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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 54 | volume X | May-June, 2007



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 54May-June, 2007

Anna Karenina: Specular Moments in the Lover's Discourse

p. 1
George Mitrevski

A. Introduction

    The notion of a 'specular moment' is a metaphoric reading of Jacques Lacan's description of the 'mirror stage' in the development of the child. According to Lacan, the child sometime between six and eighteen months recognizes himself in a mirror, and perceives in the mirror image before him a totality, and anticipates a sense of identity and wholeness of the self through this specular Other. The child derives its value and it gains its identity through this external, reflected image by imagining to coincide with it. “Whereas it [the child] experienced itself as a shapeless mass, it now gains a sense of wholeness, an ideal completeness, and this without effort. This gratifying experience of a mirror image is a metaphorical parallel of an unbroken union between inner and outer, a perfect control that assures immediate satisfaction of desire” (Wright, 108). This is a moment of idilic communication and reciprocity between the child and its mirror image. “Here signifier and signified are as harmonious as they are in Saussure's sign” (Eagleton, p. 166). By observing its mirror image imitating the motion it dictates, the infant discovers and asserts its powers of manipulation. Ragland-Sullivan notes that Lacan's mirror stage must be understood as a “metaphor for the vision of harmony of a subject essentially in discord” (27). Lacan's mirror stage involves numerous phases, the first of which is the 'specular moment'.
    In this paper I would like to draw a metaphoric parallel between Lacan's child in the specular moment of the mirror stage and instances in the discourse of the amorous subject, in Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina, where the subject, in search of some truth, experiences moments of total recognition and perception of that truth. Another metaphorical reading of the specular moment that we will apply in the reading of this novel is that it is a depiction of the subject's unrelenting desire to find the perfect sign that leads to understanding the meaning of his or her existence, or the lover's place in the amorous relationship. It is an instance when the subject imagines that this desire has been attained.
    To identify the specular moments in the novel should be a simple undertaking. What may reveal more about the general aesthetics of the novel is to observe how the author motivates them, and to investigate the place of the linguistic sign in the specular moment. I believe, and I hope to show

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