Sunday, July 5, 2015


..."What Gilles Deleuze and FĂ©lix Guattari have called deterritorialization...A text which uses conventional forms in a conventional way is territorialized, it embodies the majority discourse and reflects the obtaining ideology of the society from which it springs. This is the case with most forms of popular narrative even though they may reflect that ideology from an oppositional standpoint."

from: Marie Maclean, Narrative Performance: The Baudelairean Experiment, Routledge, New York, 1988, p 45. 

     Is the idea of Capitalist Realism a commentary of the concept of territorialization, or is territorialization a means of approaching Capitalist Realism?

Capitalist Realism: Narrative Structure and "The Frame of Fantasy"

by Annette Descantes and Jean-Pierre Goric
(As usual, interventionist quotations and notes by A.D.)

     "The properly philosophical dimension of the study of the post-traumatic subject resides in this recognition that what appears as the brutal destruction of the subject's very (narrative) substantial identity is the moment of its birth. The post-traumatic autistic subject is 'living proof' that the subject cannot be identified (or does not fully overlap) with 'stories it is telling itself about itself,' with the narrative symbolic texture of its life: when we take all this away, something (or, rather, nothing, but a form of nothing) remains, and this something is the pure subject."
Slavoj Zizek, Event, Melville House, Brooklyn, 2014, p 86

1. Narrative, Determinism, and The Primary or Original Cause

–What can be said to structure, to frame the way we perceive and relate to reality? We have to bear in mind that there is no opposition fantasy/reality: reality is not to be seen as an unproblematic given in which there is a single objectively correct way of perceiving, but as something which is itself discursively produced.

–So both fantasy and reality are produced in the same way, they are produced discursively,– they are products of human relations founded on language.

–They have different functions: Fantasy is the imaginary scenario that, by means of its fascinating presence, veils the lack or inconsistency in the Other (as symbolic agency); it serves to hide the inconsistency of the symbolic order, and marks the fundamental impossibility in the very act of symbolization; it is the ultimate support of our 'sense of reality' (using an analogy from film, the blank space between the frames of a film is analogous to the ever-threatening Real over which we project our narcissistic fantasy of 'reality'); it constitutes our desires, indeed, teaching us how to desire. It is a structure that we, as subjects of lack, are trapped in.

    "The crucial point here is that fantasy does not dissimulate reality: rather, fantasy serves as the screen which enables us to confront the Real, as such, fantasy is on the side of reality, it guarantees the distance between (symbolically structured) reality and the horrifying Real."
Slavoj Zizek, 'From Desire to Drive–Why Lacan is Not Lacanian' 

–'Fantasy,' as a way of defending oneself against symbolic castration, that is, against the lack or inconsistency in the Other (as symbolic agency, hence it is tacitly related to the primary/original cause-God),  is always 'an image set to work in a signifying structure.' And we can understand symbolic castration by understanding that we desire not because we are programmed to do so but because the objects that satisfy are continually lost, taken away (just as there can be no full identity because we are structured as lack, not in relation to an object but in relation to a lack): the Real cuts into imaginary illusions of wholeness, consistency, etc.  

    "The distortion evident in the fantasy marks it as a compromise formation; the fantasy is thus both that which enables the subject to sustain his desire, and 'that by which the subject sustains himself at the level of his vanishing desire."
Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, (available online), p 61

–'Reality' denotes subjective representations which are a product of symbolic and imaginary articulations, a 'grimace of the (unknowable and unassimilable) Real,' which it stands in opposition to. Ideology is not an escape from reality but offers us social reality as an escape from some traumatic Real.
–If the Real is complete and undifferentiated (homogeneous, 'without fissure'), it is the symbolic which cuts this up in the process of signification–it is thus the symbolic, the process of signification which produces 'reality' for us, from these bits, these morsels of the Real.
     "As soon as we take into account that it is precisely and only in dreams that we encounter the real of our desire, the whole accent radically shifts: our common everyday reality, the reality of the social universe in which we assume our usual roles of kind-hearted, decent people, turns out to be an illusion that rests on a certain "repression," an overlooking the real of our desire. This social reality is then nothing but a fragile, symbolic cobweb that can at any moment be torn aside by an intrusion of the real."
Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1991, p 17

–Reality is a 'story we tell ourselves about ourselves,' and is constructed in order to protect ourselves from our desires, it is made of ideological fantasies and is merely a semblance of the Real. It originates in 'reality testing,' when the child, the subject, differentiates between the hallucinatory object and the real object.

