Thantatos or death drive “operate[s] in the opposite direction, undoing connections and destroying things” (Evans 33).
After Freud, Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) follows the same direction and locates death drive within the imaginary order manifesting itself in the subject’s desire for “a lost harmony”, which is exposed through “the mother’s breasts” (Evans 33). Lacan initiated a playful perception of the death drive in the 1950s and afterwards. He, then, locates death drive in the symbolic order instead of the imaginary and argues that “the death drive is simply the fundamental tendency of the symbolic order to produce REPETITION” (ibid). He negates the Freudian focus on the biological aspect of the death drive and argues that:
Every drive is virtually a death drive (Ec, 848), because (i) every drive pursues its own extinction, (ii) every drive involves the subject in repetition, and (iii) every drive is an attempt to go beyond the pleasure principle, to the realm of excess JOUISSANCE where enjoyment is experienced as suffering. (Evans 33)
The relation between the drive and JOUISSANCE becomes a key to the Lacanian psychoanalysis later on. Death drive is also closely interconnected with the ideas of lack and desire in Lacanian psychoanalysis.
Žižek, on the other hand, believes that the death drive is a driving force which insists on the “undeadness” (“Why Todestrieb is a Philosophical Concept?” 11′:20”) aspect of the living entities. He emphasizes on the willingness of the entities to go beyond mortality and believes the death drive is the life force towards mortality and even beyond the biological death. For Žižek, the biological aspect as well as the symbolic aspect of the death are important. Merging the Freudian and the Lacanian perceptions of Todestrieb, Žižek maintains that “We only die twice” (“Why Todestrieb is a Philosophical Concept?” 11′:20”), and by this theory, provides a much broader conception for the theory of death drive.
A literal definition of the word suggests a grave and sudden disaster which causes fear, loss or destruction. A more connotative meaning suggests a lifting of the veil or revelation of something hidden. But, the term Apocalypse is initially believed to be used in the 13th century and driven form the Greek word Apokalypsis and Apokalyptein (to uncover) (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 58). The significance of the word the way it is used today dates back to the Holy Bible and the Book of Revelation. Being the final book of the New Testament, Revelation (simply known as the Apocalypse) is a most crucial key to the Christian eschatology. The book bears the apostle, John’s prophetic vision of the end of the world with detailed and bizarre images of it, as well as outstanding depictions from the new heavens. The religious source has drawn great effects on the Western art and culture to the extent to which, apart from the related religious apocalyptic books, there has emerged a genre in art and literature by the same name. Therefore, Apocalyptic Literature can be dubbed an extremely broad genre in which the traces of apocalyptic and cataclysmic events and imaginations can be found. The images of the doomsday, the movies on the planet earth in danger of Atomic bombs, the novels on the destructions made by the World War II, all and all can be called the various apocalyptic works of art. Even, one might locate the most recent ecological and eco-critical works of art, depicting the earth in danger of perish, as the new forms of apocalyptic artworks (Lerner).
Though believed to be coined by the French philosopher Antoine Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836) in 1796, the term Ideology, the way the public know it, was introduced to the realm of politics and philosophy through the theories of the German philosophers G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). G.W.F. Hegel argued that:
People were instruments of history; they enacted roles that were assigned to them by forces they did not understand; the meaning of history was hidden from them. Only the philosopher could expect to understand things as they were. (Cranston)
Marx and Engels put much emphasis on their theory of ‘false consciousness’ and developed their system of Die deutsche Ideologie (written 1845–46, published 1932 as The German Ideology). They believed ideology to be a set of ideas, developed by the ruling class, and injected into all levels of the society. Based on this theory, ideology distorts reality and creates a distorted and manipulated reality in order to ensure the dominance of the ruling class (Cranston).
