Kisses and a Love Letter
Reading Sexed Subjectivity in Anglophone Literature and Visual Arts after Lacan’s Seminar XX
One-day International Conference:
Friday, March 22, 2013 at the University of Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
In the field of Anglophone studies in France and elsewhere, Lacanian theory remains an omnipresent marginality. Like Freud, Lacan is amply cited in current critical papers, but generally as a ‘peppering’ element, rarely as a fully assumed structuring theory of reading. It is to those who are engaged in a process of reading and deciphering subjectivity from within a Lacanian critical orientation that this call is primarily addressed. As an emanation from a research group interested in questions of gender and sexual identity, this conference will be particularly attentive to the intersection between the arts and women and to the implications of the Lacanian formulas of sexuation and the concepts of love, desire, and jouissance. In other words, it will take as its key text, Seminar XX : Encore (1972-1973), translated into English by Bruce Fink in 1992, and explored from diverse perspectives in Reading Seminar XX: Lacan’s Major Work on Love, Knowledge, and Feminine Sexuality (Suzanne Barnard and Bruce Fink, editors, 2002). Other noteworthy readings of Lacanian perspectives on sexuality appear in The Cambridge Companion to Lacan (Jean-Michel Rabaté, dir., 2003).
Like all of the seminars, Seminar XX is generally written using the roman numerals XX, letters that jump out at Anglophone eyes to form a hurdle, an obstacle to overcome, but perhaps, in the negating function of the X, they also appear to anticipate the barring of the universal of Woman. And, as the written sign for a couple of kisses sent off to the addressee, they open the way to the enigmatic chapter entitled “A love letter.”
The interface between cultural analysis and Lacanian theory has been given renewed impetus, notably through the writing of Slavoj Žižek which moves freely between theoretical exposition and analysis of cultural objects: in this respect, one might usefully consider Enjoy Your Symptom: Lacan In Hollywood and Out (1992) along with such articles as those reprinted in “Part II: Woman” of The Zizek Reader (Wright and Wright, eds., 1999) which deal more specifically with sexual theory. Another prominent Lacanian cultural analyst, Joan Copjec, author of “Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason” in Read My Desire (1995) can also be accredited with Imagine There’s No Woman: Ethics and Sublimation (2002), an impressive work of combined theoretical explication and analysis of the visual arts, in which the author questions the ‘feminine’ in radically productive ways.
Concerning Lacanian literary analysis, sustained readings are relatively few and do not generally engage with the later Lacan, but I would mention without hesitation an example from outside the domaine of Anglophone studies, namely Ginette Michaux’s De Sophocle à Proust, de Nerval à Boulgakov: essai de psychanalyse lacanienne (2008) which provides not only convincing and subtle Lacanian readings of literary texts, but also a method and purpose to the perilous enterprise of reading psychoanalytically, which is to say, a reading which attempts to bring to light the logic of desire.
The goal of this conference will therefore be to focus on sexed subjectivity, in particular on the side of the feminine, in relation to desire, love, and jouissance in the sphere of Anglophone literary and visual arts. A critical approach in dialogue with the theoretical perspectives opened up through the growing body of commentary on Lacan’s later work will be privileged as will close engagement with the letter of the written or visual text.
Joan Copjec, Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature and Media Study, and Director of the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture at the University of Buffalo, will be our keynote speaker.
This one-day international conference organized by the Gender Studies branch of C.R.I.T. (Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires et Transculturelles) will take place on Friday, March 22, 2013.
Contact: Jennifer Murray (Associate Professor, North American Literature, Université de Franche-Comté). Please e-mail a 300-500 word abstract to jmurray(a)univ-fcomte.fr by June 15, 2012. Papers (25 minutes) will be given in English.