Jacques Lacan and an encounter with fashion
This thesis is a psychoanalytic engagement with fashion. It follows from established work in literature, film and visual art, and deploys psychoanalysis, particularly the work of Jacques Lacan, as a critical theory in order to interpret a particular cultural form. It departs from other psychoanalytic cultural criticism in that it takes fashion as the object of study. Although fashion is not art there are moments where it can be discussed in the same terms as art, and it is with these moments that this thesis is concerned. The instances of fashion under discussion are selected from the unusual, innovative, avant garde fashions that are seen in galleries and museums, in the bi-annual, international Fashion Week shows, and in photography editorials in fashion magazines. Kristeva’s notion of the avant garde as a mechanism by which intractable gender conventions can be critiqued is central to my definition of the feminine in fashion as pertaining to feminine subjects, usually but not exclusively women, as pertaining to and contingent upon the body, in particular the female body, and, in a specifically Lacanian idiom, as following an impossible and contradictory logic. These three definitions of femininity allow for a reading of fashion that will anchor fashion to the category of the feminine, while also rejecting any notion of that category as in any way either biologically or anatomically determined, or reliant on social structures for its resonances and its meaning. If psychoanalysis is concerned with what cannot be said, then so is fashion, but despite the best efforts of both, the unsayable remains precisely that. Fashion is predicated on leaving contradictions intact, and a psychoanalytic reading of fashion demonstrates what these contradictions are and how they operate not just as instances of avant garde creative forms but also, and more importantly, as instances of the unspeakable impossibility of human subjectivity, writ large on the human body itself.
- Theses