Novel finally finished - hooray. Now to find a publisher [hopefully]!



Hi, it's been a while as I have been working frantically to complete my novel before Christmas time. It has been a 'work in progress' for the past four years and i'm pleased to say that the end is nigh. I am editing the last draft and will have it ready for submission to publishers in the New Year. As you can probably guess from the book cover mock-up (by yours truly) and the working title, it is a novel about a killer. Actually about a family of killers to be exact, told through the journals of a budding serial killer whose twin brother is also afflicted with the same unfortunate disposition.

I guess you could place this novel under the genre banner of 'Serial Killer Fiction,' or crime fiction. I realise that this field is littered with cliched monsters all trying to replicate the success of Harris's Hannibal Lecter trilogy +, hopefully I might have succeeded in providing a new twist to the genre - or at least to the smaller sub-genre of 'First-person Serial Killer Fiction.' Whew, anyway - worth a crack, so there it is.

If I don't have any success with publishers I will probably post it here in installments for at least some people to read and hopefully enjoy.

If anyone has any publishing contacts who might be interested in this kind of work please let me know via 3cagency@gmail.com. Also, what do you think of the cover?

Have a great Christmas everyone. Will/Grant.

Babylon fading

This seat is hard, my shins are cold, my socks are low & black with grime, my shoes are stiff, my knees ache with the weight of my worn corduroys — the night is warm & noisy, so dark it is, that abstract & absolute light which is darkness — it is so dark tonight . . . Wait! There is light, a shimmering speck, by Jehovah! & Then cans twang bottles clang & smash, paper blows its rustled way wrapping around my lower leg like a flaky piece of skin or the slap of a bird’s flapping wing & then it’s taken by another breeze in the black city night — that light small speck I saw is extinguished now by the black hulk of a looming tower block — frail barks flounder in darkness, speech silent for a still savage moment . . .

My neck is sore I crane it skyward searching the churning ether for that noisy light . . .

BOOM!!!

ZOHAR!!!

A shock of burning white light — the infinite brightness violently broke through into vision — the corneas ripped from their lethargic slumber — the howling light turns blue, bouncing off the geometric multiplicity of the chainlink fence I clutch at, frantically gasping at the light on the other side — arcing shadows dance beneath the light’s accusing glare . . . lingering — I am shaking I am fear I am death I am insane I am paralysed I can’t move I can’t see I am dead I am about to be killed. . .

Mother?

Father?

MotherFatherMother

HELP!!!

PLEASE!!!

PLEASE!!!

PLEASE!!! Please . . .?

I’m still on the bench seat in the trash-blown park, my legs nailed to my seat to the concrete thru right to burning hell . . . — STAY WHERE YOU ARE — DO NOT MOVE — IF YOU DO SO YOUR LIFE WILL BE TERMINATED — I REPEAT DO NOT MOVE —footsteps shuffling then a broken run, boots slapping asphalt louder, quite, yes there they are a stampede, ground rumbles thunderclaps hammer on steel, bombs drop resound — No, nononononono . . .

The light goes off. I am released. The sound breaks like a truck passing — a distant rumble then the noise of the dead man’s bones return to their creaking — halfalive halfalive halfalive — my breath is smoke, my eyes throb, my brain burns, my heart tries to saw its way out through my crumbling ribcage — I release a sigh, exhale, to end all sighs.

I close my eyes & feel & smell the dirty hot warm air of hell caressing my face, my hair, creeping up my trouser leg, crawling across my heaving gut & across my bruised bare chest — a massive hole now gaping blackly just above the left nipple, the icon of Mary grinning in the growing light — I lay back on the hard bench — the smog flavored morning bleeds light across the bay, a tugboat blares its horn through the fog, the trash barge shunts its bulk through the mist across the harbor to refuse island, car lights cut across the motorway invading the sleeping city, a silver-snake of train thunders past on the stilt-tracks, police sirens blare in the distance & a cold wind wipes my face.

A gull floating in on the light & breeze, eyes me suspiciously, dips its wings & turns circles above me looking down with malice & a perceptible hunger as it stretches its sharp red beak screaming at me — CAWCAWCAWCAWCAW . . . all black & white — Babylon fading . . .

‘CHILD ART’ - History in education

In the context of the nature/nurture argument in education, this essay will attempt to explain what ‘child art’ is and how it came to exist. A basic summary of the nature/nurture argument is as follows. The naturists believe that childhood is a natural stage of development that generates its own unique experience relative to the individual child. It is a privileged stage of life; the role of education in this respect is to encourage such development with as little interference as possible. The nurturists argue that education should impart knowledge and social skills in preparation for participation in society. Children are presumed capable of learning these skills and knowledge at all stages of development to varying degrees. The polarities between these two sides show the reactive state of educational beliefs and theory. It is within this context that concepts such as ‘child art’ have evolved.

To begin this discussion it is necessary to trace the origins of the educational ideas that produced such concepts as ‘child art’. One of the early arguments, of a distinctly educational viewpoint on natural development and child rearing, is that of Jean Jacques Rousseau. His educational romance Emile, presents an unconventional (at the time of writing) view of educational and social reformation, based on his beliefs about ‘nature’ and individual freedom. His views on childhood education were centred on the notion that natural development, encouraged in accordance with the individual’s own nature, could only be achieved through “well-regulated liberty”[1]. He viewed freedom as being something controlled by the rationale of the upper classes, and the ‘unnatural’ constraints and lies imposed on individual truth, by religion and the state.

Rousseau was looking for the universal nature of truth common to all “men;” it was in this search that he saw the promise of a new and ideal society. He saw childhood education as the means by which to change society through ‘natural’ development. The emphasis was on learning by individual experience, and the treatment of children in accordance with evolutionary stages of development, free from the influence of social constructs of adult morality and reason:


Natural growth calls for quite a different kind of training. The mind should be left undisturbed till its faculties have developed; for while it is blind it cannot see the torch you offer it, nor can it follow through the vast expanse of ideas a path so faintly traced by reason that the best eyes can scarcely follow it. (Emile, p. 200)

The implications and influence on pedagogical education, generated by Rousseau’s romantic notions of natural and evolutionary development, show in the ideas of educators that followed, like Freidrich Froebel, Franz Cizek, and Wilhelm Viola. Rousseau’s celebration of “natural liberty” and childhood education paved the way for notions of education, like ‘art education’ and ‘child art’, to emerge in response to the apparent need for a form of expression that was natural, and relevant, to the early stages of childhood development. As Stuart Macdonald has pointed out, ”the concept that art education for the child should differ from that for adolescents and adults stemmed from Rousseau’s scheme of education in Emile ” [2]. It must be noted that Rousseau did not place any importance or relevance on ‘art’ in relation to a child’s natural development. In fact, he saw it (‘art’) as a corrupting influence that was morally ‘bad’ and detrimental to nature at that stage of a human’s life.

