Medusa’s gaze: The panoptical ideal questioned

In the 18th century Bentham proposed the idea of the panopticon as a reliable method for exercising power. By capturing the gaze, the guard owns the power of seeing in order to force the prisoner to submit. In this way, the undesirable behaviour of the prisoner can be suppressed. In the 1970’s there were several interesting commentaries: Foucault (philosophical) and Miller (psychoanalytic). This article examines the effects of a panoptical architecture, starting from concrete experiences. A clinical fragment will allow us to argue that the panopticon cannot guarantee the one-sidedness of the gaze (namely, on the part of the guard). As a consequence the panopticon has not only suppressing effects, but is also a possible ground for transgression.