Archive for December, 2008

Zizek 04

December 8, 2008

Organs without bodies by Zizek 紀傑克:沒有身體的器官

Translated by Springhero 雄伯譯


Memes, Memes Everywhere



In the 1990s, a Japanese toy called tamagochi was very popular. It reduced the other with whom we communicate ( usually a pet animal) to a purely virtual presence on a screen. The game played with it involves acting as if there is a real, living creature behind the screen—we get excited, cry for it, although we know very well that there is nothing behind, just a meaningless digital network. If we take seriously what we just said, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Other Person with whom we communicate is ultimately also a kind of tamagochi. When we communicate with another subject, we get signals from him, we observe his face as a screen, but, not only do we, partners in communication, never get to know what is “ behind the screen”; the same goes for the concerned subject himself ( i.e., the subject does not know what lies behind the screen of his very own ( self) consciousness, what kind of a Thing he is in the Real! ( Self) consciousness is a surface-screen that products the effect of “ depth,” of a dimension beneath it. And yet, this dimension is accessible only from the standpoint of the surface, as a kind of surface-effect; if we effectively reach behind the screen, the very effect of the “ depth of a person” dissolves. What we are left with is just a set of meaningless processes that are neuronal, biochemical, and so forth. For that reason, the usual polemics about the respective roles of “ genes versus environment” ( of biology versus cultural influence, of nature versus nurture) in the formation of the subject misses the key dimension, namely, that of the interface that both connects and distinguishes the two. The “ subject” emerges when the “ membrane,” the surface that delimits the Inside from the Outside—instead from the Outside—instead of being just a passive medium of their interaction—starts to function as their active mediator.




   The conclusion is then that, even if science defines and starts to manipulate the human genome, this will not enable it to dominate and manipulate human subjectivity. What makes me “ unique” is neither my genetic formula nor the way my dispositions were developed due to the influence of the environment but the unique self-relationship emerging out of the interaction between the two. More precisely, even the word is not quite adequate here, insofar as it still implies the mutual influence of two given sets of positive conditions ( genes and environment), thus failing to cover the crucial feature of Selbst-Beziehung ( the self-referential loop due to which, in the way I relate to my environment, I never reach the “ zero-level” of being passively influenced by it, since, instead, I always –already relate to myself in relating to it, that is, I always-already, with a minimum of “ freedom,” determines in advance the way I will be determined by the environment, up to the most elementary level of sensible perceptions). The way I “ see myself,” the imaginary and symbolic features that constitute my “ self-image” ( or, even more fundamentally, the fantasy that provides the ultimate coordinate of my being), is neither in the genes nor imposed by the environment but in the unique way each subject relates to himself, “ chooses himself,” in relationship to his environs, as well as to ( what he perceives as ) his “ nature.”




   We are thus dealing with a kind of “ bootstrap” mechanism that cannot be reduced to the interaction of myself as a biological entity and my environment; a third mediating agency emerges ( the subject, precisely), that has no positive substantial Being since, in a way, its status is purely “ performative” ( i.e., it is a kind of self-inflamed flame, nothing but the outcome of its activity—what Fichte called a Tathandlung, the pure act of self-referential Selbst-Setzung). Yes,  I emerge through the interaction between my biological bodily base and my environs—but, what both my environs and my bodily base are  is always “ mediated” by my activity. It is interesting to note how today’s most advanced cognitive scientists take over ( or, rather, develop out of their own research) this motif of minimal self-reference that the great German Idealists were trying to formulate in terms of “ transcendental spontaneity.” So, in the case of human clones ( or, already today, of identical twins), what accounts for the uniqueness of each of them is not simply that they were exposed to different environments but the way that each of them formed a unique structure of self-reference out of the interaction between his genetic substance and his environment.




