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The Spirit Medium: Yeats, Quantum Visions, and Recent Lacanian Studies
Daniel T. O’Hara
Introduction: Working Assumptions My work has taken a strange yet not unexpected turn. As the title of this unconventional review essay may suggest, it has recently centered, if that is the word, on strands of discourses—literary, scientiﬁc, psychoanalytic—which have one thing in common that I now understand has been my critical focus from the beginning of my career: visionary language and its cultural effects, particularly its promise, to the visionary thinker, of becoming divine, in the form of symbolic immortality. That Professor O’Hara ﬁnally understands what he has been doing, however, is not necessarily of interest even to a small public. My newfound self-understanding preceded by only several months
The following essay-review seeks to outline a problem—the failure of contemporary critical discourse to address in a sustained and serious way the various global phenomena gathered under the term religion—and a possible analytic solution, which is the elaboration of an approach out of the Lacanian conception of ‘‘the real.’’ Such an approach to religion would begin to speak, in the case of Yeats, the topic of my next book, of the unorthodox occult subject of religion, but on a basis of critical intimacy rather than distance.
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the events of September 11th. My primary working assumption nowadays is that the World Trade Center catastrophe made visible and underscored in an unforgettable manner what has been emerging for some time: not a new world order but a new dark ages. In saying this, I do not assume that any side in the continuing political and military struggles represents ‘‘civilization.’’ In fact, I assume that all parties to the new global conﬂict are representatives of a new terror, a new terror that, ironically enough, demonstrates the greatest continuity in human history, that of religious vision. Our species may or may not constitute the earth as an ascetic planet, but it surely has made it, and will continue to make it, now with an awful vengeance, an unearthly realm. My corollary assumption, therefore, is that the Enlightenment, with all its critical ‘‘posts’’ and ‘‘modernities,’’ is over. I know that such an apocalyptic perspective is easily derided as irrational. But in light of the last century and a half of history, the most rational conclusion would seem to be precisely that reason, as theorized in the Enlightenment and after, simply does not exist. Or, if it does exist, in its secular, humane, and progressive modes, it does so, as it has always done, in a few selective cases, for a few moments at a time, in highly selective circumstances, with no predictable or consistent inﬂuence on anyone’s praxis, not even on those few rational beings. Reason, if it really occurs in humans, is, in short, virtually a miracle. My next assumption is, then, that the grand modern experiment to educate all peoples according to the Enlightenment ideal of progressive scientiﬁc, critical reason has failed without recourse or possibility of remediation. The United States of America is now a bona ﬁde empire with an imperial civic religion of its own, and for understandable and other causes, it is at war with all other religious cultures in the world today. Consequently, what I think we must now do is not only explore the worldly effects of unworldly visions but appropriate as best we can the traditions of vision in our own and other cultures so as to promote the possibility, sometime much later in human history (if any), of a basis for critical appreciation, understanding, and discussion. What follows is a ﬁrst small attempt in this process of critical appropriation in my own case. Redeeming the time, in this modest fashion, is the best I think we can hope to do now and for some time to come. Unless, of course, we discover, as Yeats did in A Vision (originally published in 1925, then revised and reprinted in 1937), that we must promulgate a new divinity of our own.
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and left but memories. And thereupon imagination and heart were driven So wild that every casual thought of that and this Vanished. Yeats also feels singularly responsible ‘‘for all the past mistakes’’ in his relationship with Gonne that are now ‘‘torturing’’ his ‘‘peace of mind. W. pared-down. as the books say. Hereafter. Tseng 2002. Volume 1: The Poems. rev.: Stanford University Press.’’ The poem’s dreamlike. Richard J. Yeats.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 93 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 89 1 ‘‘The Cold Heaven’’ is a twelve-line mock Miltonic sonnet (mock because it is shortchanged by two lines) collected in W. 2d ed. when he tells her in a letter that ‘‘it was an attempt to describe the feelings aroused’’ in him ‘‘by the cold detached sky in winter. Mediums. ed. Finneran. A New Commentary on the Poems of W. 1984). Yeats claims. 124. ‘‘The Cold Heaven’’ originally appeared in The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1910). so its composition was sometime between 1905 and 1909. published in 1914. Norman Jeffares. ‘‘momentary intensity of perception’’ is made more poignant for him. Foster argues that the new set of séances Yeats attended during this period and his careful rereading of Emanuel Swedenborg for his essay. B. B. Confusion of the death-bed over. 1997). this work will be cited parenthetically as Poems. Yeats’s personal history but 1. B. 124. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken. and the Desolate Places. B. colloquial style [here] ran a stream of obscure reference not only to W.’’ in The Collected Works of W. that should be out of season With the hot blood of youth. Yeats. Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro. Yeats explains the poem’s general intention to Maud Gonne in 1912. is it sent Out naked on the roads. And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason.’’ pay off with a big dividend in creative work. B.’’ Feeling alone. and stricken By the injustice of the skies for punishment? 3 In the ﬁrst volume of his recent biography. 2. Yeats’s poetic volume Responsibilities. Riddled with light. ‘‘Swedenborg. R. by the memory of his unrequited love for her:2 Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice. as ‘‘The Cold Heaven’’ particularly demonstrates: Under the elliptical.1 The exact date of composition is not known. of love crossed long ago. (New York: Scribner. Calif. 3. ‘‘The Cold Heaven. completed in 1914.6. A. F.28 07:47 . Yeats (Stanford.
