Slavoj Zizek HOW TO READ Available now How to Read Darwin by Mark Ridley How to Read Derrida by Penelope Deutscher How to Read Freud by Josh. The parallax view / Slavoj Zizek. p. cm. — (Short circuits). Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index. ISBN (alk. paper). 1. Philosophy. Slavoj Zizek All righ ts reserved. 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 Verso. UK: 6 Meard Street, London V1F oEG. US: 20 Jay Street, Suite , Brookyn.

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ideology in Slavoj Žižek. George I. García and Carlos Gmo. Aguilar Sánchez -. Universidad de Costa Rica. Editor's Note: this translation was kindly provided by . PDF | Slavoj Žižek is one of the world's most important contemporary public intellectuals. Much of his popularity stems from his constant and recurring references. It is a pleasure to welcome Slavoj Žižek back for I think the fourth time for a LIVE Slavoj Žižek, in case you didn't know, is everyone's favorite.

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What if Angleton was a mole justifying his activity by the search for a mole for himself, in the real-life version of Kevin Costner's No Way Out plot? In both cases, the ultimate deception assumed the guise of truth itself: Therein resides the truth of the paranoiac stance: The acuity of this solution - and the ulti- mate condemnation of Angleton's paranoia - is that it doesn't matter if Angleton was just sincerely duped by the idea of a Monster Plot, or if he was the mole: The deception resided in our failure to include in the list of suspects the very idea of globalized suspicion.

Recall the old story about a worker suspected of stealing: At last they got the point: This reflexive twist pertains to communication as such: This is the first thing to bear in mind about the way the unconscious operates: You will be told that it's you yourselves. Or per- haps that it isn't you. But that's not the point. Means are involved here, emotional means. In my view, the Chorus is people who are moved.

Therefore, look closely before telling yourself that emotions are engaged in this purification. They are engaged, along with others, when at the end they have to be pacified by some artifice or other. But that doesn't mean to say that they are directly engaged.

(PDF) Slavoj Žižek - How to Read Lacan | Jelena Veljkovic - ruthenpress.info

On the one hand, they no doubt are, and you are there in the form of a material to be made use of; on the other hand, that material is also completely indifferent. When you go to the theatre in the evening, you are preoccupied by the affairs of the day, by the pen that you lost, by the cheque that you will have to sign the next day. You shouldn't give yourselves too much credit.

Your emotions are taken charge of by the healthy order displayed on the stage. The Chorus takes care of them. The emotional commentary is done for you. In some societies, the same jj[ole is played by so-called 'weepers' women hired to cry at funerals: Something similar happens with the prayer wheels of Tibet: J attach a piece of paper with the prayer written on it to the wheel, turn it around mechanically or, even more practically, let the wind or water turn it round , and the wheel is praying for me - as the Stalinists would have put it, 'objectively' I am praying, even if my thoughts are occupied with the most obscene sexual fantasies.

To dispel the illusion that such things can happen only in 'primitive' societies, think about the canned laughter on a TV show, when the reaction of laughter to a comic scene is included in the soundtrack itself.

Even if I do not laugh, but simply stare at the screen, tired after a hard day's work, I nonetheless feel relieved after the show, as if the soundtrack has done the laughing for me. I no longer merely stare at the screen, I increasingly interact with it, entering into a dialogic relationship with it from choosing the programmes, through participating in debates in a Virtual Community, to directly determining the outcome of the plot in so-called 'interactive narratives'.

Those who praise the democratic potential of the new media generally focus on precisely these features: The other side of this interactivity is interpassivity. The obverse of interacting with the object instead of just pas- sively following the show is the situation in which the object itself takes from me, deprives me of, my own passivity, so that it is the object itself that enjoys the show instead of me, reliev- ing me of the duty to enjoy myself.

Almost every VCR aficionado who compulsively records movies myself among them is well aware that the immediate effect of owning a VCR is that one effectively watches fewer films than in the good old days of a simple TV set.

One never has time for TV, so, instead of losing a precious evening, one simply tapes the film and stores it for future viewing for which, of course, there is almost never time. VCR stands here for the big Other, the medium of symbolic registration. It seems that, today, even pornography functions more and more in an interpassive way: X-rated movies are no longer primarily the means to excite the user for his or her solitary masturbatory activity - just staring at the screen where 'the action takes place' is suf- ficient, it is enough for me to observe how others enjoy in the place of me.

Another example of interpassivity: The situation here is similar to, but nonetheless different from, that of canned laughter: His compulsive laughter is similar to those sounds like 'Oops! The mystery of this last case is that it is also possible for another person who merely witnesses our blunder to say 'Oops!

The function of the 'Oops! Recall the typical tricky situation in which all the people in a closed group know some dirty detail and they also know that all the others know it , but when one of them inadvertently blurts out this detail, they nonetheless all feel embarrassed - why? If no one learned anything new, why do they all feel embar- rassed? Because they can no longer pretend that act as if they do not know it - in other words, because now the big Other knows it. Sometimes, when we inadvertently disturb the appearance, the thing itself behind appearance also falls apart.

This interpassivity is the opposite of Hegel's notion of List der Vernunft cunning of Reason , where lam active through the Other: I can remain passive, sitting comfortably in the back- ground, while the Other does it for me. Instead of hitting the metal with a hammer, the machine can do it for me; instead of turning the mill wheel myself, water can do it: I achieve my goal by way of interposing between me and the object on which I work another natural object.

The same can happen at the interpersonal level: It remains outside of the conflict, letting human passions do the work for it in their mutual struggles.

The historical necessity of the passage from republic to empire in ancient Rome realized itself by using as its instrument Julius Caesar's passions and ambitions. In the case of inter- passivity, on the contrary, I am passive through the Other. I concede to the Other the passive aspect enjoying of my experience, while I can remain actively engaged I can continue to work in the evening, while the VCR passively enjoys for me; I can make financial arrangements for the deceased's fortune while the weepers mourn for me.

This brings us to the notion of false activity: Therein resides the typical strategy of the obsessional neurotic: Say, in a group situation in which some tension threatens to explode, the obsessional talks all the time in order to prevent the awkward moment of silence that would compel the par- ticipants to openly confront the underlying tension. In psychoanalytic treatment, obsessional neurotics talk constantly, inundating the analyst with anecdotes, dreams, insights: Even in much of today's progressive politics, the danger is not passivity but pseudo-activity, the urge to be active and to participate.

