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Monthly Archives: May 2009

                                                       

FMHS-1

Kasım 14, 2009 · Yorum Yapın

Her şey dünyada artık televizyon diye bir şey olmadığıyla ilgili, daha doğrusu dünyadaki tüm televizyon ekranlarının bilinmeyen bir sebepten ötürü beyaza büründüğünü duyuran o garip ve bir o kadar da talihsiz haberin gazetelerde yayımlanmasıyla başladı. Söz konusu haberi hemen hemen tüm gazeteler manşetten vermiş ve okuyucularını tedirginliğe maruz bırakmıştı. Habere göre yazın gelişiyle birlikte dünyadaki tüm televizyonlar bilinmeyen bir sebepten ötürü ebediyete intikal etmiş, daha doğrusu ne idüğü belirsiz o meçhul beyazlıktan başka hiçbir şey göstermez olmuştu. İşin ilginç yanı ise bu garip olayın tüm dünyada aynı anda gerçekleşmiş olmasıydı. Takvimlerin 31 Mayıs’ı 1 Haziran’a bağladığı ve/yani işte saatlerin tam sıfırı gösterdiği o mübarek gecede, dünyadaki tüm televizyon kanalları hep birden beyazlara bürünmüş, insanlar ellerindeki uzaktan kumandalarla kanal değiştirmeye çalışmışsa da bu çabalarında başarısız olmuştu. Belli ki artık kanal değiştirmenin en ufak bir manası kalmamıştı. Çünkü hangi kanala geçilirse geçilsin sonsuz bir beyazlıktan başka hiçbir şey görülemiyor ve duyulması neredeyse imkânsız, lakin her ne hikmetse rahatsız edici bir hiss sesinden başka bir şey duyulamıyordu.

Ekran karşısındaki izleyicilerin çoğu bu esrarengiz hadiseye ilk tanık oluşlarında durumu tüm devletlerin bir araya gelerek kurguladığı yersiz bir yaza giriş şakası olarak değerlendirmişse de, ertesi sabah uyandıklarında bunun sadece basit ve yersiz bir yaza giriş şakası olmadığında hemfikir olacaklardı. Konuya ilk eğilen resmi makamın bir din görevlisine ait olması ise sanırız ki gelinen noktada pek de öyle şaşkınlık yaratacak bir durum arz etmiyordur. Elbette ki bir din görevlisi yapacaktı ilk açıklamayı, zira televizyonların hep birden beyaza bürünmesi ancak gökten nur yağması diye nitelendirebileceğimiz ve Tanrı’nın insanlığa Musa’nın, İsa’nın, Muhammed’in, ve hatta Buda’nın yeniden doğmak suretiyle ölüler kitabından diriler kitabına geçişlerinin müjdesini vermek için seçtiği yol olarak açıklanabilirdi. Belli ki Tanrı, yerinin televizyon tarafından işgaline seyirci kalmamayı seçmiş ve tüm televizyonları hep ve sadece sonsuz bir beyazlık göstermeye mahkûm etmiştir. Beyaza eklenen hiss sesi ise Tanrı’nın varlığının çıkardığı sesi temsil etmek için eklenmiş olabilirdi ancak.

Din görevlisinden hemen sonra söz alan ise bilimsel araştırmalar enstitüsü başkanıydı, ki kendisinin bilim adına söz aldığını belirttikten sonra konuşmasını şu sözlerle sürdürmüş olduğu söylenir: “Karşı karşıya bulunduğumuz bu kaygı verici ve düşündürücü durumu dini bir çerçeve içerisinde ele almak eğiliminde olanlar söz konusudur. Bunlar ekranların beyazlaşmasını Tanrı’dan gelen bir mesaj olarak telakki etmekte ve insanlığı yanılgıya sürüklemektedirler. Bizce söz konusu beyazlaşma büyük ihtimalle uzaylılardan gelen bir işarettir. Kuvvetle muhtemeldir ki uzaylılar bize bir şey anlatmaya çalışmakta, lakin biz idrak kabiliyetimizin cüziliğinden ötürü onları anlayamamaktayızdır. Bilimsel araştırmalar enstitüsü olarak konuyla ilgili araştırmalarımız bilimin sönmez ışığı altında sürecektir.”

Bilim adına yapılan bu açıklamayı ise dünya devletleri ortak platformunun basın sözcüsü tarafından yapılan siyasi açıklama izleyecekti, ki nitekim işte izlemişti de zaten: “Dünya devletleri ortak platformu olarak şunu belirtmek isteriz ki ekranların beyazlaşması vakası küreseldir ve biz de küresel bir platform olarak söz konusu olayın gerisindeki esrar perdesini kaldırıp neler olup bittiğini açıklığa kavuşturmak maksadıyla bütün bilgi-enformasyon kaynaklarımızı seferber etmiş bulunuyoruz. Bilmenizi isteriz ki tüm dünya ülkeleri bu muammanın ortadan kalkması yolunda elbirliğiyle çalışmaktadır. İnsanlığın korkacak hiçbir şeyi yoktur!”

Dünya devletleri ortak platformunun basın sözcüsü tarafından yapılan bu sert ve iddialı açıklama insanlığın yüreğine birkaç damla su serpmiş olsa da, dünya genelinde yaygınlaşma gösteren panik dalgası yanında serpilen bu birkaç damla suyun esamesi bile okunamayacaktı. Devletler platformunun aldığı önlemlere kısaca göz atacak olsaydık görürdük ki bu önlemler pek de öyle maksada hizmet eden önlemler değildi, değildir, zira zaten henüz maksadın ne olduğu bile belirsizdir. Lakin bu belirsizlik belli olan hiçbir şey olmadığı anlamına gelmemeli, ki gelmiyor da zaten, zira belli olan bir şey vardır ve kısaca özetlemek gerekirse o şey şudur: Maksadın belli olması için öncelikle doğru sorunun ne olduğu bilinmeli, sonra da bu soruna/soruya çözüm bulabilmek için yapılması gerekenler belirlenerek maksat denilen şeyin ortaya çıkarılmakla kalmayıp, maksada vasıl olunması için hayata geçirilmesi gereken eylemler serisinin de somut olarak zuhur etmesi sağlanmalıdır. Oysa bizim anlatımızda ekranlardan dışa yansıyan beyazlığın ne anlama geldiği, söz konusu beyazlığın nereden kaynaklandığı, yayın akışındaki bu sebebi meçhul kesintinin neyin işareti sayılabileceği, beyazlığın uzaylılardan mı, yoksa Tanrı’dan mı geldiği henüz belli olmadığından devletler de haklı olarak sırf bir şey yapmış olmak için yapılan manadan ve maksattan yoksun işler ve açıklamalar yapacaktır. Tüm bu açıklamaların manadan ve maksattan yoksun olduğunun idrakiyle isterseniz gelin şimdi de hep birlikte yaratıcı beyinlerin nasıl çalıştığına bir göz atalım ve beynin yeni bir şey yaratabilmesi için bir içe yansıtma ve dışa yansıtma mekanizmasının kısırdöngüsünü kırabilecek kudrete sahip olması gerektiğinin altını çizelim. 

FMHS-2

Kasım 13, 2009 · Yorum Yapın

Televizyonları takiben diğer ekran mekanizmaları da bir hafta gibi kısa bir zaman zarfında beyaza bürünür. Belli ki az önce sözünü ettiğimiz o bilinmez kuvvet sadece televizyonların beyazlaşmasını insanlığın mahvına sebep olması bakımından yeterli görmemiş ve sinema, DVD, video, bilgisayar gibi, ekran mekanizmasıyla iş gören daha başka görsel imge sağlayıcılarını da felç etmiştir. İlk olarak televizyon firmalarını, hemen ardından da reklam sektöründe rekabet eden firmaları vuran bu kaynağı meçhul beyazlaşma işte şimdi sinema sanatına ve YouTube’a da vurmuştur o şiddetli darbesini. Televizyon dizileri ve reklamların ardından, filmler de kademeli olarak tarihe karışır. Görsel sanatların teknolojiye bağlı kısmı krize girerken, görsel sanatların teknoloji gerektirmeyen sanatsal yaratıcılık biçimlerinde, mesela resim alanında muazzam bir patlama yaşanır. İnsanlar görsel imgelere duydukları açlığı bastırabilmek için resim ve fotoğraf sanatına yönelmiştir. Bu arada fotoğraf sanatının söz konusu durumdan darbe almaktan ziyade destek aldığını da söylemiş olalım ki her okudukları kitapta kusurlar aramayı marifet belleyen ve “Peki ya fotoğraf, o da görsel sanat değil mi, ona neden bir şey olmuyor?” diye sorması kuvvetle muhtemel okuyucularımızın da içi rahat ederken, başları göğe ersin. Fotoğraf sanatına bir şey olmamasının sebebi ise şu olsun mesela: Fotoğraf makinesiyle çekilen resim –eğer kamera dijital değilse, ki bu anlatıdaki kamera, ekranı da olan o dijital kameralardan değildir– banyo edilip bir kâğıda basıldığından, görsel malzemenin göze ulaşması için arada bir ekran olması gerekmeyeceğinden fotoğraf sanatı bu talihsiz olaydan bir yara almadan kurtulmakla kalmayıp, ayrıca görsel sanatlar arasındaki konumunu da sağlamlaştırmıştır. Dijital kameralar ise anlatımızın geçtiği yıllarda henüz icat olunmadığından bunların anlatıya katılması ve akıbetlerinin ne olduğunun anlatılması ne mümkündür, ne de kurgu açısından gerekli.

Ideefixe

(c) Cengiz Erdem, Fantezi Makinesinde Hakikat Sızıntısı, 2008.

1. Overview

The fragile title of the introduction, which splits as it unites deconstruction and affirmative recreation, should not discourage the reader from even beginning to engage in an encounter with this thesis. This thesis is the product of an intense meditation on the relevance of Freud’s concepts of the life drive and the death drive for contemporary cultural and critical theory in the light of Melanie Klein’s projection-introjection mechanism. I consider  Bentham’s Panopticon to be the material form taken by the life and death drives as well as by the concepts of projection and introjection, since Foucault’s interpretation of it in his Discipline and Punish as the model of modern Western societies started to manifest its effects.  

I propose that these concepts, both the Freudian (life drive and death drive) and the Kleinian (introjection and projective identification), are becoming more and more relevant with the recent developments in technology. As an inorganic realm, the realm of technology forms a transparent sheet that blurs the line between life and death, the organic and the inorganic. But rather than develop a paranoid and reactive attitude towards technology, which would be a ridiculous thing to do at this stage of its development, I attempt to find a way of affirming life attached to technology in the face of the truth that affirmation of life requires affirming death within it.

There is no reason to interpret this attitude as a stance against technological development. On the contrary, my problem is not only with the content of the developmental process; technology remains a transitional object for me. My concern is also the form of the developmental process, the ways in which the failures of this developmental process manifest themselves, and where this developmental process is heading as seen in particular works of literature and cinema.

This thesis does not project an apocalyptic vision of existence. My will is highly optimistic, it is my intellect that is pessimistic.

One simply cannot conceal from oneself what all the willing that has received its direction from the ascetic ideal actually expresses: this hatred of the human, still more of the animal, still more of the material, this abhorrence of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and of beauty, this longing away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, wish, longing itself—all of this means—let us grasp this—a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental presuppositions of life; but it is and remains a will!… And, to say again at the end what I said at the beginning: man would much rather will nothingness than not will… [1]

During the course of my investigation first I distinguish two distinct forms of the will to nothingness. The first one is the death drive and the second one is the life drive. As we will see, I used Freud’s drive theory to split Nietzsche’s will to nothingness, or what might be called nihilism, into two separate but contiguous forms. These two forms of nihilism, that I distinguish using Freud and Nietzsche under the guiding hand of Melanie Klein, are perpetually in conflict with one another. At times they put on one another’s masks and costumes; they act out one another’s roles, and they keep the show business going on.

Perhaps what was at stake was the confrontation between Eros and Thanatos, the yet to be discovered life drive and death drive within him, when Nietzsche proclaimed himself Christ and Dionysus at the same time in one last cry. In this light I see the life drive and the death drive as the two constituent parts of the will to nothingness, two driving forces behind the will to nothingness, which give birth to the two different forms of contemporary nihilism: “Civilized progress” and “barbaric regress.”

But that I don’t find the resolution of the conflict between them satisfying does not mean that I am dreaming of a higher form of reconciliation. What I mean is that these two are always already reconciled, and yet that the only way to actualise this reconciliation is to think their separation through introducing a difference between them that unites them as it splits them.

I see the failure of the relationship between civilised progress and barbaric regress as something becoming increasingly relevant for an analysis of cultural and natural transformations of life. The ongoing conflict between what we started to understand from civilized progress and barbaric regress after Hegel and since his three different applications to the study of culture, embodied by Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, does not seem to have been a sufficiently fruitful one.

As Foucault put it in his essay Nietzsche, Marx, Freud with these three thinkers a new form of interpretation emerged in three different practices. Following Nietzsche, Foucault asserts that the dominant discourse of the classical period is “the history of an error.” According to Nietzsche this is a history written by the ones who hold the power but who are at the same time “the weak.” Nietzsche says that these have a slave mentality and this mentality subjects them to being reactive forces that multiply themselves by contaminating the others who are treated as inferior but are in fact “the strong.” In pursuit of escaping from that history of an error written by the slaves and which is a product of slave mentality, Foucault attempted to practice a new way of reading history which he, borrowing the term from Nietzsche, calls “genealogy.” In Foucault’s words from another essay in the same compilation,

Genealogy does not oppose itself to history as the lofty and profound gaze of the philosopher might compare to the molelike perspective of the scholar; on the contrary, it rejects the metahistorical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies. It opposes itself to the search for “origins.”[2] 

Where the soul pretends unification or the Me fabricates a coherent identity, the genealogist sets out to study the beginning—numberless beginnings, whose faint traces and hints of colour are readily seen by a historical eye.[3] 

Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud are they who set the task and determined the objective. This task is to learn from the past and sustain the conditions of impossibility for suffering to repeat itself. In other words, the task is to supply the subject with practical tools for living a long, healthy, and happy life. But the health of the subject is not separable from the improvement of the other’s conditions of existence. Horkheimer and Adorno, and Marcuse followed this line of thought.

Writing for different reasons, in a different way, and in a different context, the solutions of the past are my problems. My aim is to show that what seems to be a liberating attitude turns into its opposite and becomes a restrictive and paralysing theoretical approach. In other words, the symptom which is the non-reason inherent in reason turns into the cure when in fact it is the manifestation of the illness. This dynamic of a vicious cycle will be the major object of this study.

To stay alive in a state of conflict what one needs to learn to do is to write and rewrite a law for oneself as one goes along the way; a law that is permanently in touch with the others within and without. One is to become capable of imagining another world and still live in this world in such a way as to turn life into a movement towards a new life. Death as Law is interior to the subject as much as it is exterior to it. 

The Satyr, at his first sight of fire, wished to kiss and embrace it, but Prometheus said, “You, goat, will mourn your vanished beard,” for fire burns him who touches it, yet it furnishes light and heat, and is an instrument of every craft for those who have learned to use it.”[4]

At the root of every progressive movement Nietzsche sees a traumatic incident, and for that reason the real is always touched through a surface event. Nietzsche sees progress as an effect of regress and regress as an effect of progress. Nietzsche confuses causes and effects. For Nietzsche the event that manifests the change of roles between cause and effect always takes the form of a conflict between the causes and effects of regress and progress on/of one another. This unrepresentable and unnamable event, which, for Nietzsche, goes beyond the gap between the psychic and the somatic, is itself the cause of a traumatic effect the transcendence of which is at the same time a process of passing through the state of being governed by a superior and yet unknown force, death, which is interior and exterior to the life of the subject at the same time. For me this process involves passing through the walls of one’s wound rather than being caught up in an endless process of climbing over it and falling back in again. 

Slavoj Zizek points out that Lacan calls this process of passing through “traversing the fantasy.”[5] Deleuze would have said, it is, at the same time, traversing the symbolic, in that it is a passage across the field of affective intensities and partial objects where there remains no gap between fantasy and reality, psychic and somatic, part and whole, organ and body, self and world, transcendental and empirical. Traversing the fantasy is the process of becoming in and through which Nietzsche feels himself to be “all the names in history.” Where transcendence and immanence become one, there one experiences a sublimation of sublimation, and learns to affirm life as it is by affirming the negative contact, and lives on as pure immanence surviving psychic death.

 All this, of course, requires a realization that the external forces, having become interior to the subject, themselves create the conditions of negative contact, and yet the affirmation of the negating subject is itself constitutive of the affirmative contact.

Nietzsche had failed in surviving this process of realization. The confrontation with the unconscious, the Real forces of the outside, had become so intense that a spiralling of his thoughts into nothingness became inescapable. His painstaking process of writing against himself caused a turning against itself of his desire to immerse himself in the chaos of the Real. When this condition of impoverishment and exhaustion coincided with his will to write he found the strength to say what he may: “And, to say again at the end what I said at the beginning: man would much rather will nothingness than not will…”[6]

2. Objective

The principal objective of this thesis is to point out the continuing, and even increasing relevance of the concepts of life drive and death drive for contemporary cultural and critical theory. When Freud created the concepts of life drive and death drive he was influenced not only by Nietzsche, but also by Darwin’s theory of evolution and the neuroscience of his day. In the light of the recent developments in neuroscience Freud’s drive theory may appear to have lost its relevance, and yet this does not mean that it cannot be affirmatively recreated and put to use in the critique of contemporary cultural products and the psychoanalysis of the world in general. The use of these concepts should not mean that I am reducing being human to a dualistic vision of life, for I am not ignoring the existence of other drives such as the drive to play, but trying to show that many cultural products still operate at the level of a Freudo/Cartesian dualism, and are based on the production, exploitation and/or oppression of the life drive and the death drive.  

I situate the concepts of the life drive and the death drive in the context of philosophy and rethink these concepts through their relation to immanence and transcendence, affirmation and negation. It would, however, be too simplistic to equate the life drive with transcendence and the death drive with immanence. That, precisely, is not the case in this thesis. To my mind the life drive unifies the multiple by transcending death and the death drive splits the given unities by transcending life. So life/death drives are both transcendence and negation oriented, whereas immanence and affirmation signify and are signified by life/death without unconscious drives, but conscious desiring. This form of being in relation to the concepts of life drive and death drive enables me to see these drives not as unchanging constituents of human nature and life, or as solidly defined concepts constitutive of a certain kind of knowledge about human nature and life but as modes of being and forms of thinking produced and projected onto human nature by cultural products. In the light of this, I propose that these concepts can be used as components of a mobile and dynamic critical apparatus targeting the works in and through which the myths of life drive and death drive are not only produced, but also exploited and/or oppressed.

I attempt to show how the life drive is exploited as the death drive is oppressed in some literary and filmic texts, while the death drive is exploited and the life drive is oppressed in some others. The condition of possibility for the oppression/exploitation of the life/death drives to take place is sustained by a manipulation of the ambiguous relationship between these two; they can easily reverse the roles and disguised as their opposites, the life drive and the death drive become enemies working in the service of destroying the subject whose life, with the advance of global capitalism and the increasing abuse of the recent developments in technology, has literally become an oscillation between them. For instance, the subject takes on the characteristics of Eros as his persona, becomes a virtual Eros in a chat-room on the internet, but has to act like a Thanatos at work, and becomes someone who pretends to be a Thanatos in ordinary social reality, when in fact he prefers to be a descendant of Eros, or inversely.

 My aim in this study is to look for traces and investigate the implications of this paradoxical situation in particular works of philosophy, psychoanalysis, cultural and critical theory, literature, and cinema produced during the twentieth century. At present this situation in which the subject finds himself/herself has become not only imposed on the subject but also willed by the subject.

As I already said, while in some cases the death drive becomes the target of exploitation/oppression, in some other cases the life drive becomes this target. I use texts from, cinema, literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis in order to explicate this theory of the emergence of the new forms that power, embodied by and embodying the Big Other, takes.

Unless one splits the past and the present, the self and the other, the theory and the practice, the life drive and the death drive, the subject of enunciation(conscious desire) and the enunciated content(the unconscious drive), the critical and the clinical, it becomes impossible to create a space out of which a new and practical truth emerges, and hence the conditions of existence cannot be developed.  All these binaries are separate but contiguous to one another, they are always already reconciled but the only way to actualize this reconciliation is to introduce a split between them which unites them as it exposes the gap inherent in their relationship. We are in the process of realizing this precisely because we have started to see that if theory is not practical it serves nothing. This realization should bring with it a will to split theory and practice, for their unity means the destruction of both of them; already before the beginning of the process of becoming one they start destroying one another. Their oneness is their death, for one dies as much, more than one lives as such. For me theory aims at developing practical ways of practicing freedom, and its goal is to sustain the conditions for the possibility of its own destruction. On this both Adorno and Foucault agree.

In the light of the result of my investigation I propose that a practical theory of progress based on an interaction between deconstruction and affirmative recreation is not only possible but is also already at work within the contemporary psychosomatic and sociopolitical realms of experience.

3. Method

The nature of this study requires an interdisciplinary and a multi-methodological attitude which goes beyond the opposition between merely conceptual and merely empirical approaches. It is based on a mode of enquiry which takes its driving force from thought-experiments that open paths to a new field in which various perspectives interact and form an intra-subjective dimension of theoretical practice situating psychoanalysis, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophy in the context of cultural and critical theory. For the emergence of a new truth out of the old knowledge one must pose new questions concerning the workings of the human mind. In the light of the recent developments in cognitive neuroscience, for instance, especially the works of Antonio Damasio and Gerald Edelman, Freud’s concepts of the life drive and the death drive, Klein’s concepts of introjection and projective identification, and Wilfred Bion’s affirmative recreation of Klein’s theories in the way of a theory of thinking become extremely relevant for the development of a universal cultural and critical theory.

Cognitive neuroscience proposes that the quality of an external object is always already projected onto that object by the neuronal activity of the brain. What cognitive neuroscience lacks is a historical context, likewise what cultural studies lacks is an organic basis. An interaction between psychoanalysis, linguistics, philosophy, cultural studies, and cognitive neuroscience can break out of the closure of the humanities and give birth to the link which has come to be considered missing, between nature and nurture, organic and inorganic, empirical and conceptual, epistemological and ontological, transcendental and immanent, the objective and the subjective.

Because of the dynamic and parallel nature of re-entry and because it is a process of higher-order selection, it is not easy to provide a metaphor that captures all the properties of re-entry. Try this: Imagine a peculiar (and even weird) string quartet, in which each player responds by improvisation to ideas and cues of his or her own, as well as to all kinds of sensory cues in the environment. Since there is no score, each player would provide his or her own characteristic tunes, but initially these various tunes would not be coordinated with those of the other players. Now imagine that the bodies of the players are connected to each other by myriad fine threads so that their actions and movements are rapidly conveyed back and forth through signals of changing thread tensions that act simultaneously to time each player’s actions. Signals that instantaneously connect the four players would lead to a correlation of their sounds; thus, new, more cohesive, and more integrated sounds would emerge out of the otherwise independent efforts of each player. This correlative process would alter the next action of each player, and by these means the process would be repeated but with new emergent tunes that were even more correlated. Although no conductor would instruct or coordinate the group and each player would still maintain his or her style and role, the player’s overall productions would lead to a kind of mutually coherent music that each one acting alone would not produce.[7]

The model of mind conceptualized by Gerald Edelman shows us that the mind is an embodied substance which has the ability to adapt to changes surrounding it. If we keep in mind that cinema, literature, art, and music show how the mind works at a particular moment in history, as well as the emotional state of that particular moment, it becomes clear why a mode of enquiry rather than a specific method is required for the analysis and critique of human consciousness and its relation to the environment surrounding it. In this context, the plot driven critique of the literary and filmic texts aims at distinguishing between the world of consciousness and the world of appearances. My claim is that it is only through looking at the mortal world of appearances with the eyes of an immortal consciousness that we can see that which is present as an absence in the predominant symbolic order. By looking at “what happens when” in a movie or a book as well as “how that thing happens,” I sustain the conditions of impossibility as the conditions of possibility for cont(r)action to take place and give birth to an immortal subject. Needless to say, this subject is also an object encountering and encountered by the unknown within the known, the chaos inherent in the order itself, that calls forth he who has died so many times and is yet to die again and be reborn many more times so as to live as dead again. The reader might be disappointed because I will not have pursued and incorporated Edelman’s neural Darwinism and further developed the idea of a context-bound cognitive neuroscience and a matter(brain) based cultural and critical theory. The reason for this is that I discovered Edelman’s work towards the end of writing my thesis, and then  rewrote the Introduction. As a matter of fact, after this discovery the whole thesis itself could have been rewritten. Just as the Law changes its object and is in turn changed by that object, my critical apparatus, too, changes and is changed by its objects, in this case cultural products, be they filmic, literary or philosophical texts. It is such that this theoretical narrative moves on in such a way as to cut itself from its own past and unite with its own future at the same time, that is, in one simultaneous movement in two directions at once.

Hence it becomes clear why I pay attention to “what happens when” and “how that thing happens,” at the same time. For this I am indebted to Edelman who shifted the perspective of cognitive neuroscience from “how the brain makes sense,” to “when the brain makes sense.” If one reads the writings on film and literature in this thesis with the conscious naivety of their plot based critique in mind, one can sense the underlying current of humour and the erratic undertone of irony, both of which knock down the serious tone of the critique based on a linear reproduction of a circular plot – as we see in the investigation of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive for instance.

In his Critique of Judgement, Kant distinguishes between the determinative and the reflective modes of judgement.

If the universal (the rule, the principle, the law) is given, the judgement that subsumes the particular under it… is determinative. If, however, only the particular for which the universal is to be found is given, judgement is merely reflective.[8]

If we keep in mind that the reflective mode of judgement reflects on particulars in such a way as to produce universals to which they can be subjected, and that the determinative mode of judgement determines a particular by subjecting it to a universal, it becomes understandable why among these two I shall be using the reflective mode which splits as it unites the subject of enunciation and the enunciated subject. But it must be kept in mind that the subject of enunciation which refers to the universal is itself a constitutive illusion, or a regulatory idea necessary for the emergence of the immortal subject as the enunciated content. It is only in and through a position of non-mortality within and without mortal life at the same time that the exploitation of mortality can be brought into the spotlight. A critique of the exploitation of mortality inherent in particularly exemplary cultural products will be achieved through putting them in a perspective that analyzes the life death drives in such a way as to expose the exploitation of the fear of death as the driving force inherent in them. The point is that it is indeed necessary to fantasize being what one is not, in our case being non-mortal, to be able to become self-conscious of one’s self-reflexivity in the way of creating an order of signification not caught up in the rotary motion of drives locked in Klein’s projection-introjection mechanism,  but rather one which breaks this vicious cycle and at least attempts to subtract death from life in a counter-act to the post-structuralist idea of life as a process of dying and death as an absent presence in the midst of life. It is only through such a subtraction of the absent presence of death within life that the productive interaction between Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism, Foucault’s bio-politics, Badiou’s theory of infinity, and Kant’s reflective mode of judgement give birth to the immortal subject as the womb of a new thought, a new life, and a new mode of being, free of the exploitation of mortality and engagingly indifferent to this mortal, all too mortal life.

Let us imagine a subject who finds himself in a certain situation which appears to have no escape route; a situation which nails him to a painful existence and brings him closer to extinction with every move he makes. What he needs is Bion’s theory of creative process and the emergence of new thought from within the dominant projection-introjection mechanism. In his Theory of Thinking Bion says that dismantling is as important in creative process as integration, that is, introjection and splitting are as necessary as projective identification and unification. Bion pays special attention to the process of introjection and projective identification and recreates Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position as a way of showing that it has two forms; one is healthy and the other is pathological. For Klein it was only with the attainment of the depressive position that the formless experience was given a form, the thoughts were invested with symbolic meanings. Bion sees introjection and projective identification as the two separate but contiguous halves and the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions as the complementary parts of one another in the creative process. Now, if, following Bion, we think about Klein’s introjection and projective identification in the context of Derrida’s technique of deconstructive reading, we see that deconstruction is a mobile and dynamic mode of critique which moves between fragmentation and integration of the meaning of a text. Although deconstruction, as practised by Derrida himself, adapts itself to the internal dynamics of the text as the object of critique, it still lacks the affirmative and immanent fluidity which is necessary to open up holes, or passages, through which a new truth in touch with the requirements of the present situation can slip. This is because Derrida’s practice of deconstruction is still a negating activity and a transcendence oriented practice, which remains within the confines of the antagonistic relationship between the life drive and the death drive. To become affirmative, deconstructive practice needs to produce and incorporate its own difference from itself, that is, it has to become immanent to itself and the text it interprets.

As a mode of thinking, deconstruction attempts to erase the gap between the life drive and the death drive, but always fails, and this failure eternally confines deconstructive practice to the domain of antagonism between the life drive and the death drive. And if we keep in mind that deconstruction as a mode of thinking has become the dominant way of being creative we can understand why a critique of deconstruction is a critique of contemporary culture.

In this thesis I try to expose the workings of the deconstructive practice in certain works of art, literature, and cinema, which, consciously or unconsciously, exploit the ambiguity of the relationship between the life drive and the death drive, hence oppressing the one or the other. Needless to say this oppression of the one or the other necessarily exploits the one or the other, for oppression of the one requires exploitation of the other. As a consequence of this dynamic inherent in contemporary nihilistic culture projected onto the subject, the reader/spectator is removed out into the transcendental world of unconscious drives, leading to an illusory sense of omniscience on behalf of the reader/spectator.

The difference between deconstruction and affirmative recreation is that in the former an interaction between the destruction of a structure based on metaphysics of presence and creation of an opening, production of a void within the meaning of the text based on logocentrism is at work, whereas what is at work in the latter is a simultaneous dismantling of meaning, opening up of a void in the context of the text, and sustenance of the conditions for the possibility of the meaning’s flow in and through this void and out into the outside of the dominant context.[9] Derrida’s well known proposition that “there is nothing outside the text” is not the basic assumption of affirmative recreation; quite the contrary, a hole is opened within the context, and the meaning of the text flows through this hole. The meaning of the text is made to move on progressively, not just left without any foundations on which to stand and consequently fall. Deconstruction is concerned with exposing the rigidity and the solidity of rigid structures and solid constructions as is clear from its name. In a nutshell this is what Derrida’s self-reflexive reading strategy called deconstruction does: the socially and historically constructed and generally accepted dominant meaning of the text is explicated. And then this meaning is shown to be self-contradictory through the opening of a gap between what the author intended to say and what he has actually said. In affirmative recreation what’s at stake is a melting of the meaning and its continuous reshaping like a sculpture. The text is turned from a solid state into something like lava or clay and kept hot for further and perpetual reshaping, not into another completed sculpture. For me sculptures are products of an attempt to freeze life and/but a frozen life is no different from death.    

  4. The Cont®act

The word cont(r)act in the title of the introduction means two things at the same time. The first one is counter-act and the second one is implosion. When these two meanings intersect we get a contact without a contract. In this new form of contact the parties involved agree on the necessity of the absence of a contractual relationship in their contact. For the two meanings of the cont(r)act, counter-act and implosion, to function interactively in the way of sustaining the conditions of possibility for the emergence of a contact without a contract between the self and the other, an affirmative attitude is required. When and if the cont(r)act becomes affirmative, the counter-act and the implosion of the pre-dominant projection-introjection mechanism, which we can also refer to as the pre-dominant context based on negation and transcendence, intervenes in the situation and interrupts the order of things. Cont(r)action opens a hole in the internal structure of the projection-introjection mechanism and initiates change in the way of opening up new paths towards new modes of being, thinking, and creation.

It is important to note here that every projection-introjection mechanism belongs to the world of unconscious drives. Opening a hole in the world of unconscious drives makes the good objects and the bad objects spiral into the void and the subject escapes oscillation between the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position, or between the life and death drives. This also means that the subject’s world turns from being governed by the metaphysical mode of production based on unconscious drives and into the social mode of production based on conscious desiring.

The concept of cont(r)act is the product of an interaction between deconstruction and affirmative recreation. The cont(r)act produces an outside within the pre-dominant projection-introjection mechanism, or context. Cont(r)action connects the counter forces of the inside with the unnameable forces of the outside. The inward explosion creates a turbulence within the projection-introjection mechanism causing the good objects and the bad objects to spiral into the outside within created by the counter forces of the inside and into the void constituted by the unnameable forces of the outside. We must remember that good and bad are concepts that belong not to the material world but to the metaphysical world, not to life but to the beyond of life. As we know, psychotics see everything in terms of a struggle between the forces of good and evil. If we apply this psychotic vision to the polarity of the life drive and the death drive we can understand what I actually want to mean when I make a distinction between the world of unconscious drives and the world of conscious desiring. But by doing this am I not, in a psychotic fashion, dividing the world into two; the bad world of unconscious drives and the good world of conscious desiring? Am I not, in a way, trying to transcend the state of being governed by the unconscious drives? I am indeed, for I still am within the psychotic world of metaphysics trying to create an outside, or an opening to loving without interpretation and identification. To achieve this I have to act self-reflexively, which I think is what I do when say it is necessary to pass from the state of being governed by unconscious drives to the mode of being productive of conscious desiring. This self-reflexivity and these paradoxical statements are the forms this passage takes and they lie at the decentred heart of my epoch.    

To sum it up and to clarify it all I shall now say what I merely hinted at right at the beginning. The theory of cont(r)act employs deconstruction and affirmative recreation with the aim of sustaining the conditions of possibility for a fragile and yet affirmative contact not based on a contract between the self and the other, between the old and the new, between illness and health, between the clinical and the critical, and even between life and death. The counteract and the implosion are the complementary positions of cont(r)action, that is, of the theoretical practice demonstrating an interaction between deconstruction and affirmative recreation.

5. Structural Summary Of The Thesis

The thesis is composed of three parts divided into six chapters, each of which is  divided within itself into several subsections, followed by the consequences and an afterword. The three major parts concentrate on three different discursive forms (theoretical, filmic, literary) and each part stands for one of the three different positions in the course of the developmental process of a practical theory of cont(r)action composed of two complementary actions counter to one another which are deconstruction and affirmative recreation. These three positions in the developmental process of a practical theory of cont(r)action, which is constituted by and is constitutive of a theoretical practice demonstrating the interaction between deconstruction and affirmative recreation, are worked through application to contemporary theoretical(part I), filmic(part II), and literary(part III) texts.

The enunciated content of the thesis is not one, but three. If one of these is missing, however, the other two cannot persist. For the enunciated content to stand firm and manifest itself they have to remain separate from but contiguous to one another at all times.

In each chapter the relationships between progress and regress, creativity and destruction, projection and introjection, identification and alienation, the life drive and the death drive, as well as theory and practice, are analyzed in various ways and using varying means. There is not one way of looking at things here, but three; for each part requires its own way of being looked at.

The theoretical, literary, and filmic texts studied can be considered partial-objects interacting with one another where a fragile contact between illness and health, psychoanalysis, philosophy, post-structuralism, and critical theory, and even East and West, North and South, West and North, the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic takes place. These theoretical, literary, and filmic texts are transitional objects in the service of explicating the relevance of Kleinian concepts of projective identification and introjection, and Freudian concepts of the life drive and the death drive, for contemporary cultural and critical theory.

The first chapter opens with the summary of the encounter between Freud and Einstein upon a call from the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation in 1932. This first chapter aims at defining and analyzing the formation of certain concepts, such as the life drive and the death drive, introjection and projective identification, which will play dominant roles throughout the thesis. In this chapter I also compare the projects and critical strategies of post-structuralism and the Frankfurt School drawing on sources from Adorno and Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze. The first chapter attempts to lay the foundations of a healthy conflict between philosophy and psychoanalysis, as well as psychotherapy, or clinical theory and critical theory. It also sets the grounds for the analysis of the relationship between creativity, automatism, and the Real in the following chapters.

            In the second chapter I intend to show the relevance of Lacan’s theory of subject formation to the thesis and link it to Klein’s pre-verbal – if not pre-linguistic – stage of development. Lacan’s critique of Klein for being too biological is reconsidered through a look at their altering theorizations of the emergence of schizophrenia which can be translated from Greek as “split-soul,” or, “broken-heart.”

The third chapter investigates the cinematic apparatus and how it is able to directly communicate with the unconscious and shape it. I tend to believe that in its present state cinema is a machinery that populates the spectator with “bad objects,” and following Christian Metz, I argue that it is not by saying that cinema is the “good object” that cinema will get better, on the contrary, my critique of the cinematic apparatus targets its use as a tool for manipulating the unconscious; my critique of cinema is aimed at criticizing a particular use of cinema which gives birth to a larval fascism by constantly provoking projective identification.

The fourth chapter concentrates on David Cronenberg’s films including The Dead Zone, Dead Ringers, Videodrome,  eXistenZ, The Naked Lunch, and is aimed at explicating Deleuze’s version of the relationship between creativity and destructivity. In Cronenberg’s movies we usually have an artist, a writer, or a scientist who undertakes a creative task and/but whose project turns against itself in the process through the domination of his psyche with the non-symbolizable aggressive impulses. Cronenberg portrays creative people who in time turn into agents of destruction through science and art. And Deleuze has often mentioned the possibility of an interruption of the creative process by the entry of a traumatic kernel which should remain non-symbolized and unconscious if one were to be able to go on creating consciously without becoming self-destructive.

The fifth chapter looks at the Surrealist movement and how Breton tried to use the unconscious in a productive way and failed in doing so. To show the shortcomings of Surrealism I use Bataille’s comparison of Nietzsche and the surrealists and his criticism of Dali’s Lugubrious Game. This is followed by a brief comparison of Artaudian theatre of cruelty and Shamanism. We will have seen that Surrealists and Artaud laid the foundations of two differently conceived techniques of manipulating the unconscious drives and exploiting the ambiguity of the relationship between the life drive and the death drive. The next section of the fifth chapter is on Beckett and analyzes Beckett’s generic thought as pointed out by Alain Badiou in his book On Beckett. I try to show how Beckett not only represents the human-condition through subtraction of the Symbolic from the Real, but also to portray a Beckett explicating the dynamics of the unconscious as a hole in the subject in his plays such as Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape, and Endgame

The sixth chapter investigates the relationship between literature, psychoanalysis, violence and trauma. My intention in this chapter is to investigate the ethical and the political implications of trying to represent the traumatic kernel which resists symbolization. I especially concentrate on D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel which is a post-structuralist novel about the Holocaust and a problematization of the truth of psychoanalysis. Working through The White Hotel I attempt to put under a critical and clinical magnifying glass the foundations of the contemporary understanding of “healthy living.” In this chapter I also analyze the interaction between the life drive and the death drive in William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies and the workings of projective identification and introjection in Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans. This last chapter prepares the grounds on which I can finally show, via Slavoj Zizek and Friedrich Nietzsche, how illness is presented as health in today’s transglobal capitalism, how the roles of affirmation and negation, immanence and transcendence, the life drive and the death drive are reversed, turning them into their opposites.

Following the consequences, which uses Alain Badiou’s theory of infinity and the immortal subject to break the vicious cycle of the life and death drives in the way of opening the realm of love beyond the rotary motion of drives and the law of capital, the thesis ends with an Afterword entitled and composed of A Conversation Around Nietzsche Between a Stoic and a Sceptic.  Before the conversation, however, there is a note on the context of this conversation and its connection to Klein’s projection-introjection mechanism as well as Hegel’s unhappy consciousness. In other words, the first section of the afterword links the conversation to the theories of the subject in the works of Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Klein. Entitled The Unhappy Consciousness, or, the Stoics and Sceptics Locked in Klein’s Projection-Introjection Mechanism, it is a theoretical explication of the relationship between Hegel’s concept of the unhappy consciousness and Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position and manic-depressive position. It is essential to the nature of this study that it ends with a division between a Stoic and a Sceptic embodied by Nietzsche. This division is, at the same time, the one between Eros and Thanatos, or Oedipus and Narcissus; and Nietzsche conceived this division within himself in the form of a division between Christ and Dionysus. But what about the Stoic and the Sceptic, where do they enter the scene?   

Today Stoicism is considered a therapeutic philosophy of life and Scepticism is considered a critical attitude. Stoicism adapts the subject to the existing order and Scepticism detaches the subject from it. These two attitudes are embodied by Nietzsche, whose life consisted in an oscillation between illness and health. Therefore, a conversation around Nietzsche between a Stoic and a Sceptic is actually a conversation between clinical theory and critical theory taking place within Nietzsche’s head.


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, transl. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998), 118

[2] Michel Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, from “Essential Works vol.2: Ethics,” ed. Paul Rabinow, trans. Robert Hurley and others (London: Penguin, 1998), 370

[3] Foucault, 374

[4] Plutarch, Moralia Vol.2, transl. F.C. Babbitt (Harvard University Press; Cambridge, 1971), 8-9

[5] Slavoj Zizek, The Ticklish Subject (London: Verso, 1999), 51

[6] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, transl. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998), 118

[7] Gerald Edelman,  A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 49

[8] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. James Creed Meredith (London: Wilder Publications, 2008), 13

[9] It is important to note that here context signifies the dominant projection-introjection mechanism. To go outside this projection-introjection mechanism requires what Bion calls “the binocular vision.” Binocular vision means that the subject is still within the dominant context and yet he is also in touch with another mode of being which he is able to project onto the present and future. Binocular vision is the first step towards creating a new situation out of the present situation. Wilfred Bion,  A Theory of Thinking, Second Thoughts, (London: Karnac Books, 1984).

1. Freud and Einstein

In 1931 the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation invited certain intellectuals to communicate and think about the solutions to the problems facing the world. The First World War was over but the second one was already knocking on the door. The developments in central Europe were signs of the approaching disaster. Einstein was one of the intellectuals the institute got in touch with, and he proposed Freud as a participant in this collaboration. In 1932 Einstein wrote a letter to Freud and asked him how the tendency of humanity to war, destruction and violence could be overcome, if it could be overcome. Einstein expected Freud to come up with some practical solutions. Einstein wanted revolution, but a great admirer of Darwin, Freud talked about evolution.

Freud responded to Einstein after about a month. Throughout the letter Freud emphasized that he couldn’t do what Einstein expected him to, that it was impossible for him to come up with practical solutions to the problem of aggression inherent in human nature.

In his response to Einstein’s letter Freud interrogated the relation between the aggressive impulse in human nature and the organization of society and concluded that in the organization of social order aggression was unavoidable.

In the second part of his letter Freud mentioned the role played by drives in the inner world of human-beings and summarized his theory of drives. According to Freud the polarity between the forces of attraction and repulsion, which Einstein was familiar with as a physicist, also existed in human psyche. One of these forces was the life drive which aimed at self-preservation and unification, the erotic force represented by Eros. The other force was the death drive which aimed at destruction and splitting, represented by Thanatos.

But we must not be too hasty in introducing ethical judgements of good and evil. Neither of these instincts is any less essential than the other; the phenomena of life arise from the concurrent or mutually opposing action of both. Now it seems as though an instinct of the one sort can scarcely ever operate in isolation; it is always accompanied—or, as we say, alloyed – with a certain quota from the other side, which modifies its aim or is, in some cases, what enables it to achieve that aim. Thus, for instance, the instinct of self-preservation is certainly of an erotic kind, but it must nevertheless have aggressiveness at its disposal if it is to fulfil its purpose. So, too, the instinct of love, when it is directed towards an object, stands in need of some contribution from the instinct for mastery if it is in any way to obtain possession of that object. The difficulty of isolating the two classes of instinct in their actual manifestation is indeed what has so long prevented us from recognizing them.[1]

For Freud the death drive was targeting the living organism, aiming at turning the organic into inorganic. Because of the intervention of the self-preservative force of the life drive, the death drive was turned towards the external world by a psychic operation, so that the self-destruction of the organism was prevented.

It is important to note here that death drive does not correspond to self-destruction. The death drive postpones the self-destruction of the organism by projecting aggression onto the external world and hence can be said to serve self-preservation. The self-destructive impulse turns against itself and manifests itself as violence and aggression against the others. The subject kills the others not to kill itself. “The death instinct turns into the destructive instinct when, with the help of special organs, it is directed outwards, on to objects. The organism preserves its own life, so to say, by destroying an extraneous one.”[2] It is this scenario that makes it possible to say that there is a disjunctive synthesis at work here. A term coined by Gilles Deleuze, disjunctive synthesis defines the operation in and through which the two components of an apparatus, a psychic apparatus in this case, appear to be the two differently conceived constituents of the same thing.  

The influence of Nietzsche’s concepts of the will to nothingness and eternal return are pervasive in Freud’s later work. Freud’s turn towards metapsychology and his consequent creation of the concept of the death drive is rooted in his need for something to fill in the gaps in his scientific and empirically observable theories owing much to Darwin. Freud was uneasy with the concept of the death drive on account of its non-scientific nature, but nevertheless he had to conceptualize the death drive as the counterpart of the life drive in order to be able to go beyond the pleasure principle. Educated as a neuroscientist Freud was aware that he was contradicting himself and perhaps even turning against his earlier attitude towards the human psyche by showing that at the beginning was the death drive and that the life drive was only an outcome, a kind of defense against the death drive.

In his Civilization and Its Discontents Freud talked about the oceanic feeling, a sense of oneness with the world which he admits to have never experienced personally. Perhaps his creation of the highly speculative concept of the death drive was Freud’s attempt to fill the gap opened by the absence of this oceanic feeling for him.  

Writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person; and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother’s womb, the first lodging, for which in all likelihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease.[3]

In his An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Freud had put forward the idea that drives produce affects and so drives are at the root of all actions. I agree with Freud that drives are at the root of all actions at the beginning, but contrary to what Freud says of them, I think affects are not mere manifestations of the drives. Rather, affects emerge as a response to the changes in the level of the intensity of external stimuli. The external stimuli creates affects towards objects and the drives “find” their satisfaction through the affective quality of the objects produced to match the drive. But it is precisely this matching process that produces the desire for the object, so the unconscious drive turns into “conscious” desire. 

In his 1920 essay Beyond The Pleasure Principle, Freud revised his drive theory and introduced his concept of the death drive. In this revised drive theory Freud conceptualized the life drive as inclusive of both the libidinal impulses and the self-preservative impulses. As for the death drive Freud conceptualized it as the self-destructive impulse. So, at the beginning Freud argued that libidinal impulses contain sadistic elements as well. While in his first drive theory in On Narcissism (1914), Freud suggested that aggression should be included within the life drive, in his second drive theory in Beyond The Pleasure Principle, he says that aggression is the will to return to the inorganic state and is therefore directed against the self and serves self-destruction. According to this picture if adaptation is essential to survival then aggression is against life and is a manifestation of the death drive.

In the face of the present situation I project a few alterations onto Freud’s drive theory in the light of Lacan’s theory of the subject. Since thought is a product of the brain and since most psychoanalysts agree that metaphysical phenomena are composed of psychosomatic events, there is nothing other than a fantasy that fills the space between the soma and the psyche. This fantasy (‘I,) stands in for the nothingness in between them; it unites them as it splits them apart. I disagree with Freud’s theory concerning the source of drives. But I do make a distinction between the conscious desires and the unconscious drives. 

Lacan’s contribution to the field is his realization that the unconscious drives are shaped by the external circumstances and turned into conscious desire. For me Lacan’s theory, however, just like Hobbes’s metaphor of modern power, the Leviathan, remains, to use Donald Winnicott’s terms, a mere transitional object, which helps to situate the psychosomatic events in the context of sociopolitical theory.

I now return to Hobbes through Foucault, whose thoughts on death and its relation to power become relevant to the subject of drives, their source, and their processes of formation.

2. The Void, Drives, Automata 

The most important thing that Hobbes says in Leviathan, which I think is still relevant to a considerable extent, is that death is the absolute master, and the fear of death forces the subjects to adapt to the existing social order. Leviathan feeds on this fear of death, and it is Leviathan itself that instills the fear of death in people. If we keep in mind that in Western societies death is associated with nothing/ness, it becomes clearer why and how Foucault’s use of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon in Discipline and Punish as a metaphor of the modern power structure which has nothing/ness at its centre gains new significance.     

At the periphery, an annular building; at the center, a tower; this tower is pierced with white windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy. By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible. The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions – to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide – it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two. Full lightning and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.[4]  

            Foucault, without directly referring to him, shows that Hobbes’s monster has become a machine. I argue that this machine is itself in a process of transformation today, and is in the way of taking the form of something that is neither organic nor inorganic, neither visible nor invisible, but felt. This is power as affective force. Power can no more be represented by metaphors. For metaphor is a concept that belongs to the world of metaphysics which exists only as a fantasy world, whereas today power has a more material existence than it has ever had and its materiality splits as it unites the psychosomatic and the sociopolitical realms of experience.

The automatization of power, that is, transformation of power from an organic state, as demonstrated by Hobbes, towards an inorganic state, as demonstrated by Foucault, has been studied in a different way and in a different context by Mark Poster in his Foucault, Marxism, and History. Influenced by Poster’s interpretation of Foucault in relation to Marxism, and in the context of the relationship between discourse and power, I reassert, in a different way and for different reasons, that Foucault’s conceptualization of the Panopticon is useful and yet insufficient in understanding the workings of power today in the face of the recent developments in technology.

In this new situation the subjects know that they are still locked in the Panopticon, but pretend that they are free floating across the Superpanopticon.  This is because they are being locked deeper into the Panopticon; and there finding themselves dismembered, losing themselves in the terrible condition of being pushed further into the hitherto undiscovered corners of one’s own room, in their cells.

A new formulation of Foucault’s concept of bio-power, the Superpanoptic discourse reverses the roles of Eros and Thanatos; abuses our understandings and misunderstandings of the life drive and the death drive, as well as manipulating our inner conflicts and turning us into antagonists. It does this by erasing the necessary boundary between life and death, the organic and the inorganic, so as to create the conditions of possibility for manufacturing an illusory sense of oneness with the world, hence uniting the subject of statement (the enunciated) and the subject of enunciation which should remain separate from and/but contiguous to one another for the perpetual transformation and multiplication of life forms to take place at the same time.

Now I will attempt to make a leap forward in the direction of theorizing a practical way of handling the conflict between material production and metaphysical production. In what follows, therefore, I try to show how this conflict arises and how it turns into an antagonism.

It is the projection-introjection mechanism operating within and through the capillaries of the body without organs across the new Earth only to reproduce that which it had attempted to expulse as an organ without a body on the old Earth that produces the two poles of the unhealthy conflict. One being social and the other metaphysical, and being against one another, these two are feeding neither themselves nor the other, but contributing to the production of otherness as negativity, hence taking part in the setting of the very vicious trap in which they find themselves against each other and out of which they both come dismembered. They are locked in an agonizing process, which is destroying both of them. It is impossible for one to survive without the other, and yet they prefer to eat one another. Social production produces exclusion of the other, metaphysical production produces an illusory image of the other. When these two modes of production work together they create the conditions of impossibility for a non-illusory and non-antagonistic mode of being.

We shall add to this, that although the problem is inherent in the projection-introjection mechanism itself we are looking for the source of our maladies outside. We are projecting all our bad qualities onto the others and then accusing them of being negative towards us. In turn we are giving birth to the negativity of the other, or otherness as negativity. The negative within and without us is being created by us since we introject what we have projected and inversely.

 

3. The Subject and Power

The relationship between the subject and power is a theme that has played a significant role in determining the direction of European thought since Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. Both the Frankfurt School thinkers such as Horkheimer and Adorno, and the poststructuralists such as Deleuze and Foucault, took on this subject as one of the objects of their studies in different ways. Although I was deeply influenced by Adorno’s Negative Dialectics and Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution before the beginning of this thesis, I later on turned towards Deleuze and Foucault to find tools for repairing the restrictive implications of the early Frankfurt School thought. I think post-structuralism and critical theory have a lot more to offer to one another that can be used in practical critique of the predominant order in particular and nihilisms in general, than many, such as Habermas, suggest.

Having taken what I wanted from both parties, I asymmetrically placed them into one another’s contexts with the aim of analyzing the relationship not only between post-structuralism and critical theory, but also between theory and practice. I projected these two forms of thought onto one another. My aim was to theorize a practical way of looking at the world which could be turned into action in accordance with the demands of the present. I used practical Kleinian looking glasses and what I saw was and remains uncanny. I found Thomas Hobbes and Michel Foucault in the form of a snake biting its own tail in a cell, with Marcuse standing firm outside the cell as the guardian angel under the guiding hand of Reich and his orgasm theory.  Upon the emergence of this image that in time took shape on the stage of my internal theatre, I finally managed to determine my direction and object of study.

The point of departure of this thesis is the modern discourse on power that emerged with the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. A response to metaphysics and Christian dogmatism, Enlightenment is a system of thought which proclaims itself to be governed by universal reason alone. In the Dialectic of Enlightenment Horkheimer and Adorno situate Marx and Freud, together with themselves, in this tradition. I situate Foucault himself in this same tradition of Enlightenment.

Michel Foucault’s interpretation of the Panopticon, and Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan become relevant here precisely because they present us with metaphors representing an idealized model of modern power structure which takes its driving force from the exploitation of the conflict between the psyche and the soma, reason and non-reason, the life drive and the death drive.

This power structure is not only still dominant, but also increasing its dominance as it decreases its visibility.  It does this by making the subjects believe that they are governed by the reality principle when in fact they are governed by the pleasure principle. This situation causes a shift in the subject’s conception of health. I’ll come back to this in the future, but now I have to mention something else which is very closely linked to this shift in the subject’s conception of health.

Enlightenment signifies the secularization of the authority of the Big Other, and erection of instrumental reason in the place of the absolute authority of the Bible. In this light Enlightenment appears to be merely a change of roles between the masters and the slaves; the problem inherent in the metaphysical world of representation remains the same. Walter Benjamin, for instance, warns against this trap set by the panoptic mechanism which creates a Leviathan within the subject. In his essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Benjamin argues that cinema can turn out to be a fascist propaganda machine if it falls in the wrong hands. Benjamin is not only against the aestheticization of politics but also the politicization of aesthetics. What remains unthought in Benjamin’s essay, though, is the ideology of representational and metaphysical conceptions of non-reason, which is itself the problem inherent in the structure of the system.

Here it is also important to emphasize my difference from Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse considered modern western capitalist societies to be sick. He thought himself as the healthy subject outside a sick society and determined his goal as the healing of this sick society. Marcuse’s political philosophy as therapy is no more sufficient for the increasingly sophisticated problems of today. For power has become more than oppressive/repressive.

4. The Imprisoned Creators of Our Times

If we look at the contemporary electronic music scene we see that the three dimensional sounds created are non-representational to such an extent that it is as though there is a living organism from a completely another dimension making organic noises in the room. I will return to the relevance of electronic music in a little while, but first let me revisit Herbert Marcuse’s theory of how capitalism keeps itself alive by feeding on the death of the counter-subjectivities and the life of the dominant consuming subject governed by the life drive which is itself externally constituted within the subject.

In a nutshell, Marcuse’s theory in One-Dimensional Man was that the one dimensional market society absorbs and turns the counter-cultural products into its own agents, reducing the two-dimensional to the one-dimensional, hence making the forces of resistance serve the purpose of strengthening what they are counter to. Marcuse’s problem was the dissolution of the two-dimensional sphere of counter-cultural production and its domination by the one-dimensional relations. He suggested using mythological imagery  not only to make sense of the pre-dominant social reality, but also to create a counter-social reality which would at the same time be a critique of the existing social reality. What Marcuse said is still relevant to a certain extent, but to be able to use this theory one has to adapt it to the demands of the present situation. What I will attempt to do, therefore, is to ignore the irrelevant parts of Marcuse’s theory and try to find out those parts of it that matter for my concerns. It is true that Marcuse’s theory is no more sufficient in understanding and solving the problems of our Superpanoptic societies. And yet in it there are lots of insights with high potential for development in the service of psychosomatic and sociopolitical progress today.

Today even Madonna’s latest release, Confessions on the Dance Floor, is produced in a DJ’s room in London. The electronic dance music products are mostly produced in people’s bedrooms on a personal computer donated with software especially produced for making electronic music. The recent shift in the gears of electronic dance music, of course, is a cause of the amazing possibilities the digital sound machines present. These machines have no material existence; they are loaded on the computer in the form of digital data. One can have a studio loaded into one’s computer by pressing a few buttons on the keyboard. In this context, making music requires technical knowledge of the tools of production more than the knowledge of the rules of what is called making music. With electronic music the sounds are already there, loaded into the computer; all one needs to do to become a music producer has become putting these sounds together, making them overlap with one another in a positively disordered way and produce something that is neither the one nor the other.

If we imagine for a moment Beethoven making his music after the orchestra plays it, composing the piece after it is materialized, we can see how paradoxical the situation the producer is caught up in inherent in the production process of electronic music is. It is as if Beethoven wrote the notes of his music as he listened to the orchestra play it. We can see that this is in fact exactly the opposite of what Beethoven did. For in the case of Beethoven, unlike the electronic music producer, it is the internal orchestra in the psyche that plays the piece as Beethoven writes it, not an actual orchestra in its material existence. With electronic music that internal orchestra is not in the creator’s mind, but in the computer. 

Some of the more creative and experimentalist logics in this field record the noises coming from within their bodies, or from within other animals’ bodies, load them into the computer, and with the aid of synthesizers and effects units, turn these noises into the basic rhythms and melodies of their music. Heartbeat, for instance, can be used as drum and bass at the same time in some electronic music recordings. It is possible to dub-out, echo, delay, deepen, darken, lighten, slow down, or fasten up the sound of heartbeat with the computer. And after a proper mastering process you get something that sounds neither totally organic, nor totally inorganic.  These products are not only digitally bought and sold on the internet, but also exchanged with similar other products.

The affective qualities of these products are extremely high. The producers of the five most developed forms of electronic music, which are Techno, House, Electro, Trance, and Breakbeat, claim that they are the beholders of the threshold between the soma and the psyche, that with their walls of sound they keep them separate and yet contiguous to one another. 

What we witness in this time is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World turning into Rave New World.  A world in which the well known and the so called lines between mind and body, fantasy and reality, nature and culture, organic and inorganic, life and death, are not just blurred, but have completely disappeared. And yet, at the same, these lines are in the process of reappearance.

The recent developments in electronic music present us with a good example of how the inorganic has become, at least in sound, more organic than the organic. With the rapid development of sound producing machines it has become possible to create such sounds that while listening to it one feels like there is a living organism from a strangely familiar realm making noises in the room, or worse still, that the noises are coming from within one’s mind and body. Listening to this kind of music makes the mutual exclusiveness of the somatic and the psychic irrelevant. Especially after the three dimensional medium presented by CDs and DVDs it has become possible to present the sound to masses in a form that sounds more real than the original, live recording.

It would be wrong to assume, as many have done, that this kind of music is in touch with only a few listeners. On the contrary, since not only the listeners but also the producers of this kind of music have started to occupy dominant positions in the advertisement production business, it is not surprising that electronic music, and especially the underground minimalist techno-electro is increasingly being used as the background music surrounding the object advertised in many advertisements on radio and T.V. Based on the erasure of the boundary between the psychic and the somatic, or between the inorganic and organic, the use of minimalist electronic music in the advertisements of today’s hectic life-styles is a very good example to the exploitation of the life/death drives inherent in contemporary nihilistic culture driving and driven by what has almost become transglobal capitalism.  The LG U880 ultra-slim mobile phone advert on T.V. is precisely the hard-core of how this exploitation of the life/death drives takes place. In the advert there is heart beating in the phone. Or, the heart is shown to have a transparent phone surrounding it. And with the minimalist techno at the back, that is, sounds that are neither organic nor inorganic but both at the same time. The beating heart in the phone create the deep and dark bass sound with extremely electronic and yet organic sounding noises coming from within the phone.  It’s as though it is one’s own heart beating in the phone; this phone is you, so it’s yours… If we keep in mind that the transparency of the phone is fleshy, for there are capillaries of the phone, the overall impression created is one of ultra minimalist life reduced to its bare bones when in reality the LG U880 mobile phone is itself the product of exactly the opposite of an ultra minimalist attitude. The message is that this mobile phone is what attaches you to life, when in fact it detaches you from life as it is. The finishing words, “Life is Good,” only confirms my critique of this advertisement, of this marvellous sound-image which is an inorganic object disguised as a living organism. It is obvious that what’s at work here is the exploitation/oppression of the life/death drives, as the inorganic replaces the organic, and the real of death in the midst of life is expelled.

In this situation which I found myself Benjamin’s and Marcuse’s theories are insufficient in that they do not realize that it is precisely the reversing of the roles policy, that is, presentation of something as its opposite, of an inorganic entity as an organic entity for instance, or of that which is inside as if it is outside, that has to be left behind, for Panopticon and Leviathan are within and without the subject at the same time, and a reverse of the roles of the inside and the outside means nothing in this perilous time. 

For the solution of problems posed by the advanced projection-introjection mechanisms of what have become Superpanoptic societies, I attempt to show that post-structuralism and critical theory have never been as mutually exclusive as many suggest, especially in terms of the wrong and right questions that they left unanswered. If we look at Adorno’s and Foucault’s writings we can see that most of their thought is directed towards finding how to reconcile theory and practice. Just as theory and practice, post-structuralism and critical theory, too, are always already reconciled, because they come from Nietzsche, Marx, Freud. They may be always already reconciled but the only way to actualize this reconciliation is to realize their common goal; to put theory in the service of ordinary life, to develop the conditions of existence, and to practice freedom. 

 It will almost sound offensive to say that the new emerges only if some people become traitors and shake the foundations of their own mode of being, or at least undertake opening up spaces so that light can shine among all, or death can manifest itself. But one must take the risk of offending some others, for every situation requires its expression, every problem bears within itself at least half of its own solution. It is all a matter of putting theory and practice in the service of one another. Theory that does not match the truth of its time is for nothing. It is important to theorize practical ways of dealing with the banal accidents of an ordinary life. I think what I have just said is one of the things that both Foucault and Adorno would have agreed on.

5. The Nietzschean Subject

Here I turn to Nietzsche who creates the concept of bad conscience as the generator of illness, which is in turn fed by the illness it generates, giving birth to the man of ressentiment. Nietzsche’s ressentiment is what Klein calls envy. To be able to see the link between envy/ressentiment and the will to nothingness/the life-death drives, I shall start from the beginning, from the first year of life.

The Nietzschean subject is always at the periphery and perpetually in touch with the objects surrounding him. In fact he is not only in touch but also is defined by them. This subject is produced through what it consumes. The subject buys things and those things determine the subjects identity which is a non-identity. The subject becomes what it consumes, it projects what it has introjected. In a world full of violence, destruction and death, or “madness in every direction,” as Kerouac would have said, the subject becomes nothing but a projector of the evil within society. This paradoxical nature of the contemporary Nietzschean subject is a result of the turning of self into the other within in the process of becoming. The self of the present has not only become a prison-house of the others within itself but also it itself has become a self-contained monad with no relation to the outside and no awareness of the external world populated by the others’ selves.

The relation of a subject to the objects surrounding him/her shows us something about the subject’s relation to death. In a world which use value as opposed to the exchange value is important, the subject gets to know the nature of the objects and death more profoundly. But today use value is itself determined by exchange value. The world today is almost exactly the opposite of a world in which nothing is a substitute for another thing.

With societies based on exchange value the relationship between the subject and the object is confined in the paranoid-schizoid position. There remains no gap between the subject and the object when in fact there should be. Everything becomes a substitute for another thing and everything is substitutable. With the advance of global capitalism the subject itself becomes an object. The subject begins to act itself out as an object for the desire and consumption of the other. The subject becomes a substitute of itself.  With global capitalism the subject starts to feel itself as a machine; it becomes inorganic for itself when in fact it is essentially organic. In other words organs start to operate like non-organs, all organicity is replaced by inorganicity, life with death, and in this kind of a society everyone is always already dead.

Global capitalism indeed appears to have rendered everyone equal in relation to each other. They all have the equal rights to consume but in no way have all the means to do so. This status of the subject as a mere consumer, objectifies the subject as a subject of consumption. The subject is reduced to a consuming-excreting machine(naturally), or a mechanism of introjection-projection(culturally). That makes everyone substitutable by anyone else; they can take on each other’s roles, act themselves out as they are not, as someone else is. In other words rather than become no-one, no-body, imperceptible, they become something exchangeable and expendable. And yet it is only on the condition of feeling oneself as nothing rather than something, feeling of self as nothingness, can one go beyond one’s symbolic life driven by striving for security and omniscience. The subject should start to see the reduction of self to nothingness as a gain when from the perspective of the already existing symbolic order it is a loss of the difference of everything in relation to a subject or an object. In the absence of this kind of a subject who does not want to become an ordinary symbolic person, herd-instinct dominates all subjects. With the advance of global capitalism this herd-instinct can be said to have become nothing but a result of the exploitation of the life and death drives to reduce life to a struggle for and against life/death. The subject no longer has to carry the burden of being different. In this light and in this time we can see global capitalism creating not only the conditions of possibility for the subject to forget itself but also the conditions of impossibility for a remembrance of self, producing the non-knowledge of self as the counter-knowledge.

Now that Nietzsche’s autobiographical book Ecce Homo has become a symptom, an effect of his previous books, the other within of his oeuvre, in most parts of Europe, but especially in the United States of America and Britain, this book is considered to be a  prescription for the predominant way of “healthy living.” It will almost sound offensive to say that the other within of the past has become the self of the present, the non-reason inherent in reason has become the reason itself, and yet the questions remain: 

1. What can be learned from Nietzsche’s failure, which caused and continues to cause many other failures?

2. What are the conditions of possibility for a non-antagonistic and yet non-illusory relationship between the self and the other and how can they be sustained?

 Intermediation 1

In the previous chapter I tried to introduce certain Freudian concepts in relation to post-structuralism and critical theory. The importance of this first chapter lies in its attempt to link the concepts of the life drive and the death drive created approximately a century ago to contemporary cultural and critical theory. In the next chapter I will try to frame the context of the disagreement between Klein and Lacan in relation to Freud. The aim of this second chapter is to link the life drive and the death drive to the processes of introjection and projective identification. The chapter also includes an analysis of Derridean deconstruction in relation to the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position in the context of introjection and projective identification. On the whole the following chapter aims at connecting psychoanalytic theory and practice to more philosophical issues concerning creative and critical processes. 

 


[1] Sigmund Freud, Civilization, Society, and Religion, trans. Angela Richards (London: Pelican, 1985)

[2] Freud, 357

[3] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. James Strachey (London: Penguin, 1985), 279

[4] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), 200

Now, the history of depths begins with what is most terrifying: it begins with the theatre of terror whose unforgettable picture Melanie Klein painted. In it, the nursing infant is, beginning with his or her first year, stage, actor, and drama at once. Orality, mouth, and breast are initially bottomless depths. Not only are the breast and the entire body of the mother split apart into good and bad object, but they are aggressively emptied, slashed to pieces, broken into crumbs and alimentary morsels. The introjection of these partial objects into the body of the infant is accompanied by a projection of aggressiveness onto these internal objects, and by a re-projection of these objects into the maternal body. Thus, introjected morsels are like poisonous, persecuting, explosive, and toxic substances threatening the child’s body from within and being endlessly reconstituted inside the mother’s body. The necessity of a perpetual re-introjection is the result of this. The entire system of introjection and projection is a communication of bodies in, and through, depth.[1]

                                                                                                                             Gilles Deleuze.

 

1. Nature, Culture, and Lacan

 According to Lacan a psychoanalysable subject’s drama is an outcome of the conflict between nature and culture. As Claude Lévi-Strauss put it, this conflict arises from the incest taboo, which is a result of the prohibition of marriage among family members who are tied to one another by blood.

It is modern structuralism that has brought this out best, by showing that it is at the level of matrimonial alliance, as opposed to natural generation, to biological lineal descent—at the level therefore of the signifier—that the fundamental exchanges take place and it is there that we find once again that the most elementary structures of social functioning are inscribed in the terms of a combinatory.[2]

 From the perspective of structuralism the incest taboo produces the cultural family and separates it from the natural family. The incest taboo is the effect and the cause of the conflict between nature and culture.  Oedipus delivers the subject’s role in society and hence gives the subject its cultural and sexual identity. This separates the subject from its non-identity and forms the basis for the conscious desires to flourish. All that is repressed in this process gives birth to the unconscious. But unconscious is not a pool in which the repressed waste material is accumulated; rather, it is a theoretical construct to explain what happens to the repressed material but which nevertheless has discernible effects in everyday life and behaviour.

            For Freud, with the resolution of the Oedipus conflict the period of primary narcissism comes to an end. All that the subject wants is to get back what it had lost upon entry into the symbolic order through Oedipus. The subject loses the sense of omnipotence and is in pursuit of narcissistic sense of oneness. Each time the subject steps it tries to step towards the pleasures of narcissistic satisfaction of the first step, and yet with each step moves further away from it. Lacan’s narcissistic period, the mirror stage, is the period after the period of an unmediated relationship between the child and the mother and it is in the mirror stage that the child identifies himself with his whole image on the mirror to become what his mother wants him to be. Identification with the mother turns into identification with the self’s whole image on the mirror which is assumed to be the object of mother’s desire. Since the child cannot yet make a distinction between the me and the not-me, and sees himself as one, the child is as yet a mere (subject), that is to say a subject that is not a subject of culture.

The child exits the order of nature and enters the order of culture through symbols. It is a symbolic entry to the world of symbols in which a subject becomes the subject. A symbol fills the space in-between the child and the mother and is the third world, the imaginary world between the symbolic and the real, which takes the place of the unmediated relationship between the other two.

            The reflection on the mirror sets in motion the numberless introjective-projective processes that the subject will experience throughout his/her life. Seeing the whole image of self on the mirror helps the subject to develop a self-consciousness as a separate being neither in-itself nor for itself. The awareness of selfness brings with it the awareness of otherness. The subject distinguishes between the me and the not-me. This situation cuts the subject in two halves; one half is the omnipotent exhibitionist and the other half is the object of the gaze of others. Realizing that the subject is not only the observer but also the observed produces a self-conscious consciousness; being conscious of self as that which can never be fully conscious of itself.

The subject is produced in and through language. When the subject says I the symbol becomes the mediator between the internal and the external worlds, which means that language splits the subject and the object as it unites them. Following the mirror stage The Name of the Father completely ends the unmediated relationship between the child and the mother and establishes its own laws and institutions. The symbolic father is he who has what the mother lacks and to whom the mother is subject. The father deprives the mother and the child of their unmediated relationship and deprives the mother of the phallus. For Lacan, the civilizing castration, the castration that turns the human child into a cultural subject, does that by directing the child from being to having. Rather than being the phallus the child begins to want to have the phallus. It is the absence of the phallus that is established rather than the phallus itself. In pursuit of the phallus as a substitute for the unattainable mother, the subject obeys the father’s law. The constitution of the phallus as a lack opens a gap between the subject and the object. It is this gap, this lack, this absence that is the unconscious and renders the conscious subject possible. What man lacks is a mythological totality symbolized by the phallus. And this lack is a condition of the subject. The subject and its unconscious are produced at the same time. Language turns the human child into a non-subject, it gives him his sexual identity, at the same time produces unconscious drives and situates the subject in the symbolic order and induces pain.

Oedipal discourse forms the basis for the deliverance of the subject’s sexual identity and is the discourse of the other, the unconscious. For the subject to be able to use language, first he has to acquire language. In the learning process the unconscious manifests itself in and through slips of the tongue, jokes, and dreams. Slips of the tongue, and jokes reveal the real of the speaking subject’s desire. The unconscious is the condition of conscious discourse. 

            For Lacan, language is the condition of the unconscious. The symbolic order constitutes the unconscious drives. That which the subject wants is the unmediated experience of existence lost upon entry into the symbolic order. The rupture between being and non-being opens with language and in the unconscious the symbol of the fullness of being, completeness of the subject is the phallus. And the phallus is that which the subject had lost upon entry into the symbolic order. But since the subject has to use language to attain the lost object, his striving for wholeness is in vain, which renders him tragic and exhilarating. For as I said earlier on, as the subject thinks that he is stepping towards the real of the desired object he is in fact moving further away from it with each word he adds to his vocabulary.

            Here I would like to tell the most known of the Oedipus myths, but at the same time the one that is least known as an Oedipus myth, the story of Adam and Eve. We shall listen to Adam and Eve’s story as though it is our own story. For man perpetually runs after his dreams, and as he does this he moves on through disappointments. I shall therefore stress the significance of disappointment and frustration in psychoanalytic discourse.

            Adam eats the forbidden apple given to him by Eve. Counter to what Genesis and Milton say, I think the relationship between male and female is built on a prohibition. Adam eats the apple. Adam is expelled from paradise for doing that which shouldn’t have been done. He is banned from the heaven on earth (Eden) and is nailed to pain and suffering. And he is promised paradise after death. But why is an apple prohibited in paradise? Because as a cultural fantasy, paradise is the other of something forbidden, it is the product of this forbidding. If the law, the symbolic, is removed from the scene, all symbolic meaning collapses. And since it is law that produces the unlawful, since it is repression that forms the unconscious, there can be no symbolic order without the fantasy supporting it and keeping the unconscious drives at bay.

            It is the sense of primary Narcissism that is the desired object of fantasy, a sense of oneness with the world, omnipotence, and completeness. So life doesn’t end with death, it reaches its most complete form in the womb, it begins with a death. Life is a striving for a death oscillating between a forbidden death and a promised death. Death pulls the subject towards itself with all the attraction of its staticity, or stasis. Eros and Thanatos are twin brothers.

            Expulsion of Narcissism is a condition of cultural life. Narcissus, this beautiful man, falls in love with his own image on the water. His love for himself prevents him from seeing the love presented to him by culture–Echo’s love. Narcissus leans forward to touch his image and leans so much that he falls and drowns in the water, dies in his own image.[3]

            This period of primary Narcissism is what Lacan calls the mirror stage. As I have shown in the previous pages, at this stage there is a conflict between the Ideal-I and the I as the object of the other’s desire. It is this that splits the subject. In other words every individual re-experiences the tragedy of Narcissus at the back of his/her mind throughout life. And it is this regressive re-experiencing that produces and is produced by the real of the subject’s desire.

            The father’s law forbids identification with the mother and promotes identification with the object of mother’s desire. Father’s law is the law of the culture. If the child doesn’t obey the father’s law, that is, when the child refuses to leave the mirror stage behind, the child cannot move on to the next stage and distinguish itself from the others; it resists codification. This is what a schizophrenic is. To be locked in the mirror stage is to be a schizophrenic. Here the subject experiences existence as an illusory reality. He can do nothing to act upon the world for he doesn’t know what use the objects surrounding him have. The schizophrenic who refuses to pass from father’s civilizing castration, is he who escapes cultural codification. And culture locks away the mad into a cell with mirrors on all walls that hide the secrets. A chain of identifications with the objects of others’ desires begin when and if the subject passes through the fantasy world of the mirror stage and becomes rational. It all ends with an idealized war culture, when and if culture is built on and through the Name of the Father.

            We can see this in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The order of culture has two poles: On one pole is the unmediated love, on the other pole is the idealized war. In War and Peace Prince Andrey, although he loves his wife very much—or rather because he loves her so much—chooses to leave her behind and go to war to fight Napoleon’s armies. He follows greater ideals, for the future of Europe, and leaves behind the little world of the females; he chooses to go in search of his Oedipal destiny.

 2. No Replica?

Klein is the first psychoanalyst to analyse a pre-verbal and pre-Oedipal stage of development, that is, before the child starts to hate the father and want to unite with the mother whom he believes to contain the father’s penis. In her Psychoanalysis of Children Klein gives a brief account of how this adaptation to reality takes place. 

The small patient will begin, for instance, to distinguish between his make-believe mother and his real one, or between his toy brother and his live one. He will insist that he only meant to do this or that to his toy brother, and that he loves his real brother very much. Only after very strong and obstinate resistances have been surmounted will he be able to see that his aggressive acts were aimed at the object in the real world. But when he has come to understand this, young as he is, he will have made a very important advance in his adaptation to reality.[4]

Klein analyses the process of adapting to reality in terms of the child’s relation to his mother’s body. In the first year of life it is through introjection of the mother’s body as the embodiment of the external world that the child learns to relate to reality. At this stage the child sees the breast as the representative of the mother. The child projects his own reality onto the external world and believes that the mother’s breast belongs to him. When the flow of milk is interrupted the child becomes aggressive towards the mother and bites the breast. According to Klein this is the paranoid-schizoid position characterized by oral sadism.

Klein associates this attitude of the child with the dynamics of an adult schizophrenic mind.  A child who cannot yet make a distinction between the inner reality and the external world is like a psychotic adult who cannot make a distinction between what belongs to his fantasy life and what to the external world. 

A good example to this situation can be selected from the Hollywood horror scene. What we see in the Red Dragon, for instance, is a man who over-identifies with Hannibal Lecter, and becomes what Hannibal Lecter identified with in the first place; a psychotic serial killer who identifies himself with Blake’s Red Dragon.

The psychotic serial killer who believes himself to be constructing a work of art with stories of his murders, sees his criminal acts as the actualization of a prophecy, an incarnation of the myth of Red Dragon. It is through William Blake’s painting, Red Dragon, that the character is familiar with the myth of Red Dragon. Towards the end of the film we see him literally eating, incorporating, Blake’s original painting. That is when his total transformation from bodily existence to a mythological dimension beyond the flesh takes place. Until that point in the film he is governed by the Red Dragon, now he is the Red Dragon, which means that he no longer takes the orders from a force outside of himself. He has introjected the source of power and has become his own master against himself. And perhaps he even believes that his becoming is complete now. 

3. The Significance of Klein’s Fantasies

            It was Klein who emphasized the importance of fantasies and playing in the process of development. Klein brought to light that as humans we perpetually oscillate between paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position throughout life. Klein categorized the death drive as more dominant in the paranoid-schizoid position and life-drive as more dominant in the depressive position. For Klein a successful therapeutic procedure would result in maintaining a contact with the intermediary realm between phantasm and reality. Klein’s importance lies in her acceptance and affirmation of our most primitive drives’ role throughout life. The need for satisfaction of those drives sometimes reaches to such inordinate measures that we become aggressive in the face of reality. Frustrations arise and things get worse, for we don’t know how to turn our frustrations into fuel for the life-drive, and eventually fall victim to the death-drive in search of omnipotence.

            According to Freud, as he puts it in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, drives were governed by the pleasure principle and the object of satisfaction of these drives was not very important. In other words, between the drive and its objects there was no natural tie. But for Klein, who prefers the word instinct instead of drive, from the beginning of life onwards instincts are connected to certain internal objects. From the beginning of life the human subject is in pursuit of object relations in the way of satisfying the instincts such as hunger and thirst.

            Klein’s shifting conceptualisation of the process of subject formation can be clearly observed in her analysis of the relationship between The Early Stages of the Oedipus-Conflict and Super-Ego Formation. Klein takes the beginning of socialization to a pre-Oedipal stage, a pre-verbal if not pre-linguistic stage, to the first year of life. When a baby is born it immediately is in the world of objects. And language, being the extension of the world, that is, being one of the objects surrounding the subject, is immediately at the disposal of the subject just like any other object. We must keep in mind, however, that from language Klein understand not only the words but also the objects such as a toy soldier, or a ball, or any other object. Now, the baby as the subject throws its toy soldier at the mother to get her attention, or to articulate that it is hungry. This action of the baby is similar to someone sending a letter to his/her lover to articulate that he/she has missed him/her and wants to have sex soon. It is in this larger context that we understand language not only as words but also as everything that is at hand.

            According to Freud, Lévi-Strauss, and Lacan, the formation of the subject begins with the appearance of the Name of the Father and his law prohibiting the incest. It is only with the father saying, “No, you shall not desire the mother, but try to be the object of mother’s desire,” that the child experiences his first confrontation with the symbolic order. But in Klein this process is related to the development of object relations in a time where there is imaginary meaning and not symbolic meaning.

Early analysis offers one of the most fruitful fields for psychoanalytic therapy precisely because the child has the ability to represent its unconscious in a direct way, and is thus not only able to experience a far-reaching emotional abreaction but actually to live through the original situation in its analysis, so that with the help of interpretation its fixations can to a considerable extent be resolved.[5]

When a child creates imaginary characters, pretends that they are real and talks with them, this is considered as playing, but when an adult does the same thing he is considered to be a schizophrenic, a subject of psychosis. Schizophrenia is a term coined by Bleuler to designate a set of symptoms such as loss of memory and excessively regressive behaviour usually associated with old age. The schizophrenic experience, as understood by Bleuler, is the reliving of childhood near death in the form of a disorganizaton and loss of the pieces constituting the memory.

[…] by projecting his terrifying super-ego on to his objects, the individual increases his hatred of those objects and thus also his fear of them, with the result that, if his aggression and anxiety are excessive, his external world is changed into a place of terror and his objects into enemies and he is threatened with persecution both from the external world and from his introjected enemies.[6]

Klein describes schizophrenia as the “attempt to ward off, master or contend with an internal enemy.”[7] This theme is linked to Klein’s discussion about the dynamic of envy. For Klein, the child, not yet capable of making a distinction between what is inner and what is outer, attacks the source of possible gratification. Envy is a product of a fantasy that the breast is good all the time because it supplies the child with milk whenever he wants. When the milk is denied to the child the child believes that the mother is bad because she is withholding the source of good. The child splits the object into good and bad to save the good breast from possible damage caused by his attacks on the bad breast. Klein goes on to say that it is at this stage that the child develops a sense of external reality by beginning to see the mother as another person, and the breast as a whole object which is good and bad at the same time. This is the depressive position in which the same object has conflicting significations for the child. Understanding that he has been attacking not only the bad breast but also the source of good induces guilt in the child who in turn learns why not to be envious. Klein sees guilt as therapeutic of envy. What appears to be the illness turns out to be the source of good in Klein’s therapeutic procedure. With Klein therapy is reaffirmed as the process of reconciliation through which a rational subject is created.

            4. Klein, Lacan, and Psychosis

            For Lacan there is this solipsistic period of life at the beginning. The subject becomes capable of making a distinction between himself and others after the Narcissistic period of mirror stage. The subject’s ability to interpret and adapt shows signs of progress. Once the mirror stage is passed through and the fantasy is traversed, the subject becomes capable of controlling the unconscious drives and touching reality. The child learns to postpone gratification and finds other ways of satisfying himself. The function of the I shows itself when the child feels the need to act upon the external world and change things in the way of attaining pleasure and satisfaction of desires. When the child gives up desiring his mother and realizes that he has to identify with his father the foundations of the super-ego formation are laid. It is the fear of castration that leads the male child to give up the mother. The sexual desire turns away from the forbidden object and moves towards finding ways of expressing itself in and through metaphors supplied by the predominant culture.

            According to Klein the formation of the super-ego begins in the first year of life. For Klein the “early Oedipus conflict” is at the root of child psychoanalysis. Klein says that Oedipal tendencies of the child start with oral frustrations and this is when the super-ego takes its course of formation. 

These analyses have shown that oral frustrations release the Oedipus impulses and that the super-ego begins to be formed at the same time. […] This is the beginning of that developmental period which is characterized by the distinct demarcation of genital trends and which is known as the early flowering of sexuality and the phase of the Oedipus conflict.[8]    

            It is Klein’s legacy to have taken the beginning of development to a stage earlier than the appearance of the Name of the Father. In this world the castrating father figure doesn’t yet exist. And the child has at least three years ahead to become capable of using language. Klein’s journey into a zone before language, a zone before the child finds itself in the signifying chain, is valuable especially for showing the lack of the role of fantasy and phantasmatic production in Lacan’s story of the formation of the subject. And Gilles Deleuze uses Klein’s insight to make the necessary connections between literature and the unconscious. But before moving on to Deleuze I would like to show from where Klein is coming and hint at the direction she could possibly be heading towards.

            Klein attributes as much importance to the death drive as she does to the life drive. For Klein, already in the first year of life there are object relations and these relations involve expression of libidinal and aggressive impulses.

[…] unfavourable feeding conditions which we may regard as external frustrations, do not seem to be the only cause for the child’s lack of pleasure at the sucking stage. This is seen from the fact that some children have no desire to suck—are ‘lazy feeders’—although they receive sufficient nourishment. Their inability to obtain satisfaction from sucking is, I think, the consequence of an internal frustration and is derived, in my experience, from an abnormally increased oral sadism. To all appearances these phenomena of early development are already the expression of the polarity between the life-instincts and the death-instincts. We may regard the force of the child’s fixation at the oral sucking level as an expression of the force of its libido, and, similarly, the early and powerful emergence of its oral sadism is a sign that its destructive instinctual components tip the balance.[9]

            The child projects his aggressive impulses onto the external world and sees the object (the mother’s breast) as an enemy trying to destroy him. The frustrations that take place in the first year of life cause anxiety and lead the child to express his aggressive impulses through oral sadism (biting the breast). The fantasy that the mother contains the father’s penis leads the child to want to tear apart the mother’s body and introject the object hidden in it through oral sadism. After an oral frustration the attention of the child shifts from the mother’s breast to the father’s penis. The aggression against the father’s penis and the response this aggression gets plays a dominant role in the formation of the super-ego. As it develops the super-ego becomes more and more important in the way the subject handles his relation to the world.

[…] by projecting his terrifying super-ego on to his objects, the individual increases his hatred of those objects and thus also his fear of them, with the result that, if his aggression and anxiety are excessive, his external world is changed into a place of terror and his objects into enemies and he is threatened with persecution both from the external world and from his introjected enemies.[10]

             An aggressive attitude towards the external world damages the relationship with the external world; the external world is regarded hostile, which leads to aggression, and this aggression in turn provokes hostility against the child. It is this kind of a vicious cycle in which many psychotics and neurotics find themselves. Klein describes schizophrenia as the “attempt to ward of, master or contend with an internal enemy.”[11] For Klein, the force of aggression as a result of oral frustrations can reach to such levels that the subject feels obliged to project the super-ego ideal onto the external world. The super-ego is terribly ruthless and aggressive. The projection of the super-ego onto the external world turns reality into an enemy. The subject becomes ill and shuts himself up into his fantasy world and detached from reality suffers inordinately. Lacan sees schizophrenia in a similar way; for Lacan what produces schizophrenia is the exclusion of the Name of the Father.                      

            With Klein we learn that the sense of reality is gained through oral frustrations. Lacan, too, thinks that frustrations have a role to play in the constitution of the reality principle. But according to Lacan what’s important is not the natural frustrations themselves, but how they are symbolized, how they are represented in and through language, how they manifest themselves in the form of cultural products. Lacan finds Klein’s theories too biological.

            Dick has a toy train which he repetitively moves to and fro on the floor. Klein says, “I took the big train and put it beside a smaller one and called them ‘Daddy train’ and ‘Dick train.’ Thereupon he picked up the train I called Dick and made it roll [toward the station]… I explained: ‘The station is mummy; Dick is going into mummy.’[12] At the end of this first session of therapy Dick begins to express his feelings. It is after Dick becomes capable of situating himself within the symbolic order in relation to his mother and father that he becomes a human. He begins to play his role given to him by Klein.

            Human reality is a mediated reality. We can see in Dick’s case that the biological turns into cultural through Oedipalisation. Lacan thinks Klein’s therapeutic technique is correct but her theory wrong. What Lacan thinks Klein’s theory lacks is the castrating father figure who says “No.” Lacan complains that the castrating father figure is not given a role in Klein’s scenario. It is true that father is not given a role in the process of subject formation, but Lacan’s assumption that Klein is Oedipalizing the child is wrong. For if the father is excluded from the scene how can the Oedipal triangle be formed. All Klein does is to tell Dick that mummy and daddy copulate. Klein’s world is entirely biological, whereas Lacan is talking about the subjectivation of the individual in and through symbols. For Lacan the unconscious is nothing other than a chain of signifiers. There is nothing before the symptoms manifest themselves in and through metaphors. So metaphors are the products of repression which splits the subject into two separate but contiguous sides; the biological self and the cultural self. Psychoanalysis is about a regressive process which goes back in time through a chain of signifiers and tries to reach the Real of the subject’s desire. A symptom is the manifestation of the Real of the subject’s desire in the form of metaphors.

In advancing this proposition , I find myself in a problematic position—for what have I taught about the unconscious? The unconscious is constituted by the effects of speech on the subject, it is the dimension in which the subject is determined in the development of the effects of speech, consequently the unconscious is structured like a language. Such a direction seems well fitted to snatch any apprehension of the unconscious from an orientation to reality, other than that of the constitution of the subject.[13]

            Psychosis appears when all the signifiers refer to the same signified. Language and meaning dissolve. Locked in the mirror stage the subject identifies everything as me, and the me as the phallus. But the reality is that the “I” is not the phallus inside the mother’s body. The psychotic is deprived of nostalgia, of the feeling of loss which is constitutive of the subject. Lacking lack the psychotic subject lacks what Lacan calls “lack in being.” And lacking lack in being the subject cannot identify his natural self as being separate from the cultural objects of identification. By entering the symbolic order the narcissistic sense of oneness, “the oceanic feeling,” is lost. And this loss opens a gap within the subject, which the subject tries to fill with the objects of identification presented to it by the predominant culture. Identification is a way of compensating for the emptiness within the subject caused by the loss of sense of oneness. But the unconscious desires can never be satisfied by metaphors. To overcome the frustration caused by the loss of his fantasy world, the subject turns towards symbolic acts in the way of climbing up the social ladder. The subject becomes a doctor, pilot, teacher; all to endure the pain of not being able to satisfy one’s unconscious desires, or the Real of one’s desire. It is in this context that Lacan sees repression as productive of the subject as a split subject. Because the psychotic has lost nothing, lacks nothing, he has no motivations for such pursuits as becoming a doctor, pilot, or teacher. The psychotic has no sense of nostalgia and he is therefore extremely indifferent to the external world. Experiencing no frustrations in the face of the harsh reality of not being one, the psychotic desires nothingness.

5. Klein, Derrida, Deconstruction

According to Klein we all oscillate between the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position throughout our lives. This means that none is normal since the world is a place in which all kinds of abnormalities take place all the time and nobody can be a normal person independently of all these abnormalities. One may choose withdrawal and indifference in a Stoic fashion, but who can claim that this is normal? The only thing that is normal is that nothing is normal.

Klein used the word position as she was creating her concepts to designate moods which one finds oneself in throughout life. It is necessary to underline the word position because the word position is especially chosen to signify psychic conditions rather than stages of a linear course of development. The paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position are complementary situations  of the subject in a non-linear course of development which attaches the death drive, as much important a role as it does to the life drive in the course of development. It is obvious that for Klein the relationship between regress and progress is not in the form of a symmetrical binary opposition.

If we keep in mind that creativity means creating a meaning out of the meaningless chaos we can see how Klein’s theory can be used in the service of a critical theory aiming at destroying the static unities and recreating non-static formations. Influenced by Klein, Wilfred Bion developed a theory of thinking concentrating on what Keats called negative capability. Negative capability is the ability to remain intact in the face of not-knowing throughout the thinking process. While Klein emphasized the negative aspects of the paranoid-schizoid position and gave a more important role to the depressive position in the developmental process, Bion argued that fragmentation of previous theories is as important as the reintegration process for the emergence of new thought. For Bion the subject’s oscillation between the paranoid-schizoid position(splitting) and the depressive position(synthesizing) is necessary for a healthy creative process to take place giving birth to new thought.

Counter to the reparative and reconciliatory tendencies towards reconstructing the pre-dominant symbolic order, the poststructuralist subject of the death drive aims at explicating the problems inherent in the structure of the existing symbolic order. It is a response to the loss of an imagined future and involves a negation of the existing order which is based on negation and in which the subject finds/loses itself. The subject as the death drive is simultaneously the effect and the cause of splitting. The subject as the death drive occupies the other pole of faith. Its domain begins where belief ends. Its domain is a realm where silence and non-being confront the daily banalities of symbolic societies. In this realm nothingness and substance confront each other.

            As the subject’s intensity of self-consciousness increases, so does its pain and anxiety in the face of death. This causes hopelessness and despair which may or may not lead to a total devastation of the project of inverting and putting into the spotlight the nothingness at the centre of the subject. Heidegger repeatedly puts all this down in Being and Time when he says that “being-towards-death is angst.” One cure for expelling anxiety has been to believe in god, any other metaphysical construct, or in some cases it has even taken the form of a materialist system of thought; in all these cases, however, an escape is seen as a solution when in fact it is the problem itself. For our concerns, an escapist attitude, and especially one that tries to go beyond the physical, does not work at all, for what we are looking for is a way of learning to make use of the reality of the death drive as an interior exteriority constitutive of the subject as a creative agent. 

            The self-conscious subject questions itself. With the thought of death the subject gets in touch with the death drive and pushes itself further towards the periphery of the symbolic order and becomes its own persecutor in the service of a critique of the status quo. The subject of the death drive shakes the foundations upon which is built its own mode of being. Its mode of being becomes its movement towards non-being. It is the perceiver and the perceived of its own, the subject and the object of its actions, the persecutor and the persecuted at the same time. Through the death drive one can go beyond one’s symbolic role and become conscious of its time and place in the world. The use of the death drive requires recognition of death as the absolute master. That way one can become reconciled to life as it is.   

In critical theory we usually have to read the text at hand in an unorthodox way so as to create a new meaning out of it. The critical theorist breaks-down the meaning of the text and out of the pieces recreates a new meaning, which is to say that creativity bears within itself destructivity and inversely. It may not be necessary to destroy something intentionally to create something new, but to have destroyed something is usually a consequence of having created something new.  Jacques Derrida’s reading strategy called deconstruction exposes how a text writes and unwrites itself against its dominant meaning and in contrast to common sense perception. I see Derrida’s corpus as an intense meditation on the meaning of meaning itself. First Derrida shows the dominant meaning of the text as perceived by the majority and then he exposes the other within of the text, the minor meaning which contradicts the major meaning. By doing this Derrida makes not only the absolute meaning of the text collapse in on itself but also causes the concept of absolute meaning itself to explode from within. In Kleinian terms what Derrida does is to start from the depressive position and then move to the paranoid-schizoid position and there apply the splitting process peculiar to the paranoid-schizoid position to the text. It can be said that in a way Derrida exposes the paranoid-schizoid position within the depressive position. By doing this Derrida shows that the life drive and the death drive are within and without one another at the same time. This means that for Derrida creation and destruction are one. It is for this reason that I find deconstruction insufficient for effective critique to take place. For without the affirmative recreation of the destroyed text there remains nothing outside the ruins of the past. But that the new is inconceivable from within the pre-dominant context does not mean that it is impossible. What Derrida’s deconstructive practice lacks is the active intervention in the predominant order which would create the conditions of possibility for change, out of the conditions of impossibility. Derrida remains paralyzed in the face of the infinity of possibilities for change by declaring that the chain of signifiers is infinite and therefore nothing is outside the text when in fact nothing is this infinity itself since when there is infinity then everything disappears and nothing conceivable remains within the text. It is true that deconstruction dissolves the transcendental signified but the question remains: What is the price paid when the transcendental signified is deconstructed rather than affirmatively recreated and turned into an immanent sign here and now. In Derrida there is the waiting for the new to arrive but no action is taken in the way of making this arrival possible now. We shall ask why not recreate oneself as the new, why not do it now and give birth to the new here and now, why not be the new in action? In a fashion similar to Hamlet, Derrida perpetually postpones the action by playing with language and ends up locking himself up in an endlessly deferred self-perpetuating, self-consuming, and self-reflexive endgame with no beginning and no end, making it impossible for conscious desire to engage in effective action.

 Conclusion of Part I

Barbaric Regress and Civilised Progress contra Deconstruction and Affirmative Recreation

            In Homer’s Odyssey the call of the sirens is a sign addressed to men who can only survive this seductive call by turning a deaf ear to it, by ignoring, not acknowledging and repressing their desire for it. If the desire is of a visual object then you can turn a blind eye on it, or you may prefer not to close your eyes and just look at the object of desire; you can be a voyeur or an innocent witness if you wish. But the sexual sign that targets the ear is much more dangerous. The ears don’t have lids. And the voyeurism by ears, in contrast to normal voyeurism, can only give pain rather than pleasure. In Leonard Cohen’s song, Paper Thin Hotel the man’s pain listening to the sexual intercourse next door is immeasurable; but if there was a hole on the wall, things could have been otherwise.

Odysseus’ way of protecting himself from the call of the sirens is different from his companions’. He doesn’t stop his ears with wax; quite the contrary, he is more than willing to hear the call. But against the danger of following the call he has himself tied on the mast. The oarsmen’s stopping their ears to the call, and Odysseus’ having himself tied to the mast so as not to follow the call are the two different versions of resisting the sirens. While the former is a measure taken by the ego against the object of desire, the latter is that of the super-ego. In stopping one’s ears with wax what’s at stake is a will not to hear, pretending as though the object of desire didn’t exist, the desire is repressed, and the object is forgotten. Whereas by having oneself tied to the mast one hears the sirens, the desire is accepted but not pursued; the object is consciously resisted. But what is this thing that is so forcefully prohibited, which when adhered to leads to death, and when ignored makes life so boring and existence so banal? To this question there are two answers which in the end become one.

The first answer is Lacanian: the call of the sirens represents the desire for the mother. This desire for the mother is neither totally instinctive, nor totally sexual. It belongs to a period where the instinctive and the sexual are one. This desire is prohibited by the father. And the acceptance of the impossibility of uniting with the mother causes growth. Every child desires the whole of the mother, not just parts of her. The mother, however, is fragmentary from the beginning; in Adam Phillips’ words, the mother is promiscuous. So there is the tragedy: On one hand there is the obsessive attachment, and on the other hand there is the paranoid reaction.

There is an abundance of texts depicting the tragedy born of the tension between promiscuous women who are openly open to other relationships at all times and obsessively in love men who are hypocritically monogamic throughout the history of literature. The femme fatale is nothing but the archetype of the unsatisfied desire for the mother.

With the law of the father the desire for the mother becomes a real call of the sirens. If the child obeys the call, the result is death, or a psychotic existence signifying death. In psychosis the subject builds his life on an obsession for the unattainable mother, and his every act will be in the way of attaining the warmth, security, and protective environment of the womb. Not to become a psychotic the child chooses another way; he chooses to close his ears to the call and obey the law of the father; but then he becomes an ordinary neurotic. Perhaps the best way to choose is to face and accept the desire for the mother, acknowledge the call of the sirens, but not to follow it.

The second answer to what the sirens signify is Freudian. Following Freud’s later work one can say that the call of the sirens represents the death drive. If the oarsemen of Odysseus hadn’t stopped their ears with wax, the voyage would have ended in death. The bee that is seduced by the colourful flower which feeds on insects flies to its death. Following Freud, Herbert Marcuse says that the drive to reproduce the species, the life drive, and the drive to destroy, the death drive, are both for and against one another, that is, the life drive and the death drive are within and without one another at the same time.

There are many forms in which the death drive manifests itself. These vary from melancholia to aggression, from self-destruction to paranoia. What is common to all these form of appearance is a kind of revolt against having been born. The death drive wants jouissance, a condition in which infinite satisfaction is possible and in which repression and release, pain and pleasure do not exist. Freud explains this obsessive and neurotic desire with the concept of the compulsion to repeat; a desire to return to a previous state of being in the history of being. And needless to say, this is a desire to return to the womb, to the state of being before birth. So we can see that the death drive and the desire for the mother signify and are signified by the same will; the will to nothingness. The refusal to accept having been detached from the mother, the will to reunite with her, and the will to return to the womb, signify and are signified by the same desire. Unless accounts are settled with the will to nothingness the subject remains trapped somewhere between paranoid schizophrenia and obsessive neurosis and cannot reach the point zero which is where the real love and affirmation of life flourish.

In contemporary nihilism a mentally healthy person is defined thus: the one who has managed to repress the death drive, who has attained inner harmony and who has been able to project this inner harmony onto the external world in the way of healthy social life, in other words, one who has established a perfect balance between the ego, the id, and the superego, and who knows how to control the destructive impulses and even direct these impulses to professional life. This healthy subject has become capable of reconciling himself with life and with others, who has become a part of the world of goodness. This is the typical healthy subject as defined by the pre-dominant discourse of contemporary nihilism.

From the perspective of contemporary nihilism the exact opposite of this type of a healthy individual would be from the world of badness. Someone whose ego cannot be reconciled to the external world, and who is undergoing a fragmentation. His death drive has become so dominant that he has become aggressively destructive of both the self and the other. He is at a loss. His emotional ties with the external world have been cut. He has no sense of value, truth, meaning. He feels nothing for the world of goodness. Eventually the death drive produces the most aggressive response imaginable to the conflict between civilized progress and barbaric regress constitutive of contemporary nihilism. But that the response of the death drive is the most aggressive one does not mean that it is destructive, on the contrary, it gives aggression a new form. It is not aggression that is bad in-itself, rather, what’s important is the form aggression takes.

Unfortunately today many forms of critical attitude towards global capitalism take on a nihilistic, reactive, and slavish role, rather than an affirmative and active response, and fall victim to their own ressentiment, or what Klein would have called envy. I think a critical attitude towards this nihilism produced by the conditions of global capitalism should be in the way of developing a practical theory of theoretical practice for change, driven by and driving an interaction between deconstruction and affirmative recreation — a cont(r)action —  rather than total negation leading to barbaric regress and violence.

It wills now not exactly what occurs, but something in that which occurs, something yet to come which would be consistent with what occurs, in accordance with the laws of an obscure, humorous conformity: the Event. It is in this sense that the amor fati is one with the struggle of free man. My misfortune is present in all events, but also a splendor and brightness which dry up misfortune and which bring about that the event, once willed, is actualized on its most contracted point, on the cutting edge of an operation. All this is the effect of the static genesis and of the immaculate conception.[14]

That at the root of every progressive movement there is a traumatic incident, war, destruction, suffering, pain, is as yet a commonly held opinion. What we see through the opposition between “civilized progress” and “barbaric regress” is that both these attitudes, these two differently conceived forms of nihilism, have at their core the life drive disguised as the death drive and inversely: they are towards totalitarianism and stasis rather than dynamism and multiplicity. Both ignore the foundational question which is how to be and let the other be rather than to be or not to be. The problem today is to know how to become what one is without confining the other into the realm of non-being. How to create the self in such a way as not to be destructive of the other and itself at the same time?


[1] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale, (London: Continuum, 2003), 187

[2] Jacques Lacan, Seminar XII, The For Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 150

[3] Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of The Disaster, trans. Ann Smock (The University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln and London, 1995), 126-27-28 “The Greek myths do not, generally, say anything; they are seductive because of a concealed, oracular wisdom which elicits the infinite process of divining. What we call meaning, or indeed sign, is foreign to them: they signal without signifying; they show, or they hide, but they always are clear, for they always speak the transparent mystery, the mystery of transparence. Thus all commentary is ponderous and uselessly verbose—all the more so if it employs the narrative mode, and expands the mysterious story intelligently into explanatory episodes which in turn imply a fleeting clarity. If Ovid, perhaps prolonging a tradition, introduces into the fable of Narcissus the fate—which one might call telling—of the nymph Echo, it is surely in order to tempt us to discover there a lesson about language which we ourselves add, after the fact. Nevertheless, the following is instructive: since it is said that Echo loves Narcissus by staying out of sight, we might suppose that Narcissus is summoned to encounter a voice without body, a voice condemned always to repeat the last word and nothing else—a sort of nondialogue: not the language whence the Other would have approached him, but only the mimetic, rhyming alliteration of a semblance of language. Narcissus is said to be solitary, but it is not because he is excessively present to itself; it is rather because he lacks, by decree (you shall not see yourself), that reflected presence—identity, the self-same—the basis upon which a living relation with life, which is other, can be ventured. He is supposed to be silent: he has no language save the repetitive sound of a voice which always says to him the self-same thing, and this is a self-sameness which he cannot attribute to himself. And this voice is narcissistic precisely in the sense that he does not love it—in the sense that it gives him nothing other to love. Such is the fate of the child one thinks is repeating the last words spoken, when in fact he belongs to the rustling murmur which is not language, but enchantment. And such is the fate of lovers who touch each other with words, whose contact with each other is made of words, and who can thus repeat themselves without end, marvelling at the utterly banal, because their speech is not a language but an idiom they share with no other, and because each gazes at himself in the other’s gaze in a redoubling which goes from mirage to admiration.”

[4] Melanie Klein, Psychoanalysis of Children, 11

[5] Melanie Klein, The Psychoanalysis of Children, trans. Alix Strachey (London: The Hogarth Press, 1975),9

[6] Klein, 143-4

[7] Klein, 144

[8] Melanie Klein, The Psychoanalysis of Children, 123

[9] Melanie Klein, The Psychoanalysis of Children, 124

[10] Klein, 143-4

[11] Klein, 144

[12] Melanie Klein, quoted from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, 45

[13] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 149

[14] Deleuze, 149

 1. The Cinematic Apparatus and The Psyche

 Ideology is a representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.[1]

Ideology has a material existence.[2]

For Freud dreams are the beholders of the sleeping subject; dreams prevent waking up by turning a repressed desire into images.[3] How does the dream do that? To be able to answer this question we have to look at Freud’s concept of the Unconscious and how the repressive mechanism works.

With Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America the civilized were brought face-to-face with primitive groups of people. In the case of Freud’s concept of the unconscious, the civilized were facing their own wild side, the other within them. By discovering the unknown continent Columbus opened new fields for exploitation. As for Freud’s concept of the unconscious, it was its inescapable destiny to be subjected to exploitation. And with the advance of technology it becomes easier and easier to exploit the unconscious. Hollywood, political strategists, advertisement writers and many others burning with desire for more money and power thought it was a merit to develop technologies for the manipulation and exploitation of the unconscious. But Freud’s discovery was aimed at serving almost exactly the opposite purpose. Freud meant the unconscious to stand in for the other of a way of thought that tended to explain and define everything in terms of its exchange-value and conformity to the established order. Freud aimed at bringing people face to face with the truth of their being; that their rationality couldn’t exist without its opposite, the unconscious. In the unconscious, the drives that resist symbolization are in constant interaction with one another and yet without this chaotic interaction between the unconscious drives there can be no reason. How hard civilization tries to escape from the Real of desire by establishing truths with no basis and how hard it must have been for them to face the non-reason inherent in their reason, which they so proudly prohibited. Freud not only opens the way of access to that forbidden zone, but also names the unconscious mental processes, and calls this long forgotten forbidden zone the unconscious. So, in a way, Freud is not only Columbus but also Amerigo Vespuci. 

Freud calls the content of the unconscious the latent dream-thoughts. That which one sees in a dream is already a translation of this primal scene. The images in a dream stand in for the gap in the symbolic order; they symbolize the latent content of the dream, which are the unconscious drives. A dream turns these unconscious drives into the manifestations of the subject’s objects of desire. The subject’s dream is already a semi-symbolized form of the unnamable traumatic kernel, the Real of the subject’s desire. In the unconscious there is no desire, but only an oscillation between the life-drive and the death drive. What the dream does is to supply the unconscious with objects to which it can attach its drives, give them a meaning and turn the unconscious drives into conscious desire. Dreams keep the natural and the cultural separate but contiguous to one another. Dream language is closer to the dynamics of the unconscious than the logic of fantasies. Fantasies are more social than dreams and are the supports of the symbolic order, they are the products of a desire to fill the gap between the Real and the social reality. So the objects of desire, with which the subject finds itself bombarded by, shape the subject’s unconscious drives and determine what the subject will desire, what it will not.

The object of one’s desire plays a dominant role in the subject’s identification processes. But there remains a gap between the object of desire and the object of identification. This split between the subject’s objects of desire and objects of identification, the choice the subject makes at this very moment determines the subject’s identity, and yet the subject is not conscious enough to make the simplest choices, so this choice always turns out to be a forced choice.

We can see an example of this forced choice in Levity directed by Ed Solomon (2002). It is a film about a murderer who kills a young cashier and consequently gets jailed for life. He is released on good behaviour but when it comes to getting out of the prison he refuses to do so. They tell him that he has no choice but to choose freedom, the life outside the prison. He unwillingly leaves the prison. This man was feeling so guilty that being in prison was his only way of surviving the anxiety caused by his aggressive behaviour in the past. He believed he deserved this punishment and was happy to participate in its execution. He was, if not his own persecutor, at least his own executor. He became his own crime and punishment at the same time. It was his free choice to be in prison, that way he fantasized he was being redeemed. And with this phantasm he was cutting himself off from carrying the burden of his crime as a free man. With the jury telling him that he is now free, he does not have to be punished anymore, his fantasy collapses. He realizes that redemption requires an external source. That by believing he was being redeemed didn’t mean that he was really being redeemed. He has to be redeemed in the eyes of another, in the eyes of the one’s who suffered the most because of his crime.

In a standard process of development the subject is expected to choose the objects of desire from the opposite sex and the objects of identification from the same sex. The subject introjects the objects of the same sex as objects of identification and the objects of the opposite sex as objects of desire. In turn the subject projects his introjected objects of identification onto his objects of desire, the other sex, strengthening his image of self in the eyes of the objects of the same sex who are his/her objects of identification.

What turns the latent content into the manifest-content and manifest-content into symbols is called the transference mechanism, or the dream-work. The analyst becomes the machine interpreting the patient’s free associations, which is what the dream-work does to the unconscious drives and turns them into metaphors.

For, owing to the fact that dream-interpretation traces the course taken by the dream-work, follows the paths which lead from the latent thoughts to the dream-elements, reveals the way in which verbal ambiguities have been exploited, and points out the verbal bridges between different groups of material—owing to all this, we get an impression now of a joke, now of schizophrenia, and are apt to forget that for a dream all operations with words are no more than a preparation for a regression to things.[4]

Freud’s technique of interpretation aims at a reversed metamorphosis; the analytical process tries to reach the hidden-content through the manifest-content. So Freud has to retranslate the manifest content as close to the hidden content as possible. The hidden content is unattainable, and yet the reversed metamorphosis at least makes some progress in the way of initiating a backward motion, a regressive process. To initiate this regressive process Freud uses the technique of free association. Free association is used to make hitherto unmade connections between the manifestations of the unconscious in the way of translating the unconscious into conscious or semi-conscious terms. Repression produces the hidden content of the unconscious. Free association aims at making the hidden content manifest itself in and through metaphorical constructions of reality. If the therapeutic process is successful the subject begins to use metonymies.

With Freud’s free association and Klein’s play therapy, the subject learns to give a voice to the traumatic kernel, the Real of his unsatisfied desires. The subject’s realization of the unnamability of the Real is a sign of progress in the therapeutic process. So in a way the therapeutic process has to fail for progress to take place. The quality and the quantity of gaps, black holes, or white spots within a discourse produced by free association show the extent of loss and dissatisfaction of the subject.

  According to Freud the dream-work deforms the unconscious drives and turns them into a more acceptable form so that the subject can come face to face with them. This is like an actor who changes his costume and appears with a different identity in the second stage of a play. There are two psychic processes involved in the dream-work. These are displacement and condensation. For Freud the process of displacement involves a kind of change of roles between cultural values and libidinal energy. The aim of displacement is to project substitutes for the unnamable and disowned aspects of the self so that the subject can reintroject those split off parts of the self in more acceptable forms. This process of displacement can be clearly observed in fetishism. A fetishist directs his/her desire to an object other than the real object of desire. For instance if the object of desire is the penis the subject of desire replaces penis with a shoe; the shoe stands in for the real object of desire.

As for condensation, it involves a concentration of secret thoughts at one single point, a kind of movement towards one single object, so all the thoughts intermingle and disappear, they become an unrecognisable multitude of thoughts. Condensation is a kind of unconsciously willed confusion; a defence mechanism to keep the unwanted qualities of the self at bay.

 2. Dream, Fantasy, and Film

If the film and the daydream are in more direct competition than the film and the dream, if they ceaselessly encroach upon each other, it is because they occur at a point of adaptation to reality – or at a point of regression, to look at it from the other direction – which is nearly the same; it is because they occur at the same moment: the dream belongs to childhood and the night; the film and the daydream are more adult and belong to the day, but not midday – to the evening, rather.[5]

In The Imaginary Signifier Christian Metz emphasizes a very important aspect of the relationship between cinema and the unconscious. The dream belongs to childhood, to the night, to the unconscious, the Real; whereas film and fantasy belong to adulthood, the symbolic, and the consciousness; and yet, this consciousness itself belongs to the evening. What Metz actually wants to say is that even though cinema has shown us a lot it has at the same time hidden a lot of things from us; for each film is a veil on the Real, a single beam of light comes out of the projector and in the dimness of the cinematic apparatus one is almost hypnotized, looks semi-consciously at what he is being shown.

Imagine yourself sitting in a cinema auditorium on a rather comfortable seat. This is one of the very rare occasions when you would agree to sit quietly in the dark with a crowd of other people. The only source of light is the projector projecting the images onto the white wall. The white wall turns the projected light into motion pictures and you are looking at the pictures in wonderment. On your comfortable seat you are relaxed, passive, and your ability to move is restricted by an external force. This condition of yours is very similar to the condition of a half-asleep person between reality and the dream world. Watching a movie is like a passage from being awake to being asleep. As a spectator you are aware that what you are watching is not real and still you make yourself believe that it is not totally fictional. Watching a movie you are like someone who is just about to wake up or just about to fall asleep.

The dream materials are visual and audio images, just like the matter of cinema. Nevertheless, there are three fundamental and semiological differences between dreams and films. In The Imaginary Signifier Christian Metz distinguishes these three differences between dream and film as follows.

[…]first, the unequal knowledge of the subject with respect to what he is doing; second, the presence or absence of real perceptual material; and third, a characteristic of the textual content itself(text of the film or dream), about which we are now going to speak.[6]

            All of these differences are linked to the degree of wakefulness of the subject. In sleep there is total illusion, the subject may play a role in the dream’s text. But in cinema the subject cannot see itself on the screen, unless, of course, he is an actor or an actress who has taken part in the film. In cinema there is a sense of reality which puts a distance between yourself and what you see. When you are awake you are to a certain extent aware of the fact that what you are watching is fictional.

The second difference which Metz points out is concerned with the existence of the matter of perception. The cinematographic image is a real image, an image that is of a material; visual, audio. But in dreaming there is no matter of the dream, dream material is completely illusory, it doesn’t exist as an external object.

The third difference involves the textual content of the film itself. Compared to a dream the fictional film is much more logical. If we keep the likes of David Lynch movies apart the plot of the film mostly develops with a certain order conforming to the expectations of the spectator. But in dreams there is no plot for no one is telling anything to another person. The dream belongs nowhere.

After distinguishing these differences between cinema and dream Metz introduces another term. This is what Freud called ‘Tagtarum,’ or the daydream, a conscious fantasy. The daydream is closer to film in that there is a certain degree of consciousness operating within the subject when he/she is daydreaming, or fantasizing. Daydreams too, are experienced when one is awake. The reason why film has a logical structure is that the actors, directors, and spectators are all awake. Making and watching a film involves conscious, pre-conscious, and sub-conscious psychic processes. Fantasizing also involves these three psychic processes, and yet since a film is produced by conscious choices, it has a certain purpose, a certain meaning to convey; what it will become is planned beforehand, its every detail is written down. But fantasizing is a totally psychic process which has gaps and disconnections in it. When we are fantasizing our intention is not to convey a certain meaning to another person. In both processes Metz sees at work a kind of voluntary simulation. Both the daydreamer and the film spectator know that what they are seeing or imagining is not real; but they still make themselves believe that the case is the opposite.

Both the film spectator and the daydreamer replace the reality principle with the pleasure principle. In both cases there is a willed belief in an illusion that what one is seeing or imagining is actually taking place. Without this belief the subject cannot take any pleasure in fantasizing and watching a film. The sole purpose of these activities is to compensate for an unsatisfying reality. Fantasies and films are the supports of social reality, with them the Real is kept at bay, and the gap between the subject and nothingness is maintained. Nothingness is internal to the symbolic order. Just as the dreaming subject is governed by the unconscious the cinema spectator and the fantasizing subject are turning the Real into a source of pleasure, translating it into the symbolic order. The filmmakers try to communicate directly with the unconscious of the spectator. The unconscious is their target and they find images to match the unconscious drives. It is precisely this matching process that forms the unconscious, for there is nothing prior to the naming of the unconscious drives. Cinema turns the object of drives into socially acceptable and symbolically comprehensible forms through metaphor and metonymy.

According to Lacan metaphor is a product of condensation and metonymy is a product of displacement. The reason why these two forms of expression are so effective is that they are closer to the workings of the unconscious than the literal. So Lacan is able to say, “the unconscious is structured a like language.”

A metaphor is a product of repression and involves the replacement of an image with another image that will have a stronger effect. Metonymy is the product of using a part of the object to stand in for the whole of it. Metaphor and metonymy fill the gap between the unconscious and the social reality. They are the mediators between the two worlds.

“The ordinary reality we know dissolves into the proto-ontological Real of raw flesh and replaceable mask.”[7] Zizek is referring to a film, Face/Off, starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. In this film Travolta and Cage find themselves in a situation where whatever they do they act against themselves. They have each other’s faces. The message is that behind our faces there is the Real, the raw flesh, nothing to identify us as and with ourselves. The gap between the social reality and the Real is opened and two men find themselves playing the role of their enemy. The face becomes the mask veiling the Real. What we have here is rather than the mask being a metaphor standing in for the Real, is the face as a metonymy standing in for the Real.

Before this unveiling of a lack (we are already close to the cinema signifier), the child, in order to avoid too strong an anxiety, will have to double its belief (another cinematic characteristic) and from then on forever hold two contradictory opinions (proof that in spite of everything the real perception has not been without effect).[8] 

In some movies the failure to keep apart two contradictory positions is itself the cause of these movies’ good effect. A process through which the ordinary reality dissolves into the Real can be seen in David Lynch movies. In Mulholland Drive we have a young actress at the beginning of her Hollywood career. The movie narrates her process of dispersal. The imaginary, the symbolic, and the real progressively dissolve into one another and she becomes incapable of distinguishing between what is fictional, what is in her mind and what is social. It is only at the end of the film that we understand her real situation, namely, that she has lost the plot of her life, and she has lost it in the fictional world of Hollywood. To fill the space opened by this loss she becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the more drugs she takes the bigger the internal space grows, the more the internal space grows the less she is able to make conscious choices.

 3. Projective Identification and Introjection

Klein makes a distinction between introjected objects and the internal objects. The internal objects include the introjected objects as well as the objects of identification and the a priori fantasy images. According to Klein introjection is a defence mechanism against the anxiety and the fear of the horrible inner world of the child. The child assumes itself populated by bad, aggressive, and tormenting objects and attempts to introject the external good objects. In other words the child tries to replace the internal bad object with the external good object. So introjection is a defence mechanism to protect not only the me but also the internal good objects.

For Klein the unconscious fantasy sets the foundation of all psychic processes. But Freud had said fantasizing is a defence mechanism to compensate for the frustrating and unsatisfying reality. Klein thinks that the unconscious fantasmatic production is the manifestation of instinctive processes. In Klein’s hands the unconscious becomes a much more active and productive dynamism in touch with what’s going on in the social reality. The importance of Klein’s discovery is that she shows how intimately related the child is with the social reality from the beginning of life. The child is turned towards the mother and the unconscious moves towards consciousness in and through relating to the objects surrounding him/her. For Klein one of the first external objects the child relates to is the mother’s breast. In the face of hunger the child starts crying for he/she has no other means of communication. The mother understands that the child wants milk. Presented with milk from the mother’s breast the child comes to realize that there is an external good object that is the solution to the problem of hunger. But when the flow of milk is interrupted the child becomes confused, with the effect of hunger. The child considers the breast as a bad object and becomes more aggressive. When the milk comes the child realizes that he/she had been attacking not only the source of bad but also the source of good. So the child understands that every object is good and bad at the same time, and it is the use into which the object is put that determines its particular goodness or badness. It is the way in which one relates to social reality that matters.

In the first year of life introjection and splitting are dominant; the child is governed by the death drive, which is the drive that emerges as a response to the frustration in the face of the impossibility of going back into the enclosed space and time of the womb in which all that the organism needs is supplied without the organism having to make any effort to obtain it.

To be able to cope with the death drive the subject projects some of his/her aggressiveness onto the external world represented by the mother. Resultantly the child recognizes the external world as divided within itself and populated by good and bad objects which are not good and bad in-themselves but become good or bad in relation to the other objects. Projective identification is another defence mechanism the child uses to cope with the difficulties of life. With projective identification, to protect the me and the internal good objects from a possible attack from the external bad object, the child projects the internal bad objects onto the external good object. The child confuses the external good objects, external bad objects, internal good objects, and internal bad objects. Everything is intermingled so the child becomes aggressive towards himself/herself and towards the external world. To cope with this difficult situation the child projects unities onto the external world and makes no distinction between the good and the bad. This means that the child has passed from the state of being governed by the death drive, to the state of being governed by the life drive.

In the third stage of development there is the depressive position. With the depressive position the child feels guilty for attacking not only the good object but also the bad object in the paranoid-schizoid position of introjection and projective identification. The child realizes that the loving and caring mother had been the target of paranoid attacks all this time. To compensate for the damage caused the child strives to make reparations to the relationship with the mother embodying the social reality. For Klein depressive anxiety is a sign of progress.

These psychic processes go on until the end of life. The child identifies his/her image on the mirror as himself/herself. Lacan calls Klein’s depressive position ‘the mirror-stage.’

In the Lacanian sense, too, in which the imaginary, opposed to the symbolic but constantly imbricated with it, designates the basic lure of the ego, the definitive imprint of a stage before the Oedipus complex (which also continues after it), the durable mark of the mirror which alienates man in his own reflection and makes him the double of his double, the subterranean persistence of the exclusive relation to the mother, desire as a pure effect of lack and endless pursuit, the initial core of the unconscious (primal repression). All this is undoubtedly reactivated by the play of that other mirror, the cinema screen, in this respect a veritable psychical substitute, a prosthesis for our primally dislocated limbs.[9]

In the mirror stage, a period of imaginary and narcissistic identifications, the child believes in the illusion which he/she sees on the mirror. He/she sees himself/herself as a totality and believes that that’s what he/she really is. It is a period of conflict between the self as the other’s object of desire and the self as the subject sees it. The reflection on the mirror starts the process of introjection and projective-identification that will go on until death.

[…] the experience of the mirror as described by Lacan is essentially situated on the side of the imaginary (=formation of the ego by identification with a phantom, an image), even if the mirror also makes possible a first access to the symbolic by the mediation of the mother holding the child to the glass whose reflection, functioning here as the capitalized Other, necessarily appears in the field of the mirror alongside that of the child.[10]

            The screen is the site of projective identification. I put myself in the place of the character and try to see the film from his perspective. In a way I narcissistically try to situate myself in the context of the film as a whole person. But as soon as the screen gains this mirror like quality it loses it. With the screen there is a more advanced process at work, and this process is called projective-identification, not merely identification. The subject is aware that he is not the character in the movie, but still takes on this other identity on himself as though he is the one experiencing all those adventures.

When I am watching a movie I become the eye of the camera. Everything happens around me and I am a mere observer of all these things. In a way, as I’m watching a movie I become a semi-god-like creature, seeing not-all hearing not-all from a position not above all; from a position which renders the binary opposition between the transcendental and the immanent irrelevant. I am within and without the events and I am at once here and somewhere else with my body and everything else. It is the eye of the other that makes the eye of the self possible. 

 

4. Cinema and Fetishism

Even shit has a commercial value, depending of course, on whose shit it is. While in the case of human shit you have to pay to get rid of it, in the case of animal shit it is said to be a very efficient and sufficient fertilizer for one who has learned to use it, rather than seeing it as something worthless because it cannot be eaten. “Inversely, it is this very terror that is projected on to the spectacle of the mother’s body, and invites the reading of an absence where anatomy sees a different conformation.”[11]

Since even the instincts are produced by the superpanoptic projection-introjection mechanism in which the subject finds himself/herself, giving free rein to the unconscious to express itself only produces projections of the evil within onto the without. For Freud the death drive is the effect of a striving for infinity, nothingness, and death. I would say it is also the cause of it.

Commodity fetishism is equal to will to nothingness in that it is the desire for the inorganic objects to stand in for nothingness, the Real of the subject’s desire. Capitalism replaces the use value of the objects with two-dimensional commercial value, so the subject desires to be desired, and he/she can only do that by adapting to the two dimensional sphere of commodity fetishism; by becoming a fetish object himself. If we recall Marcuse complaining that the one-dimensional is absorbing the two-dimensional  and also keep in mind that Marcuse’s two-dimensional culture has become the pre-dominant culture of today, we can see why the solution is to say, “I don’t see myself as you see me,” to the big Other in whatever form it appears in our lives.

In our opinion fetishism only occurs in sadism in a secondary and distorted sense. It is divested of its essential relation to disavowal and suspense and passes into the totally different context of negativity and negation, where it becomes an agent in the sadistic process of condensation.[12]

So the death drive produces new objects of desire by splitting the already existing objects. The subject as death drive, by splitting the symbolic, opens up spaces for the emergence of new objects of desire to stand in for nothingness and death.

