Friday, March 15, 2013

Contemplating Otherness

The usual way of misreading Lacan's formulas of sexuation is to reduce the difference of the masculine and the feminine side to the two formulas that define the masculine position, as if masculine is the universal phallic function and feminine the exception, the excess, the surplus that eludes the grasp of the phallic function. Such a reading completely misses Lacan's point, which is that this very position of the Woman as exception-say, in the guise of the Lady in courtly love-is a masculine fantasy par excellence. As the exemplary case of the exception constitutive of the phallic function, one usually mentions the fantasmatic, obscene figure of the primordial father-jouisseur who was not encumbered by any prohibition and was as such able fully to enjoy all women. Does, however, the figure of the Lady in courtly love not fully fit these determinations of the primordial father? Is she not also a capricious Master who wants it all, i.e., who, herself not bound by any Law, charges her knight-servant with arbitrary and outrageous ordeals?

In this precise sense, Woman is one of the names-of-the-father. The crucial details not to be missed here are the use of plural and the lack of capital letters: not Name-of-the-Father, but one of the names-of-the-father, one of the nominations of the excess called primordial father. In the case of Woman-the mythical She, the Queen from Rider Haggard's novel of the same name for example-as well as in the case of the primordial father, we are dealing with an agency of power which is pre-symbolic, unbridled by the Law of castration; in both cases, the role of this fantasmatic agency is to fill out the vicious cycle of the symbolic order, the void of its origins: what the notion of Woman (or of the primordial father) provides is the mythical starting point of unbridled fullness whose "primordial repression" constitutes the symbolic order.
- Zizek, "Woman is One of the Names-of-the-Father, or How Not to Misread Lacan's Formulas of Sexuation"

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