Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Anti-Oedipus – Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari – An Overview

Why schizoprehnia?

According to Deleuze and Guattari schizophrenia can be seen as an extreme mental state which co-exists with the capitalist system of society for capitalism enforces neurosis in effort to maintain an appearance of normalcy. Mental disorders are always second to something else.
Marxism – the state of the human machine

Production and consumptions are seen to be continuous and thus, there will be a constant need for labourers who can live only as long as they find work and will be given work only as long as their labour increases capital and so the labourers themselves are a type of commodity. Capitalism reduces all human relations to a monetary bargain and so as Freud noted, most mental disorders are rooted in economic situations.
Human relations become mere commercial relationships and can be plugged and unplugged at will depending on the flow of capital. Therefore, for a bourgeoisie man; his wife is merely a machine that produces.  

The Desiring Machines (Desiring- Production)
The traditional belief of desire is that ‘production’ and ‘acquisition’ have a distinction that can be clearly seen in Freud and Lacan. Desire for them, seeks to acquire something that a lack is felt for. For Deleuze and Guattari; desire is positive and a process of production which in turn produced reality.

“There are no-desiring machines that exist outside the social machines that they form on a large scale; and no social machines without the desiring machines that inhabit them on a small scale.”
The breast is seen to be a milk producing machine while the mouth which is coupled to it is yet another machine. Therefore, the entire world is made of machines and so we all are handymen each with our own little machines. But for each machine there are time flows and interruptions.

A schizophrenic walking outdoors better than one cooped up with a preacher intoning society’s laws and the relationship one must have in a family system for all the machines of nature will be connected to his body and he will exist before the man and nature dichotomy and though he does not actually live in nature he lives among the process of production.
It is an assumption that Oedipus is something that is obvious and that such repression of desiring machines exists as why should these machines be repressed and to what end? This also leads one to question why desire should submit to such repression and what means are used to make such repression a reality.

“This does not mean that we are attempting to make nature one of the poles of schizophrenia. What the schizophrenic experiences, both as an individual and as a member of the human species, is not at all any one specific aspect of nature, but nature as a process of production.”
From the mindset of today, nature and industry are seen to be two different things as it is true that in one way industry is opposite to nature but industry relies on nature for extracts if raw material and the refuse is returned to nature as well.

Production – consumption
It is the characteristic perceived dichotomies of man-nature, industry-nature, society-nature that make a distinction in autonomous spheres like production, distribution and consumption. If we were to give these distinctions a formal examination as structures then it is not only the existence of capital along with the division of labour but also the false consciousness that a capitalist being acquires of itself and the overall process that raises such distinctions. The capitalist being acquires a feeling of distinction which does not truly exist in the scheme of things.

There are no independent spheres as production ultimately leads to consumption which leads in term to a recording process which determines the demand which in turn determines the further production and this takes place within the production circuit in itself. Everything is in turn production, be it passions, pleasures or even pain and all these have a recording process followed by immediate consumption and then these consumptions are reproduced in an endless cycle of production, consumption and re-production.
This is what the essence of a process as a term really is – it is a blend of recording and consumption within production itself and so production can be termed as the process of consumption and recording or enregistrement.

Man – Nature distinction
Industry and production lead to a union or rather a re-union between man and nature just as it does in human life in general where we have man taking from nature and nature interacting for man. Industry can no longer be viewed only from the point of view of utility as if identifies with nature on the front that man produces things for himself by himself – like democracy for the people and by the people. Man here is not elevated as a king or godhead of all creation or as the creator. He is instead an aware being in contact with the natural world and with all the different forms of life.

Man is responsible for what he does to nature and the life around him for he is in ceaseless search for new machines and new plugged in sources and so is forever plugged to some machine or the other be it a tree or the breast. Therefore, man’s role is that of a custodian of machines. In the case of Victor Frankenstein, he is not the creator of the new machine which he produces through electric charge but the custodian of it which changes the scenario to some extent.
Man and nature must not be seen as two contesting opposites or those of bipolar relationships of cause, ideas or expression (cause – effect; subject – object)  but they are both one in the concept of producer – product. Production is above all processes and gives us a cycle that explains the cycle of desire. Desire leads to production leading to further desire meaning more production; as economics points out and religion bemoans – human desire can never be fulfilled; it is a shape shifter like Coyote.

There is no real dichotomy for if coal is extracted from nature it is consumed at once ad so while Marxism separates capital and labour there is no real separation as the labourer consumes the goods he produces. Even literature can be seen as a never ending process that keeps on producing signifiers.
Production as not goal oriented

To quote D.H Lawrence on love: “We have pushed a process into a goal. The aim of any process is not the perpetuation of that process, but the completion thereof… The process should work to a completion, not to some horror of intensification and extremity wherein the soul and body ultimately perish.” Schizophrenia according to Deleuze is a universe by itself of productive and reproductive desiring machines which in essence is the reality of what man and nature truly constitute.