People intervene all the time, attempting to 'do something', academics participate in meaningless debates; the truly difficult thing is to step back and withdraw from it. Against such an interpassive ptode, in which we are active all the time to make sure that pothing will really change, the first truly critical step is to with- Mtaw into passivity and to refuse to participate. This first step Hears the ground for a true activity, for an act that will effec- tively change the coordinates of the scene.

Slavoj Žižek Collected eBook Bibliography

The very fact that things are decided in advance - that our attitude to Fate is that of a passive victim — prompts us to engage in incessant frenetic activity. We act all the time in order to sustain the big Other's in this case: God's fixity. Such a displacement of our most intimate feelings and attitudes onto some figure of the Other is at the very core of Lacan's notion of the big Other; it can affect not only feelings but also beliefs and knowledge - the Other can also believe and know for me.

In order to designate this displacement of the subject's knowledge onto another, Lacan coined the notion of the subject supposed to know. In the TV series Columbo, the crime — the act of murder — is shown in detail in advance, so that the riddle to be solved is not whodunit, but how the detective will establish the link between the deceit- ful surface the 'manifest content' of the crime scene, to use the term from Freud's theory of dreams and the truth about the crime its 'latent thought': The success of Columbo attests to the fact that the true source of interest in the detective's work is the process of deciphering itself, not its result.

Even more crucial than this feature is the fact that not only do we, the spectators, know in advance who did it since we directly see it , but, inexplicably, the detective Columbo him- self immediately knows it: His subsequent efforts do not concern the riddle 'Who did it?

This strange reversal of the normal order has theological connotations: In a slightly different way, this is how the psychoanalyst as the 'subject supposed to know' functions in the treatment: The analyst is not an empiricist, probing the patient with different hypotheses, searching for proofs; instead, he embodies the absolute certainty which Lacan compares to the certainty of Descartes's cogito ergo sum of the patient's unconscious desire.

For Lacan, this strange transposition of what I already know in my unconscious onto the figure of the analyst is at the core of the phenomenon of transference in the treatment: I can only arrive at the unconscious meaning of my symptoms if I presuppose that the analyst already knows their meaning.

The difference between Freud and Lacan is that, while Freud focused on the psychic dynamics of transference as an inter- subjective relationship the patient transfers onto the figure of LACAN TURNS A PRAYER WHEEL 29 fie analyst his feelings about his father, so that when he seems j talk about the analyst, he 'really' talks about his father , Acan extrapolated from the empirical wealth of transferential henomena the formal structure of the presupposed meaning.

The more general rule that transference exemplifies is that, toften, the invention of some new content can only occur in 'jthe illusory form of returning to the past original truth. To jreturn to the subject of Protestantism: Luther accomplished the greatest revolution in the history of Christianity thinking that he was merely unearthing the truth obfuscated by cen- turies of Catholic degeneration.

The same goes for national. What they are not aware of is how their 'return to' constitutes the very object to which it returns: As every historian knows, Scottish kilts in the form they are known today were invented in the course of the nineteenth century. What many readers of Lacan fail to notice is how the figure of the subject supposed to know is a secondary phenomenon, an exception, something that emerges against the more fun- damental background of the subject supposed to believe, which is the constitutive feature of the symbolic order.

But I have been told that some of our ancestors actually did believe that. Are we not doing the same with our children? Is not this need to find another who 'really believes' also that which propels us in our need to stigmatize the other as a religious or ethnic fundamentalist? In an uncanny way, some beliefs always seem to function at a distance: How, then, is belief possible?

How is this vicious cycle of deferred belief cut short? The point, of course, is that, for the belief to be oper- ative, the subject who directly believes need not exist at all: Seeing a horseshoe on Bohr's door, a surprised visitor remarked that he didn't believe in the superstition that it brought luck. Bohr snapped back: With regard to religion, we no longer 'really believe', we just follow various religious rituals and behaviours as part of a respect for the 'life- style' of the community we belong to non-believing Jews may obey kosher rules 'out of respect for tradition'.

This is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as barbarians', as anti-cultural, as a threat to culture — they dare ito take their beliefs seriously.

It may seem that we are dealing here with the phenomenon described long ago by Blaise Pascal in his advice to non- believers who would like to believe, but cannot bring themselves to accomplish the leap of faith: You find your belief too oppressing in its raw immediacy?

Then kneel down, act as if you believe, and you will get rid of your belief — you will no longer have to believe yourself, since your belief will be objectified in your act of praying! To believe - to believe directly, without mediation — is an oppressive burden which, happily, can be offloaded onto another by the practice of a ritual. When I believe through another, or have my beliefs externalized in the ritual I mechanically follow, when I laugh by means of canned laughter, or do the work of mourning through weepers, then I accomplish a task that concerns my inner feelings and beliefs without really mobi- lizing these inner states.

Therein resides the enigmatic status of what we call 'politeness': How are you today? Yet it would still be wrong to designate my act as hypocritical, since in another way I do mean it: What this means is that the emotions I perform through the mask the false persona that I adopt can in a strange way be more authentic and truthful than what I assume that I feel in myself.

When I construct a false image of myself which stands for me in a virtual community in which I participate in sexual games, for example, a shy man often assumes the screen persona of an attractive promiscuous woman , the emotions I feel and feign as part of my screen persona are not simply false: Suppose that, deep down, I am a sadistic pervert who dreams of beating up other men and raping women: In this case, doesn't it follow that my true self is much closer to what I adopt as a fictional screen persona, while the self of my real-life interactions is a mask?

Paradoxically, it is the very fact that I am aware that, in cyberspace, I move within a fiction that allows me to express my true self there - this is what, among other things, Lacan means when he claims that 'truth has the structure of a fiction'. This fictional status of truth also allows us to delineate succinctly what is false about 'reality' TV shows: The standard disclaimer in a novel 'The characters in this text are a fiction; any resemblance to real-life characters is purely acci- dental' holds also for the participants of reality soaps: The best comment on reality TV is the ironic version of this disclaimer recently used by a Slovene author: This functioning involves the structure of what Freud called 'fetishist disavowal': T know very well that things are the way I see them, that the person in front of me is a corrupted weakling, but I nonetheless treat him respectfully, since he wears the insignia of a judge, so that when he speaks, it is the law itself that speaks through him.

This is where the cynic who believes only hard facts falls short: This paradox is what Lacan aims at with his Les non-dupes errent Those in the know are in error: What is missed by the cynic who believes only his eyes is the efficiency of the symbolic fiction, the way this fiction structures our reality. This gap between my direct psychological identity and my symbolic identity the symbolic mask or title I wear, defining what I am for and in the big Other is what Lacan for com- plex reasons that we can here ignore calls 'symbolic castration', with the phallus as its signifier.

