Flannery O'Connor: "A Late Encounter" with poststructuralism.
Frederick Crews, in his essay "The Power of Flannery O'Connor," argues for the ineluctable resistance of O'Connor's fiction to various critical depredations. Crews chastises both the disingenuous attempts of poststructural critics to salvage an embarrassingly pious O'Connor by remaking her in their own ideological image, and explicitly Christian humanist critics who ignore or ritually purify O'Connor's patent violence and grotesquery in order to redeem her as a true believer. He also discards O'Connor's own intentionalist drive to limit the interpretation of her work within strict theological boundaries, claiming that O'Connor, like many authors, was a better writer than a reader of her work. After demonstrating the insufficiency of these three interpretive resources, Crews values in O'Connor the radical "indeterminacy" of her fiction, the "mixture of faith and cool professionalism" that allowed her to draw on religious themes while indulging thoroughly her consummate "gift for demolition."(2) Yet for Crews these qualities remain ambiguous, as he defers to O'Connor's "electrifying power" that leaves critics "still grasping at formulas that might explain, or even explain away." Instead, we are told, her works must be judged "on their chosen ground" (p. 55).
In particular, it is Crews's contention that O'Connor remains "intractable as ever to a postmodern, poststructuralist makeover" that I want to challenge. Crews disparages poststructural work on O'Connor as "critical tampering" (p. 50), without defining tamper-proof criticism, and decries "the recent revival of forthrightly ideological habits of reading" (p. 49), without defining ideology-free habits of reading, and implying that less forthright habits might be preferable. His reinvestment of O'Connor's fiction with an unchanging and unassailable "power" effectively denies any reader's power over her text. While Crews superficially values the indeterminacy of O'Connor's work, his essay perhaps better demonstrates the indeterminacy of our own work with O'Connor. The O'Connor passage quoted as epigraph above describes the writer's task as the conscious positioning of oneself within history and locale to discover and, presumably, to narrate their timelessly signifying intersection. Before we, along with Crews, dismiss O'Connor's appeal to "eternity" as quaintly incompatible with poststructuralism, we might examine some of poststructuralism's own eternizing implications. Crews does not consider that the goals of poststructural criticism may not be to dispel O'Connor's difficulties, since poststructuralism regularly disavows master-narratives that "explain away." By recognizing that its work is always incomplete, poststructuralism attends "power" and "eternity" through equally durable notions of lack and deferment. Poststructural criticism is in fact particularly well-suited to the writerly task that O'Connor has described and to the vague "power" that Crews holds apart.
The following three sections locate O'Connor's "peculiar crossroads" at the Civil War in "A Late Encounter with the Enemy" through the post-structural modes of cultural materialism, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and deconstruction. While endemic to the vocation of many Southern fiction writers, wrestling with the cultural inheritance of the Civil War is a decidedly alienating experience in "A Late Encounter with the Enemy." O'Connor remarked on the problematic confluence of familiarity and disconnection, "To know oneself is to know one's region. It is also to know the world, and it is, paradoxically, a form of exile from that world."(3) As the romance, the dignity, indeed the knowability of the Civil War period are inscribed within the character George Poker Sash, they seem to retreat entirely from possession and understanding. Despite all attempts to contain, control, or commodify it, Southern history in O'Connor's story remains uncooperative, inscrutable, and unforgiving.
"The Old and the New"
In O'Connor's story, George Poker Sash has been temporarily reincarnated by the Hollywood film industry as a Confederate general to lend authenticity to the Atlanta premiere of a Civil War movie, but he fastens permanently to the fraud. His absurd name, Tennessee Flintrock Sash, is an invention of the film promoters, while the "General" "had probably been a foot soldier; he didn't remember what he had been; in fact, he didn't remember that war at all."(4) Even as his surname recalls a dignified decoration, his persona is co-opted by local museums, tourist attractions, and graduation ceremonies to recall past glory for a reverential audience. The Civil War-era South here exerts the attraction of what Raymond Williams has termed a "residual culture": "some experiences, meanings and values, which . . . cannot be expressed in terms of the dominant culture, are nevertheless lived and practised on the basis of the residue - cultural as well as social - of some previous social formation."(5) Williams theorizes culture as the function of a complex of dominating practices that accommodates and absorbs diverse and alternative practices as necessary to ensure its survival. That is, hegemony is never singular and is continually active and adjusting. While a residual culture is usually segregated from the effective dominant culture, it may be incorporated "because some part of it, some version of it . . . will in many cases have had to be incorporated if the effective dominant culture is to make sense in those areas" (p. 41). In "A Late Encounter," Sash is the touchstone for a past on which to draw for purposes of self-fashioning within a larger hegemonic community. The story, however, critiques the abilities of the contemporary community to recover and master the past for its own designs.
