 624. 25 nothing other than the constitution of a new elite: those who are both intelligent enough to recognize what is jargon and what is not, and artful enough to write in the right way, free of that jargon. The call for clear writing is therefore a form of elitism presenting itself as democracy, positing its self-determined standard as the ideal for all writing and teaching, while presuming to be acting in the name of all people and all readers. This returns the elitism-concealed-by-modest-appearances that suffuses the definition of the "art of teaching," with its nonchalant totalization of infinite human thought and infinite human history. There is another and more fundamental problem with the repudiation of jargon. Presumably, at some past point in every reader's and every student's life, it was a good, even marvelous thing to learn a new term. A child learning a new word is an archetype— perhaps the archetype—for education. For parents, the first word spoken by an infant is nothing short of miraculous; for Lacan, the entry into language is the very accession to human being. But the repudiation of jargon is exactly the opposite, in practice and affect: it is the outraged refusal of the word made strange. The "art of teaching" is therefore a practice by which the miraculous, the definitively human, and the paradigmatically pedagogical are inverted as exemplary failures of writing and teaching. Each new word does not send a reader on to other books and other texts, but rather sends the writer and would-be teacher back to the drawing board. Admittedly, this assertion is unfair, not only because it is tendentious, but primarily because it is false. It is not generally the case that academics don't want to learn new words—although it surely is the case that they don't want to learn too many new words. Rather, they just want to be able to integrate any new word efficiently into their own pretty good vocabularies. Lacan observes that "something makes sense when it fits into the pre-26 existing chain [of discourse]."57 Such a chain constitutes a specific symbolic order. Vocabularies and pedagogies, academies and academics live and work in their own symbolic orders, their pre-existing discursive regimes. Understanding itself can be understood as fitting into the symbolic order of things. In the artistic order of teaching, as in many orders that pride themselves on their pragmatism, goodness of fit is good because it is a measure of utility, just as the worth of a tool turns on its aptness to its purpose. The practical word functions smoothly and productively within the discursive machinery of the real world and the real classroom. Likewise, the plain text is valorized by social activists for its political efficacy. The real problem with Lacan is less his obscurity than his elusiveness. His great talent is in sliding out of each and every grasp, which seems a reasonable definition of a perfectly useless tool: a disdainfully Gallic peg who fits no whole. Imaginary Meaning and All the Registers of Language Lacan as a lack of fit is made manifest in his take on the virtue of meaning and understanding. He writes, "There's no doubt that meaning is by nature imaginary. Meaning is, like the imaginary, always in the end evanescent, for it is tightly bound to what interests you, that is, to that in which you are ensnared."58 This seems doubly mysterious. First, how can meaning be imaginary, in the everyday sense of being fictional or fantastic? Meaning would seem to be the very opposite of imaginary; it would seem to be, well, meaningful. Second, how can meaning be imaginary, in the peculiar sense that Lacan gives to the word? In his analytic topology, the symbolic is the register of language, to which meaning presumably belongs. The imaginary is the register of the image, the imagined, 57 Fink, 'Lacanian Subject, 71. 27 and identification—Laplanche and Pontilis's first definition of it is "the basically narcissistic relation of the subject to his [sic] ego." Moreover, they go on to note that "Lacan insists on the difference, and the opposition between the Imaginary and the Symbolic."59 Nonetheless, it is a Lacanian truism that the three registers are always mutually intricated. Hence the emblem of the Borromean knot, a set of rings interlaced in such a way that if any one of the rings is removed, the other two fall apart as well, dissolving the entire formation. Despite strong affiliation of language to the symbolic, Lacan is emphatic that it comprises precisely such a knot of all the registers, which means that language must retain an 58 Lacan, Seminar III, 54. "Que la signification soit de la nature de l'imaginaire n'est pas douteux. Elle est, comme l'imaginaire, toujours en fin de compte evanescente, car elle est strictement liee a ce qui vous interesse, c'est-a-dire a ce en quoi vous etes pris" (Seminaire HI, 65). 59 J. Laplanche and J. B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, trans. David Nicholson-Smith (Karnac Books and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1988), s.v. "imaginary." The capitalization of Imaginary and Symbolic is the translator's decision, and he explains that in this regard he is following Wilden's example. The sex of the subject poses a problem for which I have been able to find no good solution. Various pronouns are used by different writers for the subject. For Lacan and many others, like Laplanche and Pontalis, the subject is generally and suspiciously masculine: he, him or his (of course, sujet is a masculine noun). Gallop deliberately alternates between she and he (see Reading Lacan, 21). For Felman and a few others, the subject is neutral/neutered, but not human: an it. After much debate with myself, I decided to use s/ he, her/ him, and her I'his here, despite its clumsiness and lack of parallelism with cited invocations of the subject. I am tempted to refer to the subject as she/'her, to counter Lacan's sexing of the subject and to emphasize that the subject is always sexed, but because the Lacanian subject is often crossed-out, fading, lacking, incomplete, presumptuous, misconceived, deluded, or dying, specifying the subject as female would be very problematic. Lacan thwarts my naively good intentions. One advantage of si he and its variants is that they all include a diagonal bar. The significance of this will become apparent in Chapter Two. One drawback of si he is that the Lacanian subject seems regularly either less than or more than human (or both at once), so that Felman's use of it would be more appropriate. Yet more often, that subject is not only definitively human, but also demands his/her/its symbolic inscription into either female or male positions. And all this only begins to sketch out the relevant complications of sex, gender and the subject. As will become apparent, this irresolvable difficulty with the relation between the subject and language is not just a technical one, but symptomatic of both Lacanian theory and this dissertation's engagement with that theory. The seeming substantiality of the subject is displaced by the very attempt to inscribe her/him as a signifier, every time that signifier clashes with another. The problem was foretold by Lacan: the subject is that which a signifier represents for another signifier (Jacques Lacan, "Subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious," in Ecrits: A Selection, 316; "Subversion du sujet et dialectique du desir dans l'inconscient freudien," in Ecrits, 819). 28 imaginary aspect.60 The question remains, what is this aspect, and how does it pertain to meaning? Laplanche and Pontalis distinguish four different categories of the Lacanian imaginary: besides the narcissistic relation of the subject to the ego, there is the binary relation of intersubjectivity by which the ego is captured by its counterpart (and vice-versa), the "triggering" of behavior by an environmental Gestalt, and, finally, meaning. They write of the last, "the Imaginary implies a type of apprehension in which factors such as resemblance and homoeomorphism [sic] play a decisive role, as is borne out by a sort of coalescence of the signifier with the signified."61 This characterization of meaning qua signification is a crucial move by Lacan. The paradigmatic moment of language as a symbolic order for the "art of teaching", namely, the establishment of meaning and therefore of understanding, is considered by him as imaginary, where imaginary, despite its Lacanian renovation, retains its usual sense of the fantastic or illusory. In his neo-Saussurian terms, meaning must be imaginary qua fantastic because, as already noted, the signified ineluctably slides under and away from the signifier, making any "coalescence" of the two impossible, at least in the last instance.62 Not even the plainest of speakers can ever nail down all the subtie artfulness of 60 "Language, to which the triple division of the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real appropriately applies" (Lacan, Seminar III, 53). " Langage, a quoi la repartition triple du symbolique, de rimaginaire et du reel s'applique justement" {Seminaire 777, 65). 61 Laplanche and Pontalis, s.v. "imaginary." 62 Despite his derogation of Lacan's writing noted above, Foucault also says, The turning point came [in the history of French structuralist/post-structuralist thought] when Levi-Strauss, in the case of societies, and Lacan, in the case of the unconscious, showed us that "meaning" was probably no more than a superficial impression, a shimmer, a foam. (Michel Foucault, "Entretien avec Madeleine Chapsal," LaQuin^aine litteraire 15 May 1966, trans. Barbara Bray, quoted in Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan, 296) Le point de rupture, soulignait Foucault, s'est situe le jour ou Levi-Strauss pour les societes, et Lacan pour l'inconscient, nous ont montre que le 'sens' n'etait probablement qu'un effet de surface, un miroitement, une ecume. ("Entretien avec Madeleine Chapsal," La Quin^aine Utte'raire 15 May 1966, quoted in Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan: Esquisse d'une vie, histoire d'un systeme depensee [Paris: Fayard, 1993], 387) 29 teaching or any word meaningful to teaching. Even that purported authority of meaning, the dictionary, does nothing more than lead from one signifier to another, ad infinitum (and dictionaries always change; they never stay the same). If differance is thereby seen as the general condition of language, then the "capture" of the signified in everyday discourse has at least two implications. First, it must indeed be ultimately imaginary, in all the Lacanian senses of the word; and second, it must be accomplished by other than purely linguistic means.63 With regards to the latter, Slavoj Zizek points out that such capture marks the discursive level of ideology. In Lacanese, the instantiation of a point de capiton, a quilting or nodal point, stitches the space of non-bound, floating signifiers into a unified and ideologized field of meaning.64 In other words, meaning as such is not constituted through any artless communicative practice, but through specific and contingent ideological operations. If there is nothing outside the text, then there is nothing outside politics either—including the meaning of language, whether plain or abstruse. Despite differance, meaning is captured. It is precisely at when institutionalized regimes of legibility intervene that understanding is accomplished and the translation qua displacement of a text is putatively halted. Force must be applied for meaning to be mastered, and the obviousness of plain language testifies to the power of its mastery. Lacan's contention is that meaning remains imaginary despite such regimes, because mastery is never total, regardless of the force applied. The point de capiton is ultimately mythical, and its stitching of the space of signifiers ultimately does not hold.65 63 This is a version of the structuralist and poststructuralist attention to the negativity of language. 64 Zizek, Sublime Object, 87. 65 "L'epinglage dont je parle ou encore le point de capiton n'est qu'une affaire mythique" (Jacques Lacan, Les formations de I'inconscient: Le seminaire: 57-58, unpublished seminar, 3 vol. transcript, 181). 30 Felman makes a parallel argument by equating Hegel's absolute knowledge with mastery and bringing it explicitly together with teaching, or at least its artful form. She claims that "Western pedagogy can be said to culminate in Hegel's philosophical didacticism": absolute knowledge, which is "knowledge that has exhausted its own articulation."66 Such exhaustion is an elegant formulation of the masterful translation definitive of the "art of teaching". By contrast, the reader is "never held responsible, by Lacan, for absolute knowledge."67 The Sociology of Exclusion This is where the sociology in the confrontation between Lacan and the "art of teaching" "clearly" emerges. The everyday utility of plain language is imbedded in the functionalist paradigm of its instrumentality, and sociology has long warned of the perils of that perspective. A practice is never functional tout court, it is always functional for somebody and functional towards certain ends. The inevitable sociological questions that ensue from any assertion of functionality are: functional for whom} functional for what} Bourdieu, as a sociologist, provides some answers with respect to plain language: False clarity is often part and parcel of the dominant discourse, the discourse of those who think everything goes without saying, because everything is just fine as it is. Conservative language always falls back on the authority of common sense. . . . And common sense speaks the clear and simple language of what is plain to see. . . . Producing an over-simplified and over-simplifying discourse about the social world means inevitably that you are providing weapons that can be used to manipulate this world in dangerous ways.68 66 Felman, "Psychoanalysis and Education," 77. 67 Juliet Flower MacCannell, Figuring Lacan: Criticism and the Cultural Unconscious (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1986), xiii. 68 Bourdieu, "Landmarks," 52. La fausse clarte est souvent le fait du discours dominant, le discours de ceux qui trouvent que tout va de soi, parce que tout est bien ainsi. Le discours conservateur se tient toujours au nom du bon sens. Ce n'est pas par hasard que le theatre bourgeois du XIXe siecle etait appele « theatre du bon sens ». Et le 31 The Teaching Sociology creed effaces precisely the sociology of language, for if the word teaching is clear enough for all practical purposes, what must always remain open for interrogation is precisely those purposes and practices which comprise the conditions for clarity. Lacan agrees, as shown by his linkage of clarity and order. If the "art of teaching" take on translation is correct, then translation is perfectible or completable. But Lacan notes that "completed discourse, the embodiment of absolute knowledge, is the instrument of power, the sceptre and the property of those who know."69 If he and Bourdieu are right, the AERA demand for clarity becomes something other and more ominous than a congenial invitation to communicate. It polices a politics of meaning for a conservative regime of legibility, in a manipulation bent on conserving precisely the pre-existing symbolic order of things. This conservatism surfaces especially in the lack of its recognition by its adherents. One of the list defenders of the "art of teaching" protested that she was in no way a conservative, even as she held fast to that most traditional of rhetorical standards, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style?0 The cover to that book's paperback edition even sports a blurb from the New York Times hailing it as "timeless," a declaration that, even allowing for promotional hyperbole, reiterates the infinitude of the creed of the "art of teaching". It aspires to keep all (good) writing of all ideas always the same for all time. Such a demand for clarity allow readers to "read what [they] already know by heart. . . . What orients, bon sens parte le langage simple et clair de l'evidence. Ensuite, parce que produire un discours simplifies et simplificateur sur le monde social, c'est inevitablement donner des armes a des manipulations dangereuses de ce monde. ("Reperes," 67) 69 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book TT: The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: 1954—1955, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Sylvana Tomaselli (New York: Norton, 1988), 71. "Le discours acheve, incarnation du savoir absolu, est rinstrument de pouvoir, le sceptre et la propriete de ceux qui savent" (Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan : Livre TI: Le moi dans la theorie de Freud et dans la technique de lapsychanaljse : 1954-1955, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller [Paris: Seuil, 1978], 92). 32 fundamentally, the point of a discourse is perhaps nothing other than to stay exactly within the limits of what has already been said."71 The virtue of plain language is often touted as its effectiveness as a tool, and, if this is so, the profound political problem with plain language is precisely that virtue. It is only too good at policing the boundaries of discourse. The particularities of these boundaries are another political emergence of sociology in discourse, although this time sociology as a discipline. The imaginariness of meaning and the differance of language resisted in much of sociology are by no means novel concepts in literary theory. As Dennis Porter notes, [Lacan] is a saboteur of sense who decomposes and recomposes the different units of language from the level of the phoneme to that of the sentence and even beyond. It is no wonder that those of us with backgrounds in literature and literary theory have been drawn to his writings. It is also no wonder that those who were formed in the traditions of the social and behavioral sciences have found him unreadable.72 In fact, the "art of teaching" cherishes a notion of language that is, as one literary theorist remarked to me, distinctly 17th century French.73 Even Buffon knew better. Being more than three hundred years old doesn't necessarily make something wrong, but in this case it does necessitate a vigilant patrolling of disciplinary boundaries in order to keep twentiem-century concepts of reading at bay so effectively—and in order to maintain a faith in the timelessness of its strictures on writing. The "art of teaching" depends upon a dentistry of the text, in which reading proceeds by the extraction of meaning and ideas, and dentistry is a time-70 Posts to the Teaching Sociology e-mail list, 15 and 17 December 1996; William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 3ri ed. (New York: MacMillan, 1979). 71 Lacan, Seminar 777, 207. "Vous ne lisez que ce que vous savez deja par cceur. . . . Ce qui dirige au plus profond l'intention du discours n'est peut-etre rien d'autre que de rester exactement dans les limites de ce qui a deja ete dit" {Seminaire III, 235). 72 Porter, "Psychoanalysis and the Translator," 157. 73 Valerie Raoul, private communication, 15 March 1996. 33 honored practice. However, being a good teacher or analyst is something different from being a competent dentist. There are obvious limits to Bourdieu's assertion. He isn't actually accusing everyone who writes clearly of being a fascist, and an object can be pedagogically functional without being socially oppressive. Still, it isn't difficult to discover the signs of the material politics of language which are unmistakable and constantly overlooked. In the "real" classroom, people often praise texts by saying things like, "It's a masterful exposition," "It's a forceful argument," "It's an authoritative analysis," "She has control of her material," "The author has secured his position as a dominant figure in the field." The terms by which they valorize the text are mastery, force, authority, control, dominance. If these same academics spoke of some more conventionally social phenomenon—say, gender relations in the workplace— instead of argument, in the same terms, they would be speaking anything but praise. When spoken in other situations, these terms are recognizable as the signs of suspect relations of 74 power. The difference seems like one between content and form, between substantive concerns and the discursive vehicles by which those concerns are articulated and thought through. But discursive forms, as operations in language, are themselves thoroughly social phenomena, just like marriage, or the state, or racism. They are also inseparable from their 74 Lacan is legitimately indictable on these same grounds. That is, his discourse seems nothing other than a discourse of mastery and authority. Certainly Lacan often carried himself as the autocrat of psychoanalysis. While this problem with Lacan deserves more consideration than is possible here, especially since Lacan systematized an analysis of discourse that directly engages the issue of mastery, I will claim here that the Lacanian text need not be regarded as either masterful or authoritative, regardless of the intent or airs of its author. Even "faithful" Lacanians regularly disagree about readings of Lacan. The very textual characteristics in Lacan that radiate "master discourse"—the difficulty, the "abstraction," the hyper-theoretical bent, the ambiguity and paradox, the breadth and depth of external sources, the paradoxes, the matheme itself—generate a multiplicity of readings, which radically undercuts the mastery of any one of them, including this one. See the Roudinesco anecdote in Chapter Six, about Lacan at the Metropolitan Opera, for a different elaboration of Lacan and (non-)masterful discourse. 34 content. Sociologists know this very well. Yet whenever they valorize powerful argument, they act as if discursive forms are not social in the same way at all. Zizek observes that this kind of incoherence inverts the classical Marxist formulation of ideology as mystification, which runs something like, "They do it because they don't know what they're doing." Instead, the way sociologists bracket argument from social critique is an example of, "They know what they're doing, but they do it anyway."75 This bracketing is a Lacanian split; that is, the sociological exemption of the fundamental form of discourse from political interrogation is a necessary and constitutive lack in that same discourse. In order for the sociological discourse to interrogate the world, it must act as if the form of argument is not part of the world, even as it explicitly knows and avers that it is. Without this split, sociologists could not believe, as many do, that maximizing mastery, force, authority, control and dominance in writing is the signal path to social activist goals of equality, emancipation and social justice. On the one hand, this split is utterly necessary for the wedding of rhetorical domination and social emancipation to appear as not only possible, but also as good and natural. On the other, it demands that teaching sociologists pass over precisely the sociologic of language—any regime of legibility depends upon something not being legible. For Lacan, such incoherence merely marks sociologists as being human. For him, "what characterizes a normal subject is precisely that he [sic] never takes seriously certain realities that he recognizes exist."76 Of course, the same split is repeated in the endorsement of plain language when academics know very well that language, when read carefully, is never plain at all. The first 75 Zizek, Sublime Object, 29. Zizek identifies this mode of ideology as cynical, following Peter Sloterdijk, in his Critique of Cynical Reason (trans. Michael Eldred [Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987]). 76 Lacan, Seminar III, 74. "Ce qui caracterise un sujet normal, c'est precisement de ne jamais prendre tout a fait au serieux un certain nombre de realites dont il reconnait qu'elles existent" {Seminaire 777, 86-87). 35 effect of the politics of the advocacy of plain language and clear writing is very obvious: the exclusion of certain writing and texts. A deep political asymmetry becomes evident between the "art of teaching" and the teaching of Lacan. The former, in its claim to a transcendental standard for writing and despite its inclusionary rhetoric, seeks to exclude; the latter, in its claim for a legitimate place for difficult texts, seeks to include. Not even the worst of Lacan's epigones—to invoke Catherine Clement's resonant phrase, not even the weary sons of Freud77—would suggest that everyone and every teacher should try to write and speak in the inimitable obscurity of Lacan's style. For Lacan, there is a place for unquestioned difficulty and a place for presumed clarity, just as his own discourse includes both.78 By contrast, the "art of teaching" has no place for any writing except that which conforms to its own standard; it seeks to exclude expressly those texts which it deems failing in their obligation to their readers. During the Teaching Sociology debate, one of the prime movers of the list felt compelled to inform everyone that while "some" of the members were obviously enjoying the discussion, others thought it such "a waste of valuable time" that they were threatening to unsubscribe.79 Likewise, the AERA call for papers, by embracing the standard of clarity, presumes that inclusiveness is best achieved through exclusionary practices. The condition for this limited type of inclusion turns out to be exactly its opposite. Such exclusion is yet another return of the politics of inversion. Just as the "art of teaching" presents grandiosity as modesty and elitism as democracy, it also offers exclusion in the guise of inclusion. And just like the other paradoxes, this presentation of inclusivity 77 Catherine Clement, The Weary Sons of Freud, trans. Nicole Ball (London: Verso, 1987). 78 John Forrester perceptively distinguishes that there are several aspects to Lacan as a writer: "quasi-epigramist, spinner of semantic spider's webs,. . . tortuous and complex edifier of theories," and "simple story teller" ("Lacan's Debt to Freud: How the Ratman Paid Off His Debt," in Returns of the 'French Freud" ed. Dufresne, 71). 36 projects its own exclusivity onto texts and writers it rejects. Thus, the typical attack on that imaginary whole conjured under the pejorative umbrella of post-modern presents itself as a defense against those who would condemn clear writing—as if Lacan or anyone else would actually propose that the AERA exclude any proposal framed in plain language. I will attempt myself to be emphatically, impossibly clear: I am not arguing against clear writing, nor championing a ludicrous ejection of plain language from sociology, education, or the academy in general. Rather, I am supporting the contention that clarity cannot escape difficulty, and that texts like Lacan's, which do not disguise that immanent difficulty, but confront the reader directly with it, are crucial to thinking through the complexities of reading, writing, and teaching. Another, subtler and more profound exclusion pervades the "art of teaching." For Lacan, "the state of a language can be characterized as much by what is absent as by what is present."80 What, then, is absent from clear writing? First, let us ask, what is clear about clear writing? Just as transparency is associated with ideas and the readiness of their understanding, clarity is associated with writing that is transparent to the ideas. Language thus becomes clear when it makes itself disappear, so that the ideas that it represents can be grasped in themselves. Equivalently, the clarity of writing allows those ideas to be mastered. As argued above, while plain language deploys the rhetoric of democracy, the logic of that rhetoric is one of force and mastery. The "art of teaching" is mastery multiplied by itself, for it is mastery not only of concepts, but of language and of oneself, one's discipline, one's writing, and one's classroom. From this perspective, the good teacher is a master artist of teaching. 79 Post to the Teaching Sociology e-mail list, 17 Dec 1996. To unsubscribe is a widely accepted internet neologism that denotes canceling one's subscription to a list. 80 Lacan, Seminar HI, 115. "L'etat d'une langue se caracterise aussi bien par ses absences que par ses presences" {Seminaire HI, 130). 37 Lacan himself avers that all teaching begins with the discourse of mastery.81 But the mastery of language is more total than these other dominations, and therefore more troubling than even the rhetorical politics it invokes, for it is not satisfied with the subordination of language. Clarity, as just noted, demands disappearance. Yet the disappearance of what, exactly? A disappearance of language, to be sure, but only of language divided, shorn of the meaning which clear writing is meant to preserve, not dissipate. Clarity aims at an impossible ideal of telepathy, where thoughts from one mind are communicated directly to another, in a perfect transmission, as if its medium is not there at all. The "art of teaching," in its appeal to self-evidence, "effaces language before the radiance of subjective 'truth.'"82 Language as such must disappear—that is, language in its materiality, language in its laterality, language in its letter1 The demand for meaning qua signified compels the signifier to fade away.84 The plainest of language is no language left at all. The irony of this aspect of the Teaching Sociology creed is that when the letter disappears, the sociology of language is effaced and teaching itself fails. Patrick McGee points out that "the teacher who succeeds in reducing language to its cognitive function so that the student encounters knowledge as an intuition virtually erasing language in its material dimension—such a teacher teaches what is not true, at least in the psychoanalytic 81 Mark Bracher, Lacan, Discourse, and Social Change: A Psychoanalytic Cultural Criticism (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1993), 60. 82 Patrick McGee, "Truth and Resistance: Teaching as a Form of Analysis," College English 49.6 (1987), 672. This radiant truth is revealingly being situated outside of language by the "art of teaching." 83 Lacan defines the letter as the material support of discourse ("Agency of the Letter," 147; "L'instance de la lettre," 495). 84 "The signifier is to be taken in the sense of the material of language" (Lacan, Seminar III, 32). "Le signifiant est a prendre au sens du material du langage" (Seminaire HI, 42). The crucial difference between the letter and the signifier will be taken up later. For now, note that language becomes plain when it is apparently voided of rhetoric. The art of teaching is all about the eviction of the art of letters. 38 sense of that word. He or she fails to teach the truth of the symbolic order, the cultural frame and linguistic conventions that make knowledge possible in the first place."85 The Terror of Language Lacan has an explanation for how the normalcy of plain language leads to such a strange state of affairs: "All use of language incurs fright, which stops people and finds expression in the fear of intellectuality. He intellectualities too much, people say. This serves as an alibi for the fear of language^ Lacan sees that clear writing excludes language because there is something terrifying about it. The very intensity of the refusal of jargon recapitulates that affective investment, as does the heartfelt affirmation of the "art of teaching" by Teaching Sociology. In fact, Lacan founds his theory of human subjectivity on his conviction that the terror of language cannot be separated from language as the condition of human being. But what is so terrifying about language? The answer can be divined by asking the opposite question: What is comforting about language? There is a clue in the celebratory reception that Teaching Sociology grants the "art of teaching." Clear writing and plain language are comforting because they provide access to meaning and therefore to understanding. But understanding has been demonstrated to be a euphemism for the mastery of language. Clear writing maintains the orthodox and thoroughly instrumental conception of language—that is, language as purely a 85 McGee, "Truth and Resistance," 674. When this is compared to the earlier quotation from McGee (n82), truth seems to have unexpectedly recovered its customary glamour. There are standard rejoinders to such a conflict, such as the argument that any necessary (and in Lacanese, imaginary) instantiation of meaning must always imply a reference to truth, however contingent, but I think such responses are never quite satisfactory. With that caveat in mind, it should be noted that McGee at least makes the qualification, "the truth of the symbolic order," which, given the Lacanian theorization of that order's constitutive slippage, makes truth itself a slippery referent. 86 Lacan, Seminar UI, 227, first emphasis in original. "Tout usage du langage suscite un effroi, qui arrete les gens et se traduit par la peur de l'intellectualite. II inteUectualise trap, dit-on. Cela sert d'alibi a la peur du langage" {Seminaire UI, 258, emphasis in original). 