In the traditional rituals of investiture, the objects that symbolize power also put the subject who acquires them into the posi- tion of exercising power — if a king holds the sceptre in his hands, and wears the crown, his words will be taken as royal.

Such insignia are external, not part of my nature: I don them; I wear them to exercise power. As such, they 'castrate' me, by introducing a gap between what I immediately am and the function that I exercise I am never complete at the level of my function. This is what the infamous 'symbolic castration' means: Castration is the gap between what I immediately am and the symbolic title that confers on me a certain status and authority.

In this precise sense, far from being the opposite of power, it is synonymous with power; it is what gives power to me. So one has to think of the phallus not as the organ that immediately expresses the vital force of my being, but as a kind of insignia, a mask that I put on in the same way that a king or judge puts on his insignia - phallus is a kind of organ without a body which I put on, which gets attached to my body, but never becomes an organic part, forever sticking out as its incoherent, excessive prosthesis.

We are dealing here with what Louis Althusser called 'ideological interpellation': Hysteria emerges when a subject starts to question or to feel discomfort in his or her symbolic identity: What do you see in me that causes you to desire me in that way?

Its topic is the progressive questioning by the king of his own kingship - What is it that makes me a king? What remains of me if the symbolic title 'king' is taken away? I have no name, no title, No, not that name was given me at the font, But 'tis usurp'd: In the Slovene translation, the second line is rendered as: The problem for the hysteric is how to distinguish what he or she is his true desire from what others see and desire in him or her.

This brings us to another of Lacan's formulas, that 'Man's desire is the other's desire. Envy and resentment are a constitutive component of human desire, as Augustine knew so well — recall the passage from his Confessions, often quoted by Lacan, which describes a baby jealous of his brother sucking the mother's breast: It became pale, and cast bitter looks on its foster-brother.

Rawls proposes a terrifying model of a society in which hierarchy is directly legitimized in natural properties, missing the simple lesson of a tale about a Slovene peasant who is told by a good witch: T think the test of all our policies should be: So the good thing about the 'irrationality' of success or failure in free-market capitalism recall the old motif of the market as the modern version of an imponderable Fate is that it allows me precisely to perceive my failure or success as 'undeserved', contingent.

The very injustice of capitalism is a key feature that makes it tolerable to the majority I can accept my failure much more easily if I know that it is not due to my inferior qualities, but to chance. Lacan shares with Nietzsche and Freud the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy: The demand for jus- tice is ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the other should be curtailed, so that everyone's access to enjoyment will be equal.

The necessary outcome of this demand, of course, is asceticism: However, one should not forget that today, in our allegedly permissive society, this asceticism assumes precisely the form of its opposite, of the generalized injunc- tion 'Enjoy! In today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their damaging proper- ties: What about virtual sex as sex with- out sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties on our side, of course as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics, up to today's toler- ant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of Other deprived of its Otherness the idealized Other who dances fas- cinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while features like wife-beating remain out of sight?

Virtual reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product divested of its substance: Everything is permitted, you can enjoy everything — on condition that it is stripped of the substance that makes it dangerous. Jenny Holzer's famous truism 'Protect me from what I want' renders in a very precise way the fundamental ambigu- ity of the hysterical position.

It can either be read as an ironic reference to the standard male chauvinist wisdom that a woman left to herself gets caught up in self-destructive fury - she needs to be protected from herself by benevolent male domination: At first sight, the Western intervention may seem to have answered the implicit call of the Balkan nations: What, however, if we read the imagined Balkan call 'Protect us from what we want!

To accept fully this inconsistency of our desire, to accept fully that it is desire itself that sabotages its own liberation, is Lacan's bitter lesson. This brings us back to the subject supposed to know, who is the hysteric's ultimate Other, the target of his or her con- stant provocations.

What the hysteric expects from the subject supposed to know is to provide the solution that will resolve the hysterical deadlock, the final answer to 'Who am I?

What do I really want? For a no doubt mad reason, in the same way as it is madness every time we are obliged to bring in signs supplementary to those given by language. Here the mad reason is the following. You are my wife - after all, what do you know about it? You are my master - in reality, are you so sure of that? What creates the founding value of those words is that what is aimed at in the message, as well as what is manifest in the pretence, is that the other is there qua absolute Other.

Absolute, that is to say he is recognized, but is not known. In the same way, what constitutes pretence is that, in the end, you don't know whether it's a pretence or not. Essentially it is this unknown element in the alterity of the other which characterizes the speech relation on the level on which it is spoken to the other.

What, then, is the big Other? While there is a limited truth in this solution, it obfuscates the central mystery of the big Other: The exemplary case is divinity: In a similar way, we talk about History asking something of us, of our Cause calling us to make the necessary sacrifice.

What we get here is an uncanny subject who is not simply another human being, but the Third, the subject who stands above the interaction of real human individuals — and the terrifying enigma is, of course, what does this impenetrable subject want from us theology refers to this dimension as that of Deus absconditus? For Lacan, we do not have to evoke God to get a taste of this abyssal dimension; it is present in every human being: This is why the Other's question - that comes back to the subject from the place from which he expects an oracular reply - which takes some such form as 'Che vuoi?

Even when my desires are transgressive, even when they violate social norms, this very transgression relies on what it transgresses. Paul knows this very well when, in the famous passage in Romans, he describes how the law gives rise to the desire to violate it. Since the moral edifice of our societies still revolves around the Ten Commandments - the law that Paul referred to - the experience of our liberal- permissive society confirms Paul's insight: And, ultimately, 'freedom of religious belief - the right to worship false gods.

There is, however, another meaning of 'man's desire is the Other's desire': Not only does the other address me with an enigmatic desire, it also confronts me with the fact that I myself do not know what I really desire, with the enigma of my own desire. For Lacan, who follows Freud here, this abyssal dimension of another human being - the abyss of the depth of another personality, its utter impenetrability - first found its full expression in Judaism, with its injunction to love your neigh- bour as yourself.

Can I really rely on him? Who is he? The core of this presence, of course, is the neighbour's desire, an enigma not only for us, but also for the neighbour. For this reason, Lacan s 'Che vuoi? What is it in you that makes you so unbearable not only for us, but also for yourself, that you yourself obviously do not control? What Levinas obfuscates is the monstrosity of the neighbour, a monstrosity on account of which Lacan applies to the neighbour the term Thing das Ding , used by Freud to designate the ultimate object of our desires in its unbearable intensity and impenetra- bility.

