Key influences: Freud, Lacan, Derrida, Foucault
Key concerns: meaning and madness
Investigates meaning through “its opposite: madness” [the author’s definition, not mine]
More concerned with the role of the cinema spectator than with the depiction of madness on screen
Useful quotes from the book:
Don’t we analysts know that the normal subject is essentially someone who is placed in the position of not taking the greater part of his internal discourse seriously? Observe the number of things in normal subjects, including yourselves, that it’s truly your fundamental occupation not to take seriously. The principal difference between you and the insane is perhaps nothing other than this. And this is why for many, even without their acknowledging it, the insane embody what we would be led to if we began to take things seriously. So let us, without too great a fear, take our subject seriously.
(Lacan 1993: 123–4)
“To take cinema seriously is not just to work up the analytic side of things; becoming a spectator involves taking what is being seen on the screen seriously, that is, as if it is something real, something meaningful. […]when we become spectators of cinema there is something beyond the interplay between reality and pretence. There is something that dissolves the distinction between film and what could be called the everyday existence of reality.” p7
“In a lecture on madness, Foucault argues that the opportunity to contest (his concern is with the social order in general) has been lost in the contemporary age.5 For Foucault, this is tied up with the relationship of knowledge and madness, and it is what motivates much of his thinking. Foucault wanted to trace the process so he could investigate social institutions. Elsewhere he states: ‘Thus, in order for the big centres of internment to be opened at the end of the seventeenth century, it was necessary that
a certain knowledge of madness be opposed to nonmadness, of order to disorder, and it’s this knowledge that I wanted to investigate’ (Foucault 2000: 261–2). Part of the argument here is that becoming a spectator of cinema – and recall that this does not
simply mean just watching films, but of taking things seriously – is one of the ways the populace has continued the contesting of reason and order through a type of madness. This becomes part of cinema’s seductive qualities.” P9
p12 “Foucault’s sense of transgression (via Bataille) is interesting in this regard:
Transgression is an action that involves the limit, that narrow zone of a line where it displays a flash of its passage, but perhaps also its entire trajectory, even its origin; it is likely that transgression has its entire space in the line it crosses. The play of limits and transgression seems to be regulated by a simple obstinacy: transgression incessantly crosses and recrosses a line that closes up behind it in a wave of extremely
short duration, and thus it is made to return once more right to the horizon of the uncrossable.
(Foucault 2000: 73)”
Summarise Foucault p13:
“The two orders of representing madness then become either the reconfigured madness (sexuality as mad, possession as mad, excess as mad, vapours and bile of madness, madness as it breaks the law or threatens the ethical order) or that which is othered as madness (other cultures, other meanings, other sensibilities, other representational systems).”
“If it were possible to represent madness then all those other things that are seen as beyond the representational field (such as ecstatic pleasure, freedom, impossibility itself) may also come into focus.” p14
His central idea throughout the book: “the impossibility of representing madness outside of madness” p15
“Cultural paranoia acknowledges the need to colonise the unconscious in order to control, and represents the fear of this. A key to the processes of ideological power in these terms is the ascribing of madness to difference.” P19
P19: the figure of the wanderer/outsider associated to madness because “represent the existence outside the stabilising/stable realm of the cultural ideal of the family and its social structure.”
P23: Foucault, intertextual referencing of madness within art (works quote/copy each other)
P24: “Even something like the Surrealist and Dadaist attempts to create a mad cinema fail at this level because they must necessarily commence from the Symbolic (that is, Lacan’s version of the cultural order) and continue to borrow from it.”
OK, but isn’t the symbolic the realm of language whereas the imaginary is the realm of images ? In that case, the surrealist attempts through cinema are not as vain as their attempts through writings (simulated madness in “Immaculate Conception”).
P30: “In this delusive attachment to himself, man generates his madness like a mirage. The symbol of madness will henceforth be that mirror which, without reflecting anything real, will secretly offer the man who observes himself in it the dream of his own presumption. Madness deals not so much with truth and the world, as with man and whatever truth about himself he is able to perceive.”
(Foucault 1987: 27)16
“one of the implications is that there is knowledge of the self to be found in the images of madness.”
