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GREIMAS AVEC LA CAN; OR, FROM THE SYMBOLIC TO THE REAL IN DIALECTICAL CRITICISM Phillip E. Wegner [n this essay, I want toexp]ore the ill1plications for a materia list dialectics of a reading of A.J. Grcimas's scmimics, and in particular what Fr edri c Jameson has described as its "supre me achievement," Greimas's "semi- otic rectang le"I (figure I). My approach challe nges what has become a commonplace for example, in both Paul de Man's classic essay ;'Thc Resistance to Theory" (1982) and P:lUl Ricocur's three-volume opus Time alld Narrative {l983-8 5)- that tak es Grcimas's work and the tools he elaborates as the quintessence of a s tr ucturalist drive to :lbstraction. marked by totalizingltotalltarian tendencies and an utter rejection of historicity (the diach ronic) and indeterminacy. (In de Man's terms. this takes the form of an absolute privileging of the gram- matical level of a text over the rhetorical; and Ricoeur concludes. "The whole suategy thus amounts to a vast attempt to do :1way with dia- chrony."2) While such a reading may be accurate in certain deploym ems of these tools, a different set of possibilities emerges when the sem iotic rectangle is read in co njun ction with the work of Greimas's great con- temporary, Jacques Lacan, and. in particular, "the fundamenta l cI:1ss ifi ca- tion system ar ound which all his theorizing turns," the three orders of the Symbolic, Im:lginary, and Rea!.' Indeed, in this essay, I use the rich sem i- otic resources of the Greimasian rect ang le to tell a number of deeply in- terrelated stories: about the history of the novel; developments in the last few decades in theory more generally :'!nd in the work of Fredric Jameson in particular; and lhe value of dialectic:'!1 thinking for our present mornelll of global iz:ltion. This gesture of reading Gre imas with Lacan takes its lead from Lacan's own work, by way of hi s essay "Kant avec Sade." In a footnote to a recent discussion of this essay, Slavoj Zizek suggests that "f.1r from be in g restricted Crlflmm. Spring 2009. Vol. 51. No.2. Pl" 211-H5. ISSN: 0011 - 1589. o 2009 Waync Smc Unil'crslly Prcss. lktroit. :-OIl -4810 1· 1 309. 2 11

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GREIMAS AVEC LACAN; OR, FROM THE SYMBOLIC TO THE REAL IN DIALECTICAL CRITI CISM Phillip E. Wegner [n this essay, I want toexp]ore the ill1plications for a materialist dialectics of a reading of A.J. Grcimas's scmimics, and in particular what Fredric Jameson has described as its "supreme achievement," Greimas's "semi-otic rectangle"I (figure I). My approach challenges what has become a commonplace for example, in both Paul de Man's classic essay ;'Thc Resistance to Theory" (1982) and P:lUl Ricocur's three-volume opus Time alld Narrative {l983-85)- that takes Grcimas's work and the tools he elaborates as the quintessence of a structuralist drive to :lbstraction. marked by totalizingltotalltarian tendencies and an utter rejection of histori city (t he diach ronic) and indeterminacy. (In de Man's terms. this takes the form of an absolute privileging of the gram-matical level of a text over the rhetorical; and Ricoeur concludes. "The whole suategy thus amounts to a vast attempt to do :1way with dia-chrony."2) While such a reading may be accurate in certain deploymems of these tools, a different set of possibilities emerges when the semiotic rectangle is read in conjunction with the work of Greimas's great con-temporary, Jacques Lacan, and. in pa rt icular, "the fundamenta l cI:1ssifica-tion system around which all his theorizing turns," the three orders of the Symbolic, Im:lginary, and Rea!.' Indeed, in this essay, I use the rich semi-otic resources of the Greimasian rectangle to tell a number of deeply in-terrelated stories: about the history of the novel; developments in the last few decades in theory more generally :'!nd in the work of Fredric Jameson in particular; and lhe value of dialectic:'!1 thinking for our present mornelll of global iz:lt ion. This gesture of reading Greimas with Lacan takes its lead from Lacan's own work, by way of hi s essay "Kant avec Sade." In a footnote to a recent discussion of this essay, Slavoj Zizek suggests that "f.1r from being restricted Crlflmm. Spring 2009. Vol. 51. No.2. Pl" 211-H5. ISSN: 0011 -1589. o 2009 Waync Smc Unil'crslly Prcss. lktroit. :-OIl -48101 1309. 