The good object has moved to the side of knowledge and the cinema becomes a bad object (a dual displacement which makes it easy for ‘science’ to stand back). The cinema is ‘persecuted’, but this persistence is also a reparation (the knowing posture is both aggressive and depressive), reparation of a specific kind, peculiar to the semiologist: the restoration to the theoretical body of what has been taken from the institution, from the code which is being ‘studied.’[13]

Writing about cinema is essentially a criticism of the symbolic order, for both writing and cinematic production are themselves symbolic social activities. Since cinema exploits the life drive by satisfying the desire for something covering nothing, writing about cinema is essentially governed by the death drive which tries to expose the nothingness behind the symbolic. That which a film veils is nothing other than nothing; and exposing this nothingness behind the film introduces a split between the subject and the signifier. When looked at like that psychotherapy becomes critical of the existing social order, for by criticizing the film the critic heals the film industry hence having a healing effect on the spectator.

It is clear that fetishism, in the cinema as elsewhere, is closely linked to the good object. The function of the fetish is to restore the latter, threatened in its ‘goodness’ (in Melanie Klein’s sense) by the terrifying discovery of the lack. Thanks to the fetish, which covers the wound and itself becomes erotogenic, the object as a whole can become desirable again without excessive fear.[14] 

According to Metz cinema is a fetish object. Films stand in for an object that is absent. The reflection of images on the screen veil the nothingness behind them without which they would not have been seen. “The fetish is the cinema in its physical state. A fetish is always material: insofar as one can make up for it by the power of the symbolic alone one is precisely no longer a fetishist.”[15]

Cinema produces unattainable objects of desire. By filling in a gap they render the nothingness more unattainable. They give the impression that there is something they are hiding and that way they produce the desire for nothingness. Cinema’s power of exploiting the will to nothingness, however, is the only tool one has at hand to criticize the cinematic apparatus as a form of ideology.

Sublimation of the objects of desire takes place through cinema and television. The more they are rendered unattainable the more sublime they become. What cinema does is to create the illusion of presence. Cinema shows an absent object through presenting an object to substitute for the nothingness. So it is the presence of an absence that we see on the screen. To enjoy cinema the subject has to know that what he/she is watching is only a presence covering an absence, that it is that which stands in for the Real of the subject’s desire. So Metz can say, “the fetish is the cinema in its physical sense.”[16] Looked at that way fetish is that which is produced to stand in for the Real object of desire, which is nothingness, and is therefore produced to satisfy the will to nothingness.

Cinematic narrative doesn’t show events in their real sequence. There are cuts, gaps, spaces between the scenes. All those, cuts, gaps, spaces between the scenes are openings to an external reality; they give the impression that there is something external to that which is actually being shown. The spectator is made to believe that there is something he/she doesn’t know as to what’s really going on in the film. This curiosity for that which is unknown inherent in every human is that which cinema exploits. By making the spectator simultaneously believe and not-believe at what he/she is seeing on the screen, cinema creates an ambiguous relationship with itself and the spectator.

 By leaving gaps within the narrative, cinema invites projective identification. The spectator projects what he has inside him onto the absence within the filmic text. He fills those gaps with his internal partial objects and imposes a unity and continuity on the split narrative of the film.

The death drive involves splitting and introjection. The subject as death drive splits given unities and continuities. It is impossible for a spectator governed by the death drive to identify with the characters in the film. On the contrary, he desires nothing, identifies with nothing, without which he knows there can be no meaning. Rather than filling in the gaps within the narrative death drive puts them into the spotlight, it shows that those gaps are interior to the narrative itself. The incompleteness of the narrative is the condition of possibility for its meaning.

We can differentiate these two different types of spectatorship, one governed by the life drive and the other by the death drive, as associationism and dissociationsim.

In associationism the subject immerses himself in the medium of the imaginary and identifies with the characters in the movie. In dissociationsim the subject introduces new splits between the internal and the external objects and hence renders identification impossible for himself.

The life drive is the will to become one with the world, it is the force behind mimicry and associationsim. It is wrong to associate the death drive with mimicry and associationism. The subject as death drive dissociates and splits given unities and continuities. In horror movies the absence of the knowledge of truth for the spectator, that is, not being given the role of the omniscient eye, the spectator becomes curious and to understand what’s really going on in the movie he/she identifies with the characters. In the face of the abundance of gaps to be filled in the process of watching the film the life drive grows less and less strong for doing all the job throughout the watching process, while the death drive is oppressed and because of this very oppression it grows more and more strong. Eventually the life drive collapses and the death drive overflows the auditorium.

Although it is itself a product of the death drive, horror film exploits the life drive, that is, the spectator’s will to form unities, bind the action, desire to get rid of all gaps and inconsistencies within the narrative. The death drive negates negation and reaches the highest possible degree of affirmation. Thanatos wills nothing, whereas Eros wills nothingness. We can see that the Thanatos case is the reverse of what Nietzsche says, “man would much rather will nothingness than not will.” Eros wants to want nothing; and strives to form such unities that everything will fit in its place; the system will lack nothing, so Eros will want nothing. Thanatos introduces splits, and tries to reach the nothingness behind the symbolic. Thanatos wants nothing rather than nothingness. He wants nothing to show the nothingness in the midst of everything, that there is nothing behind all that there is.

While Eros wants to lack nothing, wants the lack of lack, Thanatos affirms life as it is and wants lack, wants something to lack, wants that lack to remain after all is said and done, so that he can desire the nothingness which that lack presents. Thanatos doesn’t want something to replace nothing, but rather wants the lack in everything. By negating negation the death drive affirms life as it is, that is, in its incompleteness, and with nothingness and death in its midst.

 

5. Butterfly Effect 

The main character in the Butterfly Effect “seizes hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.”[17] Butterfly Effect is a film from 2004 directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, in which Chaos Theory is applied to history and psychoanalysis. According to Chaos Theory an event which seems to be very insignificant in a sequence of events is in fact as important as any other event and the effects of a minor cause require some time to manifest themselves in relation to the macro situation.

With the Butterfly Effect the audience sees everything from the perspective of a young man who not only has flashbacks in the form of dreams, but who is also able to travel in time through reading his journals. As he reads the journal, first the words, then himself, and finally the whole room starts shaking and immediately after this falling into pieces of the scene the subject travels in time, or perhaps only in his personal history, and wakes up at another period of his own life. His aim is to change something so crucial to the present but which has taken place in the past, and so that way make some things a little bit better for the people surrounding him. But to be able to be present in the past he has to occupy the place of his presence in that particular slice of the past. That is why, as a child he has occasional blackouts during which disastrous things happen, such as a mother with her baby in her arms being blown up. His gift of travelling in time turns out to be his curse locking him up in a mental hospital as a hopeless case who believes he has journals through the reading of which he can go back and forth in time and put things right or wrong when in fact there are no journals and he has simply made all these things up in his mind. Each time he goes back in time to fix something bad, he causes something worse to happen. But that worse thing which happens takes place because of his intervention in the first place. Caught in this vicious cycle of a self-fulfilling prophecy he finally strikes the right chord, he goes back to the right time and fixes the right thing. Where he goes is not in the journals this time, for he is in the mental hospital, in a time where his journals do not exist or are not recognized as such. This time he goes back in time through an amateur home movie recorded when he and his girlfriend were kids, that is, before the girl makes the decision to stay with her father rather than her mother who moves to another city after their divorce. Her decision to stay with her father leads to her friendship with the boy and to the eventual disasters. In this time they are at a garden party. When the girl approaches him he says, “If you come near me again I’ll destroy you and your family.” And the little girl runs and hides behind her mother. What he is actually doing there is giving a voice to the evil at the right time, hence causing less worse things to happen in the future. Bringing out that repressed and anti-social behaviour out at the right time, or situating this free floating sign beneath the social reality, turns out to be less evil than the most good of society. It is all a matter of situating the act in the right time and the right place.                            

To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it “the way it really was” (Ranke). It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger. The danger affects both the content of the tradition and its receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of Antichrist. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.[18]  

Intervention in history, seeing in the past something which has never taken place, is itself an act opening up spaces for new possibilities to emerge. The fear of serving that which one thinks one is struggling against prepares the grounds for the realization of what the subject was afraid of.

A potential for change that has never initiated actual change cannot be a lost chance for a change. For since it has never taken place it cannot be a lost possibility.  Benjamin’s point when he says, “only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins,” is that “even the dead will not be safe” unless the enemy loses. How can even the dead not be safe? For when the enemy loses the lives of the dead will have been wasted for nothing, for these now dead people will have struggled and suffered for nothing. For then, not the enemy but “we, the friends of those who died for a good cause” will have written the history. For Benjamin it’s all a matter of who represents what happened.

“The spark of hope” that is to be fanned is not the hope of redemption, but the hope that redemption has already taken place. That we are already redeemed and yet it is precisely this state of being redeemed that makes it a forced-choice and yet a responsibility to tell the story of the past in such a way as to introduce a split between the past and the future which generates a new mode of being and initiates change. It is out of the space between the past and the future, or the subject of statement and the subject of enunciation, that something new emerges ex nihilo. The subject writes its difference from itself, all writing is writing the difference of the subject from the void. And yet since the void against which the subject writes is the subject itself, with each word the subject moves further away from itself. This performative contradiction inherent in language is the way things are in the world. The outside, the unconscious, is the shadow of language and the social reality.         

 6. The Island: Waiting for a day that will never come

The Island is a science-fiction movie directed by Michael Bay. Our hero, Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) wakes up from a nightmare in which he sees himself drowning. What we, the spectators don’t know yet is that Lincoln has actually woken up to a sterile world which has nothing do with the real world. Lincoln wakes up from a nightmare to what appears to be an unreal reality. As Lincoln wakes up he sees a screen in front of him on which is written “Erratic REM Sleep Cycle Detected,” followed by “Please Report to Tranquility Center.” Lincoln gets out of his bed and goes to the toilet. As he urinates, another screen appears in front of him with the words “Sodium Excess Detected, Advising Nutritional Control.” On top of all these a speaker intervenes: “A healthy person is a happy person.”

Lincoln is living in an environment in which he is surveilled and controlled at all times. This environment is in fact an underground factory which produces human clones. Lincoln is nothing but a clone produced to be consumed when the time comes. We, the spectators, will later on learn that this environment was an institution used by American Ministry of Defence for military research. Now it has been passed on to a medical corporation sponsored by extremely rich people to produce clones. These clones are the copies of those rich people who have various illnesses. Lincoln Six-Echo, for instance, is the clone of a Scottish man named Tom Lincoln who suffers from Hepatitis and who is expected to die in two years. This means that in two years time Lincoln Six-Echo will be killed and his organs will be transferred to his sponsor Tom Lincoln.

The DNA samples taken from the sponsors are used to produce clones. These clones are then grown in a womb-like environment until they reach the age of their sponsors. Some of the clones are grown for their hearts, some for their eyes, skins, and some for their internal organs. As they are grown they are almost injected a memory through audio-visual imagery, their consciousness is completely artificial just like themselves. Although they look no different from a normal human being they are in fact programmed to desire to go to The Island. They are continually told that they are the chosen ones, that they are the only survivors from a terrible epidemic which destroyed almost all life on earth, that they are lucky for being where they now are. Of course these clones need some kind of motive to be able to bear their monotonous existence. Their motive is waiting for the day on which they will win the lottery and go to the last piece of beauty left on earth after the epidemic; an exotic island, a heaven on earth. Through this lottery business the life in this institution is invested with a meaning. Educated to the level of fifteen year old children, the clones do not question their lives. They think that they really are chosen and they really want to go to the island. But Lincoln is unhappy and unsatisfied. He thinks there should be more to life than waiting for the departure towards the island. When he talks with his psychiatrist who is in fact the manager of the corporation, his psychiatrist tells him this: “You can’t see how lucky you are Lincoln. You have survived the epidemic, you are comfortable here, what else do you want?” Lincoln is not satisfied with this answer and goes to places he shouldn’t, sees things he better not. Following an insect Lincoln finds himself at a hidden section of the institute, a hospital, where he sees that those who are chosen to go to the island are in fact killed for their organs. Lincoln understands that there is no such thing as an epidemic, and no such place as the island, that all this island business is merely a fantasy to keep the clones operating efficiently as they wait.

On the night of the day that Lincoln learns the truth his lover Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlet Johansson) wins the lottery. Realising that the turn of death has come to Jordan, Lincoln goes to her room to warn her. After that the movie turns into a typical adventure movie in which many cars explode and many people die. At the end our hero and heroine destroy the corporation and save all the clones from their miserable existences.

The importance of this movie derives from the way in which it criticizes modern power structures which produces subjects in such a way as to serve the system which consumes them. The subjects are subjectified so as to feel happy and content with being locked in hopeful dreams. The Island shows that even what we call the unconscious is a construct, that the drives are not natural, but rather cultural products. 

            What we see here is how the life drive turns out to be the death drive. As the clones wait for the day they will finally start living a real life full of pleasures, they are in fact waiting for the day they will die. As they die the system in which they are locked gains strength. Through the death of the subjects the system prolongs its own life.

 Intermediation 2

In the previous chapter I attempted to analyze the cinematic apparatus in relation to psychoanalysis. Although I haven’t mentioned his name, Deleuze’s influence was pervasive in the previous chapter. Already in Difference and Repetition Deleuze understands the brain as a screen. To my mind Deleuze’s understanding of the brain as a screen is rooted in his recreation of the concept of death drive in Difference and Repetition. His argument against the representational mode of being is actually an attack on the transcendence oriented conceptualizations of Freud’s drive theory. Deleuze’s corpus can also be read as an enquiry into the relationship between unconscious drives and conscious desires. In this context fidelity in Deleuzean philosophy requires a re-conceptualization of the brain not only as a screen, but also as a projector.

I think the cinematic apparatus stimulates not only the conscious mind, but also the unconscious drives, hence producing not only consciousness, but also the unconscious. I agree with Deleuze that the unconscious is productive of desire, but what I think to be missing in Deleuze is that the unconscious itself is always already produced by external forces such as cinema, media, and television. So the desire produced by the unconscious is always already adaptive to the predominant form of desiring which serves the reproduction of the predominant order of things.

In the next chapter I shall attempt to provide a detailed analysis of Cronenberg’s movies in relation to the concepts of projective identification, introjection, creativity and destructivity.

 


[1] Louis Althusser, The Ideological State Apparatuses, from “Mapping Ideology,” ed. Slavoj Zizek (London: Verso, 1994), 123

[2] Althusser, 125

[3] Sigmund Freud, The Interpreation of Dreams, 101-8

[4] Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology, trans. James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards (London: Penguin, 1984), 237

[5] Christian Metz, Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Imaginary Signifier, trans. Celia Britton, Annwyl Williams, Ben Brewster and Alfred Guzetti (London: Macmillan, 1982), 136-7

[6] Metz, 120

[7] Slavoj Zizek, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? (London: Verso, 2001), 183

[8] Metz, 70

[9] Metz, 4

[10] Metz, 6

[11] Metz, 69

[12] Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty, trans. Jean McNeil (New York: Zone, 1989), 32

[13] Metz, 80

[14] Metz, 75

[15] Metz, 75

[16] Metz, 75

[17] Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (Glasgow: Fontana Press, 1973), 257

[18] Benjamin, 257

1. Passing Across The Dead Zone and Moving Towards The Dread Zone

It is early 1974, “in Washington, Richard Nixon was being pressed slowly into a corner, wrapped in a snarl of magnetic tapes. […] In Room 619 of the Eastern Maine Medical Center, Johnny Smith still slept. He had begun to pull into a fetal shape.”[1]

In Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, adapted to cinema by David Cronenberg, the main character Johnny Smith stays in a coma for five years. He wakes up to a cold winter to find himself with a limp, and separated from his girlfriend. Johnny starts to see evil everywhere; he reads the consequences of the evil thoughts in people’s minds across time. A sense for evil, together with an ability to see the past, the present and the future, it becomes impossible for Johnny to bear the burden of being in the world. He comes to realize that what he thought was an extraordinary psychic power is in fact an evil curse which makes life inordinately painful. Willing to escape from this unbearable situation that is turning him into the playground of good and evil, he falls deeper into the trap of a monstrous man, Gregg Stillson, the embodiment of evil in the world, who finds out Johnny’s secret and wants to abuse it. Johnny takes the wrong turn, because he didn’t know that “the dreadful had already happened.” Directed by the monstrous man he “wills nothingness rather than not will,” and dies a tragic death at the end.  

Little by little this brawny young dock-walloper had severed his connections with the world, wasting away, losing his hair, optic nerves degenerating into oatmeal behind his closed eyes, body gradually drawing up into a fetal position as his ligaments shortened. He had reversed time, had become a fetus again, swimming in the placental waters of coma as his brain degenerated. An autopsy following his death had shown that the folds and convolutions of his cerebrum had smoothed out, leaving the frontal and prefrontal lobes almost utterly smooth and blank.[2]           

Johnny’s rearrival, his return from the unconscious to the conscious state, from the land of the dead to the world of the living, with extraordinary psychic powers, a sense of omnipotence which turns out to be the source of death, is described by King in terms of a rebirth, a coming out of the womb after the second (nearer) death experience.

Johnny Smith is at first almost exactly the opposite of a clinical and criminal psychotic. Johnny does not identify, he refuses to believe in other worldly things, there is no struggle between good and evil in his world, in his world there is no evil, no third party. In Johnny’s world there is only him, Sarah, and their “eternal love.”  Living in an illusory heaven, Johnny is unaware of the dangers surrounding him, but in King’s world the evil shall surely show his multiple faces to scare the hell out of those people.

After the tragic and yet banal accident Johnny becomes a clinical but not a criminal psychotic. Johnny identifies himself with Jesus, he refuses to believe in the world as it is, there begins a constant struggle between good and evil in his mind. He has lost Sarah and their eternal love, and the evil forces surrounding their earlier happiness prevailed. Johnny’s illusory heaven becomes an illusory hell. As it usually happens in King’s world the evil shows his multiple faces and scares the hell out of the reader.

King’s novels are cathartic in a very Aristotelian sense of the word. And yet it’s precisely this cathartic effect disguised as subversive and critical of the established order that reproduces the order and produces psychotic replicas. King is a very unique example of how monstrous a unification of the therapeutic and the critical could be. There are two traumatic incidents leaving their traces on his life as Johnny goes along the way towards death. In this novel which is difficult to categorize as “horror” unless that is what horror actually is, Johnny Smith finds himself in an unbearable situation that sends him to an early grave. What seems to him to be a gift of life turns out to be a gift of death. Johnny is cursed by a “second sight” after two banal accidents, one in early childhood, one in adolescence, which submit him to the domination of the “power” of his wounds. And with the already there circumstances, that is, a society dying to believe in “the power of the wound,” “apocalypse,” “return of the living dead,” “transcendental experiences” and so on, Johnny becomes a tragic, Christ-like hero who feels compelled to sacrifice himself for the deliverance of salvation to the people. His mother sees it as an occasion for celebration that Johnny is mortally wounded when they tell her that he is in a coma: “God has put his mark on my Johnny and I rejoice.”[3]            

Choose, something inside whispered. Choose or they’ll choose for you, they’ll rip you out of this place, whatever and wherever it is, like doctors ripping a baby out of it’s mother’s womb by cesarian section.[4]

            And in accordance with the demands of his “inner voice,” Johnny Smith, in The Dead Zone, chooses resurrection. After five years of deep coma Johnny wakes up to a nightmare and finds himself as the one whose destiny it has become after two banal accidents of life to set things right and prevent heaven’s becoming hell. King knows that the reader’s assumption is that there is something inside to be protected from the external threats. The desire of the reader is the desire of the threat as external rather than internal to the self. King satisfies the reader’s desire by giving him/her the most beloved son Johnny as the gift; “the gift of death” as Derrida would have put it. Johnny fulfils the reader’s desire not only for an external threat but also for a saviour hero from within, one of “us.” Johnny emerges from his coma as the embodiment of the Christ-like figure, King’s son, whose mission it is to die and preserve the heaven-like qualities of this small American town in particular, and the universe in general.

 Upon his return to the symbolic order, from the unconscious state of coma, Johnny finds himself surrounded by people who are trying to exploit his extraordinary psychic powers, confronted with what Freud, in On Narcissism, calls “hallucinatory wishful psychosis” on a social level. It’s as though the whole society is in the grip of a paralysis and through their collective hallucination they cling to life. And Johnny becomes not only the thread tying them to their illusions, but also the one who preserves those illusions by sacrificing himself. Since this aspect of Johnny’s melodramatic story is more precisely expressed in David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the novel, I now turn to Cronenberg’s film.

Cronenberg emphasizes that Greg Stillson is the man who is the manipulator, the one who creates and sells illusionary images of himself. In Cronenberg’s film Johnny’s visions are placed directly in opposition to Stillson’s fantastic images of self. Towards the end of the film, Johnny, no more able to stand the half-dead life he is living in isolation, decides to put his visions to a good use. He attends one of Stillson’s campaigns and shakes Stillson’s hand to see into him. What Johnny sees is Stillsson as the evil president of the future, who has the fate of the whole world in his control. Johnny sees him pressing the button of a nuclear bomb behind closed doors. Finally Johnny makes up his mind and at a later Stillson campaign, this time in a church, attempts to assassinate Stillson. Sarah is there with her baby, and she notices Johnny just as he is about to pull the trigger. Distracted by Sarah’s cry, Johnny misses the target. Stillson takes Sarah’s baby and holds it up as a shield against Johnny’s bullets. Meanwhile Johnny is being shot by Stillson’s guards. A photographer takes Stillson’s picture while he is using the baby as a shield and this picture becomes the front cover of the Time magazine, not only ending Stillson’s career as a politician but also leading him to suicide.    

In the film the atmosphere is extremely melancholic. Johnny is portrayed as a much more repressed, melodramatic individual who at the same time has a romantic vision of life. The traumatic incident, the time he spends in the dead zone, magnifies his will to transcend his body which he sees as a source of agony. He pushes himself further towards isolation to escape from the increasingly sharpening visions. Remember that Johnny sees in the past, present, and future of other people through touching them. Touching another person is a cause of pain for Johnny. As his visions sharpen and turn into sources of pain he moves away from intersubjectivity and towards introversion. It is one of the characteristics of Romanticism to consider trauma, suffering, pain, disaster as possibilities of transcending the flesh. In Cronenberg’s “romanticism turned against itself” we see exactly the opposite. In Cronenberg after the traumatic incident it is a regressive process that starts taking its course, rather than a progressive movement towards eternal bliss. The problem with Cronenberg’s inversion of romanticism is that he still sees the movement towards eternal bliss, towards jouissance as progressive; the difference between the classical romanticism and Cronenberg’s inverted neo-romanticism is that Cronenberg considers that progress to be impossible.

It is at the sight of their condition, upon the realization of the situation they are caught in, that Cronenberg’s characters recoil in horror. And it is at the sight of this that Cronenberg expects the spectator to recoil in horror in a fashion similar to his characters.

2. Narcissus Revisited 

Narcissus can see his other only through an image of himself. In Narcissus the governor of the self is interior to the self. There is projection and introjection but not identification in Narcissus. However, this is not enough to save Narcissus from an early death. As soon as he identifies himself as his own object of love he kills himself. Narcissus is a-social and at the same time he is afraid of seeing the world through eyes that see the world before identification; he cannot see his eye prior to its reflection on the water. Although he sees not through an external authority, the internal authority thinks itself to be the only authority, becomes an introjection of an absent external authority and eventually takes the place of the external authority. Narcissus should learn to see himself and others as they are before identification, before individuation, before personalization, before the guilt, before the vision of existence created by the absent presence of a panoptic eye. He has to retain sanity in the face of the tragedy that he has been the subject and the object of his desire at once all this time. Narcissus fails in doing this and dies an untimely death.

Narcissus cannot stand the thought that the subject and the object are one. And instead of directing his death drive against this unity of the subject and the object he directs it against himself and dies. This death, however, is a product of the nothingness that Narcissus wills, rather than being an outcome of his preferring not to will at all.

3. The Mantle Twins

With Dead Ringers (1988) Cronenberg shows the consequences of an attempt to get rid of the space between the me and the not me. The illusory absence of difference between Mantle twins Beverly and Elliot is their own creation. They identify with one another so much that they think they are one split soul living one life in two different bodies. When they are discussing the deteriorating condition of Beverly, Claire says to Elliot that he shouldn’t identify with Beverly, distance himself from him, and live his own life separate from Beverly. In response to Claire’s suggestion Elliot says, “But the drugs he takes are running in my veins.” Beverly and Elliot are twice split. They are not only split from their mother by birth, but also from one another. They are divided within and against themselves. Let us start from the beginning to make more sense of what happens in Dead Ringers.

Right at the beginning of the film we see Beverly and Elliot, in childhood, talking about the difference between the copulation of fish and humans. One of them suggests that fish are able to reproduce without having sex, and that if humans were living under the water they wouldn’t need to have sex to copulate. They would simply internalise the water through which they would copulate. At the prospect of copulation without touching, the other twin responds by saying, “I like the idea.” The next scene shows Beverly and Elliot approaching a girl and asking her if she wanted to have sex with them in a bathtub as an experiment. They are aggressively rejected and accused of talking dirty.

 From the very beginning Beverly and Elliot see science as a means to attain sex objects and sex objects as means to carry out their scientific projects. A further hint at their tendency to see the female body as something to be experimented upon is given in the following scene where they are seen operating on a plastic doll pinned down on the table. This is their play. For them the object of desire is at the same time the object of science, and science is a form of play. Their diagnosis concerning the patient is intra ovular surgery.

From the year 1954 we shift to the year 1967. Beverly and Elliot are in the faculty of medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We see them applying their surgical instrument, their own invention, on a cadaver in the autopsy room. In stark contrast to the professor’s negative attitude towards their radical new instrument, the next scene shows Elliot receiving a gold plate model of their instrument as a prize for their contribution to gynaecology. At home Beverly is working on their future contributions to the field.

The differences between Beverly and Elliot become more obvious with the entry of Claire to their life. Beverly comes to understand that he is different from his brother through his different way of being in relation to Claire. While Elliot sees Claire as merely an object of play (sex and science), rather than as another person, Beverly is more affectionate and wants to sincerely engage in a profound interaction with Claire. And yet Claire’s sexual identity, that is, her masochistic tendency to occupy a passive and submissive position in the relationship makes it impossible for Beverly to escape from the double bind situation he finds himself in. The whole film is a narrative of how one falls into a double bind situation and why it is impossible to escape from this double bind without having to die. 

In Dead Ringers the Mantle twins are locked in the mirror stage. Death emerges as the only way to escape from this entrapment in an endlessly self-perpetuating process of projective identification. Their minoritarian nature, having been born identical twins, leads them to study the womb as the monster that gave birth to them. The Mantle twins’ fascination with deformed wombs, and the instruments they invent to act upon those deformations reflect their deviant relation to birth, motherhood, and sexuality.    

At the culmination of the historical effort of a society to refuse to recognize that it has any function other than the utilitarian one, and in the anxiety of the individual confronting the ‘concentrational’ form of the social bond that seems to arise to crown this effort, existentialism must be judged by the explanations it gives of the subjective impasses that have indeed resulted from it; a freedom that is never more authentic than when it is within the walls of a prison; a demand for commitment, expressing the impotence of a pure consciousness to master any situation; a voyeuristic-sadistic idealization of the sexual relation; a personality that realizes itself only in suicide; a consciousness of the other than can be satisfied only by Hegelian murder.[5]

In the relationship between Beverly and Elliot, the other consciousness is at the same time the consciousness of the self. Beverly and Elliot think that they are the same and yet different from one another at the same time. An impossible situation is situated in the context of gynaecology and the psychic life of a male gynaecologist’s relation to a female patient is used to show what happens when art-sex-science become one. The “voyeuristic-sadistic idealization of sexual relation” Lacan is talking about is precisely the Mantle twins’ relation to the female body and sex. Because they see themselves as a deviation from the norm, they see their mother as the birth giver of an abnormality. Their fascination with the ill-formed female body thus gains a significance in terms of their relation to their mother and birth.

The very existence of imagination means that you can posit an existence different from the one you’re living. If you are trying to create a repressive society in which people will submit to whatever you give them, then the very fact of them being able to imagine something else—not necessarily better, just different—is a threat. So even on that very simple level, imagination is dangerous. If you accept, at least to some extent, the Freudian dictum that civilization is repression, then imagination—and an unrepressed creativity—is dangerous to civilization. But it’s a complex formula; imagination is also an innate part of civilization. If you destroy it, you might also destroy civilization.[6]

 Cronenberg is a much more Freudian director than he would dare to admit.

 Writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person; and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother’s womb, the first lodging, for which in all likelihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease.[7]

Freud says that reality and fantasy, external and internal, the self and the world, the psychic and the material are in conflict and that this conflict is always experienced as pain. To compensate for the pain of this fragmentary existence man writes and tries to form a unity which he believes to have once been present and after which he is destined to strive. In Freud’s vision the subject is always in pursuit of an unattainable sense of wholeness, what he calls the “oceanic feeling.” And yet, Freud says, the subject can turn this negative situation into a positive one by creating works of art and literature in the way of producing at-one-ment with the world, although for Freud, this at-one-ment is impossible to attain, and if literature has any therapeutic effect at all, it is only to the extent of turning indescribable misery into ordinary unhappiness. Freud says, “the substitutive satisfactions, as offered by art, are illusions in contrast with reality, but they are none the less psychically effective, thanks to the role which phantasy has assumed in mental life.”[8]

Freud’s idea that imagination in general and writing in particular is a desperate attempt to return to the womb, to the state of being before birth, is clearly manifest in Dead Ringers. In the womb Beverly/Elliot was one and their choice of profession is a sign of their striving for that long lost oneness within themselves, with each other, and with their mother. What Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, calls the “oceanic feeling,” that is, the security of existence within the womb, tied to the mother with the umbilical cord, and swimming in the placental waters in foetal shape without the danger of drowning, is what Mantle twins are striving for. According to Cronenberg they wish they were fish. Cronenberg sees barbaric regress as an inevitable consequence of progress.

This gives us our indication for therapeutic procedure – to afford opportunity for formless experience, and for creative impulses, motor and sensory, which are the stuff of playing. And on the basis of playing is built the whole of man’s experiential existence. No longer are we either introvert or extrovert. We experience life in the area of transitional phenomena, in the exciting interweave of subjectivity and objective observation, and in an area that is intermediate between the inner reality of the individual and the shared reality of the world that is external to individuals.[9]

Freud’s and Winnicott’s methods of therapy are based on the pursuit of a lacking sense of unity of self and the world. This form of therapeutic procedure forces the subject to ego formation, normalization, and submissiveness to the existing order of meaning. Freud considers the state of being in harmony with the world as the sign of health and development of the capacity to repress the drives and making sharp distinctions between the internal and external worlds, and between the conscious and the unconscious mind as a sign of progress. Although Winnicott, like Freud, assumes that there is an originary split between the internal and the external worlds, he at the same time differs from Freud in that his therapeutic process involves some kind of a journey that the therapist takes with the patient. In this kind of therapeutic relationship the therapist engages in a spontaneous interaction through playing with the rules of the game itself. In this process the role of the therapist is to render the patient capable of learning to play. In turn the therapist himself learns to relate to the patient through a kind of unconscious communication. 

What we have both in the Mantle twins and Freud and Winnicott then, is a will to transcend the material world through material tools. Mantle twins’ aim is to go beyond the material world and unite with one another in a dimension where the psychic and the material, the self and the other become one. The surgical instruments Beverly invents after Claire goes away for two weeks, are parallel to his mental deterioration. As he turns against himself, so do the surgical instruments turn into weapons against the patients. The sharp and pointed instruments represent Beverly’s regressive movement towards aggressive barbarism. The Mantle Retractor is replaced by objects to dig into the body.  These instruments are a result of Beverly’s attempt to externalise the illusionary space created by loss of the object of love. By digging holes he thinks he will have restored himself. The instruments he creates eventually turn against him and his brother, destroying both in the process.

It is a recurrent theme of Cronenberg films that what the subject himself created turns against the subject and becomes the very cause of the subject’s death. In Videdodrome (1982) for instance we see Max, the victim of a video program which is inserted into the subject’s body and possessed, the subject acts unconsciously in the service of the monstrous forces behind the screen. All Videodrome tapes do is to bring out what’s already in the subject. That is, make the subject’s unconscious fantasies appear on the surface of the screen. In other words it turns the subject into a projection-introjection mechanism. At the end of the movie we see Max’s hand turning into the gun he was holding. He is seeing himself on the screen killing himself, and in the next scene he is killing himself in front of the screen onto which he had already projected the scenario of his own death. He introjects what he himself projects, and what he projects is already an effect of what he had introjected. What we have here is a deconstruction of the relationship between the screen and the mirror.  Not only the screen is a mirror, but also the mirror is a screen. The Videodrome tapes are the partial-objects which when united through the subject’s body, take over the body and manifest themselves in the actions of the subject. The subject becomes, in a way, an object of violence against itself and others.

 4. Consequences of Messing With Nature

With the aim of changing the past, an impossible thing to do, the subject messes with nature, and his intrusion causes the very event which he was trying to prevent from happening. Just like Oedipus’s father who, in escape from a prophecy, falls victim to his choice of way to escape, and becomes the victim of his own choice. And his choice is, in the first place, to believe in the prophecy. It is as soon as he puts his belief into action that he prepares the grounds of his subjection to an external force. His own construct, that external force, governs his actions independently of his intentions. There still is a governor but this governor is an internally constituted external force.

What Lacan calls the unconscious is the dead zone in-between the subject and the signifier. Or the state of non-being in the space between the state of being governed by drives and the entry into the symbolic order. The unconscious understood as the dead zone in between the subject and language, is at the same time the gap between being and becoming. Entry into the symbolic is associated with a passage from the state of being, through non-being and into the symbolic order of becoming.

Melanie Klein takes the beginning of becoming to as early as the first months of life. In her analysis of the “Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict and of Super-ego Formation,” Klein looks for the causes of aggression and sadistic impulses in the normal development of the child.

The child also has phantasies in which his parents destroy each other by means of their genitals and excrements which are felt to be dangerous weapons. These phantasies have important effects and are very numerous, containing such ideas as that the penis is, incorporated in the mother, turns into a dangerous animal or into weapons loaded with explosive substances; or that her vagina, too, is transformed into a dangerous animal or some instrument of death, as, for instance, a poisoned mouse-trap. Since such phantasies are wish phantasies, the child has a sense of guilt about the injuries which, in his phantasy, his parents inflict on each other.[10]     

Creativity going wrong and producing weapons rather than surgical tools is a recurrent theme in Cronenberg films. What we see in Dead Ringers and Videodrome is the same process of degeneration, a worstward movement of the experiment undertaken, in different fields of knowledge. Just as Max’s sadistic fantasies turn against him, the Mantle twins’ surgical instruments turn into sharp edged weapons which they direct against themselves at the end. What is portrayed is the characters’ inability to pass from the state of being governed by the unconscious drives, to conscious desiring. The passage from death drive to the desiring production is never achieved in Cronenberg’s films. As we have seen in eXistenZ the subjects only become capable of desiring when they are in the virtual world of the game, attached to an organic bio-port with an umbilical cord. In escape from the realists Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) hides in her own game. At the end of the film we learn that even her escape from the realists was part of the game, a construct of her own psyche, her own creation. We also learn that eXistenZ is only a game within another game called transCendenZ and that the realists trying to annihilate the project turn out to be Allegra Geller and her security guard (Jude Law). As it was in Videodrome so too it is in eXistenZ; what the virtual world of another reality does is to sustain the subject with the environment in which he/she can act out his/her fantasies in a virtual realm beyond the flesh. Within the game Allegra and the security guard can make love, outside it they have a purpose; they have to free desire from the confines of virtuality and restore it to its true place, that place being the material world.

When Jude Law refuses to undergo the operation of being penetrated by what looks like a big machine gun, so that the bio-port can be plugged into him, Allegra Geller says, “this is it, you see! This is the cage of your own making. Which keeps you trapped and pacing about in the smallest space possible. Break out of the cage of your own, break out now.” Allegra Geller sees the physical world as limiting and unsatisfying. To go beyond this limited existence she creates an illusory time-space in which the player is in the service of his/her unconscious drives which are themselves represented in material objects. When the bio-port is plugged into the subject the subject’s five senses are governed by the sensual effects the game creates on the subject. The illusion of safety and security is the result of the depersonalization of experience; it is the Other that plays the game through me. A fantasy world which keeps death at bay, an impersonal consciousness that thinks through me, and a body that never dies. What the game eXistenZ does, then, is to promise immortality in a spiritual realm beyond the flesh. And yet it does this through stimulating the centres of reception in the body which activate the five senses. When Jude Law licks Allegra Geller’s bio-port hole she immediately withdraws and asks, “what was that?” Surprised at his own act, Jude Law says, “That wasn’t me, it was my game character. I couldn’t have done that!” After a very brief silence they realize that since they are in the game they can’t be held responsible for their actions and start kissing passionately.

            The umbilical cords in eXistenZ, which seem to connect the subject with a world beyond the physical, in which there is no guilt, no responsibility, and no death, turn out to be the chain of negativity chaining the subject to a detached, meaningless, inauthentic existence. It was Hegel who pointed out that freedom without society is meaningless and not freedom as such. For freedom to become freedom it should be situated in a historical context and hence gain its meaning in relation to time. What Heidegger borrows from Hegel is this idea of the necessity of the social for any meaningful activity to take place. Heidegger’s attitude is very different from the Romantic understanding of freedom as something that can only be experienced in isolation, where, detached from his social environment, the subject bonds in a more profound way with nature, and unite with all the forces of nature in a state of euphoria.

This jubilant assumption of his specular image by the child at the infans stage, still sunk in his motor incapacity and nursling dependence, would seem to exhibit in an exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject.[11]

Lacan’s Mirror Stage describes the child’s first confrontation with its image of itself on the mirror. Lacan says that the child is not as unified as it sees itself on the mirror. But the child needs this illusion of unity to be able to see itself as a being in the world. This is when the sense of omnipotence begins in the child.

The primary process—which is simply what I have tried to define for you in my last few lectures in the form of the unconscious—must once again, be apprehended in its experience of rupture, between perception and consciousness, in that non-temporal locus, I said, which forces us to posit what Freud calls, in homage to Fechner, die Idee anderer Lokalitat, the idea of another locality, another space, another scene, the between perception and consciousness.[12]

If we keep in mind that the primary process is the death-drive then we can see that Lacan’s shift is away from Cartesian dualisms of subject and object, mind and body, nature and culture. In Lacan there is an opposition to a Heideggerian attitude towards the world and its relation to the self. A third world is introduced in addition to the imaginary and the real. And this third world is the symbolic. For Lacan, between the illusory sense of omnipotence and the symbolic loss of self with the acquisition of language, there is a dead zone, a space in-between, a gap between the symbolic and the imaginary. That space is the Lacanian Unconscious, the Real which refers to what Descartes called Cogito, Freud Ego, and Heidegger non-being. 

What Descartes and to some extent Freud presuppose is that there is a cogito before anything else, that there is an ego that says “I.”  There can be no self in relation to an external world before language. There is nothing before the subject says “I.” For the ego to begin to exist and develop it has to acquire language and say “I” first. The real entry into the symbolic takes place when the subject is sufficiently equipped with language and capable of realizing that “I” is an illusion, that the self who is to say “I” is lost upon entry into the realm of language. This illusion, however, this imaginary self who says “I,” should be preserved at least to a minimal extent, otherwise the Real slips through and life becomes painful. It is a necessary illusion, the subject, if one wants to be able to do things. Fantasies are illusions we need to keep the Real of our desire at bay.

Is it not remarkable that, at the origin of the analytic experience, the real should have presented itself in the form of that which is unassimilable in it—in the form of the trauma, determining all that follows, and imposing on it an apparently accidental origin? We are now at the heart of what may enable us to understand the radical character of the conflictual notion introduced by the opposition of the pleasure principle and the reality principle—which is why we cannot conceive the reality principle as having, by virtue of its ascendancy, the last word. [13]

So the Real is in-between the pleasure principle and the reality principle. The conflict between the pleasure principle and the reality principle takes place when and if the subject falls victim to the drives and the pleasure principle by letting himself be governed by the unconscious drives.

For Lacan progress takes place when and if the subject passes from the state of being governed by unconscious drives to becoming capable of desiring and being desired. Since for Lacan desire is the desire of the Other, desire is essentially social and symbolic, which means that it is the drive that is prior to the symbolic, and the imaginary is the support of the reality principle, without which the Real would enter the scene and destroy the subject.  Lacan forgets that death-drive is the cause of conflict as well as being its effect. The death-drive preceeds and proceeds the conflict at the same time. But with the traumatic incident the subject’s relation to the Real changes. The direction of this change may lead to destruction as much as it may lead to creation. It is a matter of becoming capable of using the unconscious drives in the way of producing new forms of life.

 5. Naked Lunch and The Body Without Organs

The Naked Lunch I am concerned with here is David Cronenberg’s film about William Burroughs’ writing process of Naked Lunch. The film, rather than being a direct adaptation of the novel, is a distillation of Burroughs’s life as he strives to write himself out of the past. We see Burroughs progressively deteriorating to the level of a dumb beast as he tries to make sense of his sufferings in and through writing. In the introduction he wrote for the 1985 edition of his earlier novel Queer, the writing of which dates back to 1953 following the two years period of depression, guilt, and anxiety ridden self-hatred after his accidental shooting of his wife Joan in September 1951, Burroughs, in an almost confessional manner, explicates the sources of his compulsion to write. Writing, for Burroughs, represents his lifelong pursuit of getting out of consciousness and reaching the area between fantasy and reality.   