P31 “madness as reducing the mad person to a bestial state, or madness as illumination”
P32: ‘The ultimate language of madness is that of reason, but the language of reason enveloped in the prestige of the image, limited to the locus of appearance which the image defies. It forms, outside the totality of images and the universality of discourse, an abusive, singular organization whose insistent quality constitutes madness’ (Foucault 1987: 95)
P33: “This is the relationship of morality as a cause of the madness (for example, Breaking the Waves (von Trier 1996), Psycho, and Sister, My Sister (Meckler 1994)) as an inversion of the idea that madness is a challenge to the moral order. The oppressive moral order is positioned as causal, or the acts of madness are seen as the
reason for such moral rigour to prevent such madness.”
P41 Fear of madness
“it not simply the fear of madness, its unpredictability, the implied sense of violence, the disruptive force, that carries this aspect of the representation. It is also the fear that in madness exists not the distant, removed other, but the self. One of the things that make the representations of the excesses of passion so compelling is that it is a version of emotions that the spectator has expressed and experienced before. And in this self-recognition lies the fear of that excess and madness.”
“This is the fear of suburbia gone mad, of what is known and understandable suddenly becoming irrational and threatening.”
There is at least one spot in every dream at which it is unplumbable – a navel, as it were, that is its point of contact with the unknown’ and ‘There is often a passage in even the most thoroughly interpreted dream which has to be left obscure; this is because we become aware during the work of interpretation that at that point there is a tangle of dream-thoughts which cannot be unraveled and which moreover adds nothing to the contents of the dream. This is the dream’s navel, the spot where it reaches down into the unknown.
(Freud 1985: 186; 671) p46
P52: scopophilic (the obsessed pleasure of looking) and epistemophilic (the obsessed pleasure for knowledge) drives (see, for example, Freud 1990b: 124).
P53: how psychoanalysis positions anxiety (Angst) in terms of the ego and the libido – that is, with the (obsessive) agencies of the self and pleasure.
‘The Angst in Angst-dreams, like neurotic Angst in general, corresponds to a sexual affect, a libidinal feeling, and arises out of the libido by a process of repression’
(Freud 1990a: 85, translation modified). 1926
the source of Angst is from the ego (with its dominance of the sense of self) rather than the id (where the libido resides). This, in turn, allows him to posit that it is an issue of different types of Angst – that of the ego and that of the id (see, for example,
Freud 1987: 320–1) – and that the ego-Angst must utilise psychical energy that is desexualised. Freud’s reasoning here is difficult to summarise, but at the core of the argument is the idea of defence. By arguing that Angst is ego based, Freud sees a relationship between the preservation of the self through the recognition of danger. Still, Freud does not dismiss the idea of id-Angst, and its shadowy possibilities remain. Freud’s issue is with origins – the issue of aetiology that appears at the outset (in 1895) and eventually leads to this theorising of an ego-based Angst. Finally,
Freud offers a solution that allows for both ego and libidinal processes. Angst is ego derived, and therefore tied to flight from danger as an act of self-preservation, and at the same time it has an origin in the repression of libidinal urges. Freud’s answer is
that in neurotic Angst we find that the ego ‘is making a similar attempt at flight from the demand by its libido, that it is treating this internal danger as though it were an external one’ (Freud 1986: 453). This further reveals the internal conflict involved in
the neurotic Angst.
P55 realistic Angst and a neurotic Angst:
P58: Freud defines realistic Angst not simply as that which exists in the real world, but as something ‘very rational and intelligible’ (Freud 1986: 441). A real presence of danger will understandably produce this form of Angst, but so too will any perceived sense of threat even if it has no basis in reality.
P62: neurosis is both a compromise and part of a system of defence.30 It is both compromise and defence because this is what is required to negotiate repression, and also to allow the neurotic subject to continue functioning. Without some compromise the neurotic passes into profound madness; without the acts of neuroses the neurotic is defenceless.
P63: We have, according to Freud, two paths when presented with continuing frustration. We can employ the pent up psychical tension into some act in the external world that will give libidinal satisfaction, or we can transform that frustration
into a sublimated act. If either (or both) these acts fail there is the danger of an introverted libido, which ‘turns away from reality, which, owing to the obstinate frustration, has lost its value for the subject, and turns towards the life of phantasy’ (Freud 1987: 120).
Such a scenario sets up a conflict between the internal world of the psyche and the external world of reality; and from this conflict we have neurosis.
P67: the formation of the spectator’s relationship between psychical reality, reality and film’s reality
P70: ‘Both neurosis and psychosis are thus the expression of a rebellion on the part of the id against the external world, of its unwillingness – or, if one prefers, its incapacity – to adapt to the exigencies of reality’ (Freud 1987: 223). The outcomes to this are that neurosis attempts to avoid or ignore reality, whereas psychosis disavows it and creates alternatives to it.39 Either way, one of the most significant aspects of all this is that the subject’s desires are attached to a world of phantasy. Freud argues that this world is ‘separated from the real, external world at the time of the introduction of the reality principle’ and ‘it is from this world of phantasy that the neurosis draws the material for its new wishful constructions’ (Freud 1987: 225; 226). Once more, the difference between neurosis and psychosis in this aspect of phantasy is important. Neurosis, Freud argues, will be attached to a part of a reality. This means it can enjoy a status neither strictly in the world of phantasy nor reality, but a combination of the two.
Such a status has a number of important implications for the neurotic spectator and the idea of cinema as neurosis. The cinematic text is always positioned precisely as a part of a world of phantasy attached to a part of reality; and the reality principle is used by the spectator to demarcate the pleasures and travails of watching a film beyond, and within, a sense of reality. The sense of neurosis comes not simply from these relational contexts of phantasy and reality, however. The neurotic spectator is not just enveloping phantasies in senses of realism (and vice versa), but is actually creating substitutes for reality through the attachment of one world order to the other. To do so requires a disturbance beyond the idea of film as a fictional world order. Such an idea insists on the condition that all spectators exist in potentia neurotic, and the pleasure of cinema is the continual capacity to construct narratives of neurosis. In other words, it is never a straightforward repetition of the pleasures of escapist phantasies, but rather the pleasure is derived from exploring (largely in an unconscious fashion) the different ways to attach phantasy to reality. Thus the
compulsion of this repetition is the mechanism of constructing attachments, rather than the attachments themselves. This is why the neurotic spectator may never be concerned with working out a particular type of neurosis – and so cinema is not a type of therapy – but instead is using the scopic drive to construct a subjectivity that plays with what it is to be neurotic.
“This cleaving of the sign is what constitutes the onset of psychosis for Lacan. It is the moment when the sign is divided into its constitutive elements of signifier and signified (see, for example, Lacan 1993: 268) so that it cannot function in quite the same manner.”
“It is also what allows for a merging of the Symbolic with the Imaginary, especially in terms of psychoses, where the Imaginary is highly significant.”
Now, aren’t those 2 in contradiction? He seems to say that the Symbolic and the Imaginary merge in psychosis, yet before he says that psychosis is a breakdown of the sign into signifier and signified. Problem is the Symbolic is the realm of signifiers and the Imaginary the realm of the signified, so this seems in contradiction to me!?
“the cinematic Imaginary – the relationship between the becoming spectator and the cinematic”
“the spectator is like the psychotic because of the paranoia involved in reading a film. Just as when we watch a film all elements have the possibility of meaning, so too does the psychotic interpret the world. Lacan argues the psychotic finds him/herself as a foreigner in the world, and as such finds meaningfulness in every act and object, every event and moment.”
P89: Lacan and psychosis
‘In psychosis. . . reality itself initially contains a hole that the world of phantasy will subsequently fill’
‘Let’s start with the idea that a hole, a fault, a point of rupture, in the structure of the external world finds itself patched over by psychotic phantasy’ (Lacan 1993: 45).
