(I) Murder (You) in the Dark: Atwood?s Pronominal Re-vision of Lacan?s Mirror Stage
The pronominal relation between I and You is shifty. While communication generally depends on denotative stability across time, place and speaker, some words drastically shift meaning according to their point of reference. In Murder in the Dark (1983), Margaret Atwood intentionally evades the contextualization of what semiotician Roland Barthes refers to as ?shifters.? In doing so, she acknowledges the central role pronouns play in feminist discourse. Gender battles over the second person pronoun evidence the intersection of pronominal shifters with literary and psychoanalytic theory. Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan suggests a temporal framework for pronominal acquisition in ?The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function.? Lacan?s mirror stage describes the point at which the child first recognizes her or his image in the mirror.This visual image creates a fictional mold, or ?Ideal-I,? which excludes bodily processes such as aging, and creates a bound sense of self at odds with reality. This tension, between the psychological I and the biological You , serves as the foundation of Lacan?s construction of desire as constituted by lack Atwood renegotiates this paradigm by positing the I as speaking subject and the You as the speaking subject?s body. She then introduces the ?third eye,? or the body?s vision, to dissolve the boundary between the once mutually exclusive realms. The seeing and speaking body engenders a narrative model based not on lack but on desire as a productive force. Atwood?s subject, no longer split against itself, reconciles the dynamic body with its static mirror image.
Reed, Alison, " (I) Murder (You) in the Dark: Atwood?s Pronominal Re-vision of Lacan?s Mirror Stage" (2007). URC Student Scholarship.
Ford Research Endowment