The Second Coming

Repetition and Insatiable Desire in the Song of Songs


In pursuing a carnal allegory of the Song of Songs,1 I wish to answer a specific question: why does repetition, the compulsion to repeat, feature so prominently in the Song of Songs? Rather than turning to theories of Hebrew poetry, my suspicion is that Jacques Lacan’s reflections on desire may have a contribution to make. Why Lacan? For Lacan, desire—désir, the French translation of Freud’s Wunsch (wish), which gives the word the stronger sense of a continuous force—is central to psychoanalytic theory. And it is particularly the sexual dimensions of desire that are foregrounded in psychoanalysis. It may seem slightly perverse, a sort of looking awry to gain another angle on our question, to talk of desire as an area in which the answer to the question of repetition may be found, except that the two—repetition and desire—unavoidably rub together, tingling and arching, perpetually inciting and exciting one another in Lacan’s work. So too in the Song, where we find that desire is incited through edges and rims, Law, pain, and the (M)other. These then fold into reflections on repetitions of structure, phrases and words, descriptions and content, so as to arrive at the final Lacanian question: che vuoi (what do you really want)?


Mirror Stage Sexual Dimension Pornography Show Menstrual Fluid Flood Gate 
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  1. 6.
    Or, as Žižek puts it, “desire in its purity is of course ‘death-drive,’ it occurs when the subject assumes without restraint its ‘being-towards-death’ ” (1991a, 266). For a fuller treatment of the twisted path of both Lacan’s and Žižek’s interpretations of Romans 7, see my Criticism of Heaven (Boer 2007a, 351–59).Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Transliterations follow the General Purpose Style of The SBL Handbook of Style (Pea-body: Hendrickson, 1999), 28–29. This style has the advantage for non-Hebrew readers of rendering the text in a readable phonetic-like form. Appropriately, confusion reigns over this word for “hole” (hahor). Murphy (1990) reads it as a door latch, while Robert Gordis (1974, 91) suggests it means that the male withdraws his hand from the gate hole, for “vagina,” of course, is “nonsense” here. Othmar Keel’s flat reading (1994, 189–90) sees here merely the locked-out lover. Pope (1977, 517–18), however, reads “hand” as a euphemism for penis and, sweating over the possibility that he may offend his pious readers, suggests that “the statement ‘my love thrust his “hand” into the hole’ would be suggestive of coital intromission” (Pope 1977, 519). Of course, this is less a literal reading than a renewed allegory.Google Scholar

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© Roland Boer 2012

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