“Foreclosure, both Freud and Lacan insist, is quite distinct from repression. Freud’s commentary on the Wolf Man (Sergei Pankejeff) case includes the idea that Pankejeff
rejects part of reality as if it does not exist. Lacan extends this, arguing that foreclosure also takes place at the level of the unconscious. So the parts of reality that have been rejected (so they do not exist for that subject) are also not part of the repressed material of the unconscious. In this sense it is also rejected from the unconscious. Lacan defines foreclosure as ‘what has been placed outside the general symbolization structuring the subject – return from without’ (Lacan 1993: 47).
“Foreclosure is not repression, but the disavowal, the rejection and fending off, of a part of reality. In psychoanalysis the hole that is left must be ‘filled’ so to speak; two possibilities are phantasy and fetishism.”
‘If the neurotic inhabits language, the psychotic is inhabited, possessed, by language’ (Lacan 1993: 250).
“in point of fact the madman doesn’t believe in the reality of his hallucinations. . . . Reality is not the issue. The subject admits, by means of all the verbally expressed explanatory detours at his disposal, that these phenomena are of another order than the real. He is well aware that their reality is uncertain. He even admits their unreality up to a certain point. . . . Reality isn’t an issue for him, certainty is.”
(Lacan 1993: 75)
“What indicates a hallucination is this unusual sense the subject has at the border between the sense of reality and the sense of unreality, a sense of proximate birth, of novelty. . . . It is a created reality, one that manifests itself well and truly within reality as something new. Hallucination, as the invention of reality, here constitutes the support for what the subject is experiencing.”
(Lacan 1993: 142)
“Lacan, via Freud, argues that the principle difference between neurosis and psychosis is that in the latter the delusional is so powerful that there is a complete abandonment of reality. Or, to be more precise (and it is a significant difference),
what is at stake is the rejection of the Symbolic order, with its interpretation of the world and the subject.”
Sum up of chapter: the spectator acts as psychotic because he participates in creating the cinematic illusion by investing his narcissistic/egocentric drives in it, and gets satisfaction from doing so.
P97: mixing of realities
“Lacan’s idea of the l’entre-je, the between-I, which is the inmixing of subjects (Lacan 1993: 193). When the spectator participates in the delusional acts of watching a film part of the formation of pleasure is precisely this inmixing of subjectivities. In this case, it is the between-I of being a subject, a spectator, and the forces of the film itself. When we are film spectators we are something different to our everyday existence, and have a subjectivity that is a mixture of delusion, textuality and the self. And in this we witness part of the reason why being a film spectator is so pleasurable,
for there is a great deal of power and seduction in the site of the between-I. In this position, the spectator finds him/herself in an extraordinary blend of realities and certainties that feeds delusions of immense force.”
“As with psychoses, the act of becoming a spectator involves a continual negotiating of the self and Other. So the delusion becomes not a loss of a sense of the self (that is, what has been previously seen as character identification51 and processes such as the willing suspension of disbelief), but a different relationship of the self to the Other.”
“Lacan’s mistrust, perhaps even hatred, of what he described as ego psychology. For him, much of this mistrust for, and resistance to, this version of psychoanalysis stems from the analytic quest to make people happy. This would seem to be an admirable aim, for it involves the easing of pain and the solving of disturbing problems. But Lacan’s idea of psychoanalysis was far from such a model that contrived to get people to fit comfortably into, and without questioning (perhaps even unable to question), the social order. So much so that in 1954 he travelled to Lake Zurich to meet Jung hoping to find out something that would support his idea that Freudianism is inherently subversive – that is, runs counter to the notion of the Good. And from that private, almost clandestine, interview (which Jung himself had difficulty recalling) Lacan produced his famous statement the following year regarding Freud and Jung’s trip to
the USA. As they came to the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Freud turned to Jung and said ‘They don’t realise we are bringing them the plague’. For Lacan, psychoanalysis should not feign the production of happiness, and so a version of complacency, but rather distress – ‘the state in which man is in that relationship to himself which is his own death . . . and can expect help from no one’ (Lacan 1992: 304). These are the great themes that Lacan discusses in his interpretation of desire through Kant and Sade. It is the problem of desire as a disruptive process that cannot be ignored, that will never go away, and the need to live cooperatively in a social environment. It is the question of how desire can be managed within the Law of the social order.59 This idea that analysis should produce distress can be extended to include that broader field of analysis driven towards meaning and interpretation.”