Rousseau’s naturist ideas were largely idealistic and romantic, and because of this, they were not coherent enough at the time to justify as a form of education for children. Froebel, along with others, developed the ideas expressed by Rousseau as a basis for such an education. Froebel believed that drawing was the means by which children developed naturally. He developed the concept of ‘Kindergarten’ as a place for individual children to develop in accordance with the laws of nature. Froebel’s ideas were scientific in that he used esoteric precepts of psychology, in relation to understanding what a child’s drawing represented:


Beautiful drawing . . . demands the spontaneous, skilled use of the senses . . . the development required for drawing, conditions in the same way a harmoniously unfolded soul, a feeling, experiencing mind, as well as a thoughtfully comparing, intelligent, and perceptive intellect, forming judgement, correct conclusion, and so, finally, an idea of that which is to be formed . . .

As can be seen, his naturist idealism peppered with psychological jargon, shines through in his views about the importance of child drawings. His educational philosophy, which is based on the notion that the child is a self-determined vessel of creativity, inspired other educators and artists later on like Franz Cizek, Paul Klee, Alexander Bain, and the Bloomsbury group, to name a few.
Like Froebel and Rousseau, Herbert Spencer championed the naturist ideals about drawing and childhood education, except he “modified [it] . . . from the scientific viewpoint of a nineteenth century evolutionist”[3].

Spencer saw children’s drawing as an evolutionary process. In fact, he believed it was the main factor in human development. He was of the opinion that the science of psychology was the means by which education could develop, and a culture could come to understand itself, through the interpretation of children’s drawings. Thus, childhood art education became important as a tool to understanding and determining “self-culture” and progressing as a culture in general.

Spencer’s educational theories attacked the nurturist arguments of mass-education theorists like Henry Cole, who ran state controlled institutions that were geared up for social and industrial production. Spencer’s ideas were also nurturist, in the sense that they supported utilitarian ideas of training children to be productive members of society. However, his ideas were more naturist in origin (following on from Rousseau’s ‘nature of the child’), in that they argued that there is a natural development process (“phylogenesis”) in drawing, that should be integrated into childhood education.

Spencer’s ideas are also important to the concept of ‘child art’ because any development (according to him) in the individual, and therefore the whole society, could be influenced and reflected by the drawings of the child. While it must be said at this stage that the drawings of children were not yet considered as art works, there was great importance placed on their significance as indicators of cultural and biological development.


Although there was a large void of disagreement between the two factions of thought (nature & nurture), ‘art education’ became an increasingly important concept to the curriculum of schools and to the educational theories of both sides. Cole is important here in this instance for he implemented the establishment of art schools in England, art training for teachers, and compulsory art education as a subject on an equal footing with other subjects. This is important in relation to the origins of ‘child art’ as well, because it generated interest in children’s drawings and paintings, in such a way that they became viewed as ‘art works’.


In other words, this social change provided the impetus and the infrastructure, wherein the claims and ideas about ‘art’ education and making ‘art-works’, as being essential to a child’s ‘natural’ development, began to be seen as educationally beneficial and logically defensible. With this implementation, and despite the negative impact on the radically nurturist Kensington system, ‘Art education’ (rather than ‘drawing education’) became to be a valid and accepted part of the infrastructure of educational teaching and training (educators).


Alexander Bain helped this along by following on where Spencer left off. In maintaining that “Drawing was not a universal mind-trainer, but also that art appreciation, or the cultivation of ‘Art-Emotion’ as he put it, was the important factor in education, not Drawing” [4]. His idea was that art education provided the means by which children could have fun and express themselves creatively. Other educational thought developed along the same lines until the idea of art education was more acceptable in Victorian education circles.


So far, children’s drawings were still not considered viable art forms, like other established adult art works and movements. The rise in anthropological studies and scientific (in particular, psychological) research changed all that with their growing interest in child drawing as an important means of developmental research. The influential and growing relationship, between education and science, meant that this perceived importance transferred to the educators, curriculum, and to the type of experience drawing was considered as. The Kensington attitude toward children’s drawings, as only having commercial value in industry, was its main weak point as it was in contrast to developmental (and naturist) scientific beliefs, which had popular and governmental support.


‘Art’ began to evolve as a practice along with the changing times. The continuing (but waning) influence of Romanticism encouraged a new style of expression that was more ‘primitive’ and ‘natural’, with an emphasis on the individual, freedom (in thought and from authority), and the ‘symbolic’. Like science, ‘art movements’ represented new ideas and invention, which had profound influence on the intellectual culture in which they existed. Children’s drawings were beginning to be seen, like the cave drawings of ‘primitive man’, in the context of symbolic interpretation and meaning. Comparisons between ancient ‘primitive’ cultures and children’s drawings increased, as artists became interested in ‘primitivism’ and the symbolic nature of cultural artefacts. The connection became apparent and soon artists saw in children’s works, that which they tried so hard to replicate in their own ‘art works’.


Children were seen as ‘artists’, naturally endowed with ‘artistic talent’, who could perceive their social and natural environment with an innocently naïve sense of truth and insight, reminiscent of primitive adult cultures from the past (Palaeolithic Age) and the present (Aborigine). This increasing concern with ‘culture’ and of children as artists whose work represents “the primordial origins of art”[5], was typical of artists like Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and many others, who delighted and strove for the same kind of rawness and meaning in their own work. Like the nature/nurture arguments, these new theories on ‘art’ became embroiled with debate as to what the work in question signified. One thing that came from the debates of the modern movements, was that ‘primitive art’, and therefore ‘child art’, were viable art forms. Herbert Read suggested that “a growing appreciation of primitive art, tribal art and revolutionary developments in modern painting helped to bring children’s art within the general range of aesthetic appreciation” [6].


Franz Cizek, perhaps more so than others, defined what ‘child art’ was and what he thought it should be:


Child Art was disregarded, ridiculed, and scoffed at. Even now people visit me who, when I show them real infantile work, only laugh. I estimate very highly those things done by small children. They are the first and purest source of artistic creation . . .

and more definitively:

Child Art is an art which only the child can produce. There is something that the child can also perform, but that we do not call art. It is imitation, it is artificial. [7]

Cizek approached art education with a naturist view. His theory on child art, obviously influenced by naturist idealism, was a reaction against logic-bound, scientifically based, notions of education and child development. Whilst he still used scientific concepts to explain art, he based his ideas on naturist convictions, “all true art contains psychology, but so wonderfully dosed as only nature can dose” [8].

With the conviction of his own ideas and studies and the views of his other artisan comrades, Cizek concluded that children were naturally gifted as artists and producers of art works. He saw this quality in children in somewhat phenomenological terms, in that it was separate from the adult art world. Children were individuals who perceived the world on a more instinctual and natural plane than adults did. Paradoxically, it was this adult experienced (and therefore morally corrupt, re. Rousseau) world, that must not influence the children’s.


Cizek believed in the innate will of the child to be creative and to develop ‘naturally’ (re, Froebel) and in the power of nature to develop humans free from unnatural and socially constructed constraints (i.e., morals, sin, reason etc). Cizek’s theories on art education and child art, may display inconsistencies and contradiction, but to explain them, along with all the other flaws in the other theories mentioned, would take more word space than this essay will allow.


