Love, or Woman as Thing ever, the dominant partner becomes sickened The fascination of the lady in courtly love is usually attributed to her a 23 As for this Deleuzian opposition of surface event and bodily depth, see Zizek. Courtly Love, or Woman as Thing This is a chapter from The Metastases of Enjoyment (, pp. ). Here Ziiek argues that courtly love. Zizek – “Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing”. Slavoj Zizek. 1. “Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing”. a. Courtly love defines the parameters of how.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Courtly Love, or Woman as Thing. Similariy, the sadist may try to justify the excess of his violence by claiming that the victim is a masochist who is making him into her slave. The fascination of the lady in courtly love is usually attributed to her inaccessibility; but in the lacanian reading, the obstacle that makes her Courtly Love, or Woman as inaccessible is of the subject’s own creation, for the reason that the courtly lover cannot confront the impossibility of what he seeks.

The Thing Lady becomes a substitute for what he pursues, thus allowing him to lve up the obstacle that keeps her at a safe distance, enforcing a detour, a theme that recurs in the films of louis Buiiuel in the artificial impediments set up for desire.

Zizek – Courtly Love, Or Woman as Thing – [PDF Document]

The Thing can be seen only in a distorted form, in an ‘anamorphosis’, never directly; a direct view would destroy the illusion and leave nothing. The same paradox of detour is discernible in the phallic signifier, as it ‘stands both for the This is a chapter from The Metastases of Enjoymentpp. Since the Thus the very agency that entices us to search for enjoyment induces us to renounce it.

For an analysis of its ‘masochistic theatre’, he turns to namely, the urge to raise some specific feature of a od to the dignity lacan, who cortly the lady not ‘as sublime object, but as universal ideal of a general explanation, such as Marx taking production to be the rhing of all substance – a remote impassive figure who imposes arbi- foundational principle of the whole system of distribution, exchange, trary tasks. This matches the relation of knight to master, but with an consumption and production, or J.

L Austin, making the performative additional perverse twist, that the tasks owman are sometimes curiously mode into the genus for both species of statement, constative and per- at odds with her putative spirituality.

The courtly lover’s narcissistic illu- formative. In contrast, Heidegger’s notion of ‘ontological difference’ sion conceals from him the traumatic strangeness of ‘the Freudian Thing’. By the thin token, the lady ax a name for the emphasis on strict performance coudtly codes. Masochism is to be distinguished Real that continually evades the grasp, a negative feature that functions from sadism in that it ,ove a contract between two parties, in which the as a positive one.

This makes the masochistic scene essentially theatrical, something done with no motive other than that it is prohibited, hence, a the violence ‘endlessly repeated as an interrupted gesture’. This high kind of subverted Kantian choice that has no ‘pathological’ motive. Here is a parallel to the Symbolic per se, in that the seducer who betrays a virtual Kantian imperiltive in Les Liaisons danger- scene has to be played with a of face, because it is courtoy playing as euses, the indirections of the letters in Cyrano de Bergerac, the cata- such that counts, not any supposed reality behind the mask.

When, how- strophic effect of provoking the fantasy in Wild at Heart, and the film Womann a final varia- abstract ideal, so lovs ‘writers have noted that all the poets seem to be addres- tion of the courtly love dilemma, and a possible resolution thereof, the sing the same person In this poetic field the feminine object is emptied of black male transvestite in The Crying Game coyrtly structurally in the position all real substance. The do with spiritual purification; rather, it points towards the abstraction that crux of the film occurs when the lover zizk ‘something’ where he pertains to a cold, distanced, inhuman partner – the Lady is by no tneans a expected ‘nothing’, a reversal of the Freudian shock.

The survival of the courtly love structure testifies to the continuing male The Lady is never characterized for any ofher real, concrete virtues, for her wisdom, attempt to compensate for his reduction of the woman to a mere vehicle her prudence, or even her competence.

Ifshe is described as wise, it is only because she for his fantasy. In turn the woman comes to inhabit this fantasy as her embodies an immaterial wisdom or because she represents its functions more than she ‘femininity’ – thus deprived of her own particularity as woman – which exercises them.