One should hear in this term all the connotations of horror fiction: Think about Stephen King's Tlie Shining, in which the father, a modest failed writer, gradually turns into a killer beast who, with an evil grin, goes on to slaughter his entire family. That is to say, the ultimate function of the Law is not to enable us not to forget the neighbour, to retain our proximity to the neigh- bour, but, on the contrary, to keep the neighbour at a proper distance, to shield us against the monstrosity next door.

Stephen Mitchell, New York: Vintage, There exists a creature that is perfectly harmless-, when it passes before your eyes, you hardly notice it and immediately forget it again. But as soon as it somehow, invisibly, gets into your ears, it begins to develop, it hatches, and cases have been known where it has pene- trated into the brain and flourished there devastatingly, like the pneumococci in dogs which gain entrance through the nose This creature is Your Neighbor. It is for this reason that finding oneself in the position of the beloved is so violent a discovery, even traumatic: Lacan s definition of love — 'Love is giving something one doesn't have.

The first reaction, preceding the pos- sible positive reply, is that something obscene, intrusive, is being forced upon us.

In the middle of Guillermo Arriaga's 21 Grams, Paul, who is dying of a weak heart, gently declares his love to Cristina, who is traumatized by the recent death of her husband and two young children.

The next time they meet, Cristina bursts out into a complaint about the violent nature of declaring love: I haven't spoken to anyone for months and I barely know you and I already need to talk to you And there's something the more I think about the less I understand: Answer me, because I didn't like you saying that at all. You can't just walk up to a woman you barely know and tell her you like her. You don't know what she's going through, what she's feeling.

I'm not married, you know. I'm not anything in this world. I'm just not anything. The problem for her was, on the contrary, that she did want it — the point of her complaint was: What right did he have to stir up her desire? It is from this abyss of the Other as Thing that we can understand what Lacan means by what he calls the 'founding word', statements that confer on a person some symbolic title and make him or her what they are proclaimed to be, consti- tuting their symbolic identity: Performatives are, at their most fundamental, acts of symbolic trust and engagement.

When I tell someone 'You are my master! Lacan's point is that we need this recourse to performa- tivity, to the symbolic engagement, precisely and only in so far as the other whom we confront is not only my mirror-double, someone like me, but also the elusive absolute Other who ultimately remains an unfathomable mystery. Back in the s, in the era of 'structuralism' theories based on the notion that all human activity is regulated by unconscious symbolic mechanisms , Louis Althusser launched the notorious formula of'theoretical anti-humanism', allow- ing, demanding even, that it be supplemented by practical humanism.

In our practice we should act as humanists, respecting others, treating them as free persons with full dig- nity, as creators of their world. However, in theory we should always bear in mind that humanism is an ideology, the way we spontaneously experience our predicament, and that a true knowledge of humans and their history should treat individ- uals not as autonomous subjects, but as elements in a structure that follows its own laws.

In contrast to Althusser, Lacan advo- cates that we recognize practical anti-humanism, an ethics that goes beyond the dimension of what Nietzsche called 'human, all too human', and confronts the inhuman core of humanity. This means an ethics that fearlessly stands up to the latent monstrosity of being human, the diabolic dimension that erupted in the phenomena broadly covered by the label 'Auschwitz'. Perhaps the best way to describe the status of this inhuman dimension of the neighbour is with reference to Kant's phi- losophy.

In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant introduced a key distinction between negative and indefinite judgement: We can either deny a predicate 'the soul is not mortal' , or affirm a non-predicate 'the soul is non-mortal'. The dif- ference is exactly the same as the one, known to every reader of Stephen King, between 'he is not dead' and 'he is undead'.

And the same goes for nhuman': And perhaps one should risk the hypothesis that this is what changes with the Kantian philosophical revolution: Which is why, in German Idealism, the metaphor for the core of subjectivity is Night, the 'Night of the World', in contrast to the Enlightenment notion of the Light of Reason fighting the darkness around.

In the pre- Kantian universe, when a hero goes mad he is deprived of his humanity, and animal passions or divine madness take over. With Kant, madness signals the unconstrained explosion of the very core of a human being.

How are we to avoid the traumatic impact of being too directly exposed to this terrifying abyss of the Other? How are we to cope with that hazardous encounter with the Other's desire? For Lacan, fantasy provides an answer to the enigma of the Other's desire. The first thing to note about fantasy is that it literally teaches us how to desire: This role of fantasy hinges on the dead- lock in our sexuality designated by Lacan in his paradoxical statement 'There is no sexual relationship' - there is no uni- versal guarantee of a harmonious sexual relationship with one's partner.

Every subject has to invent a fantasy of his or her own, a 'private' formula for the sexual relationship - the relationship with a woman is possible only inasmuch as the partner adheres to this formula. A couple of years ago, Slovene feminists raised a hue and cry against a poster for sun lotion issued by a large cosmetics factory depicting a number of suntanned female rears clad in clinging swimsuits and accompanied by the slogan 'To each her own factor. There is nothing uplifting about our awareness of this factor: However, the thing to add at once is that the desire staged in fantasy is not the subject's own, but the others desire, the desire of those around me with whom I interact: What do they see in me?

His father, pother, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, fight their Battles in his name; the mother sends a message to the father Birough her care for the son. While being well aware of this ble, the child cannot fathom just what kind of object he is for jfhese others, just what kind of games they are playing with fcim. Fantasy provides an answer to this enigma: This intersubjective character of fantasy is discernible even in the most elementary cases, like the one, reported by Freud, of his little daughter fantasizing about eating a strawberry cake.

What we have here is by no means the simple case of the direct hallucinatory satisfaction of a desire she wanted a cake, didn't get it, so she fantasized about it. The crucial feature is that, while tucking into a strawberry cake, the little girl noticed how her parents were deeply satisfied by the sight of her enjoyment.

What the fantasy of eating a strawberry cake was really about was her attempt to form an identity of the one who fully enjoys eating a cake given by the parents that would satisfy her parents and make her the object of their desire. Since sexuality is the domain in which we get closest to the intimacy of another human being, totally exposing ourselves to him or her, sexual enjoyment is real for Lacan: This is why a sexual relation, in order to function, has to be screened through some fantasy.

Ryan's Daughter: However, the role of the absurd sound accompaniment is profoundly ambiguous: A small mental experi- ment makes this point clear: In short, the paradox of the scene from Ryan's Daughter is that the waterfall sound itself functions as the phantasmatic screen that filters out the Real of the sexual act. The singing of the International in Reds plays exactly the same role as the waterfall sound in Ryan's Daughter, the role of the phantasmatic screen that enables us to sustain the Real of the sexual act.