I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from Control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.[14]

The death of Joan creates a space within Burroughs into which he escapes, and attempts to fill with his writings. Cronenberg explicates what Burroughs had already implied in his introduction to Queer. In the film writing in particular and creativity in general is shown to be a response to a traumatic incident, that is, production of fantasies to compensate for the horrors of life. As the film proceeds so does the mental deterioration of Bill Lee who represents Burroughs in the movie. The first signs of Lee’s split come when he is arrested by two policemen for “the possession of dangerous substances.” What they are talking about is the bug-powder which, Lee, who was given up writing to become a bug exterminator, uses to kill insects. The two policemen ask him to demonstrate his profession. One of them puts an insect the size of a hand on a pile of bug powder to see if the insect will die. As the insect begins moving its wings, arms, and legs they leave the room and Lee with the insect. As soon as they leave the room the insect tells Lee through a mouth-anus at its back that it has instructions for him, that it comes from the Interzone, that his wife Joan is not actually human and that he has to kill her. The insect asks Lee if he could put some bug powder on its mouth-anus upon the application of which it starts to make noises and movements as if in an orgy. In the next scene we are in reality and Joan is asking Lee to put some bug powder on her lips. As wee see a few scenes later that mouth-anus turns out to be the abyss, the bottomless depth, or the space in-between fantasy and reality in which Lee loses himself and shoots his wife.

This presentation of fantasy and reality side by side occurs throughout the film. It is when the gap between fantasy and reality disappears that the Unconscious manifests itself. In the case of Bill Lee the undesired event is pushed back into the unconscious in turn causing an accumulation of sadistic impulses in him. These sadistic impulses are then externalized in and through writing. For Burroughs writing was cathartic in that it liberated the untamed drives and prevented the manifestation of aggression in the external world. In Cronenberg what we see is almost the opposite of this attitude to writing. As we know from Dead Ringers, Videodrome, and eXistenZ, for Cronenberg writing and creativity have destructive rather than therapeutic effects on the writer. In the film Bill Lee emerges as the culmination of these two opposing views on not only the creative process but also the relationship between the creator and the creation, the subject and the object, mind and body. As the arena of this conflict Bill Lee’s world is that of the one in-between the internal and the external worlds, the Interzone, or in psychoanalytic terms the Unconscious, the Real, where there is no self or not self.     

     Interzone is Tangiers on the North African coast where Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch in 1953. In those days it was a place of escape for the self-exiled artists and artisans. At Interzone everyone has their own particular universality in one big universal cesspool and that cesspool is Lee’s fantasy world. The Real, or the Unconscious is impossible to represent and all those monsters, bug-typewriters, and disgusting images are only the creations of Lee’s hallucinating mind. In it every universality is surrounded by many other universalities and each universality is a body without organs. Upon arrival at the Interzone Lee starts to see his typewriter as an insect resembling the one which he had first encountered in the interrogation room at the police station. The bug-typewriter becomes the mouth-anus mechanism, the partial object opening a gap through language in-between the body without organs and the organ without a body.

Orality is naturally prolonged in cannibalism and anality in the case of which partial objects are excreta, capable of exploding the mother’s body, as well as the body of the infant. The bits of one are always the persecutors of the other, and, in this abominable mixture which constitutes the Passion of the nursing infant, persecutor and persecuted are always the same. In this system of mouth-anus or aliment-excrement, bodies burst and cause other bodies to burst in a universal cesspool.[15]

Here Deleuze is referring to Melanie Klein’s Psychoanalysis of Children. The state of being which Deleuze summarizes is the paranoid-schizoid position of the child, the world of simulacra. At this stage, which preceeds Lacan’s mirror stage, the child is not yet capable of identification. There is an introjection-projection mechanism going on but the objects, internal and external, are experienced as bad objects. The conception of goodness has not yet developed in the child. Since there is no good object for the child to identify with there is no condition of possibility for the identificatory process with a good or a bad object, there is no self or not self.  

The paranoid-schizoid position is followed by the manic-depressive position in which identification with a good object takes place. The passage from paranoid-schizoid introjection-projection to manic-depressive identification is the process of passing through the Interzone, or in Lacan’s words “traversing the fantasy.” In Deleuze’s terms this process is the hovering of an impersonal consciousness over the transcendental field of partial objects. The bug-typewriter is Lee’s impersonal consciousness manifesting itself in the form of a paranoid fantasy through the bug-typewriter, a body without organs which is pretending to be an organ without a body. In fact it is neither a body without organs nor an organ without a body and yet it is both at the same time. It is a becoming in between being and non-being.

Cronenberg’s move is away from Burroughs’s Kafkaesque understanding of the body as metaphor and towards a Deleuzean narrative of the metamorphosis of the body in a literal sense. All those self-destructive creators are inverted into the spotlight in and through Croneberg’s films and this enables Cronenberg to contemplate on the creative process as an inversion of destructive process and fill the film with this contemplation. What we see in Naked Lunch is the death drive in conflict with the life drive.

In Deleuze the body without organs is the metaphor of death-drive. And since the death drive is a response to the fragmentation of the self, it can only take the form of a paranoid fantasy projected onto the Real. The body without organs is the partial objects brought together in a totalizing way, in a way that deprives them of their partialities.

What the schizoid position opposes to bad partial objects—introjected and projected, toxic and excremental, oral and anal—is not a good object, even if it were partial. What is opposed is rather an organism without parts, a body without organs, with neither mouth nor anus, having given up all introjection or projection, and being complete, at this price.[16]

The body without organs, then, is the absence of a connection between the subject’s inside and outside. The subject, in a state of total negation, neither eats nor excretes. It eats nothingness itself and becomes the catatonic (w)hole. It is not out of the body without organs that the subject is born but from the paranoid-schizoid position which consists of a not yet formed consciousness, an impersonal consciousness violently attacking the external world and splitting the given unities. As opposed to the body without organs it consists of projection and introjection of the partial objects surrounding the subject to create fantasies such as an illusionary ego, and learns to keep the body without organs, or the Real at bay. The paranoid-schizoid position is followed by the manic-depressive position which corresponds to the formation of the super-ego and the sustenance of a balance between id, ego, and super-ego.

Burroughs’s cut-up technique is a result of his search for a way of desymbolizing the paranoid symbolic world he had constructed and projected onto the external world. Burroughs thought resymbolization was therapeutic in that it gave voice to the evil within in the way of expelling it. Cut-up technique aims at desymbolizing the totalitarian system surrounding the subject and was a defense against the totalitarian nature of this resymbolization. Burroughs himself admits in a letter written to Kerouac shortly after beginning to use the cut-up and fold-in techniques that “writing now causes me an almost unendurable pain.”[17] In Naked Lunch the movie the theme of the materiality of language recurs through the encounters between the bug-typewriter and Bill Lee. Bill Lee creates an insect within, projects it onto his typewriter, and talks with it.  His creations have taken on lives of their own and are doing and saying things mostly against him.

In Nova Express, Burroughs’s 1964 text, The Invisible Man says, “These colourless sheets are what flesh is made from—Becomes flesh when it has colour and writing—That is Word and Image write the message that is you on colourless sheets determine all flesh.”[18] Burroughs had a strong sense of the materiality of language. When he has The Invisible Man say “becomes flesh when it has colour and writing” he is in a way referring to the Unconscious as the invisible man who is striving to become visible to himself and to others in and through language.

 Foucault’s interpretation of Bentham’s Panoptic mechanism becomes relevant here. In Discipline and Punish Michel Foucault presents the Panopticon as a metaphor of how power operates within modern western society. A revolutionary apparatus for its time (19th century), Panopticon was more than just a model of prison for Foucault, it was a mechanism to keep an absent eye on the prisoner, to keep them under control at all times.

The Panopticon functions as a kind of laboratory of power. Thanks to its mechanisms of observation, it gains in efficiency and in the ability to penetrate into men’s behaviour; knowledge follows the advances of power, discovering new objects of knowledge over all the surfaces on which power is exercised.[19]

The formulation of the concept of Panopticon involves not only seeing without being seen, but also a mechanism that imposes both their differences and their resemblances upon the subjects. So the subject’s difference from other subjects is itself externally constituted, but is also internal to the subject. The subject is the product of the mechanism in which the subject finds/loses itself, and participates in the setting of the trap. Some subjects are produced in such a way as to act on an illusory sense of consciousness, that they are in control of their lives and events surrounding them, that they are freely choosing their destiny, when in fact all the rules and possibilities of action are always already set. In a panoptic mechanism taking on passive and submissive roles bring wealth, love, health, and even happiness. In a panoptic mechanism everyone is a slave, but some are less so than the others. In a panoptic mechanism submissiveness brings power. The system is such that the subject, to feel secure, takes on a passive role. In return the subject is recognized as worthy of a higher step on the social ladder, which brings an illusionary sense of security. The efficiency of the panoptic mechanism depends on its ability to produce submissive/adaptive/rational subjects.  

Burroughs’s mind works exactly like a panoptic mechanism. And I think this has been one of the major concerns of Cronenberg throughout the shooting of the Naked Lunch. What we have in the movie is a man who has been caught up in a trap that he himself set. Bill Lee projects the construct of his psyche onto the external world and it is by doing this that he finds/loses himself in the trap, dismembered. The paranoid fantasy he constructs becomes so powerful that it engulfs him causing his detachment from the external world and leading to the eventual loss of the gap between fantasy and reality. It as this point that the real slips through and tears him apart. He, in his mind, literally becomes a slashed monster, sees himself thus, as he is not, and becomes other than himself. His becoming-other, however, is in the wrong direction, or rather results in a confusion concerning the relationship between the subject and the object.

Burroughs believed that literature gives birth to action. He also saw writing itself as an action. At the end of the film we see Bill Lee at the border on his way back to Annexia from the Interzone. Two guards ask him what his occupation is. He says he is a writer. They want him to demonstrate. He takes out the gun from his pocket. Joan is at the back of the car. It’s time for their William Tell routine. Joan puts a glass on her head. Lee misses the glass and shoots Joan on the head. The guards are satisfied. The spectator witnesses this crime and remembers the person irrelevantly looking out of the window when they were slaughtering Kafka’s K. at the end of The Trial. Who was that person? Was it God? Was it a single man? Was it all of humanity?

 6. The Evil Spirit and The Spiritual Automaton

It is a recurrent theme in science-fiction-thriller movies that in time humanity turns into the slave of its own creation, namely of machines. It is precisely because of this fear of being replaced that humanity attempts to get out of time, out of the physical, and eventually falls on the side of what it was attempting to escape from; be that which they fall in the direction of metaphysics or pure-physics, in both cases their thought itself becomes machinic.

The Panopticon may even provide an apparatus for supervising its own mechanisms. In this central tower, the director may spy on all the employees that he has under his orders: nurses, doctors, foremen, teachers, warders […] and it will even be possible to observe the director himself. An inspector arriving unexpectedly at the center of the Panopticon will be able to judge at a glance, without anything concealed from him, how the entire establishment is functioning. And, in any case, enclosed as he is in the middle of this architectural mechanism, is not the director’s own fate entirely bound up with it?[20]

Panopticon, then, is a mechanism that disperses power as it produces submissive subjects. The transparency of the building makes it a model for the exercise of power by society as a whole. The subject becomes one with the mechanism surrounding it and so becomes the effect and the functionary at the same time. In short, the subject starts operating like and feeling itself as a machine. The body is not replaced by a machine but starts to work like the machine it is connected to. This is the contamination of the subject by the object.

Slavoj Zizek points out Deleuze’s emphasis on the passage from metaphor and towards metamorphosis in terms of the difference between “machines replacing humans” and the “becoming-machine” of a man.

The problem is not how to reduce mind to neuronal “material” processes (to replace the language of mind by the language of brain processes, to translate the first one into the second one) but, rather, to grasp how mind can emerge only by being embedded in the network of social relations and material supplements. In other words, the true problem is not “How, if at all, could machines imitate the human mind?” but “How does the very identity of human mind rely on external mechanical supplements? How does it incorporate machines?”[21]

In Cronenberg’s films we see the theme of machines replacing humans in the process of being replaced by the theme of humans connected to machines, or machines as extensions of humans providing them with another realm beyond and yet still within the material world; the psychic and the material horizontally situated next to each other. In eXistenZ, for instance, we have seen how the game-pod is plugged into the subject’s spine through a bio-port and becomes an extension of the body. In Naked Lunch the typewriter becomes Lee’s extension. In Burroughs’s the obsession was still with the machine taking over the body. In Cronenberg’s adaptation of Burroughs the obsession is with body and machine acting upon one another. What Burroughs experienced with his body but was unable to express becomes possible to express with the film. As we know from his writings on his routines Burroughs himself was becoming-machine internally, he was incorporating the dualistic and mechanical vision of the world surrounding him, but he thought his body was being attacked by external forces and the space he occupied was being invaded by forces that belonged to an altogether different realm, an external world. In Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch we see Bill Lee becoming a spiritual automaton to keep the Evil Spirit within at bay. The paradox is that the Evil Spirit is itself his own construction which in turn constructs him as a spiritual automaton constructing an external Evil Spirit.

In what follows I will attempt to show that Cronenberg’s films are caught in a vicious cycle, that they are self-deconstructive, and that if one thinks too much about them they not only turn back on themselves but also collapse in on themselves. This is because they are shut up in themselves in a highly solipsistic fashion and are the victims of the way they attack what they consider to be dangerous for humanity. In short I will try to show how Cronenberg’s films deconstruct themselves and invalidate their own stance before what they criticize, and this turns them into suicidal rituals before which the spectator is expected to recoil in horror.

One example of what I have said concerning the self-deconstruction inherent in Cronenberg’s films is in the middle of Naked Lunch where Tom Frost, also a writer, who appears to be Joan’s husband in Interzone, tells Bill Lee that he has been killing his wife everyday for years.

Tom: There are no accidents. For example, I have been killing my own wife slowly, over a period of years.

Lee: What?

Tom: Well, not intentionally, of course. On the level of conscious intention, it’s insane, monstrous.

Lee: But you do consciously know it. You just said it. We’re discussing it.

Tom: Not consciously. This is all happening telephatically. Non-consciously.[close-up of Tom’s mouth, his lips moving in disharmony with what he is actually saying] If you look carefully at my lips, you’ll realize that I’m actually saying something else. I’m not actually telling you about the several ways I’m gradually murdering Joan. About the housekeeper Fadela whom I’ve hired to make Joan deathly ill by witchcraft. About the medicines and drugs I’ve given her. About the nibbling away at her self-esteem and sanity that I’ve managed, without being at all obvious about it. [the movement of his lips become harmonious with what he is saying] Wheras Joanie finds that she simply cannot be as obsessively precise as she wants to be unless she writes everything in longhand.

We have to keep in mind before engaging in analysis that all this is happening in Lee’s mind, that Interzone is a construct of his psyche, that he is actually in New York, that he is hallucinating all this Interzone business, and that the year is 1953. What we have here is the loss of the boundary between the conscious and the unconscious mind. However, this is not a real loss of the boundary because we, the spectators, are informed beforehand that all this is happening in Lee’s mind. There is only the inside of Lee’s mind, and if there is anything lost it is the reality of the external world. Lee only hears the echoes of his projections. The murder of Joan has had such an impact on Lee that he is hearing nothing that the other says and he is replacing this nothing with his own scenarios concerning what’s actually going on outside.

            What does the disintegration between Tom’s words and actions signify? It signifies the double-bind situation in which Cronenberg’s films are caught in. In other words he is unconsciously communicating that which he thinks he is not saying. He is unconsciously doing what he thinks he is arguing against; that creativity brings with it destruction, that progress and regress are complementary. In Naked Lunch writing is identified with killing one’s wife. To keep the actual killing of the wife at bay, Lee writes not to rationalize the murder but to irrationalize not-killing one’s wife, and we know this from the fact that Tom Frost’s words are only projections of Lee’s psyche.

This scene also explicates Cronenberg’s attitude towards the recurring theme of a psyche-soma split in his films. But more importantly, since Naked Lunch is mainly concerned with the activity of writing and what happens to someone who is in the process of creating something, this scene deals with the relationship between body and language. Here I will leave aside the exhausted subject of mind-body split who cannot make a distinction between appearance and reality and move towards the more recent theme of the relationship between bodies and languages, with the hope of opening up a field across which one passes and in the process of this passage becomes the embodiment of a new possibility of signification, another sign, neither within nor without the old mode of signification. For this a third dualism is required, and that third dualism, being that of language and Event, has already been worked through by Deleuze.         

7. From Metaphor and Towards Metamorphosis

With Deleuze the Cartesian mind-body dualism has been replaced by body-language dualism. Without being too insistent about it at this stage I would like to hint at where the relationship between these dualisms is heading. I propose, therefore, what Deleuze has already pointed out, namely a new possibility of analysing the nature of dialectics in the context of the relationship between language and its affective quality, what he calls the sense-event. As he puts it in his Time-Image, Deleuze thinks that neither the grounds of mind-body dualism nor those of body-language dualism are sufficient to theorize a progressive movement towards a new mode of signification.

These are no longer grounds for talking about a real or possible extension capable of constituting an external world: we have ceased to believe in it, and the image is cut off from the external world. But the internalisation or integration in a whole as consciousness of self has no less disappeared.[22]

 There is no longer any movement of internalisation or externalization, integration or differentiation, but a confrontation of outside and an inside independent of distance, this thought outside itself and this un-thought within thought.[23]

Deleuze invites exploration of a text in the way of explicating a progressive potential within the text which had hitherto been consciously or unconsciously ignored or neglected, or even repressed. This theme is linked to Deleuze’s life-long concern with Nietzsche’s thought of eternal recurrence and difference qua repetition. The emergence of the unthought within thought requires an encounter with the already thought in such a way as to expose its inner dynamics and hence show what’s inside it as its outside. That is, what the thought seems to be excluding as its other constitutes its subject as self-identical. It is through the exclusion of the other that the subject becomes itself. If we apply this to subject-object relations it becomes obvious that the split between the subject and the object is itself a construct, but nevertheless a necessary construct for the subject’s subsistence. In-between the subject and the object, then, there is an unfillable gap that is constitutive of both the subject and the object.

[…]thought, as power which has not always existed, is born from an outside more distant than any external world, and, as power which does not yet exist, confronts an inside, an unthinkable or un-thought, deeper than any internal world […][24]

For Deleuze new thought can only emerge as a curious absurdity, as in the Beckett case. That is because the new thought, although it comes from within the old thought, is beyond the interiority and the exteriority to a context in its primary emergence. This means that new thought always appears to be a non-sense, for no thought can be meaningful without a context. But non-sense is not the absence of sense. It is, rather, sense with its own particular context which it creates in the process of emergence from out of the old context. Being without the predominant context makes the thought seem absurd, non-sense, but not meaningless, for meaningless means absence of thought.

What is a transcendental field? It can be distinguished from experience in that it doesn’t refer to an object or belong to a subject (empirical representation). It appears therefore as stream of a-subjective consciousness, a pre-reflexive impersonal consciousness, a qualitative duration of consciousness without a self. It may seem curious that the transcendental be defined by such immediate givens: we will speak of a transcendental empiricism in contrast to everything that makes up the world of the subject and the object.[25]

Joe Bosquet must be called Stoic. He apprehends the wound that he bears deep within his body in its eternal truth as a pure event. To the extent that events are actualised in us, they wait for us and invite us in. They signal us: “My wound existed before me, I was born to embody it.” It is a question of attaining this will that the event creates in us; of becoming the quasi-cause of what is produced within us, the Operator: of producing surfaces and linings in which the event is reflected, finds itself again in incorporeal and manifests in us the neutral splendour which it possesses in itself in its impersonal and pre-individual nature, beyond the general and the particular, the collective and the private. It is a question of becoming a citizen of the world.[26]

In this light we now see more clearly what Deleuze is aiming at with his disjunctive synthesis of transcendence and immanence leading to his transcendental empiricism. Empiricism starts from the material world rather than from the metaphysical world which it sees only as a product of the representations of experience through language. In fact, it knows no world other than the material world, and even if it does it prioritizes the physical world over the metaphysical world. Experience of the world before subjectivation is what Deleuze is trying to access. Since reaching the pre-subjective field of partial objects is possible only through language, and he knows that, he says that we have to produce that pre-subjective field which is called the transcendental field of immanence.

The event considered as non-actualized (indefinite) is lacking in nothing. It suffices to put it in relation to its concomitants: a transcendental field, a plane of immanence, a life, singularities.[27]

What we encounter with Deleuze is therefore a replacement not only of body-mind dualism with body-language dualism, but also a beyond of both, a triplicity; body-language-event. The event is the sense-event. It is the emergence of new sense not out of non-sense but out of the old sense, that is, a simultaneous explication of a new sense within the old sense. The new sense always appears in the form of an absurdity at first, but in time, through repetition and persistence this absurdity starts to appear in a new light and becomes new sense. Absurd is not the same as non-sense or absence of sense, but explicates the non-sense inherent in sense, and hence is in-between non-sense and sense. Through the absurd the unconscious manifests itself revealing another realm of consciousness which goes beyond the subject and the object and yet that is at the same time in-between them. This consciousness is the becoming of being. Being is a whole in process, that is, being is its own becoming whole, therefore it is always incomplete and yet whole. Being is an incomplete idea of wholeness which is in the process of becoming present. Since presence can only be at present, and since time is only at present, the pre-subjective impersonal consciousness is in between past and present, that is, in-between non-being and being. The event is the emergence of being out of becoming, what Deleuze calls a static genesis. This emergence, however, has neither a beginning nor an end, and therefore being is the becoming of an impersonal consciousness; “I am all the names in history,” says Nietzsche.

This indefinite life does not itself have moments, close as they may be one to another, but only between-times, between-moments; it doesn’t just come about or come after but offers the immensity of an empty time where one sees the event yet to come and already happened, in the absolute of an immediate consciousness.[28]

At this moment in time, and in this place all the wounds of humanity of the past are incarnated. One has to feel the pain of all the past times, empathize with all those sufferings and learn from them for progress to take place. It is not the individual sufferings of a single person that Hegel, Nietzsche, or Deleuze talk about. Theory, cinema, and literature are not personal affairs. What is at stake is the “presence” of all the already dead bodies that have to be turned into fertilizers. How to make use of the already dead bodies in the service of progress as opposed to the one’s who kill in the service of  progress? Suffering and pain indeed weaken the subject and yet there is no way other than turning this weakness, this impoverishment of thought into an affirmative will to power beyond the life/death drive. Perhaps a more than banal accident of life but just like Bosquet “my wound existed before me.” I am always already injured and if there are many more wounds awaiting to be embodied by me, well then, this indeed signifies that it has always been, still is, and will never cease becoming a time of passage from homo sapiens across homo historia and it appears to be towards homo tantum.  

Conclusion of Part II

The unconscious of the subject is a product of the cultural products such as advertisements, films, and books. Since the unconscious is itself a cultural product, giving free rein to the unconscious to express itself serves the reproduction of the cultural context in which the unconscious is itself produced. To be able to create difference without having to die the subject has to turn the unconscious into a void within the symbolic out of which a new way of looking at the world can manifest itself. A subject is he/she who actively submits to the unknown in such a way as to create the condition of possibility out of a condition of impossibility for the creation of a new beginning.

In a world which the subject loses itself surrounded by lies and illusions it is very difficult for one to become a subject since a subject is nothing but a void lost upon entry into the symbolic. Finding of itself of a subject means finding itself of a subject as a void, that is, a pre-symbolic hole, or a hole within the symbolic. This means that finding itself of a subject is its losing itself as a symbolic being. And this means that what is found by regressing to the pre-symbolic is nothing. So a subject is that which cannot be found, it can only be created in and through the destruction of its symbolic self. In this context becoming a subject refers to the process of creation of a self-conscious consciousness out of the void.

We must keep in mind that the pre-symbolic void is not actually before the symbolic but beneath it. Opening a hole within the symbolic through cont(r)action creates the condition of possibility for the contact between the known and the unknown, between the subject and its a-subjective self, between the conscious desiring and the unconscious drives.

This may sound strange but the death drive and the life drive are both of the symbolic world. They are symbolic constructs, results of a will to reduce life to a mechanistic dualism. It is the conscious desiring that is capable of clearing a space for the emergence of the new.

Creativity and destructivity are not mutually exclusive. For the creation of something new one must destroy something that already exists. This destruction of something that already exists should simultaneously be a creation of nothing that already exists. Since negation is a process that necessarily depends on that which is negated, it is impossible for negation to create something completely new. The negated contaminates the negator. It is the affirmative recreation of that which already exists that truly destroys it. But what exactly is affirmative recreation? Affirmative recreation is the exposition of the negating quality of that which already exists. By exposing the transcendence oriented negating quality of that which already exists, affirmative recreation exposes the fictionality of knowledge; hence affirms knowledge as it is and opens a gap between knowledge and truth. This gap is also a gap between the the past and the present; a space between the known and the unknown out of which a future generates itself.

 


[1] Stephen King, The Dead Zone, (London: TimeWarner, 1979),100

[2] King, 82

[3] King, The Dead Zone, 71

[4]King, 111

[5] Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, 7

[6] David Cronenberg, Croneberg on Cronenberg, ed. Chris Rodley (London; Faber and Faber, 191992), 169

[7] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. James Strachey (London: Penguin, 1985), 279

[8] Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and Its Discontents, 262

[9] Donald Winnicott, Playing and Reality, (London: Tavistock, 1971), 64

[10] Melanie Klein, Psychoanalysis of Children, 132

[11] Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, 2

[12] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 56

[13] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts, 55

[14] William Burroughs, Queer (New York: Penguin, 1985)

[15] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 187

[16] Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 188

[17] William Burroughs, Letters, 286

[18] William Burroughs, Nova Express, 30

[19] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 204

[20] Foucault, 204

[21] Slavoj Zizek, Organs Without Bodies, 16

[22] Gilles Deleuze, Time-Image, 277

[23] Gilles Deleuze, Time-Image, 363

[24] Deleuze, 273

[25] Gilles Deleuze, Immanence: A Life, 25

[26] Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 148

[27] Deleuze, 31-2

[28] Deleuze, 29

He has me say things saying it’s not me, there’s profundity for you, he has me who say nothing say it’s not me.[1]

                                                                                                                           Samuel Beckett

 1. Surreal Faces of The Unconscious

 In 1916 a group of artists and writers established Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich and started the aesthetic movement now known as Dada. This word was found randomly from a dictionary. But Dadaists did not choose Dada for its meaning, they were completely indifferent to the meaning of the name of the movement. They used the Cabaret Voltaire for their gatherings. The artists known as Zurich Group involved Jean Arp, Tristan Tzara, and Hugo Ball.  An outcome of the loss of meaning in the defeated countries after the First World War, Dada was iconoclastic. It was against all kinds of conservatism, traditionalism, holiness, and everything else that could be an obstacle for individual freedom, including Dada itself. “Do not trust Dada” had said Tristan Tzara. “Dada is everything. Dada doubts everything. But real Dadas are against DADA.”[2] Dada does not believe in absolutes. It does not accept any kind of system. It ridicules every kind of methodology. Tzara’s recipe to write a Dadaist poem is a proof of this.[3] But more importantly, it is in fact an attack on art itself.

Dada, the most radical movement within the European avant-garde, no longer criticizes the individual aesthetic fashions and schools that preceded it, but criticizes art as an institution: in other words, with the historical avant-garde art enters the stage of self-criticism.[4]

            Dada is anti-dogmatic in its strict sense. However, its anti-dogmatism turns into dogmatism. Although Dada had challenged almost everything, it was incapable of liberating imagination because it didn’t take into consideration the role of consciousness and the importance of making conscious choices in the process of creation.

It is obvious that Dada trusts no values. It does not trust language. For it, language is a barrier rather than a bridge. Even André Breton’s claim, who is not exactly a Dadaist, expresses this scepticism.

Language is the worst of conventions because it imposes upon us the use of formulas and verbal associations which do not belong to us, which embody next to nothing of our true natures: the very meanings of words are fixed and unchangeable only because of an abuse of our power by the collectivity.[5]

            For Breton our true natures, if there is such a thing, stand outside language and is often distorted by it. Influenced by Dada and driven by Breton’s theories, Surrealists tried to give imagination free of reason the central role in their works. The Surrealist movement aimed at seeing and showing a superior reality through the unconscious with total disregard to reason. Breton deliberately drew on Freud’s concept of “free association” and theorized a way of making the unconscious accessible without translating its contents into the familiar forms of conscious mind. At the heart of Breton’s theory is the idea that the psychic and the material are one and that the conscious and the unconscious are in constant interaction with one another.

It is not merely that I think there is almost always a complexity in imaginary sounds. (The question of the unity and speed of dictation remains on the order of the day.) I am also certain that visual or tactile images (primitive, unpreceeded or unaccompanied by words, like the representation of blankness or elasticity without intervention previous, concomitant or even subsequent to the words that express them or derive from them) give free access to the unmeasurable region between the conscious and the unconscious. But if automatic dictation can be obtained with a certain continuity, the process of unravelling and linking these images is extremely difficult to grasp, presenting, to the best of our knowledge, an eruptive character.[6]

Breton aimed at putting to use Freud’s method of “free association” to bring to the surface the repressed contents of the unconscious. For Breton the unconscious is a continuous flow beneath consciousness where fantasy and reality dissolve into one another. Breton applied to writing and painting what Freud called the dream-work and free association. For Breton, just as the dream makes the unconscious drives accessible through an operation that produces visual images, automatic writing, in a fashion similar to free association, produces verbal images. Accordingly, automatic writing operates like a dream and provides access to the unconscious without translating the unconscious contents into conscious forms. Breton called this “the real process of thought.” Breton’s attitude towards the unconscious was based on the idea that the unconscious itself is not a stage on which certain drives are visualized but that the brain is a “poetry making organ” that functions as a machine producing words and images in such a way as to render the unconscious drives capable of manifesting themselves in and through language. Breton did not say that what the writer does by automatic writing is representing an always already existing form but that there is nothing accessible to the mind before the unconscious contents are given form. For Breton, giving form to the unconscious contents was not essentially a process of translating one order of meaning into another, but rather, that it is the goal of automatic writing and Surrealism to provide the means to make the unconscious contents accessible. With Surrealism the form itself became the content and inversely. For the Surrealists reason was incapable of representing reality, and there was a superior reality in higher forms of expression. It has been a recurrent theme since Plato that there is a realm that art and poetry provides access to through the madness of the artist or the poet. Surrealists’ suspicious attitude towards reason lead them to an idealization of madness, irrationality, and unconsciousness.

To define Surrealism Breton used two words: Automatism and dream. Breton believed that only automatically recorded dream-visions could give a voice to the unconscious. One should not look at a dream as though one is looking outside a window; one should rather portray the movement of the dream by being inside and outside it at the same time. What is needed is a technique in love with the movement of the hand in touch with the dream. The thought within the dream can only be accessed through a spontaneous and automatic writing. A dreaming thought is not a representation; it is a pure thought uncontaminated by the symbolic order of signs. Dream-thoughts do not make a distinction between raw and cooked, wild and tamed; it shows that a cube has six sides, an eye comes out of its socket, and the dead rise from the grave. Its raw materials are the memory traces manifesting themselves in and through dreams. Erasing the trace of a memory is erasing innocence. And even an erased memory shows itself in the dream as its own negative. It is this showing itself of a memory trace as its own negative that automatic writing helps carry out.

Breton was inspired by Freud’s idea of a “mystic writing-pad” which contains the writing of memory-traces, thoughts coming from somewhere distant and unknown, their movements, their disappearances, and the reappearance of new traces.

It (the Mystic Writing-Pad) claims to be nothing more than a writing-tablet from which notes can be erased by an easy movement of the hand. But if it is examined more closely it will be found that its construction shows a remarkable agreement with my hypothetical structure of our perceptual apparatus and that it can in fact provide both an ever-ready receptive surface and permanent traces of the notes that have been made upon it.[7]

What is most interesting about the mystic writing-pad is that in it are not the traces themselves that are of value but the traces of traces after they are erased. And the dream of Surrealists was precisely recording the traces of dreams. How could one write something that belongs to a completely different medium without altering it?

The texts produced by automatic writing are dream-narratives in their processes of formation. If the dream-world is where all control over consciousness is absent, if the dreams take place in a space-time not yet sacrificed to the symbolic, which, for the Surrealists it always already is, then the automatic creator should strive to unite the self and the space-time and not only write the contents of the dream but also give the texts forms of dreams. With his technique of automatic writing Breton aimed at filling the gap between the signifier and the signified, the subject of statement (enunciated) and the subject of enunciation, the form and the matter of form, with his dreams; and as he strived for uniting the process of giving form and the form given, he, in a Cartesian fashion, deepened the cut between the subject and the object.

            Automatic writing is in pursuit not of turning the subject into the signifier, it is in pursuit of turning the subject into an absolute presence, “the immaculate conception.” Automatic writing destroys the distinction between the signifier and the signified and replaces both of them with itself as the total sign. It goes beyond the difference between the form and the matter; it wants to erase the difference between process of giving form and the form given to the matter.  For Breton, the unconscious is not a signified, it is itself a signifier. And the unconscious is beyond the gap between nature and culture.[8]

            Breton called the products of automatic writing “the unity of rhythm.”[9] The surrealist text and the surreal reality itself have been rendered the same. What is already a signified is imposed upon that which cannot be included in the signifying chain. What Breton didn’t realize is that the unconscious and language are essentially separate from each other, and yet at the same time they are constitutive of one another. They are separate and/but contiguous to one another. Without the one the other cannot be.

Breton wanted to re-establish the unmediated relationship between the object of perception and its representation. To do this he had to remove all consciousness and connect the writing process to an absent cause which would govern the automatic writing process. Instead of imagining, automatism turns the eye into the object of imagination and the subject becomes blind to itself. The subject can touch the psychic only by being blinded by it.  The unconscious engulfs the eye and breaks-down the projection-introjection mechanism; for it leaves nothing between the projected and the introjected objects.

The surrealist image juxtaposes the past and future possibilities; an undivided chain of operations connects the truth of the dream to the truth of the image.  The true image is the fingerprint left on the table, or the trace of water left by the glass on the table and since it is always in the form of a trace from the past it has the potential for opening the subject up to illusions and miracles. The eye looking at the dream or the recording of the dream regresses in time towards a primal state of things.[10] It not only brings out the trauma, it traumatizes the looking eye, and turns the life of trauma into beauty.                    

            The automatic dream is the true beauty, because beauty of the dream neither knows reasons, nor the causes and effects, it is a product of chance and randomness. In this beauty there is something that wants to lose itself in nature instead of merely representing nature. The texts want to turn into the underground caves themselves, the eye wants to go beyond the limits of the visible and see through nature. Surrealism is the text not only of nature and but also of that which is behind or beneath the visibility of nature.

 2. (‘,)A Pineal Eye Soliloquy(‘,)

Mimicry is another definitive word for the operations of Surrealist aesthetics and it enters the scene through the Surrealist publication Minotaure. Roger Caillois defines mimicry as the activity through which the eye becomes a camera reproducing itself as a camera.

[…] life seems to lose ground, to blur the line between organism and environment as it withdraws, thereby pushing back in equal measure the bounds within which we may realize, as we should, according to Pythagoras, that nature is everywhere the same.[11]

            According to the Surrealists, mimicry is able to deconstruct high and low. It is the Cartesian hierarchy that is under attack. In Descartes the eye is given priority over the foot. Mimicry aims at turning the hierarchical organization of the body against itself. Mimicry automatically submits to the environment and that way, the subjects of mimicry believe, the Cartesian subject is turned upside down. Descartes wanted to be certain of everything, and his will to certainty lead him to suspicion and scepticism. To overcome his scepticism Descartes had to question everything around him first. So as soon as he started thinking he was actually thinking against himself. When he said, “I think, therefore I am,” his inner voice was saying this: “To be sceptical requires thinking, and since I am sceptical about everything I must be thinking, and for me to think requires being, therefore I must be.”

            Descartes came to realize that he cannot be suspicious about his suspiciousness. For if he were to do so, he would again be suspicious. But why did Descartes think that he was telling the truth when he said “I think therefore I am”? I can be sceptical about everything but not about the I think. Therefore I cannot be sceptical about “I am.” “I am” cannot exist without the “I think.” So thinking is a precondition of being and since I am thinking then I must be. But what if I were to say, “I am fishing, therefore I am.” You cannot say this, because fishing is not a sign of being. You might be thinking that you are fishing, but might in fact be sleeping and having a dream in which you see yourself fishing. But thinking is different from fishing and dreaming; being and thinking are preconditions of one another.

             What happens when Descartes is thinking of being is consciousness conceiving itself as a thinking being. In Descartes the subject can say “I” outside of language. Descartes does not distinguish between the speaking subject and the object being spoken about. Lacan’s theory that language splits the subject and this split is constitutive of both the cultural subject and the unconscious explains Descartes’ paradox. Descartes thought consciousness could conceive itself directly, without the mediation of language. But this is impossible, says Lacan, for before the acquisition of language there can be no-thought. The subject regresses to Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position and acts on his/her primitive drives. In Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position the dominant drive is the death-drive which pulls the subject towards inorganicity and nothingness under the guise of oneness, Nirvana, and omnipresence, it promises a life at a superior realm of being. Descartes was imagining that he was conscious of his thought, but he was in no way conscious of what his thought symbolically meant.

            When consciousness closes in on itself and thought becomes its own object, the subject and the object are imagined to be integrated. The gap between the subject and the object is filled with language, which actually splits the subject and the object. What Descartes is not conscious of is that language has a role to play in his thinking process. Descartes is not aware that he needs language to even begin to think. And through exclusion of language from the thinking process the Cartesian subject remains locked in a stage almost prior to the mirror stage, a fantasy world of oneness with the universe.

            Just like Christopher Columbus who didn’t realize that he had discovered a new continent, Descartes opens a new field for philosophical thinking but was not aware of what he had done. He didn’t name this new field. In this new field Cogito was establishing itself upon the principle that consciousness is one with itself and at all times thought reveals itself to itself. For Descartes God was a priori to the human subject because for God to exist it has to situate itself in the subject’s mind as God first. Descartes had no thoughts about the role of culture in the formation of the concept of God. And if there was a God that God couldn’t be telling lies for that wouldn’t fit in with the symbolic idea of God. So all the naïve truths Descartes was sceptical about at beginning, such as that there is a transcendental world beyond consciousness, must have been true. With this thought in mind Descartes declared that being and thinking are one and the same thing.

            The Surrealists who see themselves beyond Hegel and Nietzsche intend to overcome the Cartesian mind-body dualism, but do, and fail in achieving, that which is almost exactly the opposite of what they intended to do. Instead of stressing the gap between the signifier and the signified, the subject and the object, they ridiculously act out what they say they are criticizing. Their only difference from Descartes is their attempt to freeze the movement of thought while for Descartes there was no movement of thought at all, the thought was always already static. While Descartes was saying, “this is one,” and pointing himself out, the Surrealists are saying, “this one is not the one it appears to be.”

Although the Surrealists borrowed the concept of pineal eye from Descartes, they used it against him. With this pineal eye One looks outside and feels like what One sees is inside. The distance between One’s eye and the object of vision does not exist. That which you see on the surface of the outside is the depth of the inside. The depth of the inside is at the same time the depth of the outside. The depths and surfaces of the insides and outsides are one and there is no boundary of this “one.” This One creates its limits as it goes beyond them. It is its crime, punishment, and prize at once. The constitution and the breaking of the law that it writes for itself take place at the same time. The crime and the execution of the punishment are one. The limit, the law, the wall, the borderline, the boundary, the edge do not exist prior to the act that breaks through them. The diversions created in and through language set the limits of what language can do to one, and what One can do with language, to language, to the world, to oneself. One becomes an act of contemplation in the process of opening up new passages through which language can flow through and fill one. Full with and surrounded by language, one as language, contemplates itself and fills itself with what it contemplates. Words flow through the passages opened up by the movements of thought and time created by and creating new contents of expression. The new contents of expression are at the same time new forms of thought. The forms of thought are at the same time the contents of thought. Language practices what it preaches. The expression and the expressed are one. Language is a sea the shores of which are the edges of language. This, however, does not mean that there is nothing conceivable beyond the shore. The shores and their extensions are the homes of others’ ways of being in relation. And neither in nor through language can One reach that which is beyond for there is no going beyond of language as such but as much. Language perpetually dissolves into not nothingness but into something inconceivable. That inconceivable is the void that one attempts to render conceivable as it goes along the way in and through language and yet does the reverse of what it is aiming at.

3. Is Pineal Eye an Organ Without a Body?

            The pineal eye is not the organ that turns two different perspectives into one. But rather it attempts to turn the reality inside out so that the objects, instead of becoming visible through reflecting light, themselves overflow their objectivities and generate light. The Surrealists aimed at precisely this kind of a process through automatic writing. They aimed at replacing the objective reality with another subjectivity that would go beyond the polar opposition between the subject and the object. Surrealism tries to attain inorganicity through becoming inorganic. It desires nothing, rather than willing nothingness. It is a movement governed by the death drive rather than being the governor of the death drive.

Bataille at first looked at the Surrealists with sympathy, but before long he came to understand that it was nothing other than a false pretentiousness. Bataille says,

If we were to identify under the heading of materialism a crude liberation of human life from the imprisonment and masked pathology of ethics, an appeal to all that is offensive, indestructible, and even despicable, to all that overthrows, perverts, and ridicules spirit, we could at the same time identify surrealism as a childhood disease of this base materialism: it is through this latter identification that the current prerequisites for a consistent development may be specified forcefully and in such a manner as to preclude any return to pretentious idealistic aberrations.[12]         

            To understand why Bataille is so angry with the Surrealists, and especially with Dali, we have to go back to the roots of this distress caused by the attempt to show that the subject and the object are one. Bataille compares the prefix Sur at the beginning of Surrealism and Nietzsche’s Surhomme. For Bataille, what is common to both Nietzsche and the Surrealists is that they both in vain strive for a higher world, and yet since Nietzsche at least inverts his attitude and attempts to revalue all values including his own. Whereas Surrealism is a hopeless case in that all they do is to devalue everything valuable. For Bataille, the Surrealists are merely a group of people making themselves ridiculous and being the objects of nervous laughter.

