Wednesday 12 March, 4pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T
Monika Loewy, Goldsmiths
“The Problem with Unity: Body Identity Integrity Disorder, The Phantom Limb and Maurice Blanchot”
Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID) is a condition in which a person desires to amputate a limb because she feels that it does not belong to her body. A phantom limb can be identified when someone who loses a limb feels as though she still has one, which causes her pain. Together, the phantom limb and BIID syndromes foreground examples of individuals who cling to fictional concepts of wholeness as a result of their perceived incompleteness. This paper connects these situations to an idea central to poststructuralist thought: that language is composed of false images of unity that hide its negation, the eternal referent. The paper explores this relationship through the writings of Maurice Blanchot, arguing for a conceptual framework through which language can be seen as a physical and mental coping mechanism – a compensatory system that offers a tentative ‘presence’ to the unknown or the absent signified. Developing these thoughts through Blanchot’s essay “Orpheus’s Gaze” (1982), it is argued that like the text and the limb sufferers, Orpheus lives in a broken body that is both present and absent at once, implicating the referential structures of language in (traumatic) encounter with the physical body.
NOTE: This seminar was originally due to take place in February but had to be rescheduled due to the tube strike. Apologies again for the inconvenience.
The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture
University of Westminster Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW. United Kingdom.