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The recurrent image in The Wind Will Carry Us of Behzad running about, trying to pick up a better signal for his mobile phone, brings to mind the historic debates over wiretapping in the U.S. During these debates, it was argued that privacy was not localizable in a delimited space that might then be ruled out of reach to the State, but was rather attached to the subject and remained inviolable no matter where a citizen might be, in public or in private space. This argument exemplifies the ideology of freedom on the basis of which the West opposes the hejab system and regards itself as superior to the Islamic world and its doctrine of submission. Yet the belief that the subject has property in the self, property privately held, is clearly untenable in the face of shame, which counts on publicity to dispossess the subject of that which it can never assume as property. On the other hand, the chivalry of the Islamic State can only strike one as a defensive posture, and raises the question whether the State’s interpretation of submission is as radical as it needs to be or simply an avoidance of its deepest implications.

In any case, we owe this entire speculation to the modesty system’s strict regulation of cinema, which, by obliging filmmakers to film mainly exterior spaces, set Kiarostami the task of demonstrating that interiority is not only compatible with, but dependent upon, the existence of an all-exterior world.


1. Imam Khomeini, “Address at Bihisht-i Zahra,” in Islam and Revolution:

Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini, trans. Hamid Algar (Berkeley:

Mizan Press, 1981), 254-60. This speech, delivered on February 2, 1979, at a cemetery outside Tehran where martyrs of the Islamic Revolution were buried, took place the day after Khomeini arrived in Tehran from his exPenumbra ile in Paris.

2. The regulations aimed at “Islamicizing” Iranian cinema were ratified, and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance instituted them in February

1983. Hamid Naficy provides the most comprehensive and cogent analysis of the impact of these regulations on Iranian films; I rely heavily on his account. See, in particular, his “Veiled Vision/Powerful Presences: Women in Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema,” in Life and Art: The New Iranian Cinema, ed. Rose Issa and Sheila Whitaker (London: NFT and BFI, 1999).

3. The source of my information about the relation between Raphael Patai’s The Arab Mind and the strategy of “shaming” adopted by the U.S. at Abu Ghraib is Seymour M. Hersh, “The Gray Zone: How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib,” New Yorker, May 24, 2004, 38. All quotations in this paragraph are from Hersh’s essay.

4. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).

5. Ibid., 41.

6. Ibid., 37. On this paradox, see also Stanley Cavell, Must We Mean What

We Say?: A Book of Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976):

“Shame […] is the most isolating of feelings,” but also “the most primitive of social responses,” the “simultaneous discovery of the isolation of the individual; his presence to himself, but simultaneously to others” (286).

References to this paradox are widespread and not limited to these exemplary instances.

7. Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, trans.

Daniel Heller-Roazen (New York: Zone Books, 1999), 110, 107.

8. Sedgwick, Touching Feeling, 37.

9. Hamid Dabashi’s otherwise highly informative Close-Up: Iranian Cinema Past, Present and Future (London: Verso, 2001) explodes in its final chapter into an unfair (to my mind) rant against The Wind Will Carry Us.

10. Emmanuel Levinas, On Escape, trans. Bettina Bergo (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 52. For further discussion of Levinas and shame, see my “May ’68, the Emotional Month,” in Lacan: The Silent Partners, ed.

Slavoj Žižek (London: Verso, 2006), 90-114.

11. My implication is that we should also look to Islamic philosophy for a theory of the “unfinished past.” See, for example, Henry Corbin’s “Prologue” to his study of Islamic philosophy in Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shi’ite Iran, trans. Nancy Pearson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977): “Our authors suggest that if our past were really what we believe it to be, that is, completed and closed, it would not be the grounds of such vehement discussions. They suggest that all our acts The Censorship of Interiority of understanding are so many recommencements, re-iterations of events still unconcluded” (xv).

12. Rudi Visker, in Truth and Singularity: Taking Foucault into Phenomenology (Dordrect: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999), adopts this same phrase in conformity with Lacan’s definition of anxiety as “not without object.” Arriving at shame through anxiety, Visker offers a theory of the former similar to my own, even though he does not focus on the question of jouissance. The idea of a paradoxical, rootless root can be traced backed to Heidegger’s discussion of imagination in his Kantbook.

13. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Dennis Porter (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992), 71.

14. Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 155.

15. Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire de Jacques Lacan, Livre VIII: Le transfert, ed.

Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 1991), 155.

16. Sigmund Freud, Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (hereafter SE), ed. and trans. James Strachey et al. (London: Hogarth Press, 1953-1974), 20: 77Analysis shows that when activities like […] writing […] are subjected to neurotic inhibitions it is because […] the fingers […] have become too strongly eroticized. It has been discovered as a general fact that the ego-function of an organ is impaired if its erotogenicity—its sexual significance—is increased. It behaves, if I may be allowed a rather absurd analogy, like a maid-servant who refuses to go on cooking because her master has started a love-affair with her” (89-90).

17. Ibid., 84.

18. Jean-Luc Nancy notes the instability of the earth in Kiarostami’s films in his excellent study, The Evidence of Film: Abbas Kiarostami, trans. Christine Irizarry and Verena Andermatt Conley (Brussels: Yves Gevaert, 2001).