Reds integrates the October Revolution - for Hollywood the most traumatic historical event - into the Hollywood universe by staging it as the metaphorical back- ground for the sexual act between the movies main characters, John Reed played by Warren Beatty himself and his lover Diane Keaton.

In the film, the October Revolution takes place immediately after a crisis in their relationship. When I construct a false image of myself which stands for me in a virtual community in which I participate in sexual games, for example, a shy man often assumes the screen persona of an attractive promiscuous woman , the emotions I feel and feign as part of my screen persona are not simply false: Suppose that, deep down, I am a sadistic pervert who dreams of beating up other men and raping women: In this case, doesn't it follow that my true self is much closer to what I adopt as a fictional screen persona, while the self of my real-life interactions is a mask?

Paradoxically, it is the very fact that I am aware that, in cyberspace, I move within a fiction that allows me to express my true self there - this is what, among other things, Lacan means when he claims that 'truth has the structure of a fiction'. This fictional status of truth also allows us to delineate succinctly what is false about 'reality' TV shows: The standard disclaimer in a novel 'The characters in this text are a fiction; any resemblance to real-life characters is purely acci- dental' holds also for the participants of reality soaps: The best comment on reality TV is the ironic version of this disclaimer recently used by a Slovene author: This functioning involves the structure of what Freud called 'fetishist disavowal': T know very well that things are the way I see them, that the person in front of me is a corrupted weakling, but I nonetheless treat him respectfully, since he wears the insignia of a judge, so that when he speaks, it is the law itself that speaks through him.

This is where the cynic who believes only hard facts falls short: This paradox is what Lacan aims at with his Les non-dupes errent Those in the know are in error: What is missed by the cynic who believes only his eyes is the efficiency of the symbolic fiction, the way this fiction structures our reality. This gap between my direct psychological identity and my symbolic identity the symbolic mask or title I wear, defining what I am for and in the big Other is what Lacan for com- plex reasons that we can here ignore calls 'symbolic castration', with the phallus as its signifier.

In the traditional rituals of investiture, the objects that symbolize power also put the subject who acquires them into the posi- tion of exercising power — if a king holds the sceptre in his hands, and wears the crown, his words will be taken as royal. Such insignia are external, not part of my nature: I don them; I wear them to exercise power.

As such, they 'castrate' me, by introducing a gap between what I immediately am and the function that I exercise I am never complete at the level of my function. This is what the infamous 'symbolic castration' means: Castration is the gap between what I immediately am and the symbolic title that confers on me a certain status and authority.

In this precise sense, far from being the opposite of power, it is synonymous with power; it is what gives power to me. So one has to think of the phallus not as the organ that immediately expresses the vital force of my being, but as a kind of insignia, a mask that I put on in the same way that a king or judge puts on his insignia - phallus is a kind of organ without a body which I put on, which gets attached to my body, but never becomes an organic part, forever sticking out as its incoherent, excessive prosthesis.

We are dealing here with what Louis Althusser called 'ideological interpellation': Hysteria emerges when a subject starts to question or to feel discomfort in his or her symbolic identity: What do you see in me that causes you to desire me in that way? Its topic is the progressive questioning by the king of his own kingship - What is it that makes me a king?

What remains of me if the symbolic title 'king' is taken away? I have no name, no title, No, not that name was given me at the font, But 'tis usurp'd: In the Slovene translation, the second line is rendered as: The problem for the hysteric is how to distinguish what he or she is his true desire from what others see and desire in him or her.

This brings us to another of Lacan's formulas, that 'Man's desire is the other's desire. Envy and resentment are a constitutive component of human desire, as Augustine knew so well — recall the passage from his Confessions, often quoted by Lacan, which describes a baby jealous of his brother sucking the mother's breast: It became pale, and cast bitter looks on its foster-brother.

Rawls proposes a terrifying model of a society in which hierarchy is directly legitimized in natural properties, missing the simple lesson of a tale about a Slovene peasant who is told by a good witch: T think the test of all our policies should be: So the good thing about the 'irrationality' of success or failure in free-market capitalism recall the old motif of the market as the modern version of an imponderable Fate is that it allows me precisely to perceive my failure or success as 'undeserved', contingent.

The very injustice of capitalism is a key feature that makes it tolerable to the majority I can accept my failure much more easily if I know that it is not due to my inferior qualities, but to chance. Lacan shares with Nietzsche and Freud the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy: The demand for jus- tice is ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the other should be curtailed, so that everyone's access to enjoyment will be equal. The necessary outcome of this demand, of course, is asceticism: However, one should not forget that today, in our allegedly permissive society, this asceticism assumes precisely the form of its opposite, of the generalized injunc- tion 'Enjoy!

In today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their damaging proper- ties: What about virtual sex as sex with- out sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties on our side, of course as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics, up to today's toler- ant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of Other deprived of its Otherness the idealized Other who dances fas- cinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while features like wife-beating remain out of sight?

Virtual reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product divested of its substance: Everything is permitted, you can enjoy everything — on condition that it is stripped of the substance that makes it dangerous. Jenny Holzer's famous truism 'Protect me from what I want' renders in a very precise way the fundamental ambigu- ity of the hysterical position.

It can either be read as an ironic reference to the standard male chauvinist wisdom that a woman left to herself gets caught up in self-destructive fury - she needs to be protected from herself by benevolent male domination: At first sight, the Western intervention may seem to have answered the implicit call of the Balkan nations: What, however, if we read the imagined Balkan call 'Protect us from what we want!

To accept fully this inconsistency of our desire, to accept fully that it is desire itself that sabotages its own liberation, is Lacan's bitter lesson.

This brings us back to the subject supposed to know, who is the hysteric's ultimate Other, the target of his or her con- stant provocations. What the hysteric expects from the subject supposed to know is to provide the solution that will resolve the hysterical deadlock, the final answer to 'Who am I?

What do I really want? For a no doubt mad reason, in the same way as it is madness every time we are obliged to bring in signs supplementary to those given by language.

Here the mad reason is the following. You are my wife - after all, what do you know about it? You are my master - in reality, are you so sure of that? What creates the founding value of those words is that what is aimed at in the message, as well as what is manifest in the pretence, is that the other is there qua absolute Other. Absolute, that is to say he is recognized, but is not known.

In the same way, what constitutes pretence is that, in the end, you don't know whether it's a pretence or not. Essentially it is this unknown element in the alterity of the other which characterizes the speech relation on the level on which it is spoken to the other. What, then, is the big Other? While there is a limited truth in this solution, it obfuscates the central mystery of the big Other: The exemplary case is divinity: In a similar way, we talk about History asking something of us, of our Cause calling us to make the necessary sacrifice.

