On the Staging of Fundamental Fantasy, Jouissance and Gaze in Stanley Kubrick’s Cinematography: A Lacanian Perspective

This essay is based on the public defence of a dissertation in which the cinematography of Stanley Kubrick is analysed in light of Lacan’s concepts of fundamental fantasy, jouissance and gaze. Four of Kubrick’s films are discussed and located in the academic literature and the methodological and theoretical frameworks are outlined. In the thesis it is proposed that the narratives of these four films are underpinned by a concrete scenario of a fundamental fantasy: “C observes: A overpowers B”, and that this scenario forms the basis of both the staging of a taxonomy of jouissance and of the evocation of the gaze as instance of the object a. In conclusion, it is outlined how these findings align with the methodological point of departure of the research project.

Gaze and responsibility in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashōmon

Akira Kurosawa’s movie Rashōmon (1950) is traditionally referred to as a clear illustration of the subjectivity of human perception and memory. However, the notion of the so-called Rashōmon effect reflects only a superficial reading of Kurosawa’s film. It is argued, both from a historical and from a psychoanalytic point of view, that the filmmaker’s interpretation of the medieval Japanese story addresses two important distinctions, far beyond the reach of traditional psychological research: 1, the distinction between perception and gaze, and 2, the distinction between guilt and responsibility. It is further argued that in addressing these two distinctions, Rashōmon, upon its release in 1950, confronted the world (and not just the regimes of the Japanese Empire and the Nazis) with its responsibility for the atrocities of World War II.

‘Full Metal Jacket’: How Kubrick Staged Fundamental Fantasy, Jouissance and Gaze

This article analyzes Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) in the light of Lacan’s concepts of the (fundamental) fantasy, jouissance and the gaze. We criticize McGowan’s (2007) thesis that Kubrick’s staging of the gaze and fantasy confronts spectators with a blind spot for the obscene underside of authority. Firstly, we refer to McGowan’s statement that Kubrick’s cinema reflects fantasy’s quality of structure. Where McGowan does not indicate what kind of fantasy structure these films stage, we argue that Full Metal Jacket is underpinned by the concrete scenario of the fundamental fantasy: “C observes: A overpowers B”. Secondly, we criticize McGowan’s tendency to univocally link Kubrick’s depiction of derailed father figures with the real-life functioning of authority. By referring to Freud’s early theory on the etiology of hysteria and Lacan’s interpretation of Freud’s (1919e) article “A Child is Being Beaten”, we argue that the film’s staging of its main authority figure – the drill instructor – also illustrates how the fantasy of the abusive father can function as a mediator for the fantasizing subject’s own jouissance. Finally, we question McGowan’s remark that, despite Kubrick’s staging of the gaze, the director’s cinema ultimately leaves spectators “unscathed”. Building upon other academic analyses and press reviews of the film, we argue that Full Metal Jacket does not leave spectators unharmed. On the contrary, we hypothesize that the gaze appears when the viewer loses his distance from the film’s depictions of violence, by momentarily coinciding with a vanishing point of jouissance himself.

Forgotten voids in the Gaze. On Melancholia

The author reports on some structuring moments in the etiological history of melancholia from a metapsychological point of view. It is argued that this clinical picture tends to be too readily categorised as psychotic, leaving open the question of its psychic structure. Freud’s findings from the article “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917e [1915]) are examined along with the work of M.-C. Lambotte (1993) and J. Hassoun (1995). Melancholia is described as suffering caused by a lack of symbolisation of object a, through which mourning is made possible. The focus is on a crucial etiological moment in the very coming into being of the subject. This moment is connected to a failed inscription of the desire of the first Other. The importance of the gaze on the object of desire emerges – in more than just its metaphoric dimension – as determining for identification and the libidinal economy of the subject. This primordial identification contains a nothingness, a void, which is related to the way in which the father appears in the discourse of the mother (Hassoun). Furthermore it is revealed that an original experience of pleasure, followed by a “catastrophic moment”, provides an explanation for the nihilistic discourse of the melancholic; it is the void in the place of the desire of the Other, which will become libidinally, i.e., symbolically, cathected (Lambotte). This sequence of an original experience of pleasure followed by a “catastrophic moment” allows melancholia to be characterised as an affliction of a specific impossible loss, namely, the loss of the desire of the mother which was once enjoyed.

Sign Languages, Oral Expression and Writing. On the Writing of a Sign Language – French Bilingual Book

Sign languages, and among them French Belgian Sign Language (LSFB), illustrate that the embodiment of language can take different forms. Sign languages demonstrate that sound does not define linguistic ability and that a phoneme is not a sound. The gaze that the signer addresses to an interlocutor organizes the signer’s body and the surrounding space into a grammatical space. A recent experience of editing a bilingual book (in LSFB and in French) devoted to the linguistic issues of teaching in sign language raises several questions: about the status similarity/difference (oral vs. written?) between sign language and sign language video; about the heterogeneity of written practices by Deaf people; and about the particularity of translating a written text into a signed discourse.