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Writing the symptom: Lacan's Joycean knot

Thurston, Luke (1997) Writing the symptom: Lacan's Joycean knot. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86018) (KAR id:86018)


The thesis explores the encounter between psychoanalysis and literature in Lacan's reading of Joyce, and the new possibilities it opens for literary theory. In introduction, it considers how the publipation of Lacan's work in English has obscured these possibilities, and contributed to certain misunderstandings of Lacan (for instance, around the term 'writing' as invoked by some Joycean critics). Part I sets out the question of the aesthetic in Freud (his readings of Hamlet and Michaelangelo's statue Moses), and traces its transformation in Lacan's earlier work, up to the introduction of anamorphosis. Part II returns to Lacan's introduction of the term 'subject' to psychoanalysis, in a representational economy governed by a specifically 'phallocentric' politics (the privileging of the Name-of-the-Father as the safeguard against psychosis); and charts the 'subversion' of this economy by writing—firstly in its contestation by Jacques Derrida in the name of an ungovernable différance of writing, and subsequently (in the 1970s) in Lacan's own elaboration of a 'writing' which is increasingly associated with a 'real' incommensurable with the subject's truth. The final avatar of this real is Lacan's Borromean knot, which the thesis presents in order to show how it provides the basis for the reading of Joyce as sint home. Part III traces this reading, weaving it together with an account of the encounter between Joyce and psychoanalysis, both in the historical real and 'in theory' (chiefly, the encounter with Jung). The question of the author is reworked in terms of Lacan's notion of Joyce as a 'writing-being'; the 'death of the author' proposed by Roland Barthes is shown to elide precisely the central stake of Lacan's concept of writing: its non-metaphorical relation to the real. A translation of Lacan's seminar Le Sinthome (SXXIII, 1975-6) is given as an appendix to the thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86018
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Literature; Joycean Knot
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:25 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 01:47 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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