What we get here is an uncanny subject who is not simply another human being, but the Third, the subject who stands above the interaction of real human individuals — and the terrifying enigma is, of course, what does this impenetrable subject want from us theology refers to this dimension as that of Deus absconditus?

For Lacan, we do not have to evoke God to get a taste of this abyssal dimension; it is present in every human being: This is why the Other's question - that comes back to the subject from the place from which he expects an oracular reply - which takes some such form as 'Che vuoi? Even when my desires are transgressive, even when they violate social norms, this very transgression relies on what it transgresses.

Paul knows this very well when, in the famous passage in Romans, he describes how the law gives rise to the desire to violate it. Since the moral edifice of our societies still revolves around the Ten Commandments - the law that Paul referred to - the experience of our liberal- permissive society confirms Paul's insight: And, ultimately, 'freedom of religious belief - the right to worship false gods. There is, however, another meaning of 'man's desire is the Other's desire': Not only does the other address me with an enigmatic desire, it also confronts me with the fact that I myself do not know what I really desire, with the enigma of my own desire.

For Lacan, who follows Freud here, this abyssal dimension of another human being - the abyss of the depth of another personality, its utter impenetrability - first found its full expression in Judaism, with its injunction to love your neigh- bour as yourself. Can I really rely on him? Who is he? The core of this presence, of course, is the neighbour's desire, an enigma not only for us, but also for the neighbour.

For this reason, Lacan s 'Che vuoi? What is it in you that makes you so unbearable not only for us, but also for yourself, that you yourself obviously do not control?

What Levinas obfuscates is the monstrosity of the neighbour, a monstrosity on account of which Lacan applies to the neighbour the term Thing das Ding , used by Freud to designate the ultimate object of our desires in its unbearable intensity and impenetra- bility.

One should hear in this term all the connotations of horror fiction: Think about Stephen King's Tlie Shining, in which the father, a modest failed writer, gradually turns into a killer beast who, with an evil grin, goes on to slaughter his entire family. That is to say, the ultimate function of the Law is not to enable us not to forget the neighbour, to retain our proximity to the neigh- bour, but, on the contrary, to keep the neighbour at a proper distance, to shield us against the monstrosity next door.

Stephen Mitchell, New York: Vintage, There exists a creature that is perfectly harmless-, when it passes before your eyes, you hardly notice it and immediately forget it again. But as soon as it somehow, invisibly, gets into your ears, it begins to develop, it hatches, and cases have been known where it has pene- trated into the brain and flourished there devastatingly, like the pneumococci in dogs which gain entrance through the nose This creature is Your Neighbor.

It is for this reason that finding oneself in the position of the beloved is so violent a discovery, even traumatic: Lacan s definition of love — 'Love is giving something one doesn't have. The first reaction, preceding the pos- sible positive reply, is that something obscene, intrusive, is being forced upon us.

In the middle of Guillermo Arriaga's 21 Grams, Paul, who is dying of a weak heart, gently declares his love to Cristina, who is traumatized by the recent death of her husband and two young children.

The next time they meet, Cristina bursts out into a complaint about the violent nature of declaring love: I haven't spoken to anyone for months and I barely know you and I already need to talk to you And there's something the more I think about the less I understand: Answer me, because I didn't like you saying that at all. You can't just walk up to a woman you barely know and tell her you like her. You don't know what she's going through, what she's feeling. I'm not married, you know.

I'm not anything in this world. I'm just not anything. The problem for her was, on the contrary, that she did want it — the point of her complaint was: What right did he have to stir up her desire?

It is from this abyss of the Other as Thing that we can understand what Lacan means by what he calls the 'founding word', statements that confer on a person some symbolic title and make him or her what they are proclaimed to be, consti- tuting their symbolic identity: Performatives are, at their most fundamental, acts of symbolic trust and engagement.

When I tell someone 'You are my master! Lacan's point is that we need this recourse to performa- tivity, to the symbolic engagement, precisely and only in so far as the other whom we confront is not only my mirror-double, someone like me, but also the elusive absolute Other who ultimately remains an unfathomable mystery. Back in the s, in the era of 'structuralism' theories based on the notion that all human activity is regulated by unconscious symbolic mechanisms , Louis Althusser launched the notorious formula of'theoretical anti-humanism', allow- ing, demanding even, that it be supplemented by practical humanism.

In our practice we should act as humanists, respecting others, treating them as free persons with full dig- nity, as creators of their world. However, in theory we should always bear in mind that humanism is an ideology, the way we spontaneously experience our predicament, and that a true knowledge of humans and their history should treat individ- uals not as autonomous subjects, but as elements in a structure that follows its own laws.

In contrast to Althusser, Lacan advo- cates that we recognize practical anti-humanism, an ethics that goes beyond the dimension of what Nietzsche called 'human, all too human', and confronts the inhuman core of humanity. This means an ethics that fearlessly stands up to the latent monstrosity of being human, the diabolic dimension that erupted in the phenomena broadly covered by the label 'Auschwitz'.

Perhaps the best way to describe the status of this inhuman dimension of the neighbour is with reference to Kant's phi- losophy.

In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant introduced a key distinction between negative and indefinite judgement: We can either deny a predicate 'the soul is not mortal' , or affirm a non-predicate 'the soul is non-mortal'. The dif- ference is exactly the same as the one, known to every reader of Stephen King, between 'he is not dead' and 'he is undead'. And the same goes for nhuman': And perhaps one should risk the hypothesis that this is what changes with the Kantian philosophical revolution: Which is why, in German Idealism, the metaphor for the core of subjectivity is Night, the 'Night of the World', in contrast to the Enlightenment notion of the Light of Reason fighting the darkness around.

In the pre- Kantian universe, when a hero goes mad he is deprived of his humanity, and animal passions or divine madness take over. With Kant, madness signals the unconstrained explosion of the very core of a human being. How are we to avoid the traumatic impact of being too directly exposed to this terrifying abyss of the Other?

How are we to cope with that hazardous encounter with the Other's desire? For Lacan, fantasy provides an answer to the enigma of the Other's desire. The first thing to note about fantasy is that it literally teaches us how to desire: This role of fantasy hinges on the dead- lock in our sexuality designated by Lacan in his paradoxical statement 'There is no sexual relationship' - there is no uni- versal guarantee of a harmonious sexual relationship with one's partner.