Bataille doesn’t agree with the Surrealist’s understanding of beauty and meaning in art and literature. It is true, both the Surrealists and Bataille are obsessed with turning things upside down, turning the low into high and the high into the low. The difference between the Surrealists and Bataille is not only aesthetic but also ethical, a stance linked to Bataille’s concept of transgression as he puts it in parenthesis in his critique of Salvador Dali’s Lugubrious Game.   

(If violent movements manage to rescue a being from profound boredom, it is because they can lead—through some obscure error—to a ghastly satiating ugliness. It must be said, moreover, that ugliness can be hateful without any recourse and, as it were, through misfortune, but nothing is more common than the equivocal ugliness that gives, in a provocative way, the illusion of the opposite. As for irrevocable ugliness, it is exactly as detestable as certain beauties: the beauty that conceals nothing, the beauty that is not the mask of ruined immodesty, the beauty that never contradicts itself and remains eternally at attention like a coward.)[13]

            For Bataille what the Surrealists do is to provoke the pre-dominant authority in such a way that can only be considered as the manifestation of ill-will. Bataille, consciously or unconsciously, uses Nietzsche against the Surrealists although he seems to be putting them in the same category for their aspirations to higher Ideals. Although Bataille sees idealisation both in Surrealism and Nietzsche, he nevertheless underlines the different means they employ to attain those higher Ideals. In both Nietzsche and the Surrealists the unconscious is filled with archaic images of Ancient Greek Mythology, but in Nietzsche these are adjusted to the demands of the present, whereas even in Breton’s writings we see sheer rage manifesting itself through exploitation of the death-drive in that the process of slashing myth and language into pieces aims at attracting punishment.

            What Bataille does in his Critique of Surrealism and Nietzsche is to turn the human subject upside down and instead of idealizing higher realms he, in a way, idealizes the lower realms. Bataille situates himself in a realm lower than the realm of the law.

By excavating the fetid ditch of bourgeois culture, perhaps we will see open up in the depths of the earth immense and even sinister caves where force and human liberty will establish themselves, sheltered from the call to order of a heaven that today demands the most imbecilic elevation of any man’s spirit.[14]

            Bataille’s main target is the Icarian flight which he sees both in Nietzsche and the Surrealists. As we know, Icarus didn’t obey his father’s No, and tried to fly and touch the sun. Eventually he burnt himself up. The Icarian conception of imagination as flight from reality leads to an idealization of the bourgeois values disguised as the proletarian values, and the real lower world is pushed further down. For Bataille, the reason why people see the foot as inferior to the head is their habit of attributing a higher status to the vertical forms of thought. Man should fall on his four legs, otherwise he will never be able to write himself out not only as the writer but also as the written, not only as the seer but also as the seen.

Bataille’s attitude reminds Lacan’s theory of the passage from the imaginary to the symbolic. For Lacan the Symbolic law, the Name of the Father who says No to the desiring child plays a dominant role in participation in the symbolic order and eventually becoming a sexed subject who is able to distinguish between the me and the not me. In Lacanian terms, Nietzsche and the Surrealists are locked in the mirror stage where Descartes is a respected inmate. As Breton says, “There, the atmosphere and light begin to stir in all purity the proud uprising of unformed thoughts. Man, restored to his original sovereignty and serenity, preaches there his own eternal truths, they say, for himself alone.”[15]

 4. Artaud, Deleuze and the will to nothingness

I close the eyes of my intelligence and, giving voice to the unformulated within me, I offer myself the sense of having wrested from the unknown something real. I believe in spontaneous conjurations. On the paths along which my blood draws me, it cannot be that one day I will not discover a truth.[16]                    

 Artaud does not call for destruction of reason through the imaginary but an affirmation of reason’s self-destruction on the way to self-creation. There is a knowledge which Artaud is in pursuit of without knowing what that knowledge is and what purpose it serves. Artaud is always in pursuit of this unattainable and ungraspable knowledge and he knows that, as he is trying to give it a voice, he is moving away from and towards it at the same time. This movement of the action and the intention in opposite directions, that is, this turning against itself of desire, is a thought that Artaud feels with his body but cannot express through articulable forms. Artaud makes the inarticulable visible through costume, lighting, etc., and tries to create a psychic materiality. 

 When you will have made him a body without organs,

             then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom

           then you will teach him again to dance wrong side out

           as in the frenzy of dancehalls

          and this wrong side out will be his real place.[17]

Artaud feels the body as an externally organized structure and experiences existence as pain because he feels his body to be restricted and subjected to forms it is not willing to take at all times. By disorganizing the body through putting its organs to different uses, to uses other than they have come to be put, within the organizing structures, Artaud induces agony in himself. Desiring to become inorganic, and this is a desire for an impersonal death, an “ungraspable” knowledge, this striving for infinity within the finite, is, paradoxically, at once the product and the producer of his affirmation of life as it is, that is, as “a process of breaking down…” as the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald puts it in his The Crack Up. In The Logic of Sense Deleuze reads Fitzgerald’s The Crack Up with Kleinian eyes and says that identification is peculiar to manic-depressive states. In The Crack Up Fitzgerald says,

I only wanted absolute quiet to think about why I had developed a sad attitude toward tragedy—why I had become identified with the objects of my horror or compassion… Identification such as this spells the death of accomplishment. It is something like this that keeps insane people from working. Lenin did not willingly endure the sufferings of his proletariat, nor Washington of his troops, nor Dickens of his London poor. And when Tolstoy tried some such merging of himself with the objects of his attention, it was a fake and a failure…[18]

Deleuze affirms Fitzgerald’s manic-depressive attitude towards the relationship between life and death in the Porcelain and Volcano chapter of his The Logic of Sense.

If one asks why health does not suffice, why the crack is desirable, it is perhaps because only by means of the crack and at its edges thought occurs, that anything that is good and great in humanity enters and exits through it, in people ready to destroy themselves—better death than the health which we are given. Is there some other health, like a body surviving as long as possible its scar, like Lowry dreaming of rewriting a “Crack Up” which would end happily, and never giving up the idea of a new vital conquest?[19]

In a world ruled by fools full of ill-will war becomes inescapable. Since war, conflict, violence and destruction are interior as much as they are exterior affairs, it is hardly a matter of bad luck that we will be wounded at some point if we haven’t been already, not that I wish it to be that way. An injury either creates a possibility of relating to the world as it is, or turns into an obsession with the self, into a delusional and rigid vision of existence projected onto the real, giving birth to neurosis or psychosis.

We do not write with our neuroses. Neuroses or psychoses are not passages of life, but states into which we fall when the process is interrupted, blocked, or plugged up. Illness is not a process but a stopping of the process, as in “the Nietzsche case.” Moreover, the writer as such is not a patient but rather a physician, the physician of himself and of the world. The world is a set of symptoms whose illness merges with man. Literature then appears as an enterprise of health.[20]  

If we have a look at “the Nietzsche case” once again with Kleinian eyes through a Deleuzean looking glass we see that the mechanism of projection-introjection is itself the illness of which resentment and bad conscience are the causes and the symptoms at the same time. In the case of projection the subject’s illness is manifested as aggressiveness and hostility towards the external world, always accusing the others for his weaknesses. This is the paranoiac who is afraid of being persecuted and sees the external world as a threat to his unity. Afraid of the external world, he himself becomes hostile towards it in turn provoking hostility against himself, thus giving birth to the actualisation of what he was afraid of. And in the case of introjection the subject internalises the fault and turns against itself. This is the psychotic who identifies with everything and everyone, and who has too many points of view together with a divergent coherency of thought and action. Intending to take a spoon from the drawer he might break a plate on the floor. In the first case there is a detached hostility and in the second case there is an immersed attachment. In both cases the subject becomes the victim of his own actions against and toward himself and others.

Nietzsche says that the will to nothingness eventually turns against itself and becomes creative and revalues all values to survive death. It is through writing as the patient and the physician, as the analyst and the analysand at the same time that Nietzsche is able to turn resentment, bad conscience, fear, and guilt against themselves and produce desire as affirmation of the world as it is after a conflict that is interior as much as it is exterior to the self. This conflict is the crack up that happens to the body of the organism. It is neither interior nor exterior, but a “surface event.”    

There was a silent, imperceptible crack, at the surface, a unique surface Event. It is as if it were suspended or hovering over itself, flying over its own field. The real difference is not between the inside and the outside, for the crack is neither internal nor external, but is rather at the frontier.[21]

            It was on and through his disorganized body, or body without organs, that Artaud traversed the realm of affective intensities and the field of partial objects and produced desire without an object. For Deleuze the process of traversing the affective intensities felt through body rather than grasped by the mind may be the returning of a “great health.” Here objects are related to in such a way as to produce desire not as lack but as production. For Deleuze it is the production of fantastic visions of the world that are the causes and effects of certain pathological conditions. Bombarded with unattainable objects of desire the subject becomes mad.

            In both Freud and Lacan the attitude toward the object of desire is Platonic in that the object of desire is the object of desire as long it remains unattainable. To put it in Lacanian terms, with the acquisition of language the subject starts to enter the symbolic order and loses touch with the Real which is the unconscious. His desires and drives are shaped and organized according to the Symbolic order of the language game in which he finds himself. So the direction the subject’s becoming will take depends not only on the way in which the subject relates to language but also how he relates the unconscious to language, since it is one’s production of a sense of oneness for oneself in and through language that determines one’s way of being in relation to language. Language is neither internal nor external to the subject and yet it is equally internal and external to the subject since language is the surface in-between. Beyond language there is nothing. Deleuze observes a movement of language towards its outside, not to reach the outside of language, but to create an outside language within language in writers such as Kafka, Beckett, and later Kerouac(The Subterraneans, Big Sur). For Deleuze, their subversions of syntax become their passage through the fleshy transparency of signification unless the process of production through the unconscious forces of the outside is blocked.

All writing involves an athleticism, but far from reconciling literature with sports, or turning writing into an Olympic event, this athleticism is exercised in flight and in the breakdown of the organic body—an athlete in bed, as Michaux put it.[22]

Deleuze sees the goal of literature as giving a voice to those unconscious forces that belong to a realm outside of language and those forces can only be given a voice by creating an impersonal consciousness through a new language within language – an outside language inside the language – that traverses the field of partial representations of the human condition and produces an other sign that is itself at once internally exterior and externally interior to the major order of signification. The outside of language is the realm which Deleuze calls “the transcendental field of immanence.” It is through this synthesis of transcendence and immanence that Deleuze is theoretically able to touch the material through the psychic, and the real through the fantasy. But the problem persists, for the question remains: how are we going to practice this theory? Is it practical enough to be applied to the banalities of ordinary life?

In his book, On Deleuze and Consequences, Zizek bases his critique of Deleuze on his use of Artaud’s concept of the body without organs. As is clearly understood from the subtitle of his book, Organs Without Bodies, Zizek’s aim is to reverse the Deleuzean order of things. With his well known 180 degrees reversals, Zizek uses Deleuze’s idea of a resistance to Oedipalization against him, and that way shows that Deleuze’s assumption that Oedipalization is something to be resisted is based on false premises. For Zizek, Oedipalization takes place when and if there is a failure in the system. Zizek considers Anti-Oedipus to be a book in which Deleuze and Guattari situate a psychotic and an Oedipalized subject on the opposite poles of one another. For Zizek a psychotic is the Oedipalized subject par excellence, rather than being an anti-Oedipe who escapes the codes of capitalist axiomatics.

[…] far from tying us down to our bodily reality, “symbolic castration” sustains our very ability to “transcend” this reality and enter the space of immaterial becoming. Does the autonomous smile that survives on its own when the cat’s body disappears in Alice in Wonderland also not stand for an organ “castrated,” cut off from the body? What if, then, phallus itself, as the signifier of castration, stands for such an organ without a body?[23] 

What for Deleuze is traversing the symbolic becomes traversing the fantasy in Lacan as Zizek pointed out first in The Sublime Object of Ideology and later in The Ticklish Subject. Traversing the fantasy is a stage in the process of progress and it is only upon entry into the symbolic that the subject becomes capable of initiating change in the symbolic order. In Lacan’s mirror stage where a series of imaginary Narcissistic identifications prepares the subject for the symbolic order, the child has an illusory sense of oneness and yet this illusion is necessary only in so far as the child will traverse this fantasy and will have learned to look at the world without identification.

A detachment from identification is common to both Deleuze and Zizek and in this sense they are both Lacanians. Lacan is the one that unites them as he splits them. For Deleuze the Lacanian symbolic is that in which the subject finds itself upon birth, so to initiate change the subject should try to introduce an exterior inside, a new language within language. Deleuze tries to put language in touch with a pre-verbal, if not pre-linguistic stage. It is to Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position that Deleuze attributes importance. Deleuze takes the schizoid part of the paranoid-schizoid position and extracts from schizophrenia all apart from introjection and splitting processes. Following Klein Deleuze makes a distinction between introjection and identification. According to Deleuze introjection and splitting are useful tools for creating difference, whereas identification not only preserves but also serves the system. Zizek agrees with him on the usefulness of introjection and splitting. In both cases the revolutionary-becoming is associated with the death drive. But Zizek disagrees with Deleuze’s association of introjection and splitting with schizophrenia.

For Zizek there must be a distance between reason and non-reason. One should not try to name the unnamable, but rather one must show the nothingness outside everything, to do this one must introduce a split into the symbolic continuity of things. An interruption of the system from within is the aim of both Zizek and Deleuze, and yet while Zizek affirms non-representability of the unconscious, Deleuze sees the unconscious as the producer of difference and initiator of change. For Deleuze the unconscious is dynamic, but for Zizek it is static and it is this static state outside time that manifests itself in the form of gaps within the symbolic order; it splits and interrupts the flow of things, rather than participate in it.

What does Oedipalisation mean? It means the production of a subject who would willingly blind himself to the social reality. Who would rather see nothing rather than see the truth. An Oedipalised subject is he who blinds himself to the symbolic meaning of things and chooses to see the nothingness before or after the symbolic. It is the symbolic that Oedipus represses by blinding himself to it. That he has engaged in sexual intercourse with his mother and killed his father, induces such guilt in Oedipus that he punishes himself by cutting himself off from the external world. This Oedipal introversion of the subject leads to a weakening rather than a strengthening of the subject’s fantasy world. With the exclusion of reality, fantasy has nothing to mediate. Unconscious drives cannot attach themselves to external objects so as to turn into desire. Left hanging in the air the unconscious drives turn against the subject and the subject becomes self-destructive, blinding himself to the symbolic, thus opening himself up to the nothingness behind it by choosing to see nothing. An Oedipal subject closes his eyes and seeing the nothingness inside says there is nothing outside. He is Nietzsche’s man, as he puts at the beginning and the end of On The Genealogy of Morality, who “would much rather will nothingness than not will.” For he still wills, otherwise he wouldn’t want to blind himself to it all. It is because he cannot help willing although he doesn’t want to will that his will turns against itself and wills nothingness rather than something to stand in for it. 

It is Nietzsche’s legacy to have made a distinction between the subject and the signifier, knowledge and truth. By exposing the absence of an origin of knowledge he exposed the absence of truth in knowledge. Nietzsche inverted into the spotlight the nothingness inherent in knowledge which is constitutive of a truth outside scientific knowledge. Truth can take many forms and one of these is poetic truth, which Nietzsche considers to be closer to the absolute truth, which is the truth of the absence of truth at the center of scientific knowledge.

For Nietzsche there is no relation whatsoever between the object of knowledge and the truth of experience. Perhaps what Deleuze would years later call transcendental empiricism explains the production of truths alternative to the scientific truth which claims to be objective and absolute. For Deleuze literary activity involves creation of impersonal consciousnesses within the subject of writing. The subject of writing should detach himself/herself from the object of writing; that is, the writer should make a distinction between the enunciated and the subject of enunciation. As Deleuze puts it in his essay, Life and Literature, “literature is not a personal affair.”  Literature is not about writing down one’s personal experiences as they actually took place, which is impossible anyway. Literature involves selecting from experience and giving form to formless experience which is yet to take the shape of new forms of experience. Out of the old experience one creates new experience.

The writer turns unnamable drives into new symbolic meanings and new objects of desire. With Deleuze the unconscious is given a very important role to play in the process of cultural production. The non-symbolizable drives interacting with one another and forming what is called the unconscious are turned into comprehensible and desirable forms through literature. Literature contributes to the symbolic order by producing not only new symbolic meanings of the already existing objects but also new objects which didn’t previously exist within the symbolic order.  Literature, therefore, turns the unconscious drive into the symbolic desire. So Deleuze could say the unconscious produces desire. Literature is about turning the pre-verbal — if not pre-linguistic — objects into verbal objects with symbolic meanings attached to them. Literature constructs a world in which the objects gain new significance.

 5. Artaud and The Shaman

A shaman is he who makes the patient identify with himself through the use of certain devices which activate the unconscious. The shaman takes the patient on a journey through himself; he plays the role of the mediator between the symbolic and the real. The shaman populates the unconscious with monsters and evil creatures, in other words with bad objects, and teaches the patient to struggle with them. In a way what a shaman does is to traverse the fantasy and take the patient with himself/herself to the realm after the fantasy is traversed. Once the fantasy is traversed his/her unconscious drives start to make sense for the patient. The shaman’s therapeutic procedure, therefore, involves reattaching the patient to the signifying chain, by giving him/her objects to represent his suffering. To be attacked by a monster with flames coming out of its mouth stands in for the unnamable internal bad object.  For a shaman the most important thing in therapy is to help the patient get in touch with the unconscious which is populated by mythological monsters. What a shaman actually does is to invite projective identification and show the way out of the field of partial bad objects. At the end of the journey the patient becomes capable of seeing a continuity in his life and therefore gains a sense of illusory oneness.

            Artaud was deeply involved in finding ways of manipulating the unconscious. Just like a shaman Artaud aimed at directly communicating with the spectator’s unconscious. To achieve this Artaud advocated the use of physical objects in the way of touching the psyche. Artaud’s materialism paradoxically transcends the physical. The concept of Theatre of Cruelty  implies a cruelty on the psyche through the affective use of the physical objects on the stage. These included, audio and visual imagery, costumes resembling slashed open bodies, unorthodox lighting, unnamable voices coming from nowhere, representing pain. Artaud’s attitude was so aggressive that he even surpassed the Surrealists. Although at the beginning he was close to the Surrealist movement, and he carried the project of automatic writing to its limits in his poems, Artaud was soon expelled from the Surrealist movement. For Artaud they were only game players rather than actors. They failed in acting upon the world and fell victim to their pursuit of a superior realm beyond the physical.

            Artaud’s vision is a much more materialist one than that of Surrealists who populated the unconscious with figures from Ancient Greek Mythology. For Artaud Breton’s literary and theoretical texts were not radical enough, they could even be considered conventional. Artaud’s objective was to dissociate the spectator from the social reality and make it impossible for him/her not to associate himself with the action on the stage.  In a way, Artaud wanted to take the spectator into the act, rather than merely play a solipsistic game excluding the role of the spectator. Artaud showed the third eye between the eye seeing the inside and the eye looking outside. For Artaud identification is the key to the heart and the soul of the spectator, for identification process surpasses rational thought. For Artaud even the breathing of the actor is important to create affective intensities.

[…] (Breathing) allows the spectator to identify himself with the performance breath by breath, and bar by bar… All emotion has organic bases. It is in cultivating his emotion in his body that the actor recharges the density of its voltage. Knowing in advance which parts of the body one wants to touch means putting the spectator into magic trances.” (163)

 6. Beckett

Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this saying it’s me? Answer simply. It’s the same old stranger as ever, for existence, of his, of ours, there’s a simple answer. It’s not with thinking he will find me, but what is he to do, living and bewildered, yes, living, say what he may.[24]   

 Yes, there are moments, like this moment, when I seem almost restored to the feasible. Then it goes, all goes, and I’m far again. With a far story again, I wait for me afar for my story to begin, to end, and again this voice cannot be mine. That’s where I would go, if I could go, that’s who I would be, if I could be.[25]

In Texts For Nothing the narrative voice turns its resentment in the face of having no-identity, that is, for being incapable of changing the course of events in the way of having an identity, and prefers not to will at all, to will nothing, rather than will nothingness. Beckett conforms to Nietzsche’s famous saying about Nihilism: “man would much rather will nothingness than not will.” This is not an impoverishment of the will, rather, it is itself a will to nothing which turns Beckett’s writing into a motionless flight, a static genesis, and at the same time a movement of thought which spirals around and within nothing, in the process turning the absence of something conceivable into a neutral voice through which silence eternally speaks and engages in a non-identical relation with the world surrounding it. 

In Waiting for Godot there is nothing at the centre of the subject; no one comes, no one goes, nothing takes place. That place is the side of a road where there is a barren tree, and there Vladimir and Estragon share an aloneness, an intimacy. They give the impression that they have been there for hundreds, or even thousands of years, associating by their clothes with Charlie Chaplin’s persona, “the universal vagabond.”

Vladimir: […] To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us. […] But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come–[26]

 In Waiting for Godot Beckett continues his project of purgation, or purification through reduction of life to its bare bones. According to Alain Badiou, as he puts it in his book On Beckett, to achieve this reduction of life and truth to their most naked forms, in his novels Beckett had to write thousands of pages in the way of wiping the slate clean and getting rid of the non-generic details of daily social life. To open up a space within the existing order Beckett had to unwrite the symbolic order in the way of subtracting the Symbolic from the Real. By situating Vladimir and Estragon in the middle of now-here, which he shows to be nothingness, Beckett gives voice to the Real of being, which is non-being. Beckett shows that at the centre of the subject there is a hole. The split introduced by Beckett in-between the subject and the signifier shows the subject and the signifier as constituted by a lack of a third party outside them. There is the absence of something in-between the fantasy and the social reality and the subject is this non-being constituted through and as the gap separating them. The subject is an effect of language, and yet this effect manifests itself only in the form of gaps, absences, cuts. That is, the subject manifests itself only in the form of a negativity from the perspective of the big Other. For the big Other excludes nothingness and death. The big Other wants subjects that are something within the symbolic order.

 What Alain Badiou has written about Beckett’s writing at the time of Texts for Nothing becomes relevant here.

With extraordinary lucidity, they tell us of the nothingness of the attempt in progress. They come to the realisation, not that there is nothing (Beckett will never be a nihilist), but that writing has nothing more to show for itself. These texts tell us the truth of a situation, that of Beckett at the end of the fifties: what he has written up to that point can’t go on. It is impossible to go on alternating, without any mediation whatsoever, between the neutrality of the grey black of being and the endless torture of the solipsistic cogito. Writing can no longer sustain itself by means of this alternation.[27]

It is in this context that Beckett’s Texts For Nothing, Waiting for Godot and Lacan’s theory of the subject coincide. At the root of this coincidence is a shared way of being in relation to the unconscious and death.

After being subjected to purgatory in his novels, Murphy, Watt, Moran, Molloy, Malone and Mahood are finally shown to be the embodiments of a split subject constituted by two clowns who have no role to play, their selves separate from their consciousnesses, talking to but not with one another. Vladimir and Estragon are both no one and everyone, none of the existing things and yet all that there is left.

The relationship between Vladimir and Estragon is in the form of a conversation with no centre, for both of the subjects of this conversation are constitutive of one another. The gap that separates them is the constitutive non-relation between them.  Beckett has taken almost al the measures required to concretely present the journey of being in time as being outside time. It is from Vladimir and Estragon’s perspectives that we see the nothingness outside the frozen image of two vagabonds in their immobility. It is from this gap that new thought emerges; out of this nothingness arises a generic multiplicity. Beckett stages this generic multiplicity by employing the asymmetrically dialectical encounter with the other. To do this he had to remove the character configuration and logical plot development, if not the pattern, from the scene of theatre. Reduced to their minimal needs the Beckettian characters confront the symbolic order and challenge the immutability of Cartesian discourse. Of the One, there is almost nothing left in Beckett’s work.

Man has nothing left to say and yet if he stops saying this nothingness the sublime objects will fill the unconscious and occupy a space that should remain empty. Vladimir and Estragon know that although they are not integral parts of each other they nevertheless cannot do without one another. They are doomed to share this irreconcilable and endless movement against themselves. As they speak they are moving further away from their intended meaning, and yet if they ever stopped saying words they would be immediately in touch with the Real which would be inordinately painful.

The Real of desire is a mystery even to the subject which can only be spoken around and yet never about; this nothingness at the centre of the subject should remain unoccupied for the subject to survive trauma and get free of the past. Freedom cannot be freedom if it is not experienced as a forced-choice. For freedom is the right not to choose to do something; saying, “This is not it!” And yet what is there to do but choose the least worse of all the alternatives. And rather than not will, for that would be total destruction for them, Vladimir and Estragon choose to will nothingness; as empty shells they shall remain free of the symbolic order by introducing a split between one another, within themselves, and between themselves and the social reality.

What’s at stake in Beckett’s project is finding the ways and the means of presenting a time outside time, another space, something unnamable outside the existing symbolic order. Beckett’s meaning is very fragile and it is precisely this fragility that makes a new beginning possible. Governed by the death drive the subject splits the given unities and continuities, introduces splits between the past and the present, and out of this tireless and yet exhausted activity of splitting new signs, signs of other signs, emerge.

Vladimir: […] Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the gravedigger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. [He listens.] But habit is a great deadener. [He looks again at estragon.] At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, he is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. [Pause.] I can’t go on! [Pause.] What have I said?[28]

Pozzo: [Suddenly furious.] Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day like any other day, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day he’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, in the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? [Calmer.] They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more. [He jerks the rope.] On![29]

Only in one single instant all is lived and died. But this single instant takes a lifetime to pass. For Beckett its end comes when one confronts death. The characters in his Trilogy, Molloy, Malone, and finally the Unnamable, are all narrating their processes of deterioration, they are trying to give a voice to that time-space where it all ends and yet something other than the all of life in the symbolic order begins. Beckett writes how subject and the death-drive overlap. But he writes this event in such a way that this overlapping of the subject and the death-drive turns into a life force and splits the given unities including the Cogito. After all is said and done away with there emerges the not-all, that which remains after all is said. To say this not-all one has to expose the void within the symbolic order, to show that this void is constitutive of the symbolic order, and that without it all meaning would collapse. What happens in Beckett, therefore, is the process of self-deconstruction which shows the inconsistencies within the text and uses these inconsistencies against the intended meaning of the text. In Beckett we see that in the place of the transcendental signifier there is nothing. The subject is portrayed empty and the subject becomes a signified itself, an empty signifier, a signifier that signifies nothing but is itself signified. So where there was the transcendental signifier now there is nothing. As itself a signifier. We can see how it becomes possible to say the unconscious is a signifier, or as Lacan would say, “the unconscious is structured like language.”

 7. Krapp’s Last Tape

It is a characteristic of Beckett’s plays to give the impression that there is nothing outside the stage. In Beckett’s plays God is never allowed to die altogether, but rather God is made to be felt by the audience as his absence, as the nothingness outside the stage. Krapp’s Last Tape is a good example of this recurring presence of God as an absence in Beckett’s plays. It is very rare not to have a couple, or more than one couple in Beckett’s plays, and Krapp’s Last Tape comes especially handy as a Beckett play with a single individual in it; locked in the past and trying to figure out not only how he has become what he is, but also why he is in general. There is no concern at all with the future in Krapp’s Last Tape, unlike Endgame for instance, where Hamm and Clov, although they don’t seek salvation from misery, they at least, just like in Waiting for Godot, expect a message from without, from some unknown external source about which they know nothing as to its relation to their future. They do strive for the unattainable knowledge of the nothingness outside. It is as though all their thoughts, actions, and speeches are governed by the nothingness off the stage. Whereas in Krapp’s Last Tape there is no sign of will, rather than willing nothingness, Krapp prefers not to will at all.  

The tape recorder is the projection-introjection machine in Krapp’s Last Tape. Krapp is now introjecting what he had projected over the years, likewise the tape recorder is projecting what it had introjected over the years. This change of roles between machine and man reflects a perhaps often-neglected aspect of Beckett’s work, that aspect being the ambivalence of Beckett’s relation to projection-introjection mechanisms as exemplified by the tape recorder in Krapp’s Last Tape. Krapp oscillates between rejecting the past and affirming it.

During the sixties we see Beckett’s plays getting shorter and shorter, and the subject deprived of the unity of mind and body, the conscious self and the unconscious. Beckett’s progressively shortens the text and moves towards theatrical, or visual expression. The characters’ experience on the stage is limited to people once able to live dramas and capable of remembering those dramas. Dispersal of the subject, disappearance of the body, the subjects reduced to bodies in jars, to a mouth, or merely a voice, are some of the characteristics of Beckett’s final period of writing. Now his characters are no more capable of doing anything other than trying to remember those days in which they could still express their thoughts and feelings on stage.[30]

At the beginning of Krapp’s Last Tape Beckett announces that it is “a late evening in the future. Krapp’s Den. Front centre a small table, facing front, i.e. across from the drawers, a wearish old man: Krapp.”[31]

Krapp is an old and lonely man. He is shown on his 69th birthday listening to tapes he had recorded on his previous birthdays. As usual he will listen to the tapes and then record his voice telling what happened throughout last year. Krapp is the analyst and the analysand at the same time. He listens to his past from his own mouth through the speakers.  The play opens with Krapp who has always lived alone, reducing his life to a few physical actions carried out in a ritualistic way. This is Krapp’s daily routine; a few meaningless actions. Sometimes Krapp goes inside and drinks, eats a few bananas, takes a few steps in his “den,” and as he says, he sleeps with the old bitch who comes around once in a while.

Krapp lives his life neither by writing his mind games as Molloy and Malone do, nor talks as Hamm and Clov do. Krapp has no memory at all. Besides, he does not construct stories for himself. His tapes are his memory. But like all the other Beckett characters engaged in a play of consciousness Krapp deconstructs his story by using the rewind, play, and f.forward buttons. All that remains is a mass of misery pieces of which are not even imperfectly remembered, a multitude of unrelated and disconnected thoughts and impressions about the past.

Throughout the play we watch the three stages of Krapp’s life. The most important stage is the one narrated by the voice of Krapp at 39. The tape he recorded at the age of 39 contemplates the tape that he had recorded at 29, and Krapp at the age of 29 contemplates the period corresponding to his youth. And all the past periods of his life are judged by Krapp at the age of 69, which is “the present.”

Krapp at the age of 29 looks down on his youth and at times mocks himself for being the way he was. He is very happy to have done with that earlier period of his life. That Krapp at the age of 39 does not remember that he used to sing shows that he does not want to remember those unhappy days of childhood and adolescence. Krapp at the age of 29 is at a stage in his life where he has to make choices and decide what to do with his life. (This is matter of laughter for Krapp at the ages of 39 and 69).

One of the most important decisions Krapp has to make is the one concerning breaking his habit of drinking and giving up alcohol. At this stage we see young Hamm from Endgame meeting Krapp. Krapp tells his story using numbers and statistical information. A numerical exactitude in his narration is clearly discernible. One other important decision that Krapp has made at 29 is about reducing the intensity of his sexual life. Perhaps that is why he broke up with Bianca. (However, Bianca’s loving gaze is remembered by Krapp even when he is 39). Krapp’s 29th year passes in search of happiness and eventual frustrations. 29 years old Krapp’s tape ends with a call to God to show himself? To this call to God Krapp at 39 (on the tape) and 69 (on the stage) laugh. According to Krapp at 39, from that miserable year there is nothing left apart from that lost lover.

In Endgame Hamm and Clov are the father and son repelled and yet attracted by one another at the same time. They can do nothing with or without one another, or they can neither do, nor not do anything with and without one another.

The stage decoration is such that considering the on-stage activity as taking place within a head is easy and helps to understand what Beckett and we with him are dealing with here. The portrait hanging on the wall is turned towards the wall and the two windows facing the external world are sufficient signs to associate the stage as the inside of a man’s head, with the spectators watching the play from behind the split open head. This is signified by the portrait of the father on the wall looking towards the wall with the nothing behind the picture turned towards the stage and the spectators. At some point in the play Clov even attempts to communicate with the spectators, he turns towards and addresses the spectators, which shows us that Beckett was trying to make this point clearer by making the audience aware of the inverted projection-introjection mechanism that they are caught in. In all his plays and novels, one way or another, Beckett achieves inverting the projection-introjection mechanism into the spotlight. And he achieves this precisely by putting under a magnifying glass the failures within the projection-introjection mechanism.

What Beckett wants to say by employing these unorthodox techniques in theatre is simple and yet sophisticated. He wants to say that to escape from the Cartesian mind-body dualism and the mechanistic view of the world associated with it one has to create an imbalance between the projecting side and the introjecting side, between apprehension and comprehension.

            The creation of imbalance can take the form of either an excessive projection of the imaginary and the symbolic onto the real, or a lack of projection resulting in total introjection. In the first case the subject loses himself in the chaos of the real, and in the second case the subject loses touch with the real and becomes a totally imaginary and symbolic construction. In both cases there is a loss of gap between the imaginary and the symbolic. And when the imaginary and the symbolic become one the real in-between them becomes impossible to be in touch with.  In Dissymetries Badiou repeatedly and recreatively points out that Beckett is not divided into two but into three. To use Derrida’s words, “one plus one makes at least three.”  

Intermediation 3

In the previous chapter we have seen how the Uncosncious has been put to use in literary creativity by various movements. In this time of fragmentation and loss of oneness, the stable identity is replaced by a subject who embodies the life drive and the death drive in a state of conflict with one another which causes inordinate anxiety in the subject as a result of the antagonism producing structure of the pre-dominant symbolic order. And this subjectivity is as yet not capable of investigating the source of its inner conflict for fear is continually instilled in the subject through the capillaries of the pre-dominant symbolic order. Unless we realize that it is the fear of death that lies at the heart of this anxiety we cannot come to terms with death and reconcile ourselves to life. Once the subject comes to terms with death and is reconciled to life, it becomes possible for the subject’s critique of the existing social order to subsist within the intersubjective field beyond objectivity and subjectivity. I think this critique would be much more effective than the one that is directed, at all costs, against the “external world” in general.

If people think about the same subject with the same words all the time, then they are using the same part of their brains in the same way at all times. This means that while many neurons in their brains remain unused, inactive for a long period of time, always and only the same neurons interact in the same way all the time. Needless to say in time stupidity and narrow-mindedness dominate their thought processes. To solve the problem of narrow-mindedness a sort of short circuit between the neurons is required.  In the next chapter I shall attempt to show how literature helps to break down the already existing neural connections and form new neural and synaptic connections in the brain.

 


[1] Beckett, 23

[2] C. W. E Bigsby, Dada and Surrealism (London: Methuen, 1972), 7

[3] Tzara: “Take one newspaper. Take one pair of scissors. Choose from that newspaper an article of the length desired for the poem you intend to write. Cut out the article. Next cut out with care each of the words forming that article. Next put them in a bag. Mix gently. Take out one by one each excision in the order they fall from the bag. Copy carefully. The poem will resemble you. Voila, there you are , an infinitely original poet of a seductive sensibility, even if still not understood by the vulgar.”  Quoted by Renato Poggioli, The Theory of The Avant-Garde, trans. Gerald Fitzgerald (Massachussetts and London: Harward University Press, 1982), 190

[4] Richard Murphy, Theorizing the Avant-Garde: Modernism, Expressionism, and the Problem of Postmodernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 7

[5] Quoted by Bigsby, 26

[6] Andre Breton, “The Automatic Message”, in What is Surrealism? Ed. and trans. Franklin Rosemont (London: Pluto Press, 1978), 105-9, quoted from Poetry in Theory, ed. Jon Cook (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 190

[7] Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology, trans. James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards (Penguin, London: 1984), 431

[8] Lacan thinks differently on the same subject. For Lacan the split between nature and culture, the subject and the object are constitutive of both the subject and the object. The object of psychoanalysis, according to Lacan, is the unconscious. There have been criticisms against Lacan’s idea of the unconscious as the object of psychoanalysis. One of these could be saying that The unconscious is itself a product of the psychoanalytic discourse, how can it be thought separate from psychoanalysis?   

[9] André Breton, Der Surrealismus und die malerei, 76

[10] Breton, 121

[11] Roger Caillois, The Edge of Surrealism, ed. Caludine Frank, trans. Claudine Frank and Camille Naish (London: Duke University Press, 2003), 102-3

 

[12] Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess, “The ‘Old Mole’ and the Prefix Sur in the Words Surhomme and Surrealist,” ed. and trans. Allan Stoekl (Monneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1994), 32

[13] Bataille, 27

[14] Bataille, 43

[15] Andre Breton, What is Surrealism?, ed. trans. Franklin Rosemont (London: Pluto, 1978), 28

[16] Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings, ed. Susan Sontag (Berkeley: University of California, 1975), 92

[17] Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings, ed. Susan Sontag (University of California: Berkeley, 1975), 570-1

[18] F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack Up (New York: New Directions, 1945), 69

[19] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale, (London: Continuum, 2003),

[20] Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, transl.Daniel W. Smith and Michale A. Greco (London and New York: Verso, 1998), 3

[21] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale, (London: Continuum, 2003), 155

[22] Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, transl.Daniel W. Smith and Michale A. Greco (Verso: London and New York, 1998), 2

[23] Zizek, 83

[24] Beckett, Texts for Nothing (London: John Calder, 1999), 22

[25] Samuel Beckett, 24-25

[26] Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, 74

[27] Alain Badiou, On Beckett, ed. and trans. Alberto Toscano and Nina Power (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2003) 15

[28] Samuel Beckett, Complete Dramatic Works, “Waiting for Godot” (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), 84-5

[29] Beckett, Waiting For Godot, 83

[30] Linel Abel, Metatheatre (New York: Hill and Wang), 82

[31] Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape, “Complete Dramatic Works” (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), 215

I philosophise only in terror, but in the confessed terror of going mad.[1]

 Jacques Derrida.

The circle of the eternal return is a circle which is always excentric in relation to an always decentered center.[2]

Gilles Deleuze.

 1. Architecture of The White Hotel  

Published in 1981, D.M. Thomas’ The White Hotel is a post-structuralist novel which employs parody to expose the absences of meaning inherent in itself. In Prologue D.M. Thomas gives the impression that he is publishing the real letters written by Freud and his friends. Written in the form of a documentary this part is followed by a surrealist poem giving voice to Lisa Erdman’s dreams and fantasies. Here we look at the world with the eyes of a young man and a young woman. They have no identities, their world is not separated from themselves, and nothing is categorized. There everything can turn into something else including its opposite, everything is replaceable with another thing, and everything is intermingled, no distinction is made between internal and external objects: Stars fall from the sky like rain, trees mix with the sea, young woman turns into Magdalene, and drinks the wind. The consciousness and the body of the man and the woman become one with the universe in this Surrealist poem. In this first chapter the gap between what is real and what is not is filled, the boundary between the fictional and social reality is erased, and a fantastic vision of the world is presented. In the part following this poetic part the same events are narrated in prose employing the techniques of the symbolists and abstract expressionists.

The third chapter is the case study of Lisa Erdman, aka Frau Anna. Frau Anna’s illness and the therapeutic process are narrated in such a way as to give the impression that we are reading Freud’s notebook. The language of this chapter is scientific and conforms to the norms of scientific objectivity. There are occasional footnotes and scientific documents. It is only through a footnote that the reader is given hint that all this is actually fictional and has nothing to do with what has actually happened. In this footnote it said that Freud’s notebook containing the case studies was burnt in 1933. If the text is based on facts so too must the footnote be based on facts; so what we have been reading cannot be Freud’s own writing. In other words the text is not taking itself seriously, the text is deconstructing itself, shifting the ground beneath his feet and eventually collapsing in on itself. The text negates what it claims to be the truth and turns into a parody of itself.

In the fourth chapter all the forms and contents of narrative in the previous chapter are brought together under the roof of a traditional and realistic forms of writing. Events are situated in their proper historical contexts and are presented linearly with all the cause-effect relationships in order. The characters are presented in accordance with the symbolic order and show signs of progress in time. In this context science, art, and life seem to be interconnected and the reader is given the impression that rational discourse on them and their relationship with each other is possible.

The fifth chapter is almost exactly the opposite of the second chapter. The subject who had become one with the universe and was continually changing in harmony with nature in the second chapter, becomes the subject of death, alienation, trauma, and separation. This chapter is about the Ukrainian Jews who thought they were being taken to Jerusalem by train, but soon found themselves naked and about to be killed. Lisa is among these Ukrainian Jews. Alienation, detachment, instability, human destroying human, fear and violence are all analyzed in terms of their relations to death and nothingness. The narrative form is mostly naturalistic, and yet touched by a little bit of symbolism here and there.

The sixth and the last chapter of The White Hotel resembles the second chapter in that it is composed of dream-visions. Here all events and all sensations are accepted without questioning, and even without comprehension. This unmediated knowledge is articulated through a surrealistic narrative.

As a whole The White Hotel is an attempt to find a way of expressing the trauma of the Holocaust. In his The Holocaust and The Literary Imagination, Lawrence Langer investigates the representability of the traumatic experiences and their effects.

How should art – how can art? – represent the inexpressibly inhuman suffering of the victims, without doing an injustice to that suffering? If art, as Adorno concedes, is perhaps the last remaining sanctuary where that suffering can be paid honest homage, enshrining it permanently in the imagination of the living as the essential horror that it was, the danger also exists of this noble intention sliding into the abyss of its opposite.[3]

For Langer, trying to represent the Holocaust invites the negation of the real situation by tranquilizing the reader with a kind of aesthetic sublimation resulting in temporary satisfaction. So the writer should find a suitably disturbing form to be able to make the reader feel the pain of the suffering. The writer should aim at such a way of expression as to disturb the reader, rather than provide him/her with fetish objects to stand in for the Real of the Holocaust. The Real may be unattainable, it may be that which is non-symbolizable, the unnamable truth of what really happened, and yet splitting the narrative, interrupting the continuity, dissolving the structure, may themselves turn out to be the very qualities that renders it possible for the reader to touch the Real without really touching it.