39 means of communication—and therefore maintains language as something masterable. The necessary correlate is that it maintains the speaking subject and the artful teacher as the master. What is at stake in the struggle over plain language is therefore the status of the subject. Every symbolic order, like the one defined by Strunk and White, underwrites specific identifications.87 Hence, while the "art of teaching" is explicitly about practice, defining the "art of teaching" both implicitly assumes notions of teacher and student and reiterates those definitions. Even the instrumental view of language leads to the constitution of subject positions. The very trope of the instrument implies the masterful user. Lacan writes that "the symbolic provides a form into which the subject is inserted at the level of his [sic] being. It's on the basis of the signifier that the subject recognizes himself as being this or that."88 So "Who am I?" is, first of all, a question in and of language, which means that those who would take the Delphic oracular injunction to "Know thyself seriously must do so discursively. It is in this way that the symbolic orders its subjects. What is comforting about language is how we find ourselves written in it, how we are legible to ourselves. A particular symbolic order framed by a particular regime of legibility is "where the subject situates his [sic] sense so as to recognize himself."89 The problem is that the symbolic order of language cannot guarantee subjectification. Zizek notes, "It is a commonplace that the Lacanian subject is divided, crossed-out, identical to a lack in the signifying chain. However, the most radical dimension 87 In Lacanese, the subject before the (symbolic) Law is the condition of the subject before the (imaginary) mirror (Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (New York: Routledge), 80). "Before" should be understood in all its senses. The temporality in which the symbolic precedes the imaginary productively complicates simplistic developmental readings of the mirror stage, as a progression from the imaginary to the symbolic. Bringing the subject "before the Law" has the productive resonance of the Law's coercive force. The spatiality of before nicely emphasizes the distance between the subject and its symbolic and imaginary identifications. 88 Lacan, Seminar HI, 179. "Le symbolique donne une forme dans laquelle s'insere le sujet au niveau de son etre. C'est a partir du signifiant que le sujet se reconnait comme etant ceci ou cela" {Seminaire HI, 201-202). 40 of Lacanian theory lies not in recognizing this fact but in realizing that the big Other, the symbolic order itself, is also barre. . . . The Other 'hasn't got it', hasn't got the final answer."90 Some questions cannot be answered, and those are the crucial ones: "There is, in effect, something radically unassimilable to the signifier. It's quite simply the subject's singular existence. Why is he [sic] here? Where has he come from? What is he doing here? Why is he going to disappear? The signifier is incapable of providing him with the answer."91 If language is what makes humans human, it still cannot ultimately support their being. In fact, if differance is the general condition of language, then language is what denies that support. Differance means that language cannot be mastered and that no human can be the master of it. We find ourselves in language, but we also lose ourselves in it. "The symbolic order is simultaneously non-being and insisting to be."92 This is the ambivalent power of the symbolic with respect to the contingency of subjectivity and meaning. The symbolic appears, paradoxically, in "what is beyond all understanding, which all understanding is inserted into, and which exercises such an obviously disruptive influence over human and interhuman relationships."93 Hence the contested staging of the imaginary in the symbolic. "The ego is precisely a meconnaissance of the symbolic order," an imaginary object mistaken for the subject always already displaced by the vagaries of language.94 If we recall how Laplanche and Pontalis's first definition of the imaginary referenced the ego in terms of narcissism, the 89 Lacan, Seminar HI, 175. "Oii le sujet situe son sens pour se reconnaitre" (Seminaire HI, 197). 90 Zizek, Sublime Object, 122. 91 Lacan, Seminar HI, 179-80. "II y a en effet quelque chose de radicalement inassimilable au signifiant. C'est tout simplement l'existence singuliere du sujet. Pourquoi est-il la ? D'ou sort-il ? Pourquoi va-t-il disparaitre ? Le signifiant est incapable de lui donner la reponse" (Seminaire IH, 202). 92 Lacan, Seminar H, 326. "L'ordre symbolique a la fois non-etant et insistant pour etre" (Seminaire H, 375). 93 Lacan, Seminar HI, 8. "Par deux abords differents, a ce qui est au-dela de toute comprehension, a l'interieur de quoi toute comprehension s'insere, et qui exerce une influence si manifestement perturbante sur les rapports humains et interhumains" (Seminaire HI, 17). 41 unrestrained narcissism of ego-identification with the "art of teaching" that launched this paper fits only too well. To the extent that we misrecognize ourselves this way, and identify with the artifice of the "circle of certainties" of the self, we remain imaginary to ourselves.95 This is why Lacan calls the ego "the human symptom par excellence, the mental illness of man."96 Here, then, is the terror of language. The symbolic, as the register of differance, is the venue for the inevitable failure of the imaginary, as the register of identity. Such failure marks the peculiar emergence of the third register of language for Lacan, the real. Insofar as meaning eludes us, insofar as language does not have the answer, the real appears. The Lacanian real is "that before which the imaginary faltered, that over which the symbolic stumbles, that which is refractory, resistant."97 The crucial point is that the real is immanent to the symbolic; the failure of language is built into the very nature of language and occurs precisely at that symbolic place where the subject strives and fails to achieve her or his imaginary substantiation. The Borromean knotting of language and the subject means that a real lack of the self dwells in every heart: "this sort of mortmain, of a necessary and unbearable enigmatic element, that is partially constituted by the discourse of the real man [sic] we are dealing with in our experience, this foreign discourse within everyone's heart in so far as one thinks of oneself as an autonomous individual."98 This is one reason why Lacan 94 Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (New York: Routledge, 1996), s.v. "ego"; Lacan, Seminar 77, 44; Seminaire 77, 60. 95 Lacan, Seminar 77, 8. "Cercle de certitudes" {Seminaire II, 16). 96 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book I: Freud's Papers on Technique: 1953—1954, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. John Forrester (New York: Norton, 1988), 16. "Le symptome humain par excellence, c'est la maladie mentale de l'homme" (Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan : Livre I: Les ecrits techniques de Freud: 1952-1953, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller [Paris: Semi, 1975], 22). 97 Sheridan, translator's note, x. 98 Lacan, Seminar 777, 135. "II est indissolublement lie a cette sorte de mainmorte, de partie enigmatique necessaire et insoutenable, que constitue pour une part le discours de l'homme reel a qui nous avons affaire 42 writes the subject as the signifier sous rature: 8, "barring" the S of the signifier." It is a sociological apothegm that language is what makes someone human, and Lacan can be understood as merely taking that apothegm very seriously. If it is true, and if language is a much trickier thing than an instrument of communication, there must be profound consequences for the human subject. Lacan is therefore extrapolating a very ordinary position when he theorizes the ways in which subjectivity is always intricated with the travails of the letter. Ellie Ragland-Sullivan is more specific: "The two faces of the subject [that which is determined within discourse and that which cannot be answered by discourse] are joined, I would say, by a materiality of the 'letter' .... Lacan argued against the apparent unity of Imaginary ego consistency . . . that blocks the Autre as a place of pure difference by working with minimal interpretations (his little letters or mathemes and his Borromean knots)."100 The absolutely crucial paradox is that the real qua mutual failure of the imaginary and symbolic is made manifest by the matheme qua letter. It is this real, ineluctable and terrifying failure of language compounded with the subject, which the matheme incarnates in a paradigmatic manner, that clear writing seeks to evade.101 What the matheme is will become central to this argument. If the general condition of language is differance (pure difference), if meaning is always slipping away, if even plain language, like the definition of the "art of teaching", always dans notre experience, ce discours etranger au sein de chacun en tant qu'il se concoit comme individu autonome" (Seminaire III, 152-153). Mortmain means, literally, "dead hand." 99 Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Routledge, 1977), 141 (this book will henceforth be referenced as Seminar XI); Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan : Livre XI: Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse: 1964, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 1973), 129. 100 Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, "Stealing Material: The Materiality of Language According to Freud and Lacan," in Lacan <& Human Sciences, ed. Leupin, 72-3, emphasis in original. 101 Lacan's theory of language and subjectivity is, of course, much deeper and subtler than this sketch. He argued it through the nearly thirty years of his seminaire and across the 8000+ pages of all his ecrits. 43 discloses complexity and contradiction upon careful reading, then the Lacanian text is that kind of writing which, through its form and letter, exposes the difficulty which is immanent to itself and to every text. The "art of teaching" confirms this difficulty in spite of itself, for it relies upon the trope of translation, and what is most easily lost in any translation are the metaphoric and associative resonances of the original, which depend so much upon form and letter.102 Lacan says that truth "limps openly" in his writing.103 It defies imaginary capture, and therefore does not permit the fantasy of mastery which is the condition of understanding. It could be said that Lacan restores the difficulty that the "art of teaching" is intent on effacing, that he counters the letter's artful and artless simplicity. While one of the Teaching Sociology supporters applauds its creed with "It really isn't too difficult, is it?",104 Bourdieu, once again, demurs: "If people at least come away with the feeling that it is complicated, that's already a good lesson to have learned."105 Cottom and Lacan's point is that complication will always arise from assiduous reading, even (or especially) the reading of texts which have been clearly written to circumvent that complication. Lacan says that the practice of exclusion, "in the hope that at least with the part things will hang together" is doomed, because "there are always things that don't hang together."106 Exclusion can never succeed in the end, because the problem is not outside one's writing; it is always already inside, because it is inside language itself. "The analytic reading is thus essentially the reading 102 Patrick Colm Hogan, "Structure and Ambiguity in the Symbolic Order: Some Prolegomena to the Understanding and Criticism of Lacan," in Patrick Colm Hogan and Lalita Pandit, Criticism & Lacan: Essays and Dialogue (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1990), 8. 103 Lacan, preface to Lemaire, Jacques Lacan, viii. "La verite boite" (Lacan, preface to Lemaire, Jacques Lacan, 7th ed. [revised], 6). 104 Post to the Teaching Sociology e-mail list, 11 Dec 1996. 105 Bourdieu, "Landmarks," 52, emphasis in original. "Si les gens retiennent au moins que c'est complique, c'est dejaun enseignement" ("Reperes," 67). 106 Lacan, Seminar Til, 82. "II y a toujours des choses qui ne collent pas" {Seminaire HI, 95). 44 of a difference that inhabits language, a kind of mapping of the subject's discourse of its points of disagreement with, or difference from, itself."107 Lacan says, "It is quite clear that, in analytic discourse, what is involved is but that— that which is read."108 It is impossible to read Lacan without confronting language itself.109 Reading him demands undeniable invocations of the reader's strategies, presumptions, inclinations and ideologies, which cannot be imagined away as simple competence on the part of reader or writer. In place of the universality of understanding, such a text forces an engagement with the singularity of each reader and each instance of reading, in their non-generalizable specificities. "Analytic (textual) knowledge cannot be exchanged [which means it cannot be translated], it has to be used—and used in each case differently, according to the singularity of the case, according to the specificity of the text."110 In this respect, the creed of the "art of teaching" should be read against another pedagogical axiom: "If everyone in a classroom thinks alike, only one person is thinking." The understanding sought by plain language is a universally shared one, whose success is measured by precisely how much everyone thinks alike. This can even be radicalized, for if what the artful teacher teaches was taught to him, then he too is thinking like someone else. In that case, according to this alternate creed, the "art of teaching" promotes a leveling of the classroom so that when everyone thinks alike, no one is thinking at all. This may read like an insult, but it is not necessarily so. The exact replication of an object of knowledge (for example, a fact or proposition or technique) can be both worthy and useful (teaching as 107 Felman, Adventure of Insight, 21. 108 Lacan, SeminarXX, 26. "II est bien evident que, dans le discours analytique, il ne s'agit que de 9a, de ce qui se Ht" (Seminaire XX, 29). 109 I have adapted Patrick McGee's characterization of De Man here ("Truth and Resistance," 675). 110 Felman, "Psychoanalysis and Education," 81, emphasis in original. 45 another simulation of ideal telepathy) without requiring any independent thinking at all. The teaching of psychoanalysis, however, is not about objects of knowledge. Nor is it about the closure of meaning. Rather, it is about the openness of being human.111 It is about desire. As Lacan observes, there is "the ever-present possibility of bringing desire, attachment, or even the most enduring meaning of human activity back into question, the constant possibility of a sign's being reversed."112 The return of desire is therefore the admission of misunderstanding—but this is precisely the point. Lacan declares, "I pursue this discourse in such a way as to offer you the opportunity to not quite understand."113 And more strongly: "Begin by thinking you don't understand. Start from the idea of fundamental misunderstanding."114 Such is the severity of the Lacanian difference from the "art of teaching." This difference dissipates the charge of elitism so often leveled at Lacan. His texts are not written in a style that only a privileged few can understand (in this respect, he directly opposes Bourdieu's assertion of the exactitude of a rigorous vocabulary). Rather, they are written so that everyone must start by not understanding, designed so that everyone will encounter resistance. The Lacanian text is neither a lingua franca, owned by everyone, nor a private language, owned by a select few. Instead, rejecting that binarism and the very logic of authority through ownership, it is owned by no one at all.115 111 "Man [sic\, of all entities, is an open entity. The openness of being fascinates anyone who begins to think." (Lacan, Seminar HI, 295) "L'homme, entre tous les etants, est un etant ouvert. L'ouverture de l'etre fascine tout un chacun qui se met a penser" (Seminaire IH, 333). 112 Lacan, Seminar HI, 23. "La possibility de la remise en question a chaque instant du desir, de l'attachement, voire de la signification la plus perseverante d'une activite humaine, la perpetuelle possibility d'un renversement de signe" (Seminaire IH, 32). 113 Lacan, Seminar IH, 164. "Je poursuis ce discours de facon telle que je vous offre l'occasion de ne pas tout a faitle comprendre" (Seminaire HI, 184). 114 Lacan, Seminar III, 20. "Commencez par ne pas croire que vous comprenez. Partez de Fidee du malentendu fondamental" (Seminaire HI, 29). 115 I would go so far as to argue that this "no one" applies to Lacan himself. The Lacanian text is most productive when even Lacan is granted no special status as le sujet suppose savoir. 46 In this way, the Lacanian text engages exactly what the "art of teaching" excludes. If the "art of teaching" is all about the reach for mastery, Lacan's discourse is about that which escapes mastery. In his terms, the symbolic attempt at totalization—one version of which is complete translation—always leaves a surplus or remainder, and it is that surplus which is the object of psychoanalysis.116 Lacan also retrieves the excluded materiality of language, which clear writing seeks to efface. These two recuperated exclusions cannot be separated. Just as the symbolic order of plain language strives to totalize meaning and subjectivity by making language disappear in an imaginary movement of capture and effacement, the Lacanian symbolic readmits the real through attention to the letter. Ironically, this opposition between Lacan and the "art of teaching" brings them together. The latter is about an impossible desire for the coincident capture of meaning and self; the former is about desire as such.1171 began with the claim that desire is a dangerous ground for pedagogy, and that obtains both for the "art of teaching" and the teaching of Lacan. The crucial difference is that Lacan both recognizes that danger and exploits it as the crucial opening for pedagogy. That is his truth of desire: "At least for a while, take my honey such as I offer it to you and try to put it to some use."118 As he says, plainly and otherwise, "I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth, because there's no way, to say it all. Saying it all is literally impossible: words fail. Yet it's through this very impossibility that the truth holds on to the real."119 116 In Lacan's algebra of the discourse of the master, the representation of the subject, S, by a master signifier Si, leaves the surplus of a, which is objet a. 117 Lacan is a radicalization of Jagger and Richards avant la lettm It's not just that you can't always get what you want, it's that you can never gtt what you really want. 118 Lacan, Seminar HI, 150. "Au moins pour un temps, prenez mon miel tel que je vous l'offre, et tachez d'en faire quelque chose" {Seminaire III, 170). 119 Jacques Lacan, Television/A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, and Annette Michelson (Norton: New York, 1990), 3. "Je dis toujours la verite : pas toute, parce que toute la dire, on n'y arrive pas. La dire toute, c'est impossible, materiallement: les mots y manquent. C'est meme par cet impossible que la verite tient au reel" (Jacques Lacan, Television [Paris: Seuil, 47 Letters from Lacan While Lacan has been eschewed by teaching sociologists, he has been read with care by literary theorists.120 Given his transgression of the imaginary capture of meaning characteristic of hegemonic disciplinary regimes of legibility, that readership is hardly surprising. Gallop explains that literary theorists have learned "how to read the letter of the text, how to interpret the style, the form, rather than just reading for content, for ideas."121 In other words, they can read Lacan because they read against the terms of the "art of teaching." Felman, who is, like Gallop, a professor of literature, describes her introduction to his texts this way: "Lacan's writing read like Mallarme's—an obscure and enigmatic, yet powerful and effective, poetic prose. It appealed to me in the way literature appeals to me: without my being able to make immediate sense of it or translate it, I was made to take it in and absorb more than I knew."122 Even Lacan's critics resort to literary parallels: "The texts [of Ecrits] themselves are notoriously difficult and opaque, giving the impression that one has strayed into the endless labyrinth of some Borgesian library."123 It is ironically, perfectly, clear that there are regimes of legibility extant and thriving in the academy (albeit outside Teaching Sociology and the AERA call for papers) in which Lacan's texts appear as literature precisely because they cannot be reduced to plain language. Paradoxically, the claims for clear writing made by the "art of teaching" creed can only be sustained by the exclusion not only of Lacan and the letter, but also of the academic disciplines most specifically devoted to language, reading and writing: literary criticism and theory. 1974], 9). Editor Jacques-Alain Miller annotates this passage, the very first in Television, with a matheme in the margin: S(A). 120 James Mellard, Using Lacan: Reading Fiction (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1991), 56; Gallop, Reading Lacan, 22. 121 Gallop, Reading Lacan, 22. 122 Felman, Adventure of Insight, 5, emphasis added. 48 Yet, surprisingly, not even Gallop will read all of Lacan. There remains an excluded surplus to her Reading Lacan: "As someone with a literary rather than a scientific education," she says, "I find Lacan's stories and poetry more sympathetic, more pleasurable, and easier than his graphs and later 'mathemes.'"124 So, through sympathy and pleasure, she rends Lacan in two, and renders him into two parts: one valorized and one othered. Here, the name of the other is matheme}15 Lacan writes of the matheme (in French, matheme) that "mathematical formalization is our goal, our ideal. Why ? Because it alone is matheme, in other words, it alone is capable of being integrally transmitted."126 As Valerie Raoul observes, he is unexpectedly making a promise of a complete transparency he has already deemed impossible in language: the matheme as "something that does not need translation." 127 And that promise appears to immediately and fatally falter, for the matheme delivers to Gallop and many others only varieties of the indecipherable: $ a $ Oa S(0) 123 David Macey, Lacan in Contexts (London: Verso, 1988), 8. 124 Gallop, Reading Lacan, 161. 125 Gallop is quite properly distinguishing the matheme from Lacan's graphs, but, as I will argue in subsequent chapters, the matheme is at least a good synecdoche for all of Lacan's seeming mathematics, including the graphs and the "algorithms." 126 Lacan, SeminarXX, 119. "La formalisation mathematique est notre but, notre ideal. Pourquoi? — parce que seule elle est matheme, c'est-a-dire capable de se transmettre integralement" (Lacan, Seminaire XX, 108). 127 Personal communication 26 January 1998. 49 These are mathemes, but taking them as genuine mathematics leads to either incoherence or triviality. For David Macey, "in practice [the matheme] means little more than 'mathematical sign,'"128 but for Clement, the linkage between the matheme and mathematics is more indirect and more profound: "The word harks back to the Greek root of mathematics, the verb manthanein, to learn. Matheme first of all meant study, knowledge."129 The matheme is from the beginning wedded to teaching. If we think of the AERA as a vast group striving in its call for papers to unite itself by the plainness of language, and also of the institutionalized religiosity of the faith which sustains the "art of teaching", then Clement's further observation takes on a special edge: "The mathemes were the result of a strong critique of religion, and not only of the Christian religion . . . but of any institution producing 'consolidated group effects' to the detriment of genuine discourse."li0 Such consolidation pertains not only to the group, but also to the imaginary coherence of the ego that is welded to the capture of meaning. The matheme "was defined in the first issue of Ornicar? as the formulation of analytic experience as a structure, against the idea that such experience is ineffable. It appears pater] more as an examination of notions such as 'form' and 'consistency', which imply a presence or unity of the subject, and which Lacan opposes with concepts and figures from logic, topology and the formulae of written language, which cannot be cohered in the same 128 Macey, Lacan in Contexts, 170. 129 Catherine Clement, The Lives and Legends of Jacques Lacan, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1983), 184. "Le terme reprend a la racine le mot « mathematiques », et retourne a l'elementaire du verbe grec « manthanein », apprendre, dont il est derive. Matheme, c'est connaissance, etude, d'abord" (Catherine Clement, Vies et legendes de Jacques Lacan (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1981], 213). 130 Clement, Lives and Legends, 183, emphasis added. "« L'obstination dans la voie des mathemes » faisait suite a une violente critique des religions. Pas seulement la religion chretienne . . . mais toute institution produisant des « effets de groupe consoHde» aux depens de l'effet de discours attendu de rexperience" (Vies et legendes, 212, emphasis added). 50 way."131 The matheme is the exemplary letter that refuses to vanish into the clarity of writing, and through that refusal, affirms the world. Lacan says, Let us put together objects of thought, as they are called, objects of the world, each of which counts as one. Let us assemble these absolutely heterogeneous things, and let us grant ourselves the right to designate the resulting assemblage by a letter.132 Matheme appears to be Lacan's own invention, although some of his critics believe that Lacan was much more a borrower or plagiarist than an inventor. Yet if the matheme was actually "ripped off from elsewhere, the name would only be more appropriate to its referents.133 No evidence of its use previous to Lacan has surfaced yet, but even if the matheme was not pirated in toto, it is still possible that it was adapted from Levi-Strauss's mytheme, or the linguistic/philological phoneme, moneme, or morpheme}1* The suffix — erne means a "significantly distinctive unit of language structure," so, in at least an etymological sense, the matheme brings together mathematics and language.135 It is crucial to recognize that the matheme has both sides, because that recognition averts the error of trying to read the matheme purely as mathematics. For Lacan, the matheme introduces the "formal" language of mathematics to the incessant informalities of language in general.136 131 Jacqueline Rose, Introduction to "Seminar of 21 January 1975," in Mitchell and Rose, eds., Feminine Sexuality, 162. Omicar? is a Lacanian journal. 132 Lacan, Seminar XX, 47. "Mettons ensemble des objets de pensee, comme on dit, des objets du monde, chacun compte pour un. Assemblons ces choses absolument heteroclites, et donnons-nous le droit de designer cet assemblage par une lettre" {Seminaire XX, 46). 133 See Stephen Melville, below, on the "ripped off matheme. 134 Joel Dor points out that the phoneme and the moneme (or morpheme) are metonymically connected in the production of meaning. That is, phonemes are concatenated to produce monemes, which are further concatenated to produce words and sentences (Joel Dor, Introduction to the Reading of Lacan: The Unconscious Structured Like a Language, ed. Judith Feher Gurewich, in collaboration with Susan Fairfield [Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1997], 31; Joel Dor, Introduction a la lecture de Lacan: 1. L'inconscient structure comme un langage [Paris: Denoel, 1985], 42). 135 WWWebster Dictionary, on-line database. URL: hj^:/Y_www.m-w.com^ s.v. "-erne." 136 A formal language is differentiated from a "natural" language like English, French, or Serbo-Croatian, by being "artificially" constructed—the exemplary formal language is that of computing science's artificial intelligence. Formal language is characteristically defined and regulated in a precise way with the intention of 51 Specific mathemes and their effects will be considered in the following chapters. What our discussion has led to here is the status of the matheme. That status is demonstrated by the way in which it stymies not only sophisticated readers of literature, but also scientists who are at ease with mathematical formalization. Some of Lacan's critics have seized upon this fact as another way of repudiating his texts, but in protesting that Lacan fails to produce a systematic formalization, they only confirm the efficacy of the matheme as the crucial letter in reading and teaching.137 The mathematical appearance of the matheme manifests once more the imaginary aspect of the symbolic, for it is the image of the matheme which lures such critics into an imaginary reading of its symbolic formalization, and, ironically, into an oversight of its paradigmatically symbolic slippage of meaning. The instructive irony is that literary theorists make the same error when they presume that the matheme is mathematical (and therefore not literary) because of the way it looks. This specular meconnaissance formally repeats, from another angle, the error of the artists of teaching, for in both cases the condition of repudiation is the imaginary capture of meaning, and the tactic is to cut the Lacanian text for the purposes of exclusion. The mutual decision is to leave matheme as an unread letter. Bruce Fink demurs: "Lacan is saying, in 1972-73 . . . that the little letters are, precisely, letters that must be read. The claim seems then to be that such letters, being read, cannot but reach their destinations."138 The rest of this chapter is an attempt to begin to think about that claim by Lacan. avoiding the ambiguous problematics of natural language. We could thus say that clear writing is the attempt to denature (natural) language. 137 For instance, see Macey, Lacan in Contexts, 171. 138 Stephen Melville, "Psychoanalysis and the Place of Jouissance',' in Francoise Meltzer, ed., The Trialfs) of Psychoanalysis (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988), 177. 52 Reading the Matheme The matheme refuses the dichotomy between mathematics and poetics, partaking of natural and formal language, but eluding both. "The image of the matheme is [to be] taken seriously, but taken seriously as a poetic device."139 Stephen Melville provides the necessary elaboration: Formalization matters to Lacan not because it offers away for psychoanalysis to attain the condition of mathematics (or to attain the condition of a certain ideal of mathematics) but precisely because psychoanalysis is unable to do so: it inevitably falls back into, is dependent upon, mere language and voice, tangled in the circuits of desire and the particularities of the psychoanalytic object. The mathemes are a means of making visible the 'pure signifier' as that which organizes a 'science' the objectivity of which is disciplinary and hermeneutic, operating in a region apart from, untouched by, and proofed against traditional discussions of the scientific standing of psychoanalysis.140 The matheme is there because it stymies sophisticated readers of literature and mathematics alike. Turkle remarks that Lacan "asserted the need for equational science among those he felt use poetic justifications to avoid the hard and rigorous work ahead and asserted the need for poetry among others who may be allowing scientific rigor to narrow their field of vision."141 Yet the matheme is more than the necessary resistance to literary theoretical reading. It is a condensation of the Lacanian thesis that language slips away from itself, that the symbolic order is inconsistent, because the imaginary and the real contest each other in it. The matheme is the letter, the simple letter that is both the condition of plain language and the ultimate resistance to it, the material way the symbolic resists itself: If we look back at. . . the various little letters Lacan has sent us, it should be clear that they bear little relation to any normal project of scientific mathesis. Lacan rips off bits of this and that, giving us "notations" that have a certain 139 Turtle, Psychoanalytic Politics, 238. HO Melville, "Place of Jouissance," 177, emphasis added. 141 Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics, 238. 53 validity within a highly restricted region. The manipulations to which they are submitted appear radically unprincipled, and their relevant features vary from the highly formal to the crudely pictorial. There is no ground for suspecting a systematic Lacanian algebra of some kind behind the various mathemes and charts. He is not dreaming that dream. He is dreaming a more dreamerly dream, in ein anderer Schauplat^ in which it is important precisely that these letters are ripped off, displaced, borrowed, imitative.142 Gallop concedes the place of the matheme, albeit reluctantly: "Sorely tempted, I do not, however, feel free simply to dismiss [the graphs and mathemes]. Even if. ..Lacan's science is a failure, his drive toward science is part of the work."143 Yet, taking Melville to heart, the scientific "failure" of the matheme is what the matheme is all about. Elsewhere, Gallop asks the question that she is sometimes seemingly reluctant to confront: "What if the reader [of Lacan] did not 'terminate' when she realized it could go on forever?"144 For the matheme is inarguably "part of the work." It pervades the Lacanian text. "Any reader who has even glanced through the Ecrits will surely know that Lacan's work is studded with such 'formalization.'"145 It configures the geometry of his notorious graphs and constantly punctuates his prose. It is there in Lacan's first seminar, in 1953, and inhabits his work for the remainder of his teaching life.146 Admittedly, its proliferation is more evident in French than in English. For instance, Lacan's Graph of Desire, which is structured around the matheme, appears only in the final translated ecrit, but the Graph is repeatedly referenced 142 Melville, "Place of Jouissance," 176. 