P110: concept of double bind (contradicting injunctions each backed up by threats of punishment, making it impossible to take a painless decision)
“anyone caught in the double bind situation cannot escape, and cannot act without some form of suffering resulting. Transgression and punishment are invested in the very materiality of the double bind. Part of the consequence of this is that in the double bind we are made to feel responsible for the events that unfold, even if in the back of our minds is a sense of things being unfair, and our position in it all feels foreign. And the back of the mind that we have in mind here relates in no small way to the unconscious and desire.”
‘every resistance supposes a tension, above all, an internal tension’ (Derrida 1998: 26). This is a resistance which ‘provokes both the analytic and the dialectic to infinity, but in order to resist them absolutely’ Derrida 1998: 26).
P110: Lacan and social conflit
“Lacan’s play is with Good as the moral good, and Good as the goods (in the sense of property) of economy. For him the Good is tied to a conflict between the good of the
Symbolic order (moral good and production) and the desires of the unconscious. This is the idea we observed earlier in terms of the Good and power. This is the enfolding and unrolling sets of knots that Lacan sets up: the desires for the good of the self (ego)
are almost inevitably in contrast to the good of the Symbolic order; and that these contrasts become linked to power and desire. The surprising twist that Lacan applies to this is what he terms ‘an element of the field of the beyond-the-good principle’ (Lacan 1992: 237), which we might expect to be excessive desire or jouissance, but which turns out to be the beautiful. But Lacan does not stray too far from the issue of desire here, and shortly after introducing this idea of the beautiful he states: ‘The appearance of beauty intimidates and stops desire’ (Lacan 1992: 238). So the function of the beautiful is at least twofold in these terms: it resists the power structures of the Good; it helps us cope with the potentially destructive moment of desire, and in particular jouissance. The beautiful comes to be positioned outside of the Symbolic
order, and any manifestation of the beautiful is a weakened signifier, for it has been translated into a language system. It is culturally beautiful, but it is not the beautiful, and so does not have this function in terms of desire and jouissance.”
P112: Kant’s idea of “radical evil” “beyond the good”. However there are no quotations so check Kant directly!
P113: Kant on the disruptive nature of the Sublime
“if something arouses in us, merely in apprehension and without any reasoning on our part, a feeling of the sublime, then it may indeed appear, in its form, contrapurposive for our power of judgment, incommensurate with our power of exhibition, and as it were violent to our imagination, and yet we judge it all the more sublime for that.”
(Kant 1987: 246)61
P114: Freud “tripartite morality” (62)
2)Our unconscious drives
3)“civilised morality”: the need to conform to the morality of the cultural order
P115: Lacan on power (the good here refers to external morality in the Symbolic order, which I think corresponds to Freud’s “civilised morality”)
“The true nature of the good, its profound duplicity, has to do with the fact that it isn’t purely and simply a natural good, the response to a need, but possible power, the power to satisfy. As a result, the whole relation of man to the real of goods is organized relative to the power of the other.”
(Lacan 1992: 234)
P115: Foucault on power
‘The exercise of power is not simply a relationship between partners, individuals
or collective; it is a way in which certain actions modify others. Which is to say, of course, that something called Power . . . which is assumed to exist universally or in a concentrated or diffused form, does not exist. Power exists only when it is put into action’
(Foucault 1983: 219).
P116: the author’s thesis taking on Lacan’s and Foucault’s ideas of Power
“the Good” (civilised morality) is only someone’s drives defined as cultural good through the use of power. “the Good” is the drives of the most powerful individual(s) imposed to others through culture.
P116: Lacan and the beautiful
‘This relationship is strange and ambiguous. On the one hand, it seems that the horizon of desire may be eliminated from the register of the beautiful. Yet, on the other hand, it has been no less apparent . . . that the beautiful has the effect, I would say, of suspending, lowering, disarming desire. The appearance of beauty intimidates and stops desire’ (Lacan 1992: 238)
‘Moreover, it seems that it is in the nature of the beautiful to remain, as they say, insensitive to outrage, and that is by no means one of the least significant elements of its structure’ (Lacan 1992: 238).
