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10. The presentation and interpretation of Lacan’s article borrows from David Blomme and Dominiek Hoens, “Anticipation and Subject: A Commentary on an Early Text by Lacan,” in Computing Anticipatory Systems: CASYS’99—Third International Conference, ed. Daniel Dubois (New York: American Institute of Physics, 2000), 117-123.
11. Lacan, “Logical Time,” 167.
12. “Having surpassed the time for comprehending the moment of concluding, it is the moment of concluding the time for comprehending. Otherwise this time would lose its meaning. It is not, therefore, because of some dramatic contingency, the seriousness of the stakes, or the competitiveness of the game, that time presses; it is owing to the urgency of the logical movement that the subject precipitates both his judgement and his departure (“precipitates” in the etymological sense of the verb: headlong), establishing the modulation in which temporal tension is reversed in a move to action [tendance à l’acte] manifesting to the others that the subject has concluded.” Ibid., 169.
13. Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, Livre X. L’angoisse (1962-1963), ed. JacquesAlain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 2004), 93. [My translation.]
14. After the moment of concluding in the prisoner’s sophism (often erroneously referred to as “the prisoner’s dilemma”), when the three of them go to the door, they immediately have to stop again (because the conclusion was based on the standing still of the others). It can be proven, however, that with three prisoners there will be only two halts needed for them to acquire absolute certainty about the color of the disk on their respective backs. In these halts the subjective interpretation of the other’s standing still as a hesitation becomes objectified and is empirically verifiable.
15. This is not the first time Lol Stein has been compared with the prisoner’s sophism. Erik Porge was the first to highlight the expression “count oneself three” [se compter trois] in “Homage to Marguerite Duras,” 122. See Porge, Se compter trois. Le temps logique de Lacan (Toulous: Erès, 1989), 146More recently, Eric Laurent has discussed Lol Stein from a “logical
time perspective” in “A Sophism of Courtly Love,” Lacanian Ink 20 (2000):
16. Lacan, “Logical Time,” 168.
17. See Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: Encore: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, (1972-1973), ed. Jacques-Alain When Love is the Law Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (London and New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998), 49: “But what warrants a closer look is what each of the subjects sustains (supporte), not insofar as he is one among others, but insofar as he is, in relation to the two others, what is at stake in their thinking. Each intervenes in this ternary only as the object a that he is in the gaze of the others.” 18. “Among the many aspects of the Town Beach ball, what fascinates Lol is the end. It is the precise moment when it comes to an end, when dawn arrives with incredible cruelty and separates her from the couple of Michael Richardson and Anne-Marie Stretter, forever, forever.” Duras, The Ravishing of Lol Stein, 36-37.
19. Ibid., 38. See also Ibid., 174. Asked about Lol, Duras replied that she could show her on screen, but only as hidden, “as when she is lying on the beach like a dead dog, covered in sand.” Marguerite Duras and Michelle Porte, Les Lieux de Marguerite Duras (Paris: Minuit, 1977), 100. [Editor’s translation.] The absence of shame indicates that Lol does not take a subjective distance from this sudden appearance of herself qua object a, incarnated by Anne-Marie Stretter.
20. The identification is “anticipatory” because there is no sufficient ground for it, since it must await the recognition by the Other. Lol seems to be paralyzed by this moment of jumping to a conclusion—her phrases are often unfinished and left in suspension. See Duras, The Ravishing of Lol Stein, 17, 85, 102, 127, 128, 141, 142, 146, 160, 161, 165.
21. One can later identify Jacques Hold as the narrator: “Tatiana introduces [Pierre] Beugner, her husband, to Lol, and [Jacques] Hold, a friend of theirs—the distance is covered—me.” Ibid., 65.