143 Gallop, Reading Lacan, 161. This is a wonderful sentence, with its apparently unconscious invocation of the drive, which Lacan figures as endlessly circling around its object—which Gallop identifies as science— while never reaching it (Seminar XI, 174-186; Seminaire XI, 159-169). 144 Gallop, Reading Lacan, 53. 145 Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics, 147. 146 There are letters in the diagrams of the experiment of the inverted bouquet, which gets elaborated through Seminar I and to which Lacan returns in later years (Lacan, Seminar I, 124, 139, 165, 283; Seminar XI, 245; Seminaire I, 143, 160, 187, 312; Seminaire XI, 132). It should be noted that in Seminar I, Lacan uses Freud's own "matheme"—the "optical" apparatus of the psyche from The Interpretation of Dreams (Lacan, Seminar I, 75; Seminaire I, 89; Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. James Strachey [London: Penguin, 1976], 687) —as the jumping-off point for his own schemas. Even here, he is returning to Freud. 54 throughout se'minaires that have yet to appear in English. While the significance of the matheme within Lacan's theory is still debated, its systematic inscription in the very heart of his text cannot be denied. The matheme cannot be escaped. It can be circumvented, though, and such is the wont of most of Lacan's commentators. Unfortunately, most are much less conscientious than Gallop, and elide the matheme without any explicit rationale. Their occasional references to the matheme often lapse into suspect generalizations. Madan Sarup, for instance, claims that "many of the graphs and formulae are no more than mnemonics with a fairly basic pedagogic purpose."147 Michael Payne says much the same thing: "Although Lacan had a long-standing interest in mathematics, his equations and other mathematical functions serve more to fix his ideas and to fulfill mnemonic and pedagogic purposes than to advance his theoretical project."148 These assertions are more than a little odd, inasmuch as they denigrate the significance of the matheme by seeking to reduce it to an instrument of memory and teaching, as though the latter were not absolutely central to Lacanian theory.149 These commentators recognize, in an unconsciously ironic characterization of the matheme as a device of pedagogical clarification, the intimate connection of the matheme to teaching. Yet none of them spells out how the matheme aids either memory or teaching. Instead, the mere attribution of such purposes apparently suffices to glide past the matheme without reading it any further. More seriously, this kind of reduction in the name of clarity and understanding is a chronic academic syndrome, of which the "art of teaching" is symptomatic. The Lacanian text is engaged through strategic exclusion, where what is excluded—neither read nor taught 147 Madan Sarup, Jacques Lacan (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992), 115. 148 Michael Payne, Reading Theory: An Introduction to Lacan, Derrida, andKristeva (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 82. 149 With respect to memory, it is only necessary to consider the criticality of the nachtraglich. 55 —is cut out, so that the remainder is understandable. Elided through any such cut is what Felman identifies as the pedagogical moment in Lacan: The pedagogical question crucial to Lacan's own teaching will thus be: Where does it resist? Where does a text. . . precisely make no sense, that is, resist interpretation? Where is the ignorance—the resistance to knowledge— located? And what can I learn from the locus of that ignorance?150 The matheme, by its resistance to the reader and the reader's resistance to it, draws attention to itself as a key moment to the teaching of Lacan. Readings which omit the matheme are therefore doomed to fall short—even shorter than the inevitable failings of every reading. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any particular reader-writer preferring particular threads of Lacan over others. Given the massiveness and range and obduracy of his oeuvre, a strategically limited approach is eminently sensible, and likely the only feasible one. The exclusion of the matheme enacts the concept of lack that is central to Lacan, but because it is usually a blind and mute enactment, it works explicitly against the Lacanian ethos. This is not to deny a certain efficacy of the cut, for, as Gallop notes, it does make the Lacanian text easier. At the same time, we should appreciate the castrating implications. Gelding is a traditional practice of taming, whether we are speaking of horses or texts. Plain language is language that has been domesticated precisely by cutting out the wild and the ferocious, just as inclusiveness defined through communication is constantly figured through homey rhetoric. It must never be forgotten that Lacan himself urges the opposite condition of reading. Gallop is posing a contradiction along the axis of legibility between poetry and the matheme, one that is resolvable by eliding the latter. However, for Lacan, the subversion of that very division is the condition of psychoanalysis.151 Mark 150 Felman, Adventure of Insight, SO. 151 Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics, 233. 56 Bracher articulates the more general imperative: "Anyone who reads Lacan carefully realizes that making generalizations about Lacan's teaching is a highly demanding task that requires facing—not ignoring—the contradictions in Lacan's conceptualizations."152 In Felman's terms, the resistance of and to the matheme situates a locus of ignorance, but the refusal to address that locus is a refusal to learn from it. Matheme gives a kind of non-signifying name to Lacanian hermeticism, distilling it into a rebarbative little letter, but concomitantly stands for a boundary that can be and is drawn at many different sites, within and without the academy: between Lacan and other psychoanalysts, between psychoanalysis and other theory, between French and anglophone theory, between theory and whatever prides itself as being non-theoretical, between jargon and plain language, between Mallarme and clear writing, between literature and the social sciences. What makes Lacan different from his detractors is that he begins where they leave off; he enters the moment of not-reading precisely where the non-reader turns away. To put this more bluntly, when the non-reader decides that reading is impossible because her/his expectation of clarity is utterly frustrated, s/he gives up the possibility of further learning —and therefore of teaching, at least in its artful form. A Lacanian teaching begins when the "art of teaching" crashes. More precisely, Lacan teaches by forcing it to crash. If Lacan's writing works at all—and there are admittedly many dissenters on that account— it works not in spite of the difficulty of its apperception, but because of it. As Fink points out, "Lacan's writing itself overflows with extravagant, preposterous, and mixed metaphors, 152 Mark Bracher, "The Subject of Discourse," in Lacanian Theory of Discourse: Subject, Structure and Society, ed. Mark Bracher, Marshall W. Alcorn, Jr., Ronald J. Corthell, and Francoise Massardier-Kenney (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1994), 22. 57 precisely to jolt one out of the easy reductionism inherent in the very process of understanding."153 It is Gallop who grasps the pedagogical merit of Lacan's mathemic writing and puts it into action, despite her explicit distaste for the matheme. She spends most of a chapter of Reading Lacan reading the "mathematical" algorithms for metaphor and metonymy from "Agency of the Letter." As she points out, those algorithms are comprised mostly of S and s, the familiar mathemes for the signifier and the signified.154 Despite her finding little pleasure in the matheme, she chose those algorithms as the operative center of the seminar on literary studies that she taught. She determinedly pushes on in that chapter, just as she pushed on in that course, despite her students coming to class "frustrated, disgruntled, feeling inadequate or outraged," having failed to come to grips with Lacan. Meditating on style and Lacan, she ventures that "perhaps the block to reading Lacan is the reader herself."155 Still, -it is some forty pages later that she confesses her abiding distaste for the matheme. Lacan is staging a deliberate confrontation with the grounds of intelligibility for Gallop and her students, just as he is for every would-be reader of Ecrits and his other texts. In a certain way, this is a most orthodox return to Freud, who is so concerned with slips of the tongue and other misfires. At that crash-site, in that dangerous and lurching place, something unfamiliar intrudes, something not so easily accommodated to what has gone before. What intrudes is not the artful lesson, nor the argument extracted from the text, nor the intent of the author, nor any communication per se, but instead the potential "creation of 153 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 71. 154 Gallop, "Metaphor and metonymy," Reading Lacan. 155 Gallop, Reading Lacan, 117. 58 an original learning disposition" only possible in the failure of the orderly symbolic.156 Led, however willingly or unwillingly, to this place by Lacan, we still have a choice. We can simply reject the Lacanian text for its unplain language, its unclear writing, and its unartistic teaching. We can laugh at it, we can damn it, we can effect closure by simply closing the book on Lacan and looking elsewhere for more congenial reading and pedagogy. Or we can decide that the "art of teaching" is insufficient—which does not mean it is wrong in itself, but incomplete and therefore wrong by itself when it presumes to cover the entire field of teaching. If re-opening the books of Lacan makes us irremediably dissatisfied with the "art of teaching," we are immediately faced by at least four pedagogical exigencies. First, we need to read forbidding texts—like those of Lacan—that seem impossible to read. To be more accurate, we need to engage with those texts in ways very different from what we usually recognize as reading. Hence the exemplarity of the matheme: its engagement demands a mode that is at once utterly unlike prosodic text and utterly unlike the formalization of mathematics or symbolic logic. Second, we need to think about the refusal to read, and about how it turns on particular presumptions about language and subjectivity. My contention is that it is exactly such presumptions that Lacan, who refuses to separate language from subjectivity, puts into question. The matheme is the key here as well, for, as Clement observes, it is "the logical analysis of the fundamental division of the subject."157 Third, we need to acknowledge that the refusal to read is a refusal to learn. That decisive recognition will allow us to inquire into the nature of these coupled refusals, and into the desires and seeming necessities that drive them. The matheme stands forth as the conspicuous hard kernel of illegibility and the frustration of knowledge and desire. Finally, 156 Felman, Lacan, 81. 59 we need to think about the dangerous desires that drive the "art of teaching," instead of wishing or assuming that either those desires or that art can be fulfilled. 157 Clement, Lives and Legends, 184. "La mise en relation logique de la division fondamentale du sujet" (Vies et legendes, 213). 60 Chapter Two: S: Rendering the Subject Everything emerges from the structure of the signifier.1 —Jacques Eacan Take a line from Ecrits. What do you have? A string of words, which Lacan calls a chain of signifiers. Such a chain is never merely a concatenation, for each signifier succeeds the previous one according to a certain order, obeying (or self-consciously defying) the laws of language. That order defines both a direction and a movement. A line from Ecrits can therefore be schematized by the line tout court. Simply a line, but not just a line, for it is directed—in all senses of the word, it has direction. Here, Lacan's terms are those of physics: that line is actually a vector Since this particular vector speaks psychoanalysis in its Parisian mode, it is propelled from left to right across the page by the symbolic order of French letters, and then down in serried ranks. Other scripts in other places may move differently, but every one of them moves in a likewise regulated way, according to its native order.3 To turn to the formalism of mathematics—a formalism which cannot be sustained for very long, as Melville noted—let this lateral vector be a first approximation to the 1 Lacan, Seminar XI, 206. "Tout surgit de la structure du signifiant" {Seminaire XI, 188). 2 For example, Jacques Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 303. "Le vecteur" ("Subversion du sujet," 805). 3 Lacan notes, "We should approach things at the level of the history of each language. It is clear that the letters which upset us so much that we call them, God only knows why, by a different name, 'characters', to wit, Chinese letters, emerged from a very ancient Chinese discourse in a way that was very different from the way in which our letters emerged" {Seminar XX, 36). "II faudrait prendre les choses au niveau de l'histoire de chaque langue. II est clair que cette lettre qui nour affole tellement que nous appelons fa, Dieu sait pourquoi, 61 signifying chain, and let every line of every text likewise imply an ordered directedness. Such an approximation immediately fails, for, as we well know, the signifying chain —that is, discourse in its variously signed articulations—constantly defies its own grammatical well-orderedness. The paradigm is, in part, that of the Austinian speech-act, in which every constative statement turns out to be performative, but mostly it is the language of psychoanalysis, which never comes straight to the point.4 Instead, it slides and conceals and irrupts. It is unpredictable in trajectory and dodgy in calculation, prone to reversing or crossing itself. The line of signifiers is constituted through its nonlinearity.5 This is why, when Lacan plots the signifying chain, it never stays true, but instead constantly shifts direction; this is why, when he graphs desire, it never follows a straight line.6 And this is why Jean-Claude Milner characterizes the symbolic order as "Ily a de lalangue," rather than "IIy a de la langue" for lalangue is Lacan's neologism for language as other than itself: "lalanguage."7 What Lacan theorized was less linguistics than what he called linguisterie, a term which conjures the play of language.8 Our discredited first approximation of the line might then yet d'un nom different, caractere, la lettre chinoise nommement, est sortie du discours chinois tres ancien d'une facon toute differente de celle dont sont sorties nos lettres" (Seminaire XX, 37). 4 J. L. Austin, How to Do Things With Words, 2nd ed., J. O. Urmson and Marina Sbisa, eds. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1975). 5 The concept of the mobility and sinuousness of the signifying chain is Malcolm Bowie's (Lacan, 66). Lacan elsewhere uses another metaphor: "One has only to listen to poetry, which Saussure was no doubt in the habit of doing, for a polyphony to be heard, for it to become clear that all discourse is aligned along the several staves of a score" ("Agency of the letter," 154). "Mais il suffit d'ecouter la poesie, ce qui sans doute etait le cas de F. de Saussure, pour que s'y fasse entendre une polyphonie et que tout discours s'avere s'aligner sur les plusieurs portees d'une partition" ("L'instance de la lettre," 503). 6 For example, see "Subversion of the subject," 303, 306, 313, 315; "Subversion du sujet," 805, 808, 815, 817. Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe note that the Lacanian signifier operates through a "perversion of the system of the sign" of Saussure (The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan, trans. Francois Raffoul and David Pettigrew [Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1992], 39). "Perversion du systeme du signe" (Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, Le litre de la lettre: Une lecture de Lacan [Paris: Galilee, 1990], 59). 7 Jean-Claude Milner, Les noms indistincts (Paris: Seuil, 1983), 7. 8 Lacan, Seminaire XX, 20. Translator Fink notes, "The ending Lacan adds here, linguisterie, gives one the impression that it is a kind of specious or fake linguistics. Francois Raffoul suggested 'linguistrickery,' which I have shortened to 'linguistricks.' One could, of course, also see linguisterie as a condensation of various other 62 be readmitted, on the strict condition of its orthopaedic deformation, by twisting it first one way and then the other, in serpentine fashion. This is the shape of language against itself, the signifier, distilled down to the letter:9 s Now add one more line, simpler and more vicious, and rend the S along the reverse bias: This is the subject. So we have the subject and the signifier, S and S, distinguished by the smallest possible difference. "The subject himself [sic] is marked off by the single stroke, and first he marks himself as a tatoo [sic], the first of signifiers."10 The single stroke is the inscription of the upright bar, which is but the merest line, the one, the first of signifiers: |. To engage the words: tricherie, strie, and even hysterie" (Lacan, Seminar XX, 15 n3). Later in Seminar XX Lacan notes "the distance between linguistics and linguistricks" (16) ("La distance de la linguistique a la linguisterie" [Seminaire XX, 20]). 9 In this dissertation, mathemes, letters and other typographical characters are often isolated in space and enlarged in size, such as this S, to emphasize the imaginary aspects that get obscured when they appear as thoroughly symbolic text, in the Lacanian senses of the words. This tactic also surfaces a mild form of the regime of reading (and writing) enforced at the University of British Columbia, since it resists the "preference" of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for one size of type throughout dissertations. It also violates the parallel preference for one type face, because S and other mathemes have been imported from a special "EcritSym" font set, and some other characters are in various other fonts because of specific imaginary considerations, such as using an S that is more congruent with S. I could have complied with the regime by turning all such instances of "irregular" characters into figures, but that would have greatly multiplied the number of figures and captions ("Figures must be numbered" (Instructions for the 'Preparations of Graduate Theses, 1995), in an already crowded text. Besides, the sense of the matheme that will be elaborated here is that of a material object which is both figure and text, both imaginary and symbolic (and, as we shall see, also real), so the quasi-figurative status of the uncaptioned matheme is much more fitting. 10 Lacan, Seminar XI, 141, emphasis in original. Sheridan's curious spelling of tatoo is an obsolete form, according to the OED. "Le trait unaire, le sujet lui-meme s'en repere, et d'abord il se marque comme tatouage, premier des signifiants. Quand ce signifiant, cet un, est institue—le compte, c'est un un" (Lacan, Seminaire XI, 129, emphasis in original). 63 very line of the letter, we can turn to the mechanics and conventions of typography and other disciplines that are concerned with its images. In this way, the order of the symbolic order can be revealed in the technical aspects of the letter. For instance, in mathematics, the vertical bar is a sign of absolute value; in propositional calculus (where it is called Sheffer's stroke), it is the sign of nonconjunction.11 However, in 8, the bar does not remain upright, but is instead skewed or rotated to produce, if standing alone, the character that typography calls the virgule: I -> / For medieval scribes, the virgule was a form of comma, a usage that evolved into its modern deployment as a line break when verse is set as prose and as a sign of separation in dates, addresses, and other similar expressions.12 In English, it is commonly called the slash (in French, virgule of course now means exactly the comma, while the slash is now called la oblique). Here, more exactitude gains us ambiguity. The angle between the virgule and the vertical orientation of the "first of signifiers" is smaller than the angle between the virgule and the horizontality implied by the signifying chain. However, if the virgule rotated even further, until it exactly bisects the vertical and the horizontal, the result is a completely different character, the solidus: / . As Robert Bringhurst puts it, the two slashes have different inclinations.13 When the virgule/solidus transects the Russian cross, it is sometimes held to embody the asymmetry of the after-fates of the thieves crucified on either side of 11 Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style, 2nd ed. (Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 1996), 272-273. 12 Bringhurst, Elements, 286. 64 Christ, with the one on his right ascending to heaven and the other descending to hell. It is also held to symbolize St. Andrew, the patron saint of Russia, who was crucified on a diagonal cross.14 The solidus is also called the fraction bar, because it is conventionally used in fractions, such as V2.15 The slash appears in both its versions in Lacanian texts, as in S and 0.16 But whatever its inclination, the stroke through the heart of the matheme for the subject, S, is rotated from the stroke of one, |. 13 Bringhurst, Elements, 81. 14 Carl Liungman, Dictionary of Symbols (New York: Norton, 1991), 181. 15 Bringhurst, Elements, 284. The virgule is used for "level fractions," such as 27i/3. 16 To be even more exact, a third variation is also employed, one in which the bar is rotated even further, to be more inclined towards the horizontal than the vertical. Thus, the infamous Lacanianism, "Woman does not exist" derives from the expression, Lti Femme (Lacan, Seminaire XX, 60-71). The problematic intricacies of Lacan's work on sex in Seminaire XX are well beyond the scope of this dissertation, but a little relevant explanation can be sketched out. "L& Femme" provides a serious problem in translation (and typesetting), insofar as "La Femme " is conventionally translated as "Woman." The problem is the barring of "La": should it result in a crossed-out "Woman," as Fink has it {Lacanian Subject, 115), or a crossed-out "The," as Rose has it (Jacques Lacan, "God and the Jouissance of UteWoman" trans. Jacqueline Rose, in Lacan, Feminine Sexuality, 137-148 )? Lacan gives Rose some support, in the very piece that she is translating: "The woman can only be written with The crossed through. There is no such thing as The woman, where the definite article stands for the universal" ("God and jouissance" 144, emphasis in original). "La femme, ca ne peut s'ecrire qu'a barrer La. II n'y a pas La femme, article defini pour designer l'universel » {Seminaire XX, 68, emphasis in original). Still, in another example of the vagaries of translation, Fink renders this passage as, "There's no such thing as Woman, Woman with a capital W indicating the universal" {Seminar XX, 68), with the explanatory note that "in English, saying "the woman does not exist" is virtually nonsensical" {SeminarXX, 1 n28). Crossing out, as a graphic function, suggests that the issue of Lrti Femme pertains to the symbolic order. Thus, the universality that Lacan is referencing obtains vis-a-vis the linguistic function of the phallus. Hence, women "do not lend themselves to generalisation, even to phallocentric generalisation" (Jacques Lacan, "Conference a Geneve sur le symptome," in Les Block-Notes de la psychanalyse [Brussels: n.p., 1975], quoted and trans, in Evans, Dictionary, s.v. "woman"). The barring in La Femme indicates that women are "not-all" (pas-tout*) with respect to the symbolic— that is, they are not wholly subject to the phallus qua its function as subjecnfication via alienation in language. It is the feminine structural position that articulates the limit of the symbolic reign over the subject. Ih§ Woman implies that the signifier isn't everything (Fink, Lacanian Subject, 107), because there is no signifier that can capture any "essence" of Woman. For Lacan, "existence" is a shorthand for symbolic existence. What exists is what can be written out, in the sense that the symbolic is compact of language, culture, law, and logic. "Woman does not exist" can thus be read as "Woman is not wholly subjected to the symbolic." Equivalently, it can be read as "Woman is not wholly dominated by the phallus." The positions of "woman" and "man" are therefore themselves linguistic and structural ones, divided by an inscribed and phallic bar. "For Lacan, to say that difference is 'phallic' difference is to expose the symbolic and arbitrary nature of its division as such" (Rose, "Introduction," 56): the arbitrariness of the bar. One reason that the bar is arbitrary is that, in Seminaire XX, the positions "woman" and "man" do not designate everyday or 65 Slippage from the verticality of the mark is only one possible genesis of the virgule, generated through a clockwise rotation. An equally plausible constitution would be through an opposite, counterclockwise rotation from a horizontal bar: > I This (retroactively) posited horizontal bar recapitulates our first line from Ecrits, which means that the virgule/solidus is another kind of deformation of the signifier of the signifying chain, albeit one which distorts not conformation (twisting — to become S), but orientation (rotating — to become / ). Whichever creation myth for the virgule is adopted, it remains an inflected bar which renders S from S by rending the latter. The subject is thus marked off by a stroke that both cuts and bars. Lacan writes the subject as "barred S,"17 and he says that "the subject designates his [sic] being only by barring everything he signifies."18 s + / = s This figuration immediately means two things: affinity and difference between the signifier and the subject. They are clearly intimates, very nearly mirrored in each other, but not quite. The subject comes to be through a certain looking awry of the signifier, an operation that biological senses of the sexes. Any subject can take up a position under either of those signifiers ("God and Jouissance," 143; Seminaire XX, 67; Fink, Lacanian Subject, 105-108). 17 Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts, 141; Seminaire XI, 129. 18 Lacan, "Signification of the Phallus," 288. "Le sujet ne designe son etre qua barrer tout ce qu'il signifie" ("Signification du phallus," 693). 66 Lacan calls an anamorphosis™ From that point of view, there is a perfect logical consistency, for affinity necessarily implies both similarity and difference. s = s -> s * s The signifier is therefore the source for the subject, for S is the base which must be adulterated to superstructure S, and S is thus that figure which must bear the tattoo of its small, crucial difference. s -» s This rendering of the subject by the line draws attention to the crucial and ineluctable materiality of the signifier, to its stroke and curve and other modes of presentation and production. In other words, the signifier is its own image. If Derrida is right about the priority of writing to speech in language, then the symbolic order is, from the very beginning, from its first instance and in its most basic and formal aspect, an imaginary enterprise. Chapter One discussed how language is imaginary with respect to meaning. Over and above meaning, however, the constitutive mutuality of the subject and the signifier is an imaginary mirroring, even to the extent of the ultimate discordance in their affinity. Consider how the imaginary is "the world, the register, the dimension of images, conscious or unconscious, perceived or imagined. In this respect, 'imaginary' is not simply the opposite of 'real': the image certainly belongs to reality."20 In the signifier, not only "ily a de lalangue" but also, "ily a du semblable": 19 Lacan, Seminaire XI, 79-104. 20 Alan Sheridan, translator's note, ix. 67 there is similarity, which is the imprimatur of the imaginary register.21 Such a profound insinuation of the imaginary into the symbolic—it could be said the knotting together of them—is not merely a corruption of the defining beance between these registers. The imaginary "slope" of the symbolic (whose archetype is the slope of the virgule/solidus) unveils the implicit human geography of the signifier, and thereby re-maps the letter in terms of its own geometry.22 The too common overattention to the symbolic ordering of the Lacanian subject has chronically obscured how Lacanian linguisterie, and therefore the subject itself, is always spatialized by the very line that renders the letter.23 Such an ineluctable immanence of the spatialized imaginary to the symbolic, together with its correlative introduction of the real (which will be discussed below), directly refutes William Kerrigan, who claims that "Lacan built as an idealist, keeping the parts as clean and precise as possible."24 In fact, not only does Lacan keep "the parts" enmeshed and equivocal, his very act of building is simultaneously a severe un-building. His analytic dictum is that "we must bring everything back to the function of the cut."25 To read a word, we must look at the letter, so the imaginary signifies a spatiality immanent to Lacan's signifier, which provides the opening for this project's partial reading of his mathemes. Lacan notes, "it is evident ('a little too self-evident') that between the letter 21 Milner, Noms indistincts, 7. 22 In their commentary on Lacan's "Agency of the Letter," Muller and Richardson translate "les deux versants de l'effet signifiant" as "the two slopes of the signifying effect." They note that the figure of the slope is more congruous with Lacan's image of the sliding of the signified under the signifier {Lacan and Language, 183). 23 The spatiality of the letter is curiously overlooked by Henri Lefebvre in the severe critique of Lacanian psychoanalysis he conducts in his landmark study of space, The "Production of Space (trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith [Oxford: Blackwell, 1991]). 24 Kerrigan, "Terminating Lacan," 1001. The context makes it explicit that the "parts" Kerrigan is referring to are the imaginary and symbolic registers. 25 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 299. "II nous faut tout ramener a la fonction de coupure dans le discours" ("Subversion du sujet," 801). Elsewhere, Lacan says, "Our path, that of analytic discourse, progresses 68 and place exist relations for which no French word has quite the extension of the English adjective odd."26 His mathemes, as signifiers, are contiguous with his diagrams and graphs, and point towards his Borromean knots and Moebius strips and stranger objects. The odd place of the matheme—which, as Melville has already pointed out, is a letter which resonates with, but does not belong to, the formalism of mathematics—is the gap between linguisterie and the marginalized mathematics of topology. 8 is thus exemplary: "the Lacanian 'meaning' of the signifier 'subject' is rather that of the topological [topique] and . . . topological [trvpique] locus of the signifier."27 But this "imaginarization" of the symbolic is more than imaginary. Consider how Lacan invokes an ancient citation for 8: a messenger slave, the "subject who carries under his hair the codicil that condemns him to death [and yet] knows neither the meaning nor the text, nor in what language it is written, nor even that it had been tatooed on his shaven scalp as he slept."28 8 is thus a letter carrier, a doomed retroactive successor to those postmen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. And death is the unavoidable intrusion of the real, the third and most intransigent Lacanian register. The real is "that before which the imaginary faltered, that over which the symbolic stumbles, that which is refractory, resistant. Hence the only due to this narrow limit, this cutting edge of the knife" {Seminar XX, 2). "Notre chemin, celui du discours analytique, ne progresse que de cette limite etroite, de ce tranchant du couteau" (SeminaireXX, 9-10). 26 Jacques Lacan, "Seminar on 'The Purloined Letter,'" trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, in The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida, and Psychoanalytic Reading, ed. John P. Muller and William J. Richardson (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1988), 38, emphasis in original. "II est evident (a little too self evident) que la lettre a en effet avec le lieu, des rapports pour lesquels aucun mot francais n'a toute la portee du qualificatif anglais : odd' ("Le seminaire sur « La lettre volee »," in Ecrits, 23, emphasis in original). 