   The Deleuzian topic of pseudo cause can thus be correlated to the Hegelian notion of the ( retroactive) positing of presuppositions: the direct causality is that of the real interaction of bodies, whereas the pseudo causality is that of retroactively positing the agent’s presuppositions, of ideally assuming what is already imposed on the agent. And what if this also accounts for the emergence of the Subject as a free/autonomous agent? The only “ real” causality occurs at the bodily level of interacting multitudes, while the Subject acts as a “ pseudo cause” that creates events in an autonomous way—again, Deleuze here comes unexpectedly close to Hegel. In the modern sciences, this closed circle of the self-referential “ positing ( of ) the presuppositions,” which Hegel already perceived as the fundamental characteristic of a living entity, is designated as “ autopoiesis”; in a kind of retroactive loop, the result ( the living entity) generates the very material conditions that engender and sustain it. In the tradition of German Idealism, the living organism’s relation to its external other is always-already its self-relationship ( i.e., each organism “ posits” its presupposed environment.)




    The problem with this autopoietic notion of life, elaborated by Maturana and Verela in their classic Autopoiesis and Cognition, does not reside in the question “ Does this notion of autopoiesis effectively overcome the mechanistic paradigm?” but, rather, in the question “ how are we to pass from this self-enclosed loop of Life to ( Self) Consciousness?” Other ( Self-consciousness also reflexive, self-relating in its relationship to an Other. However this reflexivity is thoroughly different from the organism’s self-enclosure. A ( self-) conscious living being displays what Hegel calls the infinite power of Understanding, of abstract ( and abstracting) thought—it is able, in its thoughts, to tear apart the organic Whole of Life, to submit it to a mortifying analysis, to reduce the organism to its isolated elements. ( Self) consciousness thus reintroduces the dimension of Death into organic Life; language itself is a mortifying “ mechanism” that colonizes the Organism. ( This, according to Lacan, is what Freud was after in his hypothesis on the “ death drive.” It was ( again) already Hegel who formulated this tension ( among other places) at the beginning of the chapter on Self-Consciousness in his Phenomenology of Spirit, in which he opposed the two forms of “ Life” qua self-relating through relating to the Other: ( organic-biological) life, and ( self) consciousness. The true problem is not ( only ) how to pass from preorganic matter to life but how life itself can break its autopoietic closure and ex-statically turn into the mortifying objectivization of Understanding). The problem is not Life but the Death-in-Life ( “ tarrying with the negative”) of the speaking organism.




    Within the history of biology, this topic of autopoiesis is part of the “ idealist” tendency of hylozoism: everything that exists, the whole of nature, is alive—it suffers and enjoys. There is no death in this universe; what happens in the case of “ death” is just that a particular coordination of living elements disintegrates, whereas Life goes on, both the Life of the Whole and the lif of the elementary constituents of reality. ( The Sadean “ absolute crime” aims at destroying precisely this second life that survives biological death. We find this position from Aristotle ( his notion of soul as the One-Form of the body) and traditional Soticism through Denis Diderot ( for whom even stones feel pain; it’s just that we don’t hear them—reminding us of the ingenious Patricia Highsmith short story about a woman who wa able to hear the trees shouting when being cut down) and the Schellingian Romantic notion of the World-Soul, up to the whole panoply of today’s theories, from the notion of Gaia (Earth as a living organism) to Deleuze, the last great philosopher of the One, the “ body without organs” that thrives in the multitude of its modalities. One should also add to this series thinkers as different as Francisco Varela, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Heidegger, who all search for the unity of body and subject, the point at which the subject directly ( is” his or her body.




    Against this tradition stands the Cartesian tradition to which Lacan fully subscribes: the body exists in the order of having I am not my body, I have it, and this gap renders possible the Gnostic dream of Virtual Reality in which I will be able to shift from one to another virtual body. For Lacan, the key implication of the Cartesian reduction of the body to res extensa is that jouissance is evacuated from bodies, in contrast to mylozoism, in which the body enjoys itself; “ ca jouit,” as Lacan and Deleuze put it. In today’s science and technology, a “ body in pieces” is emerging, a composite of replaceable organs ( pacemakers, artificial limbs, transposed skin, heart, liver, and other transplants—up to the prospect of genetically cultivatd reserve organs). This trend culminates in today’s biogenetics: the lesson of the genome project is that the true center of a living body is not its Soul but its genetic algorithm. It was already Wismann, one of Freud’s key references, who, more than one hundred years ago, established the distinction between an organism’s “ mortal” and “ immortal” parts; its “ soma,” the external body-envelope that grows and disintegrates, and the “ germ-cells,” the genetic component that reproduces itself, remaining the same from one to another generation. Richard Dawkins provided the ultimate formula of this distinction with his notion of the “ the selfish gene”: it is not that individual organisms use their genes to replicate themselves; it is, on the contrary, individual organisms that are the means for the genes to reproduce themselves.