22. Lol, like prisoner (A), finds herself in the gaze of Michael Richardson (C), which is mediated by Anne-Marie Stretter (B), who was born, as we learn in India Song, under the name Anne-Marie Guardi. “Guardi” (son nom de Venise) means “to look” (many thanks to John Murphy for pointing this out). When the two leave, Lol does not lose her lover, Michael Richardson, but Michael Richardson and Anne Marie Stretter, resulting in her long illness: “When I woke up, they were gone. (Je me suis retrouvée sans eux.).” Ibid., 127.
23. Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, Livre VIII. Le transfert (1960-1961), ed. JacquesAlain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 2001), 67. [Editor’s Translation.]
24. See Lacan, Seminar XX, Encore, 40.
25. To keep this divine love for Himself would make God a miser, which should make Him ashamed in front of the “angels and the other beings.” The other person involved should engage in this ménage à trois, and even desire it, for if they do not this would be considered a “lack of charity” 168 Penumbra [defectus caritatis] and, again, would cause shame. See Richard de SaintVictor, La trinité, trans. Gaston Salet (Paris: Sources Chretiennes, 1969), 176, 197. [My translation.]
26. Thus the metaphor of love repeats the formula of the fantasy: ◇a.
These cultures, Freud says, already revealed the true function of the father as symbolic: the child, he says, will call by the name of “father” anyone who might have lawfully married her or his mother, anyone with the right clan name, the right totemic affiliation, and will address as “mother” any woman who might lawfully have born her or him. This marks an explicit separation between biological origin and symbolic identity. One might even say that these “primitive” institutions reveal more clearly the true structure of culture, whereas our “modern” family retains a confused and misleading resemblance to the “biological unit,” thereby sustaining an illusion of “nature” that conceals the true function of the family as a cultural institution.
INTRODUCTIONIn Freud’s opus, there are two basically different kinds of response to war.
The first consists of his direct, timely texts on war, the 1915 “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death,” and the 1935 exchange of letters with Albert Einstein entitled “Why War?” The second kind, involving a riskier strategy, is best represented in the critique of Jewish identity in Moses and Monotheism.
In this 1939 work, written amid the mounting persecution of Jews in Austria and Germany, Freud’s intention is to expose Jewish identity and show that Moses, the father of the race, was in fact an Egyptian. His critique of a Jewish fantasy of racial purity, despite its factual inaccuracies, is still an unparalleled theoretical gesture precisely because of the unusual direction it takes. To be sure, it applies no less to Germans who, identifying with a failed Austrian 170 Penumbra painter, had begun to see themselves as a new race of chosen people with an epochal mission.2 Instead of speaking of any particular armed conflict, I will follow this second, self-reflective strategy in this essay. After briefly introducing Jacques Lacan’s understanding of the father function, I will focus on Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus and Antigone in order to recall that the fundamental psychoanalytic figure—the figure of Oedipus—is grounded in a peculiar, restrictive notion of true fatherhood.3 I am turning to the familiar territory of Oedipus because literary analyses of the Theban tragedies have not explained what a father is in these plays,4 just as psychoanalytic discussions of the father function have come short of examining in sufficient detail the blueprint (Sophocles’ drama of Oedipus) after which the Oedipus complex is named.5 In addressing the tangle revolving around truth, the meaning of Oedipus’ blood, and fatherhood, this essay will revisit the nature/culture opposition in the form that Jacques Derrida’s “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” gives to it. With the help of Claude Lévi-Strauss, Derrida shows that this binary rests on the incest prohibition, which emerges as the condition for the possibility of both the notion of “nature” and the notion of “culture.” The conclusion to be drawn, however, is not that the incest prohibition is neither strictly natural nor cultural. Through the ban on incest, culture—or, rather, Culture—asserts itself as the only universal, the only possible human system over and against any other system, including “nature.” Thus, the prohibition (just like the nature/culture binary) constitutes the culture’s groundless or arbitrary, but still essential, defining ground.