27 Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe, Title of the Letter, 65, bracketed text in original. "Le « sens » lacanien du signifiant « sujet» est plutot celui de : lieu - topique et. . . tropique - du signifiant" (Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, Titre de la lettre, 88). 28 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 302. "Le sujet qui en porte sous sa chevelure le codicille qui le condamne a mort, ne sait ni le sens ni le texte, ni en quelle langue il est ecrit, ni meme qu'on l'a tatoue sur son cuir rase pendant qu'il dormait » ("Subversion du sujet," 803). 69 formula: "the real is the impossible."29 Milner provides the necessary complication, for his characterization of the real is simply, "IIJ a."30 Drawn upon the head of the oblivious messenger slave is the image of the signifier that will deliver him to the real of his own end. The generalization of this example will be elaborated below, but its applicability is immediately obvious: the direction of the living subject towards the universality of death. The reflexive paradox of the symbolic is that the imaginary and the real are not only external to it, but also and inevitably internal. The Borromean knot, which links the three Lacanian registers and so dominates the late Lacanian theory, is reflected by the imaginary back upon the symbolic. To put this more strongly, and in the specific terms of this project, it is the imaginary that unveils the real in the symbolic, and nowhere more so than in the subject. The cut in discourse, whose primary manifestation is the barring of S, is a kind of imaginarization of the real. Lacan's insistence upon the cut is one reason why he should be read attentively, so attentively that Lacan's letter betrays its imaginariness. This is also one reason why readings that commonly evade the matheme and topology are radically insufficient.31 "The concept of the real implies the annihilation of the subject," but such annihilation, or at least its specter 29 Sheridan, translator's note, x. 30 Milner, Noms indistincts, 7. 31 This formulation can be further strengthened. Lacan's Borromean knots of the imaginary, symbolic, and the real are often held together by a fourth element, labeled E, the symptom (for example, Jacques Lacan, "Conferences et entretiens dans des universites nord-americaines," Scilicet 6/7 [1976]: 39, 57). The anglophone avoidance of the matheme can be understood as precisely a symptomatic reading, inasmuch as the Lacanian symptom implies the "binding of jouissance} to a certain signifying, symbolic formation which assures a minimum of consistency to our being-in-the-world" (Zizek, Sublime Object, 75). According to Stuart Schneiderman, Lacan believed that his thought could never be accepted in the United States (Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan: The Death of an Intellectual Hero [Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1983], vii). This doesn't mean that Lacan had a much more sanguine opinion of his reception in France: "If they knew what I was saying, he offered, they would never have let me say it" (Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan, 11). 70 or promise, crosses the heart of every living subject, in the barring of S.32 Perhaps more significantly, the antagonism to the matheme, its very illegibility within hegemonic regimes of reading, actualizes the matheme's peculiar efficacy. The matheme reiterates the real insistence of death in the Lacanian discourse, and, as Stuart Schneiderman observes, "relations between the living and the dead never take place in an atmosphere of communication leading to interpersonal and mutual understanding."33 This folds back into the analytic scene itself, at least as posited by Lacan. His practice of the infamous short session was a clinical introduction of the break or cut into the discourse of the analysis. Such realness does not deny the overwhelmingly symbolic determination of the subject, who is made secondary to the signifier in the very act of her/his unconscious inscription as subject, and s/he is forever marked by an insistent reference to that formative inequity. S always remains prior to S. Lacan declares, "I symbolize the subject by the barred S [ S ], in so far as it is constituted as secondary in relation to the signifier."34 The signifier is the initial and ongoing condition of the subject, who is born into and lives within a symbolic order, compact of culture and language, that precedes and exceeds it. In this way, the symbolic is "the ordering function of culture,"35 for the subject must be ordered to appear. "The sociality of the Lacanian subject blends with the radical primitiveness of the letter. Therein lies its literality."36 32 Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan, 76. 33 Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan, 60. 34 Lacan, Seminar XI, 141, bracketed text in original. "Nous symbolisons par S barre [S] le sujet, en tant que consume comme second par rapport au signifiant" (Lacan, Seminaire XI, 129, bracketed text in original). 35 Marcelle Marini, Jacques Lacan: The French Context, trans. Anne Tomiche (New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1992), 45. 36 Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe, Title of the Letter, 31. "La socialite du sujet lacanien se confond avec la primitivite radicale de la lettre. C'est sa litteralite" (Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, Titre de la lettre, 48). 71 Such a primitiveness aligns with cause: "The effect of language is to introduce the cause into the subject. Through this effect, he [sic] is not the cause of himself; he bears within himself the worm of the cause that splits him. For his cause is the signifier, without which there would be no subject in the real."37 However, note that cause is used here in neither a scientific nor an everyday way, for "Lacan understands cause in a more radical sense, as that which disrupts the smooth functioning of lawlike interactions."38 Cause, by his definition, evades structure, and structure defines the symbolic order. Then the introduction of the cause is one way of drawing the bar in the barred S, so that the bar reflects how in the subject the signifier paradoxically evades its own order. The rest of this chapter will be steered by the divagation of that bar. The Passion of the Signifier Barring the subject admits her/him to a "passion of the signifier."39 Lacan begins with the subject, and launches her/him into a theoretical transport of desire. Over the several decades of le Seminaire, Lacan's elaborate desire is improvised and displaced through a compounding convolution of line and sign.40 One of the most important and recurring 37 Jacques Lacan, "The Position of the Unconscious," trans. Bruce Fink, in Reading Seminar XI: Lacan's Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. Richard Feldstein, Bruce Fink, Make Jaanus (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995), 265. "L'effet de langage, c'est la cause introduite dans le sujet. Par cet effet il n'est pas cause de lui-meme, il porte en lui le ver de la cause qui le refend. Car sa cause, c'est le signifiant sans lequel il n'y aurait aucun sujet dans le reel" (Jacques Lacan, "Position de l'inconscient," in Ecrits, 835). 38 Bruce Fink, "Science and Psychoanalysis," in Reading Seminar XI: Lacan's Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. Richard Feldstein, Bruce Fink, Maire Jaanus (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995), 64. 39 Jacques Lacan, "Signification of the Phallus," in Ecrits: A Selection, 284. "Passion du signifiant" ("La signification du phallus," in Ecrits, 688). Lacan is actually ambiguous as to whether there is a subject prior to its barring. As we will see later, S also designates a kind of subject. For the most part, though, Lacan is firm about subjectification being a function of the bar. "Barring the subject" is therefore another way of describing the inception of the subject. 40 Besides the discussion in "Subversion of the Subject," the Graph is also worked carefully by Lacan in several seminars which have not yet been either published in French or translated into English: Seminaire V: Les Formations de l'inconscient: 1957 — 1958 (see anonymous 3 volume transcript, vol 1: 10, 13, 19; vol 3: 389, 72 devices of desire, the Graph of Desire, demonstrates first of all that the subject is "defined in his [sic] articulation by the signifier."41 Then S must be recognized as a shifting but insistent condensation of a great body of Lacanian theory, and desire is always written upon it.42 Lacan says, "Language is not immaterial. It is a subtle body, but body it is"43— a body that matters. 8 is both a passage to the "elementary cell" of desire and a synecdoche for it.44 Zizek notes that "Lacan articulated [the Graph of Desire] in four successive forms; in explaining it we should not limit ourselves to the last, complete form, because the succession of the four forms cannot be reduced to a linear gradual completion; it implies the retroactive changing of preceding forms."45 Zizek's acute reading of the whole sequence will not be reproduced here, although it will be referenced.46 Instead, a slightly different interpretation of selected elements of just the first two stages of the Graph will be marked out. 460); Seminaire XIII: L'objet de lapsychanalys e: 1965-1966; Seminaire XVI: D'un Autre a I'autre : 1968 — 1969 (see the anonymous version distributed as Document de travail, 43, 47, 48, 82, 83, 88); Seminaire XVTH : D'un discours qui ne seraitpas du semblant: 1970 — 1971 (see "Xanadu est encore loin/LDDCM" version, 49). 41 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 303. 42 However, John Forrester writes that "Lacan's theories changed drastically as time passed, as each seminar prompted him to develop and reflect. There is no Lacanian theory, but there was a unique and distinctive teaching" (The Seductions of Psychoanalysis: Freud, Lacan and Derrida [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), 125, emphasis added]). 43 Jacques Lacan, "The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis," in Ecrits: A Selection, 87. "Le langage n'est pas immaterial. It est corps subtil, mais il est corps" ("Le fonction et champ de la parole et du langage en psychanalyse," in Ecrits, 301). 44 "Elementary cell" ("la cellule elementaire") is how Lacan describes the first stage of the Graph of Desire (Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 303; "Subversion du sujet," 805). The next chapter will take up the formal homology between the barred S and Lacan's SCHEMAS L and R. The SCHEMATA are certain quadratures of the subject, and Lacan comments on the Graph of Desire by suggesting its affinity to "the topology of a four-cornered game" ("Subversion of the subject," 304; "La topologie d'un jeu a quatre coins" ["Subversion du sujet," 806]). 45 Zizek, Sublime Object, 100. 46 Zizek, '"Che Vuoi?." 73 Figure 2.1:The elementary cell of the Graph of Desire Graph I is the elementary cell (the zygote?) of desire, which spatializes the Lacanian theorization of signifier and signified. The signifying chain once more appears as a line, now manifest as the lateral arc S —> S', from signifier to signifier. Lacan follows Saussure at least in this: language is a negative or differential system, which means that at least two signifiers are necessary for even one to make sense. Once more, the chain refuses to be level. Its vectoring points to the glissement within itself, from S to S', in a defining deferral much akin to Derrida's differance. This ever-moving chain is doubly cut, roughly perpendicularly, by a second vector, A —> S, looping from right to left, which Lacan calls "retrograde."47 The quasi-verticality of the retrograde vector suggests the semi-uprightness of the virgule in S, for the elementary cell and its successors enact not only signification, but also the subject itself. The Graph of Desire is a certain expansion of S, just as the barred S is a certain resolution of desire. But if the elementary cell is a representation of S, it is an involuted one. 47 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 306. 74 S is explicitly there at the lower left, in a kind of reflexive synecdoche—tropology and topology redux. In fact, Lacan declares that the elementary cell introduces "the topology of the relation of the subject to the signifier."48 Moreover, 8 is also present in the signifying chain, less clearly, perhaps, but just as emphatically. The first hint is the formal homology between the formula for the signifying chain and the one given above for the production of the subject: S -> S' s $ Note how the second term in each expression is marked with a kind of bar. And this is not all. S is also present in S—that is, S is the signifier as a genus, and S is one of its species. The glissement of the signifying chain thus bears upon all the meanings of the subject.49 The subject is founded by the signifier, but because it is, S keeps slipping away from every instance of S, and into the fleeting grasp of another.50 This subjective slippage is one consequence of language being the condition of human being. The symbolic order is justly regarded as a 48 Jacques Lacan, Seminaire VJ : Le De'sir et son interpretation: 1959—1960, unpublished, quoted and trans, in Martin Thorn, "The Unconscious Structured as a Language," in The Talking Cure: Essays Psychoanalysis and Language, ed. Colin MacCabe (New York: St Martin's Press, 1981), 33. 49 I take this pervasive and inevitable glissement as one non-authorial authorization for the attentive but sometimes unorthodox reading of Lacan's mathemes done here. The point is to interpret, and in the psychoanalysis of Lacan, interpretation has only a sometime acquaintance with meaning or intent. The interpretation done here is more concerned with working the letter and discovering where it goes and whence it returns. The consequent emphasis here is more on recurrence and insistence than systematicity. The inspiration is, in part, John Forrester's, who points out that Lacan is "an opportunistic thinker, in the best sense, responding to the moment and to the internal dialectic of his teaching. Consistency is a very low priority under such circumstances" (personal communication, 12 October 1995). 50 Lacan defines the signifier as "that which represents the subject for another signifier" ("Subversion of the Subject," 316). "Ce qui represente le sujet purun autre signifiant" ("Subversion du sujet," 819). 75 "perpetual restructuring of the subject."51 Examined closely, the chain turns out to complicate its own seeming simplicity. The figure in Graph J is a reduction of a much more complex "topological substratum," for elsewhere the intrication of the signifying chain is compared by Lacan to the "rings of a necklace that is a ring in another necklace made of rings":52 Figure 2.2: The signifying chain as a necklace of necklaces A glance at this diagram reveals how far we have come from the linear concept of language that began this chapter, and suggests how far Lacan would take us from the vertical clarity which supposedly welds signifier to signified to referent. However, a more modest complication of the arc is instructive. Reiterating and complicating the bipartite structure of the Saussurean sign, the chain can be split into two, and rendered into one sub-chain of signifiers and another of signifieds.53 This has the side benefit of expanding the line into a space or field of language—"le champ de la parole et du langage!** Either or both of those chains can be considered as sliding past each other, like lanes of traffic on a highway, which are 51 Malcolm Bowie, "Jacques Lacan," in Structuralism and Since: From Uvi-Strauss to Derrida, ed. John Sturrock (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1979), 132. 52 "Agency of the letter," 153. "... substrat topologique . . . anneaux dont le collier se scelle dans l'anneau d'un autre collier fait d'anneaux" (Jacques Lacan, "L'instance de la lettre," in Ecrits. The diagram shows a Borromean knot, the defining figure of the late Lacan's preoccupation with the topology of knots (Lacan, Seminar XX, 125; Seminaire XX, 113). 53 Lacan, Seminaire V, 181. 76 sometimes in opposing directions, and sometimes in the same direction at different speeds, but at best only momentarily in complete unison.55 While the signifying chain in the elementary cell shows a coursing of the signifier, Lacan declares that "we are forced ... to accept the notion of an incessant sliding of the signified under the signifier."56 Figure 2.3: Capitonnage Something crucial happens when the retrograde vector, A —> S, cuts vertically up through this now doubled chain and loops back down, just like a sewing needle. First, the signifying chains are basted together, through the installation of a special signifier, the point de capiton, or quilting point. In the elementary cell, this is the intersection on the right, where the retrograde vector, on its upward stroke, enters or cuts into the chain(s). It is only the consequent (and relative) stabilization of the whole field of language, in a capitonnage or quilting, which permits any other signifier to become associated with a particular signified. That signification is figured as the other intersection of the retrograde vector with the 54 This phrase is part of the title of Lacan's "Discours de Rome." 55 See Grosz's diagram of the two chains in her Jacques Lacan, 95. 56 Lacan, "Agency of the Letter," 154. "La notion d'un glissement incessant du signifie sous le signifiant s'impose done" ("L'instance de la lettre," 502). 77 signifying chain, on its downward stroke. It is the instantiation of the particular signifier of the point de capiton that is the condition of signification. "The signifier doesn't just provide an envelope, a receptacle for meaning. It polarizes it, structures it, and brings it into existence. Without an exact knowledge of the order proper to the signifier and its properties, it's impossible to understand anything whatsoever."57 It is therefore the signifier that makes the entirety of the symbolic order, and more, possible. For Lacan, "everything radiates out from and is organized around this signifier, similar to these little lines of force that an upholstery button forms on the surface of material."58 The special twist to his model of the production of meaning is that the point de capiton itself remains devoid of a signified. Its entire function is capitonnage—the installation of signification. According to "Zizek, [The point de capiton] is not a point of supreme density of Meaning, a kind of Guarantee which, by being itself excepted from the differential interplay of elements, would serve as a stable and fixed point of reference. On the contrary, it is the element which represents the agency of the signifier within the field of the signified. In itself it is nothing but a "pure difference," its role is purely structural, its nature is purely performative—its signification coincides with its own act of enunciation.59 Zizek gives the example of signifiers like freedom, state, justice, and peace, which pre-exist a point de capiton like America, but which are nonetheless retroactively given meaning when America joins the chain of signifiers as a supplement. He points out that a different point de capiton, such as Communism, produces quite a different field of meaning for the same 57 Lacan, Seminar HI, 260. "Le signifiant ne fait pas que donner l'enveloppe, le recipient de la signification, il la polarise, il la structure, il 1'installe dans l'existence. Sans une connaissance exacte de l'ordre propre du signifiant et de ses proprietes, il est impossible de comprendre quoi que ce soit" (Seminaire HI, 295-296). 58 Lacan, Seminar HI, 268. "Autour de ce signifiant, tout s'irradie et tout s'organise, a la facon de ces petites lignes de force formees a la surface d'une trame par le point de capiton" (Seminaire IH, 303). Lacan is here referring to a specific text, a passage from Racine's Althalie, so I am making a very large extrapolation. However, his next sentence is, "The scheme of the quilting point is essential in human experience" ("Le schema du point de capiton est essential dans l'experience humaine") so it may not be ulegitimate hyperbole. 59 Zizek, Sublime Object, 99. 78 signifiers, and that America and Communism thereby remain strictly differential terms.60 As Judith Butler notes, points de capiton are "empty signs which come to bear phantasmatic investments of various kinds."61 Correlative to the point de capiton'?, status as the signifier-without-a-signified, capitonnage does not imply the sewing of every signifier onto a signified, despite the seeming symmetry of the upward and downward penetration of the signifying chain by the retrograde vector. Instead, quilting occurs solely at the point de capiton, so that the separate locus of signification situates a looser association of signifiers and signifieds, one that permits the ineluctable play of language. This relative looseness is shown by the graphic separation of the point de capiton from signification. These positions are not just different in their spatializations; they are asymmetrical in their natures. As a result, the holding of the chain of signification by the point de capiton to a fixed point still permits the variability of the point of reentry into that chain. In other words, the stabilization of a field of meaning does not imply that every word is definitively attached to a specific meaning. The strong version of this crucial spatialization of language can be expressed in an inverse form: the point de caption's lack of a signified is the very reason it can be fixed. Correlatively, anything with meaning is subject to losing its place. Capitonnage is a leaping up to seize the chain; signification is a contingent plunge, prey to the winds of time and circumstance. Elsewhere, Lacan spatializes signification in another but not inconsistent way. "There is in effect no signifying chain that does not have, as if attached to the punctuation of each of its units, a whole articulation of relevant contexts suspended vertically', as it were, 60 Zizek, Sublime Object, 101-102. 61 Butler, Bodies That Matter, 191. 79 from that point."62 The "horizontal" seizure of the chain does not constrain a "vertical" slide between those contexts—the denial of metonymy cannot confine metaphor. Language therefore does not stand still, even when it is pinned down, just as an upholstery button allows the fabric around it to give and shift. The function of the point de capiton is to contain a volume, rather than to fix a content.63 In comparing the point de capiton to the signified, Lacan returns to metaphor and music, and urges us to "observe the dyssymetry [sic] of the one, which is a locus (a place, rather than a space), to the other, which is a moment (a rhythm, rather than a duration)."64 There is another crucial aspect of signification entailed by the spatial separation of the point de capiton from the locus of the signified. That distancing opens up a lateral component to A —> S, whose direction is opposite to that of the signifying chain—which is why A —> S is a retrograde vector.65 Since time moves forward from signifier to signifier in the chain, or rather, since time requires "points or signposts, signifiers of difference, to move forward" at all,66 this retrogradation indicates that desire moves backward in time to the subject. Signification is a retroactive operation; the point de capiton establishes meaning for any signifier only after that signifier has already been articulated.67 "Lacan's emphasis is precisely 62 Lacan, "Agency of the letter," 154. "Nulle chaine signifiante en effet qui ne soutienne comme appendu a la ponctuation de chacune de ses unites tout ce qui s'articule de contextes attestes, a la verticale, si l'on peut dire, de ce point" ("L'instance de la lettre," 503). 63 We could go even further, and say that the very function of the material point de capiton is to allow that movement, insofar as upholstered furniture only fits its purpose by giving way in its every usage. 64 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 304. "Observons la dissymetrie de Tun qui est un lieu (place plutot qu'espace) a l'autre qui est un moment (scansion plutot que duree)" ("Subversion du sujet," 806). 65 In physics and mathematics, every vector quantity, possessed of both magnitude and direction, may be resolved into two non-coincident components. Conventionally, these are along mutually perpendicular axes. 66 Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan, 146. 67 "The diachronic function of this anchoring point is to be found in the sentence, even if the sentence completes its signification only with its last term, each term being anticipated in the construction of the others, and, inversely, sealing their meaning by its retroactive effect" (Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 303). 80 on this retroactive character of the effect of signification with respect to the signifier, on this staying behind of the signified with respect to the progression of the signifier's chain: the effect of meaning is always produced backwards, apres coup."6* So the passe-partout to signification is Nachtraglicbkeit. "The time of reading is always late."69 Figure 2.4: The birth of the subject Capitonnage is so effective because it is doubly fecund: not only does it generate meaning, it gives birth to the subject itself. In the elementary cell, the vector A —> S continues directly on from the locus of the signified to arrive ultimately at S. This is the final movement of interpellation. At its beginning, "before the hail," there is A, which Zizek identifies as "some mythical, pre-symbolic intention." He likens it to the "individual" necessarily posited by Althusser in order to construe the interpellated subject. This individual "Ce point de capiton, trouvez-en la fonction diachronique dans la phrase, pour autant qu'elle ne boucle sa signification qu'avec son dernier terme, chaque terme etant anticipe dans la construction des autres, et inversement scellant leur sens par son effet retroactif' ("Subversion du sujet," 805). 68 Zizek, Sublime Object, 101. 69 Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe, Title of the Tetter, 5. "Le temps de la lecture est toujours tardif' (Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, lje titre de la lettre, 19). 81 "is not conceptually defined, [but] simply a hypothetical X which must be presupposed."70 In parallel fashion, the mythical A disappears for good in the second stage of the Graph of Desire, where it is displaced by a S that gets suddenly transposed as its own origin. Time twists again; inasmuch as subjectification is structured through the same inscription as signification, it is likewise nachtraglich. As Althusser writes, "individuals are always-already subjects."11 Rather than naming anything, A re-performs the fletching of A —» S. It is a displaced and hollowed-out arrowhead, a direction claiming neither substantial origin nor metaphysical presence. Echoing the logic of the point de capiton, it is this very emptiness which allows A to stay in the picture and at its old position in Graph II and its successors, even though it has been erased. It remains to fletch the re-coordinated vector now rising from the subject itself. Catherine Clement, however, does presume to give a definition of A: desire11 Although, in good Lacanian fashion, she disdains to provide even a single word of explanation or justification, her position is not wholly incommensurable with Zizek's. Desire has much to recommend itself. In the first place, Clement's reading registers desire explicitly in the elementary cell, which is, after all, the first Graph of Desire. Furthermore, in the third and fourth stages of the graph, it emerges as d, so A as the Greek delta makes sense as a precursor.73 Finally, as will be elaborated later, desire does indeed give rise to the subject. Even at the crudest level, s/he derives from the multiform and protean desire of her/his 70 Zizek, Sublime Object, 101 71 Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)," in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971), 176, emphasis in original. 72 Clement, Lives and Legends, 176; Vies et legendes, 204. Clement comments on the Graph of Desire and the variants of SCHEMA L in the chapter, "Hopscotch and the Four Corners" ("La marelle et les quatre coins"). 82 parents. The replacement of A by S in Graph II can be understood as representing precisely the production of the subject, so that S can be understood as an abbreviation: S = A -» S = d -> S The convergence of Clement's reading with Zizek's is enabled by the emptiness of A, for Lacanian desire, through its manifold and conflicting forms, is consistently an embrace of lack. The interpellation of the subject, its barring by the I of interpellation, canted by its always-alreadyness, is the production of a subject of desire. S + I = s + / = s It could be said that the passage of the subject from Graph I to II does not so much replace A by S as cover it over, so that the latter's undiminished lack/desire is absorbed into the subject. When the Lacanian subject is brought forth, s/he is brought forth with lack.74 The schematics of the elementary cell tie the production of the subject to that of meaning, so while the subject is caused by the signifier, it is correlative to the signified. Lacan distinguishes the signified as s, the lowering of its case indicating its submission to the overcapitalized signifier.75 In Graph II, the signified appears as a function, in the mathematical sense of the word, of the Other (language as a determinant order): s(G), 73 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 313, 315; "Subversion du sujet," 815, 817. 74 Elsewhere, however, Zizek gives a positive notion of the subject prior to its interpellation. In another twist of time, that pre-subject is an "answer of the Real" to a symbolic question {Sublime Object, 178). The concept of the subject as answer must be put aside until later; for now, the crucial point is this positing of the subject-before-fhe-subject as real. 75 Lacan, "Agency of the letter," 149; "L'instance de la lettre," 497. 83 located at the downward intersection of the retrograde vector with the signifying chain. While the subject is subjected to the signifier, it is correlated to the signified: S ~ S So even though the vector A —> S points to the subject, Joel Dor is quite justified in dubbing it "the vector of signifieds."76 This convergence confirms that the subject, like the signified, depends upon the signifier.77 In part, the subject is the signified. Insofar as s/he depends upon the Other, s/he can be understood as the precipitation or constellation of meanings sedimented out by the Other.78 We are what we mean. In a more active sense, we could even say that the subject becomes a subject of language, in the by now hoary cliche of her/him speaking language and being spoken by it, obtaining another sense of the priority of the signifier. And yet another: the signifier is there long before the subject emerges and long after s/he is gone, just as someone's name most often precedes her/him, and will yet persist when s/he is dead. The bar of the barred S marks "the worm of the cause" of existence and mortality. Lacan goes even further in the oft-quoted passage from the "Discours de Rome": Symbols in fact envelop the life of a man in a network so total that they join together, before he comes into the world, those who are going to engender him 'by flesh and blood'; so total that they bring to this birth, along with the gift of the stars, if not with the gift of the fairies, the shape of his destiny; so total that they give the words that will make him faithful or renegade; the law of the acts that will follow him right to the very place where he is not yet and even beyond his death; and so total that through them his end finds its 76 "Le vecteur des signifies" (Dor, Introduction a la lecture, 194). 77 Lacan, SeminarXI, 205; Seminaire XI, 186. 78 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 76. This formulation is highly suggestive of Freud's description of the ego: "the character of the ego is a precipitate of abandoned object-cafhexes" {Standard Edition, vol. 19, 29). However, Lacan insists that the subject must be strictly distinguished from the ego. Nevertheless, these two formulations are brought closer together in the succeeding versions of the graph, where the "precipitate" of signification is no longer the subject, S, but the ego, e, and the ego-ideal {Icb-Ideal) I(O). 84 meaning in the last judgement, where the Word absolves his being or condemns it—unless he attain the subjective bringing to realization of being-for-death.79 Two things stand out in this passage: 1. The subject is massively determined by the symbol (the signifier). 