–The stories that you tell yourself (and everytime you tell yourself these stories you create the traces which allow you to believe them)– this is how you produce your reality, these stories made out of social conventions– the template you use, the meaning you take as your own you actually get from others: it circulates freely, you have to take it as your own– this is Capitalist Realism. It's the job of literature to stand in front of you everyday and tell you that you are not the stories you tell yourself (about yourself).

–This is how you produce your reality, and you do so by, in fact, using a template or templates provided by the society you live in, which make up the societal reality/mythos; this template that you employ to produce your reality is not, in short, unique to you but is borrowed (this can be referred to as social conventions or ideological fantasies): you take your meaning from others, from the world.

–In our case this production of our realities can be referred to as Capitalist Realism– the conventions, the templates you employ reflect the structures and needs of our Western, U.S. society; in this sense 'the stories you tell yourself about yourself' are a fundamental version of what your society requires of you, in our case what we refer to as Capitalist Realism. They (these realities) are created using the conventions provided by your society. Capitalist Realism is a compelled form, not an original one; it is a form compelled by social and economic forces. You copy reality with and for the likes of Capitalist Reality.

–Reality is based on pleasure, "we make reality out of pleasure."
     "The substitution of the reality principle for the pleasure principle implies no deposing of the pleasure principle, but only a safe-guarding of it." 
Freud SE XII, 223/ An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, p 164

–As desire is sustained by fantasy, logic dictates that desire is as well produced discursively, by the symbolic: desire is not a relation to an object, but to a lack, and derives from the unconscious. Nevertheless, desire is a social product.

–In this way we can say that desire is constructed and produced in and through the symbolic, through language, is indeed sustained by it, as it is sustained by fantasy, and that the laws of language, metonymy and metaphor, determine what you choose to represent yourself; you are being taught how (not what) to desire by this discursive structure. For instance you are being taught how to desire by a narrative structure which posits a narrator as ego-ideal (and, as with God, represents the desire to speak, to be unary), you are being taught how to desire to be an I in relation to such an ego-ideal, which anticipates your secondary identifications as ideal-ego, not to be or think of yourself as a de-centered or fragmented subject but as an illusory, unified subject, not a subject of the unconscious (desire always originates in the unconscious) but an egocentric subject desiring mirrored and mirroring objects/persons-positions that are representations of your ego. Desire is a social product, desire is not the private affair it appears to be but is always constituted in a dialectical relationship with the perceived desires of other subjects. Likewise, narrative structure is a representation of psycho-social structure.

    "…the grounding of being or identity in a place–or a where–is an illusory exercise. We are grounded, rather…in the spurious Imaginary consistency of an unconscious ideal ego; in the fixity of traumatic inscriptions; in the language upon which we draw to represent ourselves as (desiring) subjects to others."
Ellie Ragland, "Lacan's Topological Unit And The Structure Of Mind" (found in Lacan: Topologically Speaking, Other Press, New York, 2004, p 53)

–Bear in mind that your socio-economic order (in our case, capitalism) needs and, in part, requires this.

–This results in your inability to see a text if there are no representations for/of your ego.

–If you can only see what represents you, you are blind to the text; this constitutes a kind of autism.

–Traversing the fantasy means to mutate your desire, to reset your fantasies, which more than likely will involve anxiety.

–So prose, narrative prose, as it is practiced in our society, in our social practice (all aspects of narrative are artificial, discursive) is wittingly or unwittingly in league with a social order (founded discursively on comprehension and continuity) to maintain a particular conception of subjectivity and a certain imaginary consistency, along with illusions of continuity, a linear logic reflecting the assumptive belief that this socio-economic order will continue to expand and grow indefinitely; just as reality is a repressing of desire in a network or cradle of continuity and consistency, this reality of continuity and consistency is a screen which functions to keep the Real of our desire at bay: it can be rent at any moment, and the Real that rends it is the source of trauma when it does.

