In The Name of God
Islamic Azad University-Central Tehran Branch
Faculty of Foreign Languages
Department of Postgraduate Studies
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Postgraduate Studies in Partial Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in English Language and Literature
A Study of Ian McEwan’s Novels Atonement and Solar in the Light of Žižekian Ideology
Dr. Razieh Eslamieh
Dr. Kian Soheil
I spent two years of my life to write this piece, and I dedicate it to my parents, Mitra and Ghasem who spent their whole lives on me.
I am honored to thank those who made this possible; those who stood for the rise of literature, culture and humanity in my country from late Professor Lotf-Ali Sooratgar, to late Professor Hooshang Honarvar, and to our Professor Jalal Sokhanvar. The list goes on, but for sure without the efforts and strength of these silent men of prominence, no student of English Literature could ever not a single not down. I am very much indebted to my thesis supervisor, Dr. Razieh Eslamieh, whose vital patience, kindness and crucial guidance were mainstays for me. Thank you indeed for never letting down my requests for visits, and also the precious time you spent on line-by-line reading of my thesis. I feel I am very obliged to my thesis reader Dr Kian Soheil, whose calmness and honest comments helped me solve fundamental problems in my thesis.
This dissertation aims to study two novels of Ian McEwan entitled: Solar and Atonement based on the psychoanalytical and ideological theories of Slavoj Žižek. Žižek is chosen because his criticism of ideology and his psychoanalytic theories are the best sources on which to base the theoretical framework. As a second mission of this thesis, it will study the apocalyptism that overwhelms many of McEwan’s characters in the two novels.
In order to study the psychoanalytical aspects of ideology on McEwan’s works, a complete study of McEwan’s characters was needed. Thus, a large portion of this thesis was dedicated to the Žižekian theory of processual subjectivity, in which, following Lacan, Žižek maintains that the subject is divided and always in a transitional process until her/is death. The processual subject lacks and sticks to the ideologies around in order to satisfy himself and to play around his/her desires. In Solar Michael does the same and in Atonement Briony.
Michael and Briony, then, are purely entrapped in the three levels of ideologies around them. The Doctrine, the Ritual and the Belief are the three levels Žižek theorizes for every ideology. The characters of McEwan get entrapped with the ideological manipulations. Briony begins with coordinating her deeds in accordance with the family traditions and Michael is entrapped in the ideology of end of the world and the earth’s apocalypse.
From this part on, the thesis pivots to the apocalyptic imaginations in the two novel, an aim that has been a crucial theme to be studied in this research. Chapter four of the dissertation emphasizes on the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic imaginations encrypted in the two McEwan’s novels. Apocalyptic imagination is overwhelmingly found in McEwan’s works. And, they turn out to be something absolutely ideological. The commentary on McEwanian apocalyptic imaginations in the light of Žižekian theory is the concluding segment of the thesis.
Keywords: Ian McEwan, Apocalyptic Literature, Psychoanalysis, Ideology, Slavoj Žižek, 21st Century Novel, Solar, Atonement.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Introduction1
I. General Background1
II. The Argument3
III. Review of Literature7
IV. Methodology and Approach9
V. Definition of Key Terms11
VI. Dissertation Outline16
Chapter Two: An Introduction to Žižekian Theories19
II. Žižek as a Hegelian Philosopher25
III. Žižek as a Lacanian Psychoanalyst27
IV. Žižek as a Marxist Critic of Ideology31
V. Žižek Meets McEwan: Contributions to the Apocalyptic Vision36
Chapter Three: Žižekian Ideology Looms around McEwan’s Novels42
II. The Specter of Ideology Hovering over McEwan’s Novels44
III. Briony and Michael in the Process of Subjectivity66
A. The Processual Subjects66
B. The Unconscious Lack and the Ideological Manipulations73
Chapter Four: McEwan Haunted by Žižekian Apocalypse Drive82
I. An Introduction to McEwan’s End Times Thought82
II. Death Drives McEwan’s Characters84
III. Apocalypse Drives McEwan’s Fiction89
IV. Living in McEwan’s End Times99
C. Bargaining, Depression and Withdrawal109
D. Acceptance: The Cause Regained (A New Beginning)114
Chapter Five: Conclusion118
I. Summing Up118
II. Findings and Implications121
III. Suggestion for Further Research125
Chapter One: Introduction
I. General Background
Ian Russell McEwan (born on 21 June 1948) is a well-celebrated English novelist, screenwriter and author of children’s books. He is one of Britain’s most popular contemporary writers. The strong conflicting nature of his early works caused him to be nicknamed “Macabre”. Graphic depictions of rape, incest, and murder—all rendered in detached, forensically precise first person narration in his early works earned McEwan both critical acclaim and his nickname. While his later novels, display considerable growth in the range and depth of his work, McEwan’s prose still focuses heavily on shocking subjects. The more the author has written, the better has linked the outside world of society, popular culture and the politics with the inside world of the human psyche.