The major flaw in Cizek’s theory was that his own adult influence was a major factor in the production of paintings and drawings by his child students. Obvious training in technical aspects and adult ideas of artistic practice and formality/tradition were reflected in the children’s highly stylised and competent works. So what was essentially a naturist theory of art education, based on his own ideas and those of Rousseau and Froebel, was in practice a nurturist based exercise in art training that steered the children far from their natural stages of creative development (maybe?).


Cizeks’ theory provided a model for future art educators to base their justifications of their discipline on. This artistic ideology was the high-water mark of naturist education theory, just as Cole’s was the nurturist extreme. The gradual shift of focus in the ideology and allegiances of the education theorists, anthropologists, and from artists, culminated in debate to look for connections between ‘primitivism’ and the adolescent production of ‘art’. Artistic movements, more so perhaps than educators, contributed to the evolution of childhood art education and concepts about ‘child art’ through their assimilation and recognition of the drawing and painting of children as a viable art form.






NOTES:

[1] See Readings in the History of Educational Thought, ‘Rosseau’, edited by Alan Cohen & Norman Garner (London: University of London Press Ltd) p. 91.

[2] See The History and Philosophy of Art Education, Ch. 18, ‘The Recognition of Child Art’, by Stuart Macdonald (London: University of London Press ltd.) p. 318.

[3] Ibid, p. 321.

[4] Ibid, pp. 324 - 325.

[5] Quote from Paul Klee.

[6] See The History and Philosophy of Art Education, Ch. 18, ‘The Recognition of Child Art’, by Stuart Macdonald (London: University of London Press ltd.) p. 329.

[7] See Child Art, by Wilhelm Viola, Ch. IV, ‘From Talks With Cizek’ (London: University of London Press, 1948) pp. 32 – 34.

[8] Ibid, p. 32.

The Apocalyptic Revelation of John:


A Sublime Text According to Aesthetic Tradition?

§

John of Patmos was a writer and a seer; also rumoured to be the Apostle, the Divine, and later the Saint. Whoever he really was — it is apparent from most accounts that no one really knows with any surety — ‘he’ was and is the author of the Apocalypse known as Revelation. It is a distinctive piece of religious doctrine, different and distant in tone and brevity from the other works contained in the Old and New Testament, making it ironically one of the most quoted and read books of the Bible. Its apparent prophetic nature and strange twists of style and image figuratively transport the reader to a world of imaginative and spiritual possibilities. ‘Cleaved’ between realms of belief and amazement, most readers, religious or not, become mesmerised by the violent ‘vision’ of John. It is according to the text itself a divinely inspired apocalyptic version of human existence, which, ultimately, defies any definitive interpretation of meaning. It does however invite a non-theological literary or aesthetic estimation of its value, because of its highly evocative rhetorical style, according to principles and theories known to a student of literature and the arts. The contention of this essay is to discuss certain aspects of Revelation and the King James Bible, [1] with the aid of relevant literary perspectives, both modern and classical.
This essay does not attempt an interpretation of the meaning of the text, as this is rather pointless in terms of my own limited biblical knowledge and the vast screeds of criticism already available on the subject. Nor do I intend to give a biographical account of the authors’ lives to contextualise meaning, due largely to the doubtful nature of the authors’ identities of the two main texts I use. The fact that understanding the text in terms of meaning is difficult, leads me to look at the style and technicality of such an artefact, in order to understand its value as a literary work. Aesthetic criteria or a technical analysis applied to the text of Revelation reveals that its most noticeable feature is its ‘sublimity’ in accordance with various theories of rhetoric and the sublime from classical through to modern times. Despite its religious nature, obvious allegiances to rhetorical principles make it both an aesthetically appreciable work of literature, and a mystically devout theological transcript.
Similarly, like Revelation, the question of authorship has been a point of conjecture by critics regarding another classical text: Peri Hypsous or On the Sublime. [2] Originally, thought to be written by Cassius Longinus, and then later regarded as the work of an unknown Greek author in the 1st Century BC. It is the first real treatment of the concept of ‘hypsous’, otherwise known as the sublime. Saint John the apostle and evangelist is regarded as being the writer of Revelation and, like Longinus, his authority has also been called into question by scholars and historians alike. [3] Aside from the confusion about the authors of the texts, they both appear to be written about the same period by ‘cultured Greeks’ as D.H. Lawrence calls them. [4] Rhetorical antecedents inform both texts: On the Sublime follows traditional lines of Greek literary criticism from Homer through Aristotle and Horace to Longinus. [5] Revelation is the apocalyptic pinnacle of prophetic verse. The use of metaphor, symbol, and analogy making it a rhetorically proficient and profound text.

§

To say that Revelation is sublime is to pose a hypothetical argument, as well as an aesthetic value judgement, which is exactly what this essay intends to do. The fact that rhetorically aesthetic criterion from antiquity like Longinus’ can be applied to a religious 17th Century text like the King James Bible, reflects the timeless nature of certain fundamental principles of literary excellence, and also the literary appeal of the KJB to 18th Century aestheticians and writers like Edmund Burke. The tone and didactic confidence of the voice of John, combined with the depth and omnipresence of his subject, makes for strong verse, well within the range of most theories of the sublime:
 
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand . . . Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Rev 1:3-8)

The difference between a classical theory of poetic language like Longinus’ and an aesthetic theory like Burke’s is that the latter post-dates the former which as a consequence is relevant to the author’s (John’s) use of literary device. Because it may predate John’s work, Longinus’ theory quite possibly could have been an influence on his method, whether by direct contact or just a temporal culmination of traditional, cultural and contemporary literary practice and theory. Certain aspects of Longinus’ ideas, his regional location and era, and his own treatment of Genesis puts his work in the context of John’s literary and social knowledge. However, Burke’s treatise is applicable in discerning sublimity within the text, from an 18th Century perspective of psychological and aesthetic understanding. The other obvious difference is that one concentrates on linguistic function, whereas the other’s focus is on artistic and physiological effect.
Whether Longinus has any direct bearing on Revelation is purely hypothetical and debatable, yet as far as literary tradition goes, every work (divine or not) is logically influenced by a genealogy of ideas, linguistics and inspirational textual precursors. To ascertain the sublimity of Revelation in a literary context, I will apply select aspects of Longinus and Burke’s individual theories of the sublime, providing two different perspectives of the primary text. The interesting facet of my discussion is that both interpretations, using precepts divided by a millennium and a half of Western literary tradition, have essentially the same conclusion. That is, Revelation is interpretable as a text that uses a concept of the sublime, similar to Longinus’ and Burke’s, as a literary mode.