   "Most people protect themselves from the Real by identifying with what is predominantly valued by the Symbolic/Imaginary knowledge of their local (universal) cultural context. In their way individuals need not address the specificity of their symptoms. They merely "mouth" the conventions of the masquerade in play."
Ellie Ragland, "Lacan's Topological Unit And The Structure Of Mind", p 63
–The stories that we tell ourselves, personally and socially: memories, those stories that we tell ourselves and each other over and over again don't exist to be accurate records or accounts of the past, it's more like the telephone game with yourself, but exist to allow you to enjoy the illusion of coherence and continuity, to enjoy a consistent identity, and hence to be a part of society, which, based on comprehension, needs coherence and continuity, and consistent identities (hence the importance of hysteria as a radical questioning of the symbolic mandate, of symbolic identity). And again, everytime you recite these stories, telling them to yourself and/or others, you create the traces that allow you to believe them.

2. Narrative And The Frame Of Fantasy

–How is the frame of fantasy constituted? Does narrative structure constitute and function as a frame of fantasy? As a way of organizing fantasy and desire?

–If narrative is an imaginary means for relating events, actors and actions, in time, the narrator is that symbolic agency which facilitates this.

–So, in an analogous manner, we can associate the narrator (whether it is trustworthy or not) with the ego-ideal, as Other (whether it lacks or not); this is the signifier operating as ideal, as an internalized plan of the law, a symbolic interjection, the guide governing the subject's position in the symbolic order, and hence it anticipates secondary (Oedipal) identification. It is the fantasized Other's gaze, the point of symbolic identification– this has to be presupposed– an ideal structure of differences, like a superposition in the quantum sense. This is to be related to God, the Other, as symbolic agency, and as such represents the desire to speak, to accede to language: God is the primary or original cause.

–In an equally analogous manner, we can associate the character or characters with the ideal-ego, as other, as mirror images, as the point and figures of imaginary identification. It originates in the specular image of the mirror stage, it is a promise of future synthesis towards which the ego tends, the illusion of unity on which the ego is built. The ideal-ego always accompanies the ego, as an ever-present attempt to regain the omnipotence of the pre-oedipal dual relation prior to loss/lack, that is, prior to symbolic castration.

–The fantasies of coherence, continuity, consistency, these illusions are what narrative is based on and inscribe, these are all based on causality/determinism. Determinism is a representation of coherence, consistency, and continuity: these are illusions, and the novels which employ such a conception of reality are like pamphlets from a society invoking a flat earth.

–Keep in mind that nature is not continuous but exists in discrete packets or quanta.

–Narrative invariably implies and implicates you in determinism– this illusion can be avoided by using alternate modes of assemblage (narrative is just a mode of assemblage), such as repetition, serial form, contingency, and chance.

–Consider how your life is structured and is played out on a daily basis–repetition is the dominant characteristic.

–Consider how you perceive the world as you move through it–contingency is the dominant characteristic/mode.

–Narrative involves pattern-finding, which can and will be accomplished no matter what, and has to do with identity.

–Open up any best-seller, any example of standard prose, from romance to literary fiction, and what do you encounter? You encounter a discourse of action(s), a verb-based universe, and verbs unlike nouns, are time inclusive and sensitive, and involve causality). Dialogue is deterministic as well.

–So as a result you are implicated, by and through narrative, in a universe of causality, a deterministic universe, false as it is, with God as original cause. This is no longer an adequate way of thinking–physicists now are as a rule indeterministic. We live in a universe founded on chance (probability) and contingency, and it is easy to see that our lives are structured first and foremost by repetition.

–Descriptive prose in the sense of describing actions (and to describe, to represent what a person does or says is to implicate determinism) is to be contrasted with attempts to describe subjective states (for instance, stream of consciousness is associative, based on contingency), and subjective development (to describe, to represent subjective growth or the ability to speak), that is, with any attempt to represent how we come about as sexed, speaking subjects. for us and our way of thinking the only interesting story is the story of the enunciation.

–This is an inescapable conceptual implication, this is the conceptual framework of standard prose–We must traverse the fantasy that it is– (Capitalist Realism as fantasy based on the concept of the subject as unary, unitary, i.e. ego-centric, as a 'full identity,' an identity not structured by lack. Keep in mind that any identity or self that is believed to be true or authentic only ever functions as a representation of authority).

–Capitalist Realism as a template, as a compelled form, one you are compelled (by social, economic forces, by the need to avoid the Real) to copy, this is the frame of fantasy, the very form of the prose functions as the frame of fantasy; it is how ideology produces a conceptual template. This is why such prose always has a paint-by-the-numbers quality about it; it pre-exists, you merely color it in, trying to stay inside the lines.

