Lacanian psychoanalysis suggests that the compulsion to put our desires into speech stems from the insurmountable obstacle to our ever being able to fulfil them; we are thrown back onto language as a substitute for the blissful jouissance which we once knew in our union with the mother, but which we can now only aspire to vainly through an endless succession of simulacra (desire’s ‘metonymic’ quality (Lacan 1977:166-7)). At the same time, language is itself the trace of our separation from the original blissful state; thus, it is simultaneously the advantage we have gained and the price we have paid for entering the symbolic order. Lacan’s speculations help to explain desire as a defining feature of the articulate mammals that we are and, importantly, as a challenge which feeds off its own articulation. In the words of literary and cultural critic Catherine Belsey:
Writing about desire. It has, of course, been done before…But something seems to remain unsaid. And it is primarily this that motivates still more writing. Desire eludes final definition, with the
result that its character, its nature, its meaning, becomes itself an object of desire for the writer.