Sash's manipulators, including his granddaughter Sally Poker Sash, construct elaborate frameworks in which to situate him where they hope his costume uniform and sword will reify the ideas of the South they value. It is this disposition toward history as commodity and as a vessel for one's own legitimacy that compels the community to manufacture regular displays of it. On Confederate Memorial Day, Sash "was bundled up and lent to the Capitol City Museum where he was displayed from one to four in a musty room full of old photographs, old uniforms, old artillery and historic documents." "[B]undled up and lent," he is as much an object as the other items in the collection. Yet these artifacts are purposely detached from the viewers: "All these were carefully preserved in glass cases so that children would not put their hands on them," and the General sits inside "a small roped area" (p. 161). The overarching effect is exclusion and alienation from the relics. They are intangible and iconographic; their power is to be intuited by a viewer, not comprehended. A young boy who makes the mistake of touching Sash's sword in the museum has his hand slapped instantly (p. 162). For the same purpose, the Atlanta premiere is circumscribed by ropes, "to keep the people off who couldn't go" (p. 159). In the community's unwittingly Brechtian aesthetic, the very practices designed to reinforce the power of the symbols instead lay bare their distance from lived experience amid the dominant culture. Whereas the rationale behind a Brechtian dramaturgy is to foster a deliberate space between actor and role, to alienate technique from the illusion it produces and thus to dismantle the ideological self-identity of routine social behavior, a similar effect is produced through staged juxtapositions in "A Late Encounter."(6)
The dominant-residual disconnection continually, inevitably intrudes to emphasize the rift between the story's characters and their representations. After Sash takes the stage at the Atlanta premiere, he is made to salute as an orchestra plays the Confederate Battle Hymn and two usherettes in Confederate caps and short skirts stand behind him and cross Confederate and Union flags (p. 160). The scene awkwardly juxtaposes the image of antique Southern martial gallantry against the contemporary culture's regular incorporation of titillating sex into its spectacles.(7) The counterfeit greatness of this "great event" is underscored by the number of speakers who call it such and who confide "how really happy" they are to be there (p. 159). Simultaneously, Sally inadvertently spoils the intended effect of her appearance with the General by dressing in black crepe, a rhinestone buckle, and white gloves, only to realize as she stands on the spotlit stage that she has forgotten to change her shoes: "two brown Girl Scout oxfords protruded from the bottom of her dress" (p. 161).
Sally's efforts to use the General as a meaningful display for her college graduation ceremonies provide the story with its most damaging illustration of history's nonconformity to particular demands. Sally resents having had to attend the state teachers' college for the past twenty summers because "when she started teaching, there were no such things as degrees" and "when she returned in the fall, she always taught in the exact way she had been taught not to teach." She arranges to have the General on stage at the graduation to support her perceived hereditary difference, "because she wanted to show what she stood for." More specifically, Sally reveals what the intended scene means to her when she imagines its message for the assembled guests: "See him! See him! My kin, all you upstarts! Glorious upright old man standing for the old traditions!" Sally appeals to a symbol of the bellum South, her uniformed grandfather, to identify herself with an older, more aristocratic culture, and to distinguish herself from a contemporary culture that she imagines lacks those old traditions. The General's presence will exact her revenge on "all the upstarts who had turned the world on its head and unsettled the ways of decent living" (p. 156).