My own view of the poem would go speculatively further into biographical and esoteric sources alike.’’ 6 For in 4. 6. I suggest that ‘‘The Cold Heaven’’ arises out of the emotional turmoil produced in Yeats by Maud Gonne’s correspondence with him early in January 1905. A Life (330–58). and the Desolate Places’’ was composed by 1914. perhaps. Mediums. 490.6. Gonne’s daughter by her French paramour. ghosts and dreams come together in a passionate fusion. A Life. the speculative conclusion is my own. I think. We could instead understand it better. in which she informs him why she is ﬁnally ﬁling for divorce from her husband. B. Mac Bride’s stinging abuse and brutal assaults. the seventeenth-century neoPlatonist and occult speculator. not only does he seduce the seventeen-year-old Eileen Wilson. in ‘‘The Cold Heaven. Mediums. Yeats could well imagine in his passionate brooding. and Henry Moore. W. Lucien Millevoyeve. Yeats.’’ remakes his style. then revised off and on until it was ﬁnally published in nearly its original form in 1920. as Foster indicates. ‘‘Swedenborg. Major John Mac Bride. Ezra Pound’s insistent complaints about the sloppy sentimentality of his early poetry. Tseng 2002. 5. [Although the] conﬂuence was not always successful [in other poems of the time]. the lacerating memory of his failure with Gonne and his themes of death. that if he had prevailed on Gonne rather than failed and turned away from her. W. but he has sexually molested the eleven-year-old Iseult. B. at certain points the combination of personal testament and [occult] ideas produced a sort of controlled poetic explosion. Although I draw from Foster. Gonne’s half-sister.4 Inspired by Herbert Grierson’s edition of John Donne’s sinewy poetic irony. with the aid of his visionary essay. Yeats’s ‘‘Swedenborg. desperately looking back at where his life had gone. I suspect. Staring at a winter sky. F. ‘‘The Cold Heaven’’ concentrates the inﬂuence of these years. the eighteenthcentury Swedish mystic. 1998). Yeats.28 07:47 . making himself ‘‘modern’’ in the process but without ever giving up on his supernatural preoccupations.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 94 of 191 90 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 to his supernatural investigations. Not only is Mac Bride a drunkard and physically abusive toward her. and the Desolate Places. Volume 1: The Apprentice Mage (New York: Oxford University Press. Yeats’s response to this mother’s and daughter’s savage degradation and abjection is not just one more example of his grandiosely self-regarding narcissism. Foster. R.5 This biographical subtext accounts for the tremendous force of ‘‘the poetic explosion’’ (in Foster’s words) of the poem’s concluding three and a half lines. he could have spared her and Iseult. Yeats. and his own critical scrutiny of Swedenborg.
Volume 5: Later Essays. like one of the great dead or the Daimons or the denizens of Dante’s Inferno. If so. 124).’’ in The Collected Works of W. the narcissistic process of transference and identiﬁcation with the victims of Mac Bride’s drunken lusts. a consenting of all our faculties’’ to the divine possession of the soul. Yeats receives instruction in human suffering. Yeats. ‘‘riddled with light.’’ 8 I do not think it is too far-fetched to say that in ‘‘The Cold Heaven. Yeats. ‘‘when the ghost quickens. and diabolical desire. as his terror reveals itself in the poem. the complete circuit of existence. likewise takes out.’’ may we not assume the possibility that his poetic soul also experiences an entirely unwanted possession. as well. monster and maiden—or mother! By means of the violent usurpation of such total dispossession of self. then. beyond what common sense would presume reasonable. must foreclose from his experience—the recognition of his own awful status within his conscious mind. Yeats states the ﬁrst principle of his occult faith: ‘‘We must excite the whole being into activity if we would offer to God what is. immediately after death. the one thing germane to the matter [of such faith]. and visions: ‘‘Meanwhile those who have loved or fought. ‘‘Swedenborg. Tseng 2002. 50. ‘‘see one another in the unfolding of a dream. As such. ‘‘out of all sense and reason. it also stages what Mac Bride.7 The round of reincarnations Yeats expects for the soul exists to perfect such ‘‘consent. on the basis of the poetic use of his occult vision. ed. as such. being for the moment. like vic7. for the colloquialism means ‘‘both ‘to an extent far beyond what common-sense could justify’ and ‘beyond the reach of sensation’’’ (Poems. desires. Mediums. W. abjection.’’ both victim and victimizer. in taking all the blame upon himself. that of Mac Bride’s position? In this horrible fusion of degradation. B. it may be. the soul may lose all its bearings and take in its turn imaginative possession of a dead relative’s mortal life history.’’ which he pictures as climaxing in a violent usurpation of individual human control by the supernatural force of union and in which. ‘‘Swedenborg. Not only does ‘‘The Cold Heaven’’ stage. like any victimizer. Yeats. or that their lips are formed in a kiss. leaving himself. B.28 07:47 . William H. Yeats momentarily knows.’’ in Collected Works.’’ now makes full sense. and the Desolate Places. O’Donnell (New York: Scribner.’’ Yeats may be ﬁnding himself imaginatively in Gonne’s and her daughter’s torturous position. 1994). believing it may be that they wound one another or kill one another. the ironic ambiguity inherent in the Irish expression in line seven of the poem. severing arms or hands. experiences. 5:51. 8.6. losing itself in its passionate mixture of memories. extracts or withdraws. Yeats. all sense and reason.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 95 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 91 this essay.’’ for example.
’’ 10 As we see here. via the magic ritual of his poetry. a source of punishment and transgression alike. the poem and its poetics provide a guide for our better understanding of ourselves as makers of discourse.’’ which involves asking the question of how critics can best speak of what Yeats is typically doing in his poetry—typically doing not just for him but for any imaginative writer. ‘‘The injustice of the skies’’ is thus. his ofﬁcial proclamation of ‘‘a new divinity. 1925 edition of A Vision. B. riddled with the dark light of uncanny knowledge: ‘‘I shall ﬁnd the dark grow luminous. Highlighting this problem of the poverty of critical discourse. Yeats. constitutes the ultimate reason for my opening analysis of ‘‘The Cold Heaven. broadly speaking. whatever the kind.’’ For if I am at all right about it. would correct some aspect of existence by intervening deﬁnitively in the course of nature and effect substantial change. the void fruitful.28 07:47 . at least for one visionary moment at a time. First. 10. that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen of the soul a passing-bell. W. religious or otherwise. like the heaven of Zeus. Tseng 2002. assumes momentarily the torturous symbolic position of a mortal god. Such technical magic. with respect to. Per Amica Silentia Lunae (1917). can look forward to this presumed Gnostic privilege of a promised divinity. the ﬁrst. 1938). I have spent so much time laying out Yeats’s poetics of visionary metamorphosis in ‘‘The Cold Heaven’’ for several reasons.’’ 9 Only the ghost of the newly dead.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 96 of 191 92 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 tim and victimizer at the moment of their terrible conjunction. This last difﬁcult point brings me to my next reason for elaborating the poetics of ‘‘The Cold Heaven. W. Yeats uses the occult belief in what in Ireland is called ‘‘the confusion of the bedside. most of the major elements of his ‘‘system’’ predate in his work. Yeats. A Vision: A Reissue with the Author’s Final Revisions (London and New York: The Macmillan Co. Let me pause at this point to dilate a bit on what I see is at stake here. would become divine. Yeats’s exploratory imaginative techniques are becoming creative instruments of spiritual transformation. and of institutions. transformed by such tragic knowledge. often by many years. B. like all forms of techne (or technology in the most general sense).. in Yeats’s visionary system. the religious motive informing literary activity. Yeats. 27. The poet. by 1912–1914. in Collected Works.6.’’ the newly dead person’s sudden awakening into the afterlife with his or her already dead ancestors engaging in a tug-of-war for the neophyte 9. The paradigmatic expression of such a constitutive human motivation may best be found in Yeats’s poetic and rhetorical project. as recent Yeats studies have increasingly recognized. 5:9. when I understand that I have nothing.