Desiring machines are by nature binary i.e. they follow a set of binary laws or rules that govern associations and one machine is coupled to the other in an endless cycle. There is always a flow producing machine which has another attached to it or rather connected to it which interrupts or draws away part of this flow. Like the breast is a milk producing machine in which the mouth draws off milk or a laptop charger is connected to a electrical socket and then drains power from the socket to the charger which is in turn connected to the laptop.
Due to this the first machine is connected to another which interrupts the flow and partially drains it off and so this binary series forms a linear chain. Due to desire there is a constant coupling of flows to these partial objects that are fragmentary and fragmented… the socket to charger to laptop… Thus, desire causes the current to flow and the current flows in itself and then is broken into by another machine and yet continues to flow. Therefore these flows consist of partial objects that are being constantly cut off by other partial objects which produce other flows that are in turn interrupted by other partial objects.

Every object presupposes the continuity of a flow (the charger expects the electric current; the mouth expects milk from the breast) and every flow the fragmentation of the object. And so, each organ-machine will interpret the world from its own perspective, point of view or energy source. So, the eye interprets everything from the energy source of seeing be it speaking, understanding, excreting and the like. There is always a connection to another machine which interrupts the current of the other or ‘sees’ the current to be interrupted.
There is thus, no goal here but a ceaseless sequence of machines that cut of flow and continue giving flow to other machine coupled to them. This coupling that takes place within the partial object flow connective synthesis has another form called product-producing which in term sums up the essence of the man-nature relationship. Producing must always be something grafted into the product and so desiring production is further production of production leading to one machine being connected to the next and to the next and so on.

Production and Desire
Production and consumption has a rhiszomorphic (ginger root - rhizo like) character as it is an organic and biological network where things are unified and not separated as in Freud and Lacan.

Henri Michaux through the process of production which is that of desire, sets about describing what he calls a ‘schizophrenic table’. The table does not fit the criteria of being a table as far as its utility is concerned as it is not user friendly but yet it has our legs and a top of rectangular wood which fits the concept of what a table should look like though it is too heavy and the surface is eaten by the supporting framework. A table that is not utilitarian is not desired just like a bag that can’t carry a load of books without torn seams or straps is not going to be desired for further production. It is like a stalled engine.
Man is not creating something in the context of machines but is producing something and effectively moving away from the notion of creator to producer. The almost organismic feeling of having created something is replaced by the handyman’s satisfaction when he plugs something into an electrical socket. This feeling is beyond “playing mommy or daddy”, or the pleasure to be had by violating a taboo. It is not the feeling of being ‘creator’; ‘ruler’; setting ones’ rule’ or the like.

Desiring machines and primary production are characterized by the continuous cycle of producing-production or grafting producing in the product. Deleuze takes up the example of Richard Linder’s “Boy with Machine” which pictures a huge, pudgy, bloated boy working on one of his desiring-machines after having hooked up a vast technical social machine which is common to young children.
In this context the anti-Oedipus strives to analyse the relation of desire to reality in a capitalist society and so the painting shows the schizoanalytic thesis where desire socially invests itself with a primacy over familial investments as the boy has short circuited the parents by plugging the desiring machine into the social machine.

According to the schizoanalytical concept Deleuze forwards, libido needs no desexualisation or sublimation for sexuality is everywhere. It can be seen in the way the bureaucrat fondles his records, the circulation of money by a business man, the administration of justice by a judge etc. Desire is not subjective but it is like what the Marxist view believes it to be – economic and a base of the society.
Product Identity – madness and guilt

In the linear series of producing-production there is a point when everything stops dead; the point just before the wheel is about to turn and then it turns and the cycle begins afresh. On one hand, it would be better if things stopped there – if nothing happened; nothing worked. No birth in this world leading to the end of the constant cycle of birth and rebirth; consequently no mouth to suck; no anus to excrete through; no brain or mind to think and the like. Deleuze believes that psychoanalysis takes this cyclic path to make one live in a circle of guilt and thus, humble a person.
Foucault notes the relationship between madness and family (noted also in “Wide Sargossa Sea” where Bertha’s mother and brother too are deemed mentally ill) that can be traced to the nineteenth century bourgeois model of society. In the process of family reformation; the family and belonging to it became a measuring rod for individual responsibility of its members as well as their guilt. This is aptly illustrated in Daniel Defoe’s ‘Moll Flanders’ where the elder brother who seduces Moll is careful to make sure no one in the family knows his guilt which he endeavours to cover up by passing on his mistress to his brother as a wife.