In The White Hotel we only glimpse at the extent of loss and get a sense of the inordinate measure of suffering involved in traumatic experiences.

The mind resists what it feels to be imaginatively valid but wants to disbelieve; and the task of the artist is to find a style and a form to present the atmosphere or landscape of atrocity, to make it compelling, to coax the reader into credulity – and ultimately, complicity. The fundamental task of the critic is not to ask whether it should or can be done, since it already has been, but to evaluate how it has been done, judge its effectiveness, and analyse its implications for literature and society.[4]

How can you make someone feel the other’s pain through language, especially when this pain is unnamable? For Langer identification is necessary for ethical action. So the writer should find the proper way of saying what he means to say, in such a way as to create the conditions of possibility for the reader’s identification with the character. Langer thinks that making the reader identify with the holocaust victims invites ethical questioning of the situation. Langer seems to be blind to what is really at work in an identification process.

The Real, the traumatic kernel resists signification, it is an irruption which exists in the form of an absence. Creating gaps within the text itself helps to create the effects of absence and loss on the reader. But there is also a negative aspect of producing absence of meaning and presence of obscurity in the text. The writer may find himself/herself inviting projective identification with his/her characters. Creating absences of meaning within the text does not always alienate the reader from the text, quite the opposite may be the case; it leaves spaces within the text onto which the reader can project his/her Narcissistic image of self.

It is only in the shape of such novels as The White Hotel that we can reconcile ourselves to being caught up in an irresolvable conflict-situation between the life drive and the death drive. It is this antagonism inherent in human-condition itself that fascism exploited, and has not ceased to exploit in the way not only of murdering masses, but also of making the masses murder themselves and one another.

At a first glance The White Hotel looks like a poetic novel about the Jewish Holocaust feeding on the mythological imagery of psychoanalysis. In the Author’s Note, D.M. Thomas says,

One could not travel far in the landscape of hysteria – the terrain of this novel – without meeting the majestic figure of Sigmund Freud. Freud becomes one of the dramatis personae, in fact, as discoverer of the great and beautiful modern myth of psychoanalysis. By myth, I mean a poetic, dramatic expression of a hidden truth; and in placing this emphasis, I do not intend to put into question the scientific validity of psychoanalysis.[5]

The Prologue of The White Hotel is composed of five letters written by Freud, Sandor Ferenczi, his lover Gisela, and Sachs. The first letter is written by Ferenczi to his lover Gisela on 8th September 1909. In this letter Ferenczi talks about his feelings and fantasies and as he does this he mentions the disagreement between Freud and Jung. According to Ferenczi, Jung has interpreted one of Freud’s dreams in such a way as to cause anxiety in Freud. And upon this Freud said to Jung that he would never ever give any information to him about his personal life. What Thomas does in the third chapter to criticize Freud becomes relevant here. Thomas tells of the basic principles and techniques of psychoanalysis using the discourse of psychoanalysis in a dramatic way, that is, by dramatizing psychoanalysis and parodying Freud. The relationship between the Id, the ego, and the super-ego, together with the external factors influencing this relationship are narrated through Freud’s notes on a case study. Frau Anna, who is in fact Lisa Erdman, is the object of study. Freud interprets Lisa’s writings and speeches, and the reader reads this interpretation as part of the novel. From what Freud writes about Lisa the reader gets the message that Freud is a human, as you see he is in error about Lisa, his interpretations are misinterpretations and are limited by his desires, anxieties, and obsessions; he cannot be objective, he can never know the truth of Lisa’s words, which Thomas will tell us later in his novel.

At the beginning of his career Freud did think that the cause of mental illnesses is the return of the repressed contents of a personal unconscious, which were mostly of a sexual nature. Jung, on the other hand, linked the cause of mental illnesses to what he called a collective unconscious which was the accumulation of the experience of humanity throughout history as a whole. For Freud the cause of illness had something to do with a past personal event, whereas for Jung mental illness had something to do with the present and its relation to the future. Jung concentrated on the present moment in which the past and the future dissolved into one another, but Freud insisted on looking for the cause of illness in the personal history of the patient. Throughout the novel Freud links Lisa’s mental and physical problems to some traumatizing sexual experiences she had when she was a young girl. According to Freud every metaphorical image Lisa uses in her surreal poems is a translation of Lisa’s unconscious desires, they are the returned forms of a repressed memory, symptoms of a traumatic event. For instance Freud interprets the imagery of white hotel in Lisa’s dreams as a manifestation of her will to unite with the maternal body, and perhaps a will to go back into the secure environment of the womb in which nothing is required of the organism. Nietzsche would have said that Lisa’s will is a will to nothingness, rather than willing nothing. Lisa does get better after Freud’s therapy, she returns to music, she even gets married. But Lisa soon realizes that this is only a temporary period of happiness. Lisa thinks that her mental problems have something to do with the future, rather than the past. The reference to Jung is obvious. In a letter she writes to Freud she confesses that she told lies to Freud about her past. As for the reason behind her lies Lisa says,

Is there any family without a skeleton in the cupboard? Frankly I didn’t always wish to talk about the past; I was more interested in what was happening to me then, and what might happen in the future. In a way you made me become fascinated by my mother’s sin, and I am forever grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to delve into it. But I don’t believe for one moment that had anything to do with my being crippled with pain. It made me unhappy, but not ill.[6]

            The difference between Jung and Freud is a difference in method. Freud asks why this dream, why has the patient had this particular dream rather than any other? But Jung says that his own aim is the purpose of the dream, what the dream introduces to the patient’s world. Although Thomas doesn’t bring Jung and Lisa together at this stage of the novel, he implies that Jung’s attitude is more convenient for Lisa’s therapy. That Lisa’s symptoms, rather than being the manifestations of a sexually oriented neurosis as Freud assumed,  are related to the Holocaust to come, that his symptoms are themselves the emotional response she gives to the aggressive impulses haunting Europe is very similar to what Jung experienced in 1910’s. In 1910’s, Jung, just like Lisa, was having hallucinations and was relating these to his personal life. But later it became clear to Jung that these hallucinations were a result of the approaching violence on a massive scale. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes that following the death of some of his friends he suffered from mental and physical problems similar to those of Lisa.

            The couples Eros/Thanatos, Heaven/Hell, love/hate, Venus/Medusa in Lisa’s poem are references to Jung’s theories. For Jung the archetypes in the collective unconscious of humanity is made of a series of oppositions. Among these good and evil are the most important ones and are the two inseparable absolutes. In the novel Lisa says,  

What torments me is whether life is good or evil. I think often of that scene I stumbled into on my father’s yacht. The woman I thought was praying had a fierce, frightening expression; but her ‘reflection’ was peaceful and smiling. The smiling woman (I think it must have been my aunt) was resting her hand on my mother’s breast (as if to reassure her it was all right, she didn’t mind0. But the faces – at least to me now – were so contradictory. And must have been contradictory in themselves too: the grimacing woman, joyful; and the smiling woman, sad. Medusa and Ceres, as you so brilliantly say! It may sound crazy, but I think the idea of the incest troubles me far more profoundly as a symbol than as a real event. Good and evil coupling, to make the world. No, forgive me, I am writing wildly. The ravings of a lonely spinster![7]

            Jung’s answer to Lisa’s question is in his Psychology and Alchemy. According to Jung,

[…] in the self good and evil are indeed closer than identical twins! […] Hence the truth about the self – the unfathomable union of good and evil – comes out concretely in the paradox that although sin is the gravest and most pernicious thing there is, it is still not so serious that it cannot be disposed of with probabilist arguments.[8]

            From Ferenczi’s letter to Freud at the beginning of the novel we learn that Jung offends Freud by interpreting imagery of “peat-bog corpses” as the “bodies of prehistoric men mummified by the effect of the humic acid in the bog water.”[9] Jung connects these “peat-bog corpses” to the primitive “pre-historic monster” running free in the unconscious. Freud almost faints upon hearing Jung’s interpretation and furiously accuses Jung of being full of envious feelings toward him.

            At the end of the novel, however, the “peat-bog corpses” turn out to be something completely other than what Freud and Jung thought they were. Thomas questions not only Freud’s but also Jung’s theories of the unconscious. The “peat-bog corpses” are neither symptoms of neurosis, as Freud says, nor are they signifiers of the primitive side of man as Jung says. The “peat-bog corpses” refer to the traumatic kernel of what happened during the holocaust, the thousands of holocaust victims massacred at Babi Yar. Neither Freud’s nor Jung’s theories can interpret and cure Lisa’s illness, because they both impose a symbolic meaning upon the Real of Lisa’s experiences.

            Just like psychoanalysis, literature too tries to symbolize the Real and translate the unconscious drives into conscious and desirable forms. The forms, however, are false representations of the unconscious, and usually give false forms to percepts and affects; literature is a falsification of the Real. In accordance with this, Thomas often refers to other literary and non-literary texts, makes connections between them to expose their self-contradictions, his meaning itself dissolves in this web of relations; meaning proliferates. Finding himself/herself in this hubris  of intertextuality, in this abundance of meaning, the reader thinks that he/she has understood the novel, when in fact he/she is drowning in the meaninglessness overflowing the text. All this illusions collapse with the chapter about Babi Yar. It becomes clear to the reader that it was all an illusion, and behind this illusion there is nothing but a big, black, hungry spider waiting for him/her. Where there should have been a void, death, there is this black spider to stand in for it. This black spider is the Lacanian objet petit a par excellence. In The White Hotel the objet petit a is a life consuming monster projected onto the Real.

Lisa sighed. “Why is it like this, Richard? We were made to be happy and to enjoy life. What’s happened?” He shook his head in bafflement, and breathed out smoke. “Were we made to be happy? You’re an incurable optimist, old girl!”[10]

2. Is Everyman an Island?

Islands are either from before or after humankind.[11]

Gilles Deleuze

 William Golding’s Lord of The Flies is an allegory of the death-drive inherent in human nature. It is a reversal of Ballantyne’s The Coral Island. In direct opposition to The Coral Island in which three young men establish the British culture on an island after their ship sinks in the Pacific Ocean, in Lord of The Flies we have children who become deranged and lose control of their aggressive impulses on a deserted island. In the absence of an external authority they become more and more violent. Golding is implying that humankind is violent by nature and the absence of symbolic order initiates a regressive process governed by the unconscious drives leading to violence and destruction.

            People prefer security and certainty to truth, they want an unshakable, stable order in which they can feel secure. They want object relations that sustain the conditions of impossibility for dispersal and death. Their will is a will not to truth but to security of the womb. And yet this striving for security itself brings calamities on the subject. For being in pursuit of the past is a product of will to nothingness and will to nothingness is nothing but the desire for death disguised as desire for the mother’s womb. Science attempts to construct the relationship between the subject and its objects in such a way as to serve the ideology, which subjects the individual to certain rules and regulations in the way of manufacturing an illusory sense of security. This is the definition of ideology in a nutshell. For Socrates, as Nietzsche points out in The Birth of Tragedy, one has to be judged before the courts of Logos, become namable, become an object of knowledge, to be able to become nice and good.

How can the good principle win over the bad principle? To answer this question I turn back to Lord of The Flies and Deleuze’s definition of an island as it appears in Desert Islands. An island is the proper place for horror fiction. An island is detached from the external world; it is surrounded by water and is closed in on itself. On an island the subject is alone and this aloneness in the absence of a symbolic order brings the subject closer to its primordial form which is the state of being governed by the death-drive. On an island everything starts anew and progresses in time. A generic singularity is like an island to be sown with the seeds of new forms of life. The concept of island has for a long time been an object standing in for either the dark side or the brighter side of civilization. In Thomas More’s Utopia for instance, we see a better world contrasted with the dark world of the dominant symbolic order in More’s day. Likewise, in Aldous Huxley’s Island we see all the social problems of humanity solved on an Island called Pala. In Pala, family structure, habits of consumption-production, relation to body, healthy living, etc. all take a new form. In Brave New World Huxley had portrayed an exact opposite situation in which a knowledge based on the principles of totalitarianism was the regime governing life, love, and truth.

The island in Lord of The Flies becomes the stage on which the children regress to a primitive state and all their aggressive impulses come to the fore as a result of the absence of certain governing principles imposed on them. Golding’s attitude can easily be considered conservative, or even as advocating the goodness of totalitarianism.

            Golding’s pessimism is divided within itself. It is his intellect that is pessimistic, as for his will it’s highly optimistic. With the pessimism of his intellect he controls his will and keeps optimism at bay. When the intellect is pessimistic it strives to make things better and if the will is ill then this striving to make things better turns into a will to nothingness. Although the intellect seems to be the uniting force, the life-drive, represented by Eros, reverse is the case, for it is will that is the uniting force and the intellect is the splitting force. Intellect splits objects surrounding the subject in the way of attaining an indivisible remainder. Atomization of thought stops when one reaches that indivisible remainder, which is the unsymbolizable traumatic kernel, the real of one’s desire, which is the death-drive. It is only through entry into the symbolic order that the death-drive turns into the life-drive. In this context, we can say that the life-drive belongs to the depressive position and the death-drive belongs to the paranoid-schizoid position. On a deserted island the subject regresses to paranoid-schizoid position and in its detachment becomes aggressive towards the objects surrounding it. Since there is no object at which the subject can direct its aggressiveness the subject turns against itself. On an island there is no object at which the subject can project his bad objects. The bad objects explode like shit and poison the subject which increases the rapidity of deterioration and regress to a state before birth, which is the same state as that of after death. It is on an island that the conflict between the life drive and the death drive emerges on the surface in the form of conflict-events. These conflict-events give birth to symptoms. In the process of turning these symptoms into objects of knowledge the psychoanalyst, philosopher, artist, or scientist, all translate it into acceptable forms, that is, they give forms to affects, percepts, and concepts in the way of making the subject get rid of this fundamental antagonism. All life is conflict and on a deserted island this conflict and the suffering it causes are magnified by inordinate measures. An island is a microscopic setting for the exposition of the other within, the evil, the tyrant, the fascist in everyone of us, to which, according to Nietzsche, not only the intellect but also the will submit.

Perhaps Nietzsche’s most important contribution to philosophy is not only the distinction he makes between knowledge and truth, but also the asymmetrical relationship he establishes between will and intellect, a reversal of Scopenhauer’s symmetrical model in which the will is portrayed as the exact opposite of intellect. When Nietzsche says “man would much rather will nothingness than not will,” what he wants to say is that man would prefer to want to contain nothingness, that is, introject the emptiness opened by the death of God, rather than prefer not to have anything, which would mean projecting everything in him onto the object cause of desire, hence disqualifying it as bad-object. This also means that the subject ceases to be a subject, but becomes an object of the life-drive. Life-drive, with its unificatory and binding force, constitutes not the subject but the absence of the subject. By imposing a unity on the infinity of the subject as death-drive, Eros subjectivizes the subject in process and turns it into a static entity, an object of desire. It is from then onwards that the subject is shaped as an object of desire under the rule of the symbolic order. To escape from the condition of being caught up in this system which the subject reproduces even when he thinks he is negating it consists in surviving the conflict between the life-drive and the death-drive, in other words, passing across the gap separating knowledge and truth, and fill a space in time as a symbolically self-identical subject, while the Real subject is oppressed and strives to signify the gap inherent in the symbolic order. It is only through splitting the given unities and continuities that the Real subject can manifest itself. This Real can only manifest itself in the form of absences, gaps, splits, which are themselves the openings to the Real of the subject as the death-drive.

It is the vicious cycle of the life and death drives that is being produced and exploited by global capitalism today. Through a manipulation of the healthy conflict, the relationship between the life and death drives is turned into antagonism. Undecidability, absence of foundational truth procedures, loss of principles, and declarations of the end of history are all manifestations of a discursive disease which is very rapidly contaminating the relationship between humans and their own health. In a world where a normal person must have a therapist, where having a therapist is a sign of normalcy, there can be no other choice but to shake the foundations of the illusions on which the health of many generations to come depends.

 3. The Projection-Introjection Mechanism in Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans

 The consequences of projection of fantasies onto the Real can be clearly observed in Kerouac’s The Subterraneans, which was quite a subversive book in its time, carrying Kerouac quite high up the cultural ladder, and in Burroughsian “causing thousands of Levi’s sold.”

In The Subterraneans we see Jack Kerouac’s persona Leo oscillating between attraction to and repulsion by Mardou who is a Cherokee American. One half of Leo loves Mardou and the other half is afraid of this love. If in one chapter Leo declares his love for Mardou, in the next chapter we see him resenting her. Leo’s oscillation between the life drive and the death drive constitute a movement between negation and the transcendence of this negation. Affirmation always remains at bay for Kerouac and his character Leo. Perhaps only at the beginning of the novel he gets a bit closer to affirmation, but this affirmation is in no way an affirmation of Mardou as she is. Rather, it is the affirmation of what has happened throughout the novel, an affirmation of that which has lead to the break-up of Mardou and Leo, as if what has taken place was what actually happened, rather than a projection of Leo’s paranoid fantasy on what has actually happened. At the end of the novel it becomes clear that all that has been lived had been lived for this novel to be written, rather than for its own sake.

[…] this was my three week thought and really the energy behind or the surface one behind the creation of the Jealousy Phantasy in the Grey Guilt dream of the World Around Our Bed.)—now I saw Mardou pushing Yuri with a OH YOU and I shuddered to think something maybe was going on behind my back – felt warned too by the quick and immediate manner Yuri heard me coming and rolled off but as if guiltily as I say after some kind of goose or feel up some illegal touch of Mardou which made her purse little love loff lips at him and push at him and like kids.[12]

Upon having the dream Leo begins to see everything through the keyhole of his obsession that one day Mardou will sleep with Yuri if she hasn’t already done so. I would like to read this story with the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from Heaven to Earth in mind, or the passage from the old Earth to the new Earth. What’s at stake here is the conflict between what’s going on in Leo’s mind as to what’s going on in Mardou’s mind and what’s really going on in Mardou’s mind. There is, in reality, nothing going on in Mardou’s mind. It is Leo projecting what he read in the Bible onto Mardou’s mind, what he read in the Bible being that it was Eve who caused the fall, for it was her who tempted Adam to eat the apple. So Leo is projecting what he has introjected from the Bible. And the Bible was the representation of women in general and his mother in particular for Kerouac. The preconception in Leo’s mind that women are evil, sinful, and guilty by nature both attracts and repels Leo. This state of being caught in a movement between repulsion/attraction ties the subject with an endless chain of negative associations to his own fear of being betrayed, pushing him further towards madness and death. The final words of the book bring the end which Leo was from the beginning of the relationship more than willing to reach: separation and through writing it down reunification with the lost object. For as we know from Freud, “writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person.”

And I go home having lost her love.

And write this book.[13]

  Leo believes that he has had the dream and that if he has the dream of it the sexual intercourse in real life has either taken place or will take place in the future. Kerouac/Leo is, “at present,” writing The Subterraneans. And everything has already taken place; the sequence of events follows this way: Leo has the dream, Mardou engages in sexual intercourse with Yuri, Mardou and Leo break up, Leo continues the daydream, laughs to retain sanity in the face of this tragedy, and goes home and writes this book. In it there is no true story; and it doesn’t matter whether there is or not a true story other than the story of an unhappy consciousness running towards its death in and through a story of love, affection, resentment, guilt, and compassion, which exposes the symptoms of a life as it unceasingly wills its subject’s end.

[…]still making no impression on my eager impressionable ready-to-create construct destroy and die brain – as will be seen in the great construction of jealousy which I later from a dream and for reasons of self-laceration recreated…[14]

Now, Leo sees Mardou in bed with Yuri and obsessively believes that his dream will come true. Leo believes himself to be a clairvoyant, that he has the ability to know things prior to seeing them actually taking place before his eyes. This he has introjected from Mardou herself, who, in a Nietzschean fashion, believes, does, and says things which simultaneously repel and attract Leo. There is no linear narrative in Mardou’s story about her adventures with the subterraneans of San Francisco and Leo likes it because there remains lots of gaps for him to fill with his fantasies later on when he is writing his story. Say what she may,

I got nervous and had some kind of idea about Mike, he kept looking at me like he wanted to kill me – he has such a funny look anyway – I got out of the house and walked along and didn’t know which way to go, my mind kept turning into the several directions that I was thinking of going but my body kept walking straight along Columbus altho’ I felt the sensation of each of the directions I mentally and emotionally turned into, amazed at all the possible directions you can take with different motives that come in, like it can make you a different person – I’ve often thought of this since childhood, of suppose instead of going up Columbus as I usually did I’d turn into Filbert would something happen that at the time is insignificant enough but would be like enough to influence my whole life in the end? – What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take? – and all that, so if this had not been such a constant preoccupation that accompanied me in my solitude which I played upon in as many different ways as possible I wouldn’t bother now except but seeing the horrible roads this pure supposing goes to it took me to frights, if I wasn’t so damned persistent –’ and so on deep into the day, a long confusing story only pieces of which and imperfectly I remember, just the mass of the misery in connective form –[15]

What then, is this “connective form”? Who then, is the subject of this “mass of misery pieces of which are imperfectly remembered”? There is a different way of remembering in action here, a different way of being in relation to time and language in this “imperfect remembrance” of the lived experiences. The problem with Kerouac’s writing is that he is not separating his introjected object from the projecting subject. Kerouac wants to represent Mardou as she is and yet he at the same time wants to prove that Leo was the one pulling the strings from the beginning. What Mardou is actually trying to convey is veiled by Kerouac who makes it impossible for the reader to distinguish between fiction and reality, self and other, subject and object, projected and introjected. His voice dissolves into the voice of Mardou and Mardou’s story remains unheard. Rather than unveiling, Kerouac’s writing not only veils but also manipulates the truth of the other for his abusive purposes. All his life Kerouac struggled to traverse this field of partial representations of the other, but being an innocent fascist he repeatedly fell into his own traps and failed in affirming the real as it is. If he could have loved the real as it is, he could have “delivered himself from his automatic reactions,” and thus he could have become “a body without organs.”[16]

While most of us live by the time of good sense, the Nietzschean subject is able to defy such sense and experience the creative evolution of self in exploration of a deeper memory – the virtual memory of the pure past as the event of events of the eternal return. Rather than a self-identical self, the self of the third synthesis of time is a creatively evolving self who is able to genuinely affirm life as metamorphosis.[17]

Leo chooses to become partially mad, for Mardou is the other half of his madness. The internal theatre of Leo stages a sexual intercourse between Mardou and Yuri and/but although this intercourse has not yet taken place, Leo is assured that one day it will. Leo had started plotting ways of getting rid of Mardou three weeks prior to their split. Is this will a will to end the relationship that makes Leo see this dream? In other words, is the source of this dream a will-to-nothingness-oriented-hope, a wish that Mardou will engage in sexual intercourse with Yuri and the relationship will end that way? Or is the dream based on a will-to-nothingness-oriented-fear that Mardou does not, and has never loved Leo? These questions can be asked if one wants to know what the dream means, in other words these questions are interpretation oriented questions and my aim here is not to interpret Leo’s dream and understand what it means but rather to make use of this dream in understanding why this dream matters not only for The Subterraneans, but also for twentieth century philosophy, literature, cultural and critical theory, and psychoanalysis.

 Both Oedipus and Leo see themselves as innocent victims “caught in a trap set by the God.” Fiction and reality give birth to one another in each case. In Oedipus’ case the prophecy turns into truth, in Leo’s case a dream turns into reality. Leo believes in what he sees in his dream and he sees Mardou in bed with Yuri. And his strong belief, almost an obsession, that one day Mardou will sleep with Yuri gives birth to the actualisation of this event at the end of the novel. Leo tells everyone about his dream. He tells Mardou almost every day following his dream that he is worried about the future of their relationship. Leo’s paranoid-schizoid attitude prepares the grounds for the actualization of what he was afraid of. At the end of the story, the only thing left at hand for Leo to make the best of is to write his experiences down and turn his loss into a gain in and through language. Leo is such a tragic character that in order to remain sane he has to laugh at himself by considering the “whole host and foolish illusion and entire rigmarole and madness we erect in the place of one love, in our sadness…”[18] to be a joke. When Leo learns that Mardou has actually slept with Yuri, when the truth is finally established, when fiction turns into reality, he addresses the reader:

[…]but I continue the daydream and I look into his eyes and I see suddenly the glare of a jester angel who made his presence on earth all a joke and I realize that this too with Mardou was a joke and I think, ‘Funny Angel, elevated amongst the subterraneans.’

‘Baby its up to you,’ is what she’s actually saying, ‘ about how many times you wanta see me and all that – but I want to be independent like I say.’

And I go home having lost her love.

And write this book.[19]

Kerouac writes through love, but through a love that Leo is afraid of falling in. And his writing is the product of a sick desire, it is driven by a love of love, a desire to be desired. Kerouac exposes himself through Leo in such a way as to show why it is necessary to create something without becoming destructive of either the self or the other. Something that he himself doesn’t know how to do. It is an ill will that drives Kerouac towards manic-depressive, self-destructive alcoholism. His consciousness of the absence of “eternal love” in this finite life together with his immortal longing for an eternal love turn him into “a shipwreck on the shores of lust.” What Kerouac lacks in life is what is necessary to operate the war-machine in Kerouac. Love is the force that drives the war-machine and Kerouac is afraid of loving with a greater love, without projective identification. He is a paranoid love-machine because his love is in the form of a spark given birth by the struggle between the superiority and the inferiority complexes he simultaneously harbors within himself.

In the absence of a war–machine, war dominates the world. And when war dominates the world there is nothing left for one to write but that although his books are among the most important examples of a different way of being in relation to time, language, and life, Kerouac is “locked into an attenuating endgame, playing himself, with each move, further into a corner and into defeat.”[20] He, suffering inordinately from an irrecoverable loss, an irreparable deterioration of psychic and somatic health, pays a high price to render us the witnesses of his fantastic experiences.

Kerouac died in 1969 and/but long ago, in 1951, eighteen years before ceasing to exist among the living, in On the Road, he writes this:

And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiances shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seething soar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transition from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like that action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment.[21]

What Kerouac enjoys is death from pleasure, what he desires is suffering. In Kerouac’s writing there is a multiplication of the directions towards which it becomes possible for the subject to head as the subject goes along the way creating new life forces out of his Dionysiac regress. In time, however, Kerouac’s revolutionary becoming takes such a direction that his desire turns against itself turning him into a reactive force drowning in his own resentment. The Kerouac image represented by the media (newspapers, TV, radio), is in conflict with Kerouac’s image of himself, and this relation to himself of Kerouac through a media, through an external force, through a panoptic eye, locks Kerouac into the projection-introjection mechanism through which he constantly breaks and is beaten by as he beats. This operation is more than Kerouac can actively handle, and turns him into a reactive and anti-social person making him “rather will nothingness than not will,” destroying him in the process.

 Conclusion of Part III

 In Julio Cortazar’s short story Axolot, we read the main character realizing that the type of fish called Axolot stand still in water with no movement at all, a kind of motionless flight. With this realization the character commits himself to becoming like those fish himself. At the end of the story he sees everyone outside of himself as an Axolot fish. He has become an axolot himself. He has gone beyond the finitude of his existence. He becomes altogether immobile, merely an observer, watching people, life, opportunities, and time pass by. Eventually he becomes imperceptible. Here and now everything is continually changing towards becoming-imperceptible. Time turns something into nothing. Everything is in time only for a short period of time. Then everything disappears in a neutral light.

To have dismantled one’s self in order finally to be alone and meet the true double at the other end of the line. A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage. To become like everybody else; but this, precisely, is a becoming only for one who knows how to be nobody, to no longer be anybody. To paint oneself gray on gray.[22]

It is the ambiguity of the relationship between the life drive and the death drive that is being manipulated by global capitalism (contemporary nihilism) today. Undecidability, absence of foundational truth procedures, loss of principles, and declarations of the end of history and the subject are all manifestations of a discursive disease which is very rapidly contaminating the relationship between humans and their own health. In a world where a normal person must have a therapist, where having a therapist is a sign of normalcy, there can be no other choice but to shake the foundations of the illusions on which the health of many generations to come depends.

Carrying out an intervention in the course of events, introducing a split into the continuity of things requires learning how not to be produced by the image factory which captures desire in a certain order of signification mechanism so as to turn the subject into a copy of the products of the image factory, or into the object of the other’s interpretation  and identification processes. To become capable at least to subvert the codes of the capitalist axiomatics which produces desire as the desire of nothingness and death, this subject should come to a realization that he/she is already caught up in the projection-introjection mechanism. So the subject has to learn to use the projection-introjection mechanism in such a way as to sustain the conditions for the impossibility of wickedness in the form of exclusive and illusory constructions of the Real. Surviving the absence of a transcendental signified in a “time out of joint” requires learning to love the object of desire for what it is rather than for what it resembles. This is to love and live without projective identification, without paranoid reactions to the other, without possessing the other, or without confining the other within the boundaries of the self. One has to cease to be somebody and learn to become nobody so as to create a difference in and for itself and affirm this difference by affirming the difference of that which is “not I.”


[1] Jacques Derrida, Cogito and the History of Madness, from Writing and Difference,” trans. Alan Bass (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 76

[2] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale, ed. Constantin V. Boundas (London and New York: Continuum, 2003), 264

[3] Lawrence Langer, The Holocaust and The Literary Imagination (London: Yale University Press, 1975), 1

[4]Langer, 22

[5] D.M. Thomas, The White Hotel (London: Victor Gollancz, 1981), 6

[6] Thomas, 171

[7] Thomas, 171

[8] Carl G. Jung, Problems of Alchemy, “Selected Writings,” ed. Anthony Storr (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983), 270-1

[9] Thomas, 10

[10] Thomas, 239-40

[11] Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taormina (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), 9

[12] Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 69

[13] Kerouac, 93

[14] Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 39

[15] Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 20

[16]Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings, ed. Susan Sontag (University of California: Berkeley, 1975), 570-1 “When you will have made him a body without organs,

then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom

then you will teach him again to dance wrong side out

as in the frenzy of dancehalls

and this wrong side out will be his real place.”

[17] Tamsin Lorraine, Living a Time Out of Joint, “Between Deleuze and Derrida,” eds. Paul Patton and John Protevi (Continuum: London and NY, 2003), 39

[18] Kerouac, 77

[19] Kerouac, 93

[20] J.M. Coetzee, Youth (Secker and Warburg: London, 2002), 169

[21] Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: The Viking Press, 1957), 173

[22] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (University of Minnesota Press: Minnesota, 1988), 197

1. The Immortal Subject Beyond The Life Drive

In our daily lives we create little worlds of our own and invest them with various meanings. These worlds have their own logics, orders repetitively staged every day; this gives us a sense of continuity in time and hence a sense of security. Objects and subjects surrounding us, everything fits in its proper place in this microcosmic self-consciousness of ours.

The thought of being a tiny spot in the middle of nowhere, however, or somewhere in the vast universe is too unbearable to be thought through for many people because it reminds us of death. If one thinks this thought for too long all meaning collapses and life falls apart, the established symbolic order of object relations become disorganized. This is when the journey of the subject towards nothingness begins. If the subject manages to maintain integrity throughout the passage from self-consciousness to an impersonal consciousness reconciliation of self with life and the world takes place. With the advance of this macrocosmic impersonal consciousness in time everything symbolic loses meaning and credibility only to lead to an opening up of a space for the emergence of a new meaning. The new is not independent from the old. But is that which had hitherto been unseen, unrealised, unthought as a new possibility of a progressive movement.

Authentic fidelity is the fidelity to the void itself—to the very act of loss, of abandoning or erasing the object. Why should the dead be the object of attachment in the first place? The name for this fidelity is death drive. In the terms of dealing with the dead, one should, perhaps, against the work of mourning as well as against the melancholic attachment to the dead who return as ghosts, assert the Christian motto “let the dead bury their dead.” The obvious reproach to this motto is, What are we to do when, precisely, the dead do not accept to stay dead, but continue to live in us, haunting us by their spectral presence? One is tempted here to claim that the most radical dimension of the Freudian death drive provides the key to how we are to read the Christian “let the dead bury their dead”: what death drive tries to obliterate is not the biological life but the very afterlife—it endeavours to kill the lost object the second time, not in the sense of mourning (accepting the loss through symbolization) but in a more radical sense of obliterating the very symbolic texture, the letter in which the spirit of the dead survives.[1]

So, neither the work of mourning nor melancholia are progressive. It is the work of death drive to kill death, to cause a loss of loss, to destroy the symbolic texture causing death to take place; death drive is the only weapon against death in life. Rather than symbolizing and then accepting death, the subject as death drive contemplates death as nothingness and fills the space of death within the symbolic with nothing.

            Zizek points out that there is a great difference between willing nothing and willing nothingness.   

What we are implicitly referring to here is, of course, Nietzsche’s classic opposition between ‘wanting nothing’ (in the sense of ‘I don’t want anything’) and the nihilistic stance of actively wanting Nothingness itself; following Nietzsche’s path, Lacan emphasized how in anorexia, the subject does not simply ‘eat nothing’ – rather, she or he actively wants to eat the Nothingness (the Void) that is itself the ultimate object-cause of desire. (The same goes for Ernst Kris’s famous patient who felt guilty of theft, although he did not actually steal anything: what he did steal, again, was the Nothingness itself.) So – along the same lines, in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, we drink the Nothingness itself, the pure semblance of a property that is in effect merely an envelope of a void.[2]    

The object that takes the place of the Real is what Lacan calls the objet petit a. The objet petit a is that which the master-signifier causes to be signified. There is nothing to signify the objet petit a, it is that signifier itself. The master-signifier signifies the objet petit a as its own signifier. Without the objet petit a the nothingness behind the master-signifier would become manifest. Master signifier generates signs that signify their own autonomous existence. That is, they hide the latent content of the master-signifier which is nothingness.  By manufacturing the illusion of its own non-being the master-signifier signifies itself as the transcendental signified. It does this through signifying the objet petit a as the transcendental sign, (signifier and signified at once). The sublime object which stands in for nothingness behind it is the object of desire of masses who fantasize that they are drinking something good, when in reality they are drinking the void and their own life/death.  

One simply cannot conceal from oneself what all the willing that has received its direction from the ascetic ideal actually expresses: this hatred of the human, still more of the animal, still more of the material, this abhorrence of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and of beauty, this longing away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, wish, longing itself—all of this means—let us grasp this—a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental presuppositions of life; but it is and remains a will!… And, to say again at the end what I said at the beginning: man would much rather will nothingness than not will… [3]

In The Fragile Absolute, Slavoj Zizek gives the example of Diet-Coke as a symptom of will to nothingness inherent in contemporary society.

So, when, some years ago, the advertising slogan for Coke was ‘Coke is it!’, we should note its thorough ambiguity: ‘that’s it’ precisely in so far as that’s never actually it, precisely in so far as every satisfaction opens up a gap of ‘I want more!’. The paradox, therefore, is that Coke is not an ordinary commodity whereby its-use value is transubstantiated into an expression of (or supplemented with) the auratic dimension of pure (exchange) Value, but a commodity whose very peculiar use-value is itself already a direct embodiment of the suprasensible aura of the ineffable spiritual surplus, a commodity whose very material properties are already those of a commodity. This process is brought to its conclusion in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke – why? We drink Coke – or any drink – for two reasons: for its thirst-quenching or nutritional value, and for its taste. In the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, nutritional value is suspended and the caffeine, as the key ingredient of its taste, is also taken away – all that remains is a pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. Is it not true that in this sense, in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, we almost literally ‘drink nothing in the guise of something’?[4]

By drinking Diet-Coke, the subject, rather than being really healthy, is being merely less ill, since Diet or not, Coke is itself unhealthy.  Coke as we know it is miles away from its medicinal uses for which it was invented in the first place. The measure of health is not Coke without caffeine and sugar. So the Diet-Coke cannot be a sign of healthy living. Worse than being unhealthy, it is death disguised as an object of desire, that object of desire being healthy living. So we can see the process through which the Real of the subject’s desire, which is the death-drive, is turned into desire for healthy living. As the subject thinks he/she is moving towards greater health, he/she is in reality moving towards death. We have to be clear about where exactly the life-drive and the death-drive become separated from themselves and hence their roles are reversed, turning them into their opposites. It is precisely at this point of separation- unification of the life-drive and the death-drive that the conflict-event takes the place of the place itself.

This place is a playground on which this conflict-event between the life-drive and the death-drive is played out as a confrontation between the therapeutic society and critical theory. If the aim of psychotherapy is to adapt the subject to the environment, then it is by definition a normalizing practice. But asks critical theory, what is the definition of health? On which grounds are we talking about health? What are the values that make health? All these questions may lead down to the big question of ontology: “What is the meaning of life?” There is no meaning of life. It is my actions and words that invest my life with a particular meaning. What determines the meaning of objects surrounding me is the use I put them into. In this context, progress in therapeutic procedure is signified by an increase in the subject’s ability to use the objects surrounding him/her.

But critical theory says: you are confusing use-value and exchange-value. You are forgetting the need to remember that in your world the exchange-value preceeds the use-value. You are always already born into the world of objects with their values attached to them, how can you say that you are healing these people by telling lies to them concerning the cause of their desire and the Real of the objects they choose to put to use. Isn’t their choice already determined by the pre-dominant symbolic order?[5]

Critical theory agrees with psychotherapy that it is the use value of the object that is important. But what critical theory wants to say is that what psychotherapy presents the subject with, as the use-value, is already the exchange-value, so psychotherapy is presenting the subject with death disguised as life. It is there that there has been a shift in the gears, where Nietzsche conceived of himself as the stage of confrontation between Christ and Dionysus, as the conflict-event that shifted the gears at a certain moment in history. At this precise moment in time negation and affirmation change roles for the very reason that negating the symbolic order becomes the same as affirming the Real. One creates a fantasy which negates the symbolic and affirms the Real as it is, that is, with all its inconsistencies, internal conflicts, imperfections, and incompleteness. Something in the symbolic order is caused to fail by these interventions of the affirmative subject. Here a question awaits us: Does that mean that for creation to take place destruction is necessary? The answer to this question is a yes and a no at the same time. Because destruction causes a split in the order and yet this split’s consequence depends on the future of the response to it. Destruction is not essential to creation but is an inescapable result of it. [6]  So there may or may not be cases where there is something in the process of being created without anything being destroyed. For when one thinks about it, creation is not a subtraction from nature, but quite the contrary, an addition to it. For subtraction to become creative it should be a subtraction from culture, that is, from knowledge, or from the already existing symbolic order. Badiou’s subtraction opens a void within the already existing symbolic order and through this void a new truth flows. It is only in so far as the mortal human animal chooses fidelity to this truth-event that it becomes a subject, that is, an immortal indifferent to death.

2. The Immortal Subject Beyond The Death Drive

The creature called human can cease being a passive non-being and become an active being only insofar as it produces love against the negative power of the already existing capitalist law. As we all know, the laws’ negative impositions give birth to the vicious cycle of the life and death drives, which is in turn exploited in the way of more money.

With the domination of nihilist global capitalism all over the world social life has become a masquerade. The silence diminishes and noise pollutes the lives of all. This noise is what Nietzsche calls “the noise of the marketplace.” The subject neither questions its being in itself nor its being for itself. The system provides the subject with innumerable facilities to keep boredom at bay so as to sustain the conditions for the possibility of the non-being of thought to take place. The subject simply does not feel the need to think and in time the subject loses the ability not only to think but also to act consciously. It all becomes an empty and meaningless spectacle to live. Every subject takes on a role, or an identity in accordance with the demands of the show business and hides behind this role turning into a solipsistic monad acting itself out in the way of satisfying the big Other. Just like Judge Schreber who had to endure inordinate measures of suffering to satisfy the demands of those cruel gods he populated himself with… And Schreber, satisfied as he was with the mere pleasure of sharing the high profile mission of satisfying cruel and invisible gods, becomes a madman when in fact he was a woman enduring privation.[7]

In the banality of ordinary social reality the subject forgets to think of its death as its own. Absence of the thought of death brings with it the presence of the thought of being, which means that the subject has lost his/her sense of self/other distinction, and is governed by his/her unconscious drives. This leads to the subject’s ignorance of an external world, or perhaps an unintentional neglect of an external reality other than the one it imagines, for it has itself become exterior to itself.

            When death is thought about, this thought never takes place in terms of the death of the self. It is always through the death of the other that the subject thinks of death. It is always a “they” who die. Death is conceived as a symbolic incident. The reason of that reductive attitude towards death is the will to preserve the banality of ordinary reality and sustain the conditions for the possibility of an illusory sense of oneness with the world. All this, of course, is done to keep the Real of the external world at bay.

Global capitalism produces subjects who cannot stand the thought of the outside; they cannot conceive the absence of an external world within them. The fear of death is so strong that with the force of its negativity it totally negates death in life, erases the slash in life/death, and vainly erects statues to attain immortality.

It is a strange subject, however, with no fixed identity, wandering about over the body without organs, but always remaining peripheral to the desiring-machines, being defined by the share of the product it takes for itself, garnering here, there, and everywhere a reward in the form of a becoming an avatar, being born of the states that it consumes and being reborn with each new state. “It’s me, and so it’s mine…” Even suffering, as Marx says, is a form of self-enjoyment.[8]

Today the purpose of life has become keeping the subject busy for the sake of the business of not thinking death. The subject is bombarded by objects of introjection to such extent that it has no time for feeling anxious about its own death. The objects form a transparent sheet between the subject and its death. As inorganic substances the objects fill the space of death within life. What we witness in this time is life turned into a project aiming at erasing the silence necessary for thought; and not only erasing but also replacing it with an unceasing noise causing nausea.    

