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What is an Author? A Question for the Cartels

The Letter, Issue 44, Summer 2010, Pages 33 - 45


What is an author.... a question for the cartels?

Patricia McCarthy


After a year's experience of being part of one of ISLP's cartels, the question of authorship emerged, not in the sense of plagiarism or of who can claim ownership over an idea or a text. Our question about authorship centres on the big Other, the field of a knowledge devoid of subjectivity, unconscious knowledge where one does not know who it is that knows . The co-ordinates of the big Other, understood as utterly distinguishable from the One, will be questioned with reference to Foucault's address to the Collège de France, entitled "What is an author?”. This is a necessary preliminary to grasping the full power of Lacan's four discourses.

Keywords: avatar; authorship; cartel; the big Other; empty set; topology

Today, I am down to speak in the session entitled The Psychoanalytic Discourse and its Avatars.[1] This calls for a definition of what an avatar is and at the same time a recommendation that for anyone who hasn't yet seen James Cameron's film of the same name Avatar which was nominated for best movie at the Oscars last year, it is indeed worth watching. In the movie, a wheelchair-bound marine is recruited to cross over as an avatar into a fantastical planet-world called Pandora which is to be colonised by man for its riches. Some sort of template/image of his brain is commandeered and by the simple method of sleeping in a special sleep machine for protracted periods of time, he crosses over as an avatar to a place of Otherness, a place of spirit people who are directly linked to the dendritic world around them, their horses, flying birds, roots of trees and the forest vegetation. Over time, his allegiance shifts to this Other world and thereby an allegorical tale of love and loss unfolds. This not only embraces principles of neuroscience - where the infinite dendritic capacity of neuronal activity is beguilingly hinted at, and how, in an utterlymysterious fashion, brain activity must, at a concrete level, beget who we are - but, also embraces our question, the question of desire, as to which is in fact more real, the dream or waking reality? I fondly think that Freud, whose genius gave us A Project for a Scientific Psychology would have loved a film like this!


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