Psychoanalysis cloaks insanity in the mantle of the parental complex and the patterns of self punishment resulting from the Oedipus are seen to be confessions of guilt but Deleuze does not find these theories to be all that radical or innovative. Freud in one case, interprets Little Hans dream of a big horse falling down as his mother being subjugated by his father which is not the most innovative of conceptions. This focus on the parental complex is seen by Deleuze as a completion of what nineteenth century psychology set out to do. It linked madness to the family as well as developing a moralized discourse on family life. The parent’s lack of communication leads to mental illness in the child through learned behavior.
Psychoanalysis is not liberating the mind but confine it even more to the repressions that the borugeiose world view brought out (refer the section on Marxism provided in this overview). The problem is not done away with; one cannot move beyond the family or the tie to “mommy-daddy”.

Oedipus as a restraining order
Oedipus is a metaphor for the “daddy-mommy-me” triangle made into a dogma by psychoanalysis. The Oedipal model colonises and represses its members and thus gives them complexes which in turn are supposed to form principles which organize society. For those who refuse to be Oedipalised, the psychoanalyst will call on the asylum for help and so supports social repression.

In the psychological context, schizophrenia is viewed to be a disorder in extremes and runs in families – the propounded myth is that atleast one parent tests positive for it and if the parents aren’t the cause it is the grandparents. Modeling from parental behavior, conflicts where each parent tries to win the child over to his/her side or passively submitting to a spouse’s bizarre behavior are seen to be casues that lead to this illness.
From Deleuze and Gauttari’s viewpoint, the nuclear family is actually a means of psychological repression where the desires of the child are perverted and creates as a result docile and unquestioning individuals. It is Freud and psychoanalysts who have installed the Oedipus triangle as a sun (much like Judge Schreber) and where it is not possible to attribute mental disorders to parental influence they bring in the grandparents as an extension of Oedipal mechanisims. Thus, one cannot escape Oedipus that extends backwards in time and also forwards in the case of sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters.

Psychoanalysis is guilty of a capitalist coding when it deals with Oedipus in the society as a social formation. Oedipus is first enforced by the family and then by social institutions. The Oedipus in itself forms a double blind detailing how an individual is supposed to act and feel.


Interliterariness as a Concept in Comparative Literature by Marian Galik – An Overview

Literariness and Interliterariness

Interliterariness is a relatively new concept that began in Central European literary studies though the notion was helped on by Russian formalists and Czech structuralists. Literariness was a forerunner of this concept and was first propounded by Roman Jakobson in 1921 when he said “The object of literary scholarship is not literature but literariness, i.e. which makes a given work a literary one.
Rene Welleck too presents a similar view of literariness by stating: “literary scholarship will not make any progress methodologically, unless it determines to study literature as subject distinct from other activities and procedures of man. Hence we must face the problem of ‘literariness’, the central issue of aesthetics, the nature of art and literature.” Aesthetics here means values that are aesthetic that are found in literary works. What makes a work of art literature is the quality of literariness it has, this means literariness is a property of a text.

Dionyz Durisin calls literariness a “basic and essential quality” in literature which embodies all relations within literature in context of intensity, amount, manner and conditionality within the framework of a variety of individual literatures. When this intensity, variability, affinities and mutual relations go beyond the boundary of individual literatures then literariness is transformed in ‘interliterariness’. This means that interliterariness too is a basic and essential quality of literature but it is in an international and inter-ethnic context and ontological determination. The highest embodiment of this will of course be world literature.
Therefore, for Durisin the concept of interliterariness constitutes the main notion for a theory of interliterary process within comparative literature. Ontologically looked at interliterariness comes after literariness and so, though interliterariness may comprise of literariness the reverse may not ring true always.

Literary development
“One of the most important features of interliterariness is its implied or implicit processual character, a systematic series of related literary facts within the ethnic or national framework presupposing the temporal and spatial changes in the course of their literary development.” Literatures are mostly found to be in a state of flux during their construction or coming to be due to inside and outside influences as can be seen from ancient languages like Sumerian and Egyptian to the recent ones.

Interliterariness consists of studying literature beyond the boundaries of tradition and culture which makes it comparative in this sense. ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ when studied through its various translations beginning with its first version by G. Smith in 1872 and the numerous transaltions like those of L. Matous in Czech 1975 can help us understand the interliterary changes that creep in due to culture in the Sumerian, Accadian, Assyrian and Hittite versions.
These different versions show the difference in literary development and also the socio-political and ideological frameworks that affect a text’s translation. Even the different attitudes towards gods change the potential of the text. Beowulf for instance, is given a more Christian colouring by the monks that transcribed it. The interliterary unity within Gilgamesh can be seen in the similarity of epithets , similes and  common themes like the abduction of a woman found in the Ramayana in Sita’s case or in the Iliad with Helen and Briseis. The seduction of a woman can be seen in the Mahabharata in Draupadi and Penelope in Odyssey while the hero dreaming of the future or a heavenly messenger arriving to prophesy is instanced in the case of Hermes in the Odessey and Impaluri in the Hittite Song on Ullikumi. There is also a similar use of narrative within narrative seen most abundantly in the Mahabharata but to a lesser extent in the Iliad and Odyssey. 