McEwan has also written several notable screenplays, which include some of his most pointedly political works. Although his fiction is generally considered conventional in terms of narrative structure, McEwan’s unique prose style, technical skills, unusual characterization, and satiric wit have earned him acceptance in both traditional and postmodern literary circles.
McEwan first published a pair of short story collections entitled First Love, Last Rites (1975) for which he won the Somerset Maugham Award and In Between the Sheets (1978). The Cement Garden (1978) and the Booker Prize short-listed novel The Comfort of Strangers are two of his earliest novels. His movie script The Ploughman’s Launch won the Evening Standard Award for the best screenplay of 1983.
These were followed by McEwan’s successful novels in the late 1980s and the 1890s. The Child in Time (1987) won the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Innocent (1989) was made into a movie, Black Dogs was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1993 and his massively acclaimed Amsterdam won the Booker Prize in 1998. The Daydreamer is his exclusive collection of short stories for children published in 1995.
In 1997, McEwan published Enduring Love, which was made into a partially successful movie (Craig, Morton and Ifans). In 2001, he published Atonement that was made into an Oscar-winning movie (McAvoy, Knightley and Redgrave). This was followed by Saturday (2003) and On Chesil Beach (2007). The novelist created Solar in 2010 and his latest, Sweet Tooth, was published in 2012.
This research will comment on the issue of apocalyptism and its implications in the works of Ian McEwan. To do so, the researcher will adopt an ideological framework concerning the continental philosophy of the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek (born on 21 March 1949). Delving deep into the dominant global, political, cultural and social contents embedded in McEwan’s works and most notably his latest works published on the eve of the 21st century, the researcher will introduce the deep layers of ideological outlooks as well as the apocalyptic imaginations inherent in the McEwan’s texts.
Atonement and Solar are the two novels by McEwan chosen to be analyzed in this research. Since the story in McEwan’s Solar is based on the issue of Global Warming, and Žižek’s continental philosophy concerns the so-called global threats towards human being, the researcher argues that there might be affinities between the ideological and apocalyptic standpoint of McEwan, and Žižekian outlook. Also one should consider the fact that in Žižek’s latest book called Living in the End Times apocalyptic concerns of humanity, like global warming, are well conditioned. Therefore, the researcher will look for these affinities through Slavoj Žižek ideological views.
The writer’s primal novel; Atonement is also to be studied at the level of the end-times imaginations. The general scheme of the text following the tragic story of a perished family as well as the scenes from the World War I representing a society at the end of the days, all might be perceived as graphic representations of apocalyptic imaginations fashioned through the apocalyptic mind of McEwan.
II. The Argument
… The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true. (Larkin)
The eve of the twenty first century can be roughly dubbed the era of apocalyptic thinking. The idea of “self-degeneration is projected into mainstream culture, fictionalized through different mediums, such as literature and film, and spat back out at us” (Williams). The world as well as the “American popular culture is overflowing with doomsday prophecies and end-of-the-world scenarios” (Cantor). At this day and age the “prophets of apocalypse have become a new and very real danger” (McEwan, Day of Judgment) and the very wave of apocalyptism is looming around Ian McEwan’s harbor too. The new concern of modern man’s life, the Ecological Crisis and more notably the Global Warming, highly dominates Ian McEwan’s latest novel Solar. The life of a physicist on a world in peril in one way or another contributes to this modern kind of apocalyptic imagination. The ideological sphere of the end-time imagination hovering over a scientific ecological phenomenon is imminent to this novel.
McEwan’s older masterpiece Atonement is also haunted by the very ideological sphere. Like Solar, Atonement is highly enriched with the apocalyptic scenes borrowed from the Second World War as well as the individualistic experiences of a family in ruins. The traumatic experience of a teen-aged girl witnessed to the destruction of her family world and that of her whole world reiterates the very recent humanistic apocalyptic imagination with all its fears and trembling.
