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other Side of Desire, The

Lacan's Theory of the Registers

Tamise Van Pelt

Publication Year: 2000

Explores Lacan's theory of the registers through readings of a wide variety of texts. The other Side of Desire puts Jacques Lacan’s theoretical constructs to work on texts as varied as Plato’s Symposium, Hamlet, Tootsie, and the journals of Sylvia Plath, making the techniques of Lacanian analysis accessible to a wide variety of readers. Moving from oppositional readings of Lacan himself, through Lacan’s search for an alternative to oppositionality, to his solution in the theory of the registers, Van Pelt rereads Lacan’s most significant essays on aggressivity, the mirror stage, the subversion of the subject, and the signification of the phallus, making explicit the reading practices implicit in Lacan’s first seven Seminars and his Écrits. Throughout, Van Pelt demonstrates Lacanian theory’s pivotal role in the intellectual transition from the poststructuralism of the mid–twentieth century to the post-humanism of the twenty-first.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi

This book would never have been written without the unfailing support of my mother Gayle Bozeman Van Pelt. It was Nancy Blake who introduced me to Lacan and to the Institute for Psychological Study of the Arts, the group who first showed me Lacan in an international context. My respect and gratitude extends to the many scholars who have shared...

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pp. xiii-xxi

In the summer of 1993, I attended a conference on Shakespeare and the Sexual Relation at the University of West Virginia. The featured speaker was Catherine Belsey whose work at the time was a distinctive blend of new historicism, deconstruction, and Lacanian psychoanalysis. Over lunch, a graduate student attendee remarked to me that she’d love to...


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pp. xxiii

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1. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Symposium

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pp. 1-19

How to begin to discuss the decentered subject of psychoanalysis? Perhaps it is best to yield the stage to Jacques Lacan who emphasizes Freud’s most radical insight, saying that the “Freudian notion of the ego is so upsetting as to warrant the expression Copernican revolution” (Sem II 3). In the introduction to his second seminar on the ego in...

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2. The Master in the Mirror

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pp. 21-43

Lacan’s mirror stage theory is many things simultaneously: an epistemological critique of the autonomous subject of science, a developmental vision of the genesis of the je or speaking subject, a dialectical reinterpretation of Freud’s concept of narcissism, a discussion of the role of projective identification in the socialized ideals of the subject, and an...

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3. The Poe-etics of Register Theory

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pp. 45-70

While the mirror stage essay and its academic fate reflect the illusion of presence which creates some thing from an other, the Poe seminars exemplify the chief characteristic of the symbolic, of structuralism, and of later Lacanian register theory: recursiveness. “The Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’” signifies not one but two seminars, each of which...

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4. Lacanian Epistemology

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pp. 71-88

Lacanian psychoanalysis emphasizes language as the medium of subjectivity; consequently, Lacan honors Saussure’s observation that “the mechanism of a language turns entirely on identities and differences” (107). Lacan’s unique insight is that he sees identity and difference as two distinct processes, each of which functions as a “register” unto...

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5. The Discourse of Desire and the Registers in Hamlet

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pp. 89-117

Lacan’s pointed statement of the symbolic register evokes Hamlet directly: “Everything comes back to to be or not to be,” he remarks (Sem II 192). For Lacan, as for Freud and for the analysts who followed Freud, the archetypal subject of the unconscious is Hamlet. Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” punctuates the seminars on the “Purloined Letter.” Moreover,...

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6. Symptomatic Perfectionism in The Journals of Sylvia Plath

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pp. 119-135

Sylvia Plath crafted her last poem, “Edge,” on 5 February 1963, six days before her suicide.1 Its bald, bold opening assessment, “the woman is perfected” comes like the last word in an argument, assertion and conclusion in one blow. “Edge” is an instance of creative speech whose status as mark and as mirror interests both the aesthete and the analyst.

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7. Being and Otherness

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pp. 137-159

As half of a signifying binary, the “Other” is a term with a rich and lengthy philosophical history dating at least from Plato’s Sophist in which the Stranger participates in a dialogue on the ontological problems of being and nonbeing, of the One and the Other.1 This Platonic strain of thinking about alterity ontologically continues into the present...


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pp. 161-175


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pp. 177-187


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pp. 189-205

E-ISBN-13: 9780791493052
E-ISBN-10: 0791493059
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791444757
Print-ISBN-10: 0791444759

Page Count: 229
Illustrations: 4 figures
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture