‘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.

What is at Stake in Lacanian Theory

It is argued that what is at stake in psychoanalytic theory, is first of all psychoanalytic practice, i.e. the endeavour to guide the psychoanalyst in bringing his conception of his experience above the level of common sense knowledge. Secondly, psychoanalytic theory must be constructed in such a way that it holds out from a scientific point of view. More specifically, Lacanian theory is a theory on the subject, on desire and on jouissance and must be situated in the intersection of cognitivism (the symbolic) and ethology (the imaginary), while it introduces a third dimension, that of the jouissance (the real). Furthermore, it is argued that psychoanalysis discovered that in the human animal language has emancipated itself from its operational function in that it parasitizes and transforms animal jouissance.

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The Laws of Repetition, A Meditation

In this meditation, the author enumerates, in reference to his clinical practise as well as to his reading of Freud and Lacan, six laws of repetition: 1. repetition is continuous; 2. repetition operates in function of life; 3. repetition does not come down to mere reproduction but exists only through variation; 4. in repetition, smaller and bigger “rounds” are to be differentiated; 5. repetition operates in function of the cruelty of jouissance; 6. when one realizes that, beyond any mastering of the smaller rounds of repetition, the big round finds its way, then it already is too late.

Automutilation: A Clinical Fragment. Frederic. Who was (I for) my Mother? A Dangerous Quest

In this article the author reports on his clinical work with a young man who is severely automutilating. Still very young, the patient is not only confronted with the death of his mother but moreover with a dead and unbearable silence about it. If, during adoles¬cence, the original trauma in a retroactive movement is reactivated, this results in whole¬sale autodestruction. Based in clinical conversation material, a number of dynamics that could ground automutilation are explored. It is argued that when the subject cannot contemplate his place in the desire of the first Other, that a break-through of the real takes place which produces an unlimited jouissance. The author also defends the assertion that working with these patients demands that the therapist takes up an active position. Signi¬fiers must be offered in order to protect the subject against a destructive confrontation with the real. This is only possible within a therapeutic alliance where trust and safety are sufficiently guaranteed.

Oedipus, Freud’s dream

It is argued that Freud’s analysis of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex should be read in the context of his Interpretation of Dreams. There it figures in the chapter on typical dreams of the death of beloved persons, dreams from which Freud infers a murderous desire directed to the father. Later, Freud admitted that this view involved his own reaction to the death of his father. For Freud, the latter constitutes the most importance experience in a man’s life. From then onwards however, the theme of the murder of the father is revealed as a fantasm that hides the castration of the father with which the son is confronted when his own father dies. With reference to the hellenistic commentaries on Oedipus Rex, a Lacanian interpretation of the tragedy is proposed. It is argued that Oedipus Rex is the tragedy of the subject and his responsibility when Mythical discourse was replaced by the Master discourse, in which the Master figures both as father of a castrated reality and as mythical father who escapes castration. Castration consists precisely of the loss of jouissance introduced by the Master discourse. Eventually it is argued that, for Lacan, the castration complex comes down to the truth of the Oedipus complex.

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