The psychological status of the characters as well as the ideological status of their societies can be considered as the best insight into the grey apocalyptic clouds filling the skies of both works. These two novels are filled with psychological and ideological layers that have yet to be revealed. In order to investigate the issue, the researcher in this thesis has chosen the ideological theories of Slavoj Žižek to study the impact of social and cultural conditions on the characters and their resolution that gives birth to the process of narration.
Žižek is chosen because his theory of ideology is intertwined with psychoanalytic theories of the French philosopher Jacques Lacan (1901-1981). Considering himself as a disciple to Lacan, Žižek adopts the post-structural theories of Lacanian psychoanalysis and merges it with the latest versions of Marxist ideological standpoints. The outcome is a refined version of ideology in relation to people’s psychological status. Therefore, Žižekian versions of the Lacanian ideas of lack, subjectivity, and ideology are to be studied in the two works of McEwan.
The nature of McEwan’s works has convinced many critics to adopt psychological frameworks in reading his novels. Respectful Iranian critics like Pantea Sokhanvar in her MA dissertation A Psychosocial Study of McEwan’s Novels (in which the effects of the social environment on the psychological statuses of McEwan’s characters are perfectly portrayed), and Dr. Hossein Payandeh in his article “Normal Abnormalities: Depiction of Sado-Masochistic Violence in Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers” (2006), and his PhD dissertation Waking Nightmares: A Critical Study of Ian McEwan’s Novels (2001), as well as critics like Jennifer L. Fleissner in her Symptomatology and the Novel (2009) have in one or other way adopted the same path of psychology and psychoanalysis to read McEwan. This, while there are deep ideological layers in McEwan’s works that require to be excavated.
In this thesis, the researcher will attempt to analyze the two previously mentioned novels of McEwan mostly in the light of Žižekian psychoanalytical ideology. The researcher believes that as Žižekian ideology is psychological too, these theories can be best applied on the works of McEwan. The study of the psychological and ideological layers of McEwan’s texts with the help of the end-time theories of Žižek might also help better examine and more comprehensively perceive the founding structure, psychological backgrounds and the authenticity of the latest cultural wave of apocalyptism in English literature. And, as a prominent contemporary author canonized in contemporary English literature, one might claim, McEwan can be a suitable representative of for a study of the cultural phenomenon of end-times thought. His dedication to the issue might also add a profound weight to the current study.
Žižek is also very fond of apocalyptic imagination and his latest books Living in the End Times (2011) and The Year of Dreaming Dangerously (2013) are proof enough for his dedication to the issue of apocalyptic thinking. His Marxist propensity, his outstanding understanding of Lacanian psychoanalysis, his Hegelian tradition and his knowledge of popular culture and art including Cinema, literature, music, and etc. all can be precious guides to get a better understanding of the issue.
And, finally through all these means the researcher might be able to better map the crucial aspects of the apocalyptic business that is overwhelming today’s stage of art and literature. The need for a cultural and literary study of apocalypse at a world plagued by the looming disease of end-times imagination is of supreme importance to the researcher, and studying the skeletal aspects of the recently intensified phenomenon might help better understand the issue.
Both novels chosen in this research are written on the eve of twenty first century (Atonement written in 2001 and Solar in 2011), therefore, the researcher deems, they can best represent the non-fantastic, but a realistic aspect of the apocalyptism. There are no monsters, star wars or werewolves in these two novels, but there are great traces of the ordinary humanistic aspect of the end-time thought. The traumatic and post-traumatic characters of McEwan can also be the best representatives of the situation of man in this apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic world.
This fresh look at the Žižekian ideas and McEwan’s novels can also open new ways of interpretation toward both giant figures in literature and culture. A Žižekian reading of McEwan’s works with a cultural-psychoanalytical and even political approach can open new windows towards the precious works of the British author.
The researcher assumes that based on what was previously discussed, this thesis can bring about comprehensive answers to the following questions:
1) How does the Žižekian perception of ideology work in McEwan’s novels?
2) How does the Žižekian version of ideology affect the apocalyptic and post-traumatic characters in Ian McEwan novels?
3) What are the shared believes between the Žižekian theory of Living in the End Times and McEwan’s apocalyptic ideas inscribed in his novels?
4) How does the Žižekian Death Drive lead to the McEwanian Apocalypse Drive?
III. Review of Literature
McEwan’s two novels, Solar and Atonement, can be considered as the pillars of this thesis. Solar’s contributions to the end-time imagination as well as Atonement’s apocalyptic scenes were the key inspirations behind the whole body of this study. McEwan’s eloquent writing as well as deep understanding of literature and culture inscribed in the two novels can be the best motivation for every critic not to take simplistic looks towards his texts. The idea is also very much indebted to the Joe Wright’s fascinating movie, which can be considered as a model for every truthful and successful adaptation from a novel ever produced.