   The properly materialist problem is, How does subjectivity emerge in this reproductive cycle of genes? The line from germ to genome radicalizes the notion of the body within a body, of the real “ immortal” body persisting, reproducing itself, through the generation and corruption of passing mortal bodies. The Lacanian subject is neither the organic Form-Soul—one of the body, nor the germ-genome, the body within the body. The emergence of subjectivity introduces a complication here. Richard Dawkins tries to elaborate a parallel between genes and memes—in the same way bodies are just means for the reproduction of genes, individuals are just means qua elementary units of meaning. The problem here is that, with the symbolic order, the passing individual is not just S, the soma, the disposable envelope, but $ , the barred subject, the self-relating negativity that perverts/inverts the natural order, introducing a radical “ pathological “ imbalance. It is the individual who uses the memes for his or her own purposes. “ Memes” the ( symbolic tradition) are a secondary attempt to reintroduce a kind of stability and order, to reestablish the proper subordination of the particular to the universal, that was disturbed by the emergence of subjectivity: “ subject” is the mortal vanishing accident that posits itself as a infinite end-in-itself.




    One should be careful not to miss the specific level of the notion of memes. A “ memes” spreads neither because of its actual beneficial effects upon its bearers( say, those who adopt it are more successful in life and thus gain an upper hand in the struggle for survival) nor because of its characteristics that make it subjectively attractive to its bearers ( one would naturally tend to give privilege to the idea that promises happiness over the idea that promises nothing but misery and renunciation). Like a computer virus, the meme proliferates simply by programming its own retransmission. Recall the classic example of two missionaries working in a politically stable and opulent country. One says, “ The end is near—repent or you will suffer immensely, “ whereas the other’s message is just to enjoy a happy life. Although the second one’s message is much more attractive and beneficent, the first one will win—why? Because, if you really believe that the end is near, you will exert a tremendous effort to convert as many people as possible, whereas the other belief does not require such an extreme engagement in proselytizing. What is so unsettling about this notion is that we, humans endowed with mind, well, and an experience of meaning, are nonetheless unwitting victims of a “ thought contagion” that operates blindly, spreading itself like a computer virus. No wonder that, when talking about memes, Dennett regularly resorts to the same metaphors as Lacan apropos of language: in both cases, we are dealing with a parasite that penetrates and occupies the human individual, using it for its own purposes. And, effectively, does “ memetics” not ( re)discover the notion of a specifi symbolic level that operates outside ( and, consequently, cannot be reduced to) the standard couple of objective biological facts ( beneficent “ real” effects) and subjective experience ( the attraction of the meaning of a meme)? In a liminal case, an idea can spread even if, in the long term, it brings only destruction to its bearers and is even experienced as unattractive.




    Is there not a surprising parallel between this notion of memes and the Marxist-Hegelian notion of alienation? In the same way memes, misperceived by us, subjects, as means of our communication, effectively run the show ( they use us to reproduce and multiply themselves), productive forces, which appear to us as means to satisfy our needs and desires, effectively run the show. The true aim of the process, its end-in-itself, is the development of the productive forces, and the satisfaction of our needs and desires( i.e., hat appears to us as the goal) is effectively ust the means for the development of the productive forces. This reversal, unbearable to our narcissism, is paradigmatic of modern science, of its production of knowledge that is, in a way, too traumatic t be incorporated into the beliefs which structure our daily lives. Already, quantum physics can no longer be : understood: ( its results cannot be integrated into our everyday view of reality). The same goes for biogenetics. Although we accept its truth, we simultaneously maintain toward it the attitude of fetishist disavowal. We refuse to believe not in a religious doctrine beyond scientific knowledge but in what scientific knowledge itself is telling us about ourselves.




December 4, 2008







“ Paris is a very hospitable place, “ she said, “ It accepts everything, shameful fortunes and bloodstained fortunes. Crime and infamy can find asylum here. Only virtue has no alters here. Yes, pure souls have their home in heaven!




最後一句明明是祈願句的省略:May pure souls have their home in heaven! (但願純潔的靈魂在天國找到安身之地!)


羅蘭、巴特的注釋也是別有心裁:Sublime alibi for castration ( heaven will justify the castrati we have become). Moral code ( virtue is not of the world). 文化符碼:關於閹割的崇高託辭(我們已變成閹人,天國將為咱們這些人提供庇護)。道德符碼:(美德不屬於這個世界。)


對於愛情懷有聖潔崇高情操的美德成為「此物只應天上有,人間哪得幾回見」,被羅蘭、巴特振振有理justify用來嘲諷我們猶有嚮往的人為「美德」的閹人。現實情境如此這般,難怪自「薩拉辛」的作者巴爾札克,到評釋者羅蘭,巴特,到咱們讀書尋找崇高託辭sublime alibi的「欠缺愛情美德之根」的閹人,不得不仿效敘述者候爵夫人憂思以終remains pensive



Zizek 03

December 4, 2008

Organs without bodies by Zizek 紀傑克:沒有身體的器官

Translated by Springhero 雄伯譯


When the Fantasy Fails Apart



One should here go to a crucial step further into the disintegration of fantasy. David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive perfectly depicts this gradual disintegration. The two main stages of this process are, first, the excessively intense acting in the test scene, and, then, when the autonomous partial object ( “ organ without a body” )emerges in the scene in the nightclub Silenicie. Here, the movement is from the excess, which is still contained in reality although already disturbing it, sticking out of it, to its full autonomization, which causes the disintegration of reality itself; say, from the pathological distortion of a mouth to the mouth leaving the body and floating around as a spectral partial object ( the same as in Syberberg’s Parsifal, in which we pass from the wound on the body to the wound as autonomous organ without a body, outside it). This excess is what Lacan calls lamella, the infinitely plastic object that can transpose itself from one to another medium: from excessive ( trans-semantic) scream to a stain ( or anamorphic visual distortion). Is this not what takes place in Much’s Scream ? The scream is silent, a bone stuck in the throat, a stoppage that cannot be vocalized and can express itself only in the guise of s silent visual distortion, curving the space around the screaming subject.




    In Silencio, where Betty and Rita go after successfully making love, a singer sings Roy Orbison’s “ Crying” in Spanish. When the singer collapses, the song goes on. At this point, the fantasy collapses too—not in the sense that, from within,  as it were, fantasy loses its mooring in reality and gets autonomized, as a pure spectral apparition of a bodiless “ undead” voice ( a rendering of the Real of the Voice similar to that at the beginning of Sergio Leone’s Once upon a Time in America, in which we see a phone ringing loudly, and, when a hand picks up the receiver, the ringing goes on). The shot of the voice continuing to sing even when its bodily support collapses is the inversion of the famous Balanchine ballet staging of a short piece by Webern: in this staging, the dancing goes on even after the music stops. We have thus, in one case, the voice that insists even when deprived of its bodily support, and, in the other case, the bodily movements that insist even when deprived of their vocal ( musical) support. The effect is not simply symmetrical because, in the first case, we hav the undead vocal drive, the immortal life, going on, whereas in the second case, the figures that continue to dance are “ dead men dancing,” shadows deprived of their life-substance. However, in both cases what we witness is the dissociation between reality and the real; in both cases the Real insists even when reality disintegrates. This real, of course, is the fantasmatic Real at its purest. And, to put it in Deleuzian terms, is this “ autonomization “ of the partial object not the very moment of the extraction of the virtual from the actual? The status of the “ organ without the body” is that of the virtual—in other words, in the opposition between the virtual and the actual, the Lacanian Real is on the side of the virtual.




   Of course, in all of these cases, the shock effect is followed by an explanation that relocates it back within ordinary reality. In the night club scene in Mulholland Drive, we are warned at the very outset that we are listening to prerecorded music, that the singers just mimic the act of singing; in the case from Leone, the phone we continue to hear ringing after the receiver is picked up is another phone, and so forth. However, what is nonetheless crucial is that, for a short moment, part of reality was (mis)perceived as a nightmarish apparition—and, in a way, this apparition was “ more real than reality itself,” since, in it, the Real shone through. In short, one should discern which part of reality is “ transfunctionalized” through fantasy, so that, although it is part of reality, it is perceived in a fictional mode. Much more difficult than to denounce/unmask ( what appears as ) reality as fiction is to recognize in “ real” reality the part of fiction. Is this not what happens in transference, in which, while we relate to a “ real person: in front of us, we effectively relate to the fiction of, say our father? Recall also Home Alone especially part two. In both parts, there is a cut two-thirds into the film; although the story seems to take place in a continuous diegetic place, it is clear that, with the final confrontation between the small kid and the two robbers, we enter a different ontological realm, a plastic cartoon-space in which there is no death, in which may head can explode, yet I go on as normal in the next scene. Again, part of reality is fictionalized.




   It is such a fictionalized partial object that also serves as the support of voice. In his advice to young composers, Richard Wagner wrote that, after elaborating the contours of the musical piece one wants to compose, one should erase everything and just focus one’s mind on a lone head floating freely in a dark void and wait for the moment when this white apparition starts to move its lips and sing. This music should be the germ of the work to be composed. Is this procedure not that of getting the partial object to sing? It is not a person’s ( a subject)—the object itself should start to sing.



Zizek 02

December 2, 2008

Looking Awry by Zizek 紀傑克:歪斜看

Translated by Springhero                        雄伯譯


The Woman Does Not Exist



  Given the central status of deception in relation to the symbolic order, one has to draw a radical conclusion the only way not to be deceived is to maintain a distance from the symbolic order, i.e., to assume a psychotic position. A psychotic is precisely a subject who is not duped by the symbolic order.




   Let us approach this psychotic position via Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, probably the most beautiful and effective variation on the theme of the “ disappearance that everybody denies.” The story is usually told from the point of view of a hero who, quite by chance, becomes acquainted with a pleasant, somewhat eccentric person; soon afterward, this person disappears and when the hero tries to find him or her, all those who saw them together remember nothing about the other ( or even remember positively that the hero was alone), so that the very existence of this missing person passes for a hallucinatory  idée fixe of the hero. In his conversations with Truffaut, Hitchcock himself mentions the original of this series of variations; it is the story of an old lady who  disappeared from her hotel room in Paris in 1880, at the time of the Great Exhibition. After the Lady Vanishes, the most famous variation is undoubtedly Cornell Woolrich’s roman noir, Phantom Lady, in which the hero spends the evening with a beautiful, unknown woman whom he encounters at a bar. This woman, who subsequently disappears and whom no on will admit seeing, turns out to be the only alibi the hero has to encounter a charge of murder.




   In spite of the utter improbability of these plots, there is something “ psychologically convincing” about them—as if they touched some chord in our unconscious. To understand the apparent “ rightness” of these plots, we should note first of all that the person who disappears is as a rule a very ladylike woman. It is difficult not to recognize in this phantomlike figure the apparition of Woman, of the woman who could fill out the lack in man, the ideal partner with whom the sexual relationship would finally be possible, in short. The Woman who, according to Lacanian theory, precisely does not exist. The nonexistence of this woman is rendered manifest to the hero by the absence of the inscription in the socio-symbolic network: the intersubjective community of the hero acts as if she does not exist, as if she were only his idee fixe.





    Where should we locate the “ falsity” and at the same time the attraction, the irresistible charm, of this theme of the “ disappearance which everybody denies”? According to the ordinary ending of this kind of story the lady who disappeared was not, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, simply the hero’s hallucination. In other words, The Woman does exist. The structure of this fiction is the same as that of well-known joke about a psychiatrist to whom a patient complains that there is a crocodile under his bed. The psychiatrist tries to convince the patient that this is just a hallucination , that in reality there is no crocodile under his bed. At the next secession, the man persists in his complaints and the psychiatrist continues his efforts of persuasion. When the man doe not come for the third session, the psychiatrist is convinced that the patient has been cured. Some time later, upon meeting one of the man’s friends, the psychiatrist asks him how his former patient is doing, the friend replies: “ Whom do you mean exactly. The won who was eaten by a crocodile?”