The infinite, then, is within finitude, so in order to think the infinite we have to think the finite, that is, the thought of death. Although the thought of death has a high price which the subject pays by a loss of mental and physical health, it is nevertheless useful in opening up the way to limit experiences. The death drive devastates the predominant conceptualisations of the “good” of civilized progress and the “bad” of barbaric regress. The subject of the death drive situates itself as the traitor on the opposite pole of belief and faith in immortality. In the place of statues representing immortality, it erects nothing. That way it confronts the promised land of total security and harmony with a world governed by the anxiety of the feeling of being surrounded by nothingness. In this world there remains no ground beneath the symbolic order. Death is in the midst of life; it is life that surrounds death.           

How would our lives change if we were to become capable of imagining ourselves as immortal beings? If we keep in mind that we are always already locked within the vicious cycle of the life and death drives governed by the law of capital, it becomes easier to understand why we need to break this vicious cycle of Capitalism and its governor, liberal-democracy, based on unjust representations, in order to create, produce or present the realm of love beyond the rotary motion of drives. But it must also be kept in mind that when we say beyond, we are talking about a beyond which is always already within the pre-dominant symbolic order and yet not within the reach of mortal beings. It is a beyond only from the perspective of the present state. In our scenario, immortality is not something to be attained, rather, it is a virtual potential or an actual capacity within every mortal being, awaiting to be realised. The realisation of the immortality within us, or the realisation of the infinite potential that life contains, depends on our proper use of our powers of imagination. Let us imagine ourselves as immortal beings then, which we already are, but cannot enact because of the finitude imposed upon us by the already existing symbolic order. Would we need to get out of this order to become immortal? Yes and no. Yes, because the within which we said infinity resides is a within which is exterior only from the point of view of the already existing order. No, because only from within the already existing order can we present an outside of this order, “an outside” in Deleuze’s words apropos of Foucault and Blanchot, “which is closer than any interiority and further away than any exteriority.”

 In his Theoretical Writings Alain Badiou attempts to separate himself from the Romantic understanding of infinity, and the pursuit of immortality. According to Badiou, contemporary mathematics broke with the Romantic idea of infinity by dissolving the Romantic concept of finitude. For Badiou, as it is for mathematics, the infinite is nothing but indifferent multiplicity, whereas for the Romantics it was nothing more than a “historical envelopment of finitude.” Behind all this, of course, is Badiou’s strong opposition to historicism and temporalization of the concept. It is in this context that Badiou can say, “Romantic philosophy localizes the infinite in the temporalization of the concept as a historical envelopment of finitude.”[9]

Mathematics now treats the finite as a special case whose concept is derived from that of the infinite. The infinite is no longer that sacred exception co-ordinating an excess over the finite, or a negation, a sublation of finitude. For contemporary mathematics, it is the infinite that admits of a simple, positive definition, since it represents the ordinary form of multiplicities, while it is the finite that is deduced from the infinite by means of negation or limitation. If one places philosophy under the condition such a mathematics, it becomes impossible to maintain the discourse of the pathos of finitude. ‘We’ are infinite, like every multiple-situation, and the finite is a lacunal abstraction. Death itself merely inscribes us within the natural form of infinite being-multiple, that of the limit ordinal, which punctuates the recapitulation of our infinity in a pure, external ‘dying.’[10]

The political implications of the move from Romantic infinity to mathematical infinity can be observed in Badiou’s Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. In this little book Badiou criticizes the hypocrisy of human rights for reducing being-human to being a mortal animal. Of course Badiou admits that what is called human is indeed a mortal animal, but what he objects to is the exploitation of this state of being. Against this deprecative attitude, Badiou pits the immortal subject, or rather, the subject who is capable of realising his/her immortality.[11]  

Badiou says that “being is inconsistent multiplicity.” As an advocate of immanence, unlike Heidegger, he doesn’t think that there is an ontological difference between Being and beings. As a matter of fact, he altogether refuses that there is such a thing as Being transcending the multiple beings, or beings as inconsistent multiplicities. To understand where Badiou is coming from we only need to look at his critique of Heidegger’s equation of being in the world and being towards death. For Badiou there is no such thing as being in the world, because for him there is not one world but multiple worlds and consequently being in the world as being towards death is a rather impoverished idea doomed to result in the mistaken assumption that consciousness of human finitude is self-consciousness. And I agree with Badiou that consciousness of human finitude merely serves to justify a life driven by death.

 I therefore propose a consciousness of infinitude rather than of finitude for a sustenance of the conditions of possibility for an ethical life and for an ethical death. For when you think about it, if we were immortal, that is, if our lives were eternal, we wouldn’t be so destructive of the environment, not so harsh on nature and one another, because no one would want to live in such a hell eternally. Since it is obvious that as humans we have been turning the world into a hell in the name of progress for a while now, and since death has been the end from which we have come to think we have been striving to escape in this progressive process, it is obvious that a forgetting of death, or rather, a remembering to forget our mortality would make us fear an eternal life in hell, rather than a finite life in an illusory heaven.

If we keep in mind that the global capitalist system, as we have tried to explicate, takes its governing force from its exploitation of life and death drives, that it is based on our fear of death and consciousness of finitude, it becomes clearer why a subtraction of death from life not only shakes, but also annihilates the foundations of capitalism.

3. Expulsion of the Negative and Affirmation of Life are Mutually Exclusive

To valorize negative sentiments or sad passions—that is the mystification on which nihilism bases its power. (Lucretius, then Spinoza, already wrote decisive passages on this subject. Before Nietzsche, they conceived philosophy as the power to affirm, as the practical struggle against mystifications, as the expulsion of the negative.)[12]

Purgatory, purification, extraction of the positive, expulsion of the negative, projection, introjection… Throughout his discursive life Deleuze conceived of purification of the self as the goal of literature. He believed that through an exposition of the evil within one was healing the society. But this theory can only produce otherness as negativity and that is almost exactly the opposite of what affirmative critique ought to be. Nietzsche’s project of “the expulsion of the negative” is a recurrent theme in Deleuze’s writings. Like Nietzsche he thought that it is only through regression that one could be purified and get outside the confines of the Cartesian cogito. Deleuze’s attempts at escaping from the Cartesian dualism, however, can only cause an interruption of the splitting process and slides towards overcoming the split to attain oneness. Giving a voice to the other creates the conditions of impossibility for the other’s finding his/her own voice.

It is at this mobile and precise point, where all events gather together in one that transmutation happens: this is the point at which death turns against death; where dying is the negation of death, and the impersonality of dying no longer indicates only the moment when I disappear outside of myself, but rather the moment when death loses itself in itself, and also the figure which the most singular life takes on in order to substitute itself for me.[13]

With Deleuze it is always one dies rather than I die, or as the Cynic saying goes, “when there is death I am not, when I am there is no death.” Instead of accepting the state of being wounded as a perpetually renewed actuality, instead of affirming death within life, the other within the self, Deleuze climbs over the walls of his wound, and looking down on the others, he loses the ground beneath his feet, and eventually falls into the split he was trying to get rid of.

A wound is incarnated or actualised in a state of things or of life: but it is itself pure virtuality on the plane of immanence that leads us into a life. My wound existed before me: not a transcendence of the wound in a higher actuality, but its immanence as a virtuality always within a milieu (plane or field).[14] 

Affirming the mutual inclusiveness of introversion and intersubjectivity means preferring an a-sociality, what Blanchot calls “being in a non-relation,” to the symbolic order. Blanchot’s attitude is exactly the opposite of the symbolic market society that dissolves the most fundamental questions of being human in a pot of common sense. The subject of the market society is continually in pursuit of increased strength and self-confidence. And for that reason governed by what Nietzsche called the herd instinct, the will to nothingness, this subject becomes a reactive and adaptive subject. The symbolic order loses the ground beneath itself when and if the majority starts to see living with the thought of death not only as a natural necessity, but also as something to be affirmed.

Death has an extreme and definite relation to me and my body and is grounded in me, but it also has no relation to me at all—it is incorporeal and infinitive, impersonal, grounded only in itself. On one side, there is the part of the event which is realized and accomplished; on the other, there is that “part of the event which cannot realize its accomplishment.”[15]

4. Cont(r)action is not the same as imposing one order of meaning upon another which is considered to be lacking in something essential to healthy living.

So I eventually arrive where I could possibly have arrived; the end of this voyage, which is at the same time the beginning of another one. And here I find out that the more affirmative one’s attitude towards life gets the more fragile the contact with the other becomes. But as the contact becomes more fragile and affirmation more difficult, maintaining the conditions for the possibility of a perpetually recreated affirmative cont(r)act becomes more essential to the continuation of healthy life of self in touch not only with its own death but also with the death of the other.

Sometimes the only way to keep affirming is to affirm the fragility of the affirmative cont(r)act itself. It is only by affirming a broken and irregularly beating heart in its broken irregularity that one can relate to it. But to affirm this heart one must detach oneself from it, not identify with it, not become broken and irregularly beating itself, so that one can find in oneself the strength to undertake repairing the broken heart. Affirmation of life as it is, I think, is only the beginning of a fragile and yet beautiful friendship.

5. Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.[16] 

We continually have to work on turning everything that happens to us in this life into “for the good.” For everything good or bad to become for the good we have to affirm that which has happened to us. But how are we going to affirm something so terrible that nails us to a painful existence indefinitely? First of all, we have to accept that, that which has happened is not changeable, it has already taken place and we cannot go back there to unlive it.  But at the same time the meaning, value, and significance of what has happened is never fully established. Only death accomplishes the event’s significance, only through death is established the truth of what has happened to us.

For the Stoics one has to have a perfect understanding of the workings of cosmos and nature to be able to live in harmony with the world surrounding one. It is such that everything is a cause and an effect at the same time and everything is linked to one another. Everything that happens causes other things to happen. To a certain extent what happens to us is not in our control but at the same time if we know what the consequence of a certain action would be we could choose what to do, and so what happens to us, to a certain extent, becomes our own doing. We have to figure out how to act, which words to use in the way of affecting the external world so as to maintain ourselves as an active agent in any circumstance.[17]

Let us imagine an example. If we have done something so terribly wrong that it is causing us great distress, before drowning in our sadness we have to find a way of reading it in such a way as to turn it into something that was necessary for our present and future happiness. If we let ourselves go after a disappointing incident, if we let things happen to us and not do something to change the course of events we might as well find ourselves in an irresolvable situation at the end, which would lead to madness and death.

At every moment throughout our lives we are confronted with obstacles that keep us from accomplishing certain desired ends. And yet there is also always a certain potential of accomplishing something even better because of the very obstacle that caused the desired end to become unattainable. The Stoic solution to this problem is simple and yet sophisticated.

So detach your aversion from everything not up to us, and transfer it to what is against nature among the things that are up to us. And for the time being eliminate desire completely, since if you desire something that is not up to us, you are bound to be unfortunate, and at the same time none of the things that are up to us, which it would be good to desire, will be available to you.[18] 

What we have here is not a total negation of desire but a rejection of certain objects of desire that one must know from past experience are bad for us to desire. If we want something to happen to us, something that would satisfy a certain desire, and if the desired event cannot be accomplished through our actions then there is no point in striving for the attainment of an unattainable object of desire. Instead one should make the best of what is at hand and accomplish other events that render possible the attainment of objects of desire that are within reach. If we don’t know what and how to work for, we get nothing out of life, find ourselves locked in a room on the door of which death continually knocks.

Epictetus’ philosophy is a very practical one. In it we find ways of coping with the difficulties of life. And it is adaptable to the present state of the human condition in which we find ourselves face to face with the exploitation of the life drive and the death drive through a manipulation of the mutual dependence of these two based on the ambiguous, because a-symetrical, conflict inherent in the relationship between them.

If we know not how to choose what to desire, if we allow the objects of our desire to be shaped by the capable hands of the big Other represented by the global capitalists, we also let the ways in which we desire be determined by a source other than ourselves, hence become puppets trying to satisfy an external force rather than ourselves and our lovers. We have to know what to desire and how to make it happen, otherwise nothing happens and where there is nothing happening there can be neither creativity nor communication; for what is one to create or communicate if there is nothing to create and communicate.

            Once it is realized that there is nothing other than nothing to be struggled against, it becomes clearer how it would be possible to detach oneself from external circumstances and act in the way of maintaining an impersonal vision of what happens around us. One dissociates not the events themselves, but dissociates oneself from the events surrounding one. The Stoic indifference requires a subject in the form of an impersonal consciousness who maintains its dissociating function at all times. For this dissociation to take place, however, the subject has to know how to associate events that have led to the present, that is, one has to immerse oneself in the plurality of the past events, and extract from this multiplicity a combination of events so as to enable oneself to constitute oneself as an autonomous, free agent. This attitude emphasizes the importance of each instant. At every instant we have to act in such a way as to make the future better than the past. And this brings us to Nietzsche’s eternal return. According to Nietzsche, we have to act at every present moment in such a way that we will regret nothing in the future. Every present is an eternal moment in-itself and it is at times in our control to turn the present into for-itself, and at times it is not.  

As you aim such great goals, remember that you must not undertake them by acting moderately, but must let some things go completely and postpone others for the time being.[19]

So, at every present we have to consider the possibilities from different angles and decide which way to go and which way not to go as if we were immortal. What Epictetus seems to be suggesting is that once a choice is made the only way to make it work for us is to push it to its limit where it either turns against us or against itself and creates another possibility of choice. Epictetus is not in favour of an individuality that would be constituted through moderation, but in a subject that would be indifferent to lack or excess. In Epictetus’ world there is no lack or excess; what there is lacks nothing and nothing in what there is is excessive. If one is satisfied by what there is with its lacks and excesses one needs no moderation of one’s actions, for there is nothing lacking or excessive to be moderated in one’s actions. Lack or excess can only be determined by a whole external to the already existing. But there is only that which is, which never lacks anything in relation to something outside itself. The concepts of lack and excess belong to the world of metaphysics which exists only in imagination.

6. To What End Last Words? To What End Suffering…

Throughout this thesis I have tried to develop a mode of critique in and through which nothing is excluded and/or determined. This reflective mode of critique itself enabled me to situate myself in the middle of the reflective and the determinative modes of judgment. The critical mode employed in this thesis is still context-bound to a certain extent, and yet it tries to restrictively dissociate itself from the predetermined context, rather than freely associate within it. A new field is opened, the conditions are created for the possibility of a decision beyond the Law of Militarist Capitalism and the Welfare State driven by and driving the exploitation of mortality on a massive scale. There is this transcendental field that requires a non-mortal mode of being in the world, neither for nor against it, but indifferent to it in such a way as to turn its own alienation from mortality into its driving force in its attempt to demolish the faculty of finite judgment and create the conditions of possibility out of the conditions of impossibility for an infinite judgment to take place beyond the subject/object of a Law that is mortal, all too mortal.

A truth comes into being through those subjects who maintain a resilient fidelity to the consequences of an event that took place in a situation but not of it. Fidelity, the commitment to truth, amounts to something like a disinterested enthusiasm, absorption in a compelling task or cause, a sense of elation, of being caught up in something that transcends all petty, private or material concerns.[20]

The immortal subject within and without the pre-dominant symbolic order is not only the cause, but also the effect of its own alienation from mortal life. This regulatory idea of immortality, which is also a constitutive illusion, is inspired by the post-structuralist theme of becoming non-identical as we see in Deleuze and Derrida. If one could become non-identical, why would one not also become non-mortal? If one could become alienated from one’s identity, why would one not also become alienated from one’s mortality?  Why not become immortal so as to become capable of criticizing the exploitations of this mortal, all too mortal life? But what motivated me to take immortality as a virtual mode of being was Badiou’s theory of infinity which aimed at secularizing the concept of truth. Badiou’s technique of secularizing the truth is inspired by the 19th century mathematician Georg Cantor’s technique of secularizing the infinite. As Badiou claims, the secularization of infinity started with Cantor who stated that there was not one, but many infinities varying in size and intensity. From then onwards it became possible to link Deleuze’s concepts of impersonal consciousness and transcendental empiricism with Badiou’s theory of infinity and Kant’s assertion that for reflective judgement to take place and turn the object into a subject a transcendental ground is necessary.  Now I can say that for me a transcendental ground is necessary only to the extent that it enables the subject to shake the foundation of its own mode of being and opens a field for immanent critique to take place. In other words, the untimely indifference of immortality is required in order to actively engage in an exposition of the exploitation of mortality in this time.

I don’t know if it is worth mentioning that in this time we are all slaves and yet some slaves dominate the others. Where time goes no one knows. There are necessary illusions in this life, some for life, some not. Both the extreme belief in civilized progress and barbaric regress are good for nothing. These two are now in the process of being left behind. A third possibility of developmental process is emerging in the form of a becoming-reconciled which is based on the recognition of the otherness of the other as it is, that is, prior to the additions and the subtractions imposed upon the self and the other, nature and culture, life and death. For a non-normative and progressive work it is necessary for the participants to become capable of making distinctions between their natures and cultures, their cliniques and critiques. It is a matter of realizing that theory and practice are always already reconciled and yet the only way to actualise this reconciliation passes through carrying it out and across by introducing a split between the subject of statement (the enunciated) and the subject of enunciation.

It is indeed true that sometimes it takes a long journey to get there, where one eventually got to, and realise that one is other than one thinks itself to be. Apparently the numbers indeed start with zero and continue with two, but it takes time to realise this actuality and become capable of actualising this reality. Perhaps we should indeed know that absolute reconciliation is impossible and yet still strive to reconcile ourselves as much as we can to all the living and the dead.  


[1] Slavoj Zizek, Organs Without Bodies (London: Routledge, 2004), 13

[2] Slavoj Zizek, The Fragile Absolute (London: Verso, 2000), 23

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, transl. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998), 118

[4] Zizek, The Fragile Absolute, 22

[5] Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964)

[6] Alain Badiou, InfiniteThought, trans. and ed. Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens (London: Continuum, 2005), 132

[7] Sigmund Freud, Psycho-analytic Notes On An Autobiogrophical Account Of A Case Of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoids), trans. Strachey J. (London: Hogarth Press, 1986) 

[8] Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia I, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (New York: The Viking Press, 1977), 16

[9] Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings, trans. Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano, (London: Continuum, 2006), 38

[10] Badiou, 38

[11] Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London: Verso, 2001), 41

[12] Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence: A Life, trans. Anne Boyman (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 84

[13] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester (London: Athlone, 1990), 153

[14] Deleuze,  Pure Immanence: A Life, 31-2

[15] Deleuze, Pure Immanence, 151-152

[16] Epictetus, The Encheiridion, trans. Nicholas P. White (Hackett: Cambridge, 1983), 13

[17] Epictetus, 11-3

[18] Epictetus, 12

[19] Epictetus, 11

[20] Peter Hallward, “Introduction” in Alain Badiou, Ethics (London: Verso, 2002), x

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Deleuze, Gilles. Coldness and Cruelty: Masochism (New York: Zone Books, 1989)

Deleuze, Gilles. Foucault, transl. Sean Hand (London: Athlone, 1999)

Deleuze, Gilles. The Logic of Sense, transl. Mark Lester (London: Athlone, 1990)

Deleuze, Gilles. Essays: Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (London and New York: Verso, 1998)

Deleuze, Gilles. Desert Islands and Other Texts, ed. David Lapoujade, transl. Michale Taormina (Semiotext(e): New York, 2004)

Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (London: Routledge, 2002)

Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx, trans. Peggy Kamuf (London: Routledge, 1994)

Donzelot, Jacques. The Policing of Families, trans. Robert Hurley (London: Hutchinson, 1980)

Elliot, Anthony and Frosh, Stephen (eds.) Psychoanalysis in Contexts: Paths Between Theory and Modern Culture (London: Routledge, 1995)

Elliot, Jurist. Beyond Hegel and Nietzsche: Philosophy, Culture, and Agency (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2000)

Epictetus. The Encheiridion: The Handbook, trans. Nicholas P. White (Cambridge: Hackett, 1983)

Eribon, Didier. Michel Foucault: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Field, Nathan. Breakdown and Breakthrough: Psychoanalysis in a new dimension

(London: Routledge, 1996)

Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization, transl. Richard Howard (London: Tavistock Publications, 1965)

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977)

Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge, transl. A. Sheridan (London:Routledge, 1972)

Foucault, Michel. The Will To Knowledge: History of Sexuality vol. 1, transl. Robert

Hurley (Middlesex: Penguin, 1998)

Foucault, Michel. The Care of The Self: History of Sexuality vol. 3, transl. Robert Hurley   (Middlesex: Penguin, 1990)

Foucault, Michel. Ethics: Essential Works of Foucault 1, ed. Paul Rabinow, transl. Robert Hurley and Others (London: Penguin, 1997)

Foucault, Michel. Aesthetics: Essential Works of Foucault 2, ed. James Faubion, transl. Robert Hurley and others (London: Penguin, 1998)

Foucault, Michel. Power: Essential Works of Foucault 3, ed. James D. Faubion, trans. Robert Hurley and others (London: Penguin, 2000),

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents, and Other Works, trans. ed. James Strachey (London: Penguin, 1985)

Freud, Sigmund. On Metapsychology, trans. James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards (London: Penguin, 1984)

Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards (London: Penguin, 1976)

Grant, Michael (ed.) The Modern Fantastic: The Films of David Cronenberg (Connecticut: Praeger, 2000)

Hadot, Pierre. Philosophy as a Way of Life, transl. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995)

Hallward, Peter. Out of This World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (London: Verso, 2006)

Hamilton, Victoria. Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1982)

Hegel. Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: OUP, 1977)

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Holland, Eugene W. Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to

Schizoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1999)

Kerouac, Jack. The Subterraneans (London: Penguin, 2001)

Kerouac, Jack. On the Road (New York: The Viking Press, 1957)

King, Stephen. The Dead Zone (London: TimeWarner, 1979)

Klein, Melanie. The Psychoanalysis of Children, trans. Alix Strachey (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1975)

Klossowski, Pierre. Nietzsche and The Vicious Cycle, trans. Daniel W. Smith (London: Athlone, 1997)

Kristeva, Julia. Melanie Klein, trans. Ross Guberman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001)

Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Hogarth Press, 1977)

Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1977)

Laplanche, Jean. Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, trans. Jeffrey Mehlam (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins, 1976)

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Nietzsche, Friedrich. On The Genealogy of Morality, transl. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen  (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998)

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Zizek, Slavoj. The Plague of Fantasies (London: Verso, 1997)

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Zupancic, Alenka. Ethics of The Real: Kant, Lacan (London: Verso, 2000)

11 Eylül

Deniz seviyesinin bile altındaki bu şehir yazan, çizen, üreten, çalan, çırpan insanlarla doluydu. Bense ölmekten başka yapacak bir şey kalmadığından emindim. Ne var ki bu bilgi o kadar acıydı ki bir türlü çiğneyip, sindirip, sıçamıyordum kendisini. Yani işte adeta geviş getirir olmuştum kendi kendimi öldürmek düşüncesini. Lakin elbette ki bir sebebi vardı bunun, yani benim intihar fikrine sıcak bakmakla birlikte sıcak baktığım bu fikri hayata geçirmek hususunda yaşadığım felç halinin. Nedendir bilinmez, bu yıllardır böyle sürüp gidiyordu. Ben hep bir takım şeylerin fikirlerine sıcak bakıyordum, ama her ne hikmetse iş bu fikirleri hayata geçirmeye gelince söz konusu eylemle arama derecelerle ölçülemeyecek, soğuk kelimesinin tanımlamakta yetersiz kalacağı bir soğukluk giriyordu. Bu muazzam soğukluk varlığımın o kadar derinlerine nüfuz edegelmişti ki, neredeyse kan damarlarımda donup akmaz olacak ve ben fikri hayata geçirmesem de fikir, yani intihiar fikri kendi kendini benim hayatıma geçirip beni yavaş bir ölümün kölesi kılacaktı, ki sevgili okur, nitekim işte kılmıştı ve kılmaya da devam ediyordu zaten.
Peki ama neydi beni bu biçare hale düşüren? Parasızlık mı? Parasız olduğum doğruydu. O kadar ki son üç gündür sadece patates yemiştim. Yalnızlık mı? Yalnız olduğum da doğruydu, zira insanlarla ilişkilerim maddi alışverişlerde gereken diyaloglardan öteye gitmiyordu. Tamamen yalnız olmakla beraber kendimden de bir o kadar uzaktım. Yani bizzat ben kendim bile dışımdaydım kendimin, kendimin ki bir hiçliğin dünyamıza yansımasıyla zuhur eden bir yanılsamadan başka bir şey değildi kanaatimce gelinen noktada.
Amsterdam’ın havasından, suyundan, enleminden, boylamından olabilir mi acaba bu melankolik ruh hali? Van Gogh da bu diyarlarda kesmişti kulağını. Yeri gelmişken hemen belirteyim, dört metrekarelik odamı barındıran bu evin hemen yanındaki duvarda Van Gogh’un afişi var. Yarısını yırtmışlar, kimisi başına saç yapmış, kimisi gözüne gözlük takmış, Van Gogh öyle bakıyor kendi çizdiği portreden, aklında iki soru: “Mezarımda bile huzur bulamayacak mıyım ben? Nedir benim çektiğim ressamlığım yüzünden bu insanlık bozuntusu Amsterdam halkından?” Yeri gelmişken söyleyelim, afişin sebebi geçtiğimiz haftanın Van Gogh haftası olması. Van Gogh haftaya damgasını vuramasa da kendi portresini Amsterdam’ın duvarlarında görmek nedense terapötik bir etki yarattı bende. Kim bilir, belki de Van Gogh’un da buralarda yaşadığını bu sefer farklı bir biçimde anımsayarak ona duyduğum empati özdeşleşmeye dönüştü. Elbette ki bu özdeşleşme kulak kesme noktasına varmayacak bende, bilakis Van Gogh bunu daha önce yapmış olduğu ve ben bunu ilk duyduğumda irkilmiş bulunduğum için her ne olursa olsun kulak kesmenin doğru olmayacağını halihazırda biliyorum. Van Gogh kulak kesme eylemini hayata geçirerek akıl-içi ve akıl-dışı arasındaki sınırı çizmiş oluyor böylece. Tabii eğer bu ikisi zaten iç içedir diyorsanız durmayın, buyurun kesin kulaklarınızı ta en diplerinden.

Ekim

Hayatın zorluklarıyla mücadelede yeni bir döneme girildi. Öyle bir dönem ki bu Boris bile şaşıyor bu dönemin hayatımızda sağladığı açılımlar karşısında. Boris ev arkadaşım. Kendisinin tımarhaneden yeni çıkmış ve sosyal hayat karşısında ne yapacağını bilemez bir hali var. Bu arada aramıza adını henüz bilmediğim bir bayan katıldı. Patron Boris’in odasının yanındaki odayı verdi kıza. Bu ikisi en üst katta, yani üç-buçukuncu katta kapı komşuluğu yapıyor şimdi. Pek komşuluk denemez aslında buna, zira birbirlerini görmemek için sadece ötekinin evde olmadığı zamanlarda çıkıyorlar odalarından. Benim kapı komşumsa Fransa’da şimdi. Tatile gitti sevgilisiyle. Onun da adını bilmiyorum; tek bildiğim bütçesine ek gelir sağlamak için arada sırada, kaliteli müşteri bulduğu zaman işte, fahişelik yapması. Takdirle karşılıyorum kendisini. Sessiz ve derinden yürütüyor işini. Pencere fahişeliği yapmak yerine bir fabrikada iş bulmuş kendine. Ne idüğü belirsiz turistlerle yatıp kalkmamak için iş arkadaşlarına veriyor para karşılığında. Yalnızlar diyarı Amsterdam’da seks yapmak suretiyle cinsel ihtiyaç gidermek o kadar kolay ki sevgili okur, insan istese de sürekli bir sevgili sahibi olamıyor. Herkes hep yalnız ve/fakat herkes sürekli sevişiyor. Bu derece yaman bir çelişki ise sen de takdir edersin ki insanın akıl sağlığını derinden etkiliyor, kalpte çarpıntıya sebep oluyor. Olmuyor yani sevgili okur, Amsterdam’da ilişki yürümüyor. Belki de bu yüzden sürekli değişiyor deniz seviyesinin altındaki bu şehrin sakinleri. Gelen bir-iki seneden sonra varoşlara göç ediyor. Tabii burada varoş derken Hollanda’nın kırsal kesimini kastettğimi akılda tutmakta fayda var. Zira Hollanda zaten büyük bir şehir gibi adeta. Yer yer köyleşiyor gerçi ama ortaçağdan kalma köyleri andıran yerleşim birimlerinden arabayla on dakika uzaklıkta irili ufaklı modern yapılar çıkabiliyor insanın karşısına. Ülke deniz seviyesinin altında olduğu için mimari çok gelişmiş, inanılmaz boyutlara ulaşmış hatta. O kadar ki denizin içine kasabalar kurulur, şehirlerdeki eski binaların çürüyen temelleri binaları yıkmadan yenilenebilir olmuş. Bizim evimiz ise son derece eski. Temellerin ne durumda olduğunu tam olarak kestiremiyorum tabii, ama binanın en geç beş yıl içerisinde temellere kadar inen bir tadilattan geçirilmesi gerektiği su götürmez bir gerçek formunda zuhur ediyor her gün, onu biliyorum. Buna rağmen bu binada yaşıyorum. Geleceğin getireceklerine sonuna kadar açığım anlamına mı geliyor bu? Yoksa kaderime boyun mu eğiyorum yıkılmaya yüz tutmuş bu binada yaşamakla? Ne internet var, ne de televizyon. Cep telefonu var ama onun da kontörü yok. Aramak istiyorum herkesi, arayamıyorum kimseyi… Herkes beni kötü sanıyor. İyi olduğum söylenemez tabii ama tüm kötülüğün kaynağı olmadığım da bir gerçek. Organizma biçim değiştirir ya hayatta kalabilmek için, ben de işte öyle biçim olmasa da kişilik değiştirmek durumunda hissediyordum kendimi hayatta kalabilmek için.

Groenburgwal, Amsterdam by Pep Ventosa

Bir Kasım Pazarı

Abartacak olursam diyebilirim ki son üç gündür sadece kuru ekmek yedim. Hatta üçüncü güne gelindiğinde ekmekler küflenmişti, küflerini ayıklayıp yedim. O derece nahoş bir durumdayım yani. Şikayetçi değilim fakat halimden. “Olmaya devlet cihanda bir nefes sıhhat gibi” sözünü içime sindirip bünyemden dışlayalı çok oldu. İnsanları affetmeyi öğrendiğimden beridir sıhhatin manasına daha bir aşina oldum sanki. Şimdi benim içinde yaşadığım bu tarihi ev yansa, üç günlük otel parasına uçak bileti alıp Kıbrıs’a mı dönerim, yoksa ucuz bir barınak bulana kadar 70 € geceliği bir otele mi sığınırım? Konumuzla alâkası yazı bittiğinde anlaşılacak şu cümleler bu soruyu yanıtlamamızı kolaylaştırır niteliktedir: “İçinde yaşadığım tarihi ev derken” sanmayın ki dev bir ortaçağ şatosunda yaşıyorum, bilâkis burada son derece eski, sağı solu dökülen, muslukları açılıp kapanmayan, ikinci dünya savaşından sonra tamir-tadilat yolunda el temasına pek maruz kalmamış, muslukları açılıp kapanmayan, soğuk-sıcak su ayarı bozuk, farelerin ve envai çeşit haşaratın fink attığı, kim bilir belki de eskiden fuhuş yuvası olarak kullanılan, Amsterdam’ın merkezindeki konumuyla haftanın yedi günü yirmi dört saat hiç durmaksızın insan, hayvan, obje seslerinin yankılandığı daracık bir sokakta konumlanmış bu ucube yapıdan söz ediyorum, ki bence aslında Türkçe’de öyle bir kullanım hata olarak nitelendirilecek olsa da “bu ucube yapıyı söz ediyor, sözden yapı, yapıdan söz yapıyorum,” vebugibi dense daha anlamlı olacaktır. Yaşadığım evin karikatürize edilmiş hali böyle bir şey işte. Küçük odamın zor açılıp kapanan, açılınca açık kalması için altına tahta konması gereken dev pencereleriyle cebelleşerek yatıyorum her akşam ve tabii cebelleşerek kalkıyorum her sabah bu evde ben.

İki Kasım

Yapacak pek bir şey kalmadığının kesinlik kazandığı noktada olduğum artık su götürmez bir gerçek halini almıştı. Gelinen nokta öyle bir noktaydı ki bu noktanın ne ilerisine, ne de gerisine gitmek mümkündü. İleriye ve geriye gitmenin imkansız hale geldiği bir durum söz konusuydu anlaşılan. Hareket etmek namümkündü evet, lâkin bu orada durmanın mümkün olduğu anlamına gelmemeliydi, ki nitekim gelmiyordu da zaten. rada durmak da, en az orayı terk etmek kadar imkansızdı. Belli ki imkânsızlıklarla çevriliydi öznenin varlığı, o kadar ki neredeyse bunu söylemeye bile gerek yoktu. Ama gerek olmadığı halde söylenmişti bu. Biri bu meçhul öznenin durağanlığa hapsolduğunu dillendirmek ihtiyacı duymuş ve bu ihtiyacı karşılamak yönünde eyleme girişerek söz konusu bariz hakikati dil vasıtasıyla kitleye aktarmıştı. Eğer böyle bir oluşa herhangi bir varoluş biçimini temsil yetkisi vermeye ve söz konusu özneye varlık sıfatını yakıştırmaya cüret, ona bu sıfatı layık görmeye teşebbüs edecek bir kendinibilmez çıkmasaydı her şey çok farklı olabilirdi, olacaktı da zaten, ama olmadı. Peki neden? Zira ben işte o kendinibilmez olarak bir anda ortaya çıktım ve imkânsızlıklarla çevrili, şimdiki zamana hapsolmuş, ne ileriye, ne de geriye gidebilen bu biçare düşmüş öznenin kendini içinde bulduğu duruma yazıyla müdahale ettim.

5 Kasım

Amsterdam’da her an siniri krizi veya cinnet geçiren birisini görebileceğiniz gibi, neşeden kuduran ve bu vesileyle çığlıklar veya kahkahalar atan birini görebilirsiniz.
Bu bence çok iyi bir şeydir zira insanın monoton hayatına renk getirir hiç beklnmedik bir anda sosyal normların tamamen dışında hareket eden birisini görmek. Sekiz saatlik çalışma sürecinde bu tür nahoş hadiselere hoş anlamlar kazanıyor sevgili okur. Can sıkıntısının ilacıdır anormal davranış sergileyenlerle muhatap olmak.

6 Kasım

Amsterdam’ı Kuzey soğukları bastı bir anda. Bu arada ben yoldan geçmekte olan temizlik aracının çıkardığı sesi rüzgâr sesi sanmak suretiyle Kuzey soğukları yerine Kuzey rüzgârları yazmak gafletine düşmek üzereydim ki söz konusu araç sinyal sesi çıkardı ve Kuzey soğukları yazmayı başardım son anda. Böylelikle sen de yazma işinin aslında ne kadar macera dolu bir uğraş olduğunu gördün sevgili okur. Eğer son anda soğuk yazmayıp rüzgâr yazsaydım sen de takdir edersin ki içine düştüğüm gafletin haddi hesabı olamayacak, delâlet sınır tanımayacaktı.
Bu arada yazıma da kendimle çelişkiye düşmek pahasına Soğuk Rüzgârlar adını vermeyi uygun buldum.
Bu kadar çabuk beklemiyordum aslında soğukları. Mesela çorap giymek farz oldu şimdi. Pencere açmak akıl kârı olmaktan çıktı çıkacak. Hafif hafif kışlıklara geçiliyor.
Ne kadar arzulardım biliyor musun sevgili okur seninle aynı mevsimi yaşıyor olmayı?
Nereden bileceksin, senin ayakların üşümüyor ki.
Ama tabii diğer yandan şu da var: Ben nereden bileceğim ki senin benimle aynı mevsimi yaşamak istediğini? Ben sıcaktan yanıp kavrulmuyorum ki.
Şimdilik son derece gereksiz, hakkında yazılmaya değmez konularla bezeli olmakla beraber sen de takdir edersin bu yazının en azından estetik açıdan ipe sapa gelir yanları mevcuttur sevgili okur.
Bir bakalım mesela ne söylendiğine?
Amsterdam soğur. Yazar odasında yazı yazmaktadır. Yoldan temizlik aracı geçer. Yazar temizlik aracının sesini rüzgâr sesi sanır. Tam rüzgâr yazacakken bu sesin rüzgâr sesi olmadığını anlar. Soğuk yazar.

26 Kasım

Gene göstericiler geçti sokaktan. Bu daracık sokaklar kim bilir nelere sahne olmaktadır şu anda. Benimse takadim kalmadı başımı kaldırıp camdan dışarı bakmaya bile. Duyduklarımla yetinmeyi seçtim son günlerde. Aklımın bir kısmıyla idare ediyorum işte. O kadar sıklaştı ki son haftalarda bu gösteriler, dışarıdan gelen gürültü ve patırtının şiddeti bile şaşırtmaya yetmiyor beni. Herkes her hün bir şeyleri protesto ediyor ve her ne hikmetse hep şiddetle sonuçlanıyor bu protesto gösterileri. Ya göstericiler girmemeleri gereken sokaklara giriyor, ya da polis gereğinden agresif davranıp bir dizi yıkıcı eylemin tetiklenmesine sebebiyet veriyor. Sonra bir kovalamacadır başlıyor Amsterdam denilen bu esrarengiz lâbirentin dehlizlerinde. Son günlerde güneş de doğmaz oldu, bir karanlıktır çöktü kentin üstüne. Havalar son derece dengesiz. Evin içinde fareler fink atıyor, kimsenin kılını kıpırdatıp muhatap olacak hali yok.
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Boris’in banyo-tuvalet kapısını eşiğine çivilemesinin üzerinden iki gün geçti. İki gündür evdeki herkes şu veya bu şekilde ve/fakat kesinlikle ev dışında gideriyor dışkılama, yıkanma, arınma ve daha başka ihtiyaçlarını. Kapının eşiğe çivilenmesi hadisesi ise şöyle zuhur etmiş olsun meselâ: Boris’in sesini duydum. Deli gibi bağırıyordu. Sonra ariayı çalıştırdı ve olan oldu. Fazla uzatmaya gerek yok. Birine sinirlendi ve tuvalet kapısını eşiğe çiviledi. Olayın detaylarına girecek kabiliyetim yok şu anda benim.

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Burada havalar o kadar soğudu ki sevgili okur, envai çeşit aktivitenin bulunduğu bu şehrin sokakları bile bomboş şimdi. Gelen turistlerse başlarını sokacak bir yer bulup yanlışlıkla çıktıkları bu tatilin hesabını soruylarlar kendilerine, THC kanlarını mesken tuttukça kendine. İşin ilginç yanı sokakların boşluğu bende bir memnuniyet yaratıyor. Sanki kimse dışarıda olmayınca benim içeride olmamın herkes dışarıda olduğu halde benim içeride olmamdan farkı varmış gibi. İnsanlar soğuk olduğu için çıkmıyor sokağa, bense insan olmadığı için çıkıyorum aynı sokağa. Aynı sokakta bir Çin restoranı, bir berber, bir coffeeshop, bir iletişim dükkânı, bir-iki pub, bir-iki biftek restoranı, bir burger-bar, bir elbise mağazası ve Van Gogh’un portresinin asılı olduğu bir duvar var. O duvarda başka posterler de var. Polis helikopterleriyse boş durmuyor, dönüp duruyor şehrin üzerinde. Sanki bir şey olması gerekiyormuş, her şey her an patlak verebilirmiş gibi bir hava estirilmiş oluyor böylelikle.

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Sokaktan sürekli deliler geçiyordu. Ya da belki de onlar normaldi ve ben kendimi haddinden fazla normal gördüğüm için onları deli sanıyordum ve bu da beni yarı-deli yapıyordu. Tıbbın kitabına göre her şey oldukça açık ve netti, lâkin biz şimdi ölüler kitabındaydık ve işler hiç de diriler kitabına atılmış bir dip-nottan başka bir şey olmayan tıbbın kitabına göre yürümüyordu buralarda. Ölülerin kendilerini ölüler kitabında olduklarına inandırması ve bu inançla diriler kitabına geçmesi, yani bir başka deyişle dirilmesi gerekirdi. Bu diriliş için gerekli ilk şart ise artık bir ölü olduğunu kabullenebilmekti. Ölüler ancak ölü olduklarını kabullenirlerse dirilmeye muktedir olabilirilerdi. Ölüler kitabında olsak da bazı kurallar dilin yaşama dair olması gereği diriler kitabının gramerine göreydi. Gramerden gramere ise fark vardı. Sentaksı paramparça edecek bir dil gerekiyordu bana kendimi içinde bulduğum bu anlamsız rutinden kurtulabilmek için. Artık kesinlikle birinci tekil şahısta ve geçmiş, gelecek ve şimdiki zamanlar arasında sürekli gidip gelen bir zamanda yazacaktım ne yazacaksaydım. Baudelaire ve Rimbaud okuyacak, Fernando Pessoa ve William Shakespeare’i yad edecektim edebi işlerle uğraştığım gecelerde. İşin çindeki bit yeniklerini saymaktan bitap düştüğüm günler gelecekti sonra ve şunları kaleme alacaktım kendimi içinde bulduğumu duruma son derece kayıtsız bir kudretle: Dünyada gidecek yer kalmamıştı. Yer olsa bile, bende o yere gidecek enerji kalmamıştı. Tek yapabileceğim içinde bulunduğum yer neresiyse oradan kaçmak için yazılması gerekenleri yazmaktı. Bitmek bilmez bir kaçışa hapsolmuştum belli ki.

Yazı (c) Cengiz Erdem, 2007.

Foto 2 (c) John Paul Bichard, 2004 .

Foto 3 (c) Pep Ventosa, 2007.

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