2. That determination has a (possible) elusion in "being-for-death." If the signifying chain is understood as a directed linkage of one signifier, Si, to another, S2, the ascendance of the "symbolic network" over the subject can be written like this: Si ^ S2 The "signifying chain imposes itself, by itself, on the subject."80 The signifier always implicates the signifying chain, so this formulation can be collapsed or resolved into s s 79 Lacan, "Function and Field of Speech," 68. Les symboles enveloppent en effet la vie de l'homme d'un reseau si total qu'ils conjoignent avant qu'il vienne au monde ceux qui vont l'engendrer « par l'os et par la chair », qu'ils apportent a sa naissance avec les dons des astres, sinon avec les dons des fees, le dessin de sa destinee, qu'ils donnent les mots qui le feront fidele ou renegat, la loi des actes qui le suivront jusque-la meme ou il n'est pas encore et au-dela de sa mort meme, et que par eux sa fin trouve son sens dans le jugement dernier ou le verbe absout son etre ou le condamne—sauf a atteindre a la realisation subjective de l'etre-pour-la-mort. ("Fonction et champ de la parole," 279) According to the logic of the much later Seminaire XX, which followed "Fonction et champ de la parole" by twenty years, it is precisely man who is "enveloped by symbol," inasmuch as woman has the possibility of escaping the phallic function of language. 80 Jacques Lacan, "On a Question Preliminary to any Possible Treatment of Psychosis," in Ecrits: A Selection, 181. "[Le chaine signifiante] s'impose par elle-meme au sujet" (Jacques Lacan, "D'un question preliminaire a tout traitement possible de la psychose", 533). This scheme of Si, S2, and S is comparable to the diagram in Seminar XI (198, Seminaire XI, 180). 85 The formula is to be read as S over barred-S: the signifier over the subject—the subject subjected to the signifier.81 Given the parallels made between the subject and the signified, it can be no surprise that this figure is a formal equivalent to Lacan's inversion of the Saussurean sign:82 s s The correlation returns in that familiar of Lacan, death. Just as he chooses the slave marked by the mandate of his own execution as his exemplary subject, he indicts the signifier in the "murder of the thing."83 "Because it is in so far as the symbol allows this inversion, that is to say cancels the existing thing, that it opens up the world of negativity, which constitutes both the discourse of the human subject and the reality of his world in so far as it is human."84 If there is any residual biologism or naturalism in Lacan, it must be here, for what the birth of the subject marks above all is the surety of its own death.85 81 "Subversion of the Subject," 304. "La soumission du sujet au signifiant" ("Subversion du sujet," 806). 82 "The signifier over the signified, 'over' corresponding to the bar separating the two stages" ("Agency of the Letter," 149). "Signifiant sur signifie, le sur repondant a la barre qui en separe les deux etapes" ("L'instance de la lettre," 497). Note how the structure of the elementary cell, in which the retrograde vector is perpendicular to and cuts through the signifying chain, is also a kind of rebuff of the Saussurean doping of the sign as a parallel structure, whether as one indistinct mass floating above another, or, more famously, as two sides of a sheet of paper. 83 "Thus the symbol manifests itself first of all as the murder of the thing" ("Function and Field," 104). "Ainsi le symbole se manifeste d'abord comme meurtre de la chose" ("Fonction et champ," 319). 84 Lacan, Seminar I, 174. "Car c'est en tant que le symbole permet cette inversion, c'est-a-dire annule la chose existante, qu'il ouvre le monde de la negativite, lequel constitue a la fois le discours du sujet humain et la realite de son monde en tant qu'humain" {Seminaire 1,196). 85 In a characteristic move, Lacan illustrates the murder of the thing by comparing an elephant to the word elephant (Lacan, Seminar I, 178, 218, 225, 243, 264; Seminaire I, 201, 244, 250, 267, 290). In his psychoanalysis, death rides not a pale horse, but an elephant. At the end of the 1953—1954 seminar at l'Hopital Sainte-Anne, Lacan had figurines of elephants distributed to the participants (Lacan, Seminar I, 287; Seminaire I, 316). 86 s It is most appropriate that the heaviness of the bar hangs over the subject in the matheme of S over barred-S. Everyone is under a death sentence. The fated/fatal bar of the subject is so insistent that it doubles itself, generating a figure with two bars, one external and above the subject, and one internal to it. These two bars are not just closely related, but, in a strong sense, the very same. The internal is a translation or reflection of the external, by which the external bar is internalized. If we understand the bar as a mark of the subjection of the subject, then it represents the limit to that subject. In that case, the (reappearance of the bar within the figure of the subject itself, as S, denotes how that external limit becomes an internal one, in what Zizek calls a "formal conversion."86 So the bar not only marks the very emergence of the subject, it concomitantly marks its external/internal limit. While the subject is delivered by the agency of the letter, it is delivered to its own emphatic limitation. Lacan calls this seeming paradox alienation, the first movement of subjectification. The nature of this alienating agency of the letter deserves some elaboration. "The Other with a big 'O' is the scene of the Word, insofar as the scene of the Word is always in third position between two subjects":87 the symbolic order comprising language, 86 Zizek, Sublime Object, 222. Following the letter of Lacan's text, "formal" should be understood as encompassing, but by no means restricted to, the sense of pertaining to the material form of the signifier— here, 8. 87 Jacques Lacan, quoted in Anthony Wilden, "Lacan and the Discourse of the Other," Speech and "Language in Psychoanalysis, by Jacques Lacan, trans. Anthony Wilden (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1981), 269. 87 law, and social relations. We can be more precise by distinguishing between the symbolic order as a register—that is, as an overarching category inclusive of everything linguistic or cultural or juridical—and the Other as some specific symbolic system or "socio-symbolic field" or "synchronous code":88 America, liberal democracy, fascism, the fractious Parisian psychoanalytic establishment, the university, sociology as a discipline. Hence, the issue at hand is what Lacan calls "the realization of the subject in his signifying dependence in the locus of the Other."89 If we designate the Other by O, we can write, in set theory notation, S G O "S belongs to O": the signifier is a term from the Other; it appears in the field of the Other. * * * A translation parenthesis: S designates the English signifier and the French signifiant, in a happy coincidence. However, in French, the Other is of course Autre, symbolized by A.90 Similarly, there is the parallel term which slides between the other and the object, which appears as a in French, for autre, and, a little confusingly, as both o and a in English translations. One consequence of this difference has been the profusion in English Lacanian commentaries of the signifier (m)other, to decidedly mixed effect. To make things more complicated, over the decades-long course of Lacan's theorization, the object o/a both transmutes into and is differentiated from that 88 Zizek, Sublime Object, 110,103. 89 Lacan, Seminar XI, 206. "La realisation du sujet dans sa dependance signifiante au lieu de 1'Autre" (Seminaire XI, 188). 88 special object designated as objet a or objetpetit a. Lacan explicitly requested that this term not be translated.91 Some of his commentators comply; some do not. The point is that the problematics of reading Lacan in English quickly make apparent the extent to which not just sentences and words, but even letters (and therefore mathemes) are subject to the vagaries of translation. * * * Figure 2.5: Graph II In Graph II, O appears in three different places: 1. By itself, it marks the point de capiton. O is "the locus of the signifier's treasure." 2. Mirroring the point de capiton, the signified appears on the other side as J"(0)— in mathematical terms, as a function of the Other. s(0) "is what may be called the punctuation in which the signification is constituted as a finished product."92 3. Likewise, in the final appearance of O, symbolic identification or the ego-ideal appears as I(O), and therefore also as a function of O. I(O) stands for "the 90 Lacan says, "The Bible begins, by the way, only with the letter B—it left behind the letter A so that I could take charge of it" (Seminar XX, 46). "D'ailleurs la Bible ne commence qu'a la lettre B, elle a laisse la lettre A — pour que je m'en charge" (Seminaire XX, 45). 91 "Lacan insists the 'objet petit a' should remain untranslated, thus acquiring, as it were, the status of an algebraic sign" (Sheridan, translator's note, xi). 89 identification of the subject with some signifying feature, trait (I), in the big Other, in the symbolic order."93 "The point de capiton fixes the meaning of the preceding elements: that is to say, it retroactively submits them to some code, it regulates their mutual relations according to this code .... We could say that the point de capiton represents, holds the place of, the big Other, the synchronous code, in the diachronous signifier's chain."94 Hence the constitutive force of the Other as Law: it is at once the condition of signification and of subjectification, through the agency of capitonnage. This is one reason O is a capital "O": The Other. Such domination of the Other, in concert with the above quotation from the "Discours de Rome," is a major impetus for the common misapprehension of the symbolic order as being utterly determinative, in a rigid and high-structuralist way, of the subject.95 The problem with this misreading is that it does not recognize that O is not really O. Instead, O always turns out to be 0; the Other always turns out to be rendered in the same way as the subject. What does this mean? "The big Other, the symbolic order itself, is also barre, crossed-out, by a fundamental impossibility, structured around an impossible/traumatic kernel, around a central lack." The Other, in the last instance (to use a nostalgic turn of phrase), "'hasn't got 92 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 304. "[/(A)] est ce qu'on peut appeler la ponctuation ou la signification se constitue comme produit fini" ("Subversion du sujet," 806). 93 Zizek, Sublime Object, 104. Lacan says, Take just one signifier as an emblem of this omnipotence [of the word as law], that is to say of this wholly potential power (ce pouvoir tout en puissance), this birth of possibility, and you have the unbroken line (trait unaire) which, by filling in the invisible mark that the subject derives from the signifier, alienates this subject in the primary identification that forms the ego ideal. ("Subversion of the Subject," 306) Prenez seulement un signifiant pour insigne de cette toute-puissance, ce qui veut dire de ce pouvoir tout en puissance, de cette naissance de la possibilite, et vous avez le trait unaire qui, de combler la marque invisible que le sujet tient du signifiant, aliene ce sujet dans ['identification premiere qui forme l'ideal du moi. ("Subversion du sujet," 808) 94 Zizek, Sublime Object, 103. 90 it', hasn't got the final answer,"96 and therefore cannot suffice as the guarantor of either meaning or subjectivity. Capitonnage, ultimately, does not hold. According to Lacan, Between the two chains . . . those of the signifiers as opposed to all the ambulatory signifieds that circulate because they are always in the process of sliding—the pinning-down or capping point I speak of is mythical, for never has anyone been able to pin a meaning to a signifier; but on the other hand, what one can do is pin a signifier to a signifier and see what happens. But in that case, something new always occurs . . . namely, the appearance of a new meaning.97 There are critical and larger consequences: "This instability in all discursive fixing is the promise of a teleologically unconstrained futurity for the political signifier." This is Butler's refutation of the criticism that Lacanian theory is removed from political relevance. She later says, "That there can be no final or complete inclusivity is thus a function of the complexity 95 For two particularly egregious examples, see Nancy Fraser, "The Uses and Abuses of French Discourse Theories for Feminist Politics," Theory, Culture & Society 9 (1992): 51-71; and Dorothy Leland "Lacanian Psychoanalysis and French Feminism: Toward an Adequate Political Psychology," Hypatia 3.3 (1989): 81-103. 96 Zizek, Sublime Object, 122. 97 Lacan, seminar of 22 January 1958, quoted in Jean Laplanche and Serge Leclaire, "The unconscious: A psychoanalytic study," trans. Patrick Coleman, Yale French Studies: French Freud: Structural Studies in "Psychoanalysis 48 (1972), 155. The transcript of the Seminaire threads: Que les deux chaines . . . qui sont des signifiants par rapport a tout ce qui circule de signifies ambulants parce qu'ils sont toujours en train de glisser; l'epinglage dont je parle ou encore le point de capiton n'est qu'une affaire mythique, car jamais personne n'a pu epingler une signification a un signifiant; mais, par contre, ce qu'on peut faire, c'est epingler un signifiant a un signifiant et voir que fa fait. Mais, dans ce cas, il se produit toujours quelque chose de nouveau. . . a savoir le surgissement d'une nouvelle signification. (Lacan, Seminaire V, 181) However, Laplanche and Leclaire cite a slighdy different version: Entre les deux chaines . . . celle des signifiants par rapport a tout ce qui circule de signifies ambulants parce qu'ils sont toujours en train de glisser; l'epinglage dont je parle ou encore le point de capiton est mythique, car jamais personne n'a pu epingler une signification a un signifiant; mais par contre, ce qu'on peut faire, c'est epingler un signifiant a un signifiant et voir ce que ca fait. Mais dans ce cas il se produit toujours quelque chose de nouveau ... a savoir le surgissement d'une nouvelle signification. (Mimeographed copy of the seminar of 22 January 1958, from the archives of the Societe franfaise de psychanalyse, 33, quoted in Jean Laplanche and Serge Leclaire, L'inconscient, une etudepsychanalytique, Actes du colloque [Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 1966], 118, quoted in Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, Titre de la lettre, 76) The mythicality of the point de capiton has far-reaching implications for Lacanian theory and for the critiques that attack it for its phallocentrism, inasmuch as one of its names is the phallus. Lacan says that "I designate O as the phallus insofar as I indicate that it is the signifier which has no signified" (Seminar XX, 81). "O, nous le designons de ce phallus tel que je le precise d'etre le signifiant qui n'a pas de signifie" (Seminaire XX, 75). This 91 and historicity of a social field that can never be summarized by any given description, and that, for democratic reasons, ought never to be."98 Returning to the Graph of Desire, if the signified slips away, the geometry of the elementary cell necessitates that the subject must also lose its ground. In this way, it is the very subjection of the subject to the signifier that causes the subject's final lack of symbolic determination—which is why the signifier is the "worm of the cause" of the subject. Now the import of the rendering of the subject by the signifier becomes more apparent, in its convergence with the aforementioned internal limit. The signifier, in failing to fulfill the subject, releases a gap within her/him. The signifier delivers unto the subject, not only the demand of the letter, but also its definitive limitation. The barring of the barred S is therefore precisely the "stumbling of the symbolic," and therefore the irruption of the real, just as the bar of S is the necessary reflection of the bar of 0. $ ~ 0 The failure of capitonnage cuts both ways. On the one hand, this allows the subject its little bit of freedom. "This lack in the Other gives the subject—so to speak—a breathing space, it enables him [sic] to avoid the total alienation in the signifier not by filling out his lack but by allowing him to identify himself, his own lack, with the lack in the Other."99 In other words, if the subject arises from the signifier, that genesis also means that it likewise arises from the cut. Despite the totalizing envelopment of the subject by the signifier, the issue is mostly beyond the scope of this study, although the problems with the phallus will be revisited at the beginning of Chapter Three. 98 Butler, Bodies That Matter, 195, 221. 92 relation between the subject and her/his symbolic order is always subject to possible failure.100 If, in the Lacanian orthodoxy, the Other is anchored and legislated through the Name-of-The-Father, still "the paternal law ought to be understood not as a deterministic divine will, but as a perpetual bumbler, preparing the ground for the insurrections against him."101 In the barring of the barred S, what is manifested is "the power of the imaginary to release us from the symbolic."102 On the other hand, the subject concomitantly loses the substance of the letter, and therefore the sum of its substantiality. In being barred, S becomes an evanescence, escaping the utter mastery of the letter only to fade beneath it. The result is a subject that only is as it is coming to be, in "a sort of pulselike movement."103 The insistence of the form of the vector in the Graph of Desire is suggestive, as is the active sense of coupure—the Lacanian subject is not a static thing at all, but something constituted in the directed motion through the gap or lack in the Other. "Such is the incessant. . . going and coming that marks the history of the subject."104 The symbolic order indeed establishes a structured order; the subject is real only insofar as it evades that order. Lacan states, "this cut in the signifying chain alone verifies the 99 Zizek, Sublime Object, 122. 100 Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan, 113. 101 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion oj Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 28. Lacan says, "It is in the name of the father that we must recognize the support of the symbolic function which, from the dawn of history, has identified his person with the figure of law" ("Function and Field," 67, emphasis in original). "C'est dans le nom dupere qu'il nous faut reconnaitre le support de la fonction symbolique qui, depuis l'oree des temps historiques, identifie sa personne a la figure de la loi" ("Fonction et champ," 278). 102 Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan, 113. I am perverting Schneiderman somewhat for my own purposes, for he is actually referring to "a cult of the individual or a worship of the life force, of health, of youth" (113). 103 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 46. 104 Philippe Julien, Jacques Lacan's Return to Freud: The real, the symbolic, and the imaginary, trans. Devra Beck Simiu (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1994), 50, emphasis in original. "Tel est le mouvement incessant d'aller et de retourqui scande l'histoire du sujet" (Pour lire Jacques Lacan: Le retour a Freud [Paris: E.P.E.L., 1990], 69, emphasis in original). 93 structure of the subject as discontinuity in the real."105 We must bring everything back to the function of the cut in discourse. That cut both crystallizes and opens up desire—and this leads directly on to the vexed and vectored question of the subject and its being. Being Alienated First, let us consider how, if the Other is understood as the massive and omnipresent apparatus of the socio-linguistic order, in an obvious resonance with the Althusserian ISA, the relation between signifier and subject can be rewritten as one between the Other and the subject: o s Of course, the fundamental psychoanalytic exemplification is that of parent and child, but the formation is generalizable to any instance of the gross inequity of hegemonic law to its dependent and vulnerable subject. Lacan characterizes it as the forced means by which "man [sic] enters into the way of slavery."106 Political subjection and submission is therefore built into the Lacanian subject.107 Given that Althusser moves the ISA across the family (the traditional "home" of psychoanalysis), the academy, law, politics, and culture,108 we can read ISA as a matheme, or rather, a mathemic concatenation: I is the matheme for symbolic identification, which is 105 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 299. "Cette coupure de la chaine signifiante est seule a verifier la structure du sujet comme discontinuite dans le reel" ("Subversion du sujet," 801). 106 Lacan, SeminarXI, 212. "L'homme entre dans la voie de l'esclavage" (Seminaire XI, 193). 107 Buder sharply comments, "Lacanian theory must be understood as a kind of 'slave morality'" {Gender Trouble, 57). 94 identification with a specific place in a social, institutional, political, cultural, and/or linguistic structure. In Graph II, I is a function of O, the Other, as that agency which, by hailing the subject, constitutes her/him as subject. Zizek is more specific, and says that symbolic identification is "identification with the very place from where we are being observed [by the Other], from where we look at ourselves so that we appear to ourselves likeable, worthy of love."109 S is the matheme for the subject, unbarred because s/he is under the meconnaissance that s/he is whole—that is, that s/he is what s/he thinks she is, or what s/he takes as her/his name: S is also the matheme for the signifier. Of course, S, according to Althusser, is the State, so S can be read as the Subject of State. Alternatively, S is Subjectivization as Subjection or Submission.110 A is the matheme for I'Autre, the Other (as Apparatus), including the Apparatus of the Academy and the Apparatus of Althusser. Obviously, this reading of "ISA" is not a reading of Ideological State Apparatuses, in any substantial sense. Still, even a superficial Lacanian reading has some justification, given the fraught and intricate relationship of Althusser to Lacan.111 Althusser arranged for Lacan to resume his seminaire at the Ecole Normale Superieure in 1964, after Lacan had left the Hopital Sainte-Anne, and Althusser was present when a frail and aging Lacan dissolved his school in 1980, the year before he died. 108 Althusser, "Ideology and the State," 143. 109 Zizek, Sublime Object, 105, emphasis in original. 110 Thomas Kemple, private communication, 7 April 1998. 111 See Louis Althusser, Writings on Psychoanalysis: Freud and Lacan, ed. Olivier Corpet and Yann Moulier Boutang, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1996; originally published as Ecrits sur la psychanalyse: Freud et Lacan [Paris: Stock/INEC, 1993]) and Louis Althusser, The Future Lasts Forever: A Memoir, ed. Olivier Corpet and Yann Moulier Boutang, trans. Richard Veasey (New York: The New Press, 1993; originally published as L'avenir dure longtemps [Paris: Stock/IMEC, 1992]). Oddly, while Althusser had conversation and correspondence with Lacan, he says he never attended the seminaire (Althusser, Future, 186). 95 To return to the preceding figure of S and O: if it is rotated ninety degrees clockwise, the result is: $ I o This compound symbol can be expanded into the set-theoretical Venn diagram drawn by Lacan in Seminaire XI, which schematizes the founding of the subject as the "vel" of alienation.112 Alienation Figure 2.6: The vel of alienation In the Seminar XI diagram, the subject on the left is associated with being—the blank circular area. On the right side, the Other is associated with meaning—the hatched circular area. Between them, the bar of S/O has transmuted into the intersection of the fields of the subject and the Other—the cross-hatched area—labelled "non-meaning." The subject arises with its entry into the symbolic order—the Other—which means that the subject gains access to meaning, in the sense of both language and social identity. In a fundamental way, 112 Lacan, Seminar XI, 211; Seminaire XI, 192. 96 the subject becomes human through language. To be talked or written about is to attain a palpable existence—but it is also to become susceptible to all the slippages and displacements and substitutions of the signifier. Language, at least as conceived by structuralism, is a system of differences, an order of negativity, a regime of lack as well as a regime of truth. The lesson of the vel of alienation is that the accession to meaning comes only at a price: the necessary loss of being. This can come as no surprise; the basic lesson of the barring of the subject is that it is subordinated to the letter. Nevertheless, that lesson can be profitably relearned by (very) partially unpacking the vagaries of Lacanian being. In its first and simplest sense, being is an uncompromised and unified plenitude, which could be figured as the blissful and fabulous oneness of the fetus and the mother, or as the unity between the not-yet-subject and the as-yet-unnamable universe. This is "the lost paradise of complete fusion with [the] All."113 A traditional symbol for such fullness is the perfect circle, 0. Yet 0 is also 0, zero, the signifier of absence or nothingness. Put these signifiers together, and being as perfect plenitude is assessed as utterly unreal. "Zero is the presence of the subject who, at this level, totalizes."114 Such fullness cannot be an experience of the subject, since the subject at that point does not even exist as such. Instead, O can only be a retroactive fantasy of what has been irrevocably lost. In characteristic fashion, the Lacanian name for what is so definitively unreal is the real.115 Of course, O is also the symbol for the Other, that quintessentially symbolic locus of the signifier, and the real is by definition 113 Muller and Richardson, Lacan and Language, 22. 114 Lacan, Seminar XI, 226. "Or, le zero, c'est la presence du sujet, qui, a ce niveau-la, totalise" (Seminaire XI, 205). 115 To be more precise, this is but one of the manifestations of the real. Jacques-Alain Miller schematizes the real as consisting of Ri and R2, where Ri refers to the "pre-symbolic" real referenced here, and R2 refers to a remainder leftover from symbolization (Fink, Lacanian Subject, 26-7). 97 exclusive of the symbolic.116 So O designates both that which is real, and that which is not real; that which is symbolizable, and that which is beyond all symbolization.117 Admittedly, in the Lacanian algebra, O consistently designates the symbolic Other, rather than its real opposite—and yet the real in precisely this sense returns to mark the Other, as we shall see. The crucial point about such "being" as phantasmatic plenitude is that it is always already lost to the subject. It is this "impossibility" of being that makes it real. The condition of the existence of the subject is its differentiation from the non-subject, so that the loss of unified being is constitutive of the subject. It is the barring of the S that generates S. This loss installs lack in the subject, and lack is the onset of desire. Thenceforth, desire will be subject to continual transformation and displacement, but it will always remain in some way traceable to the desire to fill this originary loss, even if desire in general will never be reducible to it. Being also crosses registers and relocates as the solidity of the ego, the comfortably stable everyday self, which Lacan limns as monstrous and inhuman, even while admitting its necessity. For him, the self as the ego is a statue, a phantom, an automaton, a suit of armour, a fabricated thing, the very antithesis of the pulsatory subject that courses along the vectors of desire.118 The ego is the spectacular and deluded self of the famous mirror stage, which 116 Given that the real and the symbolic are supplemented by the imaginary, they do not, however, comprise a binary opposition. 117 Compare Ernesto Laclau and Lilian Zak's reading of 0 as possessing aspects of the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary: "The zero thus comprises three logical moments: (I) the zero as lack: the non-concept, the Real, the blank; (ii) the zero as a number: as a stand-in concept of the impossible which evokes and annuls the lack; (iii) the zero number as 1: that is, as unity and as identity" (Ernesto Laclau and Lilian Zac, "Minding the Gap: The Subject of Politics," in The Making of Political Identities, ed. Ernesto Laclau [London: Verso, 1994], 33). 118 Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience," in Ecrits: A Selection, 2, 3, 4. "Le stade du miroir comme formateur de la fonction du Je," in Ecrits, 95, 97. 98 Lacan dubs imaginary in the full sense of the word. In a contemporary sense, this is the being which is invoked by New Ageist discourses of the centered or grounded self and certain readings of Eastern philosophies. This is the personal edition of the metaphysics of presence, the self as identical to itself qua ego, what Lacan calls the moi. This is me. And this is the satisfaction of raising consciousness to the dignity of being, the election of the thinking subject to being that is accomplished by cogito ergo sum. That motto centers the subject in a manner that can be figured in another and different Venn diagram:119 Being Thinking Figure 2.7: The Cartesian subject The certainty about the identity of being and thinking is what darkens the crossing of the circles above. Naturally, Lacan refuses Descartes, and counters that the Cartesian cogito is "participating, in its striving towards certainly, in a sort of abortion."120 He inverts the cogito to articulate instead the disjunction he has already rendered in the vel of alienation: "I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think. ... I am not wherever I am the plaything of my thought; I think of what I am where I do not think to think."121 Yet there is an unlikely congruence within this opposition. The Cartesian superposition of being with thinking is a kind of desubstantialization of the subject, who must "repeat to himself [sic] the 119 After the diagram in Fink, Lacanian Subject, 43. 120 Lacan, Seminar XI, 141. "Participer, dans son effort de certitude, d'une sorte d'avortement" {Seminaire XI, 129). 99 words T am thinking' in order to be able to convince himself that he exists. And as soon as he stops repeating those words, his conviction inevitably evaporates."122 Descartes himself remedies this predicament with a literal deus ex machina. However, if the introduction of the God term is rejected as just bad writing, the Cartesian subject remains exposed as insubstantial and evanescent, despite its pretensions.123 In other words, that subject lacks being, in the sense of consistency, permanence, or independence. What is left is only pretension—that is, what remains to the subject is only a linguistic claim to being. To put it another and more familiar way, the Cartesian subject seems to both appear and disappear under the letter. Descartes seems to be calling upon divine intervention to evade precisely the vel of alienation. This reinterpretation of the cogito manifests the slide that Lacan makes between meaning and thinking as the other side of being. In Seminaire XIV: Logique du fantasme and Seminaire XV : L'acte psycbanalytique he refigures the vel of alienation like Either I am not thinking or I am not Being Thinking Figure 2.7: The Lacanian subject 121 Lacan, "Agency of the Letter," 166. "Je pense ou je ne suis pas, done je suis ou je ne pense pas. . . . Je ne suis pas, la ou je suis le jouet de ma pensee; je pense a ce que je suis, la ou je ne pense pas penser" ("L'instance de la lettre," 517). 122 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 42-3. 123 Lacan says, "You know that Descartes could not help reintroducing the presence of God. But in what a strange way!" {Seminar XI, 224). "Vous savez que Descartes n'a pu qu'en reintroduire la presence [de Dieu]. Mais quelle singuliere facon!" {Seminaire XI, 204). 124 See Fink, Lacanian Subject, 44; Jacques Lacan, Seminaire XIV: Logique du fantasme : 1966—1967, unpublished seminar, 67-140; Jacques Lacan, Seminaire XV: L'acte psycbanalytique : 1967—1968 : Notes de cours, unpublished seminar, 76-102. 100 Finally, being also indicates some obscure but inestimable something else, a special object of the subject, which has already been encountered: objet a. For now, this third aspect of being must simply be characterized as precious, like the agalma of Socrates, and as something precious that is lost. It is an avatar of the real, aligned with both the excess/residue of the symbolic, and "that which interrupts the smooth functioning of law and the automatic functioning of the signifying chain."125 In its most famous, and perhaps most elusive, definition, it is the object-cause of desire (recalling that cause is that which evades structure). I will elaborate a little on objet a in Chapter Four. Because the subject loses being in all these senses (and more), it begins to fade away. Because it loses being to meaning, it fades away beneath the signifier—once more, S falls under the bar of S. This is aphanisis, the "eclipse of the subject" by the letter.126 Hence, the signature of the subject (8) is this concomitant founding and fading by the letter, the simultaneity of its appearance and disappearance. "The subject is never more than fleeting (ponctuet) and vanishing."127 To put it differently, the subject appears with the introduction of its own lack, where lack qua aphanisis is figured by the bar within itself. In both senses of the word, the signifier renders the subject. This is'the Law of language: "'your meaning or your life' . . . the unavoidable castration which every subject must experience upon entering the 125 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 83. 