19. David Sterritt, “Taste of Kiarostami” (interview with Abbas Kiarostami), http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/00/9/kiarostami.html.

20. Michel Ciment and Stéphane Goudet, “Une approche existentialiste de la vie” (interview with Abbas Kiarostami), Positif 442 (December, 1997), 85;

also cited in Stéphane Goudet, “Le Gout de la cerise…et la saveur de la mure,” L’Avant Scene 471 (April 1998), 1.

21. See Lacan, Ethics.

22. Qur’an, 50:16. For a fascinating discussion of the way Ibn ‘Arabî interprets this notion, see Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination 264 Penumbra and the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabî, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969).

23. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 213.

24. Ibid.

25. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 26-27.

26. Freud, The Ego and the Id, SE 19:38; my emphasis.

27. Quoted in Carl D. Schneider, Shame, Exposure, and Privacy (New York: W.W.

Norton & Company, 1977), 38.

28. See Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth for a discussion of this idea in medieval Islamic philosophy.

29. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Washington Square Press, 1956), 369.

30. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concept of Psycho-Analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alain Sheridan (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), 182.

31. Ibid., 84-85; my emphasis.

32. Again, see my “May ’68: the Emotional Month.”

33. Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz, 103-104.

34. This is obviously a description of a scene from the film Stella Dallas (King Vidor, 1937).

35. Joan Riviere, “Womanliness as a Masquerade,” in Formations of Fantasy, ed. Victor Burgin, James Donald, and Cora Kaplan (London: Routledge, 1986), 37. All subsequent quotations in this paragraph are to be found on page 37 of Riviere’s essay.

36. I have used the translation of Forugh’s poem by Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, which is cited in Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and Jonathan Rosenbaum, Abbas Kiarostami (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 33-34.

37. Havelock Ellis, quoted in Schneider, Shame, Exposure, and Privacy, 60.

38. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 50.

–  –  –

In Seminar XX; Encore, Lacan offers his famous definition of love as “the displacement of the negation from the “stops not being written” to the “doesn’t stop being written.”1 It is to this “point of suspension,” he claims, that is, the point between the contingency of the “stops not being written” and the necessity of the “doesn’t stop being written” that “all love is attached” (Encore, 145). As is well known, the thing whose questionable scriptivity Lacan is referring to in this formula is the sexual relationship. Lacan repeatedly maintains in his later seminars that the sexual relationship cannot be written. A strict impossibility, the sexual relationship is the “sole part of the real that cannot manage to be formed from being” he says (Encore, 48). Nevertheless, as is also well-known, something makes up for the sexual relationship’s absence (albeit always inadequately, as Lacan also constantly reminds us, Encore, 45). This something is writing itself.

Precisely what Lacan means by writing will clearly require further investigation. Closely associated with love in Lacan’s later seminars, it transpires that ‘writing’ will enable a formalization to take place that is not entirely ruled by the phallic signifier. Yet, as we will also see, this is not to say that writing has nothing to do with signifier and its regime of law. On the contrary, the bar between signifier and signified “is precisely the point at which, in every use of language, writing may be produced,” Lacan claims (Encore, 34).

We can make our initial way in to the problem by recalling how, in Seminar XX, Lacan refers to the remarkable leap set theory makes when it posits our 266 Penumbra ability to group disparate objects together and declare them to be One. More momentous, however, than this declaration of the One, whose creation ex nihilo Lacan identifies throughout his teachings with the birth of modern science, is the way that set theory additionally grants us “the right to designate the resulting assemblage by a letter” (Encore, 47). In very much the same way that the signifier One comes to stand in for the grouped objects in modern science’s discovery, the letter in set theory performs a similar substitutive role.

Yet despite a certain synchronism of the two gestures, Lacan cautions in this seminar that the letter is of a different order than the signifier. The written, he says, “is in no way in the same register or made of the same stuff,... as the signifier” (Encore, 29). This is because, insofar as the letter constitutes an assemblage, it necessarily brings into play a second-order formalization or abstraction whose advance on modern science can be put as follows: with the letter comes the ability to deal simultaneously with multiple Ones.

We can understand this better if we pursue the thread Lacan dangles at the close of his lesson of February 20, 1971, when he concludes that “it is no accident that Kierkegaard discovered existence in a seducer’s little love affair” (Encore, 77). In what follows, I propose to examine not the Diary of a Seducer that Lacan is probably referring to, but another, somewhat less wellknown text from Either/Or, the chapter on Eugene Scribe’s comedy, Les premiers amours.2


Little introduction is needed for Kierkegaard’s major work, whose conceit is outlined in the opening chapters. Either/Or is a collection of essays, supposedly discovered and gathered together by the work’s editor, one Victor Eremita. The work is composed of two parts, the initial half authored by the aesthetic figure Eremita calls A, and the second, by an ethical individual, Judge William, whom Eremita designates B. Either/Or presents arguments in support of the aesthetic and ethical ways of life. In the sixth chapter of Either, the text we will be dealing with here, A reviews Scribe’s comedy Les premiers amours. In Scribe’s play, A finds a superlative expression of his aesthetic theory that he has been developing so far.

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