Essays in French Literature, Thought and Visual Culture
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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