–Capitalist Realism, as the frame of fantasy, structures the way we conceive and relate to that product of discourse, reality.
     "Fantasy is not the opposite of reality: it is what plugs the void in our being so that the set of fictions we call reality are able to emerge."
Terry Eagleton, Enjoy!, London Review of Books, 27 November 1997
–Which serves to structure desire, to give it shape in the social and cultural context of capitalism.

–So what is the ideology of Capitalist Realism? It can be said to consist of determinism, a universe of continuity, consistency, and coherence; a unary, self-identical subject, ego-centrism (no multi-faceted subject of the unconscious), linear time (based on duration, the time of manufacturing). When in fact you are a de-centered subject of the unconscious possessing multiple characteristics in an indeterministic universe, defined by repetition, and how such repetition is broken up by the symbolic, or signification.

–What is the illusion or fantasy of Capitalist Realism? It has to do with the ego, that you are this I and the stories and memories it tells and identifies with, this ego, this unary, unified, unitary, self-identical, self-aware and full subject and not a de-centered, fragmented, multiplicity. As though you were spoken by and created whole by God or based on an image of God, an ego-ideal.

–With that in mind, what are the hallmarks of Capitalist Realist Style? Essentially a descriptive, journalistic style, consisting of stripped-down, spoken language, 'the voice' of the author expressed through the narrator-character, the story (remember that journalists tell stories), plot, narrative, continuity. When in fact you are not the stories you tell yourself (about yourself).

–Think of "the voice" as a characteristic quality of Capitalist Realism; here it is rewarding to recall the beginnings of such a quality in American literature. This has its beginnings in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"; as Hemingway famously remarked, this is the beginning of American literature. Just as Tolstoy and his realism are considered to be the father of Socialist Realism, Twain and his journalistic-realist style is the father of Capitalist Realism. Keep in mind that this journalistic style is assumed to be natural and 'realistic', and has evolved into the present-day memoir form.

–Let's use Three voiced periods by Reid Matko as a counterpoint to contrast with the journalistic style generally employed. Matko uses repetition as his general mode of assemblage, but it's what he does to this repetition that is interesting. He uses the physical reality of the line and the page to cut this repetition up into morsels–"each line is an equation" as he has remarked. In this way he represents what the symbolic does to the real, cutting it up in the process of signification–this process is what produces reality for us, out of morsels of the Real.

Three voiced periods is the record of, to quote Matko, the minimal (symbolic) events which act to constitute subjectivity; that is, the dramatic representation of these events, which Matko has referred to as either visions or psychotic episodes, as experienced.

–The first 'period' represents the breaking, the cleaving of the mother-child dyad: lying in a bed hypnotized by the full moon, a presence appears from the right and breaks this attachment-relation. This is repeated with every line just as it is repeated in myriad ways throughout the life of the subject, and has a tacit association with the gaze.

–The second is the experience of what Matko refers to as 'the body of light,' clearly standing for the gestalt encountered by the child in the mirror, making a whole out of a body of pulsing and unconnected parts. This is how bodily sense and control begins, it is also a primordial representation of the ego (also with a tacit relation to the gaze).

–The third is the experience of language (and images) as being of an order other than nature, as being Other, as taking place outside, and having its own force.

–Now how does an attempt at such a fundamental drama compare with the journalistic story-telling style preferred by nearly all writers today? It attempts to use language and literature as an explorative means for examining our fundamental constitution as sexed, speaking subjects. It's not describing events and characters in a causal field. I don't think the contrast could be any clearer. There isn't even one single I in Three voiced periods; it is pre-I, so It is invoked and speaks. Three voiced periods attempts to pry apart and reveal the inner fundamental workings constitutive of (symbolic) subjectivity.

–Journalistic-memoir style tells the stories that the subject takes herself to be but is never identical with. But by telling them over and over again is created the ability to believe them. It is imaginary in character and contents itself with a non-discursive conception of reality, one which mirrors the Real. It is based on a concept of the signifier as referring to a signified, an imaginary conception, and purports to represent reality, in the form of 'realism.' It is a frame of fantasy, a template based on misconceptions, in short consciousness based and ego-centric. The voice, the character, the plot, the ego are all emphasized and highlighted. Three voiced periods is a record of another scene behind consciousness but which is necessary to conscious subjectivity.