211 212 PHILLIP E. WEGNER c N to Lacan, this procedure of reading'X with Y' has a long Marxist lineage"; indeed, Zizek argues, Il ls not the main point of Marx's crit ique of HegeJ's specu-lative idealism precisely to read '; Hcgel with political economy," that is, to discern in the speculati ve circular movemcm of Capital the "obscene secret" of the circula r movement orthe Hegelian N o t i o n ~ ~ GREIMAS AVEC LACAN 213 Furthermore, Zizck maintains that we misread this relationship if we see the latter figure in the couple as "the truth" of lhe former: lOin the contrary, the Sadeian perversion emerges as the result of the Kantian compromise, of Kant 's avoiding the consequences of hi s breakthrough. Sade is the J'ymptom of Knill: ... the space for the fi gure of Sadc is opened up by this compromi se of Kant, by his unwillingness to go to the end, to retain the fu ll fidelity to his philosophical Something simil:1f, I want to :lrgue, occurs when we read Greimas with Lacan. The ianer shows us something new aboul the nature of the for-mer's breakthrough: the always already-existent symptom haunting the illusory closure of the strllcturalist schemas, a materi:.lizing hori zon of di:.lectical possi bilities implicit wi thin the Greim:.sian mapping itself.!' The va lue for any dialect ical criticism of Greimas's work (as wel l as that of Laca n) has been explored in great detail by Jameson, Greimas's si ngle most inAuent ial proponent in the Engli sh-language COnlext, and it will be by way of the shift s that occur in Jameson's usage of Greimas's semiotic rectangle that the device's full di:.lectical force becomes clcar.7 For readers less famil iar with the workings of the semiotic rectangle, Jnmeson's description of it from The Political Unconscious (1981) is sti ll helpful: BrieAy the semioti c rectangle or "elementa ry st ructure of signification" is the representation of a binary oppos ition or of two contraries (5 and -S), along with the si mpl e negations or contradictories of both terms (the so-call ed subcontrar ics -S and S): significant slots are constituted by the various pos-sible combi nati ons of these terms, most notably the "com-plex" term (or ideal synthesis of the two contraries) and the "neutral" term (or ideal synthesis of the two These last two terms, the complex and the neu/ml, will ha ve, as we shall sec, crucial roles to play in the development of Jnmeson 's intellectual proj -ect more generally. Jameson's first extended discussion of Grcimasian semiotics occurs in hi s 1972 book on Russia n Formalism and its structurali st descendants, The Prison-House of umgllage. At th is early j LLnctLL re, Jameson's focus remains primarily on the four internal "5' terms of the sc hema, and the dialectical 214 PHILLIP E. WEGNER movement he notes between them (see figure 2). Here, Jameson suggests that the fourth te rm in the sc hema, the -5 in the bottom-left slot in figure 2, may be identified as nonc other than the negation of a negation" famil iar from dialecti cal philosophy. It is, indeed. because the nega-tion of a neg:Hion is such a decisive leap. such a production or generation of new meaning, th:a we so frequently come upon a system in the incomplete state shown above (onl y three terms out of four given). Unde r such ci rcumstances the negation of the negat ion then becomes the primary work which the mechanism is called upon to accompli sh.9 Jameson goes on to demonstrate how this gene rati ve machinery operates through a brief discussion of Charles Dickens's HtlJd Times (1854), a novel in which "we witness the confrontat ion of what amounts to two intellectual systems: Mr. Gradgrind's utilitarianism ("Fans! Facts!') and the world of anti-facts symbol ized by Sissy Jupe and the circus, or in other words, imag-ination."'u Jameson argues that the narrative's plot is to be unde rstood as "nothing but an attempt to give" the absent fourth term in the schema im:lginative being, to work through faully solLilions :lnd unacceptable hypot heses umil an adequate embodi lllem has been realized in terms of the narrati ve material. With this discovery (Mr. Gradgrind's education. Louisa's belated RAW ____________ ? COOKED Flg/4rt' 2. Frrdric }umr,QII. The Prison House or (197l). J66. GREIMASAVEC LACAN 215 experience of family love). the semiotic rcct:mgle is com-pleted :Ind the novel comes to an end,ll What is wonh underscoring at this early stage is that Jameson already conccplUalizcs the Grcimasian schema in decidedly dynamic terms, as a presentation (Darstellung) of I he labor of narrat ive. "the all inform i ng pro-cess of fIllI'rotive," he will later claim, being "the cent ra 1 function or illS/alice orthe human mind."!! With his next deployments ohhe Grcimasian rectangle, in his essays on Mnx Webe r (1973) and Philip K. Dick (1975), and then, even more spec-tacularly, in the Balzac and Conrad chapters of The Political Unconscious, Jameson's attention sh ifts to the four outer poles of the schema and es-pecially the position at its summit, the "complex" term (C).IJ Greimas's rectangle becomes an ideal means of illustrating the narrative operation Jameson nnmes "n symbolic act, wherehy real social contradictions, insur-mountable in t heir own terms, find a purely formal resolution in the aesthetic realm."H It is in this way, too, that the cuh ural text, conceived he re fundamentally as allegory, makes av:ri lable LO its later readers its historical context, encountered by us, he famously maintains. only in this mediated textual form. Rather than summarizing one of Jameson's discussions, I would like to illustrate this first full deployment of the resources of the Greimasian rect-angle through a brief reading of my own. My case study is one of the most well known English novels of the early nineteenth century, and one of the Ll rtexts of the mode rn gc n rc of sc ience fiction, Mary Shelley's Frtlllkenstlin; 01; The Mode'l"l/ Prometheus (1818). The dilemma this gothic fantasy con-fronts, as numerous comment:ltors have pointed out in different ways, is that of the modern intellccwal and, more specifically, scientific labor. At the roO[ of the problem in the novel is the education, or culture, that Victor Fmnkenstein receives at his modern (i.e., German) universi ty. Early on, Mary Shelley develops a character schema that enables her to divide human knowledge in a proto-Kanti:rn fashion into the spheres of science, ethics, and aesthetics. Viewr observes, Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposi-tion; but, with all my ardour, I was capable of a more in-tense application and was more deeply smi tten with the thi rst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aeri:11 creations of the poets; and in t he majestic ancl won-drous scenes that surrounded ollr Swiss horne .... it W:lS the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn ... my 216 PHILLIP E. WEGNER inquiries were directed [0 the or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world. MC:lnwhile, C[cn'al occupied himself with the moral rcl:uions of things. The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes. and the actions of men were his theme. As long as a balance between the three is Ill:lintaincd, trouble is averted. However, when Victor leaves the companionship of Clerv:.l and Eliza-beth. he enterS:l much more d:lIlgcrous path: "From this day natural phi-losophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became my sole occupation," II, This sunders the older "natura1" unity ("Our meddling intellect / I\lis-shapcs the beauteous forms of things:-I We murder to dissect") champi oned by Shell ey's circle of Romanti c intellectu;I1s.17 However, Victor's real culpabilit y li es less in his giving life to his "unnatura l" cre:lture-an aestheticall y horrifying reanimatcd assem-blage of different bodies-than in his subsequelll abandonmelll of that to which his labor had gi\en rise. That is, Victor's real failure, and his responsibility for the !