that Yeats is experiencing in the poem. in the context of this essay. of earlier attempts by post-Enlightenment thinkers and writers—Kierkegaard. science. I take him to mean: The prosthetic extensions of humanity via a great variety of technologies both capture and release new knowledge of reality.6. But I also think that these beliefs not only realize what Yeats already knows. claims in so many words that man cannot know truth but he can embody it. even if at the unconscious level. aesthetic. without a destructive reductiveness. if this is granted to be so. not available to him in any other way. I am aware. it will be left with the dismal alternatives of unthinking dismissal or lowest-commondenominator stereotyping. I choose the Lacanian register because. Religion. strikingly emblematic of states of mind or moods. Pound. as a tool or technique for realizing an essentially psychological condition. admittedly in a sketchy manner. Walter Benjamin. When Yeats. is the process by which all technologies of vision—religious. to discuss the reality of literature’s religious dimension? Which one or ones of criticism’s ‘‘idiolects’’ will permit criticism in this sense to disclose a prophetic vision? In asking this question. otherwise. the revisionary psychoanalytic framework Lacan produces. scientiﬁc. what possibilities the Lacanian ideolect offers. I am trying to avoid the horns of this dilemma here by discovering. I believe. I suppose each generation must repeat anew such attempts in its own way. Yeats’s occultism becomes an archive of unconventional or at least esoteric conceits. for critical discourse. In this sense. and Lacan’s ever changing theoretical focus (the imaginary. I realize that I have uttered ‘‘ﬁghting words’’ to many of today’s crit- Tseng 2002. of course. We can look at this use of occult belief instrumentally. allowing him to put on or assume new experiences. I think Yeats’s occult beliefs do function in this imaginative.28 07:47 . technologies of vision. Is it possible. what have you—operate across the disciplines. despite its considerable difﬁculties of clarity. even occult or magical technique. in order to explore and dramatize the acquisition of tragic knowledge. and Harold Bloom come to mind—to discover a discourse that would be adequate to the task of understanding religious phenomena rather than simply explaining it away. affords the necessary systematic attention to what Lacan calls the symbolic order and what I would call. no matter how alien or terrible. or formalistic way. literary. the symbolic. of course. but also genuinely extend his knowledge. as victim and victimizer. This extension of knowledge via technique. Kenneth Burke.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 97 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 93 specter’s loyalty. literature—these three discourses (and others could also be adduced) are essentially visionary in this respect. consistency. shortly before his death. the real). and coherence.
Whether they follow the critiques of Judith Butler or those of Stephen Greenblatt or Edward W.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 98 of 191 94 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 ics. 2 In the remainder of this essay. I. also uses the Lacanian real in delineating religious phenomena. in Beyond Sexuality (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. which I ﬁnd best suited to my purposes: Jean-Michel Rabaté’s edited collection of critical essays by various hands. professional literary and cultural critics generally accept the notion that what Lacan calls ‘‘the symbolic order’’ is merely a Western patriarchal alibi of ritual institutional practices. like God. discursive and otherwise. Besides Žižek (see note 16). we may just discover the transhistorical dimensions of the symbolic order informing the visionary strains in culture. 2000). following the example of Slavoj Žižek. in the light or darkness of which the visionary moment in literature takes on its value for me. I must say something further about my own critical perspective. . Tim Dean. and Jean Michel-Rabaté. 2001). . See.. For it appears to me that the symbolic order does name something that transcends—naturally. To test out this hypothesis. the passage beginning on p. however. 11.28 07:47 . ed. want to ﬁnd out if this view of the symbolic order is true or merely a caricature. and just one particular ideology (crudely but clearly put) among many other discursive possibilities. Lacan in America (New York: Other Press. however. Jacques Lacan: Psychoanalysis and the Subject of Literature. 2000). however. Lacan in America. Said’s more nuanced criticisms.’’ Tseng 2002. Jean-Michel Rabaté.’’ and ‘‘experience’’). I deliberately did not say ‘‘human’’ culture. There is nothing permanent or universal or invariant in the symbolic order. can most effectively do the job of criticism in this context with the least amount of positivistic distortion.11 Before doing so. I will make use of the recent publication of two new books on the subject. for one example. which is constructed historically and revised historically when necessary. and his own authored text. least of all is there anything in it which legitimately undergirds and rationalizes the privileged position of Global White Male Oppressors. Jacques Lacan: Psychoanalysis and the Subject of Literature (New York: Palgrave. As I hope you will see in what follows. I want to explore the possibility that Lacanian literary criticism and cultural theory. in the Lacanian conception of ‘‘extimacy’’ (a highly peculiar but suggestive combination of ‘‘ecstasy. To anticipate a bit now. .’’ ‘‘intimacy. 52. not without historical adjustments—the merely local alibi of power.6. ‘‘The real is.
just as their ancestors did. ideological. Personae: A Revised Edition (New York: New Directions.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 99 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 95 From the point of view of modern secular culture. such an approach has already conﬁned vision to its cell in the prison or asylum. however open and sympathetic it may appear. He certainly is at his best when seeing what he has seen. 2 (fall 2000): 87–96. for those critics so disposed or oriented. cutting itself off from the world’s history and its surrounding realities. as cited in Lea Baechler and A. into epistemological. The question of why criticism should care so to open itself to the spirit has an entirely pragmatic answer. one in which. or gentriﬁed by post-Enlightenment secular discourses and institutions. Insofar as a philosophical. About this judgment many will disagree. political. psychological.’’ 12 To anticipate one of my points a bit. not in the name of culture. 272. but I think it relates more intimately to the facts of contemporary global realities than to the resolutely secular judgments of the liberal and multicultural academy.’’ original epigraph to the coda for A Lume Spento (1908). Ezra Pound. In order for critical discourse to encounter all that religion as a term gestures toward. Of course. reeducated.13 Reducing religious phenomena to ideology expresses nothing but the cultural critic’s ignorance. in the words of Pound. no. Tseng 2002. whatever. but in the name of religion and God. And when still translated into the terms of such discourses and institutions. perhaps. for any critics who think of critical discourse and its conventions as instruments for the exploration and not the containment of 12. understanding evaporates and academic criticism becomes totally irrelevant.’’ in Annals of Scholarship 14.6. not in the name of nation. vision is another name for illusion—transcendental. humanity just may be at its best as the sounding board of God—a point Pound’s own career ironically makes. That historical experiment has failed. ‘‘Man is a skinfull of wine / But his soul is a hole full of God / And the song of all time blows thru him / As winds through a knot-holed board. sociological. 1990)..28 07:47 . ‘‘Make-strong old dreams lest this our world lose heart. of course. For more on this topic. eds. see my ‘‘Edward W. and saying it as well as he can. or psychoanalytic critical approach to the religious dimension of literature commits itself in advance to this explanation by illusion of the phenomena to be understood. Billions of human beings today do what they do not in the name of politics.Walton Litz. it must really open itself to another scene of instruction. and this enormous weight of traditional passion has not been and apparently will never be domesticated. Said and the Fate of Critical Culture. rather than when he offers us political or economic opinions and prescriptions. or analytic explanations. 13.
however. of the peoples in the world do not want to be part of the global culture. Blackmur and Kenneth Burke. provisionally. via formal techniques of verbal expression. Sufﬁce it to say. it is safe to say. In fact. What makes Lacanian psychoanalysis promising for understanding the religious dimension of literary visions is its triadic conceptualization of subject-formation. in the spirit of R. of the unknown in all such phenomena. Many. P. This academic vision is not ignoble or corrupting. but for so many knowing (which is not the same as truly knowledgeable) critics they must sound like Silliness Inc. Upon the stages of these structures we would all deﬁne our identities for ourselves and pursue our selfdetermining lives.28 07:47 . for reasons of their economic or political survival they have made their compromises with its structures of representation.6.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 100 of 191 96 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 reality. the reason they should consider religious phenomena seriously should be self-evident. and the real orders in Lacan constitute the horizons within which the human subject forms itself. once given this seal of social recognition after however many years of struggle for it.14 I offer this characterization of literature. It is simply.’’ in Journal of Modern Literature (forthcoming). only that. with religious structures and institutions. perhaps most. incorrect. that literature deﬁnes itself as the exploration. The assumption behind much (if not all) academic criticism over the last twenty-ﬁve years or so has been that all peoples everywhere want to occupy places in the structures of representation produced by the various media of what we call now global culture. most of us know only stereotypes about the opposition to worldly or secular culture and have not been educated in the strength of the negative in the revolt of the soul against global culture. For more on this topic. I will try to explain myself as best I can now. that many. I think. see my ‘‘The Divisions of Yeats Studies. perhaps most. Tseng 2002. but rather want to replace them. Such apodictic utterances just expressed are indeed meant to be provocative. The imaginary models the subject as the specular identiﬁcation of the mirror 14. The imaginary. Instead. By saying this I do not mean to suggest that representatives of ‘‘native’’ cultures around the world don’t want to participate in this culture. largely wrong. even if. in light of the terrible events of September 11th. the symbolic. due to what is perhaps the undue inﬂuence in the American academy of critics representative of the same position. secular alternatives. of the peoples of the earth want to see that culture and its so-called representative structures destroyed and do not want to replace them with more liberal. I could say ‘‘so be it’’ but won’t. democratic. if at all.
The symbolic order constitutes the subject as the space or position of a social role. particularly their ritual and liturgical practices. who always seemed to have one part too many ever to assume the role smoothly. See also Dylan Evans. 1999).28 07:47 . which is why a George W. 1–28. This is what Lacan christens ‘‘the real. without any distinctive identity. But the real is inaccessible to any immediately rationalizing approach because it can appear only where the gaps among the orders of the subject (the imaginary. The imaginary order’s static mirages would arrest this ‘‘original remainder. All we can say is that in each case the particular conﬁguration of ‘‘holes’’ in the symbolic and imaginary amalgam of orders is like Pound’s 15. The model for this mirage basis of the ego is the case of the mirror stage with its conventional exhibition by the supportive parent of the jubilating infant in the apparatus of the mirror. See the entry on this topic in Dylan Evans.15 Religious phenomena.’’ It is the unknown kernel or blank core around which the subject symptomatically takes form and achieves its singular technique of jouissance or exquisite joy. An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (London and New York: Routledge. or even composite.6. This ego is ironically dependent. ‘‘From Kantian Ethics to Mystical Experience: An Exploration of Jouissance. 1996). and the real) are symptomatically conﬁgured by a passionately invested material technique or ritual.’’ in Key Concepts of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. cultural) and of social investitures of authority. This ultimately alienating mirage of an ideally independent identity deﬁnes the scope of the ego as a reﬂective phenomenon. And the real is the ultimate subject of literary imagination. can play the part of a president better than a Bill Clinton. This does not mean that we can say that the real is unitary or singular. requiring for the articulation of any such representation the sacriﬁce of whatever does not ﬁt with or cannot be assimilated to established social roles. ed. familial. on the structures and operations of the symbolic order with its ritual performances of identity-themes (personal.’’ The symbolic order of ritual displacements would diffuse throughout society the power of this ‘‘original remainder. belong to this realm or dimension of the real. however. even as religious dogma belongs to the history of ideas. for that matter. Such an ‘‘original remainder’’ is what neither the imaginary nor the symbolic orders can ﬁnally accommodate or exhaust. Tseng 2002.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 101 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 97 stage in which the nascent subject discovers outside itself the image of its perfect wholeness. Dany Nobus (New York: Other Press. which no amount of education can weaken.’’ or irrational excess or waste. Bush. 91–92. The symbolic represents the Law of subject-formation in society. the symbolic. or the intersection of many such roles. which may be occupied by any person so possessed momentarily by the symbolic function.
