This chapter concerns what Lacan calls the Real and its relationship with the inner truth of Antigone. Like God, the sublime, alcohol, and the unconscious, the Real is Janus‐faced, with both a creative and a destructive dimension. Negatively speaking, it signifies the jouissance which the death drive persuades us to derive from the process of our own dismemberment. In effect, Lacan remarks of Antigone that she has been declaring from the outset ‘I am dead and desire death’—and tragedy, one might add, is above all the art‐form that investigates the problematic relation of humanity to its own mortality, and thus in Heideggerian style to its own essential being. But there is also a positive aspect of the Real—a way of plugging into this lethal drive which can carry us beyond the fudges of the so‐called symbolic order, the domain of conventional morality, law and social consensus, into some far‐flung outpost of being where one is in a sense both alive and dead, and where one manifests the kind of purity or integrity of selfhood which Lacan so admires in Antigone. The avatars of the Real are those who stay faithful against all the moral and political odds to the desire which makes them what they are—which is to say, in Lacanian terms, to the lack which makes them what they are, and therefore—since this lack prefigures the absolute absence which is death—to their own morality.
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