zizek and melancholy

Darian Leader’s descriptions of melancholia in The New Black reminds me of Zizek

“Each time it is necessary to take on a symbolic position, there is only a void.”

“There is always a reference to some form of impossibility, something the person must do, some task that cannot be done.”

“Yet melancholics tell us again and again how their situation contains an impossibility. The clarity with which they can delimit this is quite remarkable. Crucially, this sense of impasse is communicated. This means that part of the melancholic’s struggle is to do with language, with finding a way to express the impossible.”

“What does this imply clinically? If melancholia means that the passage from things to words is blocked, would the aim be to reverse this? Or, taking the idea of impossibility seriously, to try less to access so-called thing representations than to allow the person to find words to index the impossibility of the passage from thing to word representations, from, one representational system to the other: to find words to say how words fail. And isn’t that one of the functions of poetry?”

“Another way to describe the difference here was voiced by a melancholic subject. He distinguished between the denial of a positive term and the affirmation of a negative one. Trying to find ways to speak about the father he had lost in his childhood, he contrasted the way that, logic can put a negation sign next to a particular term (-(the man)) and how a negative term can itself be emphasized ((-the man)). In the first case, known as predicate negation, the sign of negation – or absence – is applied, as it were, externally to a term or concept (the man), whereas in the second, known as term negation, the negation is included within the term itself (the not-man).

This brilliant distinction is perhaps the very difference between mourning and melancholia, and is itself a topic in the philosophy of logic. Mourning involves the process of establishing the denial of a positive term, a recognition of absence and loss. We accept that a presence is no longer there. Melancholia on the other hand, involves the affirmation of a negative term. The lost loved one becomes a hole, an ever-present void which the melancholic cannot give up his attachment to.”


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