What concerns Interliterariness
Interliterariness moves beyond culture and ethnic backgrounds and goes beyond individual qualities and focuses instead on trans-national, trans-ethnic and geo-literary development of a text. It involves itself with the impact and also reception of texts through the geo literary aspect is a recent acquisition in the nineteenth century. We find interliterariness more prevalent in genetic-contact relations and also influence and response along with contact between literatures. External contacts do not impart deeper traces in the receiving structure’s literature while internal contacts are deeper.

We see traces of this in the new literatures of Asia and Africa though internal influences must have been active in preabtique time. This is what has lead to the form of the poetry in the Bible. Due to the genetic contacts the bible was acknowledged as a book of books in the Western perspective as the Old Testament was translated into Greek (Septuagint) which influenced the style of the New Testament and consequently on the Christian world. However, in the case of developed cultures; genetic interliterariness does not seem so potent.
As far as the Chinese meets European or to be more general; European, Greco Roman meets Oriental or West, East and South Asia the interliterarary development is merged with interartistic symbiosis along with religion, a plurality of cultures, translation and a sort of polylinguism  akin to the mythic tower of Babel in which Sanskrit was given prime imporatance. In the case of structural-typological parallels or affinities the interliterariness prevalent is more dominant in the history and development of the individual literatures.

Influence and reception studies on the other hand, help illuminate the problems prevalent in “the genesis of works in their continuity within the dialectical tensions that are found with tradition in ethnic and national literatures and new methods of innovation that crop in. The aforementioned structural and typological realm explores analogies of the interliterary process of different literatures in the same time slot or period so that new forms of interliterariness may be discovered.

Interliterary poetics
It is one of the objects that form a comparative methodology but unfortunately is still embryonic in nature as the scope of study is vast for genres, traditions, customs of Sanskrit, post-Sanskrit and Arabic works along with other literatures will have to be studied in detail and a common expression found. According to Earl Miner, the author of ‘Comparative Poetics: An Intercultural Essay on Theories of Literature; literatures should be studied from Latin American and Africa as well as other regions as even Durisin notes how interliterariness as a quality is not confined by national, ethnic or individual boundaries.

In the case of literatures in contact there are interliterary connections formed between cultures that are not perceived in ordinary genetic contact relations and these are met in two opposing ways. Either the foreign impulses will be accepted and integrated tot eh structure while the other consists of filtering out the received stimuli to select only its convenient elements.
Theoretically speaking the maximum amount of interliterariness is found in the concept of world literature when applied correctly as then literary history and evolution is brought to the forefront in the interliterary perspective. Thus, world literature is ‘summa litterarum universarum’ not maybe in quantity but through the mutual relationships present and the complex structure of the interliterary process between these works of literature.

Considering the vast number of languages present their variety and complexity is in itself is a type of interliterariness. The concept of world literature as a summa of all literary works produced in different literatures in the course of their evolution is a broader conception than that of Weltliteratur which is merely a totality of masterpieces; nor can literature be solely Euro-centric or based after a particular century. Like Horst Steinmetz for instance suggests that only works produced after the nineteenth century should be considered. In order to have a better and deeper understanding, a broad and comparative stance is required when applying the theory of interliterariness.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Psychoanalysis and Lacan – An Overview

Lacan’s main theory was that the unconscious was structured like a language. From the material signifier he moved on to jouissance which implies both sexual and aesthetic enjoyment, bliss or possession as the end of desire. Later he speaks of ‘lalangue’ which is a layer of verbal enjoyment that precedes la langue that is learnt at school. He rewrites Freud’s concept of the unconscious using linguistic terminology and posits three orders or rather stages of human mental disposition namely:

1.      the imaginary order

2.      the symbolic order

3.      and the real
The imaginary order is pre-Oedipal where the infant is unable to distinguish itself as separate from the mother’s body or even to recognize the demarcation between its own self and the environment around as it does not know itself to be a separate entity. Thus, the imaginary phase is one of unity between the infant and its surroundings and also of the mother who is considered to be its immediate possession and also object around it. The world consists wholly of images and so ‘imaginary’ in nature where there is a general feeling of plentitude. The world is perceived to be not fragmented or mediated by differences or categories which mean words, language and signs are not part of the mental makeup at this point.

It is the mirror phase when the child can recognize itself and its environment in the mirror that marks the point where the comfort of this imaginary order breaks down leading the child into the symbolic order. The symbolic order is a world that consists of pre-defined social roles and gender differences and also a world of subjects and objects; thus, language.
Lacan’ s approach to Freud’s theories was through Ferdinand De Saussure and Roman Jakobson’s works for he found that this brought into new ways of thinking. Though he was primarily interested in paranoia and erotomania, he was later much influenced by Kojeve’s ability to read a text in opposition to its critical reception.