P118: Lacan “Das Ding”
“This is the secret of how Need (as distinct from needs) ends up driving us from reality, so that the reality principle in fact ‘isolates the subject from reality’ (Lacan 1992: 46). Das Ding is the ‘absolute Other of the subject’ (Lacan 1992: 52) that, according to Lacan, we continue to search for through our desires, swept along through the manifestations of the pleasure principle. Opposed to this is the Good of the reality principle. So in effect das Ding is that which we know nothing of – the eternally strange – and yet at the same time it is the absolutely familiar. We are tempted, no doubt, to look for aspects of the unheimlich here – and there certainly are connections.”
P118: Lacan “Extimacy”
“Extimacy is Lacan’s term to deal with the issue of the Real in the Symbolic; it is that which is more intimate than the most knowable, intimate detail, yet to confront it is to see a fearsome thing. The Lacanian Real is extimacy, being as it is more real than reality, so much a part of our psychical processes, and yet so foreign to our conscious mind. The extimacy of our desires resides in a Radical evil for they define our subjectivity, and yet resist any Symbolic compromise.”
P122: Derrida on the double bind
“a double bind cannot be assumed; one can only endure it in passion. . . if a double bind is never one and general but is the infinitely divisible dissemination of knots, of thousands and thousands of knots of passion, this is because without it, without this double bind and without the ordeal of aporia that it determines, there would only be
programs. . . and no decision would ever take place.”
(Derrida 1998: 36, 37)
P127: Derrida on the scapegoat
“the figure of the pharmakos – the scapegoat who is both the remedy for, and the cause of, suffering. Derrida proposes that the character of the pharmakos involves both ‘the evil and the outside, the expulsion of the evil, its exclusion out of the body (and out) of the city’ (Derrida 1981: 130). Furthermore, the pharmakos occupies an unusual site, neither apart of or a part from the cultural order: ‘The ceremony of the pharmakos is thus played out on the boundary line between inside and outside, which has as its function ceaselessly to trace and retrace’ (Derrida 1981: 133)
P130: Lacan on the Hysteric
“The domain of knowledge is fundamentally inserted into the primitive paranoid dialectic of identification with the counterpart. The initial opening of identification with the other, that is, with an object, starts from here. An object is isolated, neutralized, and as such particularly eroticised. This is what makes an infinitely greater number of objects enter the field of human desire than enter animal experience. In this interweaving of the Imaginary and the Symbolic lies the source of the essential function that the ego plays in the structuring of neurosis.
(Lacan 1993: 177–78) (translation modified)
“One of Freud’s most profound contributions is the idea that the rational, civilised
person is driven by an unconscious that deals in madness, and that to the conscious mind is madness.”
‘having oneself psychoanalysed is like eating from the tree of knowledge. Knowledge acquired sets us (new) ethical problems; but contributes nothing to their solution’
(Wittgenstein 1978: 34).
“The ‘polymorphous techniques of power’ (Foucault 1984: 11) must be able to make sense – that is, seem to produce meaning – within a range of disciplines in order to remain effective.”
->false meaning isn’t it? government/corporate speak that only makes sense “internally” within its very restrictive view. It only appears to have meaning, but the only thing it has is perfect internal coherence. True meaning leaves more unanswered questions than answered ones: true knowledge is answering a few minor questions but ending up formulating twice as many deeper new questions left unanswered in the process.
Related issue P138: “Once we have the sureties of certain types of knowledge (usually produced within our cultural contexts), once their limits have been negotiated and set, it is up to madness to disrupt within them and seduce beyond them.”
why is it “up to madness” to do the questioning? “up to” seems to imply nothing else can do this job. And I don’t understand how an intellectual can ever reach any type of “sureties”? Sure madness questions, but it certainly is not the most efficient nor desirable way for the questioning individual. Individuals retreat in psychosis/neurosis once dominant ideology has just become “too much for them”, and they have no other escape route left. I would think that intellectual questioning, detachment, would be the thing that prevent individuals from being driven into madness due to having waited too long?