§

Longinus suggests in his treatise On the Sublime that art is the mediator of the innate ability to perceive, convey, and utilise the sublime. There are five sources of the sublime, the first two being innate, the last three the ’product of art’. They are: “the ability to form grand conceptions . . . stimulus of powerful and inspired passion . . . the proper formation of two types of figure, figures of thought and figures of speech, together with the creation of a noble diction, which in its turn may be resolved into the choice of words, the use of imagery, and the elaboration of the style. The fifth source of grandeur, which embraces all those I have already mentioned, is the total effect resulting from dignity and elevation.” [6] The first two of these precepts is characteristic of Revelation and to most of the other apocalyptic works of the Bible. These two aspects are almost stereotypical character traits of the religious prophet also; John reveals himself to have these ‘innate’ abilities in his writing. This divine aspect of Longinus’ theory connects the sublime via literature to religion, as David Norton points out in A History of the Bible as Literature:

Longinus pushes both these sources towards divinity. Sublimity is not just ‘the echo of a noble mind’ (Ch. 9, p. 109); it ‘carries one up to where one is close to the majestic mind of God’ (Ch. 36, p. 147) . . . Sublimity bespeaks divinity. So too does the Bible. It was [and still is] difficult, following Longinus, not to think of the Bible as sublime, especially as he himself, in a famous passage, had taken one of his examples of sublimity from the Bible. [7]

One passage from Longinus almost describes exactly John’s reaction and mimetic experience, as a noble vessel for Christ’s spirit and the ‘word of God’:

certain emanations are conveyed from the genius of the men of old into the souls of those who emulate them, and, breathing in these influences, even those who show very few signs of inspiration derive some degree of divine enthusiasm from the grandeur of their predecessors. (Ch. 13, p.119)

John’s own inspiration to write, stems from the direct influence of his religious idol Christ, and his sublime experience of the ultimate artistic creator — God:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book. (Rev. 1:9-10)

The ability to conceptualise and vocalise the grand thoughts of Christ and God is echoed in this passage from Revelation. According to Longinus, this very act characterizes ‘nobility of the soul’.
John’s descriptions of ‘beasts’ with “seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion”(Rev. 15:1-2); are typical of the imagery he uses to induce a sense of the sublime, in order to convey the severity of God’s judgement and to emphasize the horror of hell and its minions. The ‘inspired passion’ of the narrator is obvious enough. The symbolic imagery, vigour of speech, intensity of vision and hyperbolic emotion, pervades the text. For example: “And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead” (Rev. 1:16-17).
For Longinus, rhetorical figures invoke the sublime when their utility is well hidden; the fact that John’s text is one complete metaphor makes it sublime in its simplicity and in its technical covetousness. The phrasing of the verse is neither too alliterative, unless to impress the sound of the sense, or too plain as to be mediocre. There is an economy of words that enforces the repetition of images and ideas of a profound nature on the mind of the reader. Sections throughout have a bard-like quality to their diction that seems to lull the reader into a trance-like state, with the hypnotic (over) tones of a satanic tempter:

And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Rev. 17:7 -8)

As the last book of the KJB, Revelation needed to be special — to be able to impress upon the mind of the reader the severe consequences of faithlessness and the words and miracle of John’s ‘vision’. It serves to heighten the sense of Christian beliefs by describing, in vividly imaginative terms, the antithetical options available to the unrepentant.
Whether written in terms of a-priori aesthetic or doctrinal ideals, Revelation inspires an imaginative interpretation in the literary-minded reader, rather than a spiritual awakening or re-enforcement of belief from a theological perspective. However, even from an aesthetically focused viewpoint, the most ‘disinterested’ objectivity of an art critic sways with the imagination’s subjective metamorphosis of the mystical symbols of the Apocalypse. The power of evocative images, prophetic language of a delusional seer, combined with the wrathful plans of a despotic God, causes the reader to fall back on either their logical beliefs or imagination to make sense of it all. Caught somewhere between these systems of mind, is the nagging doubt that this strangely compelling narrative is too fantastic to be factual, or too profound to be fiction. In other words, it leads us to believe in something or to question the text’s validity as a work of literature.
In terms of Longinus’ ideas of rhetoric and sublimity, Revelation could well have been an example in his treatise if it had been written a few centuries earlier. In order to understand the sublime, if we ever can, we must have some notion of what exists beyond our physical world. Longinus explains that this “beyond” is metaphorical, the sublime—illusion, a human construct designed to extend the imagination and the limits of our world. The sublime is that which defies logical sense and the imagining of what the ethereal sublime actually is. What is God, what is hell? It is that whose infinite presence reduces all else to disillusion, a force that affects the individual’s own system of values and beliefs in relation to their existence. This consideration produces prophets, seers, and artists like John. This thing called the sublime, whether by Longinus or Burke’s definition, is only a name applied to a feeling one gets when encountering something beyond the grasp of our words. Whatever it is can really only be described in literary terms, as Ludwig Wittgenstein suggests:

That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which I understand) mean the limits of my world. [8]

These limits of expression, these experiences of the sublime feeling, are what Burke attempts to harness by literary definition; beginning where Longinus left off and where John had already gone in Revelation.

§

Given Burke’s criteria for the sublime in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, parts of the Revelation at the end of the New Testament are sublime. It is an example of a text that emphasises the sublimity and grandeur of a supernatural world and an omnipresent God. Burke’s account of the sublime, places importance on the perception of subjects in relation to physiological senses. This notion of Burke’s differs from the concept of the sublime established by Longinus. Burke notes physiological states and sensory experience as a-priori conditions for the sublime, whereas before, the experience lay in the interpretation of the word image.
The primary source of the sublime, for Burke, is ‘power,’ with its main effect being ‘terror’ or ‘astonishment.’ The sublime, according to Burke, is “an idea belonging to self-preservation”(Enquiry, p. 79) that produces terror, fear, pain, and is characterised by obscurity, danger, power, greatness of dimension, vastness of extent, infinity (eternity) and magnificence. Further features of the sublime are loudness (of sound), suddenness (of movement or sound), intermittent light (and sound), darkness, confusion, and dullness in colour. The most important passion caused by the sublime, is that which is described by Burke under the heading of “Terror”:

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. For fear being an apprehension of pain or death, it operates in a manner that resembles actual pain. Whatever therefore is terrible, with regard to sight, is sublime too. [9]

The self-realisation of human mortality and frailty, in the face of the immortal and numinous ‘idea’ of a wrathful unseen God, is what instils fear in our hearts, with the result that we experience the sublime sensation of terror or horror. Therefore, anything that is sublime for Burke inspires fear or inflicts pain upon our senses. As pointed out earlier these are what he calls “the passions which concern self-preservation”, (36) and these passions are what Burke considers, “the most powerful of all the passions”. In Revelation, these passions of fear operate in tandem with what Burke terms ‘astonishment’, the state when “the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it” (Enquiry, p.53). This passion of fear is caused by the overwhelming vastness of dimension and sublimity in nature, in contrast to human powerlessness and inferiority in the face of its power and majesty. Revelation has twice the sublimity of a response to nature; it is an emotional response to God, nightmarish in its imagery and effect:

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves . . . And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Rev., 11:9—13)

