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Lacan and the Limits of Language$
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Charles Shepherdson

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780823227662

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823227662.001.0001

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The Atrocity of Desire: Of Love and Beauty in Lacan's Antigone

The Atrocity of Desire: Of Love and Beauty in Lacan's Antigone

(p.50) Chapter 2 The Atrocity of Desire: Of Love and Beauty in Lacan's Antigone
Lacan and the Limits of Language

Charles Shepherdson

Fordham University Press

This chapter focuses on two elements in Lacan's reading of Antigone, two features, which are also two relations. One of these takes place on the stage, within the action of the play; the other takes place between this action and the audience who come to witness its unfolding. Within the play, it is a question of Antigone's relation to her brother, and the strange desire or fate, the compulsion or responsibility, that binds her to her brother — more precisely (since there are two), to that brother who is dead but not yet buried, that singular and irreplaceable brother towards whom Antigone alone is able, or willing, or compelled to act. The second feature is located in the relation between the action of the play and the audience that bears witness to that action. If Antigone is not only the heroine, but the heroine for us, if it is she who most of all attracts our attention and rouses our emotions, if we are drawn toward her in a kind of horrified captivation that both attracts and repels, moving us forward in pity even as we recoil in fear, then she is the principal focus of what Aristotle calls catharsis, that obscure but crucial experience of “emotion” which is definitive of tragedy as such.

Keywords:   Jacques Lacan, Antigone, play, catharsis, audience, action

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