Every subject has to invent a fantasy of his or her own, a 'private' formula for the sexual relationship - the relationship with a woman is possible only inasmuch as the partner adheres to this formula. A couple of years ago, Slovene feminists raised a hue and cry against a poster for sun lotion issued by a large cosmetics factory depicting a number of suntanned female rears clad in clinging swimsuits and accompanied by the slogan 'To each her own factor.

There is nothing uplifting about our awareness of this factor: However, the thing to add at once is that the desire staged in fantasy is not the subject's own, but the others desire, the desire of those around me with whom I interact: What do they see in me?

His father, pother, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, fight their Battles in his name; the mother sends a message to the father Birough her care for the son. While being well aware of this ble, the child cannot fathom just what kind of object he is for jfhese others, just what kind of games they are playing with fcim.

Fantasy provides an answer to this enigma: This intersubjective character of fantasy is discernible even in the most elementary cases, like the one, reported by Freud, of his little daughter fantasizing about eating a strawberry cake. What we have here is by no means the simple case of the direct hallucinatory satisfaction of a desire she wanted a cake, didn't get it, so she fantasized about it. The crucial feature is that, while tucking into a strawberry cake, the little girl noticed how her parents were deeply satisfied by the sight of her enjoyment.

What the fantasy of eating a strawberry cake was really about was her attempt to form an identity of the one who fully enjoys eating a cake given by the parents that would satisfy her parents and make her the object of their desire.

Since sexuality is the domain in which we get closest to the intimacy of another human being, totally exposing ourselves to him or her, sexual enjoyment is real for Lacan: This is why a sexual relation, in order to function, has to be screened through some fantasy. Ryan's Daughter: However, the role of the absurd sound accompaniment is profoundly ambiguous: A small mental experi- ment makes this point clear: In short, the paradox of the scene from Ryan's Daughter is that the waterfall sound itself functions as the phantasmatic screen that filters out the Real of the sexual act.

The singing of the International in Reds plays exactly the same role as the waterfall sound in Ryan's Daughter, the role of the phantasmatic screen that enables us to sustain the Real of the sexual act. Reds integrates the October Revolution - for Hollywood the most traumatic historical event - into the Hollywood universe by staging it as the metaphorical back- ground for the sexual act between the movies main characters, John Reed played by Warren Beatty himself and his lover Diane Keaton.

In the film, the October Revolution takes place immediately after a crisis in their relationship. By delivering a fierce revolutionary oration to the turbulent crowd, Beatty mesmerizes Keaton; the two exchange desirous glances, and the cries of the crowd serve as a metaphor for the rebirth of passion. The key mythical scenes of the revolution street demonstrations, the storming of the Winter Palace alternate with the depiction of the couple's lovemaking, against the background of the crowd singing the International.

Instead of the proverbial 'Close your eyes and think of England! In his recently discovered secret diaries, Wittgenstein reports that, while masturbating at the Front during World War I, he was thinking about mathematical problems. And it is also the same in reality, with so-called real sex: Any contact with a real, flesh-and-blood other, any sexual pleasure that we find in touching another human being, is not something evident, but something inherendy traumatic, and can be sustained only in so far as this other enters the subject's fantasy frame.

What, then, is fantasy at its most elementary? The onto- logical paradox, scandal even, of fantasy resides in the fact that it subverts the standard opposition of 'subjective' and 'objective': Fantasy rather belongs to the 'bizarre category of the objectively subjective — the way things actually, objectively seem to you even if they don't seem that way to you'. In March , Donald Rumsfeld engaged in a brief bout of amateur philosophizing about the relationship between the known and the unknown: These are things we know that we know.

There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know.

But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. If Rumsfeld thinks that the main dangers in the confrontation with Iraq are the 'unknown unknowns', the threats from Saddam or his successors about which we do not even suspect what they may be, what we should say in reply is that the main dangers are, on the contrary, the 'unknown knowns', the disavowed beliefs and suppositions we are not even aware of adhering to ourselves, but which nonetheless determine our acts and feelings.

His point is not that my subjective experience is regulated by objective iinconscious mechanisms that are decentred with regard to my Self-experience and, as such, beyond my control a point Inserted by every materialist , but, rather, something much jnore unsettling: I am deprived of even my most intimate jjjsubjective experience, the way things 'really seem to me', Ideprived of the fundamental fantasy that constitutes and guar- antees the core of my being, since I can never consciously experience it and assume it.

According to the standard view, the dimension that is con- stitutive of subjectivity is that of phenomenal self- experience: I am a subject the moment I can say to myself: The Freudian subject of the unconscious emerges only when a key aspect of the subject's self- experience his fundamental fantasy becomes inaccessible to him, primordially repressed.

At its most radical, the unconscious is the inaccessible phenom- enon, not the objective mechanisms that regulate my phenomenal experience. So, in contrast to the commonplace that we are dealing with a subject the moment an entity dis- plays signs of inner life of a phantasmatic experience that 54 FROM Che vuoi? It is this inaccessibility that makes the subject 'empty', as Lacan put it.

We thus obtain a relationship that totally subverts the stan- dard notion of the subject who directly experiences himself via his inner states: In other words, psychoanalysis allows us to formulate a paradoxical phenomenology without a subject - phenomena arise that are not phenomena of a subject, appearing to a subject. This does not mean that the subject is not involved here - it is but precisely in the mode of exclusion, as divided, as the agency that is not able to assume the very core of his or her inner experience.

This paradoxical status of fantasy brings us to the ultimate point of the irreconcilable difference between psychoanalysis and feminism, that of rape and the masochistic fantasies sustaining it.

For standard feminism, at least, it is an axiom that rape is a violence imposed from without: I The practical conclusion from this is that while some women really may daydream about being raped, this fact not lOnly in no way legitimizes the actual rape, but renders it all the more violent.

Let us take two women: There is a gap that for ever separates the phantasmatic kernel of the subject's being from the more superficial modes of his or her symbolic or imaginary identifications.

It is never possible for me to fully assume in the sense of symbolic integration the phantasmatic kernel of my being: And perhaps the forced actualization in social reality itself of the phantasmatic kernel of my being is the worst, most humiliating kind of violence, a violence that undermines the very basis of my identity of my self-image.

So, when Freud writes: A couple of years ago, a charming commercial for a beer was shown on British TV. It started with the familiar fairy tale encounter: However, the story isn't over: For the woman, the point is that her love and affection signalled by the kiss turn a frog into a beautiful man, a full phallic pres- ence; for the man, it is to reduce the woman to a partial object, the cause of his desire.

On account of this asymmetry, there is no sexual relationship: What we can never obtain is the natural couple of the beautiful woman and man: That is to say, each of the two subjects is involved in his or her own subjective fantasizing - the girl fantasizes about the frog who is really a young man, the man about the girl who is really a bottle of beer.

