Notes: Analytical writing

This is an example of analytical writing I found on the net. I don’t get it at all. It’s like watching paint dry. What’s the point of it? It’s soul destroying stuff. I get that I really need to have more structured arguments but I don’t want to write something that is about as colourless as a telephone directory. In fact a telephone directory might offer more creative opportunities….


Notes: Links to Lacan & Myth, Derrida on Narcissus, and brief observations re mirrors and movie stars

A couple of links that I want to record somewhere so I don’t forget and can find them relatively easily.

Brecht was critical about the way a movie star’s ego could override the narrative.  I re-read my post on Vertigo this morning and see I have done exactly that, without having realised. I think there is something important in my conflation of James Stewart and his character (other than merely being yet more evidence of a confused and muddy thought process!) and I know Mulvey refers to how people connect with movie stars.”A male movie star’s glamorous characteristics are thus not those of the erotic object of the gaze, but those are the more perfect, more complete, more powerful ideal ego conceived in the original moment of recognition in front of the mirror” (Mulvey, 1973;385)

The other thing I have been been thinking about is the Jewish ritual of covering all the mirrors in the house after someone dies. I think its interesting and worth thinking about further.



Evans, J. and Hall, S. (1999). Visual culture. London: SAGE Publications in association with the Open University.

Notes: Symbolic, Real and Imaginary

Notes: Symbolic, Real and Imaginary

I’ve been a bit perplexed about why the Real came after the Imaginary in Lacan’s description of different orders. Reading about each order on Wikipedia I found a few things that clarified it for me a bit. Very briefly, simplified and  in my own words where possible –

Imaginary – “dimension of images conscious or unconscious, perceived or imagined”(Sheridan) (Wikipedia). The fragments of things we have floating about in our minds, not necessarily tied to language, required to imagine the self as a whole when seen in the mirror stage, and necessary to connect that image with notions of self. Related to external, pre symbolic

Symbolic – structural ediface, cultural overlay, law, the network or interface manifested in language that dictates existence in culture; all of the things we pin our realities to.

Real – “The real is impossible because it is impossible to imagine, impossible to integrate into the symbolic order” (Wikipedia) Trauma,

“One of the main methods of psychoanalysis is to drain the traumatic experiences of the real into the symbolic through free association. The analyst searches the analysand’s discourse for sounds, words, or images of fixation and through dialectization attempt to bring these fixations to the regular metonymic flow of the (unconscious) symbolic order, thereby integrating the subject further into their fantasy, usually referred to as “traversing the fantasy.”[1]” (Fink, 1997; 27) (Wikipedia)

I was confused until I saw that another Real exists, pre Oedipal state, Primordial Real for the infant who has not yet engaged in the Imaginary or the Symbolic orders (language). This is the Real I have been aware of and which it seems is, if not annihilated, then at least injured or catastrophically altered by the Imaginary and especially the Symbolic orders. It certainly exists in the bond between a mammalian infant and mother and does not need access to the Imaginary or the Symbolic to operate. It is something that a male parent cannot access as easily as a female parent, if at all. And I wonder if it is mutilated in some way and in many cases as soon as an infant is born, which is what lies in part at any rate behind obstetrician, Michel Odent’s advice that women only should be present during labour and birth, where the atmosphere ideally should be dark, with little or no speaking and calm in order to make room for it to exist. I wonder if this is the place that is then bought to the imaginary, although it can never (?) be re-entered, inducing a sense of nostalgic yearning, which according to Professor Paul  Fry is the ‘lack’ that Lacan talks of. Fry says that Lacan is different to other theorists because he says we ‘can never have what we desire’. But actually, although it is fleeting and short-lived mostly, there are moments where women can re-enter some aspect of this phase during and after childbirth. And it has nothing to do with logic and order and structure. And if there is any  validity to that suggestion it may not be a comfortable idea for a patriarchal paradigm to contain, hence the unconscious structural motivation to annihilate it. Nor, necessarily to a feminist  discourse that has little room for female difference, which I think feminism sometimes struggled with in earlier iterations.

(Added later) I have thought further about this and think sex and orgasm takes us as close to that primordial place as it is possible be to be as well, and the lack of acknowledgement of female sexuality through the ages, including FGM, seems to be linked to what I have explored above.

Sheridan, p. 279

Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance, Princeton University Press, 1997, p. 27.

*Odent explores what he calls the primal period, which I think is the same thing I am referring to in this post.

Image (c)SJField 2016


Notes: Some interesting things about eyes and seeing

I think some facts in this article might be useful to consider.

  • eye structure distinct from all other animals
  • “specialised to draw us to the gaze of others – our eyes are also exceptionally formed to catch attention and easily reveal the direction of gaze”
  • “Disturbances of normal gaze processing are seen across a wide range of conditions. For example, people on the autistic spectrum spend less time in general fixating on the eyes of others. They also have more trouble extracting information from eyes, such as emotion or intentions, and are less able to tell when someone is looking directly at them. On the other extreme, highly socially anxious people tend to fixate on eyes more than those with low anxiety, even though they show increased physiological fear reactions when under the direct gaze of another.”
  • “evolved to support cooperative interactions between humans, and is argued to form the foundation for many of our more complex social skills”
  • Memory biases may also also come into play.

