Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chasing the Objet Petit 'a

"Woman is a symptom of man" – does this mean that a woman comes to ex-sist only when a man picks her up? So what is she prior to it? What if we conceive the idea of a symptom that pre-exists what it is a symptom of, so that we can consider women as symptoms wandering around in search of something to attach themselves to as symptoms – or even just being satisfied with their role as empty symptoms? [5] One can effectively claim that a woman who withdraws from sexual contact with men is a symptom at its purest, a zero-level symptom – a nun, for example, who, rejecting to be the symptom of a particular man (her sexual partner), posits herself as the symptom of Christ, THE man (ecce homo).

This notion of the paradoxical pre-existence of a symptom can also be given a Benjaminian twist. Tchaikovsky, "Francesca da Rimini": in the middle (11 minutes into it), a passage ALMOST like Bernard Hermann, a kind of flight into the future; then standard Romanticism recuperates itself. It is really as if Tchaikovsky produced here a symptom in the early Lacanian (or Benjaminian) sense of a message that is coming from the future, of something for which the time when it was written was lacking the proper means to hear/understand it properly. (This is how modernism works: what were originally fragments of an organic Whole gets autonomized. The same in Miro's paintings.) No wonder that THIS is the music used for the balet sequence at the end of Torn Curtain – a kind of revenge of Herrmann whose score Hitchcock discarded, a scene in which the "repressed returns." (Did he chose this piece?) [6]

There is a nice anecdote about a Latin-American poet who accomodated the political tenor of his poetry to his most recent mistress: when his mistress was a proto-Fascist Rightist, he celebrated military discipline and patriotic spirit of sacrifice; when he got involved with a pro-Communist mistress, he started to celebrate guerilla warfare; later, he passed on to a hippy mistress and wrote about drugs and transcendental meditation... THIS is what "woman as a symptom of man" means, not that man merely uses a woman to articulate his message – on the contrary, woman is the determining factor: man orients himself towards his symptom, he clings on it to give consistency to his life.

Insofar as a symptom is inherently related to its interpretation, i.e. insofar as it functions somehow like Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, as an attempt to take into account and answer in advance its possible interpretations, it involves an intricate structure of temporal loop: a symptom is a purely reflexive entity, a pre-emptive reaction to its own future effects.
[5] And what is then a man for a woman? A catastrophe, as Lacan conjectures somewhere? What if, bearing in mind the couple symptom/fantasy, man is a fantasy of a woman? Does Lacan not point in this direction when he claims that don Juan is a feminine fantasy? Both woman and man, not only woman, are thus co-dependent on each other, like Escher's two hands drawing each other. The trap to be avoided here is to conceive this relationship as somehow complementary – as if, once a man finds his symptom in a woman and the same woman her fantasy embodied in a man, there finally is a kind of sexual relationship. What one should bear in mind is that fantasy and symptom are structurally incompatible.

[6] However, Hitchcock's discarding of Herrmann's score cannot be simply dismissed as his concession to Hollywood commercial pressure. In the DVD edition of Torn Curtain, one can also watch some scenes accompanied with the Herrmann score, among them the Gromek murder. In the released version, this scene has no musical accompaniment, all we hear are the occasional grunts and groans – how much more efficient is the scene this way, how much efficiently it renders the oppressive REAL PRESENCE of the painfully prolongated activity of trying to kill Gromek, than Bernard's standard score of the Wagnerian brassy ostinati!
-Slavoj Zizek, "Ideology I: No Man is an Island..."

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