Application: Psychoanalytic reading of Hamlet, ¡§A Rose for Emily¡¨ and ¡§Sailing to Byzantium¡¨
I. Lacan¡¦s idea of unconscious is ¡§structured like and produced by language at the point of the subject¡¦s entry into the ¡¥Symbolic Order¡¦. This realm is governed by the ¡¥Law of the Father¡¦ and is thought to subordinate or repress the pre-symbolic realm of the ¡§Imaginary¡¦, associated with desire and figure of the Mother¡¨ (Brooker 16).
II. ¡§¡¥Jacques Lacan: From Desire and the Interpretation of desire in Hamlet¡¦¡¨
A. ¡§The Object Ophelia¡¨ (17)
1. Hamlet¡¦s desire is dependent on the ¡§Other subject¡¨: Gertrude¡¦s sexual desire.
2. Hamlet is an ¡§¡¥obsessional neurotic.¡¦¡¨ He can only act ¡§at the hour of the Other¡¨ and this shows in his suspension of killing Claudius (16).
3. Hamlet pretends to be mad to conceal his weakness.
4. The process to gain identification consists of three stages.
a. Hamlet¡¦s ¡§¡¥estrangement¡¦¡¨ (21) with Ophelia derives from ¡§imbalance of the fantasmatic relationship.¡¨
b. Ophelia is regarded as a symbol of ¡§phallus¡¨ or ¡§life.¡¨
c. The price of ¡§reintegration¡¨ of Ophelia is ¡§mourning and death¡¨ (22).
B. ¡§Desire and Mourning¡¨ (22)
1. ¡§Hamlet just doesn¡¦t know what he wants.¡¨
2. Formula of fantasy: ¡§$¡ºa¡¨ (24)
a. $ is ¡§a certain relationship of the subject to the signifier.¡¨
b. ¡º is ¡§the subject¡¦s relationship to an essentially imaginary juncture¡¨ which is ¡§designated by a . . . .¡¨
c. The signifier in the play is phallus which is deprived.
3. Mourning is insufficient.
C. ¡§Phallophany¡¨ (27)
1. Image of phallus prevails in the play.
a. Hamlet exalts and idealizes his dead father.
b. Hamlet shows his loathing to Claudius (negation): ¡§repressed admiration¡¨
2. Phallus is a ¡§ghost¡¨ (28).
III. Freud defines ¡§defense mechanism¡¨ as ¡§the ways in which the ego protects itself from threatening unconscious ideas of the id or the superego, or from external dangers in the environment¡¨ and it consists of ¡§denial, projection, rationalization, reaction-from-action, regression, repression, sublimation and undoing¡¨ (Statt defense mechanism).
IV. ¡§Fantasy and Defense in Faulkner¡¦s ¡¥A Rose for Emily¡¦¡¨ (294)
A. Emily adapts denial and incorporation as her defensive mechanism to cope with reality.
B. Symbols and images in the story are significant.
1. ¡§House¡¨ embodies Emily¡¦s obstinacy, female body and her ¡§attempt to hold things in¡¨ (302).
2. ¡§Rose¡¨ symbolizes phallus.
3. ¡§Dust, dirt and smell¡¨ imply ¡§anal fantasy¡¨ (296).
„³ Reversal to ¡§Orderliness, parsimony, and obstinacy all derive from holding on or letting go the feces in response to outer demands¡¨ (Staton 296).
4. ¡§Money¡¨ is like ¡§feces¡¨ that ¡§goes in and out.¡¨
C. Emily¡¦s ¡§firmness¡¨ implies ¡§the body ¡¥holding on¡¦ against the irresistible excretory pressure to ¡¥let go¡¦¡¨ and she owns ¡§the anal character¡¨, gruff (298).
D. Emily¡¦s teaching china painting is interpreted as an obsessional activity that relates to anal stage. (In 1907, Freud proposed that ¡§religious practices and obsessive actions¡¨ are similar (296).)
E. Oedipal complex is also observed in the story.
1. Emily ¡§cling[s]¡¨ to her father¡¦s and Homer Barron¡¦s dead bodies (297).
2. Homer Barron is the ¡§substitute¡¨ of her father who is a ¡§incestuously forbidden lover.¡¨ (Freud remarks that ¡§new objects will still be chosen on the model . . . of the infantile ones.¡¨)
3. ¡§[A]t phallic level¡¨, Emily conquers male instead of being subdued (304).
F. Emily¡¦s house composes with both sexes.
1. Emily is virile that she fights against men in town as if she had ¡§phallic force¡¨ (304).
2. The black servant does the domestic work.
G. ¡§Shame is a visual thing,¡¨ but Emily does not mind to be looked at (300).
H. Speech has ¡§genital function¡¨ (301), and sexual meaning.
1. To ¡§¡¥speak means to be potent; inability to speak means castration¡¦¡¨ (302).
2. Speech is seen as ¡§a sexualized defecation¡¨ and ¡§retention of words¡¨ is ¡§a reassurance against possible loss or a pleasurable autoerotic activity.¡¨
I. Emily ¡§orally [takes] valued things¡¨ and ¡§devour[s]¡¨ her lover (304).
V. ¡§A Psychoanalytic Study: ¡¥Sailing to Byzantium¡¦¡¨ (307)
A. The golden bird is the dominant symbol.
1. ¡§A defense against anxieties¡¨ of ¡§aging and thwarted sexuality¡¨ and ¡§a loss of integrity¡¨ (308).
2. ¡§A symbolic significance that offers protection against fears of castration¡¨ (309).
B. ¡§[F]antasy of union with mother¡¨: Age serves as a ¡§cruel mother¡¨ figure that ¡§sexually frustrates the old man¡¨
C. Transformation is to ¡§destroy in order to create¡¨ (310).
D. ¡§The sages¡¨ assume the dome¡¦s function as a ¡§repository of wisdom¡¨ that is ¡§helpful rather than castrating¡¨ (312). ( The saints embody the dome „³ the sages)
A. If Claudius is a symbol of phallus, why does Hamlet¡¦s Oedipus complex not overcome him and make he kill Claudius and win Gertrude?
B. If phallus is a symbol that we can never strike, what empowers Hamlet to kill Claudius, a symbol of phallus?
C. Do we have more to say about Emily¡¦s absent mother? Is her absence significant? What impact does this make on Emily?
Glossary taken from Dictionary of Psychology:
Denial: The defense mechanism whereby someone refuses to accept either the occurrence of a painful experience or the existence of an anxiety-provoking impulse.
Brooker, Peter, and Peter Widdowson, eds. A Practical Reader in Contemporary Literary Theory. New York: Prentice Hall, 1996.
Staton, Shirley F, ed. Literary Theories in Praxis. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP, 1987.
Statt, David. Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981.