Thursday, February 10, 2011


Anne Enright writes about Angela Carter in the LRB:
I can’t describe the book I worked on that year. It was about Cressida. It was about Colley Cibber’s daughter Charlotte Charke, an actress who, according to me, played Cressida, not in Shakespeare’s but – for reasons that must have seemed urgent at the time – in Dryden’s bastardised version of the play. This section of the book was written in makey-uppey 18th-century stage dialogue. Everything kept splitting into threes. I may have set part of the book during the siege of Troy, but I am not going to admit to this. There was a modern section told by an actress, who opens the book with a description of Juta Mai – a 19th-century geisha dance I had come across at a theatre festival in France. The narrator describes the dancer’s costume, her tiny movements: she tells how the actress holds in her eye which is always brimful a tear that never falls.
We were all very tense. The student ahead of me came out of her office, made a big face and hurried away. I went in. Carter sat beside, rather than behind a desk. On the edge of it, facing me, were the pages I had submitted, with a handwritten note from her on the top sheet. She indicated the pages with a graceful hand. She said: ‘Well this is all fine.’
And then we talked of other things.
If the question was in the mirror, then the answer was in the eye. This was the problem that obsessed me in the spring of 1987. ‘The eye, is it the mirror to the soul?’ says one of my 18th-century thespians. ‘It is an orifice, rather,’ Charlotte Charke says. ‘In brief, sir, it is a hole.’

And here is Enright using Lacan to surprisingly good effect:
The shift from feeling into fiction was a shift from being into an image of being, from inside to outside. ‘To break out of the circle of the Innenwelt into the Umwelt,’ Lacan wrote – and at the time I understood this completely – ‘generates the inexhaustible quadrature of the ego’s verifications.’ I think he meant you fall apart a bit, when, as an infant, you see or construct your image in the mirror. It is also possible that you have to fall apart a bit in order to make fiction; that making an image from yourself is a kind of falling apart. And that the image is always too coherent and rigid – what Lacan termed ‘orthopaedic’.

It's a pity that Alan Sokal was so deaf to the poetic aspects of technical language. I suspect Lacan is using "quadratures" purely as a register-marking device here, but it's still quite appealing. Perhaps it's the sort of thing one comes up with in work-addled dreams.

No comments: