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Jacques Lacan & Elizabeth Bishop. Displaced Identities and Love. Outline. Questions : about Identity Three Stages of Psychic Development ; Questions : about gender and Lacan ’ s views of language Gender Difference, Desire, and Love Questions : about Lacan ’ s views of love

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Jacques Lacan & Elizabeth Bishop

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jacques lacan elizabeth bishop

Jacques Lacan & Elizabeth Bishop

Displaced Identities and Love

  • Questions: about Identity
  • Three Stages of Psychic Development;
  • Questions: about gender and Lacan’s views of language
  • Gender Difference, Desire, and Love
  • Questions: about Lacan’s views of love
  • E. Bishop’s Poetics of Displacement
  • Next week
split identity
Split Identity
  • Identity is split; desire out of a lack.

(split: e.g. self and mirror image; self and (m)other)

  • 2. Against Cartesianism (rational consciousness) and humanism (free will).
    • “Unconscious is the language of the Other.”
    • Language speaks us.
    • I think where I am not. (Ego alienated, not the center of one’s identity. Ideal ego ego ideal)
  • Do you agree that our identity is fragmentary and why? Which of the following do you agree with? "I think, therefore, I am," "Where I think, there I am," or "I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think."
  • What are the three phases of psychic development according to Lacan?
  • What is mirror stage? Why is it an important stage in child development?
the orders of human existence the imaginary the symbolic the real
The orders of human existence: the Imaginary, the Symbolic & the Real

(chap 3: 156-58)

  • The Real –‘pure plenitude’ (no subject-object distinction); cannot be talked about.
  • The imaginary –(mis)recongnition of one’s self through an external image; illusory unity with the mother  split from her.
  • The Symbolic – entry into language  split in the speaking self and spoken “I”
the orders of human existence the imaginary the symbolic the real6
The orders of human existence: the Imaginary, the Symbolic & the Real
  • The Real –oneness and jouissance (undifferentiated unity of the mother, objects of love, or objet a).
  • The imaginary (the mirror stage)
  • –two together and then separate (Baby and the Mother)
  • The Symbolic –three: the Father, the (M)other, and Self
the mirror stage
The Mirror Stage
  • The baby (with its fragmentary sense of self) identifies with an external image (of the body in the mirror or through the mother or primary caregiver)  have a sense of self (ideal ego).
  • Split: 1) experiences fragmentation but sees wholeness; 2) sees loss in the mirror image
mirror identity some examples
Mirror & Identity: Some examples
  • Vanity: In classical paintings & fairy tales (actually it implies patriarchy’s repression of female subjectivity)
  • e.g. Venus at

her Mirror

by VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez

de Silva y (b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660,


uses of mirror some examples
Uses of Mirror: Some examples
  • The return of the repressed: Alter ego (or double) as one’s mirror image (or ideal ego).
  • e.g. 19th century women in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea (textbook chap 4 166-69); The Piano
uses of mirror some examples10
Uses of Mirror: Some examples
  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman: Sarah’s self-protrait
mirror image double extensions
Mirror image & double: extensions
  • We—esp. women-- are always conscious of our mirror images, or looking for screen images for self-identification.
  • Looking at the mirror: changing one’s ideal ego or discovering one’s selves. (Piano/French Lieutenant’s Woman)
  • What’s projected on the mirror: The Other, either ideal ego or the repressed.
    • e.g. Jane/Antoinette; movie stars
    • The magical and the “uncanny”? “Mirror, Mirror on the wall”

 psychological roots: the strangest // the most familiar (homely, unhomely)

the oedipal stage
The Oedipal Stage
  • Second-stage split desire for the mother sublimated into desire for the unattainable“Other”
  • Recognize the Name of the Father. (textbook chap 3: 157; chap 4: 164)
the self the other the other lacan s schema l
The self, the other, the Other(Lacan’s Schema L)

2. Interactions of different forces in the psyche

1. From The Mirror Stage to Oedipal stage and after

Imaginary relation

The unconscious

the other
the Other
  • The Other is embodied in the figure of the symbolic father. Its major signifier: the phallus
  • . . . stands for language and the conventions of social life organized under the category of the law.(source)
  • (different from “the [feminine] Other”—which is the feminine space on the margin or outside of the Symbolic– Cf. chap. 4.)
ii questions
II. Questions
  • Why is gender definition slippery?
  • What is phallus to Lacan? Why is it “transcendental signifier”? Do you agree our desire centers around “being” or “having” phallus?
  • Why is the unconscious structured like language?
slippery chain of signification
Slippery Chain of Signification
  • Meaning of a sign is not in it; rather, it resides in its difference from the other signs. (textbook chap 3: 157)
  • Sign = signifier (form) + signified (concept; usu. more than one)
  • To determine its meaning, we need to look at its context (its differences from and relation to the signs around it).
  • Transcendental signifier: absolute sign whose meaning(s) does not change in its context. (chap 3: 158; chap 4: 174)
gender difference
Gender Difference
  • Lacan’s analogy of the restroom signs: (chap 4: 171-72)
    • Arbitrary meaning structure determine gender difference
    • Slippery chain

3. It speaks man

phallus vs woman as other
Phallus vs. Woman as Other
  • (chap 4: 172-73)
  • In the Symbolic Order, phallus = wholeness and power; wholeness  hole, in fact, nobody owns the phallus/power.
  • Women as Lack, or ‘Other’ which can move outside of language and be in “jouissance.”
the unconscious structured like language
the unconscious-- structured like language
  • supported by F’s view of repression (ideas repressed as codes)
  • evidence from Freud’s language of Dream (condensation, displacement, symbolization);
  • S/s : / = the barrier between the conscious and the unconscious, which resists being represented; / = the phallus.
  • We are conditioned by the Symbolic order.  movement of our desire –like metonymy. (Cf. chap 4: 172)
insatiable desire need demand and desire 1
Insatiable Desire: Need, Demand, and Desire (1)

(chap 3: 158)

  • A child develops from need to demand and desire.// its movement from the Real, to the Imaginary and Symbolic.
  • Need– requirements for brutal survival.