The development of the conceptualization of the theory of ideology helped to revise some definitions in many areas of knowledge including philosophy, politics, economics, religion, literature, culture, science, art, history etc. The theory of ideology has opened a new gate through the critique of art, and can be considered the founding pillar of the Marxist criticism. Philosophers and critics of ideology are so numerous that providing a list of them requires a large space, but among all, critics like Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) and Louis Pierre Althusser (1918-1990) can be considered as two key philosophers and theorists of ideology. The old concept of ideology has always been revived when merged with various theories, including that of psychoanalysis and culture. This was made through the controversial theories of Slavoj Žižek (born in 1949) and the earlier prominent Frankfurt School critics.
In order to get an understanding of the issue of subjectivity, first one should perceive the term subject. The denotative perception of the term subject is always perceived in contrast to the term object. Subjectivity is the requirement of the entity that thinks and acts, whereas the object is subjected to action and thought. But, the term subject is a key concept in the theory of psychoanalysis too, and mostly in the Lacanian line. Concerning the term’s philosophical connotations, Lacan directs his concept with the Cartesian Cogito (René Descartes (1596-1650) theory) in that the subject doubts and thinks. The term subject does not exist in Freud’s psychoanalytical vocabulary, but is more associated with the philosophical and linguistic discourses. Lacan also categorizes the subject into three kinds: the impersonal subject (which is independent of the other, the pure grammatical subject and the ‘it’ of ‘it is known that…’), the anonymous reciprocal subject (who recognizes himself in equivalence with the other), and the personal subject (whose uniqueness is constituted by an act of self-affirmation) (Evans 197-8). Therefore, the relationship to the other is a key to his theory of subjectivity. He says: “the subject is a subject only by virtue of his subjection to the field of the Other” (ibid). Moreover, the third sense constitutes the main focus of Lacan’s works. He distinguishes between his unique theory of subject and Freudian ego and maintains the ego is part of the imaginary order, whereas the subject belongs to the realm of the symbolic. Thus, Lacan’s subject is the subject of the unconscious realm rather than the conscious world. In 1957, he drew his own prominent symbol for the subject called the barred subject ($), pointing to the fact that the subject is essentially divided (ibid).
This is while Žižek’s perception of subjectivity, though being Lacanian, owes much to Hegel. Žižek develops the Lacanian notion of the barred subject with the Hegelian ideas on Spirit, and terms his own theory “processual subject” (Žižek, Living in the End Times 232).
Lack (manque) can be considered as the founding pillar of Lacanian psychoanalysis. For Lacan, lack is always in relation to desire. The subject desires, therefore the subject lacks, and the lack causes the desire to arise. The nature of what is lacking varies a lot. It varies from the lack of being, to the lack of having, and to the lack of an object of desire. Following the Freudian tradition, Lacan believes the subject is split to the conscious and unconscious mind. Furthermore, Lacan using the linguistic aspect of the subject comments that “there is no subject without language…and yet the subject constitutively lacks a place in language” (M. Sharpe). The subject lacks a position in language. It also, in relation to the Other lacks an object. Lacan argues that “Man’s desire is the desire of the Other” (“What does Lacan Say About Desire?”). Desire for Lacan exists in the Signifier. The subject, being a signified, lacks an object which is believed to exist in the signifier. The signifier desires in the chain of signification and the subject as a signified always lacks an object due to the fact that irrespective of how huge the signifier’s chain is, it always remains incomplete. The Lacanian object is synonymous with the Freudian Phallus: “The phallus is the indicator of the desire of the Other” (ibid). The subject “always lacks the signifier that could complete it. This ‘missing signifier’ (written −1 in Lacanian algebra) is constitutive of the subject” (Evans 98-9) (Shane).
VI. Dissertation Outline
The introductory chapter of this dissertation (Chapter One) is an insight into the main problems that the whole thesis is trying to map. It begins with an introduction to McEwan’s works and elaborates on the apocalyptic imaginations engraved in his works. The Žižekian theory and the methods to approach the issue are described in this chapter. The second chapter also bears an inclusive insight into Žižek and his philosophy by means of studying Žižek’s contributions to Hegelian idealist philosophy, Lacanian psychoanalysis and Marxist theory of politics. The lines that could connect Žižek to McEwan are also studied briefly here.
The third chapter attempts to delve deep into the ideological