According to Lacan, the unconscious is not a place but is a relation to the social world consisting of law and order, religion, morality and conscience. The child internalizes the father’s commands (Law of the Father) and the appropriate standards of socially acceptable thought and behavior as well as the repression of the desire for incest.
Desire and Discourse

The infant in the first months of life is dominated by the mother or maternal object through part objects that form the basis of a fantasy in particular, the breast and the phallus. Akin to Freud, Lacan too believes that the primordial love object is lost or placed out of reach due to the culture and society (law against incest). The imaginary stage is where the ego first meets with opposition and love, hate and ignorance surface. On perceiving itself fin the mirror there is jubilation on recognition of its image which is succeeded by pain when the image is perceived to be not real but fake. Thus, the image in the mirror stands for the first mediator and other while one spends most of one’s life searching for the unity and identification which was lost on realization that the mirror image was just an image.

“The projecting space of mirrors has been used literally and metaphorically in literature for years. In Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’ the novel is based in the specular image being transformed to the social ‘I’. The Symbolic is the last step of the mirror stage where narcissism ends.
“Lacan, reverses Saussure’s graph of signified over signifier and gives the mirror image the designation of being a signifier that represents the subject for yet another signifier as the signified is of secondary importance here and so from ‘I am the breast/penis’ the child progresses to ‘I am called X’.

Due to the feeling of unity that is broken by the emergence of the symbolic stage the child progresses through an infinite chain of signifiers searching for unity with self and thus, the phallus is a signifier both sexually and arbitrarily as the Real can never be described for it exists beyond signification as the real is impossible and before language only thinghood can exist.
Name of the Father

Symbolization effectively does the way with the illusion of unity of self with the mirror image and so one is alienated while the signifier causes further separation  and so on the physical or bodily level there is a separation followed by one in speech as the encounter between the signifier and signified is missed. The ego is thus, bound to the signifier ‘X – the name’ and must renounce the oneness it felt with the maternal object, learn estrangement for the child learns that the universe does not revolve around it and must also learn the norms and rules imposed by the father and social order.
The Purloined Letter

Lacan through this short story by Edgar Allen Poe, points out that a text can be read even if a major piece of information is not given to the reader which is important to psychoanalysis too which follows a narrative analysis pattern. The presumptions of the characters are what make the letter so important. Here, we have the repetition compulsion which Lacan transforms into the “repetition automatism”. We are presented two different scenes where the same letter is stolen though the characters change and so their relations and actions shift in accord to the position of the letter. It is ultimately the letter’s position among the characters and not their psychology that determines what they will do.
The purloined letter comes to be seen as a pure signifier for the displacement of the characters is determined by the letter. This is called “symbolic determination” by Lacan. The pure signifier functions as the point of articulation even if readers are not conscious of it even though the readers are not made fully aware of the contents of the letter; but the reader understands the repetition without knowing the contents.

Three dimensions of the psyche
The three orders or dimensions of the psyche are equally important for the development of subjectivity. The Real cannot be really defined as if it becomes an object of discourse it will have some form of associated meanings to someone and hence no longer be real for it becomes the ‘truth’. According to Lacan though we are used to the real it is the truth that we repress. The real can be said to be that what one is thinking about but doesn’t matter for since no one else knows it, it cannot disturb someone. Thus, in order to study the Real we have to study its effects on the Imaginary and the Symbolic.

The Imaginary is rooted in people’s fascination for a form. The founding moment for the Imaginary is the infant’s recognition of itself in the mirror and seeing its wholeness of form it forgets its weak physical state. Thus, the human self is first established through a fundamentally aesthetic recognition. The actual fact is that the self-image causing the identification and recognition is fictionous for this totality and autonomy of ‘I’ can never really established. The specular ‘I’ is that which is projected through the mirror where the child’s fragmented body is made whole and this precedes the social ‘I’.

The “Imaginary” dimension is constituted by the relation between the self and its image but it is called so because it involves an image and not because it is supposed to be unreal. The Symbolic on the other hand deals with symbolization where the body must translate itself in articulatable parts composed from learnt speech. The Symbolic is a dimension of articulation and not pointing or mere naming; it is composed of a structure of relations and not merely things.
In the symbolic order the child’s entry into language is premature as the mirror stage occurs before the child’s actual acquisition of a sense of self and the mirror gives him a mirage of the maturation of his power or a feeling of self autonomy which does not in reality exist. The power seen by the child is a gestalt of the totality and so the mirror stage functions as an imago establishing a relationship between the child and its identity. Imago is an ancient Latin term which signifies image, likeness, copy.

In Freud’s conception it meant the impression made by parental strictures which were internalized by the child but for Lacan it is more of an assumption of an image which establishes the child’s relation to reality causing a motor discord. The ego for Lacan is not consisting of perception consciousness or the reality principle. He is more interested inmeconnaissance which implies a misinterpretation or misprion; the ego is not what Descartes thought it to be. It is not rational or coherent but rather given to misprision. 
Symbolic Structure of the Psyche

The desires in the unconscious can only be analysed by psychoanalysis in their effects. The unconscious for Lacan is not the Freudian hidden reservoir of repressed desires but a form of rhetorical energy designed both to disguise and to express primeval desires. For Lacan, the unconscious is much like a language which means it has a structure and speaks rhetorically through mediums like dreams, mistakes or symptoms. In psychoanalytic symptoms the body gives the signals that must be read by the analyst much like a literary critic reads a work of art.   
Lacan’s concept of signifier and signified

Saussure’s model of the linguistic sign has two parts, a signifier and a signified. A drawing of a tree in his example, can be associated with the signified or concept-image while the spoken word ‘tree’ would be the signifier or sound-image. Lacan takes the tree itself to be a form of cultural representation. Lacan challenges the three implications of a sign that (1) sign represents a thing (signs function individually and (3) there is no demarcation between signifier and signified.
Lacan’s counter model is of two bathroom door that are identical except they are named ‘ladies’ and gentlemen’ respectively. The sign here is a structure where the reader has to fit his/her body for the doors are identical. The signs indicate where the reader should go and instate the law of sexual difference without explaining it. The signs create a difference where it previously didn’t exist as the doors remain the same but the signs demarcate the difference. 

Lacan rewrites Saussure’s model of the sign as S/s. The “signifier” (S) marks the spot where the “signified” (s) has been struck off by the bar of regression which cannot be distinguished from the structuring functions of society and civilisation. Therefore, signs as per his criteria, systematically and unconsciously constitute all social codes, conventions and prohibitions and so we are constituted and accultured by signs. Even before we can commence speaking we have a myriad of signs speaking to us.
Language and Lacan

There is a two way interaction between language and the individual speaking to it in the sense that language operates on an individual as much as an individual operates on language.  We have to follows the sign and language speaks to us through them but in this process we face a crisis where we are split between our conscious self and the unconscious one that we try to deny and repress.
Lacan thus, due to the power of the unconscious which he perceives, moves on to re-write Descarte’s “I think therefore I am” into an enigmatic self-estrangement: “I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.” To explain the rhetoric of this self-estrangement he places in parallels, Jakobson’s linguistic studies of metaphor and metonymy along with Freud’s distinction between condensation and displacement in the dream-work of the unconscious. According to Freud, an unconscious wish is by nature suppressed as it is seen to be forbidden and unacceptable. Therefore, it should navigate through the censorship of the ego if it is to be manifested.

This manifestation can only take place through blind or stand-in i.e. a metaphor ‘one word for another’ or through the chain of adjacent signifiers as in metonymy ‘word to word’. 
This displacement of the symbolic also brings on the ‘scandal of enunciation’ on the ego. Saussure underlines the fact that words never capture the essence and so what is spoken along with the grammatical twists can no longer trick one and so leading to: I never know whether I am the same as that of which I speak was changed by Descartes to ‘I think, therefore I am’ and further modified by Lacan to ‘I think: therefore I am”.

Actually this may in itself be a manifestation of the mirror stage or the proposition ‘cogito ergo sum’ which grounds existence in thought and that man’s thinking is what leads to the essence of his being but such presumption of thought or consciousness causes a feeling of coherent unity and the ego is granted an illusion of autonomy as the child first comes to see himself and his relation to the environment.
Considering the unconscious, Lacan found it to be a product of the signifying system and was in itself a signifying system just like the conscious mind as they both are open, deferent, change definition and have a system of relations.

Language and desire
Lacan questions Freud’s stress on the phallus and the concept of castration for it is impossible to believe that women are castrated or that little boys truly fear castration. Freud explains away physical differences through these theories but for Lacan they fail to make complete sense. To him it is the functions of language and desire that matter more.

“As soon as man begins to speak (there is no getting away from the masculine universal in Lacan), he must launder everything important or even routine about his bodily life through linguistic structures that don’t exactly correspond to biological requirements.”
Desire by Lacan’s definition is something that can never be satisfied. Linguistic structures are not created by an individual, they preexist. The ‘Other’ is actually evoked by the recourse of speech while the ‘other’ is the image in the mirror, another person or competitor. The ‘Other’ on the other hand is a part of the symbolic dimension. When a person speaks, everything is organized around the concept of this ‘Other’. The concept of castration emerges when the a person feels that some part of the body is missing which is called in Lacan’s terms as ‘objet petit’ or ‘object little o’. It is the symbolization which makes the subject realize the loss of this object which was in reality never a part of the subject.

This would be universal castration which would completely do away with sexual difference as there is no specific part being cut-off or rendered missing. But specific castration does emerge later when sexual difference is encountered. The castration which is of prime importance is that of a symbolic level referred to as a symbolic castration of the mother. The mother is no longer the ‘all’ of the child or her sole role in the environment is not that as a part of the child only. She has other relationships too. The ‘name of the father’ is actually the instatement of language and social norms that the father does through the prohibition of incest.
The phallic stage as absent

Thus, in Lacan’s conceptualization, the phallic stage never exists as what is perceived to be castrated never in truth existed in reality. The feeling of missing a limb exists without it ever have been present and so it is an interpretation. theory or comparison but not an actual thing. The phallus is a signifier that stands for the ‘missing object’ and there really is no signified only the signification which is seen in the perceived sexual difference which is based on an interpretation.
In Lacan’s view, there cannot exist any complementation within the relationship between the two sexes as the sexes are not complementary. They do not make a whole as the concept of woman existing as a completion to the phallic centric universe is impossible. God here forms the Other and is seen to have the made the two for cohabitation though in reality there cannot exist any completion. Patriarchy is taken to be a given in Lacan’s theory which is as phallocentric as Freud’s but his conclusion is what unseats this phhalocentricity. To think that women subsist for more than physical completion with the male and that the sexes were not made to be a perfect fit changes the concept of the phallus being the sun of the universe.

The phallus is merely a symbol of loss whether the individual is male or female for the complete unity with self is never possible and so the phallus signifies what cannot be ever had.
Language and its Structure

Language and its structure exist before the moment when the individual first makes his entry into it. Language is not innate as the individual is not born with it nor is it having a behavoural basis. Lacan talks of the subject as “the slave of language” and his place is given before birth so the language constitutes the subject. An individual cannot govern or control language nor can there be meaningful experiences that are prelinguistic. No signification can be sustained without reference and it would be an illusion to think that the signifier answers to the function of representing the signified.
The signifiers are within a synchronic system with phonemes being their elements for they are the smallest unit of sound. There is no linear relation between the signified and signifier as all human experience runs counter to it and so the chain of discourse as linear can only apply to the temporal dimension.

Introduction: Comparative Literature and Translation by Andre Lefevere – An Overview

Comparative literature and translation have not had a very concrete foundation for they have each overlooked or disregarded the other. Lefevere tells the story of the coming together of these two disciplines from the point of view of translation that hasn’t always been given its say. As translation is considered to be generally inferior to the original. There is a gloss or halo around a work labeled ‘original’ whereas a translation is merely a copy of it so why should it win laurels over the original? However, Andre Lefevere believes that a different relationship is possible where both can help the other to grow and grow themselves as well.

It is easier to understand the negative feelings comparatist held towards translation by studying the historical context of its origin. When comparatist were first exposed to it during the shift from first generation of Romantic writers and thinkers to the second in Europe. The first generation were cosmopolitan in outlook unlike their successors with figures like Madame de Stael. The second generation were more constrained within the boundaries of national literature. When faced with the concept of national literature one must consider the fact that translation is not of such importance as there won’t be such a wide variety of languages presented. It is on doing away with boundaries that translation forms such an important part of.
The second generation of Romantics

Cosmopolitism was replaced by a sense of national identity. Affiliation to this identity was decided by birth and so the individual was not at liberty to choose which country he could serve. In Romantic lingo; ‘he’ is the most commonly used pronoun as ‘she’ did not exist unless it is in praise of the beauty of some lady for women did not write poetry. It is but natural that due to  this thrust on national identity, an individual always wanted to belong to the ‘superior’ culture and so, the national language was not the means in which to read world literature in translation; instead it was ‘the’ language of the culturally elite. It was a showcase of natural talent and works in it were the true classics while those by foreign authors were relegated to second place.
Due to the university needs of having world literature in curriculum, though translation was inessential in theory it flourished in practice. But this too had to contend with the age old study of the classics. How could the glory of the classics be demeaned by letting them be translated? And yet, students have been using glossaries and bilingual editions over the centuries but the fact is this was an unacknowledged use of them. No one could proudly say ‘Yes, I read so-and-so classic in translation’.

Comparative literature and translation
Considering the fact that comparative literature was a discipline that consisted more of methodology and was still not widely accepted, for it to embrace translation openly would cause it to be academically ostracized. Thus, as the others did so did they comparatist; they denounced the merits of translation in theory though later translation began to be indispensible.

As long as comparatist focused on Europe doing away with translation was plausible though difficult as one needed knowledge of several languages which was also a prerequisite of the comparative approach. Once, this Eurocentricity was challenged, a new problem occurred. How many languages can one person fluently know?
“As soon as comparative literature tried to go beyond Europe, however, translations became necessary… as soon as comparative literature tried to compare different kinds of poetics, and not just different variants of European poetics in its historical evolution, it could no longer avoid confronting translation.”