As Burke points out (in the section on vastness), things of “magnitude” are sublime, and so too is the “last extreme of littleness”. He sums up by comparing it to the “still diminishing scale of existence” (Enquiry, II, VII, 66). The obscurity of God’s presence and the clarity of his wrath are enough to render him near entirely sublime, in accordance with Burke’s account, as is his power and ability to inspire in most creatures “the passion of self-preservation”. The figure of God (because of his great power) is the most sublime and all-powerful character of Revelation. Burke states in the Enquiry, “power is undoubtedly a capital source of the sublime” (II, V, 64). It is this section on ‘Power’, which is the most relevant to this discussion of Revelation as a sublime work:

And indeed, the ideas of pain, and above all of death, are so very affecting, that whilst we remain in the presence of whatever is supposed to have the power of inflicting either, it is impossible to be free from terror. (Enquiry, p.59)

The power of God, over Satan and his legion of sinners, is emphasised by John. The superiority of God’s power is what makes pain and redemption possible for all things inferior to his hierarchical force, i.e. us (humans), apart from the unredeemable Satan of course. As Burke points out, “wheresoever we find strength, and in what light soever we look upon power, we shall all along observe the sublime and the concomitant of terror “ (II, V, 61). The terror in Revelation is in the fear of God’s power. After all, the wielding of redemption by death has to be the most sublime way to enter the ‘temple’ of heaven, which is also a place so sublime it is beyond human imagining:

And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled. (Rev., 15:8)

Given Burke’s account of the criteria for the sublime, Revelation is an example of a sublime work. The representation of power is the most significant characteristic of the work’s sublimity. Similarly, the depiction of terror, fear, power, darkness, depth, vastness, privation, and obscurity, all come together in the text to fulfil the criteria of what Burke considers the sublime.

§

Either the reader who comes to the Book of Revelation is a scholar, a Christian, or just curious as to how it all ends (the Bible and the world, as we know it). The non-Christian reader might look at the Bible because it is a book. Flicking through the lucid and profound chapters of Genesis, maybe appreciating some of the Psalms or the Book of Job, noticing the ‘poetic’ qualities of the text as they proceed. By taking the Aristotelian shortcut of a traditional ‘speed-reading’: perusing the beginning, the middle, and finally the end, the reader is shocked out of a conventional reading by the violent confusion and sublimity of Revelation. It has the effect of making one reflect on what they have read prior, in order to understand its complex and quite surrealistic images and density. It also turns the reader around, driving them back to the other books of the Bible, to cross-reference the highly symbolic words and events.
Of course, such a reading presumes that the Bible is a complete narrative and not an anthology of religious texts from different eras and peoples. If Revelation itself were read separately, it would be no harder or less difficult to read, than say The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. On its own, Revelation is probably more appreciable as a literary work without the detritus balance of the hefty Bible. What is unavailable to the imagination is what makes it such a sublime text according to Longinus and Burke. The variations of interpretation extend its range beyond a factual account of “the word of God”, to the unlimited possibilities of human creativity and existence. Whether this effect is caused by the passionately obscure ‘apocalyptic’ style — the English translation of a Greek text — or the possibility the literary mode of the Longinian sublime was used to provoke aesthetic and/or spiritual reaction, is beyond definition. What is not beyond recognition is the fact that the reader brings to the text, much in the same way as the writer does, influences and contexts from the sphere of their own experience and expectations.

§

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NOTES/WORKS CITED
[1] The Holy Bible, The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. 12:7-11. From hereon all references to the Authorised King James Version of the Holy Bible will be referenced with the abbreviation KJB.
[2] See Aristotle/Horace/ Longinus, Classical Literary Criticism, translated by T. S. Dorsch (London: Penguin Books, 1965) pp. 97-158.
[3] All historical and factual data given henceforth, regarding biblical characters, authors, events, places and times, is from: William Smith; revised and edited by F.N. and M.A. Peloubet, Smith’s Bible dictionary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997.
[4] See Apocalypse and the Writings on Revelation, by D.H. Lawrence, ed. by Mara Kalnins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 66:18-19. An interesting, lively, subjective and comprehensive account of Lawrence’s beliefs and studies about Revelation. Provides an account of commentaries and conjecture regarding aspects covered briefly in this essay, i.e. authorship, literary attributes and attitudes.
[5] Hereon, for the sake of convenience, I shall use ‘Longinus’ as the author’s name of On the Sublime as no other name is forthcoming.
[6] See Aristotle/Hrace/ Longinus, Classical Literary Criticism, translated by T. S. Dorsch (London: Penguin Books, 1965) p. 108.
[7] See A History of the Bible as literature: Volume Two, From 1700 to the Present Day, by David Norton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp.6—7.
[8] See Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, by Ludwig Wittgenstein (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, 1933), p.151.
[9] Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas on the Beautiful and the Sublime, ed. Adam Phillips, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) p. 53. From hereon, the abbreviated title Enquiry, will be used for this edition.

Jacques Lacan's Theory of 'The Mirror Stage'



Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan[1] (April 13, 1901 - September 9, 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, who made prominent contributions to the psychoanalytic movement. His yearly seminars, conducted in Paris from 1953 until his death in 1981, were a major influence in the French intellectual milieu of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly among post-structuralist thinkers.

Lacan's ideas centred on Freudian concepts: e.g. the unconscious, the castration complex, the ego. He also focussed on identifications and the centrality of language to subjectivity. His work was interdisciplinary, drawing on linguistics, philosophy, and mathematics, amongst others. Although a controversial and divisive figure, Lacan is widely read in critical theory, literary studies, and twentieth-century French philosophy, as well as in the living practice of clinical psychoanalysis. Lacan's first official contribution to psychoanalysis was The Mirror Stage.

Jacques Lacan’s essay The Mirror Stage[2] describes the psychological process of the formation of the illusory ‘self’ (or ego). He constructs his theory around the conception of the infant’s most crucial developmental stage: “the mirror stage”. He attempts this by illustrating how the infant forms an illusion of a unified conscious self, that later becomes identifiable through language by the word “I”. The development of language reinforces the infant’s “function as subject”, yet separates the child from its symbiotic ideal self, or ‘other’ (ego), as seen in the mirror.

This transformation of self, according to Lacan, is traumatic (in varying degrees as dictated by the infant’s route of transference). ‘Oedipal’ complexes, neurosis, psychosis, death, and “perception-consciousness systems”(p. 75) occur in the maladjusted subject. Everyone, apparently, because of losing the pre-linguistic security of the mirror stage identification has this sense of loss and disposition toward neurosis.

The strength of Lacan’s essay is in its style: complex and full of referential allusion, making it hard to criticise and interpret. Lacan’s style is ambivalent in that it synthesises psychoanalysis, philosophy, linguistic ideology, and phenomenology, together in its justifications as a science in search of essential truths and remedies about the human condition. The weakness of Lacan’s argument is that he affords the reader no definitive proof of his assertions. For a theory, that proposes to illuminate truth and experience (”the formation of the I as we experience it in psychoanalysis”, p.71), it offers no empirical or factual support to such claims.

Lacan relates the subject to the world, through the metaphor of the (psychological/literal) mirror. The paradoxical antithesis results in the negative assumption that the subject ‘I ‘ is a fragmented self-alienated being, which is forever marked by a lack, and forever trying to attain what it saw in the mirror as a complete other. He argues that the formation of self-identity begins at the mirror stage, between the age of six to eighteen months. Prior to this period of intelligent cognition, the child is “for a time, however short, outdone by the chimpanzee in instrumental intelligence”(p. 71) [3].