126 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 313. "Eclipse du sujet" ("Subversion du sujet," 816). Aphanisis is a Greek word that means "disappearance." Ernest Jones introduced it to psychoanalysis, by using it to refer to the disappearance of sexual desire (Ernest Jones, "Early Development of Female Sexuality," in Papers on Psychoanalysis, 5th ed. [Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1948]). Lacan refashions the term when he appropriates it—in his discourse, it becomes equivalent to what calls the "fading" (in English, even in the French text) of the subject ("Subversion of the Subject," 313; "Subversion du sujet," 816). The bar in S is an inscription of fading or aphanisis. 127 Lacan, SeminarXX. "Le sujet n'est jamais que ponctuel et evanouissant" (SeminaireXX, 130). 101 order of -language or signification, its inauguration into a regime of lack."128 In this way, castration and alienation are the very conditions of desire. Lacan states, "Alienation consists in this vel, which—if you do not object to the word condemned, I will use it—condemns the subject to appearing only in that division, it seems to me, I have just articulated sufficiently by saying that, if it appears on one side as meaning, produced by the signifier, it appears on the other as aphanisis."129 So despite the stark separation of the diagram, the subject is not held to the other side of meaning. Instead, meaning and being are held to be different sides of the subject. However, these are not merely different aspects, for the velof alienation is a forced choice between meaning and being. They are radically incompatible or opposed aspects of the subject. They are also unbalanced, for one type of loss entails another: being loses out to meaning; the subject loses out to the Other. Instead of having being, the subject can only be a being-of-language, a parletre, in Lacan's coinage. "The signifier plays and wins, if I may say so, before the subject is aware of it."130 And if the subject does indeed retain an aspect of being, it is the aspect of its loss or fading, which is precisely the significance of aphanisis. The triumph of the signifier in alienation means the institution of the symbolic order, "which must be realized anew for each new subject."131 What the subject receives in return 128 Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New York: Routledge, 1992), 35. 129 Lacan, Seminar XI, 210. L'alienation consiste dans ce vel, qui — si le mot condamne n'appelle pas d'objections de votre part, je le reprends — condamne le sujet a n'apparaitre que dans cette division que je viens, me semble-t-il, d'articuler suffisamment en disant que, s'il apparait d'un cote comme sens, produit par le signifiant, de l'autre il apparait comme aphanisis. (Seminaire XI, 191) 130 Lacan, "Position of the Unconscious," 269. "Le signifiant joue et gagne, si nous pouvons dire, avant que le sujet s'en avise" ("Position de l'inconscient," 840). On the other hand, the subject can refuse to make this forced choice of meaning, and retain being. But in that case, the subject does not gain a place in the symbolic order, and sacrifices language and social relations. This is the psychotic state. 131 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 52. 102 for its sacrifice of being is a place in that order. However, insofar as alienation is but the first stage of subjectification, that place is still empty. Jacques-Alain Miller suggests that alienation yields the subject as {0}, an empty set (a set with zero elements), which may be equally regarded as pure lack or the "pure possibility of being."132 So alienation results in S = {0} Note how 0 is the void of the zero, crossed by the primordial signifying mark, in a retroactive echo of the founding inscription of S. But, recalling that O is a polyvalent signifier, 0 is also a crossing out of both the Other as language and the plenitude of being, even as it is a less emphatic version of the Other barre, 0. Either way, the subject, as the empty set, is simultaneously grounded in the void and in the letter, and then bracketed: {0}. It should be noted, however, that in set theory, the empty set is not designated by {0}, but by 0—the two are not the same. {0} ^ 0 In fact, despite their formal likeness, {0} and 0 function as certain opposites. Once again, the criticality of the small difference. While 0 is the empty set of zero elements, {0} is the set that has exactly one element: the empty set, 0. In other words, 0:0 :: {0} : 1 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 52. 103 If S = {0}, the subject is the one which is comprised only of the present absence of zero. The empty set—or rather, the non-empty set comprised of only the empty set—is the empty placeholder for the subject in the symbolic order, literalized in a name chosen for a baby before s/he is born.133 If S — {0}, then {0} is the name-of-the-subject. But, in a now familiar way, 0 designates exactly the opposite: the empty set is the empty tomb. If S = {0}, the subject both brackets and carries death. "The empty grave is also a subject; so the human subject is always split between a mark and a void."134 With that in mind, just as we expanded the formula S/O into the Venn diagram, we can collapse the diagram, in a slightly different way, back into 8. The subject is both meaning, s and aphanisis or lack, / yielding s 133 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 53. 134 Schneiderman, Jacques Lacan, 7. 104 which designates the subject as a lacking subject. Alternatively, we could say that in alienation, the subject is subordinated by the letter, S, as part of its production as S, and thereby enters into the symbolic, O, but only as {0}. Any attempt at thorough systematicity in reading Lacan must ultimately founder—although, as Marcelle Marini acutely asks, "What was Lacan's goal, if not that of an always purer signifier?"135 There exists, nonetheless, a clear semblance {ily a du semblable) in this figuration of alienation that should be remarked. There is a proportionality of relationships, in a (very) loosely mathematical sense, that brings together the beginning, middle, and now end of this chapter: S : S :: O : 0 :: O : {0} This formula is but one example (or perhaps three) of the repetitions, shifts, proliferations, inversions, and twists, in which formal conversions move from outside to inside and back again, and similarities slide into differences that return as homologies. These moves are definitive of the Lacanian algebra, operating in the bi-directional passage from la tropique to la topique, from rhetoric to topological mathematics. Lacanian linguistics is marked by signifiers sliding endlessly over signifieds, which must entail that the notions and inscriptions of subject as S continually slip and fold over upon each other. The matheme is distinguished by its dependence upon, and facilitation of, its own repeated expansion into graphs, text, theory, and practice, and irregular resolution back into the signifier. It is precisely that double movement, that out-and-back-in, which will be traced out in this project's reading of the matheme. Marini, Jacques "Lacan, 69. 105 One of the definitions of the real is "that which always returns to the same place," which aligns the real with the psychoanalytic preoccupation with repetition. In that light, what is apparent in the above "proportionality" is the insistent return of the cut, across each of S, 0, and {0}. And this is by no means a complete inventory. The cut/virgule/ solidus/bar returns prominently in the defining diagonals of Lacan's schemata.136 We must bring everything back to the function of the cut in discourse. Heeding Lacan's injunction, the next chapter will consider how those schemata function around the cut. 136 Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 193,197. "Traitement possible," 548, 553. 106 Chapter Three: The Phallus, the Schemata and the Object At best, the circuit contradicts itself, cuts itself off, grinds itself up} —jacques Lacan, Seminaire II Lacan Is a Prick2 Lacan's name for the loss of being inflicted in alienation is symbolic castration.3 This castration is as deliberate in its phallocentrism as it is flagrant, for the phallus is the first of Lacanian signifiers. That is, the phallus is first in priority, it is "the privileged signifier" which designates "as a whole the effects of the signified," and therefore covers the entire field of meaning.4 The phallus, so elevated, reintroduces spatiality to the symbolic.5 The phallus is the ultimate point de capiton. "It's the point of convergence that enables everything that happens in this discourse to be situated retroactively and prospectively."6 The firstness of the phallus is reasserted in every repetition of "everything." That firstness is inscribed in the verticality of the primordial mark and the linearity of force: |. Lacan inscribed it himself, magicking the phallus into yet another return of the bar, this time as a whip wielded by the demon of Shame ("le demon de la Pudeur"7). If there remains any doubt about the thoroughness of Lacan's attack on meaning, it must surely 1 Lacan, Seminar H, 323. "Au mieux, le circuit se contrarie, se stoppe, se coupe, se hache soi-meme" {Seminaire II, 372). 2 Jane Gallop, The Daughter's Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1982), 36. 3 That is, castration proper, to be distinguished from the castration/privation of the phallic mother. 4 "The signification of the Phallus," in Ecrits: A Selection, 287, 285. "Le signifiant privilegie," "dans leur ensemble les effets de signifie" ("La signification du phallus / Die Bedeutung des Phallus," in Ecrits, 692, 690). 5 Inasmuch as meaning is imaginary, the phallus is a symbolic intervention which has crucial imaginary effects. Once again, the imaginary and the symbolic are intertwined. 6 Lacan, Seminar HI, 267. "C'est le point de convergence qui permet de siruer retroactivement et prospectivement tout ce qui se passe dans ce discours" {Seminaire HI, 303-304). The point de capiton has a formal equivalence with the symbolic phallus, inasmuch as both are signifiers that lack signifieds. 107 evaporate before his teaching fable, in which that demon flogs the signified for the crime of its bastardy.8 Jacques-Alain Miller elaborates this scene into a typical Lacanian paradox. Commenting on a different figure in the fresco which inspires Lacan's fable, Miller writes that a painted woman of Pompeii has just thrown down a copy of Lacan's Television, and is now simultaneously backing away in horror and fending it off.9 Miller explains that the fresco "tells a story which no one has ever really been able to decipher." However, he also adds that it "clearly" involves an initiation into a ritual whose ultimate truth is the phallus.10 The phallus becomes ultimate, not just because it is the first of signifiers, but also because it is the last. It is the signifier without a signified,11 the signifier of signifiers, the signifier remaining when all meaning has been exhausted. The phallus lays claim to the dignity of Alpha and Omega; it incarnates the letter as Beginning and End. The matheme for the phallus as signifier, O, conflates the one of unity and the zero of the void. Such phallocentrism is a natural target for anyone with feminist inclinations—it is no coincidence that it is a woman who is rejecting Television in Miller's scenario—but also Derrida, who 7 "Signification du phallus," 692 nl. 8 "Signification of the Phallus," 288; "Signification du phallus " 692. 9 Jacques-Alain Miller, "Microscopia: An Introduction to the Reading of Television," trans. Bruce Fink, in Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, by Jacques Lacan, ed. Joan Copjec (New York: Norton, 1990), xi. Ironically, "Microscopia" is included in the English translation of Television, but the cover of that version does not show the painting in question, as the French edition does. Instead, in moving between languages and publishers, the Villa of Mysteries gets translated into a head shot of Lacan. In fact, "Microscopia" does not appear in Television at all. 10 Miller, "Microscopia," xii. 11 "I designate O as the phallus insofar as I indicate that it is the signifier that has no signified" (Lacan, Seminar XX, 81). "O, nous le designons de ce phallus tel que je le precise d'etre le signifiant qui n'a pas de signifie" (Lacan, Seminaire XX, 75). <D is the matheme for but one of the incarnations of the phallus, the symbolic phallus. There is also <p, the imaginary phallus, and n, the real phallus. The latter two, especially tp, will be discussed later in this chapter. 108 argues that Lacan never utterly gave up his early faith in the fullness of speech.12 Certainly the Lacanian phallus fulfills Lacan's own criterion for the sublime object.13 Yet such grandiosity inverts itself by its outrageousness, for the transcendence of the phallus is so total that it cannot even be negated.14 In the symbolic order, which is the order structured by the phallus qua transcendental signifier, "an absence is just as much a positive entity as a presence."15 Not having is then a form of having, so "the 'identity' of the phallus resides in its own displacement."16 We could say that O "means" that one is zero. With these qualifications, the phallus brings the signifier to sex in a peculiar way. On the side of the signifier, the absent presence recalls the familiar Saussurean view of language as a negative system, with no positive terms. On the side of sex, being male or female cannot be unproblematically mapped onto a presence or absence of the phallus. Having or not having it becomes undecisive when the very presence of the phallus functions to institute lack.17 Both positions "are, in Lacan's terms, finally to be understood as comedic failures."18 For him, the condition of having the phallus is the prior assumption of one's own castration.19 The phallus, while lacking a signified, nonetheless possesses an identity, as Zizek notes, and that identity is castration: the loss of the phallus. Nonetheless, the two concepts can be written out differently: castration designates the loss necessitated by the entry into the 12 Jacques Derrida, "Le facteur de la verite" in Post Card, 465. See Lacan, "Function and Field"; "Fonction et champ." 13 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis: 1959-1960. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Dennis Porter (New York: Norton, 1992), 112; Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan : Uvre VII: L'ethique de la psychanalyse: 1959-1960, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 1986), 133. 14 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 320. "Le phallus symbolique impossible a negativer" ("Subversion du sujet," 823). 15 Evans, Dictionary, s.v. "phallus." 16 Slavoj Zizek, The Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Woman and Causality (London: Verso, 1994), 202. 17 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 103. 18 Buder, GenderTrouble, 46. 109 symbolic order of language, while the phallus, being the signifier of signifiers, designates the form of symbolization as such.20 Thus the phallus, by becoming one with its own sacrifice, becomes the cut that defines the subject as such, S. The castration of the subject is correlative to the ineluctability of the subject's representation. Men and women are both split by language (and hence are both castrated); they are differentiated because they are split differendy.21 So sex, rather than being reducible to either a biological or custodial category, instead is always a paradox knotted with the immanent difficulty of language.22 Again, this is imaginable even in imaginary biology, for if | is the figure of the phallus and the cut of its loss, it is equally the icon of the vulvar slash. The primordial mark therefore figures how the predicament of sex and the subject devolves from "the imperative of inscription, the structural inevitability of representation which characterizes human sexuality in all its diversity."23 It is only because of this complication of the phallus through language that Butler is able to convincingly invoke the lesbian phallus, as both an endorsement of Lacan and a rebuke to him.24 19 Evans, Dictionary, s.v. "phallus." 20 Zizek, Metastases of Enjoyment, 202. Commenting on Lacan's contention that the phallus is the signifier of Aufhebung, Zizek writes that "'Phallus' is not what remains of penis after penis is submitted to the process of mediation-sublation; rather it stands for the very process of mediauon-sublation," the process of symbolization {Metastases, 202). 21 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 73,106. 22 "We know that the unconscious castration complex has the function of a knot." This is the declaration that opens "The Signification of the Phallus" (280). "On sait que le complexe de castration inconscient a une fonction de noeud" ("Signification du phallus," 685). 23 Charles Shepherdson, "The Rote of Gender and the Imperative of Sex," in Supposing the Subject, ed. Joan Copjec (New York: Verso, 1994), 159, emphasis in original. 24 Judith Butler, "The Lesbian Phallus," in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (New York: Routledge, 1993). 110 This in no way makes the Lacanian privileging of the phallus unproblematic, despite Zizek's arguments to the contrary.25 While Miller turns to the women of Pompeii to rehabilitate the Lacanian phallus, Silverman uses the same recourse to damn it once again.26 Lacan insists on displacing the phallus—it is not a fantasy; it is not an object of any sort, part- or otherwise; it is not an organ27—but even an infinite series of negating displacements still connects its terms in the very gesture that dislocates them. Any discursive chain can be followed back, link by link, its continual glissade and torsion notwithstanding.28 The condition of this possibility is not the imputation of a singular originary term, but the metonymy of each and every term.29 Then the very differentiation of the phallus from an organ brings them together; the very distantiation of the phallus from the penis always returns to the penis (this is part of Silverman's acute criticism30). Freud provides precedent, for he claims that in the discourse of dreams something can manifest as its own negation.31 Besides, when Lacan so strongly denies that the phallus is the same as the penis, he denies himself. Sometimes he does appear to equate the penis with the "real phallus."32 25 Zizek, Metastases of Enjoyment, 201-203. 26 Kaja Silverman, "The Lacanian Phallus," differences: The Phallus Issue 4.1 (1992), 84-115. 27 "Signification of the Phallus," 285; "Signification du phallus," 690. 28 The possibility of tracking along the chain of signifiers does not imply that there is a privileged "track"; neither does it imply that such a track is necessarily any simpler or more straightforward than the winding chain itself. The constitution of a chain by links permits a happy correlation with the complex and variable hyper-textuality of the internet 29 However, Lacan is not averse to conferring singularity. The phallus is just the most familiar example. 30 Silverman, "Lacanian Phallus," 89. 31 "Dreams feel themselves at liberty, moreover, to represent any element by its wishful contrary, so that there is no way of deciding at first glance whether any element that admits of a contrary is present in the dream-thoughts as a positive or as a negative," Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 429-430. Tellingly, Freud footnotes this sentence with "I was astonished to learn . . . that the most ancient of languages behave exacdy like dreams in this respect" (430 nl). 32 For instance, in Seminaire IV: "II ne s'agit point d'un phallus reel en tant que, comme reel, il existe ou n'existe pas, il s'agit d'un phallus symbolique" (Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan : Livre IV: La relation d'objet: 1956-1957, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller [Paris: Seuil, 1994], 152-153). Ill This particular problem with the phallus figures a more general problem with Lacan. On the one hand, what Lacan calls his "return to Freud"33 is such a radical reading/displacement of the latter that orthodox Freudians often can hardly recognize the Freud in Lacan's texts.34 On the other hand, the "return to Freud" is very apt in how the problems with Freud still persist in Lacan, however they are shifted or transformed. As just one obvious example, the family romance of the Oedipus complex is transmuted into imaginary and symbolic triangulations by the phallus qua signifier, but the mostly unquestioned presumption of universality, and the projection of specifically situated sexism into a generalized human condition, still remain. The continued privileging of the phallus—regardless of its multiple identifications with castration and the signifier— furnishes abiding testimony. Lacan is not unaware of the problem, and some of the infamous convolution of Seminar XX: Encore—the seminar in which Lacan addresses women, feminism, and love— and other related texts can be attributed, at least in part, to his attempts to answer to the phallus. The adequacy of his answers must remain largely unaddressed here, for its scope and complications exceed the adequacies of this dissertation.35 The phallus may indeed be a signifier, and therefore something symbolic, but with respect to this particular engagement 33 See Jacques Lacan, "The Freudian Thing, or the Meaning of the Return to Freud in Psychoanalysis," in Ecrits: A Selection; Jacques Lacan, "La chose freudienne ou Sens du retour a Freud en psychanalyse," in Ecrits. 34 Another instance of this paradigm of displacement and return, one that we have already encountered repeatedly, is Lacan's re-signification of the terms imaginary, symbolic, and real. Those words have "technical" definitions that are not only slippery enough in themselves, but also come back, in odd ways, to the everyday words to which they are counterpoised. 35 There is no simple solution to the dilemma. Any championing of a female equivalent—for example, Irigaray's valorization of the labia (This Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter [Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985], 205-218)—must face a true equivalent to the Lacanian phallus to embody its own parallel to castration, and there has been a long-standing feminist opposition to figuring the female body through lack. Probably the most famous example of the latter is Cixous's "Laugh of the Medusa" (trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, Signs 1.4 [1976]: 875-893). However, Silverman takes exactly the opposite position, and chides 112 with Lacan, it is also a leftover—and therefore, in Lacanian terms, something real. But then, everything in Lacan leads to something else that is both absolutely crucial to the discussion and absolutely beyond adequate engagement by that discussion.36 Every reading of Lacan, if it is scrupulous enough, must admit its radical insufficiency. To that end, Muller and Richardson frame the problem in terms that cannot be surprising by now: "Understanding [Ecrits] is not exactly guesswork but, nonetheless, a highly precarious business, and sharing our impressions with the reading public may be utter folly."37 Muller and Richardson thereby admit their own fears of castration, in the form that castration threatens every academic reader and writer. The Lacanian twist to his engendering of castration is that "the fear of possible castration is castration itself."38 With respect to the clarity of language, this twist affirms Harold Bloom's proposition that if one hasn't misread a text, one hasn't read it at all.39 My mis/reading of Lacan is that reading is always castrating. Any subject's imaginary wholeness with respect to the text (such as a teacher artful enough to conceive of her/himself as a master of translation) is therefore definitively fantastic. Muller and Richardson's hesitation in the face of Lacan's writing is then a "positive" version of the violently "negative" rejection of that writing. The irony is that the critics of the matheme would expunge it from the body of "healthy" discourse, as if the remedy for castration Lacan for not placing women as fully within lack as men (Lecture, 6 October 1995, University of California at Berkeley). 36 Compare Spivak's contention that post-structuralism demands "a mind-set which allows one not to be nervous about the fact that what one is saying is undermined by the way one says it, radically" ("The Post-Modern Condition: The End of Politics?", in The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues [New York: Routledge, 1990], 20). The Lacanian position would be that that fact does indeed obtain, but also that no one cannot be nervous about that fact. 37 Muller and Richardson, Lacan and Language, 415, emphasis added. 38 Zizek, Metastases of Enjoyment, 202. 39 The corollary to Bloom is that one must read in the first place in order to misread. The problem with "artists of teaching" is not one of misreading, but of the determination to not read texts like Lacan's at all. The difference is crucial. 113 would be a further excision. Every time that a champion of clear language strives to clear Lacan from the discursive field, s/he is striving to reclaim her or his own phallus by wielding the knife anew. Is the Lacanian phallus Lacan's phallus? Does Lacan "truly" claim to have the phallus? Does he really have it? Gallop concedes the phallus to him in an acute and splendidly Lacanian way. She scolds Derrida as too polite in calling Lacan phallocentric— in reality, she says, he is a prick.40 Even more than that, "at the very moment in Lacan's text when phallic privilege is asserted, the cunt clamours for recognition, makes a big stink."41 Gallop is supported by the very words which skeptics are wont to cite as proof of the disingenuousness of Lacan's studious separation of the phallus from the penis: the "turgidity" and "vital flow"42 he associates with the image of the phallus. Yet these aspects are as characteristic of the vulva as they are of the penis—and they apply equally as well to language, especially language as conceived through the sliding of the signifying chain. Gallop should be given credit for recognizing what so many of Lacan's commentators and critics miss: the obscenity that pervades his theory. Psychoanalysis has traditionally offended its critics by its purported discovery of sex everywhere in social and psychic life. Lacan, in his linguistic turn, manages to be even more offensive, for that very attention to language recovers the difference and identity between sex and fucking, between the phallus and the prick.43 40 Gallop, Daughter's Seduction, 36. This slides into another morass, that of the distinction between having the phallus and being it. 41 Gallop, Daughter's Seduction, 32. 42 "Signification of the Phallus," 287. "Turgidite" and "flux vital," "Signification du phallus," 692. 43 "We speak in analytic discourse about what the verb 'to fuck' {foutre) enunciates perfectiy well. We speak therein of fucking, and we say that it's not working out (fa ne va pas)" (Seminar XX, 32). "On y pade de foutre — verbe, en anglais, to fuck — et on y dit que ca ne va pas" (Seminaire XX, 33). 114 Gallop, to her immense credit, articulates with style exactly what many of his critics seem to sense dimly or unconsciously, but cannot bring themselves to say: Lacan is insisting that obscenity is pervasive in language, which means it pervades every human subject made human through language. Certainly the rejections of Lacanian writing are distinguished by their phobic intensity, radiating their sense that the reader is being fucked over. Yet, as has already been observed, even the affirmations of Lacan still carry the trace of the same sense; they still manage to be obscene in ways that cannot be utterly co-opted by celebration or brazenness. There is too much sex and shit, too much of Lacan "edifying" the reader with the erotic distinction between eating the excrement of a rugby forward and eating the excrement of a beautiful girl.44 The germane aspect here is how Lacan manages to conjure such obscenity out of the impenetrable abstraction of theory and the seemingly pristine formalism of the matheme. The Names of the Schemata We have already seen how Lacan imagines the loss of castration, in a Venn diagram of the vel between being and meaning. It shows how castration is a condemnation to existence divided by the letter.45 To return to the matheme, the slash that turns S into S is at once both a literal and figurative cut (coupure). Just as O signifies both impossible plenitude and the regime of lack (that is, O is identical with its opposite, 0), S signifies both the signifier as the instance of language and the subject as her/his own supposed predecessor, in 44 Lacan, Seminar VTI, 188; Seminaire VII, 221. 45 Lacan, Seminar XI, 210; Seminaire XI, 191. 115 her/his "stupid, ineffable existence" prior to her/his constitution in language.46 So the subject S is formed by S qua signifier cutting into S qua pre-linguistic existence. This peculiar and contradictory status of S appears explicitly in the graphic expansion of S as SCHEMA L, which is not only a characteristically mathemic conflation of text and image, but also coordinated by the mathemes of its vertices. Muller and Richardson call SCHEMA L "the most fundamental of all Lacan's schemata."47 Figure 3.1: SCHEMA L48 We know that SCHEMA L is another way to write out the subject because Lacan says as much: the subject "is stretched over the four corners of the schema."49 SCHEMA L therefore draws out a refutation of the familiar punctiform subject, the self as situated at and defined by a special point, whether that be the eye, the heart, or the mind or brain. The schema demonstrates the spatiality that distinguishes the Lacanian subject from the familiarly localized and situated individual, exemplified by the subject of the West Edmonton Mall, reduced to an X in its interpellation by the Other: "You are here." In particular, the subject 46 Lacan, "Possible treatment," 194; "Son ineffable et stupide existence" ("Traitement possible," 549). The history of S within Lacanian theory plays out a parallel tale. Before 1957, S simply designated the subject; after that date, it designated the signifier; and in "Kant avec Sade," it designates the "raw subject of pleasure" ("sujet brut de plaisir (sujet « pafhologique »)," in Ecrits, 775). Whether the subject is truly a "her" or "him" prior to her/his/its inscription into the symbolic is highly questionable. 47 John P. Muller and William J. Richardson, "Lacan's Seminar on the 'Purloined Letter': Overview," in Purloined Poe, ed. Muller and Richardson, 71. 48 Lacan, "Possible treatment," 193. "Traitement possible," 548. 116 of the schema includes S, which is itself a sometime designation of the subject in Lacanian theory. SCHEMA L then illustrates how the particularity of the subject as S is subsumed by the generality of the subject as S.50 To put this another way, SCHEMA L is an image/text of S because S does not appear anywhere in it—not even in the title. It is the absence of S that makes it present. So S, even though already barred as a matheme, becomes effaced anew when it is mapped as the schema. The subject, when considered closely, fades away beneath the letter, so the schema is another vel, because any schema of the subject must be a schema of apbanisis. This image of the subject as at once there and not there fulfills Lacan's mysterious injunction that "the subject is never more than supposed."51 You really are not here and you really are not here. Instead, you are supposed to be there.52 What remains is structure: four positions, a skeletal zigzag, and some little letters, including that remnant of what the subject never was: S. The remaining three mathemes in SCHEMA L are: o the generalized object or set of objects for the subject. o' the subject's ego. O the Other.53 49 Lacan, "Possible treatment," 194. "[Le sujet] Test, en effet, en tant que tire aux quatre coins du schema" ("Traitement possible," 549). 50 It could be said that S as a whole is contained within S as lacking: S. 51 Lacan, Seminaire XIII, quoted and trans, in Fink, Lacanian Subject, 35. 52 "Supposed" should be read in all its senses, anticipating the concept of the subject supposed to know {sujet suppose' savoir), whose matheme is S.s.S., a concatenation of the signifier with the signified. 53 "o, [the subject's] objects, o', his ego, that is, that which is reflected of his form in his objects, and O, the locus from which the question of his existence may be presented to him" (Lacan, "Possible treatment," 194). 