OPEN LETTER TO LEE EDELMAN (CONTD):LACAN-FOR PEOPLE STRUGGLING(INCLUDING MYSELF!); AN ATTEMPT AT UNDERSTANDING, IN A SIMPLIFIED FORM. BY STEVEN BENSON

Lacan(1901-81), psycho-analyst-influenced by Malarme(Symbolist poet) and Surrealism….

I am VERY indebted to Appignanesi and Garratt et al, “Introducing PostModernism”(1995/1999) for the following!:

Lacan said;

1.the unconscious is structured as a language.

2.the self is a fiction

3. the unconscious functions by signs, metaphors, symbols and , in this sense it is like a language

He applied Saussure’s theory of linguistics(sign=signifier+ referring to signified/meaning) to explicate how the individual mind copes with, and is mediated BY,the prevalent(hegemonic)social order. So, it is of particualar significance/importance to minority groups…

OK, I get that link, reductive though my (self) explanation be.

So, in my OWN words, I would interpret/apply it/extrapolate it thus:not only can we be(unconsciously via our unthinking internalisation of the signifieds of the signifiers, set by the established world)be abject/passive VICTIMS of the hegemonic social order, but we can also- a la the mind/self-widening of Queer theory/feminisms etc-TRANSFORM or add to, or mediate this pre-set “order”; in our MINDS,at least, we can, because, as I have often written , in practice it is often extremely fraught , for various complex social-psychological reasons I have investigated, and which are, to me, usually, too depressing and all-encompassing to dwell on{best just focus on the alternatives once you know the enemy!}. OR, NO.. Not just in our individual minds: we can intermingle socially and/or intellectually with other minds who either HAVE or are willing to deprogramme themselves from the tyranny of all the hegemonic modes of thought and being; thus we are not alone, we form alliances.

The especial relevance to minority groups(and in this context I am primarily concerned with lgbt/queer people) is again obvious.

Back to Lacan…(again, mainly via Appignanesi et al):

Lacan replaces Freud’s id, ego and super-ego with (linguitic/meaning) structures of

1. THE IMAGINARY.(phase 1):aka the “mirror phase”.Thus, a.an infant between 6 and 18 months discovers itself in the mirror as an image which APPEARS as total/ coherent; but is it?

b.The infant Imaginary phase PRECEDES{sic} language and contributes to the way we acquire it(paraphrase of Lacan)

c. the sense of the (infant) self, therefore, arrives EXternally(that is, from a mirror image or a distorting Imaginary)

d. BUT, its a MIS-recognition, a false persuasion of the Self, which remains with us as an IDEAL ego for our whole life. A sort of “trailing clouds of glory”(sans its metaphorical overlay) to which we ever have hiraeth to return throughout our lives. Though I would add that an obvious caveat is that it depends on how happy, or not, our infancy was[though , of course, we can still yearn to return there in an unconscious, masochistic way if it was UN happy and even act that out throughout our whole lives!].

e. A mirror thus gives the first signified(meaning) PRE words/language;ie(I think!;help!) there are NO SET meanings at this Imaginary stage; it is an unformed/PRE-formed open- to -meaning meaning/”meaning”; but Lacan says it is a false self{why? I do not get this bit; it is a self PRE the corruption of the Symbolic hegemonic order…perhaps just unformed is better way of looking at it..it could go towards hegemonic structure  or non-hegemonic structure!..}So, are we, unconsciously distorting our self-image, creating an imaginary/wilfully IMAGINED self -image in order to survive/ feel good re ,for example, our physical/psychological self-image, ie an IDEALIZED (self) perception of how we are/would like to be? I think, personally, though this  will indubitably have its roots in early life, it will be developed much further in later life, perhaps more consciously , for instance :”I look gorgeous, I look Ok, I am ugly…”when we look in the material mirror or in our own psychologcially self-constructed mental one. This will, self-evidently, depend too on our individual levels of self-worth in infancy and any grafts we can put  on them later in life, especially if the base-line is frail.

f. Lacan says we are all imprisoned in a hall of mirrors world of signifiers with false referrents(signifieds/meanings){where does this leave instrumental music with its, relative, referrent-free status vis-a vis language?!}

2.THE SYMBOLIC ORDER

EASY! the hegemonic, (hetero)-normativizing prevalent social/cultural/religious/political order into which kids happen to be borne, e g blood family, cultural ritual, gender roles, sexual orientation roles,even language itself(obviously also at the less deep level of regional dialect, a specific language of a country/culture, class-based variants in language, reproductive blood family-based language, cf Edelman).

