Shapeshifting in Caryl Churchill's The Skriker

Publication: Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
Author: Wolfe, Graham
Date published: May 1, 2011

Chop chip pan chap finger chirrup chirrup cheer up off with you're making no headway.

- the Skriker

SINCE THE 1960S, BRITISH PLAYWRIGHT CARYL CHURCHILL HAS TACKLED pressing social and political concerns in plays that strain against the conventions and limits of theatrical representation. She is widely known for works such as Cloud Nine and Top Girls, but her half-century oeuvre includes an array of experimental one-act dramas, successful radio and television pieces, as well as numerous interdisciplinary dance-theatre collaborations. If she is, as Tony Kushner has claimed, the "greatest living English-language playwright" (qtd. in Savran 24), this honor should be linked to her groundbreaking experiments with the fantastic. From Mad Forest's ravenous vampire, to Fen's furious revenants, to the temporal paradoxes of Traps, to the cloned doubles of A Number, Churchill's work repeatedly challenges expectations in an industry whose mainstream is still dominated by naturalistic writing. Of all these forays, her 1994 play The Skriker, which debuted at London's Royal National Theatre (directed by Les Waters), stands as one of the boldest attempts in recent decades to explore theatre's affinity for fantastic worlds and creatures.

The play is produced frequently on stages worldwide, despite being initially regarded by critics as one of Churchill's least accessible works. Though set in contemporary England, it begins with "a giant riding on a piglike man, throwing stones11 (9), an image foreshadowing the phantasmagoria that will infuse the dramatic landscape: a Kelpie, a Green Lady, a Brownie, a Dead Child, a Sprig - gan, a creature named Rawheadandbloodybones, to name just a handful. The strangeness and symbolic obscurity of these creatures is exceeded only in the Skriker itself, whose eight-minute prologue ("Slit slat slut. That bitch a botch an itch in my shoulder blood . . ." [9]) announces one of Churchill's most radical experiments with language. This eponymous entity, described tersely by the playwright as "a shapeshifter and death portent, ancient and damaged" (9) , latches onto two young women named Josie and Lily, the former of whom has killed her own baby for reasons that are never explained. After Josie's release from a psychiatric hospital, Lily gives birth to a child of her own, and what could be called the play's plot follows the struggles of these women to make a life for themselves while evading the insidious Skriker. In a succession of scenes, the creature alternately seduces, harasses, threatens, and leaches upon them, taking numerous forms - a reeking homeless woman, a mouthy child, a lonely male suitor - seeking all the while to lure them to its grotesque Underworld. Josie, who succumbs to its pressures midway through the play, manages to escape from its nightmarish realm and return to Lily, but the women must work desperately to appease the Skriker whose malevolence threatens to manifest itself in graver and graver cataclysms ("Volcanoes. Drought. Apocalyptic meteorological phenomena . . ." [48]). The play culminates in Lily's brave decision to give herself over to the Skriker for the sake of her child's safety, but Churchill leaves her audience with a most daunting image. In a post-apocalyptic future, a monstrously deformed great-granddaughter ubellows wordless rage11 (56) at a horrified Lily who crumbles immediately to "dustbin" (57).

Those commentators attempting to extricate a central message from The Skriker have predominantly focused on "damage." One of Churchill's rare comments on the play's intention suggests that it deals with "damage to nature and damage to people" (qtd. in Kritzer 168). Katherine Perrault's analysis is one of a number that, in light of Churchill's extensive theatrical engagement with issues pertaining to women's identity (Top Girls, Vinegar Tom), suggest we understand the play in terms of the damaged feminine:

Viewed as the essence of that which is woman, the Skriker is deformed and corrupted by years of her own ensnarement: her dysfunctionality results from succumbing to the hegemonic practice of defining herself by her reflection in the patriarchal mirror - which Churchill manifests in the Skriker's subversion, seduction, and eventual domination of Josie and Lily. (50)

This argument displays a curious duality. Perrault suggests that the Skriker represents woman as damaged by patriarchal hegemony, yet by the end of the same sentence, the Skriker is equated with the (damaging) force of hegemonic domination itself. It is both the distorted thing in the mirror and the distorting mirror. What emerges here is the paradoxical structure of a Möbius strip: we proceed along one side of the strip, but as we come around the bend, we discover ourselves on the other side.

Géraldine Cousin understands the play as a "cautionary tale" about ecological damage ("Owning" 189), a theme increasingly crucial to Churchill in pieces such as Not, Not, Not, Not, Not Enough Oxygen. The Skriker, in its damaged condition, registers the effects of pollution and humanity's destructive behavior. But if the creature is the poisoned planet ("They poison me in my rivers of blood poisoning" [12]), it also occupies the other side of the coin - it signifies, for Sheila Rabillard, both "the ecosystem as damaged object of human actions" and "the desires of the human subject which lead to poisoning the earth" ("On" 98) . Here again, the Skriker begins on one side of the Möbius strip only to emerge on the other. This kind of interpretative "shapeshifting" is similarly evident in analyses of capitalism in the play. Candice Amich argues that the Skriker reflects "the ravages of capitalism," but on the same page, the creature is cast as the ravaging capitalist, "chas[ing] markets across the globe, bending space and time to her needs and desires" (400).

This refusal of the Skriker to occupy stable places in interpretative equations may lead us to query with Ann Wilson whether the play even wants to offer coherent messages. It may instead be designed to interrogate the very impulse to interpret and explain. Resisting schemata, the Skriker and the play's events impress upon audiences their habitual spectatorial expectations and cognitive tendencies, defamiliarizing their predilection for symbolic "mastery." Such defamiliarization is ideologically potent, since interpretative mastery "is compatible with other modes of mastery. It is a mode of social regulation and containment based on relations of power which are, by definition, hierarchical and potentially oppressive" (187). Then again, if Churchill's creature represents a defiant challenge to the symbolic ordering and containment accompanying regulative power, the play also thematizes how ideological subjugation may itself hinge upon the unsymbolizable, the unmasterable. Characters are marked by their potent sense of "alienation from a secret, or privileged, knowledge of the world" (Amich 400), subjugated by their inability to coherently translate experience. Like the Skriker, hegemonic regimes may themselves thrive upon their subjects' failure to explain their mystifying operations. Thus, while the Skriker's obscurity may subvert the bent toward mastery, it also reflects the role of obscurity within mastery.

What a careful consideration of these perspectives brings forward is not simply The Skriker1 s postmodern relativism ("the creature can be made to mean anything at all"), but rather the need for a more elaborate consideration of the peculiar, "speculative" mode of shapeshifting accentuated thus far ("speculative" is used here in a Hegelian sense, pertaining to a dialectical, mirror-like inversion of one side into its other1). What the varied and often contradictory attempts to formulate the play's significance inadvertently bring to light is the significance of this Möbius dynamic itself, a dynamic that I will explore as a paradoxical structuring principle of the play. Perhaps what Churchill offers, most fundamentally, is a potent encounter with this mode of shifting as such. Put another way, my approach seeks the Real of The Skriker not in yet another core of meaning within its images and lines - it investigates rather what Slavoj Zizek calls the "parallax of the Real" (ParaUax 26), a perspective that emerges (only) through the very shift among perspectives.

It is in this sense that psychoanalytic thinking can open such a revealing engagement with Churchill's peculiar play. Though a number of critics have drawn on psychoanalysis in examining Churchill, I argue that the writings of Zizek, and the later works of Jacques Lacan that inspire his investigations, set forward a complex theorization of shapeshifting itself, a mode of thinking especially equipped to grapple with The Skriker's "speculative" contortions. To read these theorists is to shift incessantly - from language to desire to the dynamics of capitalism and its mystifications - recognizing in the journey between these realms their complex (and often disturbing) imbrications. Thus, following the lead of the Skriker, who delights in the crosscuts and intersections between seemingly divergent trains of thought, this Zizekian-Lacanian approach seeks not simply an alternative to existing critical responses but a staging of their unexpected "short circuits." It ultimately discovers in the play's peculiar manner of shapeshifting both a revealing reflection of late capitalism's "damaging" dynamics and a productive mode of grappling with the decentring forces and ideological illusions to which contemporary subjects are prey.

From Lalangue to Lamella

A psychoanalytic approach would do well from the start to keep in mind the potential resistance inspired by putting a creature like the Skriker on the couch. Is not psychoanalytic criticism notorious for "translating" its objects, investing them with its own narratives, imposing frameworks of meaning to subdue the baffling?2 Churchill's creature is explicitly disdainful toward those psychoanalytic models that would seek to contain it: "Haven't I . . . scoffed your chocolate screams, your Jung men and Freud eggs?" (38).

Given the creature's linguistic predilections, I suggest that the omission of Lacan from this list be understood not simply as a snub - as though Lacanian commentators don't even warrant a scoff - but rather as an expression of respect for a fellow punner of the highest talents. For all the Skriker's monstrous malevolence, such an admirer of homonyms ("sham pain," "morning becomes electric") could hardly scoff at Lacan, whose later seminars bear such titles as Les non-dupes errent (les nommes du père) and Encore (en- corps, en coeur), introducing creatures named parlêtre (par la lettre) and sinthome (symptom, synthetic homme, saint Thomas). Not even the Skriker's wildest homonymie explosions - "no mistake no mister no missed her no mist no miss no me no" (9) - are a match for some of Lacan's most famous riffs: jouissance, f ouïs-sens, jouis-sens, jouissons . . .

