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Incognito Ergo Sum: Language, Memory and the Subject

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

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  • Derek Sayer
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2004
<mark>Journal</mark>Theory, Culture and Society
Issue number5
Volume21
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)67-89
<mark>State</mark>Published
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Drawing upon a range of theorists (Derrida, Lacan, Barthes), photographers (Adams, Weston, Lange) and literary texts (Baudelaire, Proust, Breton, Camus, Barnes, Kundera), this article explores the role of memory in grounding identity. If the subject is constituted in language, it is argued, identity can be achieved only in the realm of the imaginary, through fixation in an imago of the self. It is memory above all that gives this being-in-denial its imagined solidity; but that solidity is an effect of language’s ability to create verisimilitude in an eternal present of signification, and not of memory’s relation to a real past. Identity therefore always remains precarious, because the signifiers that furnish the points de capiton of what we remember always also defeDrawing upon a range of theorists (Derrida, Lacan, Barthes), photographers (Adams, Weston, Lange) and literary texts (Baudelaire, Proust, Breton, Camus, Barnes, Kundera), this article explores the role of memory in grounding identity. If the subject is constituted in language, it is argued, identity can be achieved only in the realm of the imaginary, through fixation in an imago of the self. It is memory above all that gives this being-in-denial its imagined solidity; but that solidity is an effect of language’s ability to create verisimilitude in an eternal present of signification, and not of memory’s relation to a real past. Identity therefore always remains precarious, because the signifiers that furnish the points de capiton of what we remember always also defer elsewhere.Drawing upon a range of theorists (Derrida, Lacan, Barthes), photographers (Adams, Weston, Lange) and literary texts (Baudelaire, Proust, Breton, Camus, Barnes, Kundera), this article explores the role of memory in grounding identity. If the subject is constituted in language, it is argued, identity can be achieved only in the realm of the imaginary, through fixation in an imago of the self. It is memory above all that gives this being-in-denial its imagined solidity; but that solidity is an effect of language’s ability to create verisimilitude in an eternal present of signification, and not of memory’s relation to a real past. Identity therefore always remains precarious, because the signifiers that furnish the points de capiton of what we remember always also defer elsewhere.