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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.60, No.1, 77 ~ 90, 2014
Towards An Ethic and Theory of Literature without Alterity
Jason Barker
Globalization of contemporary literature raises the prospect of ethics in the name of alterity. Through cultural pluralism comes the responsibility on writers and readers alike to recognize and respect difference, or otherness. This article highlights the difficulties of constructing an ethic founded on such assumptions, which over the years has drawn theoretical inspiration from the work of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, often in an attempt to attest to the trauma and suffering of the post-colonial age. The philosopher Simon Critchley is arguably a promoter of such a reading of Lacan, and of a “structural homology” between Lacan and Emmanuel Levinas, on ethical questions. But such an ethic is inconsistent, arguably ending up as an apology for the political states of affairs that generate trauma and suffering in the first place. This article attempts to correct certain key misunderstandings of Lacan`s work, with reference to Lacan`s Imaginary, Symbolic and Real orders of the psyche, whichalso correspond to consecutive phases of his overall teaching of psychoanalysis. Reference is also made to the work of Alain Badiou and Michel Foucault respectively as welcome antidotes to the messianic pretensions of Levinasian ethics, and in order to point the way towards a-signifying theories of literature. There is ultimately a passage in Lacan`s work through the Symbolic and Real orders of the psyche, from the concept of “signifier” to the “letter,” and in conclusion the article speculates, albeit tentatively, that here one might find the theoretical resources for a “rubbish theory of literature,” one that would seek to divorce literature from the art of pathos and the ethics of the self and its other.
Key Words
ethics, Lacan, Other, Real, subject,영미문학, 문화연구, 비교문학, 비평이론, English and American Literature, cultural studies, comparative literature, critical theory
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