As David Leavitt once revealed in an interview, his novel The Lost Language of Cranes is based in part on a case study by the Lacanian psychiatrist, François Péraldi. Treating an abandoned child arrested at the prelinguistic or mirror stage, the psychiatrist tried to introduce a father figure to supplement the boy's attachment to a female teacher, but was rejected. Péraldi's write-up, departing somewhat from Lacanian orthodoxy, “foregrounds the neurotic mechanisms in the institution of the symbolic order,” and these kinds of mechanisms, according to Jon Harned, are the operative principles—or conflicts—in Leavitt's novel.
The main character, Philip, at first lives in the oedipal triangle formed by his parents, Rose and Owen, who have assuaged their guilt at rejecting their fathers by marriage and obedience to each other. But Philip's awareness of his homosexuality
- 847 -
at puberty precipitates a crisis, as the family's symbolic order collapses upon Rose's unfulfilled lust and Owen's own latent homosexuality. In the end, both in the novel and in the world at large, Freudian and Lacanian views of the individual, as predicated on schisms and lack, may prove more useful to current gender studies than many feminists' assumption of unified wholes. As Harned notes: “Like Lacan, Leavitt recognizes that the moment when the window becomes a mirror defines what we love and who we are, yet it also constitutes love as an insatiable demand, an alienation of the self in the other.”
- 848 -
Galef, D. (1996). South Central Review, XI, iv, 1994. Pp. 40-53.. Psychoanal. Q., 65:847-848