    At first sight, the point of this kind of story seems to be that the subject was right to oppose the doxa of the other : the truth is on the side of his idée fixe, even though his insistence on it threatened to exclude him from the symbolic community. Such a reading nevertheless obscures an essential feature, which can be approached via another, slightly different variation on the theme of the “ realized hallucination.” Robert Heinlein’s science fiction short “ They.” Its hero, confined to a lunatic asylum, is convinced that the whole of external, objective reality is a gigantic mise-en-scene staged by “ them” in order to dupe him. All the people around him are part of this trickery, including his wife. ( Thing became “clear” to him a few months previously while setting out a Sunday drive with his family. He was already in the car, it was raining outside, when he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten some small detail and returned to the house. Casually looking through the rear window on the second floor, he noticed that the sun was shining brightly, and realized that “ they” had made a small mistake by forgetting to stage the rain behind the house!” His benevolent psychiatrist, his lovely wife, all his friends try desperately to bring him back to “ reality”; when he finds himself alone with his wife and she professes her love for him, he is almost duped for an instant into believing her, but his old conviction stubbornly prevails. The end of the story : after leaving him, the women posing as his wife reports to some unidentified agency: “ We failed with subject X, he still has doubts, mainly because of our mistake over the rain-effect: we forgot to arrange it behind his house.”




   Here, as well as with the joke about the crocodile, the denoument is not interpretive, it does not transpose us into another frame of reference. In the end, we are thrown back to the beginning: the patient is convinced that there is a crocodile under his bed, and there really is a crocodile under his bed: Heinlein’s hero thinks that objective reality a mise-en-scene organized by them.” What we have here is a kind of successful encounter: the final surprise is produced by the fact that a certain gap ( the contents of the hallucination) and “ reality” ) is abolished. This collapse of “ fiction” ( the contents of the hallucination) and “ reality” defines the psychotic universe. It is, however, only the second story ( “ They” that enables us to isolate the crucial feature of the mechanism at work; there the deception of the big Other is located in an agent, another subject ( “ they”) who is not deceived. This subject, who holds and manipulates the threads of the deception proper to the symbolic order, is what Lacan calls “ the Other of the Other.” This other emerges as such, acquires visible existence, in paranoia, in the form of the persecutor supposed to master the game of deception.




   Herein lies then the crucial feature the psychotic subject’s distrust of the big Other, his idée foxe that the big Other ( embodied in the intersubjective community) is trying to deceive him, is always and necessarily supported by an unshakable belief in a consistent Other, an Other without gaps, an “ Other of the Other” ( “ they” in Heinlein’s story). When the paranoid subject clings to his distrust of the Other of the symbolic community, of “ common opinion,” he implies thereby the existence of “ Other of this Other,” of a nondeceived agent who holds the reins. The paranoiac’s mistake does not consist in his radical disbelief, in his conviction that there is a universal deception—here he is quite right, the symbolic order is ultimately the order of a fundamental deception—but rather, in his belief in a hidden agent who manipulates this deception, who tries to dupe him into accepting that “ The Woman does not exist,” for example. This would be, then, the paranoid version of the fact that “ The Woman does not exist”: she certainly does exist; the impression of her nonexistence is nothing but an effect of the deception staged by the conspiratory Other, like the gang of conspirators in The Lady Vanishes who try to dupe the heroine into accepting that the lady who vanished never existed.




