Desire and its rule: Gender Trouble, the phallus and the ethics of psychoanalysis

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Luiz Valle JuniorNew College of the Humanities, UK

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Queer theory, despite its reliance on psychoanalysis, has had remarkably little to say about Lacan. One reason for this is that Lacan’s name came to the fore in queer theory already associated with Judith Butler’s critique of The Signification of the Phallus in Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter. This article revisits this critique and argues that Butler’s objections to Lacan do not hold up to scrutiny, because they disregard the goal of Lacan’s intervention, fail to account for the progression of Lacan’s thinking in the corresponding Seminars and misconstrue Lacan’s theory of desire more generally. It then briefly scrutinises the immediately subsequent Seminars VI and VII and argues that psychoanalysis’ ethical concerns do not map easily onto gender and sexuality as queer theorists understand them; the desire presumed to awaken in the analytic itinerary is not subject to extrinsic, normative regulation, but comes into being as its own law.

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Luiz Valle JuniorNew College of the Humanities, UK

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