According to Lacan, infants are born into this world prematurely. Consequently, they experience an insufficiency of environmental resources, to provide for their needs because of their premature senses, motor skills, and underdeveloped self-identification. Until the child experiences and interprets its reality outside the maternal womb (both literally and figuratively) as such, it will have no concept of the other or itself. The human being comes into the world without an ego - without an identity, without a sense of I that is separate from an ‘other’ (its mother). In a sense, the child has to conceptually rebirth itself, in order to distinguish itself from others as an individual being.

The infant (or “organism”), that has yet to make this separation, exists in the realm of “reality”, according to Lacan[4]. The real is a psychological place where there is unity; there is no sense of loss or lack, ‘reality’ is absolute. Because there is no loss, there is no language in the real; it is unnecessary. In other words, Lacan claims that in the infant’s pre-linguistic state of maternal dependency, there is no need for anything other than what it already has.

Biological nature apparently predetermines our sense of identity/the ‘other’, by forcing us away from the maternal protection of the mother. The onus for the ensuing state of loss thereby falls on the mother’s inability to sustain environmental resource, and on the child’s biological/’natural’ growth that prevents the mother from fulfilling such a tedious existence

Therefore, there is no language at the “infans” stage, because there is no loss; there is only absolution and satiability. Hence, the real is beyond language; it becomes irretrievable upon entry into the linguistic world. This notion of the origins of language and loss is based on theoretical assumption. In a sense it is illogical because of its reasoning and the questions, rather than answers, it generates. If the child is not born with a faculty of speech, what are its communications with its mother?

The mother largely provides resources for the infant’s needs such as food, security, safety, diapers changed, etc. The infant does not differentiate between itself and the object/s that meets its needs at this stage of maternal dependency. In order for the mirror stage to occur, the infant must sense an insufficiency in its ‘self’ and separate (wean) itself from the body of its mother. The separation, anticipation, and recognition of the ‘other’ generate the subjectivity and difference of the infant’s self to the other. The mirror stage is developmentally crucial in this sense, because it holds consequences for personality and mental development, affecting normative to abnormal states of being.

Lacan states:

The mirror stage is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation – and which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body image to a form of its totality [‘orthopaedic’] . . . to the assumption of the armour of an alienating identity, which will mark with its rigid structure the subject’s entire mental development. (pp. 73-74)

Faced with an identifiable image of itself in a mirror, the child recognises its ideal ‘self’ and the ego is born. The infant makes an anticipatory judgement, perceiving the image to be stronger, more maturely coherent, than his or her own unrealised function as subject. Subsequently, the pre-linguistic infant perceives this ‘other’ image as an attainable reality. Lacan claims that the infant recognises the image and makes this judgement before it can ‘objectify’ it with “the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject” (p. 72). Lacan speaks of this pivotal point of identification of the other, as being “primordial” and highly “symbolic”, whilst the infant is still dependent and maternally connected to the (m) other.

Lacan suggests the primary identification is illusory and idealistic (fictional), the reflection being mimetic, a copy of the real, or a misrecognition (“meconnaissance”). There is a void between the reflection and the self; this void creates apprehension and a sense of alienation, between the self and the image. At this pre-linguistic stage, this sense of ‘lack’ is non-apparent.

When the child eventually experiences and comprehends the concept of absence through language, it identifies lack with its environment (world) and its (m) other. The infant is no longer in a state of fulfilled contentment, protected by and unified with the mother. This first acknowledgement of this absence directs the child towards its own image, in order to transform itself as an entity of identity without lack. The child’s recognition of ‘lack’ is the pivotal moment around which the mirror stage is set. The child will attempt to fill this void throughout the rest of its life, looking for its imaginary and significant other. This element of Lacan’s theory is tragically paradoxical: to become a socialised ‘adult’, sacrifice of coherence/unity is necessary, resulting in a perpetual sense of loss and desire.

A weakness of Lacan’s argument is that it relies on conjectural summation as proof of his concept. He cites a few inconclusive examples of “comparative psychology” as factual evidence of his concept. Neglecting the need for empirical evidence of epistemological claims, he attempts to compare and contrast selectively, animal behaviour (chimpanzees, pigeons, and even locusts) to child development. His reasons for failing to provide necessary and sufficient evidence to back up his claims, is probably due to the fact that the unconscious mind at the “infans stage” is essentially unfathomable. In order to prove his claims of infant identification with the self and the other, as something other than biological necessity or response, this failure to provide factual proof negates his argument.

Without evidence for Lacan’s claims and concepts of a mirror stage, we cannot definitely say that the infant behaviour and development described is common to all children six to eighteen months old, as Lacan claims. Some leeway could be made in hindsight because of the historical context of Lacan’s theory (1949) and technological/interpretative advancements made in developmental research[5] since then (e.g. genetics, computers, medicine, equipment etc). Yet even so, this lack of physical evidence does not necessarily prove Lacan’s theory right or wrong, this is what makes it problematic. Like so many other theories of the unknown, how can we objectively prove as fact, that which is unknown or subjective?

I may have misread Lacan’s meaning at this stage, but I feel it necessary to point out that what a child may see as a significant ‘other’, may indeed be an object not necessarily found in the mirror. A gestalt does not necessarily have to be “constituted” with ‘constituents’ of human form (for a child, the ‘real’ or significant other could be a toy or goldfish!). In my opinion, he underestimates the power of the pre-linguistic imagination of the infant and, consequently, the relationship between the child and what he calls a “fictional direction” (which I presume indicates the imaginary).

He also over-estimates the importance of the “lure of spatial identification”(p. 74), as a fundamental type of anti-existential (“I think therefore I am”) lack of free will, which drives and consumes an infant’s ego toward “a form of its totality”. The pre-adolescent child does not seem to make judgements about their mirror image, other than those of fancy, amusement, curiosity, or utility (e.g. combing hair). This “lure” of the mirror does not seem to be as magnetised or compelling as Lacan suggests.

By the time most children recognise themselves in the mirror (or even that the mirror is a ‘mirror’) they have already begun to converse. An element of fear or mistrust of the unknown is present in most children, in regards to the mirror image. I suspect that this apprehension is directed toward the fact that they do not understand, how it works[6], rather than their sense of alienation in seeing an image of their self.

The fact that mistrust or apprehension is an emotive response in infants toward mirrors, disproves Lacan’s suggestion that the child experiences jubilance and gains an “instantaneous aspect of the image”(p.1). The evidence and common knowledge available today of infant behaviour suggests that the concept of the ‘mirror stage’ is inconclusive and representative of a naïve type of subjective truism.