>u bscquelll terror a nd innocelll deaths, lies, as the creat ure itself notes, in his unwi ll ingness to offer it t he gu idance found in a proper enculturation: "Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had en-dowed me with perceptions and passions and then cas t me abroad an object for the scorn and horror The contradiction with which this novel deals is actually the same as in Greimas's or iginal demonstrat ion of the sc hema, t hat of culture a nd na-tlIrel 'l (figure 3). I have already touched on twoofthc resolutions found in Shelley's work, th:1I on the left-hand side of the schema and that on the bottom, or what G reimas la bels the 'neutral te rm ,. (N): fi rst, the com bi na-tion of cul ture, or bourgeois education, and the "unnalUral"'- intellectual overspecialization, or instrumentalization as Max Horkheimer and The-odor Adorno will bter describe it- represented by the figure of Victor; and, second, the destruct ive and improperly educated force of the creature itself. This mapping thus m:lkes clea r the double structu re of "monstros-ity" at work in the novel,:lI once meant to include the mode rn intellectual and hi s creat ion.!O The parallels between lhe two become increasingly evi-dent as the novel progresses: both arc isolated from intercourse with other humans, and, in the end, 'revenge" becomes each being's "devouring and only passion."!! The resolution directly opposi te Victor :llso suggests the deepl y classed nature of lhe cr isis being dea lt with here: for this is figured in Ihe novel by the peasantry, those who may be connected to older natural or agricultural Victor Culture Unl1llturnl (Monstrous) GREIMASAVEC LACAN 217 Cler"al (Romanticism) Thc Crcature Nature Peasmlts No Culture (uncducated) F,g,m' 3. Mury SI",II,,}", Fr"nkenstcin; or, The Modern Promctheus (/SI8). rhythms ("The untaught peaS;lIlt beheld the elements around him and was acquainted with their practical uses"), but who lack the proper ethical education to respond with anything but an imal fear and revulsion when confronted with the radical mherness of the creaLUfC: "The whole village was roused: some fled, some altacked me,"!! Of course, these vcry lumpcn bodies compose the fl esh of the monster and thus encount er in him their own denaturalized SWle, what Sanre would call their "practico-inert" form. I n this way. the monster takes on a n additional allegorical resonance, becoming a figure of a now alienated peasantry recently removed [0 the new urban environs-or, as Franco Morett i suggests, a fig ure already of the emergent industrial proletariat, the novel expressing the "elementary scheme" described by Marx "of simplification and splitting (The whole of society must split into the two classes .. .')."!l 218 PHILLIP E. WEGNER And what then of the final space, the complex term, "the ideal synthesis which would 'resolve' the initial binary opposition by subsuming it under a single It is filled by Victor's childhood companion, Henry Clerval. a figure we arc told who stands in the text for Mary Shelley's husband, the Romanti c poet Percy Bysshe ClcrvaJ! Beloved fr iend! Even now it delights me to record your words and to dwell on the praise of which you arc so eminently deserving. He was a being formed in the "very poetry of nature." Hi s wild and enthusiastic imagination was chastened by the sensibility of his heart. His soul over-flowed with ardcnt affections, and his friendship W:lS of th:1I dcvQ[cd :lIld wondrous nature that the world-minded teach us to look for only in the imagination. But even hu-man sympathies were nOl sufficient to satisfy his eager mind. The scenery of externalll3ture, which ot hers regard only with admiration, he loved wilh ardour.!I, However, here the realism of Mary Shel ley's great wor k comes to the fore, for this ideal cre:llllre can find no place in the world, and he perishes (as Shelley himself would do a few years after the book's original publication), Icaving us at the narrative's conclusion with the apocalyptic scena ri o of Victor and the creature tormenting each other in a pursuit :lCross a frozen landscape, a desperate quest that ends