chapter  3
31 Pages

‘Things’ Not to be Named nor Understood: The Unnameable Monster in Nineteenth Century Literature

According to Lacan, all art has the unrepresentable at the heart of its creativity; an idea advanced in the later claim by Žižek that art is ‘always organized around the central Void of the impossible-real Thing’ (Žižek 1999). In posing this claim, Lacan considers the void that is present to all artistic representation when symbolisation approaches the ‘Thing’. There is an evident emptiness that inhabits the signifi er and to Lacan, symbolisation thus, always reveals itself as symbolisation: it is always only an indication of a lack. As he writes: ‘[t]he symbol manifests itself fi rst of all as the murder of the thing, and this death constitutes in the subject the eternalisation of desire’ (1995: 114). In Lacan’s view, the ‘Thing’ is the impossible Real, a correlative of the sublime, and our eternal desire for it leads us to ‘fashion this signifi er and introduce it into the world . . . fashion it into the image of the Thing, whereas the Thing is characterised by the fact that it is impossible for us to imagine it’ (1992: 125). To an extent, all representation is directed in this way toward the ‘Thing’, but artistic representation can be seen as distinctly manifesting an open desire for that which is beyond language; it self-consciously directs itself toward the Idea of the unrepresentable.