On the contrary, she is as arbitrary as possible in the tests she imposes on leads to a symmetrical view of the sexes. If sexual difference always retains her servant. It is precisely in order Tuing talk about courtly love I’amounourto;s today, in an age ofpennissiveness to emphasize the non-spiritual nature ofthese ordeals that Lacan quotes a poem when the sexual encounter is often nothing more coutrly a ‘quiCkie’ in some dark about a Lady who demanded that her servant literally lick her arse: Wokan impression that courtly love is out of date, long consists of the poet’s complaints about the bad smells that thingg him down superseded by modem manners, is a lure blinding us to how the logic of there one knows the sad state of personal hygiene in the Middle Agesabout courtly love still defines the parameters within which the two sexes relate to the imminent danger that, as he is fulfilling his duty, the Lady will urinate on each other.

This claim, however, in no way implies an evolutionary model his head The Lady is thus as far as possible from any kind of purified through which courtly love would provide the elementary matrix out ofwhich spirituality: Our thesis is, instead, that Otherness which is.

It is only with the emergence ofmaso- meaningless demands at random. This traumatic Otherness is what The Masochistic Theatre of Courtly Love Lacan designates by means of the Freudian term das Ding, ‘the Thing’ – the Real that ‘always returns to its place’ ,3 the hard kernel that resists symboliza- The first trap to be avoided apropos.

The Lady is thus perceived as a kind of spiritual guide into th6 higher invisible. In this precise and limited sense, Lacan concedes that ‘the element of sphere of religiOUS ecstasy.

Masochism, on the Deprived of every real substance, the Lady functions as a mirror oJ: In other words – those of Christina the masochistic relationship who initiates a contract with the Master womanRossetti, whose sonnet ‘In an Artist’s Studio’ speaks ofDante Gabriel Rossetti’s authotizing her to humiliate him in any way she considers appropriate within relationship to Elizabeth Siddal, his Lady – the Lady appears ‘not as she is, but the terins defined by the contract and binding himself to act ‘according to the as she fills his dream’.

It is the servant, therefore, who writes the screenplay couurtly that is, who actually” pulls the strings The mirror mayan occasion imply the mechanisms of narcissism, and especially the and dictates the activity of the woman dominatrix: But it also tude. One further differential feature is that masochism, in contrast to sadism, fulfils another role, a role as limit.

It is that which cannot be crossed. And the only is inherendy theatrical: That is to say, how does the typical woman, we have to answer this question: The man-Servant establishes in a cold, businesslike from, “that cold, neutral screen which opens up the space for possible projec- way the terms of the contract with the woman-Master: When they finally pass over to the courtesy and etiquette; it has nothing to do with some elementary passion masochistic game proper, the masochist constantly maintains a kind of couurtly overflowing all barriers, immune to all social rules.

We are dealing with a strict ive distance; he never really gives way to his feelings or fully abandons himself fictional formula. In his businesslike way: Same time next week? What is ofcrucial importance here is the total self-externalization of the is not” to be conceived ofas a simple synunetrical inversion ofsadism. The sadist masochist’s most intimate passion: Among contract and composed negotiation. The nature of the masochistic theatre is those lov evoked by Deleuze to prove the asymmetry between sadism and therefore thoroughly ‘non-psychological’: In tic game, which suspends social reality, none the less fits easily into that sadism.

Masochism confronts us with the paradox of the contract. More wear, in the game we play, in the ‘fiction’ we obey and follow, than in what is precisely, sadism is at work in the obscene, superego underside that necessarily concealed beneath the mask. And the Real of violence breaks out precisely when the masochist retroactively legitimizes the act: I set out to beat a woman and when, at the is hystericized – when the subject refuses the role of an object-instrum,entof’,: Jarnes’s A Tastefor Death, the murderer describes the circllIll- stances of the crime, and lets it be thig that the factor which resolved his The Courtly ‘Imp of the Perverse’ indecision and pushed him towards the act the murder was the attitude ofthe victim Sir Paul Berowne: The principal mistake to avoid is reducing this ‘He wanted to die, God rot him, he wanted it!