–We want to envisage and produce the quantization of the human subject, describing subjective states and experiences with serial form, chance, contingent relations and events; where each individual occupies a 'superposition,' possessing multiple characteristics, multiple genders even. And we envision this project, a hysterization of the subject, being carried out by literature.

–The ego resists literature, which resists the illusory qualities of consistency, etc. The ego resists that which threatens its (imaginary) consistency, i.e. its pleasure, which creates its reality.

3. Traversing The Fantasy

–You are not just an I constituted in relation to an ego-ideal or an Other: this identification is how you protect yourself from lack–you are all of the grammatical figures at once, you are all of the figures you could identify with; it's your unconscious determinations, your 'traumatic fixations', which choose and reject for you. The gateway to start to traverse the fantasy is to start considering yourself to be all of the figures presented at once, and not just the one that you believe or want yourself to be.
 "…the grounding of being or identity in a place–or a where–is an illusory exercise. We are grounded, rather, Lacan teaches, in the spurious Imaginary consistency of an unconscious ideal ego; in the fixity of traumatic inscriptions; in the language upon which we draw to represent ourselves as (desiring) subjects to others."
Ellie Ragland, "Lacan's Topological Unit And The Structure Of Mind" , p 53)

This is how you traverse the fantasy:

–Don't see yourself as a single figure (a mirror-image, representation of your ego) but see yourself as all of them at once, you just censor the fact because it threatens your consistency, because it undoubtably is the source of anxiety; fluidity, it has to be remembered, creates anxiety: we seek stability for something that is inherently unstable, your identity. Any identity that is believed to be authentic or true only ever functions as a representation of authority, and is always an attempt to stabilize that which is inherently unstable. It is an attempt to produce a 'full' identity, one not structured by lack; as an escape from, or denial of, symbolic castration. Your identity is always inherently unstable, and defined in relation to a fundamental void.

–The next time you read a novel, or better yet, watch some porn, try to realize (grasp and accept) that you are all of the agents in all of the roles. This is why people hate porn, they get to see repressed desires acted out– they cannot not see themselves in all of the roles, if only unconsciously–this creates anxiety; our sexual identities are formed by the unconscious in the form of chains of signifiers, "in the fixity of traumatic inscriptions"– It's not a 'choice' but it's not natural; our identities are produced discursively– desire always threatens the consistency of the ego.

–The frame of fantasy, that is, narrative structure, its fantasy/illusion of coherence and consistency, is like memory (little narratives that memories are), and its coherence and consistency.

 –When a frame of fantasy structures desire this constitutes an ideology of desire.

"…traversing the fantasy does not mean going outside fantasy, but shattering its foundations, accepting its inconsistency. In our daily existence, we are immersed in 'reality,' structured and supported by the fantasy, but this very immersion makes us blind to the fantasy frame which sustains our access to reality. To 'traverse the fantasy' therefore means, paradoxically, to fully identify oneself with the fantasy, to bring the fantasy out–…"
Slavoj Zizek, Event, Melville House, Brooklyn, 2014, p 27

"…we can see what traversing the fantasy can mean: not to see through it and perceive the reality obfuscated by it, but to directly confront the fantasy as such. Once we do this, its hold over us is suspended–– why? Because fantasy remains operative only insofar as it functions as the transparent background of our experience––fantasy is like a dirty, intimate secret which cannot survive public exposure."
Slavoj Zizek, Event, p 29


Reid Matko's seven-text collection entitled Christmastown was recently selected as a short-list finalist for the "FC2 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest" of 2015. Not a winner but it's nice to be noticed! It can be found in its entirety here: 


Innovative Fiction Magazine  


recently (April 13, 2015) published an excerpt from Three voiced periods, the first text in Reid Matko's collection of seven fictions entitled Christmastown. Although appreciative of the interest in his work, a correction is in order. The excerpt as it appears in Innovative Fiction Magazine is as follows:

However, the text was designed to appear thus:

Three voiced periods is comprised of 99 pages of 27 lines each; in this sense the text is not merely Dantesque, but is indeed a form of meditation on the Catholic Trinity, precisely as an image of the mind. Each line utilizes line breaks and the cut of the page to break up the repetition which is its mode of assemblage. This mimics the breaking up of the real by signification, by the symbolic.

Three voiced periods, indeed Christmastown in its entirety can be found here:

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