Thanks to Thomas Elsaesser for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

1. “[A]n artistic product cannot be linked to its sociohistorical context according to a linear, expressive, direct causality (unless one falls into a reductionist historical determinism), [for] it has a complex, mediated, and decentered relationship with this context, which has to be rigorously specified (which is why it is simplistic to discard ‘classic’ Hollywood cinema on the pretext that since it is part of the capitalist system it can only reflect it)” (446). [return to text]

2. Within the context of the Cahiers reading of Young Mr. Lincoln, Law does not only designate legislation, but the Law of the father. In the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan (the main reference point for Althusser and the editors of Cahiers), the Law of the father more generally refers to the Symbolic order, the pre-established order of language and prescribed social rules, a shared code that confers upon each individual a normative subjectivity. In order to function socially, the individual needs to submit to the Symbolic/Law of the father and mediate desires through it. This includes sexual desire, which is mediated, structured, and controlled by the Oedipus complex. The Oedipus complex prohibits incest via castration and instead channels sexual desire outside the family.

3. Strictly speaking, no subject can “have” or “be” the phallus, since it is not an object but a signifier that circulates within the Symbolic.

4. The basic premise of Lacanian psychoanalysis is that everyday reality is incomplete, but is supplemented by fantasy, which gives rise to the impression of completeness.

“What does it mean, more precisely, to say that ideological fantasy structures reality itself? Let me explain by starting from the fundamental Lacanian thesis that in the opposition between dream and reality, fantasy is on the side of reality: it is, as Lacan once said, the support that gives consistency to what we call ‘reality’” (Zizek 1989, 44).

Works cited

Althusser, Louis, and Etienne Balibar. 1970. Reading Capital. Translated by Ben Brewster. London: NLB.

Dean, Tim. 2002. “Art as Symptom: Zizek and the Ethics of Psychoanalytic Criticism.” Diacritics, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer): 20-41.

Editors of Cahiers du Cinéma. 1986. “John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln.” In Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology. Edited by Philip Rosen, 444-482. New York: Columbia University Press.

Harvey, Sylvia. 1978. May ’68 and Film Culture. London: British Film Institute.

Rose, Jacqueline. 1982. “Introduction – II.” Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the Ecole Freudienne. Edited by Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, 27-57. London: Macmillan.

Zizek, Slavoj. 1989. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.

Zizek, Slavoj. 1992. Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. New York: Routledge.

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