the real is in fact the empty universal or symbolic form. Levine (‘‘October’s Lacan. But the real can only make its appearance as this particularly impossible (if inescapable) suspension of established knowledge. The real is the religious. which investigate critically and rather sympathetically at points more particular aspects of Lacan’s reception. Gerard Pommier (‘‘New Resistances to Psychoanalysis’’). Part 1 contains critical essays by Kareen Ror Malone (‘‘The Place of Lacanian Analysis in North American Psychology’’). Part 1 concludes with three essays by Catherine Liu (‘‘Lacanian Reception’’). See Slavoj Žižek. Tseng 2002. in order. 2000).6. In addition. and Patricia Gherovici (‘‘Psychoanalysis Resistible and Irresistible’’). like God or literature. in each instance. Smith (‘‘Lacan in America’’).’’ The proceedings of an international conference held at the University of Pennsylvania in April 1998 and hosted by Rabaté under the title ‘‘Turn of the Century—End of Analysis’’ have all been revised and updated for publication.28 07:47 . the place in American contexts of Lacan’s Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment (1974). the avant-garde journal October ’s successive presentations of Lacanian ideas via essays by Joan Copjec and Žižek. including. As such.’’ a series of books edited by Judith Feher Gurewich and published in handsome volumes by Other Press. Or in the Beginning Was the Void’’). in part. as well as more sympathetic contributions by C. A contribution to ‘‘The Lacanian Clinical Field.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 102 of 191 98 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 knot-holed god-board referred to previously.’’ make Lacan in America both a very effective introduction to and a superb development of Lacan’s ideas. and Michel Tort (‘‘Lacan’s New Gospel’’).16 The real. respectively. plus Rabaté’s comprehensive introduction. ‘‘Construing Lacan. over which antagonistic social forces struggle in seeking to establish their hegemony. and power. the work is divided into two parts: ‘‘The Transmission of the Lacanian Text: Resistance and Reception’’ and ‘‘Constructing and Deconstructing Lacanian Theory. and the religious is the real. The Fragile Absolute—Or. as the voided center of the symbolic order that writers especially (but not exclusively) explore via their often prophetic imaginations. Steven Z. and the apparently accurate charges against Lacan of tailoring aspects of his ‘‘message’’ to suit the French Catholic hierarchy’s 16. Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (London and New York: Verso. is one of the names for the limit of representation and what exceeds it. to legitimate their imaginary cultures. meaning. The seventeen ﬁne essays. Paul Roazen (‘‘What Is Wrong with French Psychoanalysis? Observations on Lacan’s First Seminar’’). Edward Robbins (‘‘Please Read Lacan!’’). Joseph H.
in short. Braunstein’s ‘‘Construction. or The Strut of Vision’’). which in a proto-deconstructive manner assumes its own ﬁctional status as the creative formulations of the analyst. if not of method.28 07:47 . Restuccia’s ‘‘The Subject of Homosexuality: Butler’s Elision’’). and it is precisely because I feel rather guilty not giving as much time to some of this volume’s other excellent essays as I am to Plotnitsky’s that I have laid out the contents of the collection so thoroughly. matters of faith. Arkady Plotnitsky’s ‘‘On Lacan and Mathematics’’ is. ‘‘Lacan’s New Gospel. Plato. can be said to share in common a more skeptical perspective: Truth may exist only in a structure of lies. authentic or otherwise. Only the latter’s strength of conviction can validate their authority. and construction. of power and discipline (see Christopher Lane’s ‘‘The Experience of the Outside: Foucault and Psychoanalysis’’). is Lane’s on Foucault’s remarkably intimate translation of Lacanian perspective into the political dynamics of social power. somewhat tediously. which. assumes veriﬁability. a historicist translation that long precedes and so renders obsolete much of the new historicism. The ﬁnal ﬁve essays in Part 2. Despite its title. Tails You Lose’: Wittgenstein. perhaps.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 103 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 99 traditional beliefs. These ‘‘constructions’’ are after-the-fact speculations by the analyst of what must have been true about the traumatic events haunting the patient. Interpretation.6. Of these excellent essays. however. between Plato and Freud.’’ in light of the critical opposition between interpretation. on the question of truth. even as Lacan and Wittgenstein. so that the latter can be seen as bringing. which lay out and revise Lacanian theory. and the Role of Construction and Deconstruction in Psychoanalysis and Ethics’’ then explores this problematic practice of the analysis critically and discovers a commonality of purpose. of perversion (see Gurewich’s ‘‘The Philanthropy of Perversion’’). which conclude the volume. all deal with different aspects of Lacan’s relevance for contemporary cultural studies: of the body (see Copjec’s ‘‘The Body as Viewing Instrument. Braunstein argues. reluctantly. for its sharp detail and sensible speculation. and of lesbianism (see Marianne Blevis’s ‘‘On Female Homosexuality: A Lacanian Perspective’’). Nestor A. are of more immediate interest for my purposes. on this vexed matter of truth.’’ is more about French institutional politics than it is about spiritual ideas. the most exciting. Tort’s provocative essay. They are. Tseng 2002. Erich D. The essays in Part 2. not to say. Freiberger’s ‘‘ ‘Heads I Win. and Deconstruction in Contemporary Psychoanalysis’’ examines Freud’s 1937 essay ‘‘Constructions in Analysis. the most interesting essay in the collection. of homosexuality as a mode of subjectivity (see Frances L. to a close the tradition of philosophy.
Lacan calls this condition ‘‘the real.C. theory. 134–72.’’ It is what literature imaginatively envisions. 1997). What does such postclassical epistemology mean in practice? Imagine a thirty-mile-long hollow ring underneath the Swiss Alps.’’ as I am calling it ‘‘the religious.’’ in Mathematics.’’ in Material Events: Paul de Man and the Afterlife of Theory. See also Plotnitsky’s ‘‘Algebra and Allegory: Nonclassical Epistemology. and the Work of Paul de Man. This event cannot be visualized or represented or even precisely measured in all its parameters simultaneously. Quantum Theory. Science. Plotnitsky’s essay discusses Lacan’s ‘‘system’’ of thinking as one of several non. But it is. Tom Cohen et al. Their forms derive from the constitutive ‘‘holes’’ in their logics. According to the common understanding of contemporary physics.) By a postclassical system Plotnitsky means a structure of thinking in which what the thinking refers to is neither fully present within the system nor fully absent from it. in part. For more on this topic. and mathematics. Every ﬁfty meters or so there are gigantic electromagnets attached to the sides of the ring. and Postclassical Theory. N. see Arkady Plotnitsky. And this reﬂexive ‘‘ﬁctional’’ dimension of quantum physics is both inevitable and irremediable. the relationship between the mathematical formulation and the event to which it applies is not one of representation or expression. ed.or nonclassical system invokes a reality it can neither master nor dispense with.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 104 of 191 100 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 However that may be.: Duke University Press. 2001). Through the ring passes a beam of subatomic particles. ‘‘Complementarity. 49–92. Barbara Herrnstein Smith and Arkady Plotnitsky (Durham. science. which highly sensitive detectors register. a post. (This impersonal performative dimension of systems of thinking in principle at least distinguishes my view here from that of such a critic as Butler on the performative dimension of the human subject’s passionate rhetorical identiﬁcations.28 07:47 .6. Such systems not only refer to ‘‘the real. one that Plotnitsky endorses here. This condition of impasse is formative for postclassical systems.’’ as it were. one of purely allegorical performance and mathematical elaboration.17 Unlike a traditional system of thought—Catholic doctrine. Tseng 2002. ed. they embody it.or postclassical systems of thought in modern philosophy. with its complementarity and uncertainty principles. Idealization. accelerating ever faster thanks to the magnets. and the Limits of Classical Conceptions of Reality. A person can stand up in this ring. the mathematical formaliza17. Hegel’s philosophy—in which the reality represented in the system’s structure of concepts is said to be either entirely beyond or subsumed by the structure of representation. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. what experimenters term ‘‘the event’’ occurs. As collisions mount up among the particles. As in the exemplary case of quantum physics.
