Monday, 14 March 2005

Cat Embodies History, the Real Scott McLemee, intellectual affairs columnist for, asks "What did Jacques Lacan mean by 'the Real'?" That question has as many answers as some people have faces* ... and deserves to be taken as seriously as any question about a psychoanalytic work. Not at all. Seriously. Taken not at all seriously. You can judge the seriousness of McLemee's seriously serious account of "the Real" for yourself: What did Jacques Lacan mean by "the Real"? I found out, sort of, by walking across my apartment in search of a copy of the recent re-translation of his Ecrits -- a volume replacing another (somewhat notoriously unreliable) translation released by the same publisher more than 20 years earlier. When a manufacturer of toasters finds out that its toasters are defective, it will issue a recall. About halfway to the bookshelf, the light bulb went off: Time for a class action suit! Suddenly, a rogue housecat interposed himself between my feet -- causing immediate "walk failure" and consequent wrenching of lower back. Now, the Imaginary is for Lacan the dimension of the human human psyche that permits us to feel more or less cohesive. It is the raw material of ego identity. By contrast, the Symbolic includes all the systems we use for communication and exchange with others. It is "language," very broadly defined. But what about Lacan's third term? Just to back up a little.... I'd been reading Slavoj Zizek, the wild and woolly cultural theorist, who is about as Lacanian as they come. He slings the lingo like a pro. But every so often, my reading comprehension disappears, like the steam from a bowl of cooling soup. Zizek refers to the Real "escaping" the Imaginary and "errupting into" the Symbolic. Which is good to know, but not that helpful. It left me wondering: "OK, the Real -- what is it? And where?" And then, out of nowhere, I got an answer. The Real is a silent but (potentially) deadly housecat. The realm of the ego's Imaginary dignity is violated. The order of the Symbolic is reduced to groans and obscenities. The Real is what leaves you on the floor. Fredric Jameson, the lefty lit-crit guru maximus, once equated Lacan's concept with the Marxist notion of History -- a word that Jameson always capitalizes, like the name of a god. History, and hence the Real, he explained, "is what hurts." OK, but does that mean my cat embodies History? McLemee follows that with a brief discussion of the forthcoming Zizek: The Movie, in which, according to the official website, "Zizek never stops philosophizing." Not that one would expect anything less from "the Elvis of cultural theory," a man for whom, according to Judith Butler, "discussing Hegel and Lacan is like breathing." *A practical guide to what Campbell called "the monomyth" outlines "the stages of the HERO," and for some reason, it does so entirely in CAPS: THE HERO IS INTRODUCED IN HIS ORDINARY WORLD THE CALL TO ADVENTURE THE HERO IS RELUCTANT AT...
"Gas Theorist of Colic" Typepad allows you to see the referring address of people who visit your site, and because I'm documenting in meticulous detail my gradual but inevitable rise from 'Net Nobody to President of the United States of America (POTUS), I check my "Statistics and Referrers" page with unhealthy regularity. Today I found an odd one. This is what it said: I didn't know what that custom meant, so I click on it and landed here. Hidden beneath the innocuous "custom" was, in fact, someone googling "gas theorist of colic." I couldn't figure out what that meant--or why my blog popped up on that most strange of searches--so I decided to skim some of the other sites that search brought up. They included: A catalog of borderline amusing "Academic Jokes." My favorite: How many college students does it take to change a lightbulb in the South? At Vanderbilt it takes two. One to change the bulb and one more to explain how they did it every bit as well as any ivy leaguer. At Georgia it takes three. One to change the bulb, and two to phone a friend at Georgia Tech and get instructions. At Florida it takes four. One to screw in the bulb and three to figure out how to get high off the old one. At Alabama it takes five. One to change it, two to talk about how Bear would have done it, and two to throw the old bulb at Auburn students. At Ole Miss it takes six. One to change it, two to mix the drinks, and three to find the perfect J. Crew outfit to wear for the occasion. At LSU it takes seven. And each one gets credit for four semester hours for it. At Kentucky it takes eight. One to screw it in, and seven to discuss how much brighter it shines during basketball season. At Tennessee it takes ten. Two to figure out how to screw it in, two to buy an orange lampshade, and six to phone a radio call-in show and talk about how Phillip Fulmer is too stupid to do it. At Mississippi State it takes fifteen. One to screw in the bulb, two to buy the Skoal, and twelve to shout, "GO TO HELL OLE MISS, GO TO HELL!!!" At Auburn it takes 100. One to change it, 49 to talk about how they do it better than Bama, and 50 who realize it's all a lie. At South Carolina it takes 80,000. One to screw it in, and 79,999 to discuss how this will finally be the year they have a good football team. At Arkansas it takes none. There is no electricity in Arkansas. I don't doubt that some of those are funny. But none are as funny as the description for a site I refuse, on principle, to link to. Principle, I say, but here's Google's summary of it: "The Sanitary Gangbang Squad probability theorist verify ... with licentious colic artery ... the...

Become a Fan

Recent Comments