An image moves through your social media feed. It catches your attention, and you pause to consider it. The image comes with a now familiar description: no filter. The poster of the image invites us to scrutinize his or her picture with an appeal to honesty. The image wants us to believe it has not been manipulated. Its attractiveness is based on something missing. We live in a time when this scenario happens all the time. Combinations of images and appeals flow constantly past our eyes every day. From photos posted by friends and family to clickbait advertisements placed below the article you just read on your favorite news site, we have become accustomed to thinking about the honesty of images and the persuasiveness of their appeals. The images provoke responses. We imagine all the ways we are manipulated by these images. The friend's photo tells you all the ways their lives are better than yours. The clickbait beckons you with promises of inside information about an actress's decadent lifestyle. We ask ourselves whether we should click on them. Should we like them. Should we give the click baiters the attention they are asking for. We feel the persistent pressure of being asked for something that we do not want to give. We feel anxious. This scenario is familiar to all of us. Whether the anxiety we feel is low-key or unbearable, the flow of images across our screens—and our questions about their authenticity—is a problem unique to the early twenty-first century. It is not the first time people have been lied to or deceived. Rather, it is the staggering scope of these appeals and the pace with which we must deal with them. It is a deluge. [End Page vii]
The articles in this edition of Intertexts all deal with the paradoxes of being a subject in the twenty-first century. More specifically, the authors of these articles all approach these paradoxes using the insights of Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst. Lacan's conception of the mirror-stage is well known to many, and this special edition of Intertexts is not rehashing the poststructural Lacan with which many film, literary, and cultural critics are already familiar. Instead, the writers in this collection take their cues from new Lacanians, like Slavoj Žižek, Joan Copjec, and Todd McGowan, whose work emphasizes the later Lacan of the Real. The groundbreaking work of these three theorists has pushed Lacanian theory in a new direction, opening up ways for us to consider the Real, the often overlooked third order, which along with the Imaginary and the Symbolic, governs our subjectivity. The Lacanian Real operates as a barrier to the smooth functioning of the Symbolic order. The Real is the point at which, as Žižek, Copjec, and McGowan have argued in many different publications, the Symbolic order fails, leading to a gap in meaning, a point of non-sense, which Lacan calls the objet petit a, or the object-cause of desire. The writers in this collection are primarily interested in the key points of failure that make up their objects of fascination, reminding us throughout that failure is not a hindrance to a text's functioning. Failure is the reason it functions at all. It is because of Lacan's fundamental belief in failure's significance, I contend, that his insights are the most crucial to understanding the paradoxes of our current situation. We all know the clickbait image is fake. We all know the no filter photo posted by our friend is staged. But this knowledge does not make us feel more sure of ourselves or give us firm psychological footing. It is as if the more we know, the less confident we feel.
The writers in this collection address the conundrum of failure and the role it plays in the process of interpretation. Each writer ultimately follows what McGowan describes as a failure-driven interpretive mode: "As it is clear from Lacan's account, psychoanalytic interpretation involves isolating the traumatic Real through its effects within the text. It pays attention to the movements of the text and finds the point...