TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 1984

ELUDING DEFINITION

AMONG THE TORTUOUS TEXTS of Jacques Lacan, several speak with unusual lucidity and pertinence about the constraints surrounding the very idea of women. In “Encore,” an essay from the early 70s approaching the terra incognita of feminine desire, Lacan speaks “of all those beings who take on the status of the woman.”1 Lacan exposes the problem as one of authority, for “status” is a juridical term, denoting a condition or position with regard to the law. Woman’s supposed “nature,” he implies, is highly unnatural; it is not inherent but assumed (or imposed) from outside. But in another text Lacan goes further, as if to answer our inevitable question about sexual formation: “Images and symbols for the woman cannot be isolated from images and symbols of the woman. It is representation, . . . the representation of feminine sexuality . . . , which conditions how it comes into play.” In a manner

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