Cormac Gallagher – Lacan’s Viator and the Time Traveller’s Wife

THE LETTER 36 (Spring 2006) pages 1-19


When I was asked two months ago for a title for this paper I was still reading what is called an international best-seller that I had begun earlier in the summer. The Time Traveller’s Wife is not going to win a Pulitzer Prize or a Mann Booker award but it does chime in uncannily with Lacan’s discussion of the fundamental phantasy that ‘supports all of those who want to be non-dupes in structure: namely, that their life is only a journey. Life is that of the viator (the pilgrim, the traveller). ‘That they live in this lower world as strangers in a foreign land’.

In psychological terms this journey means that life begins with birth and passes through various stages until death – think of Erik Erikson’s ‘Eight Ages of Man’. This notion of life as a journey that is determined by something called development is, Lacan argues, a radical error and ends up by negating everything that Freud’s discovery of the unconscious has revealed to us.

This is his opening salvo and already one to make us all query our own presuppositions about the stage of life we – and those who come to talk to us – are at!

Clare and Henry

I am not going to spend too much time on the novel but since it is in my title let me say that it illustrates in a charming way Lacan’s contention that time is not linear, and echoes some of his essential themes…

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