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Antigone goes beyond-the-beyond: From the 'my lady' of the ideal to the malady of the ideal

The Letter, Issue 34, Summer 2005, Pages 29 - 47


ANTIGONE GOES BEYOND-THE-BEYOND: FROM THE MY LADY

OF THE IDEAL TO THE MALADY OF THE IDEAL*

Helena Texier


The quicker it comes the better.

I want to hurry death. I want to be free of the dread

Of waking in the morning.

Waking up at night.

All I pray for now

Is the dawn of my last day.

Whatever the field of work, no-one whose door is fully open to the suffering subject will be able to avoid the encounter with the full deadweight of this tragic appeal to the possibility that death presents, and represents, as a release from - an ante-dote to - life. (From the obsessional to the suicide). The quotation given above will inevitably call someone to the mind of the practitioner here today, or perhaps it will echo something closer to home, a friend, a loved one, one's own self even. Many of the participants here today will still have fresh in their minds the Dublin experience of the Joyce-Lacan Symposium, which one entered under the gaze of the unbearable lightness (21 grams to be precise)[1] of the many hanging collars representing the many, many suicides. I take it that it is this tragic subject which the Forums invite us to consider here today in relation to Lacan's seminar on Ethics, a seminar in the course of which, as the Forums noted in their preliminary statement to us, Lacan doesn't give much indication at all with respect to practice. So we're left with the question of what might be the implications for practice in this Lacanian ethics. The question is posed with a sense of urgency made more keen by 7 the real of the practice. For example, the Forums invitation to take part in this gathering reached me in a week in which the headlines in Ireland had been laced with reports of escalating suicide rates amongst the young cubs of the Celtic Tiger, with accounts of a spate of connected suicides in a group of young people in one part of the country and of a young mother who brought two of her three daughters to a watery grave with her. In light of this, and bearing in mind the high incidence in our country of high speed car crashes in the dead of night involving young, often solitary, males, what is to be said for an ethics founded on death drive and the pure desire of a being-towards-death? Indeed, what is to be said for it in the wake of the beings-toward-death of September 11, prepared to go to the limit, to die for 'the cause with God on its side', or in the wake of the encounter with the suicide bomber which in the Middle East is a daily reality? What has the ethics of being-for-death to offer to the woman who this week says that the only response to life is to die and to save her children the pain of living by taking them with her? What, one asks, would Lacan's reading of Antigone be able to do for her? In short, how will an appeal to Antigone address what Lacan defines as the 'human factor', 'the Thing... namely, that which in the real suffers from the signified?[2]

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