At his point, the function of the letter in the story is to simply position people. Jacques Lacan, in his analysis considers this structure as triangular one. In these two scenes, there are three available positions in relation to the other. The letter locates different people according to their relations to the letter. Signifier is a threat to the system. Queen knows that if she puts the letter full-view on table, King would not notice it and be curious.
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At his point, the function of the letter in the story is to simply position people. Jacques Lacan, in his analysis considers this structure as triangular one. In these two scenes, there are three available positions in relation to the other. The letter locates different people according to their relations to the letter.
Signifier is a threat to the system. Queen knows that if she puts the letter full-view on table, King would not notice it and be curious. In his seminar, Lacan tells this story, the myth about ostriches. Thus it thinks it is safe, secure. Queen thinks she is able to see, and she is safe. Lacan associates Queen basically with imaginary position; not exactly as repetition of mirror scene but similar. Third of all, there is the Minister in this first scene.
He makes a kind of substitution, takes the original letter and puts a fake one in its place. There are the Police, who cannot see similar to the King in the first scene. According to Lacan, they are looking for the letter in reality.
They are searching for an object. Actually their rationality which assumes that letter is an object is correct. They conclude with ultimate rationality that letter must be in the apartment, which is correct.
The Police divide all squares of the apartment in pieces in order to investigate and cannot find the letter still. Even if you divide the letter, it would still be a letter. The letter in Purloined Letter is an empty signifier. In this second scene, because the Police cannot find it, Minister thinks he is safe. Dupin sees what others are doing He sees both Minister and the Police ; and as the third person similar to the Minister in the first scene he finds the letter and substitutes it.
It is not because one character is more intelligent than the other, but because of their transforming relation to the letter. At this point Lacan firstly says that letter positions characters.
Secondly he underlines that this is the story of how symbolic order constructs subjects. The substitution of signifier is the symbolic system which defines our beings, provides us with unconscious, defines us in accordance with relations to others and creates us as subjects. In substitution, you take position according to how you are related or relate yourself with the signifier which is the letter in the story. You fantasize that you are in possession and recognize that you are always seen by the other.
You see and think that the others cannot see; there is always the other that sees you so you are never full, complete. The fact is that, the position of seeing that you are not seen is imaginary; a falsifying shield over lack and the ego. Symbolic as the other for Lacan may be understood in two ways: 1 Otherness of symbolic system; language for instance and the fact that you have to define yourself in a foreign system.
One other thing: As I already mentioned in the beginning of first post, Lacan begins discussion of this story while talking about Beyond the Pleasure Principle of Freud. Freud in this book writes about death instinct. He formulates it by repetition compulsion.
Freud observed something strange about his patients; people who had traumatic experiences repeated those experiences in their dreams, fantasies.
For Freud, thinking about death brings along desire to repeat; desire to return the original equilibrium before birth. Lacan also begins his discussion with this formulation. For him, there was a repetition compulsion in the narrative, between the scenes 1 and 2 which I explained before.
Two scenes are repeating certain structures. Additionally, story was not just about positioning of the subject but it is about how letter keeps returning by the repetition of structure. There is always a lack, absence, sliding of substitutions. Whole use of language in symbolic system is what we do through compulsion to repeat. Lacan agrees that there is something to do with death.
This whole chain of substitution in symbolic order is kind of death; acceptance, living with death. Well, how? This is actually not a unique Lacanian idea; it is his regeneration of post-structuralist theme. Entry into language, writing is a kind of death because it is a submission to something that is alien.
You somehow accept your lack of uniqueness by entering a foreign system, by naming yourself within that system. Lacan states that initially you enter symbolic order. You give up the phallus and replace it with the name of the father by entering network of language.
You accept your castration, lack and look for substitution. On the other hand, death is something unique, full, unsubstitutable and complete. While writing, you become divided by translating yourself into something else. For Lacan, rather than death wish, it is carrying the knowledge of death; carrying yourself upon your knowledge, destructivity of death.
PREVIEW-Episode 75: Lacan & Derrida Criticize Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”
Jacques Lacan Our inquiry has led us to the point of recognizing that the repetition automatism Wiederholangszwang finds its basis in what we have called the insistence of the signifying chain. As is known, it is in the realm of experience inaugurated by psychoanalysis that we may grasp along what imaginary lines the human organism, in the most intimate recesses of its being, manifests its capture in a symbolic dimension. The lesson of this seminar is intended to maintain that these imaginary incidences, far from representing the essence of our experience, reveal only what in it remains inconsistent unless they are related to the symbolic chain which binds and orients them. But this emphasis would be lavished in vain, if it served, in your opinion, only to abstract a general type from phenomena whose particularity in our work would remain the essential thing for you, and whose original arrangement could be broken up only artificially. It is that truth, let us note, which makes the very existence of fiction possible.
Ep. 75: Lacan & Derrida Criticize Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”
Poe’s “Purloined Letter” and Lacanian Psychoanalytical Criticism – 2