Yesterday I forgot to ask about the game of four-corners that Zizek suggests one can make out of certain distinctions Heidegger makes. UniSing, you love the square – maybe you could draw one up and post it here? If you don’t know the section I’m talking about, I’ll give you the page reference later (I’m not at home).

On another note, I thought of a reading idea for either the newly formed Lacanian reading group or for us after we finish The Tick. It pertains to the short discussion we had on symptoms just before The Thing had to leave. While there is no ‘beyond’, where the unconscious is fully external an in the world in the form of our actions, there is nonetheless something odd attached to it all . I referred to Freud’s “Repetition and working through” and the idea that intellectualizing or being able to speak about the ‘cuase’ of your symptom was not enough to bring about the end of analysis. This morning I remembered that in that same paper he refers to something that he feels is fundamental, but that he can’t get go into because its too controversial and involved to include in the paper he’s writing. There is a reference at that point, however, to the “rat dude”.

What we find in the rat-man study is an elaboration of ‘constructions of analysis’, something that must be logically supposed to happen, but will never be remembered by the subject in question. It seems to me that this is akin to Lacan’s (Zizek’s) ‘fundamental fantasy’.


I thought a one or two week reading list on this topic might look like this:

  1. “A child is being beaten” (Freud)
  2. “Constructions of Analysis” (Freud)
  3. Selections from the Rat Man case study
  4. “Lacan’s Myths” (Dorian Leader in the Cambridge Companion to Lacan)
  5. Sections of SOI where Z talks about Benjamin’s Gonads (er… Monad)

The obvious gap being that I’m not sure what Lacan we would read. I think there’s a seminar on Fantasy, but is it in English, and which sections of it would we read (rather than doing the whole thing?)



In his paper on narcissism, Freud describes the movement of object-libido and ego-libido as an “antithesis” (SE 14, 76), an antithesis which is the “corollary to an original hypothesis which distinguished between sexual instincts and ego instincts” (77). These of course get re-labled as Eros and Thanatos, love and death drives (the latter sometimes attributed to the Id, other times to the Ego… I haven’t settled that question for myself yet.. the closest I’ve come is that the Ego, of course, comes from the Id… But I need to re-read The Ego and the ID). In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud notes that these two would be indistiquishable in most cases, which is why he didn’t see the death drive for so long. This is an echo of a comment he makes in “On Narcissism,” where he writes “that a real happy love corresponds to the primal condition in which object-libido and ego-libido cannot be distinguished.” The observation I want to make on all this is that here the drives appear as Kantian antinomies: the two exist as antithetical and cannot be reconciled with each other; they merely reach a point where they “cannot be distinguished,” not one in which they dissolve into each other. Hence the “Battle of the giants” in Civilations and its Discontents – two forces rage ceaselessly within us, never to be reconciled.

Further, Freud notes in his encyclopedia entry on the libido theory that the “sexual instinct turns out to be of a highly composite nature and is liable to disintegrate once more into its component instincts” (SE ?, 256). That is, the sexual drive is really just made up of the oral, anal and phallic drives, coming together as one in the genital stage.

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March 7, 2008

I was sitting in a coffee shop yesterday and overheard a couple of ladies reading from a newspaper. The article had something to do with a man getting his prick removed by his wife after she had drugged him. The kicker was that after the ordeal was done and the ‘missing piece’ was replaced he forgave her. That seems pretty odd, so I tried to look it up online but could find nothing. What I did end up doing, however, was looking at a pile of other castration stories. Which, I think, is probably relevant for us, considering what we’re writing about. That is, what about when people DO get castrated?

The first one that I found interesting was the case of Kim Tran, who axed her boyfriend’s cock after he tried to break-up with her. And what did she do with it? Well, she threw it in the toilet and flushed. This makes me think of how Freud describes little boys’ take on sex – it happens with a detachable penis which goes in the back door, and is associated with shit (I’m thinking of the Wolf Man case in particular). I don’t, however, think Freud links that with castration…

One thing I noticed about reports of a few American cases (the Bobbit one, most prominently) is that first, in her defense, the woman in question claims abuse, but is then accused of being motivated by jealousy. The jealousy angle is interesting, perhaps because it makes the most sense, even in a horde-father sort of way: To keep him from accessing other woman, he has to be stopped. Instead of killing him, however, he’s just separated from the object of his power…

But one is forced to wonder if the whole jealousy accusation is just an easy way to discount what the woman’s done (a little more on this below) and even makes me think of the whole ‘suppression of the seduction theory’ business. That is, many of Freud’s patients were abused by their fathers. But as they say, ‘Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you’, or rather, ‘just because they’re after you doesn’t mean your justified in being paranoid!’ That is, just because you’ve been abused doesn’t mean your neurosis isn’t a neurosis! One could be both abused and jealous of the exploits of one’s aggressor… Anyway, I digress.

