Journal Article

AUGUSTINE IN CONTEXTS: LACAN'S REPETITION OF A SCENE FROM THE CONFESSIONS

Shuli Barzilai

in Literature and Theology

Volume 11, issue 2, pages 200-221
Published in print June 1997 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online June 1997 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/11.2.200
AUGUSTINE IN CONTEXTS: LACAN'S REPETITION OF A SCENE FROM THE CONFESSIONS

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Jacques Lacan never seems to exhaust the full significance of a bnef scenario from Saint Augustine's Confessions: ‘I have myself seen jealousy in a baby and know what it means. He was not old enough to talk, but, whenever he saw his foster-brother at the breast, he would grow pale with envy’ (Bk. i, Ch. 7). References to the anecdote appear in Lacan's writings from The Family Complexes (1938) to Encore (1973). He repeatedly asserts its exemplary representation of the emergence of human consciousness. But why Augustine's ‘Vide ego …’ elicited and sustained his attention over so many yean presents a nddle. My examination of the privileged status of this scenario of sibling jealousy takes several factors into account: the specific content of the passage, its wider context in the Confessions, and its contextualizanon in Lacan's writings. Moreover, in addition to the theoretical relevance of Augustine's exemplum, it may also read as a substantive screen memory that, for Lacan, resonates with diverse personal significances.

Where could such a living creature come from if not from you, O Lord' Can it be that any man has skill to fabricate himself?

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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