117 All of these variations on the letter o inscribe variations of the other, happily represented in English by the mark of the void and fullness. In the French version, which is called SCHEMA £,54 these vertices are parallel performances of l'autre: a, a', and A:55 Figure 3.2: SCHEMA £56 Inasmuch as this schema is a simplified version of an earlier one, the relation of these four mathemes to the subject may be illuminated by considering SCHEMA L alongside its more elaborate predecessor, whose name in French is almost, but not quite, the same: SCHEMA L. (Ei) S ^ »—_^0'atrt ,@utte Figure 3.3: SCHEMA L57 54 £ is actually incorrect, but it is as close as my word-processor can get to the character type-set in the "Traitement possible" version of the schema, which looks like this: z Three comments: first, the "L"s of the schemata are type-set differendy in the same volume, Ecrits; second, it is sometimes literally impossible to even copy a letter from language to language; third, rendering L as £ recalls the imaginary relation of S to $. 55 "a, ses objets, a', son moi, a savoir ce qui se reflete de sa forme dans ses objets, et A le lieu d'ou peut se poser a lui la question de son existence" ("Traitement possible," 549). 56 "Traitement possible," 548. 57 Jacques Lacan, "Le Seminaire sur « La Lettre volee »," in Ecrits, 53. 118 The small difference between the signifiers, L and £—which map onto the large differences between the images of their respective signifieds—is leveled in the English translation, which denotes both schemata by SCHEMA L: Figure 3.4 SCHEMATA L Once again, the translation of the letter is found to be wanting. In English, L is substituted for £, as if the former were the "meaning" of the latter, as if the "L-ness" of £ was some essential substance, so that the material signifier itself is disposable.58 Even the naming of letters does not escape the drive to look past the signifier for the "real thing." But for Lacan, naming is crucial. "Everything begins with the possibility of naming," he says (which is not to say that everything ends there).59 The consequences of naming are evident in the translation of SCHEMA as SCHEMA.60 The very justice and clarity of the rendition obscures how the small difference between the French and the English embodies a crucial Lacanianism. SCHEMA is distinguished from SCHEMA only by the accent aigu over the E. In the theatre of the signifier, that accent is less than a little letter, although it is no small matter in French grammar. It is a diacritical mark, a literal object that gets lost in translation—in other 58 The translation of SCHEMA L is historically problematic. No direct English translation to date of any of Lacan's own texts includes a "translated" SCHEMA L as SCHEMA L. The schema shown comes from Seminar 77, in which it bears a different name, as will be discussed shordy (Lacan, Seminar 77, 109; Seminaire TI, 134). Nevertheless, as shown below, Lacan's commentators conventionally refer to various versions of the schemata as "L." 59 Lacan, Seminar I, 219. "Tout part de la possibility de nommer" (Seminaire I, 244). 60 Muller and Richardson's translation is "scheme L" ("Overview," 71). 119 words, it appropriately mimics what will be discussed later in this chapter as objet a. Ordinary letters and everyday language can embody the matheme, just as much as psychoanalytic jargon. The small difference between the L-names of this schema of the absent/present subject thus figure the relation of objet a to that self-same subject. What is re-lost in the translation to English is not just the difference between £ and L, but also the literal object as the object that is already lost. Nonetheless, the English presumption of meaning nicely subverts itself, inasmuch as it gives the same name to two different schemata. SCHEMA L is thus a signifier that cannot be fixed to any particular signified. Of course, the justification for this duplicity is that the two SCHEMA Ls are actually the same one, despite their apparent differences. This is a paradigmatically imaginary logic. Yet given that there are two distinctly different formations of SCHEMA L, this imaginary coalescence begs the question as to which is the real one. Is it the earlier, more detailed, and therefore possibly more complete schema? Does that one, owing to its priority, gain the status of original, making the other merely derivative? Or does the later, simplified version display the essence of SCHEMA L, like an elegantly pared down final draft? Or is the real SCHEMA L something else again, something inhabiting both versions but consummated in neither? Does SCHEMA L, like the real, escape any imaginary or symbolic, even though a schema is defined as an imaginary or symbolic representation? Or is the real SCHEMA L to be found somehow in the transit between its iterations? While Lacan's texts show two versions of SCHEMA L, those two have spawned a multitude of others.61 Commentaries on Lacan habitually show some rendition of the schema, because Muller and Richardson's confidence in its significance is widely shared. But 61 SCHEMA R and SCHEMA I, discussed below, are two more versions of SCHEMA L, albeit ones with different faces and names. 120 those commentaries usually present diagrams that are different from the ones in Ecrits. The notable exception is the very first major translation of Lacan into English, by Anthony Wilden. Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis is an annotated English version of "Fonction et champ de la parole." SCHEMA L and SCHEMA £ both appear in it, with no translation of any of their mathemes or terms.62 For the moment, let the earlier of Ecrits' versions be denoted by L, and let the simplified version be denoted by £. Evans shows an immediately recognizable, if markedly anorexic, version of £, but he calls it "Schema L (simplified form)"63 (even keeping the names of L and £ the same necessitates making them different). Overleaf from that schema is an utterly bizarre version of L. Some of the terms at the corners are in English (other, ego, and Other), but their corresponding mathemes remain French letters (a', a, andy4). Still, this part-translation is not the strange aspect of Evan's schema, for that move is actually the rule in renderings of L in commentaries (£, by contrast, almost always has its mathemes turned into o', o, and O). What is bizarre is how the solid lines of L are missing, presumably through a printer's error (but there are no inconsequential slips in psychoanalysis; it is never good enough to simply blame the other), leaving termini, labels, and even arrowheads floating like ghosts in empty space: *pu O * 00 0,h<r Figure 3.5: SCHEMA L according to Dylan Evans' 62 Lacan, Speech and Language, 107 n49. 63 Evans, Dictionary, 170. 64 Evans, Dictionary, 169-170. 121 Borch-Jacobsen is rather faithful to Ecrits, but notably selective, for he is only faithful to L. £ vanishes from his consideration, without a word.65 He—or his translator, Douglas Brick—also leaves the mathemes in French, while translating the parallel terms.66 Robert Samuels repeatedly deploys SCHEMA L as a framework for variations he plays on it, but his "original" schema is a distorted hybrid of L and £ that replaces some of the solid lines of the latter with broken lines: Figure 3.6: SCHEMA L according to Robert Samuels Ragland-Sullivan squashes the square of L into a rectangle shorter than it is wide,68 does another part-translation, and eliminates the empty/solid circular termini at two corners: Figure 3.7: SCHEMA L according to Ellie Ragland Sullivan' 65 Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan, 136. 66 The schema in the original French text of the book appears to be an exact reproduction of the Ecrits version (Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan: Le maitre absolu [Paris: Flammarion, 1990], 166). 67 Robert Samuels, Between Philosophy &° Psychoanalysis: Lacan's Reconstruction of Freud (New York: Routledge, 1993), 7. 68 Lacan calls SCHEMA L "our little magic square" (Seminar III, 87). "Notre petit carre magique" (Seminaire III, 100). 122 Lee doesn't deign to depict the schema at all, consigning it to a brief description in a footnote, although he pays graphic detail to the Graph of Desire.70 Clement's version of faithfulness to £ is to turn it into a game, which, because it is replete with cartoon figures, succeeds where more "serious" renderings fall short. She does, however, add a broken vertical side to the Z. Figure 3.8: SCHEMA L according to Catherine Clement1 Do these and other different readings and writings of SCHEMA L "capture" it, or at least capture it sufficiently? The adequacy of each version is arguable, but the fact of their variation is crucial. The schemata of Lacan, like his graphs and mathemes, are often taken as proof of his high structuralism, even by those who deplore him as the archetypal post-structural obscurantist. Yet such structuralism—if it is that—generates a structure that is conspicuous for its fluidity: the structure of the schemata never seems to stay the same. Almost every time SCHEMA L is quoted, it is quoted differently. The "formal" Lacanian 69 Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, Jacques Lacan and the 'Philosophy of Psychoanalysis (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1986), 2. 70 Jonathan Scott Lee., Jacques Lacan (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1990), 211 n58,139-143. 71 Vies et legendes, 191. Curiously, this diagram does not make it into the English translation, although the Graph of Desire, which follows it by just a few pages, does. 123 structure shows the very openness of the literary text that is so often held up as its more congenial opposite. Given our project of paying close attention to the letter of Lacan, the question arises of the significance of this bifurcated title, L/£. Actually, neither appears to be the schema's first name. SCHEMA L appears first in Seminar II (which was in 1955-1956, published in French in 1978, and translated into English a decade later), but there it appears above yet another name for itself, "the imaginary function of the ego and the discourse of the unconscious."72 And still the names keep dividing/proliferating. Miller, the seminar's editor, slides from L to a more explicitly iconic letter, and calls SCHEMA L, "Le schema en Z" (which is translated as "the Z-shaped schema")73 in the chapter headings he inserts into the book, even though the later SCHEMA £ is decidedly more Z-shaped. Similarly, Clement describes SCHEMA £ as a "Z, as in Zorro or Zarathustra."74 In Miller's recovery of a Z effaced by L, what becomes apparent is how Z effaces S. That is, Z is an imaginary reversal of S, so that S fades, in a literal way, beneath both the structure and the sometimes name of SCHEMA L/Z.75 So there are two movements here. The name of the schema keeps sliding from one signifier to another, and the signified keeps sliding from one schema to another. By the time "On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis" was written, in 1956-57, SCHEMA £ had assumed its own name, although the others inevitably 72 This earlier SCHEMA L was presented in 1955 in Lacan's second official seminar. The schema also appears later in Seminar II (243; Seminaire TI, 284), but this time without any label at all. As noted above, the simplified version, SCHEMA £, appears in "D'une question preliminaire a tout traitement possible de la psychose," which derives from Lacan's seminar of 1955-56, was written 1956-57 and published in La Psychanaiyse, vol. 4, before being collected in 1966 in Ecrits. 73 Seminaire IT, 275; Lacan, Seminar II, 235. 74 Clement, Lives and Legends, 166. "Lacan dessine un « Z » (comme le Z de Zorro ou de Zarathoustra)" (Vies et legendes, 192). 75 S/Z is also the title of Barthes's retelling of a story of a castrato. Nancy Frelick, personal communication 9 April 1998. 124 persisted.76 Still, we need to leap ahead ten more years to really engage its naming. In "Parenthese des parentheses" written in 1966 as a postface to "he seminaire sur« La lettre volee »," and untranslated in the English version of Ecrits, Lacan links SCHEMA L to something he calls "la chaine L": (10 . . . (00 . . . 0) 0101 ... 0 (00 ... 0) ... 01) 11111 . . . (1010 . . . 1) 111 . . . etc.77 This is a highly mediated transcription of a coding of coin tosses, although one should not make the easy mistake of thinking 0 and 1 refer directly to heads and tails. Its simple obscurity is more complicated and surprising than that, as Fink demonstrates in his careful (and often grueling) reading of the passages of the seminar and its postfaces.78 Its relevance here is that Lacan develops the simplicity of heads-or-tails into a complex model of the determinant structure of language. The very randomness of the coin toss is shown to entail certain rules and prohibitions governing what may occur over the course of its repetition. Structural constraints therefore arise strictly from the "language"—here reduced to a model of transcription—in which the coin tosses are inscribed and communicated. The argument by analogy is that language in general—as exemplified by the signifier S and the Other O— has similar determinant powers over the subject. Those are immanent to language itself, rather than deriving from any "external" or "real" politics, although the efficacy of the latter is by no means thereby denied. Lacan says that SCHEMA L is a variant of la chaine L-,79 so 76 The Z, for instance, appears in the text of the seminar, published in French in 1978 (Seminaire II). 77 "Nous pourrons ecrire la chaine L sous une forme qui nous semble plus « parlante »" (Jacques Lacan, "Parenthese des parentheses," in Ecrits, 55). 78 In The Lacanian Subject. "The Nature of Unconscious Thought, or How the Other Half Thinks" (14-23), "Appendix 1: The Language of the Unconscious" (153-164), "Appendix 2: Stalking the Cause" (164-172). 79 Lacan, "Parenthese," 55. 125 SCHEMA L is an expansion of it as well. Then L can be read as pointing to the deceptive linearity of the signifying chain, as modeled by la chaine L (which could be described as la chaine Lineaire) and exemplified above by Si —> S2.80 Lacan does say that "My definition of a signifier (there is no other) is as follows: a signifier is that which represents the subject for another signifier."81 So we would expect that the subject drawn out in SCHEMA L must appear, if only obliquely, in his model of the signifying chain. It is a typical Lacanian didacticism to maintain the signifier of linearity for the deliberate spatialization of SCHEMA L. Or perhaps Elizabeth Grosz is right, and L just means Lacan.32 Perhaps it's the name of the father. The Subject and All Its Others To return to the schema itself, the relation between 0 and 0', between the other and the ego, is the imaginary process whose archetype is the mirror stage. This return follows Lacan's own example, thereby offering yet another name for the schema.83 In the Lacanian fable of the looking-glass—and it should not be mistaken for anything but a fable— the infant qua not-yet-a-subject is held up to a mirror by its parent, and with great joy seizes upon its suddenly discovered image as the originating crystallization of its own self: its ego. "This jubilant assumption of his specular image by the child at the infans stage, still sunk in 80 As Jean-Paul Gilson writes, "Void schema « L », homonyme de la chaine pour l'inscrire dans un autre espace que celui de la lecture lineaire" (La topologie de Lacan: Une articulation de la cure psychanalytique [Montreal: Balzac, 1994], 38). 81 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 316. "Notre definition du signifiant (il n'y en a pas d'autre) est: un signifiant, c'est ce qui represente le sujet pour un autre signifiant" ("Subversion du sujet," 819). 82 Grosz, Jacques Lacan, 73. 83 "The two middle terms represent the coupled reciprocal Imaginary objectification which I have emphasized in the stade du mirotf' (Jacques Lacan, cited and trans. Anthony Wilden, in Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis, 107 n49). "Les deux termes moyens representent le couple de reciproque objectivation imaginaire que nous avons degage dans le stade du miroir" ("Seminaire sur « La lettre volee »," 53, emphasis in original). 126 his motor incapacity and nursling dependence, would seem to exhibit in an exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form."84 That jubilation is therefore the symptom of a founding and doubled mkonnaissance of the visual field. First, the infant mistakes its unified and upright Gestalt image for itself, even though its lived reality is uncoordination, turbulence, and dependence.85 Secondly, it mistakes the external image for its internal self. This latter misapprehension may be clarified by recognizing that the mirror of the mirror stage is just a propaedeutic device. The image that the infant takes for itself is more likely that of the parent, its first other, whose seeming omnipotence is impressed upon the infant as an anticipation of what it will become. The self is made from the other; the object is introjected as the ego. So the ego is the translation of the object, and therefore another object itself.86 This is the imaginary relation that binds o to o\ the constitutive diagonal that wants to exchange the solidity of the other for the emptiness of the ego. The difference between o and o\ or a and a', is too slight a measure of this 84 Lacan, "Mirror Stage," 2, emphasis in original. L'assomption jubilatoire de son image speculaire par l'etre encore plonge dans l'impuissance motrice et la dependance du nourrissage qu'est le petit homme a ce stade injans, nous paraitra des lors manifester en une situation exemplaire la matrice symbolique ou le je se precipite en une forme primordiale. ("Stade du miroir," 94, emphasis in original) Here, "symbolic" should be taken in its most general sense, rather than as pertaining to the symbolic order, for Lacan goes on to say that this "precipitation" of the I is prior to subjectification through language. 85 Lacan, "Mirror Stage," 2; "Stade du miroir," 92-93. "Lived reality" is a most un-Lacanian concept. It would be better to follow Gallop, who reads the mirror-stage as a peculiar and peculiarly retroactive narrative, and say that "lived reality" is a specific kind of narrative retrospectively produced by the subject after s/he has entered into language, subsequent to the mirror-stage. 86 "Literally, the ego is an object—an object which fills a certain function which we here call the imaginary function" (Seminar TT, 44). "Litteralement, le moi est un objet—un objet qui remplit une certaine fonction que nous appelons ici fonction imaginaire" (Seminaire TT, 60). 127 meconnaissance, whose scale is better given in the unsimplified version of SCHEMA L by the mistake of • for O, the void apprehended as substance:87 Figure 3.9: The meconnaissance of • for O The delusion of the ego is that it is just like the (imagined) other—hence, what the imaginary relation is charting is imaginary identification, which Lacan designates in the Graph of Desire as i(o).si Schematically, the imaginary process is a strict binary, a fantastic reduction of the world sanctified as I and Thou. Of necessity, the imaginary must deny the quadrature of the subject; it must refuse to acknowledge how S is spread across the field of SCHEMA L and not narrowly embodied through the ego's circumscription, o marks and locates the reincarnation of the punctiform subject. The ego mistakes itself for the subject; o pretends to a phantasmatically recuperated S.89 In particular, the ego denies the distance of language and society that must be traversed between itself and its framing other. The other is claimed as the ego's own, so that the other becomes the Idealich, the ideal ego.90 87 Of course, both© and O can stand for either void or substance. 88 In the "Graph of Desire," Lacan diagrams this as a vector of imaginary identification directed from i(o) (the specular image as a function of the other) to e (the ego) ("Subversion of the subject," 306-307). In French, from i(a) (l'image speculaire) to m (le moi) ("Subversion du sujet," 808-809). 89 It might be better to say that o pretends to the subject as S, as S impossibly healed of its cut. Of course, such a pretension must also deny how that very cut is constitutive of the subject. 90 The ideal ego is a narcissistic and imaginary projection. "Though formed in primary identification, the ideal ego continues to play a role as the source of all secondary identifications" (Evans, Dictionary, s.v. "ego-ideal"). 128 "The ego is always an aIter-ego.'m However, this freshly minted ego will hereafter ever be plagued by the discordance between its illusion of wholeness and the contrary experience of its body.92 The body is always a refutation of the ideality of vision, the will to reduce the self to the looking self, and even to the mere eye. Think of those old line diagrams in which the violently exorbited eyeball casually passes for the human subject, in a lovely example of the scopic aggrandizement of the imaginary. What will return again and again to the subject, in its dreams and fantasies and other signs of aggressive disintegration, is the image of the corps morcele, the fragmented body, as given in nightmarish visions of Bosch.93 The twinned obscenity/horror of language and the subject thus reappear in the body and its image. Hence, the imaginary mirror-production of the ego, postulated as prior to the symbolic castration of the subject, nonetheless recapitulates the latter by being an emergence that is likewise immediately crossed by discordance. The coalescence of the ego is haunted by its dismemberment from the beginning. Lacan even writes that what the exemplary Boschean paintings depict is precisely castration.94 Hence the o' of the ego, just like the S of the subject, bears within itself the mark of the cut: the prime, '. 91 Lacan, Seminar II, 321, emphasis in original. "L'ego est toujours un alter-ego" [Seminaire II, 370), emphasis in original. 92 The fact is that the total form of the body by which the subject anticipates in a mirage the maturation of his power is given to him only as Gestalt... in which it appears to him above all in a contrasting size (un relief de stature) that fixes it and in a symmetry that inverts it, in contrast with the turbulent movements that the subject feels are animating him. (Lacan, "Mirror Stage," 2) C'est que la forme totale du corps par quoi le sujet devance dans un mirage la maturation de sa puissance, ne lui est donnee que comme Gestalt, c'est-a-dire dans une exteriorite ou certes cette forme est-elle plus constituante que constitute, mais ou surtout elle lui apparait dans un relief de stature qui la fige et sous une symetrie qui l'inverse, en opposition a la turbulence de mouvements dont il s'eprouve l'animer. ("Le stade du miroir," 94-95) 93 Lacan, "Mirror Stage," 4-5; "Le stade du miroir," 97. 94 Lacan writes of the imaginary of le corps morcele. These are the images of castration, mutilation, dismemberment, dislocation, evisceration, devouring, bursting open of the body, in short, the imagos that I have grouped together under the apparentiy 129 0' ~ $ In moving forward and/or back from SCHEMA £ to SCHEMA L, this mark, a literal object so much like the accent aigu, curiously migrates from the other/object (upper right) to the ego/self (lower left): Figure 3.10: The migration of the mark The association becomes even stronger in French, where the objet (the object-mark) is introduced to a (the ego or mot), allowing a happy literal coincidence in objet a. Moreover, through that translation, the void or lack of o is metonymized with the literal firstness of a. Then we have, in the always already doubling and redoubling of translation, structural term of imagos of the fragmented body. Qacques Lacan, "Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis," in Ecrits: A Selection, 11, emphasis in original). The English translation by Sheridan curiously completely drops the second term in the French list, d'eviration: Ce sont les images de castration, d'eviration, de mutilation, de demembrement, de dislocation, d'eventrement, de devoration, d'eclatement du corps, bref, les imagos que personnellement j'ai groupees sous la rubrique qui parait bien etre structurale, d'imagos du corps morcele. ("L'agressivite en psychanalyse," in Ecrits, 104, emphasis in original) Perhaps this is because eviration is a rare term for castration or the state of a eunuch, and therefore was deemed redundant by Sheridan, but its inclusion in the French text emphasizes the importance of castration as an image of the corps morcele. Or perhaps it distinguishes between castration as an act (which invokes the Boschean imaginary) and castration as a state (which invokes the symbolic as the effect of having been castrated) (Raoul, personal communication, 30 January 1998). 130 of ~ a ~ $ The migration of the mark even implies a direction for the meconnaissance of image for the self that defines the mirror-stage. SCHEMA L helpfully points the direction down the diagonal of la relation imaginaire that the prime must journey to align with its position in its successor, SCHEMA £. But the cut has a much larger representative in the schema. The strong diagonal of the backbone of the Z-shaped schema reproduces the rending bar of the barred S: z ^ / ^ s Despite the symbolic nature of its founding castration, the subject is also riven by an imaginary stroke. Insofar as the mirroring identification of the imaginary is for Lacan always a failed identification, the subject is barred by imaginary identification, just as it is by the signifier. This dependence of the subject upon the imaginary is a necessary corrective to the ubiquitous reading of the Lacanian subject as a purely symbolic entity. The submission of the subject to the signifier does not imply its utter subsumption. Indeed, the barring of the signifier's S in the matheme for the subject can also be understood as specifically asserting that the subject is never wholly under the signifier, that the signifier, at some as yet undefined point and in some as yet undefined way, fails with respect to the subject, just as the imaginary process ultimately fails before a symbolic intervention. Hence, even though Lacan defines the male position, in one of his formulas of sexuation, as being wholly under the sway of the signifier, he immediately pairs that formula with another that declares there 131 must be an exception to that universalism. Likewise, the formulae for the female position neither subsume her under the signifier nor utterly free her from it.95 In either case, something goes awry in the subject with her or his entry into the Other. "What happens between [O] and S in itself has a conflictual character."96 I suggest that this obtains for S qua signifier as much as it does for S qua subject. If this is so, the esoteric matheme figures a general condition of language—and of being. In SCHEMA £, the subject is not located within the Other (and thereby reduced to its narrowly circumscribed locus there), although the Other does indeed have a place for the subject. S is instead stretched across a much wider field, which both includes and is divided by the «o«-symbolic imaginary, as figured by the backbone of the Z. The subject is cut by the imaginary in another way, whose immanent productivity more closely parallels that of symbolic castration. The fable of the mirror stage relates how the infant, in misrecognizing an image of the other for itself, forms its first differentiated sense of itself, qua imaginary ego. Prior to the mirror-stage, this proto-subject has no separation from the other, traditionally and still most often the mother or the mother figure. Hence S appears as the subject's "stupid, ineffable existence," sunken in the other. S is serving, unexpectedly, as the signifier of that third register of the subject—the real, in its primordial form, as that which is prior to the symbolic or the imaginary (a species of the real R that Miller calls Ri, to be distinguished from the Real as a residue of the symbolic, which he labels R297)- S, rather than being a reaffirmation of the signifier in the subject, is an even firmer rejection of the 95 Lacan, "Love Letter"; "Lettre d'amour." 96 Lacan, Seminar TI, 323. "Ce qui se passe entre A et S a un caractere a soi-meme conflictuei" (Seminaire TI, 372). 97 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 26-27,182 nl 1. 132 purported pan-symbolicism of the subject. It is no accident that, in SCHEMA £, S coincides with its homonym Es, which is German for the id. The imaginary relation is that first cut which severs the infant from the mother and thereby produces the infant ego. In Lacan's words, "the I is precipitated in a primordial form . . . before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject."98 That is, subjectivity qua S is lost with the mirror-establishment of the ego, but subjectivity qua S is "restored" with the entry into the symbolic. The catch—with Lacan, there is always a catch—is that this restoration is not really a restoration, because S can never be S.99 SCHEMA R: The Fantasy Circus The emergence of the subject is demonstrated more explicitly by the third version of the schema, SCHEMA R, which Miller, in his commentary in Ecrits, identifies as giving "the structure of the subject."100 Thus we are again dealing with a rendition of S. Figure 3.11: SCHEMA R 98 Lacan, "Mirror Stage," 2, emphasis in original. "Le je se precipite en une forme primordiale, avant. . . que le langage ne lui restitue dans l'universel sa fonction de sujet" ("Stade du miroir," 94, emphasis in original). 99 This exegesis of SCHEMA L is far from complete. If its reputed significance for Lacanian theory is justified, then completeness is impossible in any case. Some further elaboration can be found in Appendix 1, whose material is not included in this chapter so that the closely related SCHEMA R can have some needed space. 100 Miller, "Commentary on the Graphs," in Ecrits: A Selection, 333. "Table commentee des representations graphiques," in Ecrits, 905-907. 101 Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 197. 133 Despite the fact that this schema appears in the same ecrits SCHEMA L, and follows the latter by just a few pages, it has generally been ignored by Lacan's commentators, at least in English, who prefer to linger over the apparently simpler SCHEMA L. Muller and Richardson are among the very few who explicitly recognize that SCHEMA R is an expansion of SCHEMA L.102 Wilden is another, who pointedly writes that SCHEMA L is incomplete without its elaboration as SCHEMA R.103 His position is supported by the schemata's respective structures, for even under the freight of all the additional letters, the Z frame of SCHEMA L is easily discernible in SCHEMA R, although it is both supplemented and partially dissolved.104 SCHEMA R is even coordinated by identical termini. Thus it would be expected that the further intricacies of the Lacanian subject can be found here, and that is precisely what Miller affirms. According to his commentary on the graphs, which is included in Ecrits, SCHEMA R is, first, a "representation of the statics of the subject," and second, a plotting of its history.105 In short, SCHEMA R gives us nothing less than "the structure of the subject,"106 synchronic and diachronic, once more distributed across a field, albeit one markedly more populated than that of SCHEMA L. 102 Muller and Richardson, Lacan and Language, 209. 103 Anthony Wilden, "Lacan and the Discourse of the Other," in Lacan, Speech and Language, 293. 104 A similar dissolve of the top line of the Z is depicted in the earlier SCHEMA L. 105 Miller, "Commentary," 333. "Representation de la statique du sujet" ("Table commentee," 906). 106 Miller, "Commentary," 333; "Table commentee," 905. 134 The implications of the structural dependence of SCHEMA R on SCHEMA L is more easily apprehended in the French version: Figure 3.12: SCHEMA R The familiar Z bisects the square of R into mirrored halves. The upper is an imaginary one, as signified by the stylized 3 (as opposed to the simpler I marking its lower vertex):108 Figure 3.13: The imaginary half of SCHEMA R What is crucial to note is that the imaginary triangle includes not only the smaller white triangle, but also the hatched rhomboid marked by an ornate 5?. The lower triangle is a symbolic one.109 It is named by the "S at its center, an "S that must be distinguished from the S belonging the imaginary triangle, even though the two are related. 107 Lacan, "Traitement possible," 553. 108 In geometric notation, the imaginary triangle is cpMI. By the same convention, it could also be called Saa'. 109 In geometric notation, this triangle is IMP—in English, IMF. 135 M Figure 3.14: The symbolic half of SCHEMA R The latter, "imaginary" S reinscribes the subject/signifier of SCHEMA L into the order of language referenced by the former, "symbolic" "S. Just like its imaginary counterpart, the symbolic triangle bears a "name" which troubles the translation of signifiers, in the sense of translation from place to place. Another problem of the naming by letters is the identity of the hatched rhomboid included in the imaginary triangle. While one might expect 9? to mean the real, thereby completing the triumvirate of Lacanian registers, it designates instead the "field of reality," la realite 2s, opposed to le reel}10 Figure 3.15: The field of reality "Reality" can be read in its ordinary sense of what we take as real in our quotidian world, with the proviso that Lacan, in characteristic fashion, is here locating reality wholly within the imaginary, suggesting the close narcissistic and illusory connections between the two.111 110 Lacan, "Possible treatment," 197. "Le champ de la realite" ("Traitement possible," 552). 