Paternal metaphor

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paternal metaphor (French: métaphore paternelle)

Paternity and Metaphor

When, in 1956, Lacan first begins to discuss the tropes of metaphor and metonymy in detail, the example he takes to illustrate the structure of metaphor is a line from Victor Hugo's poem, Booz endormi.[1]

This poem retells the biblical story of Ruth and Boaz; while Ruth sleeps at his feet, Boaz dreams that a tree grows out of his stomach, a revelation that he is to be the founder of a race.

In the line which Lacan quotes - "His sheaf was neither miserly nor spiteful" - the metaphoric substitution of "sheaf" for "Boaz" produces a poetic effect of signification.[2]

Paternity is thus both the theme of the poem (its content) and also inherent in the structure of metaphor itself.

All paternity involves metaphoric substitution, and vice versa.

Paternal Metaphor

The phrase 'paternal metaphor' is introduced by Lacan in 1957.[3]

In 1958, he goes on to elaborate the structure of this metaphor; it involves the substitution of one signifier (the Name-of-the-Father) for another (the desire of the mother).[4]

The paternal metaphor thus designates the metaphorical (i.e. substitutive) character of the oedipus complex itself.

It is the fundamental metaphor on which all signification depends: for this reason, all signification is phallic.

If the Name-of-the-Father is foreclosed (i.e. in psychosis), there can be no paternal metaphor, and hence no phallic signification.

See Also

References

  1. Hugo, 1859-83: 97-9
  2. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.218-25; Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.377-8; Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.156-8; Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.158-9
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.379
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.200