Another weakness in his essay is the lack of differentiation between the developmental stages of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood; neither does he distinguish between genders apart from his brief reference to the ‘Oedipus complex’. Lacan does not clearly state, or address, physiological differences between the sexes or psychological differences that result from these differences, e.g. maternal, hormonal, perceptual, social etc. He seems to be looking for the fundamental link that unites/defines humanity. He apparently discovers this common factor in the ‘mirror stage’, it being that all human subjects lack a completeness that can be traced directly to the “fact of a real specific prematurity of birth in [hu]man[s]” (p. 73).

Essentially, for Lacan, the human being splits, between something that it is and has and something it will never be or have. His theory proposes that the foundation of human development is fundamentally a handicap of negative irrationality and lack. Lacan’s analysis is inconclusive, as the subject of experiment (the pre-adolescent infant) remains voiceless and therefore inadmissible as evidence of Lacan’s theory of psychological/conceptual development. The interior world of the infant’s mind is apparently laid open (“dehiscence”, p. 73) by Lacan. Yet, he does not actually offer any empirical evidence for what is largely an empirical theory of “the formation of the I as we experience it in psychology”(p. 71).

Lacan’s interpretation of Freud is strategic in its repetition and avoidance of Freudian concepts to promote his own. In reading Lacan, we also re-read Freud (both Anna and Sigmund) and the many other philosophers/theorists he makes recourse to (e.g. Descartes, Hegel, Levi-Strauss, Caillois, Buhler, etc). By appropriating these other theorists, Lacan uses their authority as his own. His psychological (and philosophical) theory of reality and the subject resembles the philosophy of Hegel[7] (whom, incidentally, he utilises in his anti-existential tirade on p.75) with its dialectic and metaphysical aspects.

He assumes a philosophical position regarding the limits of psychoanalysis and subjective truth:

The sufferings of neurosis and psychosis are for us a schooling in the passions of the soul, just as the beam of the psychoanalytical scales, when we calculate the tilt of its threat to entire communities, provides us with an indication of the deadening of the passions in society . . . In the recourse of subject to subject that we preserve, psychoanalysis may accompany the patient to the ecstatic limit of “Thou art that”, in which is revealed to him the cipher of his mortal destiny, but it is not in our mere power as practitioners to bring him to that point where the real journey begins. (p.76)

Lacan’s seemingly logical, albeit difficult, reasoning belies a search for truth (of the unconsciousness) that cannot be objectively justified, due to its largely conjectural and subjective status as evidence. How can interpretations and ‘knowledge’ of the unconscious mind be free from subjective irrationality and self-truth? How can we prove that such ‘evidence’ is universal in nature, culture, and the individual subject’s imagination/psyche, without definitive and evidential proof of the mind’s processes and memories from the mirror stage or the unconscious?

In my opinion, Lacan does not convincingly substantiate his concept with answers to these questions, and that is what makes his writing difficult, impassable, and illogical as an ontological definition of psychoanalytical epistemology[8]. His unscientific argument is more philosophy than psychoanalysis, the abstract and anecdotal reasoning seems far removed from clinical/theoretical psychoanalytical accounts (see Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams). Lacan uses idealistic philosophy and linguistic theory to psychoanalyse the non-existent patient, present nowhere (conclusively) in the text. His use of these devices fails in my opinion to convey an empirical working model of the mind. Instead, this has the effect of juxtaposing discourse, theory, and consequently, logical/illogical claims, so that it is hard to determine fact from fiction.

Lacan uses the metaphor of the mirror as a reflection on humanity and psychoanalytical theory and practice. In the process, he moves from a psychoanalytical perspective of the mind, to a philosophical stance on the nature of the human subject. The mirror stage functions somewhat theatrically, the psychoanalytical light of Lacan’s concept illuminates the action, while the ‘subject’ and the ‘other’ play out their tentative drama of human creation, identity, development, and fallibility.

This concept of human nature and the human psyche contradicts the basic psychoanalytical precept, that unconscious desire determines conscious decision and will. In denying this, Lacan seems to adapt and contort conventional psychoanalytical concepts of identity and development, social-adaptation, and constructionism, to support and build his theory on. There is an element of the subversive in Lacan’s attitude toward psychoanalysis and human concepts of will and identity. For the anti-existentialist Lacan, his project is impossible. The ego can never take the place of the unconscious, or empty it out, or control it, because, for Lacan, the ego or “I” self is only an illusion, a product of the unconscious itself.

In some respects, Lacan’s theoretical discourse, and the concept of the mirror stage, borders on the “threshold of the visible world”, as an ideological phenomenology that seeks to establish a foundation for all sciences of humanity. Apart from providing us with this social indicator and definition of neurosis and its origins, the reader is left bemused and somewhat dismayed at the feeling of malaise and incongruity that the essay concludes with.

***********************

[1] Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Lacan [1st two paragraphs].

[2] See, Jacques Lacan, ‘The Mirror Stage’, in A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, eds, Anthony Easthope and Kate McGowan, pp. 71-76.

[3] While there is response from the infant to its mirror image, Lacan places no relevance (other than mere unconscious mimicry) on this fact, until the child appears to consciously, “hold it [the image] in his gaze”.

[4] “ . . . the organism and its reality – or, as they [?] say . . . the Innenwelt and the Umwelt” (p.2).

[5] See J. C. Dixon’s empirical observations “of developmental change in relation to the mirror” and his advancements and use of Lacan’s mirror stage in ‘Development of Self Recognition’, in The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 91, (Florida: Florida University Press, 1957) pp. 251-256. See also M. Lewis, J. Brooks-Gunn, and J. Jaskir’s ‘Individual differences in Visual Self-Recognition as a Function of the Mother-Infant attachment Relationship’, in The Journal of Developmental Psychobiology (New Jersey: 1985) pp. 1181-87. This is an interesting a/c in relation to Lacan’s because it provides extensive empirical evidence of its claims about attachment relationships compared to visual self-recognition development at infancy-early childhood. The results suggest that: “individual differences were related to later self-recognition. In particular, insecurely attached infants showed a trend toward earlier self-recognition than did securely attached infants” (p.1181).

[6] Primitive cultures, religious superstition (Voodoo), conventional societies, relate different responses to the mirror. Frightened responses toward mirrors, cameras, and foreign objects are common in diaries of travellers to different (non-western) cultures where the image/ identity is not to be found in the narcissistic/exterior reflection of the self, but in the stature of the physical being, etc.

[7] George Hegel saw reality as a dynamic process, rather than as a reflection of static ideals. The dialectical law governs the process of reality: every thesis implies its own contradiction, or antithesis, and their conflict ends in a synthesis, which again brings forth its antithesis.

[8] The ambivalent effect of his text on the reader, almost emulates the responses of the mirror stage subject toward the ‘other’, which in this case is Lacan’s text. There is an uneasy sense of ‘meconnaissance’ (mis-interpretation) and ‘lack’ of full understanding of his text, which requires the reader to reread in order to understand. This rhetorical technique appears to me deliberate and stylistic, whilst being clever and making ‘the sound echo the sense’, I wonder whether it serves to distract from that which is not present in the text, namely evidence, for Lacan’s claims?