111 Muller and Richardson, Language and Lacan, 210. Boothby reads the field defined by R as the Lacanian real (Death and Desire, 117). This seems wrong. Lacan says that "the field of reality ... is sustained only by the extraction of the object, o," where o is already the objet a of fantasy ("Possible treatment," 223 nl8). "Le champ de la realite . . . ne se soutient que de l'extraction de l'objet a qui pourtant lui donne son cadre" ("Traitement 136 Reality may also give the name for the diagram, for its 9t is the only one in SCHEMA R. The schema is introduced by Lacan this way: ". . . que la relation symbolique puisse en quelque sorte recouvrir. (Voir le schema R),"112 suggesting that 9t may be inspired by recouvrir. That word is curiously translated as "correspond" by Sheridan,113 but a more Lacanian sense would be the conflation of "cover" and "hide." This schema leads onto another, named SCHEMA I. In 9? and 3 we have the initials of two-thirds of the Lacanian topology,114 but that symmetry is thwarted by the preceding SCHEMA JL. The topology might be recovered by letting L stand for Logos, as the embodiment of the symbolic (which would bring the phallus to SCHEMA L, inasmuch as Lacan explicitly aligns the phallic function with AoyoQ.115 But all this is very speculative, and mostly counterproductive—9t does indeed cover over itself, and any attempt to excavate its "meaning" must founder in either the obdurateness of its bar to signification or the continual dissemination of its signified. is, before any signification of a field or geometry, a letter and a signifier.116 In SCHEMA R, the domination of the signifier is given by its subtention of the fields of reality and the imaginary and by its larger area. The symbolic supports reality and the imaginary; it underwrites them both. Now if the condition of reality itself is the symbolic, then possible," 554 nl). The extraction of objet a, which partakes of the real, is the defining moment of the production of reality as the opposite of the real. 112 Lacan, "Traitement possible de la psychose," 552. 113 Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 196. 114 Lacan's Seminaire XXII, delivered 1974-1975 and as yet unpublished, is entitled, RSI (which is, among other things, a pun on heresie). 115 Lacan, "Signification of the Phallus," 291; "Signification du phallus," 695. 116 The intimacy between SCHEMA L and SCHEMA R is intuitive for the son of a father whose first language was Japanese, and whose phonetic L's are so close to his R's. 137 the fullness of the threat of Lacan's obscene language becomes more apparent. For Lacan, it seems there is a certain geometry of the subject, in which the unceasing transit of the signifying chain runs beneath the imaginary stability of her/his world. However, SCHEMA R can also be read as not binary, but ternary (Lacan having a constitutive aversion to binaries). The schema insists on the distinction between three fields. The first is the small white triangle at the top left, which is the field of the imaginary. Contrary to SCHEMA L, the ego is here identified as e, rather than o'. SCHEMA R does have an o', but it is not even located in the imaginary triangle. Instead, it is in the field of reality. Likewise, something called i has been sifted from the other qua o. If SCHEMA R does indeed elaborate SCHEMA L, it does so through a literal opening up of the latter. Once again, we have a translation—a movement—that necessarily transforms. These literal separations can be clarified by reading two graphical Lacans with each other: SCHEMA R and the second stage of the Graph of Desire. e Figure 3.16: The field of the imaginary 138 Figure 3.17: The second Graph of Desire117 In the graph, as in the schema, e designates the ego. The lowest horizontal line/vector shows the ego deriving from i(o). This is the imaginary process, in which the ego both arises and is maintained through an identification with the image of the other. Thus, i(o) designates imaginary identification qua generative process. However, in SCHEMA R, / is perhaps better read as image rather than as process. This imaginary /' is a very particular image: the Idealich, the ideal ego, "an ideal of narcissistic omnipotence constructed on the model of infantile narcissism."118 This being so, the narcissistic presumption of clear writing, and its illusion of mastery over language, whether in reading or writing, is schematized as a problem of the ego. According to Lacan, "The ego is structured exactly like a symptom. At the heart of the subject, it is only a privileged symptom, the human symptom par excellence, the mental illness of man."119 The privilege of certain forms of writing is therefore a particular symptom of the general sickness of subjective identification with a meconnaissance of an object. In the case of the "art of teaching," that object is the image of the text: meaning in all its full-blown and fatally seductive imaginariness. 117 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 306; "Subversion du sujet," 808. 118 Laplanche and Pontalis, Language of Psycho-Analysis, s.v. "ideal ego." 119 Lacan, Seminar I, 16. "Le moi est structure exactement comme un symptome. A l'interieur du sujet, il n'est qu'un symptome privilege. C'est le symptome humain par excellence, c'est la maladie mentale de l'homme" (Seminaire I, 22). 139 The graphical separation of o from /' is a measure of the difference between the object and its psychical image. It distinguishes the object from the narcissistic formation it engenders, such as a text and its imaginary meaning. This is why i participates in the imaginary triangle of SCHEMA R. As Lacan observes, / also designates V-l, the fundamental imaginary number.120 A first reading of the imaginary field of SCHEMA R would be a semi-historical one, a part-story of the developmental tale told by SCHEMA L. The imaginary field stages the mirror stage, in which the proto-subject infant S achieves her/his/its first psychical coalescence as an ego, e, through the captation of the image, z'.121 Figure 3.18: The mirror stage The imaginary triangle delineates the process by which e, the ego-as-an-image, succeeds S, the not-yet-subject, en route to the symbolic subject, the as-yet-missing S.122 This is the founding Lacanian myth. However, just as the imaginary process is irreducible to the mirror stage, its derivative narrative is not restricted to that archetype. That quintessential imaginary product, the ego, obviously persists past the dissolution of the mirror stage in the subjectivizing entry into language. The ego is sustained through the performative iteration of 120 Lacan, "Subversion of the subject," 318-9; "Subversion du sujet," 821. In mathematics, an imaginary-number is sometimes called an impossible quantity, and is explicitly distinguished from the real. This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Five. 121 Generally, captation means "a catching at." Lacan adopts the word from the French analysts Edouard Pichon and Odile Codet, and implies both captivation and capture by the image. 140 the imaginary process, through the successive and ongoing identification with succeeding objects. Given that the subject becomes such through language, it is both fitting and ironic that among the range of possible new objects is the objectification of language itself. The misrecognition of the text as meaning becomes the new Mother object for the champions of clarity (the Mother being the ultimate impossible object). As Miller states, any diachronic account must be complemented by a synchronic one. Just as the mirror stage is the template for an ongoing imaginary process of narcissism, projection, and captation, SCHEMA R depicts not only the mythicized formation of the ego, but its ongoing relation to the image and the impossible conviction of its own being, as a whole and undivided S. Graph II has more overlap with SCHEMA R than has been noted so far—both include the term I (that is, the I marking SCHEMA R's lower left corner). Figure 3.19: I and i The homology between / and I reflects the concordance of their associated functions: they imply two kinds of identification. While i(o) is imaginary identification—identification by the subject with an image of the other, o; I(O) is symbolic identification—identification by the subject with a place in the symbolic/cultural Other, O. "The I of the ideal can be in a 122 Since S coincides with Es in SCHEMA L, we could also say that e, the ego, succeeds Es, the id. However, Lacan has strong feelings about that particular succession. See Appendix 1 for a brief discussion of this issue. 141 superior and legitimate way constructed as a social and ideological function."123 Correspondingly, / is the Idealich or ideal ego and I is the Ich-ldeal or ego-ideal.124 Zizek observes, "the fact that should not be overlooked ... is that i(o) is always already subordinated to I(O): it is the symbolic identification . . . which dominates and determines the image, the imaginary form in which we appear to ourselves likable."125 In SCHEMA R, I coincides with o', which we have known previously as the ego. So o' may now be considered as that part of the ego that is bound up with the ego-ideal, which justifies its distancing from the ego as such, now designated by e.n6 At the apex of the imaginary triangle, we find S identified with phi. This marks the return of the phallus. In another troubling translation of the letter, the lower-case (p of the French graph becomes amplified into a capital O in English: Figure 3.20: The return of the phallus What may seem an inconsequential slippage is actually a matter of great import, for the case change signifies the leap between different registers. While (p is the imaginary phallus, O is its 123 Jacques-Alain Miller, "Les reponses du reel," in Aspects du malaise dans la civilisation (Paris: np, 1987), 21, quoted in Zizek, Sublime Object, 110. 124 Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 197; "Traitement possible," 553. 125 Zizek, Sublime Object, 108. This always-already domination of 1(0) over i(o) recapitulates Gallop's analysis of the mirror stage as a retroactive production of the symbolic order (in "Where to Begin?", in Reading Lacan). 126 Without getting lost in the technicalities which Lacan's fluid terminology constandy undermines, "the ego-ideal is a symbolic introjection, whereas the ideal ego is the source of imaginary projection. The ego-ideal is the signifier operating as ideal, an internalised plan of the law. . . . The ideal ego, on the other hand, ... is a promise 142 symbolic parallel.127 So when Lacan declares that the phallus is a signifier,128 he is referring only to O. What then becomes necessary is to make a little headway into the differences between the imaginary and symbolic phalli, despite Butler's contention that the phallus is a breakdown of the "very distinction between the symbolic and the imaginary."129 Lacan himself insists on distinguishing "between the principle of sacrifice, which is symbolic, and the imaginary function that is devoted to that principle of sacrifice, but which, at the same time, masks the fact that it gives it its instrument."130 Thus the phallus, across its symbolic and imaginary incarnations, is all about its own sacrifice, which is a way of repeating that the identity of the phallus is castration. The alignment of S and (p is a clue, on the condition that we take S in the sense of ineffable existence, that is, in the sense of being which must be sacrificed to meaning. Then cp, the imaginary phallus, is the name of the mythical fullness of being that is both fantasized and fantasized as being lost. In that immanence of loss, in its always-alreadyness, there is a threatened slide between cp and -cp.131 The phallus "is negativity in its place in the specular image."132 The imaginary process, symbolized in SCHEMA R by the triangular imaginary field, is then a hopeless attempt to recapture lost being through imaginary identification, and thereby to re-find an ego of plenty.133 of future synthesis towards which the ego tends, the illusion of unity on which the ego is built." (Evans, Dictionary, s.v. "ego-ideal"). The ego is a constructed object dually oriented by the ego-ideal and the ideal ego. 127 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 320; "Subversion du sujet," 823. 128 Lacan, "Signification of the Phallus," 285. "Le phallus est un signifiant" ("Signification du phallus," 690). 129 Buder, "Lesbian Phallus," 79. 130 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 319. "II faut done distinguer du principe du sacrifice, qui est symbolique, la fonction imaginaire qui s'y devoue, mais qui le voile du meme coup qu'elle lui donne son instrument" ("Subversion du sujet," 822). 131 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 320; "Subversion du sujet," 823. 132 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 319. "(Le phallus] est negative a sa place dans l'image speculaire" ("Subversion du sujet," 822). 133 That is, a "complete" ego, unalienated and unlacking. 143 This is why the quest for meaning, insofar as it is an imaginary enterprise, is dogged by the hopelessness of the lost. That quest is caught between its fervor for the phallus as the ultimate point de capiton (the impossible fixing of the field of meaning), and its denial of castration (the ineluctable lack constituent of language itself). "The phallus as imaginary is (on the psychic level) the bond with the Source of All, which, like the umbilical cord, must be severed in order to enter into human existence in the symbolic order."134 Hence, the entry into the symbolic—the birth of the subject—is precisely a castration. Thus, just as S and (p are aligned, so are S and O. The bar of barred S signifies that the subject is lacking, and O is the signifier of precisely that lack. In that sense, O is the necessary condition of the subject; O even bears the bar within itself. The replacement of (p by O in the English rendition of SCHEMA R is therefore an altogether appropriate slip. Behind any presence of imaginary being, (p, there is the looming absence/presence of symbolic lack, <J>. The imaginary phallus always anticipates the loss of itself in its symbolic counterpart. Nonetheless, the imaginary triangle lis better defined by the French Greek of cp to complete the vertices. 134 Muller and Richardson, Language and Lacan, 372. 144 The Name of the Father Is the Phallus The symbolic triangle ~S is configured by the triumvirate of I, M, and F (in French, I, M, and P). These assignments align, at least geometrically, with corresponding signifiers in SCHEMA L: M Figure 3.21: The symbolic triangle and three vertices of SCHEMA L Insofar as Lacan recasts the Oedipal passage as a symbolic one, the simplest rendering of the symbolic field is a schematization of the triangulated family romance, mapped onto SCHEMA L's triangulation of the variations of the other: I = infans, the child o' — form of the ego M = mother o - other as object F (P) = father O = the Other as the figure of cultural order However, this simplicity is unsustainable. The symbolic triangle must be situated in the larger "magic square," which means the inclusion of the missing position situated by the matheme S. And even when S is included, it is still missing: Lacan figures SCHEMA R as a kind of card game, in which S as the subject enters as the dummy, which means that it enters as the dead.135 Clement characterizes SCHEMA R in a slightly different way: There we have our little fellow [sic], then, standing on his own two feet, wearing his identity as a suit of armor, with a Z for a backbone, equipped with an illusory but 135 Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 196. "Le sujet d"autre part entre dans le jeu en tant que mort" ("Traitement possible," 552). 145 necessary imagination, and presiding over a card-game in which the players are always the same: his father, his mother, and his self-image. An inevitable fantasy-circus.136 Either way, the subject is anything but an independent player in the game, but rather one divided and playing against her/himself. I has already been identified as the ego-ideal. However, in the latter stages of the Graph of Desire, it is consistently the end-point of the reconfigured vector of the subject, whose transformed origin is now S. This schematizes how the subject, in its passage through the machinery of desire, arrives at the ego-ideal. In the Graph of Desire, I is expanded as the matheme I(O), which indicates that the ego-ideal is a function of the Other. 1(0) was defined above as symbolic identification, so the ego-ideal can be read as the subjective achievement of a recognized place in the symbolic order. F is not the father, but rather the Name-of-the-Father, le nom-du-pere. This the very embodiment of the imperative that everything turns on naming. The Name-of-the-Father is a symbolic father, with no necessary connection to any empirical father or any image of one. It is strictly a signifier. Nonetheless, Lacan's recourse to such a gendered signifier is more than a little troubling, especially as it is invoked in a nostalgic recollection of the social order of the past implicit in the figure of the father: "It is in the name of the father that we must recognize the support of the symbolic function which, from the dawn of history, has 136 Clement, Lives and Legends, 167. Voici done notre bonhomme, sur ses pieds, arme de son armure d'identite, avec son Z dans le dos, dote d'un imaginaire illusoire mais necessaire, et titulaire de ce petit jeu de cartes qui seront toujours les memes : son pere, sa mere, et l'image qu'il a de lui-meme. Un petit cirque fantasmatique inevitable. (Vies et legendes, 194) Given the implied movement between the vertices of the schema, it might be called, with equal justification, a fantasy circuit (circuitfantasmatique). Actually, the above re-anthropomorphization of the charted subject is not Clement's description of SCHEMA R. Rather, it refers to her own intermediate between SCHEMA L and SCHEMA R, which re-labels the former with the mathemes from the latter. Nevertheless, given the intimacy between these schemata, her description is still appropriate for SCHEMA R. 146 identified his person with the figure of law."137 The problem with the Name-of-the-Father is that it is too much like the symbolic phallus. In fact, the ultimate distinction between the two is doubtful.138 Once again, there is a slide between signifiers, although in this case, one can state the equivalence in a particularly fortuitous way: the Name-of-the-Father is the symbolic phallus. Regardless, the function of F / CD is relatively apparent: it is a third term, which, as a signifier, disrupts the imaginary unity figured by the child and the mother, and reincarnated in the will to meaning. At least three interrelated consequences are entailed. First, the child acquires a place in the Other via a symbolic identity, exemplified by the patronym, the nom du pere. Second, the child is barred access to the mother—the enforcement of the incest prohibition, the non du pen. Third, the child both gains participation in an ordered cultural system, and becomes subject to it. Then the symbolic triad I, M, and F relates the history of the resolution of the Oedipal passage through the entry into the symbolic order, correlative to the history of the mirror stage recorded in the imaginary triangle. The symbolic history of the symbolic triangle implies that it must have a synchronic parallel. To elaborate that synchronic "slope" of the symbolic, it is necessary to recall that the symbolic phallus is another name for the point de capiton, which means the latter has a fluid equivalence with the Name-of-the-Father. Miller reconfigures the elementary cell of the Graph of Desire in a revealing—and revealingly confusing—way. 137 Lacan, "Function and Field," 67, emphasis in original. "C'est dans le nom du pere qu'il nous faut reconnaitre le support de la fonction symbolique qui, depuis l'oree des temps historiques, identifie sa personne a la figure de la loi" ("Fonction et champ," 277, emphasis in original). »8 "While in the 1950s, Lacan spoke of the S2. . . as the Name-of-the-Father, and in the 1960s as the phallus, we can understand it most generally as [S(0)]" (Fink, Lacanian Subject, 58). 147 Figure 3.22: Miller's paternal metaphor as point de capiton At the position of the signified, Miller places nothing other than (p. Locating cp within the signifying chain appears to directly contradict the neat distinction already made between symbolic and imaginary phalli. Nevertheless, there is a partial continuity, inasmuch as Miller's (p is what he calls the positive phi of phallic signification.140 We have already established that there is an imaginary presence in the symbolic, that of the signified—meaning being the imaginary slope of language. Yet this further qualification seems to only make things worse, since the symbolic rendition of phi, O qua point de capiton, is defined as lacking any signified. "Phallic signification" must therefore refer to something other than the impossible fulfillment of a phallic sign. Accordingly, cp qua phallic signification is a way to emphasize that all signification is produced via the signifier O, through the latter's stabilization of the symbolic order, not sign by individuated sign, but in a whole field of signification. In other words, at any point in the life of the subject, all meaning depends upon the upholding of the Name-of-the-Father as the symbolic phallus. F, the Name-of-the-Father, in its implied coincidence with O (the symbolic phallus), is located at the same position as O (the Other). 139 This graph is credited to Miller, but appears in Diana Rabinovich, "Psychosis according to Bion: Or the limits of Kleinianism," Analysis 1 (1989), 47. 140 Rabinovich, "Psychosis," 44. 148 Hence the baseline binding I to F in SCHEMA R, which shows that the condition of the symbolic identity of the subject is the Name-of-the-Father.141 M is located in the field of reality of the schema. Lacan says that M is "the signifier of the primordial object."142 It is the signifier of that particular object of desire that must be irrevocably sacrificed with the instantiation of the non-du-pere. He goes on, "one may thus situate from i to M, that is in o, the extremities of the segments Si, So1, So2, So", SM, in which are placed the figures of the imaginary other in the relations of erotic aggression where they are realized."143 So", according to mathematical convention, represents a general case of the object of desire, and implies that there exist some indeterminate number of segments lying between S and M: Figure 3.23: The objects of desire To be more rigorous, in a mathematical way, about that convention, Lacan's sequence can be rewritten as Si, So1, So2, . . . So", . . . SM. So there are many objects of desire, each corresponding to a segment So", many objects of "erotic aggression," many objects that the subject wants to have and introject as part of itself (including the image i, for the moment, as 141 The fact that F can be replaced by O in Schema R underscores the seriousness of the problem of translation. When cp is translated as O in the English version, O is relocated at the point furthest away from its proper position. 142 Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 197. "le signifiant de l'objet primordial" ("Traitement possible," 553). 149 another object of the subject).144 The sequence of segments thus implies a different chaine lineaire of objects: i, o1, o2, . . . on,. . . M. Lacan's implication is that this is an ordered chain that proceeds from the image mistaken as oneself, i, to a primordial or ultimate object, M. One reason that the line between i and M is included in the field of reality is the because reality is where objects—the "stuff of the world—can be found. M is the terminus of this set of objects, which indicates its special status. Unlike the rest of those objects, it is not, strictly speaking, included in that set. Instead, it is the limit to the set or chain; it is an asymptote. This means that there is no "real" object, on, that can correspond to M, not even the mother as origin. In this way, M is an analogue of F qua Name-of-the-Father. M is an impossible object, one that is "primordial" in the sense of always-already lost, and therefore always-already lost to the chain of objects. The Lacanian name for such an object is, of course, objet a—which is why M and a coincide in the French version of SCHEMA R. This chain of objects situates M as a limit for the imaginary, inasmuch as it is a vertex for the imaginary triangle. But M is simultaneously a vertex of the symbolic triangle, so it inscribes a limit to the symbolic as well. More precisely, it represents two limits. M is what is sacrificed with the installation of the symbolic order via the Name-of-the-Father, so M marks, in a negative way, the inception of the symbolic. However, M qua objet a marks precisely that which is outside the symbolic, that which escapes it. M is thereby aligned with the chronological doubling of the Lacanian real as proposed by Miller, as that which 143 Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 197. "On peut ainsi situer de i a M, soit en a, les extremites des segments Si, Sa1, So2, Sa", SM, ou placer les figures de 1'autre imaginaire dans les relations d'agression erotique ou elles se realisent" ("Traitement possible," 553). 144 Having thus becomes a form of being. 150 preceded subjectification via entry into the symbolic and that which escapes that same structuring subjectification:145 The subject thus depends on both F, the Name-of-the-Father as the point de capiton of the symbolic universe, andM, the impossible figure of the mother as the primordial object that is the limit or outside of that universe. The phallocentrism of Lacan does not deny the strong dependence of Lacanian theory on the figure of the impossible real mother as the incarnation of objet a. This doubleness is crucial to the nature of S. It is easy to read the subordination of the subject to the signifier in Lacan—it is easy to arrive at the symbolic from the real and/or the imaginary—but it is too easy to stop there. The barring of the S in the barred S is also a barring of the signifier. The subject only obtains in its excess of the signifier—in the insistence of the object in the subject, objet a. And so it is to objet a that . . 146 we must turn. 145 Fink, Lacanian Subject, 27. 146 In turning to objet a, I admittedly leave the exegesis of SCHEMA L substantially incomplete. As mentioned above, the ecrit which elaborates SCHEMA L as SCHEMA R continues with another version, SCHEMA I ("Possible Treatment," 212; "Traitement possible," 571): Lacan produces SCHEMA I from SCHEMA R through a particular geometrical distortion, which is intended to image a psychotic disorganization/reorganization (Lacan, "Possible Treatment," 212). The very notion of distortion, however, implies some structural mutuality, and the three fields of SCHEMA R are still evident, as in M (REAL,) -> SYMBOLIC -> M (REAL2) Figure 3.24: SCHEMA I 151 objet a: Desire Must Be Taken Literally For Lacan, the subject is constituted through its alienation. Hence S is barred by the signifier, S: the subject emerges through the letter via its disappearance beneath that letter. Lacan says that this "moment of a 'fading' or eclipse of the subject... is closely bound up with the Spaltung or splitting that it suffers from its subordination to the signifier."147 To consider the specifics of this Spaltung, if the subject is split, what is it split into? One part of the answer is that insofar as being is sacrificed to meaning in alienation, it is meaning that must survive, in the guise of the part-subject we have already met: S. And if S denotes the part of the subject that is within the symbolic, the other part must be in excess of it. Lacan holds that the exorbitant part of the subject is object. Or rather, that special object, objet a. To extend Derrida's argument, perhaps il n'j a pas de hors-texte, but outside language itself is the Z backbone of SCHEMA L. This schema is one version of Lacan's revisiting of Freud's Schreber case, and suffers familiar problems in its translation from French to English (see Muller and Richardson, Lacan and Language, 257). This schema will not be addressed substantially here. It could be argued that it does not have the general implications of the others, inasmuch as it is particular to psychosis. Yet because of that particularity, SCHEMA I manifests certain broad theoretical concepts—notably, the function of the Name-of-the-Father— just as every theoretical generalization of orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis devolves from specific cases of neurosis or psychosis (Dora, the Wolf-Man, the Rat-man, Schreber, etc.). Lacan often claims a similar clinical grounding for his theorization, although the significance of his appropriation and transformation of academic sources (notably Saussure), makes that declaration moot at best. Nonetheless, the extrapolation from "pathology" to generality still obtains. As a relevant example, one of the psychoses is paranoia, and Lacan sees knowledge as being itself paranoid ("Mirror Stage," 2, 3; "Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis," in Ecrits: A Selection, 17; "Stade du miroir," 94, 95; "L'aggressivite en psychanalyse," in Ecrits, 111). This dissertation is structured around the significance of detail, especially graphic detail. Ultimately, then, this elision of SCHEMA I is both an arbitrary limitation and one more confession of inadequacy: SCHEMA I leads direcdy onto much more than this project can directiy engage. Lacan's Seminar TIT, a book-length analysis of psychosis, gives marked testimony to that fact. It should be noted, though, that SCHEMA I turns the diagonal between the ego and the object into an "asymptote" between the delusional ego, e, and the divine other, M, which bears on the gravity of the self-aggrandizement evident in any presumption to the possession of a text through understanding. 147 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 313. "Le moment d'un fading ou eclipse du sujet, etroitement lie a la Spaltung ou refente qu'il subit de sa subordination au signifiant" ("Subversion du sujet," 816, emphasis in original). 152 objet a: "We encounter [objet a] where the word fails."148 So S is split into the signifier and objet a. $ = S + a Zizek maintains that objet a is not merely outside of the symbolic, but rather a "leftover of the signifying representation."149 In other words, objet a is at once the outside of the symbolic and its direct consequence. Yet the paradox of objet a is the general paradox of the matheme: even as an object, it remains a letter.150 Zizek clarifies this assertion by casting the subject as being, at least in part, a real answer to a symbolic question—actually, the symbolic question: Che vuoi? "What do you want?" This question names the third stage of the Graph of Desire.151 Figure 3.25: Che Vuoi? 148 Zizek, Metastases ofEnjoyment, 178. 149 Slavoj Zizek, For they know not what they do: Enjoyment as a politicalfactor (London: Verso, 1991), 154. 150 "a, which I call 'object,' but which, nevertheless, is but a letter" (Lacan, SeminarXX, 28). "Le a, que j'appelle objet, mais qui n'est quand meme rien qu'une lettre" (Seminaire XX, 30). 151 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 313; "Subversion du sujet," 815. "Che vuoi?' is taken from Diable ameoureux (1772), a novel by Jacques Cazotte (1719-1792) (Muller and Richardson, Lacan and Language, 405), which is a tale of the phantasms engendered by imaginary desire (Frelick, personal communication, 9 April 1998). 153 This third graph grows out of the second one by sprouting a great question mark, which then dilates to loom over all. Che vuoi? Lacan says that this question is a question of the Other; hence it is eminently symbolic.152 At the same time, the question aims outside of itself. "Che vuoi?' can be translated as, "What is your desire?" Which immediately means that the prior question must be posed: "What is desire?" Lacan writes much on desire, but, as Bowie notes, he always writes it in "the purest quicksilver . . . presented in its full volatility, in a shimmer of inconsequential semi-definitions."153 If Bowie is right—and he is one of the best of Lacan's commentators—then the question of desire is answered so many times by Lacan that no answer can possibly suffice: Desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction, nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the subtraction of the first from the second, the very phenomenon of their splitting (Spaltung).154 Desire is that which is manifested in the interval that demand hollows within itself, inasmuch as the subject, in articulating the signifying chain, brings to light the want-to-be, together with the appeal to receive the complement from the Other, if the Other, the locus of speech, is also the locus of this want.155 Desire is a relation of being to lack. This lack is the lack of being properly speaking. It isn't the lack of this or that, but lack of being whereby the being exists.156 Man's desire is the desire of the Other 157 152 Lacan, "Subversion of the Subject," 312; "Subversion du sujet," 815. 153 Bowie, Lacan, 130-131. 154 Lacan, "Signification of t