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Wilson, M. (1986). “and let me go on” Tristram Shandy, Lacanian Theory, and the Dialectic of Desire. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 9(3):335-372.

(1986). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 9(3):335-372

“and let me go on” Tristram Shandy, Lacanian Theory, and the Dialectic of Desire

Mitchell Wilson, M.D.

Speech as comedy: a “fundamental failure” of action in order to return to the desire which resides there, a ceaseless fading of the object, a scorn for knowledge, an ambiguity of meaning in witty words, mutual misunderstandings among the characters on stage. Lacan the actor pulls out all the gimmicks through which a theory of desire unfolds. The use of these classic tricks and the secret of the theory mold the same gestures and the same cuteness. What takes place there is something like the laugh provoked by the undefined misfiring of the action and of the things themselves. Such a smile appeared on the faces of gods who were not tricked. But, in order to become human, Lacan identifies himself with the “tragic dimension” of the “being-for-death.” For him, the art of laughing is an art of dying. This art is constantly reborn from the impossibility which brought it forth. It is even haunted by a fury against those presences whose quiet stability hides their destiny of disappearing in order to nourish desire.

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