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Hodge, J. (1999). The Agency of the Anus in the Letter or Reason Since Freud. Am. Imago, 56(2):145-180.

(1999). American Imago, 56(2):145-180

The Agency of the Anus in the Letter or Reason Since Freud

Jon Hodge

An old phantasy of mine, which I should like to recommend to your linguistic penetration, deals with the derivation of our verbs from originally copro-eroticterms.

I can scarcely enumerate for you all the things that I (a new Midas) turn into—excrement.… This is quite crazy, but it is entirely analogous to the process by which words take on a transferred meaning as soon as new concepts appear which call for denotation.… (Freud 1950, 273)


Although Freud discusses how the anal stage prefigures genital organization and how genital organization, itself, is coterminous with the subject's entry into language, he rarely recognizes the syllogistic byproduct of these two premises, a conclusion that, if pursued, would enable a discussion of the anal stage's relation to language. In general, Freud's theories of the anal stage do not found or explicate psychoanalytic theories of linguistic signification; as Lacan will remind us “the phallus is the privileged signifier” (1977, 287) for it is both the signified and the signifier of the symbolic, a governing sovereign in need of no anal viceroy. Thus, when images associated with the anus enter Freud's meditation on language, they are denounced, as exemplified in the above epigraph, as unreal or absurd. The notion of an “old phantasy” that finds etymology in excrement quickly becomes analogous to a “quite crazy” notion of how words develop a transferred meaning.

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