– Out of Myself and Myself only, there becomes a couple –
Julia Kristeva, Tales of Love
The impossible couples and the math of love
In this essay I will attempt to answer the questions related to the concept and the structure of the couple. What is the dynamics of the identities in the focus of the couple, observed from a perspective of the primary identity instability of the subject with reference to any other structure, esp. with reference to the structure of the couple.
I would like to introduce the starting thesis immediately, the thesis that this essay begins with, that the couple, in its nature, is always an impossible couple.
I will restrict the reading of the impossible couples to several novels of the world literature. In the introductory part of my essay I will comment on the psychoanalytical reading of the essay Romeo and Juliet: love– hatred of the couple from the book Tales of Love by Julia Kristeva.1F The second part of the essay studies the analysis of the “couple with the foreigner” as a version of the “impossible couple” in the narrations of the novels “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë and “Orlando” by Virginia Wolf.
The main inspiration for this essay originates from my engagement in the conference on “Reading the Balkan Subject and its Genders” (2001) on the Ohrid Summer University, conducted by professor Miglena Nikolcina from the University in Sofia. The initial concept on this course was that “Love is a state where the identities and differences in the dynamics of the couple are intensified”. That means that “the national, ethnic identity, the religion, race, social standards, age, sexual orientation become more intensified, but also more fragile in the economy of love, which aims to level and unify those differences through the act of eroticisation and emphasis on those differences”. Hence, the idea of the possibility of love and the couple is challenged, because love as a formula does not solve the tensions created by the question of the identities, because by exploitation of the tensions, which result from the different identities, it only proves its own impossibility.
I think that the key question that will address the problem of the couple is: what is the relation between Love and Law? This question is legitimate, because the lover, in his/her ontological position is close to corruption, crime and madness. The lover is the one who challenges, restructures, and ultimately always wants to defy the Name. The Name as language and given structure, and above all, the Name of the Other in the couple. The thesis that I regard crucial in the psychoanalytical texts of Kristeva is the thesis that not two, but only one subject makes the couple. In the book “Tales of Love” she says: Out of Myself and Myself only, there becomes a couple. I will illustrate this sentence with a formula: 1=2
Before we study the structure of the love paradox 1=2, we ought to observe the relation between love and law, because this relation directly impacts the paradox of the lovers.
The capital investment in the theory of law and its always restrictive nature in relation to the Subject is given by Michel Foucault in History of Sexuality (1980). In the last chapter of the first tome of this book, Foucault defines the strictly legal sense of the law, through myriad of negative notions: forbiddance, prohibition, limitation, regulation, and control in the name of protection of the subject. This means that in the name of the negative strategy of the Law, the Subject is always defined as prohibited, limited, regulated and controlled Subject. However, since the Law is not an abstract act, and it functions precisely in the moment of its implementation, the bearers of the Law are at the same time its agents, who are anonymous before the law and at the same time they are active on several levels. That means that the limited Subject– limits, the controlled one– controls, and the regulated one– regulates. As Slavoj Žižek says in his text “The ideology between fiction and phantasm” from the collection “Metastases of enjoyment”2F, the faculty of the power refers not only to the visible, public power (Zizek, 1996:59) but often more perilously refers to an obscure, hidden, “mad” structure of the power. It is known that Foucault chose to study the Law (both its public and obscure power) through its capillary, i.e. extreme forms. For Foucault, paradigm of capillary forms of the Law are prisons, clinics, hospitals, schools, monasteries, i.e. all structures which are celled and function on the principle of control, supervision and series of praises and punishments.
In the book “Surveillance and punishment: The birth of the prison” (1975)3F, Foucault analyses the capillary units of power on the structure of the prison as a mental and social structure, whose historical background demonstrates the normative functions of the power and formation of knowledge in the contemporary society. The Law amounts to logo– centrism, which is essentially phallo-centric, it sets up objects of exclusion. The object of exclusion is obscure, concealed, hidden in Zizek’s sense of the word. With the transformation of the system of punishment and the establishments of prisons, Foucault explains that the guillotines, which represented public stage for the execution of the punishment, disappeared. On these events, the public expressed an undefined horror with the public punishment, and had an opportunity to demonstrate their frustration with the visible arm of the Law. When prisons were established, administration and bureaucratization took place, which was nothing but seclusion of the arm of the Law.
This is because the prison proclaims itself to be, not a place of death, but a place for punishment in the form of improvement and rehabilitation. The secrecy, obscurity, and the invisibility before the Law is, as we’ll see, the crucial moment in the establishment of the structure of the impossible couple, i.e. the initial state of love between Romeo and Juliet. The Law transforms into obscure and invisible, consists of series of trainings, i.e. discipline, which demands a closed space and partition. Each individual has his/her own place, which enables supervision of presence/absence. “Supervision, assessment and reprimand” (Foucault, 1975:138). The purpose of this system is surpassing the chaos, idleness, disorganization, the lack of control and motivation.
1. Julia Kristeva, Tales of Love, Columbia University Press, New York, 1987.
2. Slavoj Žižek, Metastases of Enjoyment, 1994 (from the Serbian translation: Metastaze uzivanja, Belgrade 1996.
3. Michel Foucault, Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison, Gallimard, Paris, 1975 (from the Serbian translation, Publishing House of Zoran Stojanovic, Sremski Karlovci, Novi Sad, 1997)