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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

This paper offers a new reading of Hamlet based in Lacanian psychoanalysis and continental philosophy. Modern and contemporary readings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet attempt to reconcile the titular Dane by either criticizing or spurning his subjectivity. I see the play’s intense focus on his iconoclasm not as a failure nor a red herring best understood through another conceptual vehicle, but as a field of inquiry and judgement yet under-explored. By leveraging Jacques Lacan’s theories of the subject, particularly through the Ljubljana school’s (Slavoj Žižek and Alenka Zupančič) interpretations, this paper takes a careful view of the drama so as to resituate Hamlet as a post-structural, metatextual subject par excellence, one whose constitution necessarily destroys the conceits of the drama that contains him and calls into question the ethical dimensions of psychoanalytic time. I introduce the key concepts of metametatextuality, possible impossibility, and impossible impossibility alongside paradigmatic works of the Lacanian literature to access the elusive vacillations of the Lacanian Hamlet. Ultimately, examining Hamlet qua analytic subject via metametatextuality illuminates the reader’s experience of the psychoanalytic subject’s inherent nothingness. This illumination situates the experience of reading Hamlet as an indispensable foundation upon which modern philosophers of psychoanalysis may stake their claim to truth. On an individual level, my reading puts the humanistic stakes of the analytic subject in stark relief: in the lonely light of a solipsistic nothingness, what are the ramifications and relevancies of our desires and decisions?

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