Scribbles, about Alenka Zupancic’s Newest Work

Alenka Zupancic’s newest work aims to pursue something like a “philosophy” or “ontology” of sexuality within Lacanian/Freudian psychoanalysis. Some things:

(1) A brilliant/clear response to those who claim that Freudian sexuality reduces all problems to the answer of sexuality. On the contrary, Zupancic notes that Freud’s position is not that sexuality is the answer to all problems but that sexuality is itself the problem for all answers. Freud did not normalize sexuality but rather posed it as the question.

(2) Zupancic notes the primordial negativity of sexuality (in other words, she claims that sexuality is itself the primordial negation). This is a negation which is without substance but not, for that matter, is it “nothing”. She tells the following joke (who told this one first, Zizek or Zupancic?): a man goes into a cafe and asks the waiter for a cup of coffee, without cream. The waiter goes away, but returns again: “I’m sorry sir, we don’t have any cream. We have milk though. Would you like your coffee without milk instead?” The joke makes a serious point, the negativity is not nothing – it really matters.

(3) Zupancic made a point about the stage through which the onset of sexuality is typically first made apparent in infantile psychical development: when the question is asked: “where did I [where do children/babies] come from?” The child is then confronted with a number of answers, all of which are unsatisfactory. So, rather than positive knowledge, the child’s sexuality, as a negation, is introduced.

(4) I note the phrase “unsatisfactory” in the previous paragraph. It is hysterics whose desire remains unsatisfied. For this reason, I can not help but wonder why, in an hour-long presentation on sexuality, she did not once describe the differences that occur across the clinical structures (and thus, as it were, between the two central neuroses: feminine and masculine). For this reason, it seems to me, she reduces sexuality to the feminine type.

(5) Sexuality was often described as a ‘stumbling block’. I like this phrase, I heard it first from Bruce Fink. But for Bruce Fink it is the Master Signifier, S1, which is the stumbling block. In any case, it seemed to me that Zupancic often conflated the Real with Sexuality, as if the two were synonyms.

(6) This phrase – “stumbling block” – was picked up again by a theologian in the audience who informed us that the word in Hebrew, from the old testament (Psalms), means the same thing as “corner stone” or “foundation stone”. He noted that it was the “stumbling block” which allowed the builders to construct pieces of great architecture. What a profound point.

(7) Zupancic claims that her ontology discusses being and non-being (housed in the unconscious). At one point she intimated that her philosophy is not necessarily reduced to humans. Yet, this is precisely one of the problems with her work. It no doubt explains why she was critical of a negative theology (describing it as a theology of the death of god, improperly, which ensures that religion lives through other more permanent means). The problem is that this world of ‘constitutive lack’ exists only for special types of beings, and not even all human-beings (it is even more particular than this): neurotic beings.

Great talk, it was definitely worth the trip.


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