This is interesting in relation to the the Fenichel article we looked at the very beginning of the course and especially Foucault’s Discipline and Punish chapter which I’m reading at the moment, (which incidentally, is terrifically fascinating).

Notes: Castration complex

Having struggled with and questioned Freud’s castration complex as an absolute truth, I came across the following article about Bonobo’s, with whom we share common ancestry. Christina Cauterucci discusses how errant males might have their toes or penis bitten off by gangs of angry females. In which case, genetic memory suggests there might well be the possibility for some distant trace of the complex, recognised by Freud, in all human males, regardless of how reppressive or not the environment they grew up in was.


Notes: Brief thoughts on course material and direction it’s taking

Notes: Brief thoughts on course material and direction it’s taking

Yesterday I was worried that I was heading in the wrong direction with the course material. I have questioned the idea that Freud’s castration complex is a universal and unavoidable truth about male development, (I’m aware I’m not original in this) even through I’m certain that many males are enormously concerned or indeed traumatised by any damage that may have been done, or will be done to their genitals for the sake of tradition (And women too but in different ways and not usually in our own culture). And try as I do, I just don’t see castration anxiety in the images of small men and large women (as prompted to in one of the projects). Even though my youngest son has verbalised concern for any missing penis he imagines I may have once had -and which during my earliest times in the womb I almost did have, which makes me think Freud was on to something and cannot be dismissed entirely. I do however see a yearning for a literal ‘maternal bosom’ beyond infancy, which is understandable given how an abrupt separation process is viewed as preferable in our society, and the trend for such becoming more firmly fixed as a norm continues apace in the UK if an article about this country having the lowest breastfeeding rates in the modern world is anything to go by (Obviously, it helps to to avoid making value judgements regarding breastfeeding either way, but it is an interesting set of statistics – there are many complex issues surrounding the whole subject). The trend highlighted in that data suggests that capitalism has succeeded with its (unconscious?) drive to negate or at any rate diminish the biological mother/child bond – and the pictures we were asked to look at seem to express something of that. Freud’s interpretation seems specific to his own particular world view (as does mine, I’m sure).

The question then is, what informs the desire to negate mother/child bonds? One possible source of anguish for the male in our historical culture is that he is separated from the process of incubating and bearing a baby. (Is my use of the word separation here a Freudian slip?) And this causes anguish. He feels alienated from it. Is this part of what lies beneath a long history of paternalistic diminishment of women, and the relationship she has with her infant? I’m not talking about individuals per se. I’m thinking about our collective history and patterns of behaviour, informed by some of what I’ve been reading. This difficulty with women and reproduction is what I am receiving from the underlying narrative contained in Freud’s and now Lacan’s theories. I can’t work out whether I need to say more about this or less.

It  was on my mind a lot yesterday but I worried I was heading down the wrong path (not entirely unusual for me). However, this morning I came across some slides by an associate professor in Miami called Jason Palmeri which more or less suggests that at least some of what I’ve been considering is on the right lines. (Accessed 12 September 2016) (Accessed 11 September 2016)

Image (c)SJField 2016



Notes: Matrilineal societies/Father/symbolism – the mother

Notes: Matrilineal societies/Father/symbolism – the mother

In the blog post where I recorded my notes on the Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex I mentioned that I remembered reading about how uncles rather than fathers were viewed as authority figures in some cultures, but I wasn’t sure where I had come across this. I have since looked for the reference and see that it was Malinowski who initially suggested that this was how he saw things in the Trobriand Islands, where society he said, was based on matrilineal lines rather than patrilineal. “Malinowski’s attempt to recast the Oedipus complex as culturally variable, though offered as a contribution to psychoanalytic theory, was not welcomed by Freud and his circle, who insisted in universality.” (Vine/New, 2008;14) I find the reluctance of Freud and his friends to see the possibility for cultural variables quite strange and confusing, especially as I am aware now that questions surrounding subjectivity had been around for a  long time by the time he was on the scene.(Thorsby, 2016)

So, I was completely justified in bringing this up it would seem. I searched for the reference after beginning to read about Lacan and the symbolic order, especially since in the Wiki entry, phrases pertaining to “The Father” (religious reference) were used as examples in discussing the symbolic order. I will discuss that more later when writing about Lacan.

I am also interested in how Lacan talks about ‘lack’ (which I read about at the beginning of the course), and see this can be seen as an alternative model to Freud’s castration anxiety. Don’t both descriptions relate to ways in which anxiety surrounding separation from the mother manifest themselves, viewed through different subjective veils? I will need to discuss this in much more detail I expect when writing about Lacan in the next projects. But this goes back to thoughts about how infants  in some cultures are encouraged to separate from their primary care-giver (usually the mother and in in biological terms always) relatively quickly, replaced by commodities, plastic and monetarily valuable, to do jobs that warm, fleshy and comforting bodies have done elsewhere. Perhaps ‘lack’ and castration anxiety (metaphorical or real) can be viewed as costs in relation to the benefits such choices allow for.

LeVine, R. and New, R. (2008). Anthropology and child development. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Thorsby, M, 2016. Youtube (user generated content – 1 February 2016) Video below accessed 11 September 2016

Image (c)SJFIeld 2016