Rather. we must assume that it just may do so. ‘‘know’’ reality.6. we can . we may know that our ﬁnitude is so ‘‘known. the mathematics we use to ‘‘read’’ and apply its exemplarity. the theories and practices of quantum physics developed—all testify to a reality that transcends and yet still occupies the quantum structures of modern science. That is.’’ registered each time in the fugitive traces of the real our instruments struggle to detect. which. fantastic if taken too literally. whatever. Far from it. so what? The most important consequence of this postclassical epistemological condition. in a universal sense. the event itself (whatever that may be). to what both informs and eludes our powers and structures for representing reality. or reﬁne our experiments. and our fabulous ﬁctions we use to explain this entire process to ourselves—all are signs. The event exists only in its traces of conﬁrmed or unconﬁrmed experimental theoretical possibility. largely in absentia. revise our theories. the mathematical formalization applied in the experiment. when only the most rigorously applied mathematical formalization can keep the distinction from collapsing. it is an allegory. This ‘‘intelligence of the real’’ is what.’’ as it is called. and yet ﬁnally escapes all our systems of representation: philosophical. ‘‘the event’’ our instruments trace. ultimately. technological. nature—what have you—exceeds and comprehends humanity’s constitutive ignorance. this does not mean that the latter’s reality is ‘‘just’’ a human construction. of its possible paths be added together to get its most likely but not necessarily its actual path. thus must it ever remain so. impersonal testimonies. And if the boundaries between subject and object dissolve at the limit of the former’s reach of knowledge. For the specter of the real freely ‘‘appears’’ only so: partially. the object. in a purely probable statistical determination. At best. it means that reality. The moment of the event is never witnessed.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 105 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 101 Tseng 2002. The ‘‘it would have been detected’’ of the future anterior verb tense is the best we can say about it. scientiﬁc. the real. that haunts and possesses. nor is it able to be adequately represented. the technical means of detection and registration. in which the object of knowledge cannot be represented in principle to the subject. which requires that for each particle in the experiment the ‘‘sum-over history. The physical apparatus used for the testing. for nonexperimental circumstances. Although we may not. And no matter how we perfect our instruments. and always incognito! And if all this is so. occurs at the level of quantum events when the boundaries between what counts as the object and what counts as the subject begin to blur. which allows human beings to conﬁrm certain hypotheses and predictions. repeatedly.28 07:47 tion developed to be used to describe and/or predict this event in quantum physics bears no resemblance to any representational language or code.
For more. Decidable and Undecidable. and the ubiquitous Alan Sokal. calls this ‘‘inside-out’’ phenomenon ‘‘extimacy’’ and uses increasingly more difﬁcult-to-envision topological ﬁgures. such as the Mobius strip and the multidimensional torus. For an excellent background study of scientiﬁc culture. It is what fantasies and rituals attempt to cover over. Plotnitsky’s focus in this article is the critical denunciation of Lacan made by the partisans of so-called hard science in the recent ‘‘Science Wars’’ centered in the Sokal Hoax. The article was a fake but was accepted anyway. once Sokal revealed the hoax. all manner of postmodern theorists. in a deconstruc- Tseng 2002. 58–59. in fact.28 07:47 . the cyclonic core or eye around which the subject’s interiority repeatedly coalesces. ‘‘Introduction: Networks and Symmetries. Contemporary physics and other postclassical systems of thinking bear witness to its material effects.’’ in Mathematics. or ﬁll up with imposing but specious content of one sort or another. at the time. see Barbara Herrnstein Smith and Arkady Plotnitsky. Alan Sokal. This ‘‘extimate’’ core is universally singular. organize. in an indiscriminate fashion. Plotnitsky here defends Lacan’s equation of what he terms the phallus with the square root of minus one. and Postclassical Theory. of course. 1–16. were tarred by the same brush that had swiped at Robbins and Ross. which was edited. along with Jean Bricmont. And we know it as the constitutive ignorance. In the ensuing uproar. in their book Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrel with Science.6.18 The formative blind spot in the postclassical systems of thinking like Lacan’s appear to be at least double: As both the subject’s irremediable lack of ultimate knowledge of the object and the empty or blank kernel or form. submitted an article to the postmodern journal Social Text. Paul Gross and Norman Levitt. take Lacan to task for his apparent identiﬁcation of the phallic signiﬁer with imaginary numbers in mathemathics.19 The phallus in Lacan’s postclassical system of thinking is a signiﬁer 18. to symbolize this immanent transcendence of the subject in/of the real. the core blank or hole in our knowledge that exists both within and without the domain of the subject. by Bruce Robbins and Andrew Ross. you may recall. in Impostures intellectuelles (both books were published in 1997). Literature explores this domain of human ﬁnitude. Science.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 106 of 191 102 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 know. and it is what Lacan sees as giving rise to the real. An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. See the entry on this topic in Evans. Lacan. presumably because the editors could not tell the difference between genuine and specious scientiﬁc theorizing. religion would divine its contours. even if we would wish to remain fundamentally ignorant of its being. 19.
And for more on the politics of contemporary science generally. Similarly.6. 2001). akin to the threat of castration in traditional psychoanalysis. Phallus (like Lacan’s ‘‘object petite a’’) is that term in his system of analysis. Kauffman. not a presence.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 107 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 103 whose signiﬁed is the absence of any meaning. is in fact a full absence. it indicates. see Stuart A. Lacan’s equation of the phallus with the imaginary number the square root of minus one is not so far-fetched or absurd as his supposedly more knowledgeable scientiﬁc critics would suggest. For an inﬂuential example of a Third Culture theory that would unify the sciences with the human sciences. for all Western systems of thinking. this global cultural development is not surprising. esp. God may be. In this regard. Instead. see Ken Croswell.28 07:47 . As such. ‘‘Emergence and Story: Beyond Newton. Neither tive vein. History. For more on the latest developments in cosmology supporting such a grand uniﬁed theory or theory of everything (TOE). in other words. there is a term that marks the place where the system cannot think itself. see James Robert Brown. even when represented on a graph. In every system of thinking. That is to say. Plotnitsky demonstrates convincingly that not only don’t Lacan’s scientiﬁc critics know what Lacan means or even precisely says about the phallus. 2001). A new synthesis of knowledge. 1993). and the Unconscious (Gainesville: University Press of Florida. appears to be in the ofﬁng. and Bohr?’’ (119–20). 1993) and Reconﬁgurations: Critical Theory and General Economy (Gainesville: University Press of Florida. even as imaginary numbers play a similar role in mathematics. at least not in a representational sense. Tseng 2002. on the mathematical dimensions of this argument. the term of terms. 2000). one not hostile to religion. imaginary numbers are placed on the vertical axis at a right angle to the graphic representation of real numbers (either plus or minus). Neither loud lamentation nor smug dismissal can substitute effectively for critical understanding. Who Rules in Science: An Opinionated Guide to the Wars (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. The Universe at Midnight: Observations Illuminating the Cosmos (New York: Free Press. they don’t even understand the theory of imaginary and complex numbers that they presumably have used in their own scientiﬁc work. Einstein. Given the Hellenistic kind of world empire being put in place now. perhaps. the phallus. the phallus does not refer to the penis but only to the function of organizing the play of signiﬁcation in the unconscious. whatever their sign. an imaginary number such as the square root of minus one (−1) cannot be said to exist. This is to indicate that imaginary numbers stand for a ﬁction of the system of mathematical formalization being used at the time. see Herrnstein Smith and Plotnitsky’s other two books: In the Shadow of Hegel: Complementarity. Investigations (New York: Oxford University Press. As such. what appears to be a full presence. in the same way as real numbers. a function without any substantial content other than there is no such context possible in Lacan’s postclassical system. at least. an absence in reality.
Rabaté analyzes helpfully. in principle. for personal and cultural reasons. Tseng 2002. Plotnitsky. not science or religion but literature. discussed via many of the speciﬁc texts and authors Lacan reads throughout his large body of work. Lacking.’’ which also discusses the modern institution of literature).’’ Shakespeare’s Hamlet. postromantic name for such nontraditional ways of thinking is. The traditional. the master signiﬁer of one of the names of the father that could have tied neurotically together at least the imaginary and symbolic orders. Joyce. in chapters 4 through 10.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 108 of 191 104 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 imaginary numbers nor the empty master signiﬁer of the phallus can be successfully visualized or conventionally conceptualized: ‘‘The epistemological point just made [is that] this signiﬁer [of the phallus.28 07:47 . ‘‘On Lacan and Mathematics. the Antigone of Sophocles. in his still unpublished Seminar on Joyce for 1975–76. indispensable symbolic structures and not imaginary fantasies. like that of modern mathematics. amounts to the appearance of a new literary symptom of jouissance. and the novels of James Joyce. or Against Interpretation. for Lacan. like that of the square root of minus one] may be inconceivable by any means.’’ in Lacan in America. This means that the conceptual elements of the Lacanian conﬁguration are. In his last chapter.6.’’ 20 and yet it is entirely appropriate and necessary for the operation of Lacan’s postclassical system of thinking. respectively. Stein. by learning to enjoy its symptomatic deformations of reality via. including the seminars. elaborates a theory of the psychotic subject that resists becoming mad. 260. 20. Joyce should have collapsed. of course. the tragedies and comedies of love from Plato to Paul Claudel and Jean Genet. a passionate attachment to the performances of writing. After three chapters of laying the groundwork of Lacan’s system (‘‘Lacan from L to Z. which is why his book Jacques Lacan was originally subtitled The Last Word and why the book’s strong focus remains the place of literature in Lacan. Sade’s texts. as his daughter Lucia later did. most often alludes to both transcends and yet can only be accessed via the particular processes of the systemization involved in that system’s creation. like the elements of modern mathematical formalization. It also means that what Lacan’s system. along with a representative descriptive sampling of his major commentators. Lacan’s use of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘‘Purloined Letter. Marguerite Duras’s Le Ravissement de Lol V. in Joyce’s case. despite its structural deﬁciencies. Rabaté understands this point of denomination perfectly well.’’ ‘‘Lacan from A to L: Basic Lacanian Issues and Concepts.’’ and ‘‘The Theory of the Letter: Lituraterre and Gide. Rabaté also includes an annotated bibliography of Lacan’s published works. Rabaté shows how Lacan.
or.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 109 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 105 into psychotic dementia. At the same time.6. which becomes Joyce’s ego. as a consequence the Real is not knotted [symbolically] to the Unconscious: it [instead] appears in symptoms that are metonymically linked to a place. the ‘‘sinthome.’’ see the entry of this name in Evans. 21. ‘‘The Spirit Medium’’ Poetry. that exteriorizes it from the surface of his own body to the corpus of the text. artiﬁcial and can be dropped just like that. this poem reveals that objective structure of subjectivity Lacan terms ‘‘extimacy’’ already brieﬂy discussed. Rabaté. porous. Joyce is able to use his ever increasingly experimental writing to weld the psychic orders symptomatically together. music. to realize an ancient dream of divinity. The new Lacanian ego (discovered in Joyce] is indeed. Or those begotten or unbegotten Perning in a band. I bend my body to the spade Or grope with a dirty hand. Tseng 2002. apropos Joyce.’’ 22 Thoth. as Ezra Pound wrote in his Cantos [apropos Joyce]. it is even more artiﬁcial than [ever]. perhaps. to put it less extravagantly. on the contrary. but it cannot be reduced to the register of the Imaginary. The concept of the ego that is proposed is not therefore a ‘‘natural’’ one.21 Joyce’s ego [in Lacan’s late view] would constitute a [palimpsestlike] ‘‘peel.28 07:47 . 188–90. that original God of Writing.’’ a mere covering that is loosely captured by the Imaginary.’’ published in New Poems (1938) a few months before his death. It is labile. then. Jacques Lacan. I have loved. returns! Let us attempt to see what such visionary discourse may mean in practice by turning to a late poem by Yeats. ‘‘The Spirit Medium. For Lacan’s changing notion of the symptom and why he ﬁnally terms it. thereby creating a new form of being. 22. An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. For Joyce. 171–72. in a turbulent matrix. and yet Because of those new dead That come into my soul and escape Confusion of the bed. an ‘‘ego scriptor. Instead.
