Shirley Sharon-Zisser – Calliope’s Sc(D)ream – Feminine Jouissance In Aristotle’s Works on Language

THE LETTER 62 Summer 2016, pages 37-64

This essay offers a reading of three major Aristotelian works on language – the
Rhetoric, the Poetics, and the Sophistical Refutations – with the theorisations
of sexual difference in Freud’s essays on the castration and Oedipus complexes
and Lacan’s teaching from On a Discourse that might not be a Semblance to
Encore. Nuancing Lacan’s criticism in 1978 of Aristotle in Aristotle’s Dream
as believing in representation to the exclusion of the o-object, the essay
shows that Aristotle’s treatments of language are intricated with treatments of
sexual difference and feminine jouissance. This is manifest especially in the
theorisation of the difference between simile and metaphor in relation to the
difference between man and woman, and the treatment of poetic language that
is outside sense as ecstatic. Forms of elision, most notably the enthymeme,
whose theorisation Aristotle considers a major contribution of his Rhetoric,
function as forms of enstasis or exclusory inclusion of ecstatic jouissance
such as is forged in an analysis.
Keywords: Aristotle, Lacan, rhetoric, feminine jouissance, notall, castration,
sexual difference
In R.S.I., Lacan points to στοιχεια (stoikheia), a category used by Aristotle in
the Rhetoric to describe the various types of linguistic semiosis,1 as philosophy’s
only indication of the nature of ‘signifying material’ without which no
thought or knowledge can be supposed.2 Fundamental to Aristotle’s conception
of linguistic semiosis is that it effects παθος (pathos), that it gives rise to
passions such as fear, anger or pity, that is, that it elicits affect. Hence Lacan’s
comment at the beginning of the seminar on Anxiety – the one affect that does
not deceive – that it is not incidental that Aristotle discusses affect in a work
on language, the Rhetoric, whose very structure, a ‘net’ of linguistic references…

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