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The temptation to be resisted here is the ethical domestication of the neighbor – for example, what Emmanuel Levinas did with his notion of the neighbor as the abyssal point from which the call of ethical responsibility emanates. What Levinas obfuscates is the monstrosity of the neighbor, monstrosity on account of which Lacan applies to the neighbor the term Thing (), used by Freud to designate the ultimate object of our desires in its unbearable intensity and impenetrability. One should hear in this term all the connotations of horror fiction: the neighbor is the (Evil) Thing which potentially lurks beneath every homely human face. Just think about Stephen King’s , in which the father, a modest failed writer, gradually turns into a killing beast who, with an evil grin, goes on to slaughter his entire family. No wonder, then, that Judaism is also the religion of divine Law which regulates relations between people: this Law is strictly correlative to the emergence of the neighbor as the inhuman Thing. That is to say, the ultimate function of the Law is not to enable us not to forget the neighbor, to retain our proximity to the neighbor, but, on the contrary, to keep the neighbor at a proper distance, to serve as a kind of protective wall against the monstrosity of the neighbor. As Rainer Maria Rilke put it in his :

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Although there are several attempts for Janie to voice her emotions and opinions, there is still silence as this personal voice is yet to be recognized and acknowledged. However, even though her voice is hardly recognized in the beginning, growth in the same is observed. The grow stems from her constant questioning and from her lack of voice, which in turn signifies having absolute power over her life. This is evidenced when she publicly humiliates Jody with a statement that she makes. In the novel, we learn of Jody’s demise. This in itself was the opportunity that Janie required to attain fully her female identity, voice as well as high standing within the society’s hierarchy.


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In contemporary art, we encounter often brutal attempts to âreturn to the real’, to remind the spectator (or reader) that he is perceiving a fiction, to awaken him from the sweet dream. This gesture has two main forms which, although opposed, amount to the same. In literature or cinema, there are (especially in postmodern texts) self-reflexive reminders that what we are watching is a mere fiction, like the actors on screen addressing directly us as spectators, thus ruining the illusion of the autonomous space of the narrative fiction, or the writer directly intervening into the narrative through ironic comments; in theatre, there are occasional brutal events which awaken us to the reality of the stage (like slaughtering a chicken on stage). Instead of conferring on these gestures a kind of Brechtian dignity, perceiving them as versions of extraneation, one should rather denounce them for what they are: the exact opposite of what they claim to be – escapes from the Real, desperate attempts to avoid the real of the illusion itself, the Real that emerges in the guise of an illusory spectacle.


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Since sexuality is the domain in which we get most close to the intimacy of another human being, totally exposing ourselves to him or her, sexual enjoyment is real for Lacan: something traumatic in its breath-taking intensity, something impossible in the sense that we cannot ever make sense of it. This is why a sexual relation, in order to function, has to be screened through some fantasy. Recall the love encounter between Sarah Miles and her illicit lover, the English officer, in David Lean’s : the depiction of the sexual act in the midst of the forest, with waterfall sounds supposed to render their subdued passion, cannot but strike us today as a ridiculous bric-a-brac of cliches. However, the role of the pathetic sound accompaniment is profoundly ambiguous: by way of emphasizing the ecstasy of the sexual act, these sounds in a way derealize the act and deliver us of the oppressive weight of its massive presence. A small mental experiment is sufficient to make this point clear: let us imagine that, in the middle of such a pathetic rendering of the sexual act, the music would all of a sudden be cut out, and all that remained would be quick, snappy gestures, their painful silence interrupted by occasional rattle and groan, compelling us to confront the inert presence of the sexual act. In short, the paradox of the scene from is that the waterfall sound itself functions as the fantasmatic screen obfuscating the Real of the sexual act.

Hurston, Zora N. . New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.

This is also one of the ways of specifying the meaning of Lacan’s claim that the subject is always “decentered.” His point is not that my subjective experience is regulated by objective unconscious mechanisms that are decentered with regard to my self-experience and, as such, beyond my control (a point asserted by every materialist), but, rather, something much more unsettling: I am deprived of even my most intimate subjective experience, the way things “really seem to me,” that of the fundamental fantasy that constitutes and guarantees the core of my being, since I can never consciously experience it and assume it.