Living in the End Times (published in 2010) is the main source written by Žižek used in this thesis. One might claim this book to be a summarized version of all his previous books harmonized with the most recent socio-political realities of the world. This book helped this research step away from the common apocalyptic beliefs and delve deeper into the heart of the matter in relation to the current global crises. A close reading of this book can help any reader to take a meaningful distance from the ideological apocalyptic belief and to gain a better perception of the philosophy behind the current apocalyptic situation.
Sublime Object of Ideology (1989) can be called the first prominent book Žižek has authored. The researcher tried his best to rely on this book due to the fact that considering the prominence of Living in the End Times, one might claim these two main books best represent the turns and twists of Žižek’s philosophy. Žižek’s ideas are very playful and it might seem impossible to discern a viable version of his theories, but with the help of these two key books, along with other sources, the researcher might claim one can acquire an authentic perception of Žižekian theories.
Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out (1992) was another key source to this thesis from which many of the quotations are extracted. Many of the Žižekian theories used in this thesis are also indebted to this book. This book is highly regarded in the perceptions of the theories of ideological Rituals, Subjectivity, the ways ideologies are manipulated in the modern era, the idea of pretence and the formation of belief in people’s minds. The use of movies and cartoons in elaborating Žižekian theories in this book was also a costly help for the researcher.
Žižek’s several lectures, interviews, and debates were the best sources for the researcher to facilitate a better perception of Žižekian theory, and also to acquire a general and unified understanding out of the philosopher’s contradictory assumptions. The researcher would like to list a number of websites and Youtube Channels providing him with precious video and audio files as well as the multimedia sources he had reviewed in the course of writing. The list follows as:
– Youtube, Slavoj Žižek Videos: This channel provides many Lectures and discussions by Žižek, but among all, videos like Slavoj Žižek (2013) “Karl Marx and Hegel”, Slavoj Žižek on “Apocalyptic Times”, Slavoj Žižek Vs Cornel West, Slavoj Žižek, Signs From The Future, Slavoj Žižek: Living in the End Times, Slavoj Žižek: A Lacanian Plea for Fundamentalism, Slavoj Žižek: Why Only an Atheist Can Believe, Slavoj Žižek (2013) Ecology Without Nature, Slavoj Žižek (2013) “God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse conversation with Jack Miller” were of immense use.
– Youtube: EGS Videos and European Graduate School website, titles including: Slavoj Žižek. The Interaction With the Other in Hegel. 2009, Slavoj Žižek. The Return To Hegel. 2009, Slavoj Žižek. Materialism and Theology. 2007, Slavoj Žižek. The Future of Europe. 2009, Judith Butler, Slavoj Žižek, Larry Rickels – Psychoanalysis 2006, Slavoj Žižek. Plea for Ethical Violence. Lecture. 2004, Slavoj Žižek. On Belief and Otherness. 2002, Slavoj Žižek. The Reflection of Life in Hegel. 2009, Slavoj Žižek. The Big Other and The Event of Subjectivity. 2012, Slavoj Žižek. The Buddhist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism. 2012, Slavoj Žižek. Confronting Humanity & The Post-Modern. 2009, Slavoj Žižek. Object a and The Function of Ideology. 2012.
IV. Methodology and Approach
The researcher is convinced that in order to study the new atmosphere of apocalyptism in 21st century literature, one must begin with a study of some relevant issues. The first question which might arise while studying the issue can be: how ideological is the issue? Therefore, a brief study of the Žižekian levels of ideology including 1) Doctrine, 2) Belief, and 3) Ritual seems crucial in order to explore the traces of ideologies at work in McEwan’s novels. The structure of belief in today’s world seems so complicated and crucial to this dissertation. The belief in the issue of apocalyptism is also touched upon by means of the same idea of levels of ideology.
Also, in order to study the structure of belief in characters and people, a study of the people as subjects seems necessary. The Žižekian idea of processual subjectivity is applied in this thesis and the characteristics of subject including lack and death drive are comprehensively developed in the subsequent segment of this dissertation. Death drive, it is claimed, can be counted as the preliminary characteristic of human psyche regarding his belief in apocalyptism. Thus, a great portion of this thesis is allocated to such issue.
