40 ideas

This alphabetized list is useful probably only if you like to create refrigerator door haiku, but later, some study guides will annotate these topics more completely, and you will run across many of them in your readings. Think of the 40 ideas as 'cards' that can be 'played' any time during a discussion, review, critique, or other engagement of situations arising in popular culture, personal experience, art, science, etc.

1. Acousmatic Voice: A voice that cannot be located, as in the phone call of a black-mailer or the off-stage soprano singing in Hitchcock's Rear Window.

2. Anacoluthon: a rhetorical device that creates meaning by creating some kind of unexpected error or incompleteness at the end of an expression that back-projects a revised interpretation of the beginning of the expression. Anacoluton involves two other rhetorical ideas, the Lespsis twins: metalepsis (metonymy of a metonymy, as in "I will get the worm tomorrow" — i.e. "get up early, as in early bird gets the ...) and analepsis (recovery). Three terms for the price of one!

3. Anamorphosis (cf. sequencing, square wave, etc.): The phenomenon (originally) of a image distorted and concealed within a "main image." The hidden image can be seen from only one point of view; more generally, anamorphosis suggests the structure of alternative views for which there is no middle or mediating resolution.

4. Anthology: The (usually literary) structure that supports a series of stories-within-stories.

5. Antinomasia: The retroactive revision that takes place with the unexpected introduction of an 'ungrammatical' element or term at the end of an expression. This both confirms and undermines the linearity of temporal experience.

6. Antipode: A (mostly) geographical term indicating the point on the globe opposite a given point. Separated by the maximum distance in terms of distance measured along the surface, it is proximal in terms of the line that passes through the earth's center and is in a sense a means of defining counterparts, such as heaven and hell.

7. Automata: Any process that takes place through an imagined or real mechanism; or an effect that has become detached from its cause, a shadow that has been 'clipped' from its subject.

8. Between the Two Deaths: Each culture imagines a period of mourning to correspond to the physical death of the body and the final rest of the soul. This is also the idea developed by 'the death narrative', a literary point of view using the perspective of someone who has died.

9. Blindness/Invisibility: In early childhood devlopment, blindness is substituted for invisibility, as when a child, putting a bag over his/her head, imagines him/herself to be invisible. The exchange of these terms plays a central role in the issue of the unconscious, which is an 'Other' located radically inside the subject.

10. Chiasmus: A literary and artistic technique that divides two or more 'streams' of signification that begin by contrasting and end in synthetic harmony, as in counterpoint or fugue. the 'V' or 'X' shape of chaismus logic is significant in the development of perspective theory as well as geomantic mythology.

11. Defective Narration: A point of view that the audience is able to 'see beyond', thanks to its apparent limitations. In literature, the unreliable or defective narrator is the agent of location but not comprehension, and the audience is able to intuit what the narrator cannot experience or explain.

12. Difference, minimal: The 'infra-thin' is a term from Marcel Duchamp, but the idea is more ancient, as in the widely deployed theme of twinship, where some barely perceivable difference becomes the basis for a 'cosmic' division (e.g. Castor and Pollux, the twin gods who protected Rome).

13. Dimensionality: This, in boundary language, is a variable. Unlike the Cartesian 'fixed dimensions' of space and time, dimensionality is regarded as a dependent variable, based on actions and recognitions. As the revolutionary geometicians of the 19th century postulated, dimensionality is based on thought, not physics.

14. Discourses, four forms of: Jacques Lacan posited four 'positions' that thought-plus-language could take — the master-servant, the university, the hysteric, and analysis. These act as 'ultimate presuppositions' that generate language and the axioms of social and ideological exchange. In boundary language terms, they are also 'architectures' that structure the meaning of forms and their interrelations.

15. Enthymeme: This is a form of syllogism (logic) that takes into account the silent role of the audience. Hence, it is the ideal means for expressing the functions of ideology, which operates 'silently' to gain audience complicity.

16. Extimité: Jacques Lacan coined this term to describe the paradoxical topology of the subject, wherein the Other is at the same time the core of subjectivity (and the basis of alienation). It is also the basis for the idea of the uncanny, where the border between inside and outside are blurred.

17. Fantastic, Four Forms of: [From Jorge Luis Borges] The double, travel through time, the story in the story, and the contamination of reality by the dream. All of these forms are 'chiastic', and they are curiously parallel to the four Lacanian discourses.

18. Fourth Wall: The cinematic device that locates the camera and production apparatuses that insert the viewers' eyes at an imaginary fourth wall, the other three being the constructs of the set, story, character, etc.

19. Future Anterior: The future perfect tense, a time in the future by which something will have been accomplished or realized. This is the time introduced by the reflected image in the mirror (stage), an ideal subject that has achieved a mastery that the subject in front of the mirror still lacks.

20. Gap: The most general and significant term in boundary language; the (minimal) difference that defines the difference between desire and demand, a difference between what can be symbolized (demand) and what cannot (desire), materialized in objects that are not results but causes of desire, because they can never be 'possessed' or 'recovered' but remain continually 'lost'.

21. Idiotic symmetry: When fantasies are symmetrically arranged, the whole affair becomes very stable. This is the basis for ideology, where effects are converted into causes. Idiotic symmetry is the basis for the 'bolagram' (BOundary LAnguage diaGRAM), a take-off on Lacan's diagrams that also shows how the 'twist' of the Möbius band creates an anamorphic opportunity (doubles, travel through time, déjà vu, concentricity, contamination).

22. Inside Frame: In technical terms, this is a "Janusian" condition of an internal and intransitive division of space (paradox).Usually frames are on the outside. The internal frame sees things from the inside out.

23. Interpellation/ Interpolation: InterPELLation is the subject's voluntary obedience to an imagined command from the Other. (When a policeman yells "Hey you!" we think it's meant for us.) The correlative term has to do with the result of this (mis)identification: a triangulation of space that deals with the irrationality of the inside frame.

24. Metaphor/metonymy (cf. magic’s two forms): Resemblance and touch are the basis for sympathetic and contagious magic, and the natural division into these two parts point to the "natural division" of metaphor into these two logics. Studies of aphasia (brain damage) led linguists to come to the same conclusion.

25. Mi-Dire: Lacan's fascination with the speech of paranoiacs and obsessives led to his own adaptation of a "halfway" manner of talking, which invited the audience to fill in the gaps with fantasies they would later have to recognize as their own. This practice has an ancient history, and is formalized in the rhetorical figure of aposiopoiesis (incompletion).

26. Mirror Stage: This is the moment that the young child recognizes itself in the mirror. The details however are critical. The reflected imaginary world promises a mastery that the subject yet lacks, and a new form of temporality and spatiality originates from this moment, even in cultures that lack actual mirrors.

27. Möbius Band (Topography): Because the subject is defined by an inexplicable "outside" at its innermost core, the only spatially useful framework for exploring subjectivity is topography. The Möbius band is a single surface and one edge "in reality" but an ant travelling along its surface imagines, at every point, two surfaces and two edges. Such is life!

28. Negation, double: The "no" plays a big role in the life of the subject, and even ancient literature realized this through themes of the double (Doppelgänger). For psychoanalysis, the "no" denial is the first way unconscious content can make its way into the light of day.

29. Operator: This is a boundary language special term related to Lacan's idea of the poinçon (<> = "both greater and lesser than"). Graphically, the operator is a right-angle relation of two vectors, one related to (metaphoric) representation and the other to (metonymic) artifact.

30. Partial Objects: Childhood development is based on the paradoxical focus on objects that are simultaneously symbols and resistant to symbolization: fæces, breast, phallus … Lacan adds the gaze and the voice. Partial objects cannot be projected (photographed, drawn, represented, etc.) but they can be displaced into subjects and ideas about the subject that have Möbius band behaviors as "magic objects" resistant to our efforts to control and know them.

31. Poinçon (scale dysfunction, etc.): The symbol for the poinçon was a diamond or <>, the latter indicating the scale paradox of something both larger and smaller, container and contained. The poinçon was used as the silversmith's mark of authenticity, just as the realization of the subject's paradoxical topology, or the object's "extimacy," leads to a collapse of spatial and temporal dimensionality.

32. Point-of-View, Vanishing Point: The point of view is essential for ANY view, but it undermines itself by implicating the possibility of other points — meaning as a succession or series of sliding signification. In Enlightenment thought, this unstable position is short-circuited with the idea of Panopticism (categorial forced order, completion through circumscription; 360º schemas for exploration and prison design).

33. Procédé: Raymond Roussel described his writing technique in terms of palindromes, puns, and tesseræ (a whole broken into two parts that are separated and later joined back). The idea of idiotic symmetry, and its classical traditions throughout the history of art and literature, become evident once the relationship to topology is understood.

34. Reality1, Reality 2: (Really "Real1" and "Real2") Reality 1 is encountered as an externality, reality in the "usual sense" of something discovered that had previously been unknown or unrealized. Reality 2 is an internal breakdown, a realization brought about when some defect in perception or "reality maintenance" is discovered. In The Truman Show, the biosphere that prevents Truman from discovering the productive apparatus of the show (R1) is discovered when the internal surveillance/coordination system breaks down (R2), as Truman discovers when his car radio frequency overlaps the director's instructions to the cast. "Flash" is the term (cf. "flashback") associated with R2 and the logic of the anacoluthon (also analepsis and metalepsis).

35. Resonance: "Stochastic resonance" denotes the amplification of minimal/subliminal signals by background noise. "Noise" in this case relates to the metonymy of the "body in pieces," the crime scene, the clue, the meaning effect without meaning. The signal that is amplified is the Lacanian "sinthome," the symptom of the unconscious, the Real (the position of Truth in the schema of the four discourses).

36. Stereognostic/propriocept: The subject is present as a center of awareness, which is based on a left-right perception of the world in terms of appearances and disappearances (concealment). The mind's awareness of its own body is a matter of propriocept, which in the mirror stage is divided into the metonymyzed "body in pieces" (m) and the metaphoric (M) imaginary self reflected in the mirror, which promises the subject a place in the network of symbolic relationships.

37. Suture: In self-reference, what is posited to be external appears as a kernel, unexpectedly, collapsing the difference between exterior and interior (extimité, in Lacanian terms). Suture is a matter of identity, coupled with time, misrecognition, topological inversion, "return of the Real," and surprise.

38. Transitivity/Intransitivity: Cartesian rationality posits a three-dimensional space of x-y-z coordinates (height, width, depth) plus a fourth dimension, time. This system cannot sustain, however, concepts such as the edge of space itself, required by a materialist definition, or the conflict between temporal experience ("journal") and spatial experience as recorded by a "map." Suppressed conflicts reveal the presence of intransitivity, analogous to Einstein's idea of curvature. In early forms of relativity, space was "normal" and curved only by the abnormality of strong gravitational fields. In the later form, relativity held that not only was all space curved, but that curvature was in essence space itself.

39. Travel, Forms of: Because the subject it more accurately described as a trace, motion is related to the idea of authenticity and discovery; hence, the metaphor of travel requires conditional categories that reflect the relationship to knowledge, memory, the Real, and the possibilit of failure. A system is borrowed from Henry W. Johnstone's "Categories of Travel," where Odysseus's (intransitive) journey is used to yield fundamental subjective conditions.

40. Treasury of Signifiers (common mental dictionary): Subjective self-knowledge is not the memory of specific biographical details but, rather, the universal components of the Subject as radically historical/developmental. Because signifiers, within the system of the subject-as-process, lack stable signifieds, their relationship within a "treasury" or "theater" reveal a structure that is, in effect, a mirror of the subject as the ultimate "partial object."