The association with the famous surrealist 'dead donkey on a feiano' is here fully justified, since the surrealists also practised fcuch over-identification with incongruous fantasies.

And is his not the ethical duty of today s artist - to confront us with 'the frog embracing the bottle of beer when we daydream of embracing our beloved? In other words, to stage fantasies that are radically desubjectivized, that cannot ever be enacted by the subject?

This brings us to a further crucial complication: In the opposition between dream and reality, fantasy is on the side of reality, and it is in dreams that we encounter the traumatic Real — it is not that dreams are for those who cannot endure reality, reality itself is for those who cannot endure the Real that announces itself in their dreams. This is the lesson Lacan draws from the famous dream reported by Freud in his Interpretation of Dreams, dreamt by the father who falls asleep while keeping watch over his son's coffin.

In this dream, his dead son appears to him, pronouncing the terrible appeal: So why did the father wake up? Was it because the smell of the smoke got too strong, so that it was no longer possible to prolong his sleep by containing the event in an improvised dream?

Lacan proposes a much more interesting reading: If the function of the dream is to prolong sleep, if the dream, after all, may come so near to the reality that causes it, can we not say that it might correspond to this reality without emerging from sleep? The question that arises, and which indeed all Freud's previous indications allow us here to produce, is - What is it that wakes the sleeper?

Is it not, in the dream, another reality? Vater, siehst du derm nicht, Father, can't you see, dass ich verbrenne, that I am burning?

Is there not more reality in this message than in the noise by which the father also identifies the strange reality of what is hap- pening in the room next door? Is not the missed reality that caused the death of the child expressed in these words?

The scenario was as follows: In contemporary art, we often encounter brutal attempts to 'return to the real', to remind the spectator or reader that he is perceiving a fiction, to awaken him from the sweet dream. This gesture has two main forms that, although opposed, amount to the same effect. In literature or cinema, there are especially in postmodern texts self-reflexive reminders that what we are watching is a mere fiction, as when the actors on screen address us directly as spectators, thus ruining the illusion of the autonomous space of the narrative fiction, or the writer directly intervenes in the narrative through ironic LACAN WITH EYES WIDE SHUT 59 jlpmments.

In theatre, there are occasional brutal events that pyvaken us to the reality of the stage like slaughtering a chicken mn set.

Instead of conferring on these gestures a kind of IBrechtian dignity, perceiving them as versions of alienation, tone should rather denounce them for what they are: What we confront here is the fundamental ambiguity of the f notion of fantasy: After Tom Cruise confesses his night's adventure to Nicole Kidman and they are both confronted with the excess of their fantasizing, Kidman - upon ascertaining that now they are fully awake, back into the day, and that, if not for ever, at least for a long time, they will stay there, keeping the fantasy at bay - tells him that they must do something as soon as possible.

The nature of the passage a Vacte 'passage to the act' as the false exit, the way to avoid con- fronting the horror of the phantasmatic netherworld, was never so bluntly stated in a film: It is as if her message is 'Let's fuck right now, and then we can stifle our teeming fantasies, before they overwhelm us again. For Lacan, the ultimate ethical task is that of the true awakening: ALIEN Whenever the membranes of the egg in which the foetus emerges on its way to becoming a new-born are broken, imagine for a moment that something flies off, and that one can do it with an egg as easily as with a man, namely the hommelette, or the lamella.

The lamella is something extra-flat, which moves like the amoeba. It is just a little more complicated. But it goes everywhere. And as it is something - I will tell you shortly why - that is related to what the sexed being loses in sexuality, it is, like the amoeba in relation to sexed beings, immortal - because it survives any division, and scis- siparous intervention.

And it can turn around. This is not very reassuring. But suppose it comes and envelops your face while you are quietly asleep I can't see how we would not join battle with a being capable of these properties.

But it would not be a very convenient battle. This lamella, this organ, whose characteristic is not to exist, but which is nevertheless an organ - I can give you more details as to its zoologi- cal place - is the libido. It is the libido, qua pure life instinct, that is to say, immortal life, irrepressible life, life that has need of no organ, simplified, inde- structible life. It is precisely what is subtracted from the living being by virtue of the fact that it is subject to the cycle of sexed reproduc- tion.

And it is of this that all the forms of the objet a that can be enumerated are the representatives, the equivalents. Every word has a weight here, in this deceptively poetic description of the mythic creature called by Lacan the 'lamella' which can vaguely be translated as 'manlet', a con- densation of'man' and 'omelet' , an organ that gives body to libido.

Lacan imagines the lamella as a version of what Freud called 'partial object': I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life! A lamella is indivisible, indestruc- tible, and immortal - more precisely, undead in the sense this term has in horror fiction: As Lacan puts it, the lamella does not exist, it insists: This blind, indestructible insistence of the libido is what Freud called the 'death drive', and here we should bear in mind that 'death drive' is, paradoxically, the Freudian name for its very opposite, for the way immortality appears within psychoanalysis: Freud equates the death drive with the so-called 'compulsion-to-repeat', an uncanny urge to repeat painful past experiences that seems to outgrow the natural limitations of the organism affected by it and to persist even beyond the organism's death.

The link between death drive and partial object is clearly portrayed in Andersen's fairy tale 'The Red Shoes', the story of a girl who puts on magic shoes that move on their own and compel her to dance on and on. The shoes stand for the girl's unconditional drive, which persists, ignoring all human limitations, so that the only way the poor girl can get rid of them is to cut offher legs.

For any avid cinema-goer, it is hard to avoid the feeling that one has seen all this before. Lacan's description not only reminds one of the nightmare creatures in horror movies; more specifically, it can be read, point by point, as describing a movie shot more than a decade after he wrote those words, Ridley Scott's Alien. The monstrous alien in the film so closely resembles Lacan's lamella that it is as if Lacan somehow saw the film before it was even made.

Everything Lacan talks about is there: The alien is libido as pure life, indestructible and immortal. To quote Stephen Mulhall: The alien's form of life is just, merely, simply life, life as such: Beyond representation as it is in its monstrosity, the lamella nonetheless remains within the domain of the Imaginary, although as a kind of image that endeavours to stretch the imagination to the very boundary of the unrepresentable.

The lamella inhabits the intersection of the Imaginary and the Real: Poe's maelstrom and Kurtz's 'horror' at the end of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, to Pip from Melville's Moby-Dick who, cast to the bottom of the ocean, experiences the demon God: Carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes.

Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs.

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