Putting “New Wine in Old Bottles”: Subversion of the Symbolic

  • Nurten Birlik Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Education, Department of Foreign Language Education
  • Merve Günday Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Education, Department of Foreign Language Education
Keywords: Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop, Lacan, Primordial Father, psychoanalytical criticism

Abstract

Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop tells the story of the claustrophobic lives of six characters who find themselves stuck in the house of Uncle Philip, who demands absolute submission from them and who isolates them from the wider world. Uncle Philip acts like the Freudian Primordial Father who feels free to act in any way he likes disregarding any restrictions. By forcing the household members to work in his toyshop all day, he creates a solipsistic universe, which is cut off from the network of the symbolic in Lacanian terms. In this world, their living practice deviates from the norms of traditional discourse as there is incest between the siblings, or as they heavily engage in pre-or extra-linguistic representation of reality such as drawing, dancing, making music and toys. Aunt Margaret becomes dumb on her wedding night, or Uncle Philip does not send the siblings to school, which, in Lacanian terms, is a codifying space of the Law. For these reasons, Uncle Philip’s house embodies the heterogeneity of the imaginary residues rather than submission to the organising principles of the symbolic. Theirs becomes an alternative site of being to the one outside. This essay aims to explore the psychodynamics of the characters’ relations to one another, the unconventional intrasubjectivity created between them in this unconventional space and the implications of imaginary residues in their living practice using Lacanian ideas as my conceptual backcloth.

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Published
2021-08-31