(biological need)  absence of the mother  the baby’s social, imaginary and linguistic functions evolve.

effects of the three orders need demand and desire 2
Effects of the three orders: Need, Demand, and Desire (2)
  • Demand: need formulated in language.

-- Demand has two objects: one spoken, the other unspoken.

-- verbalization of imaginary subject-object, self-other relations. 66 (Grosz pp. 59 - 67)

  • Desire: primally repressed wishes [for the Mother] reappear in and as unconscious desire.

-- insatiable; characterized by lack (of object). (Grosz pp. 59 - 67)

desire expressed as
Desire: expressed as
  • Demand of Different Objects
  • The connection of the desired object and the demanded: metonymic connection = whole and parts, or continguity (鄰近).
  • (-) : maintenance of the bar
questions iii
Questions III
  • Do you agree with Lacan that both our desire and demand (for love) are insatiable? That there is always an otherness to it which cannot be represented in language?
lacan s views of love 1
Lacan’s Views of Love (1)
  • Why is there love? Because there is no sexual relationship.
  • Love is the mirage that fills out the void of the impossibility of the relationship between the two sexes.
  • Beyond the fascination with the image of its object, love aims at the kernel of the real, at what is in the object more than the object itself, at objet petit a.
lacan s views of love 2
Lacan’s Views of Love (2)
  • For Lacan, love’s sublime moment occurs when the beloved enacts the metaphor of love, when he substitutes his position of the lover for that of the beloved object and starts to act in the same way the lover has so far acted. . . .it occurs when the beloved returns love by giving what he does not have.
  • Beloved, realizing the real object-cause of the other’s love does not reside in me  beloved object (metonymy; what he does not have; lack)  can only return “love”(Bozovic 69; 77)
elizabeth bishop
Elizabeth Bishop

Displacement in Life:

  • born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1911;
  • Spent her childhood in Nova Scotia with her grandparents, after her father was dead, and her mother hospitalized;
  • Attended two boarding schools in MA; graduated from Vassar College in NY in 1934 (where she met Marianne Moore)
  • Bishop traveled extensively in Europe and lived in New York, Key West, Florida, and, for sixteen years, in Brazil
elizabeth bishop style
Elizabeth Bishop: Style
  • Highly crafted
  • Displacement as a major theme.
  • e.g. “One Art” and “Sestina” objectifying her losses and turn them into recognizable aesthetic forms (repetition, sestina, metaphor and metonymy).  aestheticization or distanciation as a way of displacement. This displacement is actively done, but not permanent.
  • e.g. the scream “Flick the lighting on top of the church steeple with your fingernail and you will hear it.”
  • Cf. textbook (pp. 85 - )
Sestina: six elements changing positions—house, grandmother, child, stove, almanac, tears.

Metaphoric/metonymic chains

grandma’s: tears  equinoctial tears  almanac  tea as dark brown tears; [moons fall like tears]  sings to the stove

Child’s: teakettle’s small tears  rigid house, a man with buttons like tears  [moons fall like tears]  inscrutable house

Red Stove and Flowers

The inscription: May the Future's Happy Hours /Bring you Beans & Rice & Flowers / April 27th, 1955 / Elizabeth.

in the waiting room
“In the Waiting Room”
  • What kind of identity is constructed by this a six-year-old girl?
  • How does she establish her identity?
  • What do the images of volcano and African natives, as well as all the other images on National Geographic mean to her?
  • How about the adults around her? And her aunt?
  • What is the “big black wave” she is sliding beneath?
in the waiting room30
“In the Waiting Room”
  • Thesis: the poem records the speaker’s uncertain entry into society (and its symbolic order) as a one marginalized because of her gender and her insecurity.
  • Not sure about her self; (too shy to stop; dare not look at herself, cannot look higher); simultaneous self-identification and self-questioning
  • Three-stage identification:
    • internalize the aunt’s pains;
    • Unable to identify with “the phallus” or symbols of power—boots, trousers, hands.
    • Objects of identification—her aunt and hanging breasts
in the waiting room31
“In the Waiting Room”
  • The self-construction is uncertain and retains traces of the maternal Other
    • moving from the exterior to the interior, pushed back to the exterior only to get back in;
    • Moving between social order and the black wave
    • Social order represented by
      • Clear demarcation of place and time;
      • clothing and boots,
      • Lamps and magazines;
      • Social hierarchy implied in the magazine;
    • The black wave
      • Unnamed;
      • Close to the darkness and coldness outside
in the waiting room32
“In the Waiting Room”
  • traces of the maternal Other displaced by the social and historical world.
    • Signs of the maternal:
      • The aunt in the clinic; her voice heard (scream)—a voice that could have got louder and worse
      • Family voice  black wave
    • vs. what’s seen by Elizabeth and the date of the first World War
martin osa johnson
Martin & Osa Johnson
  • movies of Africa, Borneo, and the South Seas
  • Elizabeth Grosz Jacque Lacan: A Feminist Introduction
  • The Other (with a big O)http://www.mii.kurume-u.ac.jp/~leuers/Lacother.htm
  • Lacan and Love New Formations 23 (1994).
next week
Next Week
  • "Tell-Tale Heart" and "Ligeia" by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Re-read chaps 3 & 4 for an in-class quiz.