only with their mutual destruction- a terrible object lesson aimed at both the story's narrator, the ambitiolls young explorer Robert Wahon, and the rcader.2; The story that Mary Shelley relates here is one of a f:liled cultu ral revolution, the inability of the Romantic intellectuals to t:lke up a posi-tion of cultural and social leadership, lO becomc, in other words, theac-knowledged "legislalOrs of the worl d" (ibleY The figu ration of this kind of totalizing Utopian horiz.on can be seen in a wide range of contemporary cultural texts- including, as in the earli er book, in Critical Regionalism-and for which, in the present case, the older term ;'rederali sm" will serve as a weak :md inadequalt' nallle "until we ha ve a better one. It is here where J t hink :1 reading oflhis particular and origi nal deploy-menl of the Greimasian semiOlie rectangle with Lacan's theori zati ons of GREIMAS AVEC LACAN 227 the three orders becomes productive. as it enables us to characterize in a new set of terms the work of dialectical thinking, or narration, that we sec taking place in these later works of Jameson. First, the plane of the Grcim:lsian schema occupied by the complex te rm is that orthe Symbolic order, the Big Other (A), or "the parasi t ic symbolic machine (l:lIlguagc as a dead entity which 'behaves as if it possesses a life of its own ')," that oper-ates as both the third 10, and ground of, any orthe concrete exchanges and encounters th:n take place on the plane of the T he complex term- also akin to the Idea of the "constel la tion" in the Platonic Darsfe/lulIg that Walter Benjamin develops in his great study orthe German TrOIleJ"-spiel (mourning play)- is thus the name of the totality, encompassing the lived experience of the Imagina ry and the void of the Rea[: [n order to conceive what happens in the domain proper to the human order, we must SUITt with the idea that this order constitutes a totality. [n the symbol ic order the totali ty is called a universe. The symbolic order from the first takes on its universal character. It isn't constituted bit by bit. As soon as the symbol arrives, there is a universe of The middle plane occupies the place of Lacan's Imaginary, primarily a matter of dualities and oppositions-"most notably all those which accu-mul:lIe around the self and the other (or the subject and object)"- the antimonies whose apparent irresolvabililY constitute the lived experience of a particular situation.s, Finally, the neutral term is homologous to the Lacanian Real, which Lacan describes in his first seminar as "what resists symbol is:u ion abso-lutely," and which in Jameson's earliest characterization becomes another name for "simply History Or, as Lorenzo Chiesa more precisely frames the isslie in his br illiant book, Subjcaitliry and O,hernf'ss: A Philo-sophica/ Reading of LoCUli (2007), "t he re is something real in it which escapes the Symbolic. something which renders t he symbolic Other 'not-:,11' :lnd, for the same reason, makes it possible precisely as a differential symbolic slruClme."5J Crucially, in a way whose significance will become clear in a moment, it is this resistance to symbolizat ion, or to incorporation into the reigning order. that both accounts for the trallm:ltic experience of any encounter with such a Re;!l (hence, the monstrous figuration of the Real of revolution in Mar), Shelley's Melion) and, even more significantly, :lssures the nonclosure or suturability or any reality, here represented by the other [\\'0 planes of the G rei masian schema. 