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Desire in the era of neoliberalism: a lacanian reading of Haynes’ [safe]

In this paper, Lacanian psychoanalysis is employed to critically discuss notions concerning the subject’s desire in the era of neoliberalism. To do so, a quote by Margaret Thatcher is analysed through Lacan’s University discourse. By critically reflecting on this quote, neoliberal narratives surrounding accountability, ‘perfectibility’ and consumerism are explored through Lacanian theory. Parallels between Todd Haynes’ movie [SAFE] and Lacan’s notions of ‘divided subject’ and desire are critically reviewed within the neoliberal- University frame. The paper focuses on investigating how desire is exploited and manipulated by neoliberalism. It is argued that, in the neoliberal-University discourse, Lacan’s divided subject ($) – identified in Haynes’ movie with the character of Carol – deals with a particular type of alienation resulting from the demand of the neoliberal master for a whole, perfect subject (a). The Carol/$ is silenced within the modern neoliberal- University discourse, drowned by a constant noise (voice). In the final section, Kristeva’s and Ettinger’s notions of abjection and matrix respectively are discussed to forward both ways in which it is possible to resist the master signifier of neoliberalism; and to criticize Lacan’s conception of subjectivity.

“Melancholy as a Narcissistic Neurosis in Kristeva’s Soleil Noir”

Julia Kristeva approaches melancholia starting from Freud’s basic intuitions but she places it within a conceptual framework that pays lip service to semiotics and Lacan. In that sense she argues that one of the most distinctive characteristics of the melancholic is that he or she cannot find the words for loss. Meanwhile, the lost object belongs as such entirely to the ego. This is caused by the unnameable Thing, according to Kristeva, which comes as a result of the trauma of the pre-symbolic confrontation with the mother-figure. Kristeva illustrates her proposition with an analysis of Holbein’s work The Dead Christ. The aspect of a dead past continues to haunt throughout several degrees of depression and melancholy. In this way her position closely lines up with Freud’s concept of narcissistic neurosis as Freud extended this concept to psychosis. As a consequence, Kristeva’s position leads to a paradox: on the one hand she claims that melancholia is a particular aspect of psychopathology, whilst on the other, she attempts to grasp melancholia in a transnosographic way.

Interpretation as/of Fiction. Julia Kristeva’s point of view

In this article, the author examines the validity of an interpretation of literature based on psychoanalytical theory. In the first part, he considers the metaphor that compares the text to a woman and the woman to a text, and investigates the relationship between the (psychoanalytical) interpretation of desire, and the desire for interpretation itself. Is the place where a text longs for an interpretation not also the place where the interpreter yearns for his long lost object a? Moreover, is the text, like an accomplished femme fatale, not able to use this desire against us? The author argues that any reading of a text is influenced by this desire. This makes it impossible to master a text, just as it was impossible for Sigmund Freud and his literary pendant Sherlock Holmes, both outwitted by the women they believed they mastered. In the second part of the paper, the author gives an overview of the theoretical work of Julia Kristeva, who rejects too rigid an opposition between the word and the body, between the symbolic father and the pre-oedipal mother. This also implies that our bodily desire and our knowledge are inseparably linked. In the last part of the text, Kristeva’s theory is used to propose an alternative reading strategy, as a mixture of jouissance and savoir, a strategy that creates, rather than discovers, truth. Opposed to the idea of an absolute Truth, as much as resisting an absolute nihilism, reading is presented as an act that brings us “in process”. If every theory is an imaginary construction, a fiction, Kristeva shows us the importance of this fiction in giving the subject the chance to create a poetic language for his desire.