The limited space of this MA dissertation did not allow the researcher to adopt an ontological framework and touch upon the historical backgrounds of the issue dating back to the initial stages of the civilization on to the Romantic era, and onto the contemporary world. Accepting the Žižekian proposal, taken from Karl Marx, that “the anatomy of man is the key to the anatomy of the ape” (Žižek, Living in the End Times 196), this research has been dedicated to the 21st century apocalyptism by the help of only two works of McEwan.
The death drive is developed to the apocalypse drive counting as one of the last attempts of the researcher to relate the end-time theories of Slavoj Žižek to the apocalyptic imagination of Ian McEwan. Finding affinities between the two prominent figures’ beliefs as well as looking for the traces of Žižekian-McEwanian apocalyptism in the two novels might help to shed a better light on the modern issue.
In the last segment of the dissertation, the researcher will examine McEwan’s characters’ psyche based on the theory of stages of grief developed by Kübler-Ross. This analysis will also form another approach to analyze McEwan’s apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic character.
Žižek is a critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has made contributions to political theory, film theory, and theoretical psychoanalysis. He writes on many topics including subjectivity, ideology, capitalism, fundamentalism, racism, tolerance, multiculturalism, human rights, ecology, globalization, the Iraq War, revolution, utopianism, totalitarianism, postmodernism, pop culture, cinema, political theology, and religion.
The spirit of McEwan’s novels require that any analysis on them must bear some tones of psychoanalysis. As a result, the researcher has adopted a Žižekian trend of Lacanian psychoanalytic approach to read the novels. Also, it seems impossible to the researcher to extract Marxist ideas of Žižek from his psychoanalytical theories. Thus, a combination of psychoanalytical, cultural-materialist and Marxist criticism is adopted in the research. The post-structural Lacanian analysis is also mingled with Hegelian idealist logic to add a compelling weight to the analysis.
V. Definition of Key Terms
The concept of Death Drive (Todestrieb) is initially vaguely introduced to psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) in his early works, but in his Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Freud started to elucidate the subject in details. He used the mythological figures Eros and Thantatos to elaborate on his theory. Eros is a “tendency towards cohesion and unity”, whereas 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 layers that creep in the texture of McEwan’s novels. Ideological levels of Doctrine, Ritual and Belief are focused here. A mere personal aspect of the apocalyptic imagination and the process through which a traumatic and post-traumatic subject is formed are highlighted in this segment.
Chapter Four is unswervingly dedicated to the apocalyptic specter that hovers around McEwan’s works by examining his own words as well as his works. The Žižekian death drive is applied to complete the discussion, wishing to map various aspects of the McEwanian end-times thought. The application of the five stages of grief on the works of McEwan is the latest attempt to investigate the issue and elaborate on McEwanian finalism.
The following is a list of what goes on in the thesis:
Chapter One: Introduction
Review of Literature
Methodology and Approach
Definition of Terms
Chapter Two: An Introduction to Žižekian Theories
Žižek as a Hegelian Philosopher
Žižek as a Lacanian Psychoanalyst
Žižek as a Marxist Critic of Ideology
Žižek Meets McEwan, Contributions to the Apocalyptic Vision
Chapter Three: Žižekian Ideology Looms around McEwan’s Novels
The Specter of Ideology Hovering over McEwan’s Novels
Briony and Michael in the Process of Subjectivity
– The Processual Subjects
– The Unconscious Lack and the Ideological Manipulations
Chapter Four: McEwan Haunted by Žižekian Apocalypse Drive
An Introduction to McEwan’s End Times Thought
Death Drives McEwan’s Characters
Apocalypse Drives McEwan’s Fiction
The Žižekian Stages of Apocalypse in McEwan’s Novels
– Bargaining, Depression and Withdrawal
– Acceptance: The Cause Regained (A New Beginning)
Chapter V: Conclusion
Findings and Implications
Suggestion for Further Research
Chapter Two: An Introduction to Žižekian Theories
It can be roughly claimed that the first decade of the 21st century, as well as the initial years of its second, marked the most profound forms of apocalyptic imaginations. The prophecy of an upcoming apocalypse is haunting people’s minds. Each form of art in its own way reflects the matter and people are wondering how close they are getting to an end; not an individual and temporal one, but an all-time communal end.
After September 11 incident (terroristic attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001) the mainstream media, consciously or unconsciously, made a great effort to reveal different aspects of an imminent apocalypse. The mainstream cinema mounted its unraveling attempt to produce films portraying a world