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Narrative, Anxiety And The Temporal Factor

The Letter, Issue 7, Summer 1996, Pages 58 - 66


Olga Cox

Any coffee break conversation with Irish Lacanian students will confirm Lacan's own assertion that the concept of lack is not in itself anxiogenic. 'Ah yes', people breezily say, lighting up a cigarette, 'sure it's all about lack you know'. It is tempting to surmise that when Lacan describes subjectivity as resulting from 'the organization of a hole' or represents the subject as 'the existence of a hole and his supplementary two sutures'[1] that Irish analysts feel a degree of satisfaction in being not just scatologically but psychoanalytically correct when referring to a colleague as 'a pain in the hole'.

The term anxiety is an exceptionally inclusive one. It can be used to refer to the sudden falling away of the ground of one's being in which time is abruptly suspended, or alternatively to the ongoing uneasy undertow which in itself constitutes the temporal dimension of human existence. Paradoxically Lacan locates it not as the opening up of a chasm but as the total filling in of a void which should be preserved. It is when there is nothing to keep this lack in place that anxiety appears.

In the year which precedes his seminar on anxiety, Lacan had set out, via the difficult conceptual model of the Moebius strip, to demonstrate that this lack which is radical for the constitution of subjectivity is an included lack, a structural flaw, a very particular absence which conditions all presence, notably the presence of the signifying chain, but which remains itself, properly speaking, unnameable. It is this included lack which I would like to look at today, leaning on narrative theory rather than on the topology of the Moebius strip.

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