The Staging of Desire

  • Andrew N. Leak


Sartre’s reputation has suffered in a fashionable backlash following his death. It seems that he was a ‘political illiterate’, his biographies are ‘unreadable’, his plays mere pièces à thèse, his novels either romans à clef or sterile dramatisations of obscure theories. In the latter criticism lies a strange misapprehension. To argue that a novel — any novel — is a sterile dramatisation of an already elaborated theory is to assume that the theoretical discourse has automatic primacy; it is also to assume that the ultimate source of authority for a text resides with its author. After structuralism and post-structuralism this is an odd position to defend.


Sexual Desire Absent Father Symbolic Order Reflective Consciousness Automatic Primacy 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. François Le Lionnais, ‘Le Théâtre Bouléen’, in Oulipo, La Littérature potentielle (Gallimard, 1973) p. 268: ‘Deux pièces complètement indépendantes et complètement différentes sont jouées en même temps et au même endroit. La plupart du temps des acteurs de la pièce A sont donc amenés à parler en même temps que parlent des acteurs de la pièce B, les uns et les autres s’ignorant complètement, le jeu des uns se déroulant comme si les autres n’existaient pas.… Sur cette base on peut imaginer un grand nombre de combinaisons: une pièce comique en même temps qu’une pièce tragique, des pièces complémentaires ou parallèles, etc.; et, éventuellement, une intersection de deux pièces dans la dernière minute.’Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    ‘L’Enfance’ is also the productive meeting-point of conscious and unconscious determinants. Lucien passes through a series of debased objects before arriving, albeit in imagination, at the virginal ‘jeune fille en fleur’. I have already pointed to the psychoanalytical implications of this series of object choices. Whilst in this respect the text looks inwards, in other respects it is consciously directed outwards in the form of a social critique. Wilhelm Reich shows that the choice of a debased, or virginal, love object is also intimately linked with the class structure of capitalist society. The gratification of sensual urges with women from a lower social class has the function of safeguarding the (economic) integrity of the dominant class. See Wilhelm Reich, The Sexual Revolution (New York: Vision Press, 1972) pp. 146–7.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Andrew N. Leak 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew N. Leak
    • 1
  1. 1.University CollegeLondonUK

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