228 PHILLIP E. WEGNER The deeply di:llcctical nature of IXlth Lacan's conceptualizat ion of the three orders and Greimas's semiotic reClanglc li es in their emphasis on tht inscp;1 rabi I ity of I hese multiple levds. I ndeed, there is in this light an inter-est ing figural resonance between the full Greimasian rectangle and Lacan's late typology of rhe Borrolllean knot. Moreover, the outer reClanglc formed by the four terms of interest to us here ma y be productively understood as a figura ti on of the fourth ring Lacan describes in his fina l scminars as the sinthome."I At the S:Ime time. there i .. a resonance between Greimas's figure and Lacan's earlier schcma L, the latter. howeve r, rotated as shown in figure 9 . ~ ~ A properly dialectical criticism conceivcd in this fas hi on thus re\ealS;1 deep kinship with the work of analysis as Lacan prescnls it in h i ~ early work: intervening from the posit ion of the Symbolic order . mal y-sis attempts 10 ellt through the deadlock, or disabling antinomies of the I nl.1ginary, and en:l ble an encounter with the traumatic Real. Thi s emphasis on the Re:l l also re presents a signific:Hlt shift wit hin Laean's own projeCl, a shift that occurs, Chi esa argues, around the lime of A (Othcr) (Symbolic Ordcr) a' (other) L-----------------------7 a (ego) Imagi nary relationship S (Es) (Rcal) l-"igul'l' 9. Laca" s schema f.. rl'Vlud. ()rtgi"al apprars I" tcrilS (2006). m. 458. CREIMAS AVEC LACAN 229 the 1959-60 seminar on The Ethics of Ps),cho(lfl(l/ysis. This t:lkes the form of a mO\'emcnt :nv:ly frolll the eMlier dominant formub, "There is an Odll:r of the Other:' Chiesa unpacks this for mula in the following way: "(T(he fact that the re is:l (symbolic) Other of tile (symbolic) Other indicates that the Other as the order of signifiers is guaranteed by anothe r transcendent Other. namely the paternal Law."'iI, I n this moment in Lacan's project, wh:n Chiesa identifies as Lacan's structuralist phase, "the order of the Real is enti rely separated from the Symbolic. The Real can be defined only negatively as tha t which t he Symbolic is not" (i.e., what resists symbol-iz.:llion absolutely). 57 Howeve r, beginning with his 1960 essay "The Subversion of the Sub-ject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious"-an essay that engages d irectly and critically with the "schema Hegel gave LIS of History" in The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807}---Lacan begins to turn his att ention to the consequences of the new fOflllllla, "(T(here is no Other of [he Chiesa sUlllmarizes this move in the following way: Consequently, the most imporwnt effect of the passage from "t here is an Other of the Other" (A) to "there is no Other of the Other" (A b:lrred) is that the lack in the Other-the fact that. beC:lllSe of the d ifferential logic of the signifying st ructure, a signifier is always missing from the battery of signifiers-is no longer imrasymbolic but should be consid-ered as real, as a presence of the Real in the open structure of t he It is precisely this opening up of the structu re of the Creimasian schema t hat, I want to a rgue here, Jameson effects when he shifts his attention from the complex term (a structuralist deployment of the rect:wglc) to ,he nelltr:ll, [he la ner best understood:ts a hole in the whole of the C reimasian figure-and indeed, t here is a striking resonance between Chiesa's figure for the formula "There is no Othcr of the Other" and the Creil1l:lsian rectangle as I reimagine it here-something that becomes fully apparent only when we read Creimas with Lacan. The ultimate conclusion Chiesa draws from this reconceptualization is worth citing here, as well, as it important implications for the qucs-tions I will t:lke up in the final sect ion Ofl his essay: It goes without saying that such a direct politicization of jOllissance is comp:ltible wi th Lacanian psychoanalysis only if the fund:tmental fant:tsy it sets up is radically net//: in other 230 PHILLIP E, WEGNER words. a is progressive and consequently worth fighting for only if it closely follows the temporary assumption of fhe real bck in the Sy mbolic,jollis-suns, At the risk of oversimplifying an int ricate issue which is only introduced here, I would go so far as to suggest tha t any possible politicoll elaboration of the extreme ethics of the ex nihilo should rely on the equation between what is new and what is hypothesis would be that the Greim:lsian schema reconceived in this way offers us a representation of the labor of dialectical thought and writing (the two being inseparable), Most immediately, th is claim enables us to read in a new way th. 1971-/986, \01. I, SmwfIQII;ofThro')' (Mmneapolis: Uni\er