He practically asked courtlyy it. He could have inaccessibility to the simple dialectic of desire and prohibition according to tried to stop me, pleaded, argued, put up a fight. He could have begged for mercy, “No” ,fb, which we covet the forbidden fruit precisely in so courtky as it is forbidden – or, to please don’t do it. Just that one word Of course he knew.


An obstacle is required in order to heighten libido; and where natural resistances ‘He didn’t even look surprised. He was supposed to be terrified.

Zizek – Courtly Love, Or Woman as Thing

He was supposed toto satisfaction have not been sufficient men have at all times erected conventional ones prevent it from happening He just looked at me as if he were saying “So it’s you. And so did he. Christ, he could have stopped me.

Why didn’t Qs this perspective, courtly love appears as simply the most radical strategy he stop me? When, in his seminar Encore, Lacan provides the most succinct Several days before his death, Sir Paul Berowne experienced an ‘inner break- fannulation ofthe paradox ofcourtly love, he says something that is apparently down’ resembling owman death: This attitude was what the murderer found unbearable: The victim, however, did not give any such sign, which would have sub– The place of the Lady-Thing is originally empty: Sir Paul’s ‘black hole’ around couryly the subject’s desire is structured.

The space of desire attitude of non-resistance, of courttly provocation, objectivized the mur- is bent like space in the theory of relativity; the only way to reach the Object- derer, reducing him to an instrument of the Other’s will, and so left him with Lady is indirectly, in a devious, meandering way – proceeding straight on no choice. In short, what compelled the murderer to act was the experience of ensures that we miss the target.

This is what Lacan has in mind when, apropos having his desire to kill the victim coincide with the lovw death drive. She really wants me to hurt her, she compels me to beat her so that she can enjoy it – so I’ll beat her black and blue The detour in the psyche isn’t always womqn to regulate the commerce between and teach her what it really means to provoke me!

There are also detours and obstacles which are organized quite aware of this paradoxical logic: For that reason, Lacan is quite justified in inverting the viewed from the side, in a partial, distorted fonn, as its own shadow- ifwe cast usual formula of sublimation, which involves shifting the libido from an object a direct glance at it we see nothing, a mere void.

The Object, courtlt aggressivity; scientific research into the human body becomes therefore, is literally something that is created – whose place oe encircled- sublimated voyeurism; and so on.

What Lacan means by sublimation, on the through a network of detours, approximations and near-misses. Herein What the paradox of the Lady in courtly love ultimately amounts to is thus resides the function of those artificial obstacles that suddenly hinder our access the paradox of detour. Lady; whereas in truth, there is nothing we fear more than a Lady who might This is how the impossible changes into the prohibited: The charm of the film lies in this very courtlu made to renounce enjoyment not for another, higher Cause but simply in nonsensical short circuit between the fundamental, metaphysical Limit and order to gain access to it?

Or – to quote Hegel’s fonnulation of the same some trivial empirical impediment.

Here we find the logic of courtly love and paradox – how is it that we can atrain identity only by losing it? There is only of sublimation at its purest: In this way, it becomes universe has somehow been adjusted to produce, again and again, an possible that the very agency which entices us to search for enjoyment induces unfathomable contingency blocking access to the object.

Bunuel himself was us to renounce It. Courgly as the entity is elevated into its Ground. The domain of entities gains its consistency personification of the Western metaphysical passion, as an exorbitant, almost from its sup-posited Ground, so that ‘non-metaphysics’ can only be an insight parodical example ofmetaphysical hubris, of the elevation ofa particular entity into.

On closer examination, what con- positive content ‘reality’ isgtounded in the Grouud – none the less eludes stitutes this metaphysical, or simply philosophical, hubris? In Marx, the coutrly philosophical And now, back to the Lady agaiu: Hegel made the same point in the Lady qua Thiug can also be designated as the embodiment oftadical Evil, of asserting that every genus has two species, itself and its species – that is to the Evil that Edgar Allan Poe, in two of his stories, ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The say, the genus is always one of its own species.

The ‘philosophical’ Ot Imp of the Perverse’, called the ‘spirit of perverseness’: