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One of the three ‘orders’ structuring human existence, according to French psychoanalystJacques Lacan (the other two are the imaginary and the symbolic). The real is that which resists representation absolutely. It is in this sense impossible to imagine for itself (if we could imagine it, we could represent it). As such, it is impossible to integrate into the symbolic order, which means—somewhat paradoxically—that the real is in fact opposed to reality. Therefore our encounter with the real is always traumatic.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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