Wrestling with the Angel: Experiments in Symbolic Life by Tracy McNulty

By Tracy McNulty

Wrestling with the Angel is a meditation on modern political, criminal, and social idea from a psychoanalytic standpoint. It argues for the permitting functionality of formal and symbolic constraints in maintaining wish as a resource of creativity, innovation, and social change.

The e-book starts via calling for a richer figuring out of the psychoanalytic suggestion of the symbolic and the assets it might probably provide for an exam of the social hyperlink and the political sphere. The symbolic is an important measurement of social coexistence yet can't be lowered to the social norms, ideas, and practices with which it's so frequently collapsed. As a measurement of human existence that's brought by way of language--and hence inescapably "other" with appreciate to the legislation of nature--the symbolic is an incontrovertible fact of human lifestyles. but an analogous can't be stated of the kinds and practices that symbolize and maintain it. In designating those legislation, buildings, and practices as "fictions," Jacques Lacan makes transparent that the symbolic is a size of social existence that should be created and maintained and which could even be displaced, eliminated, or rendered dysfunctional. The symbolic fictions that constitution and help the social tie are for this reason historicizable, rising at particular occasions and particularly contexts and wasting their efficacy while conditions switch. also they are fragile and ephemeral, wanting to be renewed and reinvented in the event that they aren't to develop into outdated or ridiculous. as a result the purpose of this research isn't to name for a go back to conventional symbolic legislation yet to mirror at the courting among the symbolic in its most basic or structural shape and the functionality of constraints and limits.

McNulty analyzes examples of "experimental" (as against "normative") articulations of the symbolic and their inventive use of formal limits and constraints no longer as mere prohibitions or principles yet as "enabling constraints" that desire the workout of freedom. the 1st half examines practices that conceive of subjective freedom as enabled via the fight with constraints or limits, from the transference that buildings the "minimal social link" of psychoanalysis to limited relationships among or extra humans within the context of political and social routine. Examples mentioned variety from the religious practices and social legacies of Moses, Jesus, and Teresa of Avila to the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt and Jacques Rancière. the second one half is dedicated to criminal and political debates surrounding the functionality of the written legislation. It isolates the law's functionality as a symbolic restrict or constraint as precise from its content material and representational personality. The research attracts on Mosaic legislations traditions, the political theology of Paul, and twentieth-century remedies of written legislation within the paintings of Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Pierre Legendre, and Alain Badiou. In end, the research considers the connection among will and constraint in Kant's aesthetic philosophy and within the experimental literary works of the collective Oulipo.

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Extra resources for Wrestling with the Angel: Experiments in Symbolic Life (Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture)

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In thus defining its “outside,” Cantin remarks that the diabolical possession also shored up the authority of the Church by allowing the priest-exorcist to function as the “Master,” taking control of and treating this excess, and thereby sustaining the belief in a possible treatment of jouissance (67). In contrast, Teresa finds in submission to constraints a subjective practice that allows her to be something other than an object of fascination, a performance of unregulated jouissance, or a showcase for the symptom.

In thus defining its “outside,” Cantin remarks that the diabolical possession also shored up the authority of the Church by allowing the priest-exorcist to function as the “Master,” taking control of and treating this excess, and thereby sustaining the belief in a possible treatment of jouissance (67). In contrast, Teresa finds in submission to constraints a subjective practice that allows her to be something other than an object of fascination, a performance of unregulated jouissance, or a showcase for the symptom.

Moreover, her “submission” is in tension with the fact that Teresa also radically transforms the symbolic by inventing new forms and structures through her written practice and approach to meditation. What she submits to is therefore not really Church doctrine, but the constraints internal to these practices. In writing, she finds a limit that the Church was unable to provide. The same is true of her approach to convent life and her eventual choice of a strictly cloistered existence that rejects the laxer institutional practices of her milieu.

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