Derrida’s text is particularly relevant for our present purposes because it gives a name to the shift Lacan makes when he explains, in the seminar on ethics to which we will turn below, that the father in psychoanalysis is not the actual father but the father function. In Derrida’s terms, this shift to the father function corresponds to a switch from one philosophical system (one cultural system as well) to another, from one notion of truth to another. In its movement from classical metaphysics and classical psychoanalysis (which supposes that there is a fixed center and an “actual” father) toward structuralism (which supposes that there is no center, that the center is displaced, and that the function of the father is not reducible to the actual father), philosophy, Derrida suggests, goes from understanding the system (the system of knowledge) as a spatial entity to attempting to think it as a functional entity. In his words: “it was necessary to begin thinking that there was no center…that the center had no natural site, that it was not a fixed locus but a function, a sort of nonlocus in which an infinite number of sign-substitutions came into play.”6 Lacan’s critique of the biological father, the former center of the family, is less than precise about the stakes of this differentiation between the socalled father progenitor or father begetter and the father function. Here is an example of the shift that accompanies Lacan’s reading of Antigone in Seminar Antigone’s Kind VII. Just after finishing his analysis of the tragedy, Lacan pauses to emphasize that, for psychoanalysis, “father” is a function not reducible to the actual, biological father. In support of this distinction, he cites the Latin proverb according to which the “father is he who acknowledges us,” pater is est quam justae nuptiae demonstrant. But then he adds that in psychoanalytic theory, “the sole function of the father is to be a myth, to be always only the Name-of-theFather, or in other words nothing more than the dead father.”7 If mentioning the dead father is supposed to explain the notion of fatherhood by convention presented in the proverb, Lacan’s formulation also endows the function with the sense of an inescapable, indomitable, ultimate principle that manifestly contradicts the proverb’s spirit of arbitrariness. The dead father is not simply a patriarch who is no longer potent, but now a mythical figure. He is, better put, a ghost, a mental function whose significance is crucially transformed by the fact that he is now an it, and it is no longer alive although it is still active. It is beyond remedy, reach, response—a perfect monument to the formerly living man.
The example of Oedipus that Lacan references only strengthens the equivalence between death and fatherhood and makes the stakes of the distinction between the biological father and the function even less clear. That the “father is he who acknowledges us” means, Lacan says, that “we are at bottom in the same boat [au même point] as Oedipus” (309). But, in Oedipus’ boat there are, at least from the perspective of Greek culture, two vastly different fathers. There is a true father and then there is an adoptive father.
There is a dead father and a living one. There is a father whom Oedipus knows and a father whom he does not know. The aim of Sophocles’ tragedy is nothing less than to distinguish between the two fathers: on the one hand, the king of Corinth, who receives Oedipus as a gift, and, on the other hand, Laius, who turns out to be phuteusas pater, the father progenitor or begetting father—though Oedipus never met him as his father.
The tragedy defines fatherhood not as a matter of acknowledgment, not as a matter of convention or metaphor, but as a hidden truth that can be discovered if one persists in a difficult, catastrophic search.8 The tragedy’s understanding of what makes a father runs counter to the quality of chance that the proverb identifies as proper to fatherhood. The play, further, relies on a notion of search celebrated in interpretations of Oedipus Tyrannus as the intellectual search par excellence, though this search is conducted with the blind faith that truth, itself endowed with an agency, does necessarily eventually reveal itself.
How and why I am turning to psychoanalysis in this essay should be obvious then: because the scene that is usually identified as central to psychoanalysis—the familial, Oedipal drama—and the law of the father that proceeds from this scene, decide the significance, the “nature” of family relations, as well as the nature of what is considered to be a true blood tie. I would 172 Penumbra like to dwell on the fact that Oedipus’ story is not only about unconscious desires and the incest prohibition. It is, firstly, a story that determines the basis for identifying true fathers and true blood, and only as such is it a story of patricide and incest.
What, indeed, is the boat that we are in if an Oedipus who killed his adoptive father would not, could not, be a psychoanalytic or a tragic hero?
PART I. ANTIGONE