Carry-on

He smiled, such a soft, smooth, diabolical smile that I knew there was some trick behind his smoothness. He said, “And your baggage?”

  • Count Dracula’s reaction to Jonathan Harker’s request to leave the castle
  • The main plot of Bram Stoker’s novel is too well known to be worth summarizing, but I enjoy the way the passage that begins with the above line illustrates the Count’s love of subtly intimidating his victims. After Harker expresses his desire to leave immediately, Dracula courteously leads him towards the front door. In the hall he stops. “Hark!”

    Close at hand came the howling of many wolves. It was almost as if the sound sprang up at the rising of his hand, just as the music of a great orchestra seems to leap under the baton of the conductor. After a pause of a moment, he proceeded, in his stately way, to the door, drew back the ponderous bolts, unhooked the heavy chains, and began to draw it open.

    Before the door was fully opened, Harker cried out, “Shut the door! I shall wait till morning.”

    Anyway, I’ll link to a copy of the novel here because it contains several good metaphors for the Lacanian idea of the “barred subject,” a category to which all speaking animals (humans), even the most powerful, belong:

    [T]here is no subject which is the agent of the [dialectical] process and suffers a loss; the subject is the outcome of a loss. This is what Lacan indicates by his notion of a “barred,” crossed-out, subject ($): the subject is not just thwarted, blocked, impeded, stigmatized by a constitutive impossibility; the subject is the result of its own failure, of the failure of its symbolic representation – a subject endeavors to express itself in a signifier, it fails, and the subject is this failure. This is what Lacan means by his deceivingly simple claim that, ultimately, a subject is what is not an object – every hysteric knows this well, since the hysterical question is: what for[m of] object am I for the Other? What does the Other desire [of] me? In other words, the primordial lost object of desire is the subject itself.

    The novel also has good lines to characterize current events, lines such as:

    There are certainly odd deficiencies in the house, considering the extraordinary evidences of wealth which are round me.

    As well as passages that could commemorate a recent anniversary:

    Why, there is hardly a foot of soil in all this region that has not been enriched by the blood of men, patriots or invaders. In the old days there were stirring times, when the Austrian and the Hungarian came up in hordes, and the patriots went out to meet them, men and women, the aged and the children too, and waited their coming on the rocks above the passes, that they might sweep destruction on them with their artificial avalanches. When the invader was triumphant he found but little, for whatever there was had been sheltered in the friendly soil.”

    Something to chew on (sorry.)

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    2 thoughts on “Carry-on

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