One must also be aware of the conservatist attitude towards literature that strives to maintain the ‘purity’ of a text which translation according to it may taint instead of enrich. This feeling is more dominant in the Western schools of thought were ‘originalism’ is seen as a sign of genius. To substitute a word or to leave out a word or in some way to refrain from ‘word-to-word’ translation is what these scholars feared.
The Platonic ‘logos’ where the truth cannot be changeable means that a word cannot be successfully substituted by another. A text like the Bible was ‘the word of God’ and thus, it would be sacrilegious if not translated word-for-word. The original in truth is an imaginary concept for indeed can be the original? The ‘real’ that Aristotelian logic speaks about exists in the mental plane and what is created in the physical plane is a mere ‘imitation’ or copy of that original. Translation does away with this hierarchy of the original and so was seen as a post-Babilian necessary evil.

Can translations be word-by-word?
For the translation not to replace the text in a ‘purist’ sense, one would have to resign oneself to agrammatical works and the translation would then serve the purpose of being read along with the text where they are both placed side-by-side in a sort of dictionary use. The translation thus, would be an interpretation of the text and not a work in its own right.

Accuracy was what was found most in fault in translated works. The phenomena of translation was never truly reflected on as the ‘word’ was of prime importance and not the culture from where the text was stemming from. The sacred argument that prevented Bible translations from being viewed as permissible was extended by the Romantics to canonized works of literature. How can one add, subtract or find another word to equal what was written in these texts? The critic was seen as a priest interpreting the text whereas the translator was massacring the sacredness by disfiguring a complete work of art.       
Conservatism led to a certain elitism as well as an amusing scenario where comparatist wrote about the symbolism in books of other languages without bothering to see whether these foreign works were present in the language they were written in. It makes no sense to talk of the beauty of Beowulf if one can never read it for oneself.

Genius cannot be translated
The Romantics bestowed a concept of genius. Only a genius could undertake the translation of the works of a genius much like saying only a poet ought to critique a poet. This concept of ‘genius’ was vague as there wasn’t any real checkpoint besides the work that ascribed it. If one looks at translation in this light it would indeed be difficult to assume the responsibility of being genius enough to translate a work written by a genius!

Amusingly when influences of one literature upon another were studied it was assumed that the author had read the original work as was the case in Byron’s influence of Faust. Bryon did not know German and so could not read the original version by Goethe and had to make do with Madame de Stael’s French version. This translation combined the main scenes of the play with a plot summary at times. But the more interesting aspect is the Madame de Stael omitted some part of the play which she felt did not suit her French audience. Translations were seen as a shameful branch of study for they were not the perfect substitutes for the original work which was haloed.
Shift in perceptions

It was with Walter Benjamin and Ezra Pound that translations were elevated to the status of giving a text a new lease of life or afterlife; and that occurred in the twentieth century. Benjamin’s work is more elitist as it focus on how agrammaticality can lead to ‘pure’ language while Pound on the other hand finds translation to be the ‘organon’ of literature in a sense that it contributes to the development of literatures. Translations that are more than just merely translations and are considered to be separate works of literature in their own right can influence other writers of that language to write original works on the same line.
The translator is now seen as a ‘giver of life’ as for texts to be more widely read and passed on they need to be available in more languages than one. Due to this, the translator did not turn traitor but instead turned mediator.

“…translators could not only bestow life on the originals they translated, they could also decide what kind of life they would bestow on those originals and how they would try to inject them into the receiving literature. In other words, they did, and do create an image of the original for their time and their readership.”
The new approach

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the study of literature began to focus more on the reception of texts than their mere production and deconstruction too followed this premise. Because of this an interest was created in the process of translation and the new reception theory focused on the reception of a text propagated by translators. Even if it was genius that created the work its propagation in another language is owed to the translator. Deconstruction also brought to the forefront that translations serve as the yardstick that demarcates the original from being merely a text and it is the translations that are more important in the culture they focus on than the original work example: Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat.

Fundamental distinctions in translation studies within the comparative perspective

·         Translating and Translation

Translating is the process while the translation is the product. In the process of translating we move from the source language (ST) to the target language (TT). In this it is how the translation is being done that is the prime focus whereas in the latter, the product is the translated work in itself and is the study of various translated works in their cultural, social, economic, historic and the like context. The product approach is more contemporary in nature.

·         Normative and Descriptive

The normative approach focuses on the norms or the best way one is to do or study a translation and demarcates it on the lines of good and bad through this. The descriptive method on the other hand eschews such evaluation and judgment and instead is more interested in the reception – why people consider a translated work good or bad rather than what are the norms that can make it good or bad. This is also called DTS and pseudotranslations too are studied in this context.

·         Analysis and Production

This is the main distinguishing feature that sets apart the contemporary approach where the activity of producing is seen to be very different from the theory. You may be a good critic but that does not make you a good poet. Study of a subject may not result in the proficiency that can make a translator practically engage with the work and do it well.

6 century AD to 1970s

After 1970s







Thus, considering the methodology of comparative literature it would be very interesting to study the intercultural exchange in translations through its context. The increasing acceptance and in-flow of translated works when studied through the comparative perspective may help boost the diminishing hold in the literary circuit that comparative literature features today.