such a gnomic. since she was. ‘‘Unbegotten’’ in this sense means the same as what Yeats calls a Tseng 2002. The person is most probably Yeats’s wife. whose automatic writing sessions with the spirits provided the raw materials for A Vision. and. shoot. and until the end of her life. For I would not recall Some that being unbegotten Are not individual.28 07:47 . being too plastic and malleable. blossom or clay Makes no demand. 220). But such commonsense thinking would be wrong. the only response to which is to follow one social or natural pattern of life imposed on such an impossibly plastic spirit from without. Poetry and music I have banished. virtually runic poem clearly glosses Yeats’s visionary system. However this might be. Georgie. however. The distinction the poem worries between ‘‘begotten’’ and ‘‘unbegotten’’ with reference to ‘‘the new dead’’ that have come into the speaker’s soul is one that a reader can fully understand only with reference to A Vision. that is. 325) ‘‘The Spirit Medium’’ is the poem’s and a person’s title. (Poems. to be such a pure spirit. being born in the dark of the moon in a state of pure selﬂess objectivity. a spirit not subject to the cycle of death and rebirth and so not betrayed by what Yeats ironically terms in ‘‘Among School Children’’ the ‘‘honey of generation’’ of sexuality and reproduction (Poems.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 110 of 191 106 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 Or those begotten or unbegotten. The speaker of the poem. But copy some one action Moulding it of dust or sand I bend my body to the spade Or grope with a dirty hand. ‘‘Unbegotten’’ in this context means without a selfdetermining principle of one’s own. I bend my body to the spade Or grope with a dirty hand. An old ghost’s thoughts are lightning To follow is to die. in its supernatural incarnation. an avid gardener.6. at the time (the late 1930s). But the stupidity Or root. would deﬁnitively be a good thing. appears more like Yeats donning casually the mask or persona of his wife in his later life with her. Without such reference. one might think that to be an ‘‘unbegotten’’ spirit.
A New Commentary on the Poems of W. and so on. what a Lacanian critic would mean by ‘‘extimacy. and the Sublime (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. in the case of either wonder.24 ‘‘The Spirit Medium’’ is just that—a riven soul and structure alike.6. one side and the other. means the same thing as what Yeats terms an ‘‘antithetical’’ will or spirit. however fearful and dangerous: ‘‘An old ghost’s thoughts are lightning / To follow is to die. Self-Elegy. I think.28 07:47 . in stressing its refrain. growing ever closer to its inhuman spiritual perfection in the process. The ritual activities of automatic writing and gardening bring the newly dead back to life piecemeal to make a self-conscious appearance of organic wholeness: ‘‘Or root. For Yeats. subject and other. The hand in writing and in cultivating engages in remarkably similar behaviors. Tseng 2002. This active bodily similarity embodies spectrally. the speaker relates the two activities of spiritual mediumship and cultivating the garden.’’ on the contrary. of ballad and song. as indicated by the hauntingly explicit refrain: ‘‘I bend my body to the spade / And grope with a dirty hand. the poem. 397. The ambiguity of the epithet ‘‘an old ghost’’ derives from its possibly meaning both an old man who has died and an old soul that has already lived through many incarnations. appear as provisional. an unknown reality. as the poem proceeds and the refrain imaginatively repeats itself. exempliﬁes perfectly. Yeats. blossom or clay. and in worrying the distinction between ‘‘begotten’’ and ‘‘unbegotten’’ spirits it would avoid. 24. Yeats and the Poetry of Death: Elegy. Such ambiguities would have been the stuff of Georgie Yeats’s many sessions of automatic writing with the spirits.’’ But the speaker of this poem announces an intentional avoidance of involvement in all such daimonic realities and traumatic distinctions. see Jahan Ramazani. For more on this topic. therefore. like gardening. Jeffares. The reader cannot help but wonder whether the new dead are being buried or exhumed and whether their location is in the soul or in the soil.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 111 of 191 O’Hara / The Spirit Medium 107 ‘‘primary ’’ personality. and. 1991). shoot. the ghostly occult subject—and in being so. the reader may wonder whether it ﬁnally matters. the ravishment of the soul is a creative experience. preferring to cultivate her (his?) garden instead. as equal parts of the inhuman symbolic spirit medium.’’ a phenomenon of permeable structure inhabiting different regions of reality simultaneously so that distinctions between inside and outside. like mourning. the daimonic subjective principle born as a supernatural incarnation in the pure light of the full moon most often from the terror-struck human encounter with the divine. ‘‘Begotten. and in the soul. even possibly involving Yeats’s own prophetic self-mourning.’’ 23 And yet. performs the speaker’s continuing love for poetry and music. B.’’ And such ironic rituals of ‘‘Unity of Being’’ occur both in the external world. 23.
for it allows us to behold the coming together of postclassical systems of thinking (philosophical.C. for critical discourse to accommodate religious matters. religious beliefs. Finally. perhaps becoming in the process. 2002). Religion and religious are terms that presume many distinctions. part ﬁction—I mean. please see Frank Lentricchia. Gil Anidjar (New York and London: Routledge. derived from Enlightenment thinking and its academic aftermath. In a forthcoming essay. which combines both ecstasy and intimacy.6674 boundary 2 29:2 / sheet 112 of 191 108 boundary 2 / Summer 2002 The example of Rabaté’s work. is thus considerably promising. estimation. ‘‘The Dogmatic Imagination: A Conceptual Genealogy of Modern Violence. for a moment. critical and editorial. in the openended. and otherwise).: Duke University Press. it must begin to transform itself into critical speculation—doing as literature does. and. I also suspect.’’ 25 25. Lucchesi and the Whale (Durham. 2001). for an example of the kind of hybrid text—part criticism. fraught with global spiritual revivals. In the present historical moment. scientiﬁc. Meanwhile. I refer the interested reader to Jacques Derrida.28 07:47 . ed. N. Acts of Religion. divine. (orthodox or occult). and literary practices (avant-garde or traditional) around this visionary Lacanian conception of extimacy. self-divided structure of modern subjectivity. Tseng 2002.6.’’ I plan to examine these historical distinctions critically. when ‘‘the ghost quickens.
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