    The lady who vanishes is thus ultimately the woman with whom the sexual relationship would be possible, the elusive shadow of a Woman who would not be just another woman; which is why the disappearance of this woman is a means by which filmic romance takes cognizance of the fact that “ The Woman does not exist” and that there is, therefore, no sexual relationship. Joseph mankiewicz’s classic Hollywood melodrama A Letter to Three Wives, also a story of a lady who vanishes, presents this impossibility of the sexual relationship in another, more with one of their husbands. refined way. The lady who vanishes, although never seen on screen, is here constantly present in the form of what Michel Chion called la voix accousmatique. The story is introduced by the off-screen voice of Attie Ross, a small town femme fataale: she has arranged for a letter to be delivered to three women taking a Sunday trip down the river. The letter informs them that on this very day while they are absent from town, she will run off with one of their husbands. During the trip, each of the three women recalls in a flashback the difficulties of her marriage; each of them fears that Attic has chosen precisely her husband to run off with, because to each of them Attie represents the ideal woman, a refined lady possessing that “ something” that the wife lacks, causing the marriage itself to seem less than perfect. The first wife is a nurse, an uneducated, simple-minded girl married to a rich man she met in the hospital; the second is a rather vulgar, professionally active woman, earning much more than her husband, a professor and writer; the third is a working-class parvenu, married, with no illusion of love, to a rich merchant, simply for the purpose of financial independence.” The result is of course a happy ending, but with an interesting undertone. It turns out that Attie planned to run off with the third woman’s husband, the rich merchant, who, however, at the last moment changes his mind, returns home, and confesses all to his wife. Although she could divorce him and obtain a substantial alimony, she forgives him, discovering that she loves him after all. The three couples are thus reunited at the end, the menace that seemed to threaten their marriages disappears. The happy ending is never pure, it always implies a kind of renuncation—an acceptance of the fact that the woman with whom we live is never Woman, that there is a permanent threat of disharmony, that any moment another woman might appear who will embody what seems to be lacking in the marital relation. What enables the happy ending, it, a return to the first woman, is precisely the experience that the Other woman “ does not exist,” that she is ultimately just a fantasy figure filling out the void of our relation with a woman. In other words, the happy ending is possible only with the first woman. If the hero were to decide for the Other Woman ( whose exemplary case is of course the femme fatale in film noir), he would necessarily pay for his choice by catastrophe, even by death. What we encounter here is the same paradox as that of the incest prohibition, ie, the prohibition of something that is already in itself impossible. The Other Woman is prohibited insofar as she “ does not exist”, she is mortally dangerous because of the ultimate discord between her fantasy figure and the “ the empirical” woman who, quite by chance, finds herself occupying this fantasy place. It is precisely this impossible relationship between the fantasy figure of the Othe Woman and the “ empirical” woman who finds herself elevated to this sublime place that is the subject of Hitchcock’s Vertigo.






December 2, 2008







   上課正入神時in full swing,學生突然不約而同向外注視,驚奇不置。原來是操場上大風起兮塵飛揚,變天了。果然,今天早晨醒來就發現細雨綿綿,看來是要進入梅雨季節了。想一想,每天忙碌於工作讀書,對於季節的變遷幾乎達到漠視的程度,實在是有愧於理應是適應氣候變化,作為動物性的人。季節的更迭不就是意謂著年歲又向前推移,也就是距離大限的日子越來越近了,能不悚然以懼乎?至少總該內心自惕一下罷?






   從網路上下載到「傑克、倫敦」Jack London 的「馬丁、伊頓」Martin Eden的英文版。其中有一段我以前閱讀時耳熟能想詳。描述馬丁貧窮落魄時,女友Lizzi因家庭反對離他而去。等到他獲得國家文學獎後,功成名就時,Lizzi 回來相會的那段對白:


   “ I could die for you! I could die for you!’ Lizzie’s words were ringing in his ears.

   “ Why didn’t you dare it before? “ he asked harshly. “ When I hadn’t a job? When I was starving? When I was just as I am now, as a man, as artist, the same Martin Eden?” That’s the question I’ve been propounding to myself for many a day—not concerning you merely, but concerning everybody. You see I have not changed, though my sudden apparent appreciation in value compels me constantly to reassure myself on that point! I’ve got the same flesh on my bones, the same ten fingers and toes. I am the same. I have not developed any new strength nor virtue. My brain is the same brain. I haven’t made even one new generalization on literature or philosophy. I am personally of the same value that I was when nobody wanted me. And what is puzzling me is why they want me now. Surely they don’t want me for myself, for myself is the same old self they did not want. Then they must want me for something else, for something that is outside of me, for something that is not I! Shall I tell you what that something is? It is for the recognition I have received. That recognition is not I. It resides in the minds of others. Then again for the money I have earned and am earning. But that money is not I. It resides in banks and in the pockets of Tom, Dick and Harry. And is it for that, for the recognition and the money, that you now want me?




December 2, 2008

















December 2, 2008








   無獨有偶,今天下午作為召集人的J 突然請教我一個問題:我們英文科教師請產假的老師有兩位,為什麼不請外面代課?我只好坦白告訴她:你們年輕女老師,沒有家計負擔,當然課越少越輕鬆。傳統以來,男老師因為家庭經濟需求,對於兼課代課,並不排斥。在三十幾年前,甚至還有為爭兼鐘點時數而爭吵者,你們大慨是無法想像的。