P140: Lacan on subjectivity/knowledge/truth: the 4 discourses (very long quote)
“In L’Envers de la psychanalyse (1991), Lacan creates the four discourses – four beautifully constructed models that operate with a sense of revolving relationships in order to denote different effects. The four elements of these models are:
S/ [(that’s supposed to be a capital S crossed out in diagonal I think)] – the ichspaltung. This is the split subject (ich = I; Spaltung = rupture, cleavage) and refers directly to a Freudian legacy. Lacan sees it as both an inevitable and problematic formation of the self. It is based on the idea that subjectivity is based on an irreparable split within the self as the subject moves through the Symbolic order. It is combined with the self-reflexivity of the Imaginary, originating as it does from the Mirror stage.
a – the objet petit a.73 This is the manifestation of desires as they are articulated through the subject’s relationship to otherness. Significantly, Lacan calls this the Plus-de-Jouir, which suggests a knowledge of jouissance emerging from the objet petit a. It also suggests a beyond to pleasure, particularly that inscribed by the cultural order.
S1 – master signifiers. At one level these are the signifiers of power and presence that have been developed in the Symbolic order. Thus they carry with them connotations of truth, knowledge, interpretation, and so on. These are also the signifiers that the subject has invested a sense of the self in. They are the discursive processes that allow the subject to relate to the signifiers, and for the signifiers to have meaning and relevance for the subject. In this way they become an essential component in the relationship of the defining of the self through the Other.
S2 – the systems of knowledge. This includes the sense of knowledge we might normally associate with such a term, and other interpretations of knowledge that the subject, and his/her Symbolic order, construct and are constructed by other systems.
Because they are systems there is a sense of a shared (that is, cultural) basis of knowledge, although it would also be possible to locate something as unique as Shreber’s interpretation of events as a system of knowledge. In other words, it is important not to conflate these with notions of truth, even if that is precisely what they come to stand for. To these four elements Lacan specifies four positions:
These can be translated as desire, Other, truth, and loss (or, perhaps more correctly, the production of loss).74 These positions within the model later become attributed with certain qualities (Lacan 1975: 196):
These are positions of agency, work, truth, and production. That which is located within the top left hand position is active and desired; below that is the site of truth (about which Lacan pointedly states: ‘Quelle est la vérité? C’est bien là qu’elle se place, avec un point d’interrogation’ (Lacan 1975: 199). In admitting as much he seems to reflect his own uncertainty about such a position). The location of the top right is a positioning process – it is what the subject is interpellated into; and the bottom right is the resulting status of the subject who has allowed themself to be in a relationship with the factors on the left.
Now for the four discourses themselves:
The discourse of the university
For Lacan, the discourse of the university commences with the agency of the system of knowledge, and the subject as an other of that system. This, then, is a highly systematic production of knowledge as knowledge. We are, as subjects, born into the existing Symbolic order, defined by the signifiers (of knowledge, of declared truths and meanings) that precede us. The discourse of the university operates as if there is an ideal I, full of mastery and control; and in doing so fails to eliminate this from the place where it finds its truth (Lacan 1975: 70–1). In other words, a very specific sort of truth is constructed – one which fits in with the production of (cultural) knowledge. (It is a discourse that Lacan defines himself as being, and working, outside of). It is noteworthy that in the graphic representation we find the left-hand side dominated by the system of knowledge and the master signifiers; the right hand side is composed of the subject as objet petit a and as a split subject.
The discourse of the master
This is the discourse that demands the relinquishing of a great many things. It demands total acceptance of the master signifiers as they interpret and define. Here the relationship between the master signifiers and the systems of knowledge places the plus-dejouir – the excess and pleasure – in a suppressed position. Lacan states: ‘le discours du maître exclut le fantasme’ (Lacan 1991: 124) – that is, Lacan’s recurring formula of S_a.75 The discourse of the master is a powerful and pervasive element in a great deal of our lives – it is also a tyrannical one. Lacan asks: ‘Mais comment l’arrêter, ce petit mécanisme?’ (Lacan 1991: 207). Not through revolution because, argues Lacan, that is simply a perpetuation of the discourse, or at the very least of the relationships within the discourse. Rather the way to stop or escape this is through the discourse of the analyst. So far we have two discourses that position themselves as absolute producers of knowledge and truth. The certainty of institutionalised knowledge (the discourse of the university) and the excluding acts of the master signifiers are part of their constitution. Lacan proposes two alternatives to these discourses, two systems that operate outside of the absolutism of these other two.
