There ain’t no introduction

April 29, 2008

I was reading Zizek’s “Against the Double Blackmail” today and I thought I’d share one or two little thoughts.

First, to pick up on what Bill was saying the other day about Zizek constantly pumping out books, I noticed again today that Zizek’s writing generally doesn’t have much of an introduction – and when his books do, they’re pretty short. I think this is in part related to ‘praxis’. That is, ‘I can’t summarize what I’m about to tell you in an introduction because it only makes sense when you have all the examples and arguments in there. It only makes sense in doing it’. And I think that it’s true of Lacan too: He never really gives a summary of what the “Other side of psychoanalysis” is, other than in a few places saying ‘this is the other side of psychoanalysis’ (and each time its something different). I think that the premise behind this is 1) like Bill was saying, Lacan doesn’t have the answer; i.e. he doesn’t have the formulation that will definitively spell out what he’s trying to get at. And as a consequence 2) both he and we can only figure it out by reading and arguing about his book.

But I wonder what the limits of this are. There must be a point where we can say “Lacan is definitely not saying X”; there must be a difference between the internal structure/logic of the argument and a ‘bad’ reading of it. In no way can we endorse that ‘there is no meta-position’ means there’s no truth – that flies in the face of everything Lacan (and Zizek) argue. I suppose, however, that the come-back is “you have to misread it and reflect that misreading back into the original”… which sounds okay, I guess. (I’m resisting!)

The other thing I was wondering is whether or not Zizek’s constant reference to “The other side of the coin” has been eliminated since he began talking about the ‘parallax’. In “Against…” he writes that the difference between 2 perspectives from within the same thing (specifically NATO’s intervention in Yugoslavia and the Serbs) are like a Gestalt illusion where you see either the vase or the two faces (he uses a goose/rabbit example). He then goes on to talk about how to break the deadlock between these two dependent positions. This to me sounds like the parallax, and flies in the face of ‘two sides’ in favour of one side that is seen from two perspectives. But I could be making shit up – does anyone remember if he still uses the ‘coin’ metaphor in Parallax?

Oh yeah – and I found a bunch of “flies” (i.e. examples) in this paper that I know I’ve seen elsewhere. Take a look, and if you come across any of them when you’re reading be sure to note the page and post it here.


3 Responses to “There ain’t no introduction”

  1. sonnyburnett said

    You are right. Not the traditional intro’s in most Lacanian texts. Could be that an intro is a start, a beginning, which implies diachrony. But Lacanian logic is synchronic – one day your infant suddenly just ‘gets it,’ that signifiers are everywhere with their attendent meaning. Language & its creative process is spontaneous, descends on us in one swoop. Only afterwards, you can start to analyze, break it all down. Break out the S1, S2, $, a if you want. Can’t build up from the beginning. Can’t really start with an intro. That’s the hell of learning Lacan: his is a synchronic system, but it’s almost a necessity to learn it in diachronic stages, which Lacan of course shuns. No anal, oral, phallic stages for him.

    As for truth,I’m thinking that Lacan is writing, speaking at that limit you are writing about. Or he’s touching it at any rate. That’s where the truth lies, which can only properly be articulated via a non-all logic. (Parallax 24) Look where he deals with truth. It’s only via that logic.

    Lacan cannot tell you the truth. He says somewhere at the end of one of the lectures (or sections) we just read, ‘I won’t go any further here’. He uses that expression in many places & feminists call him on that. But he does not resist telling you the truth with these scansions.

    Lacan is endeavoring to articulate the non-all truth. With what little he says, there is nothing he did not tell.

    My vote for the most concise definition of ‘Other Side of Psychoanalysis’ is the Master Discourse.

  2. The Thing said

    I Still think this should all be linked to Lacan’s “I write this all two hours before I present it” and Zizek’s “writing makes me so anxious that I’ve developped a process for eliminating it completely”. Not that these are bad ways of going about things (for the reasons you’ve proposed), I just think that the process (and the way in which it results at least partially from Lacan and Zizek’s unconscious dispositions) is inextricably bound up in the result. I would be surprised if either of them consciously decided to do things this way (which, again, doesn’t make it not a decision).

  3. sonnyburnett said

    Brings to mind Z’s idea that the inevitability of the failure of an example to illustrate the Hegelian notion is actually a ‘success’ in demostrating that very notion.

    So sure, Lacan has whatever notion he’d like to articulate in mind at the moment, so he looks around in his immediate sphere, two hours beforehand or whatever & grabs onto an object, any object, to illustrate that notion. One illustrate is as good as any other at this level. It’s gonna fail & we have to see that failure, that impossible conjunction of the object & its notion as the point of truth.

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