Further in the Horde-father vein, I came across one case where a man killed another and removed his wenis and it was called an honour killing. That is, because someone else encroached on ‘his turf’ he felt the need to assert his authority and limit access to ‘his’ woman.

But more interesting than that are the few cases of auto-castration that I found. One dude stood up in a restaurant and did the deed, in front of quite a few others. Some other guy lopped of his little friend when he was messed up on uppers, and took his hand off too. What I found interesting about these was the reaction of the onlookers – traumatized, of course. I wonder, however, if the fact that it was their dongs that made it more traumatic… one can only wonder. And in the first case, I wonder about the need to cut it off in public… Acting as the tool of the Other, perhaps?

In another case, buddy claimed a woman did it, but had in fact done it himself. Apparently he had previously been charged for murdering a woman after she made fun of him for being impotent. This one is interesting because it points to something Zizek says in the last section of Ticklish Subject: ‘erectile dysfunction’ that can be ‘cured’ with little blue pills removes responsibility from the impotent person’s unconscious. That is, if the problem’s not physical, then there’s something happening in the back of your mind that you’re not privy to, and refuse to be, that’s at fault. So we might surmise that this dude was fully aware that he was his own castrator (responsible for his own impotence), but refused to be aware, instead telling the law that a woman had done it!

Another great auto-castration story I found on a Blog. Apparently this guy chopped of his peter to prove to his wife that he loved her, although he had been having an affair. That is, rather than his wife slicing off his johnson in a jealous rage, he did it for her. Now, many of the comments on the blog are sung to the tune of “what an Idiot!” But a few agreed that it was an honourable thing to do. I think I agree. I also think we could think of this as a “symbolic Act” rather than an ‘acting out’. Rather than denying he was having an affair, rather than apologizing, he did ‘the impossible’ – handed over the perpetrator.

But, of course, the ‘detachable penis’ has become just that – capable of being returned to its place. Thai doctors, apparently, are now experts at reatachment surgery. And here’s where I want to come back to women and jelousy. The reason Thai doctors are so good at putting one’s john thomas back together again is because Thai women chop so many off! Now, I think that perhaps it’s jumping the gun to call this an ‘acting out’. Under a system of patriarchy is this justified? Isn’t it what which is supposed to give power, the ability to castrate? Isn’t it the phallus that keeps everything in place? Christine Delphy argues that the exploitation of women in the home is a separate level of exploitation, and simply ending capitalism wouldn’t end the exploitation of women without a separate struggle (she quotes Lenin saying just as much to bolster her argument against the French Communist Party). She didn’t push for castration, of course, but militant struggle towards the destruction of the family…

So, perhaps in this case actual castration is just an ‘acting out’ – an impulse that need be politicized to be truly effective. I imagine that these women were punished, and that patriarchy still exists in Thailand. I guess I just like the idea of such a violent, immediate action. But I guess that’s the point – that energy could be used for real change. Somewhere, perhaps in “Lenin’s Choice” (maybe it’s in Ticklish…) Zizek says that the passions of the German people that the Nazi’s fed on were genuine passions; the real problem was how they were drawn into and used by the Nazi project. So, the impulse to castrate could be politicized. “There is spontaneity and spontaneity,” as they say. The difference is that the second spontaneity (a ‘hysterical’ outburst) is channeled through a political project…


The battle continues…

March 5, 2008

… the meaning of the development of civilization is no longer obscure to us. This development must show us the struggle between Eros and death, between the life drive and the drive for destruction, as it played out in the human race. This struggle is the essential content of all life; hence, the development of civilization may be described simply as humanity’s struggle for existence. And this battle of the giants is what our nurse-maids seek to mitigate with their lullaby about heaven (Freud, Civ and Dis, 74-5).

G’day Gents, I’ve started this blog for us. We’ll eventually have to set up our own passwords/logins etc. so we can keep track of who’s posted what. I don’t think it will be hard to do, it will just take a little time to figure out…