Malallegories of Reading: Three Ghosts and a Spectre in Hamlet, Jameson, and Lacan (2021)
Reflexivity, auto-referentiality, the negativity of self-designation – these are the hallmarks not only of the modern in Fredric Jameson’s estimation, but also of desire in Jacques Lacan’s discussion of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Seminar VI.1 In Lacan’s analysis, Hamlet’s celebrated question becomes performatively reconfigured as an allegory of the process by which the subject encounters the possibility of its nonbeing when it accedes to Symbolic representation. What psychoanalysis calls “castration,” namely, the ‘forced choice’ to negate oneself that the subject paradoxically freely makes when permitting a signifier to stand in for it, is the gateway into the dialectic of desire. Indeed, in Lacan’s account, what is remarkable about Hamlet – which he emphatically names “the tragedy of desire” – is the way Shakespeare’s play presents a kind of blueprint, a “cartography,” of all the possible positions one can assume in relation to desire
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