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Essays in French Literature, Thought and Visual Culture


Edited By Georgina Evans and Adam Kay

This collection of essays arises from the 2005 Cambridge French Graduate Conference on the theme of threat. From the baleful and ubiquitous eyes of surveillance cameras to the ever-present possibility of total nuclear annihilation, threat is everywhere around us. Yet the phenomenon itself, if indeed it is a single phenomenon, has received little attention. This volume seeks to remedy this oversight with a collection of concise, hard-hitting essays on a variety of topics in French culture. Organized around central approaches to the problem of threat – (inter)cultural, philosophical, and approaches through the visual arts – the book examines anxiety, privacy, loss, invasion, and other issues related to the theme. Though emphasis is placed on the contemporary period, writers of the French Renaissance also receive due attention.


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JENNIFER BURRIS Quand on n’est plus qu’une ligne: The Threatened Subject in the Work of Henri Michaux 177


Jennifer Burris Quand on n’est plus qu’une ligne: The Threatened Subject in the Work of Henri Michaux Introduction: From Structuralism to Post-Structuralism In her book Vies et légendes de Jacques Lacan (1981), the cultural critic Catherine Clément reveals a shadowy parallel between two pivotal moments in the history of structuralist thought. In Nazi Germany, Lacan was pre- senting his development of the psychoanalytic work begun by Freud with a paper on the mirror stage, defined as the negotiation of a proper distance between the fledgling ego and its image or between the infant and its care- taker.1 At that same moment, Lévi-Strauss was in the Amazon working on what can be described as the ‘ethnological equivalent of the mirror stage’: in Clément’s words, a similar negotiation of the proper distance between the anthropological observer, his home culture, and the culture under observation. With this juxtaposition, Clément links the modernist con- 1 Hal Foster gives a more in-depth account of the ‘mirror stage’ in The Return of the Real (London: MIT Press, 1996). He writes: ‘In “The Mirror Stage” Lacan argues that our ego is first formed in a primordial apprehension of our body in a mirror (though any reflection will do), an anticipatory image of corporeal unity that as infants we do not yet possess. This image founds our ego in this infantile moment as imaginary, that is, as locked in an identification that is also an alienation. For at the very moment that we...

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