Burnt

*


Lucille sat smoking on the step in the sun. She took a drag and continued to dream through the fresh blue smoke. The sun burning brightly in the summer sky. The blue back porch peeling in the heat – the timber creaking under her young dreams and aspirations. Flipping the cap on her steel lighter, tapping her feet on the top step to a silent beat. The sun good and warm on her young thin skin – white t-shirt loose flapping languidly in the warm afternoon breeze – bare feet breathing, feeling the worn grain of the wooden step – blue jeans beat and holy with worn wounds torn in knees and backside. The flame, as if from her fingers, dancing in the whispering air – white spots pop around the flame.

Lucille tired of her imagination, yawned and tugged her sneakers on. The sun now dying in the distance, floundering behind the dusky silhouette of the suburban horizon. Her black parka and red baseball cap – protection against the coming night. Dogs began to bark in hungry expectation – their master’s cars creeping home up the street. A bus half-lit against the twilight – faces forward, vacant eyes – floating along like leaves on a breeze until home, then caged again. Lucille’s old man wouldn’t be home again – lost somewhere in the desert between then & now. A gecko slithered across the porch and into the black shadows under the chair. Her mother might be home tonight, if she didn’t score – her mother that is. At least she didn’t bring them back anymore – she figured the old bitch had probably realised it was easier to let them do her in the alley behind the bar – less of a walk to get the next drink from a trick.

Lucille lit another smoke, the light from the flame orange white glowing in her stony gaze. She spat in prophesy into the dead flowers beside the porch – the screen door snapping at her young heels as she went inside, switching on the yellow hall light. The house stank of meat and grease – flies broke away from the walls and dirty dishes in the sink as she entered the small kitchenette. She opened the fridge – last beer left. A white spark then dark, the bulb blew – she fumbled in the empty rank fridge for the beer and left the house, slamming the chain-link gate behind her. She sucked on her beer and headed on into the musky night.

A greasy burger on Main Street, moths beating themselves to death on the popping fluorescent light under the street cover. The burger tasted good, her thin stomach moaning with gratitude, licking fingers. Another smoke. Walking again. Damn, she needed some cash. She’d just spent her last loose change. A plane rumbled overhead – ominous, its undercarriage low and visible, wings blinking red and green, then gone. She lit another smoke with the butt of the last – sixteen years old and full of dreams and the warm city night waiting to swallow her up.

She kept walking, images flashing faster in her brain – her mother, her crabbed face white and wrinkled blood-red lips charcoal dead eyes bleached blond dry hair – soulless posture. A photo of her father, remembered, black and white – long beard shaved head jailhouse tattoos straddled on a clapped out chrome horse. Fire, always fire licking the edges of everything – the houses the moon cars windows trees fences people . . .

People moved inside the white house. A family scene – steaming dinner on the table. All smiles and throwback head laughter. Man cuts the meat. Mother hairbuns blue apron, dishing out the sliced pink roast. Plump blond children squeal, banging table with fisted knives and forks . . .

Lucille stood hypnotized, rooted to the spot. Her face dissected in the reflection of the quarter windowpane. She didn’t know how long she stood there, watching, trembling – mind blank. Hairbuns blue apron appeared in the window, a laugh on her red lips, head turned over shoulder as she drew the curtains across her pert apron encased cashmere breasts. Lucille snapped out of her trance. It was like she woke up, but was outside of herself. Everything – like one of those old black and white James Cagney movies her Ma used to watch on the TV late at night. She watched herself walk around the corner of the west wall and stand before the half open bedroom window, the linen curtain slowly flapping in the breeze against the white window sill. She closed her eyes and dreamed a dream.

Lucille kicked open the gate and walked up the old wooden steps to the dark porch. She wasn’t home. She sat on the top step and looked out across the suburban landscape silhouettes lit with faint ghostly lights. Haunted figures across the way, shambling in and out of sight like voodoo zombies framed in the windows. A cat moaned for sex next door. A car slid its hissing way up the empty street. In the distance, a siren started to peel itself out of the black night. Lucille lit a smoke and took a drag, holding the cigarette up and watching the red ember glow as it took to the thin cigarette paper – her other hand absently brushing up against the growing urge in her torn jeans.

An orange glow had broken out in the distance, about a kilometre south, above the black silhouettes of the houses on the horizon. White smoke flowered from the horizontal half moon of the fire, tapering up, drifting slowly into the black still night. Lucille’s eyes glazed as she flicked the smouldering cigarette butt into the dead flowers next to the porch. Her breath quickening as her hand worked against herself – the siren now multiplied, screaming. Tumbling red lights dancing flippantly towards the fire, now blazing cinders spread like small red stars high into the warm night sky. The smoke now yellow, billowing into the blackness hanging heavy over the suburbs. The scene like a consummated painting framed between the porch banisters. All Lucille heard was her heart beating, blood pumping like a drum in her head. The worn wood grain of the porch, cool through her t-shirt against the bones of her young back. The night now closing in.

Anomalous Perigee

He turned on his black polished heel, raised his well dressed right arm – the light dancing off his polished cuff link – repositioned his curved left arm a little higher on the delicate back of his true love, then slowly waltzed from the centre of the light into the shadows.
Over her shoulder he watched the light, drunk with love & wine, he could not contain the rogue tears that tumbled from his tired eyes. The smell of her perfume engulfed his senses.
The silk touch of her soft skin on his cheek.
The feel & smell of her fine hair against the tip of his nose, as they spun slowly in between the light & the dark.
The empty chairs & tables in the hall resounded with applause; confetti fell like snow upon their twisting slow sonata . . .
The adagio waned – began to fade – the click of a door echoed through the music & the lingering mumble of departing guests – the light flickered, swelled, then was full & bright again as it should be.
The confetti was gone, the guests too – the table & chairs nowhere to be seen – the hall walls had shrunk, chandeliers disappeared, but still the music continued as he took one last semi-pirouette & stopped – his hand raised, fingers together as if holding the smallest of hands – the other hand spread just away from his mid-section as if to protect the daintiest of waists.
He stood under the dim light, the yellow glow casting shadows on his face, his dapper suit now looking quite threadbare – the cuff links long ago disappeared over the grimy counter of a downtown pawn shop – his polished shoes, the seams along the soles split – the buttoned collar around his neck, loose – the mirror rippled darkly around his form transfixed. His hands went to his head, his shoulders collapsed, as he turned his back on his own pitiful image.
He slowly unbuttoned his jacket & hung it carefully over the back of a chair, unbuttoning his collar & stepping from his old worn shoes. He folded back the covers & pulled the cord, which extinguished the light. As he lay in bed, the adagio still tumbling through his mind, his chest tightened, he looked through the gap in the blind.
The moon was low & full & seemed to smile back at him drunkenly. The cold blue light beamed across the room trying to penetrate the black shadows of his austere bedroom. The mellow luminosity of the light filled his mind with a soft blue hue.
He knew there were angels, alive, somewhere. The heaviness in his heart began to subside. He lay on his side, one hand holding the blind open so he could see the moon. He could almost step onto the moon he thought. It’s so low. So blue. So big. His tired eyes closed, the hand falling gently away from the blind onto the mattress & he was with her once again.
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