Again, my thinking becomes somewhat disjointed again here…as Appignanesi et al go on to explain/”explain” that the identity assumed at the Imaginary phase is finally constructed {ie completed}by the Symbolic Order, and we go off into freudian incest-relationship material . Then language is the realm of the Father{symbolic and actual biological}and belongs to the patriarchal order of the phallus; well, as a pro-feminist gay man, I accept and believe that bit!The phallus, as in feminist thought, is the ultimate symbolic wielder of male, privileged, white, heterosexual power; and is the ultimate determinant of fixed/normative gender roles and sexual orientations, for example, to which strap-ons and drag-kings are a riposte!(as in gender queer self-idendification)

{Gosh, I am going to finish this post….)

The male child, then, represents symbolic power of women, by Lacan’s theories.BECAUSE he owns this especially powerful signifier, viz, a penis(of which the signified is the PHALLUS, the emblem of sexual power and patriarchal dominace)he can thus exert this dominance (over women, and , somehow, HETEROpatriarchy-in a way I can’t at the moment tease out- over gay/bisexual men.) Lacan posits that the Phallus imposes the Symbolic order via language(see above).

Ok, so I can see the useage feminist theoreticians made of Lacan because, if you believe what Lacan puts forward,women are excluded/marginalised (as “other”/abject) because they are, according to Lacan,  SEEN as unable to escape from Stage one, the Imaginary.

______________________________________

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS:

1. Who gets to the “Real”(third) phase then? ; and what is real and to whom?my personal construct of this stage would be it is the escpae from both the Imaginary and Symbolic orders, or, if thus chosen, the mediation/bridging of those orders, by BECOMING A (non abject) SUBJECT, developing one’s own individual psychological way of seeing the world, within (usually) a social context, (if this is within a non-hegemonic realm). We are back, circuitously, to safe(r) spaces;a concrete example(at last!): geographical places and, thus,emotional SPACES that are lgbt only, or gay-friendly( as in previous posts thereon). So our hegemonic world(Symbolic order) produces pre-determined meanings(=signifieds, but via signifiers, in the form of language(s)) but we can override these and become real/”Real”, ie whole individuals, especially, and probably ONLY,when we have a conducive non-mainstream social context(eg a gay group, especially at the coming out stage of our lives)within which to exist/function. In other words, we create our own meanings/seek out contexts to (attempt to) fulfil our real selves. This rings true on a personal level; as a gay man, I was really struggling, in my early twenties, to be psychologically whole UNTIL I found and partly created a world/context which AFFIRMED that sexual identity.

Appignanesi et al put it like this(in lacanian terms):”… structuralism says that meaning is not an independent representation of the real world grasped by an already constituted{sic}subject but part of a sytem that produces{sic}meaning, the world and the possibility of a subject”[the individual self or collection of sub-selves](p.94 op cit). This subject is, to me,the TowardsUtopian, non-abject, affirmative, individuated , self-realised one, who has (largely) accepted themselves, and constructed an alternative world view(macrocosmically, on the anti Symbolic order front) and an alternative self-affirming psychology(microcosmically).

But then-back to queer theory- if identity, in many different ways is unfixed/in flux,then we can choose to go a step further and embrace that fluidity and the unknown. So I can see Lacan’s role in establishing a non-hegemonic/non-normative sense of self, but only if we believe in the self(because Lacan says it is fictive!)- and-somehow-there I feel I am starting to get back to Edelman, where we are going one, dangerous(:)) step further by undermining, to an extent, the very ground “mainstream” queer theory is built on, ie community/equality in difference…

(to be continued-hopefully:P- when I have recovered from Lacan, grossly simplified and somewhat jumbled in exposition!)

Advertisements

About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s