These are the discourses of psychoanalysis and the hysteric, and it is the latter that concerns us the most here.
The discourse of the hysteric
In the discourse of the hysteric we observe that the primary position – the top left hand side – is occupied by the split subject. The ichspaltung is the subject type that has been repressed in the discourses of the master and the university. This is a site of resistance against the master signifiers (that is, those that stand for
unquestioned/unquestionable truth) and the established discourses of knowledge; and in this way we read the structure of S//a as a distinct area contra S1/S2. This becomes clearer if we refer to comments by Lacan in the seminar entitled The Psychoses. In this he states: ‘What is repression for the neurotic? It’s a language, another language that he manufactures with his symptoms, that is, if he is a hysteric or an obsessional, with the imaginary dialectic of himself and the other. The neurotic symptom acts as a language that enables repression to be expressed’ (Lacan 1993: 60). In such a model, then, the hysteric is the one who resists the powers of systems of knowledge and the dominance of the master signifiers. And this takes place not necessarily as a revolutionary act, but because he/she is defined, that is their subjectivity is defined, through the manifestation of the repressed material. That which cannot be expressed in discourses dominated by the master signifiers and the institutions of knowledge (in this case the example given by Lacan is the university) becomes the voice in the discourse of the hysteric. And such discourses necessarily produce a different sort of language because so much of what is expressed cannot be represented in the discourses of institutionalised knowledge and master signifiers.
Cinema as madness can be placed, and can be seen to operate, within the discourse of the hysteric in a number of ways. Graphically it is rendered as:
S/ – Cinema-Spectator S1 – master signifiers as other
a – excess jouissance S2 – knowledge as production/loss”
The author does not explain Lacan’s discourse of the analyst. Is it what I called questioning not involving madness in previous comment?
“As with hysteria (and neurosis, and so forth, for Lacan does not limit this model to the hysteric), cinema and its spectators are sites for the resistance to master signifiers because those signifiers are seen as inadequate in the representation of the subject and desire. Such signifiers are incapable of handling the repressed material, and this becomes the function of cinema.”
“For Lacan, psychoanalysis becomes the discourse capable of reading such a knowledge [of the unconscious]– or at least this should be the aim of psychoanalysis – and this is the foundation for the fourth discourse model (the discourse of the analyst).”
Why doesn’t the author investigate the discourse of the analyst? By only investigating the discourse of the hysteric as a form of contestation, he may fall prey to what the male surrealists were accused of by one female surrealist, that is of romanticizing hysteria while having no idea of the true suffering it causes. I think the accuser was Leonora Carrington, who tells her own experience of madness in “Down below”.
“‘Reality is approached with apparatuses of jouissance’ (Lacan 1998:55). How curious this is! Here we see those elements – desire, excessive pleasures, the socially disruptive, pleasure and delight – normally associated with a loss of reality now forming the subject’s relationship to reality.”
‘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’ (Lacan 1993: 54).
Meaning is images not words, the signified, not the signifiers.
“cinema is part of the Imaginary, and its meanings and pleasures are derived from what interests us as spectators. This is the difference between seeing a film as having meaning (the culturally inscribed) and being meaningful (derived from the spectator). This aspect of being derived from the spectator – what we take to the film and how we manipulate the realities of the film to fit within ourselves – finds a parallel in psychosis [...]. As with psychosis, the spectator negotiates aspects of the reality he/she is experiencing (the real world, psychic reality, and cinematic reality, as well as the combinations of them) from the position of jouissance. This is the excessive pleasure of watching a film and becoming a spectator.”
P169: Wittgenstein on the dream image :
‘It can certainly be said that contemplation of the dream-image inspires us, that we just are inspired. Because if we tell someone else our dream the image will not
usually inspire him. The dream affects us as does an idea pregnant with possible developments’ (Wittgenstein 1978: 69)