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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reading Eric Packer Through Baudrillard and the Double

Of all the prostheses that punctuate the history of the body, the double is doubtless the most ancient. The double, however, is not properly speaking a prosthesis at all. Rather it is an imaginary figure, like the soul, the shadow or the mirror image, which haunts the subject as his 'other', causing him to be himself while at the same time never seeming like himself. The double haunts the subject like a subtle death, a death forever being conjured away. Things are not always like this, however - for then the double materializes, when it becomes visible, it signifies imminent death. (The Transparency of Evil 113)

... the historical advent of the "soul" ... gives rise to another figure of the double, wending its diabolical way just beneath the surface of Western reason. Once again this figure has everything to do with the Western figure of alienation, and nothing to do with the primitive double. The telescoping of the two under the sign of psychology (conscious or unconscious) is only a misleading rewriting....Historically then, alienation begins with the internalization of the Master by the emancipated slave: there is no alienation as long as  the duel-relation of the master and slave lasts.

And this is where Eric Packer is when he didn't know what he wanted. Fretting over the yen and unable to sleep, Packer has internalized the Master and now Master and slave are one. This is the state most of us are in in our relation with the will.  Willing and resistance to willing.

The primitive has a non-alienated duel-relation with his double. He really can trade....with his shadow as with some original, living thing, in order to converse, protect and conciliate this...hostile shadow....it has a full part to play, and consequently is not an "alienated" part of the subject, but one of the figures of exchange. (Symbolic Exchange And Death 140-141)

The status of the double...in primitive society is therefore the inverse of our alienation...

With the internalization of the "soul" and consciousness... the subject undergoes a real confinement.... It is at this point that the primitive thought of the double  as continuity and exchange is lost, and the haunting double comes to the fore...." Whoever sees his double, sees his death." ...the double begins to prefigure the subject's death, haunting him in the very midst of his life. This is Dostoievsky's double,....Our entire culture is full of this haunting of the separated double, even in its most subtle form, as Freud gave it in "Das Unheimliche" ("The Uncanny: Disturbing Strangeness or Disturbing Familiarity"): the anxiety that wells up around the most familiar things. Here the "vertigo of separation" builds up to its greatest intensity, since this is its simplest form. There comes a moment in fact, when the things closest to us, such as our own bodies, the body itself, our voice and appearance, are separated from us to the precise extent that we internalize the soul.

By a final ruse of spirituality, this internalization also "psychologises" doubles. In fact it is interpretation in terms of an archaic "psychical apparatus" that is the very last form of the "Verteufelung", the demonic corruption and elimination of the primitive double:...(SEAD 142)

Much more to come.

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