But like the Atlanta premiere, the spectacle is wrested away from Sally's control. Sally decides to have her Boy Scout nephew, John Wesley, wheel in the General's chair at the graduation. "She thought how sweet it would be to see the old man in his courageous gray and the young boy in his clean khaki - the old and the new, she thought appropriately" (p. 162). Despite Sally's aversion to newness, she finds rather attenuated evidence of the past's refiguration in a comparison between the Confederate Army and the Boy Scouts. But John Wesley proves indifferent to the occasion, for Sally finds him before the graduation leaning, his shirt untucked, against a Coca-Cola machine outside the auditorium with the General "scowling and hatless in the blazing sun" (p. 164).(8) The unfortunate association of the old man with the Coca-Cola machine emphasizes the commodified use to which he is being put, and although Sally receives her scroll as planned, with the General sitting "fixed and fierce" on the stage (p. 167), he has unobtrusively died during the ceremonies. His corpse cannot escape the final indignity of assimilation with the machine again as John Wesley waits in the long line for it after the ceremonies. Finally Sally's efforts to fashion herself in the old traditions are as incongruous as the corsage she wears to the premiere, "made with gladiola petals taken off and painted gold to look like a rose" (p. 158).
While the absorption of residual culture theoretically permits the dominant culture control over it, "A Late Encounter" would seem to demonstrate the troubling incongruity that can result from such a process. Sash cannot fit any of the contexts created for him, and, despite the best efforts of a dedicated cultural will, the force of history only signals itself through its comparative absence from the juxtapositions the story creates. In poststructuralist terms in general, two theories are visible here: one shows that the assimilation of a residual culture is in fact impossible, for what remains is always made out as something else and in the process becomes transformed; the other shows, as the structuralists had already, that the signified - which for the cultural materialist is "History" itself - can never be captured in signifiers. In Sash, neither culture nor history can ever be signified finally, eternally. The same problem faced by the cultural materialist is likewise faced by the psychoanalytic: when one adds the psychoanalytic Real to culture and history, it too fades or slides or disappears behind the objects that attempt to represent it.
"What All Was Behind Her"
Sally's insistence on living vicariously through the war mythology surrounding her grandfather may strike one as merely perverse. But viewed in terms of Lacanian psychoanalysis, the locus of her compulsions can be given a name: the Name-of-the-Father. She exists by maintaining and attempting to integrate herself indisputably with the patriarchal glory of the Civil War era as figured in General Sash. The militaristic valorization of violence and death in the commemoration of the War has the status of a Lacanian Symbolic Real, a system of signification accessible through language with a traumatic lack - of victory, resolution, power, in this case - at its center. Sally's vain desire is complete communion with the War, her power limited to that of the hysteric whom Helene Cixous describes: "[her] power of producing the other is a power that never returns to her. . . . She is given images that don't belong to her, and she forces herself . . . to resemble them."(9)
Lacan's rereading of Freudian psychoanalysis contends that the unconscious is structured like a language, with linguistic features of metaphor and metonymy functioning like Freudian condensation and displacement. Human subjectivity and the unconscious originate at the moment when the subject perceives the boundary between itself and objects, a mirror phase in which child becomes aware of its differentiation from (M)other. While the mirror-phase subject loses the totalizing images of itself, it consequently gains desire for them, for identification with the other. Lacan regards this activity as belonging to the Imaginary, a register of cognition that comprises primal and perceptual reality and structures a distinct Real (independent of "objective" reality) characterized by "bifurcations, by dialectical relations: doubles, paired effects, projective responses in which one object is obliterated by another."(10) Within this system resides the Phallus, the subject's ideal signifier. A second register, the Symbolic, in turn structures the Imaginary with formal values; functioning in accordance with rules, laws, taboos, and beliefs, it limits and mediates the Imaginary's pursuit of totality. The Symbolic is instituted by the oedipal phase, in which the subject learns that language, as the primary means of signification, offers the subject a tool for manipulation of the Real, but also learns that the bar between subject and object, Symbolic and perceptual reality, can never be removed. This awareness of "prohibition, separation, and individuation"(11), of law, is termed by Lacan the Name-of-the-Father, and it subsequently reifies a symbolic castration: an alienation and lack that can only find expression through the inadequate third term of language.
The Civil War in "A Late Encounter" is structured like the Symbolic Real. Indeed the War's enforced bifurcation of the nation recalls the essential rupture from a subjective totality into a world of difference and the consequent struggle for integrity. The story's post-Reconstruction South compensates for defeat in the War with an acute awareness of lack, of absence and death, that demands habitual expressions of military glory so that the developing subject may know the trauma of its loss. General Sash is the delegated object for this lesson, placed on display for schoolchildren, at the Atlanta movie premiere, and in the older homes "to lend atmosphere" when they "were opened up for pilgrimages" in the spring (p. 162). Sitting uniformed in his wheelchair with a sword across his lap, Sash is a barely living monument to both signifying, Phallic power and its untimely castration. The connection between the General and the message he embodies, however, is hardly secure. His pathetic attempts at actual phallic aggression - his screeching, "How I keep so young . . . I kiss all the pretty guls!" at the premiere (p. 161), and his insinuation that if left in a hotel room alone with a woman, "I'd a known what to do" (p. 158) - present an undermining contrast to the power of the signifying Phallus he is presumed to contain.(12)
As normative subject, Sally must emerge from the infinite narcissism characterizing the Imaginary register to an acceptance of prohibition, individuation - the Name-of-the-Father - contained within the Symbolic. Her transition, however, is both incomplete and deeply problematic within the story. Toward her grandfather Sally exhibits an identificatory desire that is projective and dialectical: she perceives a signifying potential within Sash's Civil War persona required to define her subjectivity, and she is dedicated to combination and, seemingly, obliteration within his position as other. Although the internalization of oedipal prohibition in the Name is an essential step in the Lacanian scheme of subjective development, Sally instead demands proprietorship of the General's actual name and rank as her signifiers. Sally expresses this compulsion in her constant maintenance of and complicity in her grandfather's identity. But Sally desires her grandfather's presence at her graduation from the state college because it is there that his name will speak most overtly for her.
She wanted the General at her graduation because she wanted to show what she stood for, or, as she said, "what all was behind her." . . . She meant to stand on that platform in August with the General sitting in his wheel chair on the stage behind her and she meant to hold her head very high as if she were saying, "See him! See him! My kin, all you upstarts! Glorious upright old man standing for the old traditions! Dignity! Honor! Courage! See him!" (p. 156)
His reputation or name encompasses her voice - her imagined act of speech is enabled by the physical symbolism of his position behind her - and what Sally fantasizes is no less than a revelation of the Name-of-the-Father to others whom she defines as needing its edification. Just as the Name enforces necessary limits on subjective identification, Sally means to use her conjunction with the General to segregate those onlookers - those who lack dignity, honor, courage - from herself. No longer a mere student of the Name, she has graduated to the rank of pedagogue. And yet her desired subjective combination with her grandfather, a function reminiscent of the Imaginary, is contradicted by the Symbolic register's insistence on discrimination between the two.
The oedipal dilemma of Sally's attempts to pair with the General and thus to integrate herself is given graphic representation in a dream. In her dream, "she turned her head and found [the General] sitting in his wheel chair behind her with a terrible expression on his face and with all his clothes off except the general's hat" (p. 156). The dream appears to be incestuous in the literal sense, but Sally's horror may also be directed at the analogous incest she is attempting by submerging her own identity within that of the General. His position as Phallus, or primary signifier in the Lacanian Imaginary, is interconnected with the less abstract phallic threat implicit in the incest horror. It is also relevant that the General appears with only his hat, a sign of his prominence within the Symbolic. Sally's dream replicates the effect of a subject's taboo knowledge of its other, a trauma expressed inadequately in the third term of a language, the dream itself.
In Lacanian psychoanalysis, what can never be had or even represented, by female or male, is the Phallus. Its absence is theoretically, necessarily permanent. The General's inconvenient death at Sally's graduation effectively neutralizes the oedipal threat against her subjectivity, while nothing could more appropriately symbolize an awareness of law in Lacanian psychoanalysis than the dead (grand)Father. Yet the breakdown of Sally's spectacle at the graduation suggests a disconnection meaningful not just to psychoanalytic discourse but to discourse in general.
"A Dried Spider"
As a narrative variously concerned with the instability of a grand symbolism, "A Late Encounter" would seem finally to be an opportune candidate for the illustration of a deconstructive disconnection between sign and meaning. General Sash, with his open acknowledgement that his commission is a sham and his frequently undignified and libidinous outbursts, is hardly the eminent and unbroken warrior for Confederate glory that his admirers imagine. Sash is compromised and contaminated; in deconstructive terms, he is a center that is thoroughly implicated in the structure it is supposed to govern, and so not a center at all. As such a paradoxical figure, he challenges the very metaphysical availability of the Civil War to Southern identity. But while Sash resists the historical discourse of the War in life, he becomes its victim in death.
In Derridean terms, the Civil War has become de-centered, a discourse, in "A Late Encounter." The discourse of the War operates as if the War once held a stable position within the structures it enabled, a perhaps contemporaneous point "at which the substitution of contents, elements, or terms is no longer possible" and that "closes off the freeplay it opens up and makes possible."(13) And yet, as the result of an essential rupture that occurs when "the structurality of structure" (p. 247) must begin to be thought, to be reiterated, the center becomes unfixed, an event through which "an infinite number of sign-substitutions [come] into play" (p. 249). Hence the central signified of the War could never again be present outside a system of differences, of surrogates.
It is because of the freeplay of signification that the often inappropriate Sash is permitted as a sign within the discourse of the War. The discourse of the War in the story operates in the familiar deconstruction-inviting economy of a series of binary oppositions. When Sally insists that her grandfather's presence at her college graduation will represent "old traditions! Dignity! Honor! Courage!," we can assume by contrast that he is not expected to demonstrate novelty, indignity, dishonor, and cowardice. The fact that the latter descriptors more closely resemble Sash shows the extent to which difference is accommodated within the freeplay of signification. Sash's persona depends upon the easy transference of old traditions into a borrowed and insubstantial container: a "dried spider," as he is described. That, as a locus of discourse, Sash is hopelessly bound up in the structure that created and maintains him refutes the possibility of a scrupulously preserved tradition or center. His attendance at the premiere incongruously couples the supposed permanence and authenticity of the War with the fabrications and illusions of the Hollywood film industry. Any connection Sash may have had to the War era is utterly entangled in the complex sign-substitutions that structure his viewers', listeners', and readers' understanding of him.
Although Sash is regarded as a relevant sign of the past by those around him, he absolutely rejects the suggestion of an overarching metaphysical "history" that might contain his own history of costume, celebrity, and parade floats "full of Miss Americas and Miss Daytona Beaches and Miss Queen Cotton Products" (p. 155): "He didn't have any use for history because he never expected to meet it again. To his mind, history was connected with processions and life with parades and he liked parades" (p. 157). During the graduation, the "procession" of history is physically signalled by the train of black-robed graduates who file into the hall and past him to receive their scrolls. But "[h]e had no use for any of it. What happened then wasn't anything to a man living now and he was living now." For the General, "living now" enacts a presence that is incompatible with history. He resolves to sulk at Sally's graduation when he intuits that "[i]t must be something connected with history like they were always having" and that he will not be read outside that context. He will be positioned in the discourse of the War, of history, articulated by the black robes who stand orating to the crowd; he will be used to punctuate speech, "shuttled forward roughly. . . . but . . . jerked back again before he could get up and take the bow." Sash "heard his name mentioned again but they were not talking about him, they were still talking about history" (p. 165).
His frustration over being inserted in the discourse of history is particularly ironic, given the efforts of his caretakers to constantly maintain his assimilation. The rhetoric of the keynote speaker demonstrates the necessary conflation: "If we forget our past . . . we won't remember our future and it will be as well for we won't have one" (pp. 165-166). This formulation echoes a description of the General's lack of historical appreciation: "The past and the future were the same thing to him, one forgotten and the other not remembered" (p. 161). If remembering the future is contingent upon synonymously not forgetting the past, then past and future may be one and the same; memory will prepare one for the sameness of what is to come, and the last phrase of the chain - "it will be as well for we won't have one" - makes living outside this process of memory, of backward deferment, inconceivable. Indeed Sash recalls the faces of his family and the place-names of Civil War battles "as if the past were the only future now and he had to endure it" (p. 167).
Despite his efforts to block them out, the words of the graduation speaker are said to enter Sash's head through a hole at its top. The words "Chickamauga, Shiloh, Johnston, Lee. . . . began to stir in his head as if they were trying to wrench themselves out of place and come to life" (p. 166). The discourse that Sash has habitually denied but that has been reified through him, anthropomorphizes into an army of words that hunts him down and "riddles" him "like musket fire." He attempts to run from it, only to find himself "running toward the words." "He recognized it, for it had been dogging all his days": it is the discourse of history, that which he cannot "see over" to "find out what comes after the past" (p. 167). As in the words of the graduation speaker, one concludes that nothing can come after the past, after the procession of words that seem to recall a presence just beyond them.
Returning to the epigraph that begins this essay, we might say that the historical dilemma faced by the characters in "A Late Encounter" is the same faced by O'Connor's writer. As the characters attempt to author a meaningful text with the General, only to find their efforts obstructed by the discourse they create, O'Connor's writer struggles to intersect time, place, and eternity, only to find eternal slippage between words and meaning.
None of the readings of "A Late Encounter with the Enemy" offered here can exert an interpretive monopoly over it. Their usefulness is of course contingent upon how much material they can convincingly marshall marshal to their cause, although I have purposely avoided repetitive "complete" analyses. The defining notions of the three critical modes already share a tendency to organize material binarily, in terms of dominant-residual, subject-other, and presence-absence, and all three insist, for different reasons, on the Saussurean distinction between sign and signified in order to allow substitutions to intrude and disjunctions to result. The same evidence, the same words, can be made productive in multiple contexts, and in this the essay duplicates (one hopes more self-consciously) the efforts to recontextualize General Sash that compete within the story itself.
The "power" that Crews reserves for O'Connor, ostensibly to protect her from marauding critics, is for poststructuralism merely an opening. While Crews argues that power is contained in O'Connor's text, his concomitant valorization of her "indeterminacy" (a function of language itself, not O'Connor) suggests that power lies somewhere else and can only be refracted - through the past, through an other, through an absence - through the text. O'Connor's appeal to "eternity" in the epigraph need not put her work beyond the reach of poststructuralism; the vague "somehow" that follows it continuously unfixes the "peculiar crossroads" O'Connor mapped for writers.
1 Flannery O'Connor, "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Literature," in Mystery and Manners, ed. Sally and Robert Fitzgerald. (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1969), p. 59.
2 Frederick Crews, "The Power of Flannery O'Connor," New York Review of Books, April 26, 1990, p. 54.
3 Flannery O'Connor, "The Fiction Writer and His Country," in The Living Novel: A Symposium, ed. Granville Hicks (New York: Collier, 1957), p. 163.
4 Flannery O'Connor, "A Late Encounter with the Enemy," in A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1948), p. 157.
5 Raymond Williams, Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso, 1980), p. 40.
6 The reference here is to Bertolt Brecht's idea of the "A-effect," or alienated acting, helpful discussions of which can be found in Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, ed. and trans. John Willett (New York: Hill and Wang, 1964); and Terry Eagleton's short essay "Brecht and Rhetoric," New Literary History, 16 (Spring 1985), 633-638.
7 Gilbert H. Muller classifies the story along with others as O'Connor's "ruthless study of the vulgarity of the secular spirit," a spirit that in this case is figured in terms of "popular culture" (Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque [Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1972], p. 26). Although organized in the familiar terms of a distinction between secularity and mystery, Muller's description of a clash between cultures in "A Late Encounter" is an important insight.
8 Muller extrapolates from the imagery of the Boy Scout and the Coca-Cola machine to interpret the story's title: "Thus the ultimate enemy to which the title of the story alludes is this new tradition, for the parable of historical glory is grotesquely undercut by these new cultural symbols" (p. 42).
9 Helene Cixous, "Castration or Decapitation?," trans. Annette Kuhn, in Contemporary Literary Theory, ed. Robert Con Davis, and Ronald Schleifer (New York: Longman, 1989), p. 484. The discussion that follows makes use of both orthodox and more feminist readings of Lacan, like those of Cixous, Jane Gallop, Jane Flax, and Luce Irigaray. Although their stance toward Lacan is frequently oppositional, many feminist critics find his formulations valuable in dissecting patriarchal accounts of subjectivity.
10 James M. Mellard, Using Lacan, Reading Fiction (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), pp. 15-16.
11 Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), p. 279.
12 Although an orthodox Lacanian practice would disallow a direct link between the Phallus and the penis, feminist readers of Lacan insist it is unavoidable. The privileging of the phallus as a sort of universal, originary sign is the product of a historically oppressive patriarchy, they claim, and the semantic baggage inherent in such a figure cannot simply be ignored. In O'Connor's story, for example, the General's middle name - Poker - is perhaps reminiscent of a crude phallic image.
13 Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," in The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man, ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972), p. 248. The translation of Derrida throughout this section is by Macksey.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Knauer, David J.|
|Publication:||The Mississippi Quarterly|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1995|
|Previous Article:||Flannery O'Connor's "Fourth Dimension": the role of sexuality in her fiction.|
|Next Article:||"Making a Scene": some thoughts on female sexuality and marriage in Eudora Welty's 'Delta Wedding' and 'The Optimist's Daughter.'|