Lacan's Seminar XX even coins a pun, Mangue, that seems ideally to suit the dynamic of the creature's speech. Mladen Dolar defines Mangue as "the concept of what in language makes puns possible" (144). It refers, as Zizek elaborates, to language in its capacity as a "chaotic multitude of homonymies, word-plays, 'irregular' metaphoric links and resonances" (How 71). In the Skriker's monologues, language runs amok, escaping sequential meaning, ignited by sonorous connections that persistently override signifying functions: "Don't put your hand in the fountain pen and ink blot your copy catching fishes eyes and gluesniffer. So he puts his hand in and wail whale moby dictated the outcome into the garden maudlin. Everything gone with the window cleaner" (11).

Cousin's analysis reveals how key themes are ensconced within the creature's apparently chaotic talk (Women 178-80), and both Amich and Elin Diamond have argued that this "damaged" language should not simply be termed "schizoid," given its complex engagement with sense. But the concept of Mangue enables a further step here. Let us take one of dozens of examples from the play: "wrap her in a blanket out" (57). The term "a blanket out" is a nonsense phrase, produced by the contingent, senseless co-sonance between "blanket" and "blank it," their sonority establishing links that disrupt the sentence's logical progress. But this sonorous derailment also produces unexpected sense. "Blanket solutions" tend to "blank out" the complexities of the problems they address. Providing blankets (temporary comforts) to suffering people may inspire a false sense of having responded to a problem that runs much deeper, "blanking it out." The dynamic is again that of a Möbius strip: having embarked on the surface of structured meaning and signification, we find ourselves turning upside-down and proceeding via co-sonance, language's sonority acquiring a life of its own; and in another twist, we are returned anew to signification. Lalangue reflects this torsion within language itself. Its sound conflations mark "the break of signification and at the same time the source of another signification" (Dolar 144).

If, as Amich argues, the Skriker's prologue "forecast [s] the events of the play in a highly compressed mode" (396), so the formal dynamic of lalangue can serve as a Skrikerian prologue for what is to come. It condenses key "speculative" shifts at work in the later Lacan and central to the arguments that follow. A prevalent view of Lacan (derived from his earlier writing) associates him with a decisive separation between two realms: a) language and the Symbolic order; b) what he calls jouissance, translated as Enjoyment or fullness or a Real from which symbolically subjugated subjects are necessarily cut off: "jouissance is prohibited [interdite] to whoever speaks, as such" (Ecrits 696). What Mangue accentuates, conversely, is the "injection" (Fink 24) of jouissance into the symbolic register: "Lalangue means that there is enjoyment in speech . . . that every sense is always jouis-sens, le sens joui11 (Dolar 145). In it, the symbolic and jouissance "are placed on the same surface separated merely by its inner torsion" (145), and it is this torsion, I argue, that drives Churchill's play.

Of all the Lacanian word-plays, the one that would surely provide the Skriker with most enjoyment (enjoy-meant?) is the curious phrase lameUa, introduced in Seminar XL The Latin lamella is a distant ancestor of "omelette," and Lacan famously invites us, if we want to stress the concept's "jokey side" (197), to call it Vhommelette - a Skrikerian term if ever there was one, combining omelette with the French homme or "man," evoking also "manie t," "manwoman," and of course "Hamlet" (another notorious play er- with- words).

What is lamella? Lacan considers the notion in only two places, and the brevity of his discussion renders intimidating a careful exploration. Zizek, however, is keen to emphasize its central importance in understanding Lacanian psychoanalysis, revealing the way it elucidates and interconnects a range of Lacan's concepts. His own discussions tend to emphasize two related attributes of the creature: first, its "undeadness" - lamella is indestructible and immortal - and second, its amorphous, ever-shifting nature - lamella as "the terrifying formless thing" (How 66), "a multiplicity of appearances" (62). He frequently draws upon lamella in reference to creatures such as Ridley Scott's alien, with its horrifying indestructible life. Churchill's Skriker offers an even more compelling reflection of the way this undeadness ("I am hundreds of years old ... I have been around through all the stuff you would call history" [23]) is combined with infinite mutability. Her shapeshifter, like lamella, incessantly morphs from one incarnation to another, assuming numerous appearances, transposing itself into inanimate objects (a sofa) as well as different media: "A horrible shriek like a siren that goes up to a very high sound and holds if (34). Zizek asks us to "imagine a 'something' that is first heard as a shrill sound, and then pops up as a monstrously distorted body" (62) - an apt description of Josie's escort into the Underworld.

By definition, lamella is a difficult entity to get a hold of, and thus an even trickier thing to fruitfully "apply" in a critical context. To take a first step, let us consider its relation to the Skriker's temporality. Lacan's own account states that lamella is "related to what the sexed being loses in sexuality" (XI 197) - "It is precisely what is subtracted from the living being by virtue of the fact that it is subject to the cycle of sexed reproduction" (198). The realm of sexuality is to be understood here as a decisive break from "scissiparous" reproduction ("like the amoeba") (197). The latter mode - wherein, for instance, an organism divides itself into two equal cells - is "immortal." "Here," as Roberto Harari clarifies, "there is no death of the individual," whereas sexuality, which requires "coupling in order to attain by that means the production of a new being," involves an inevitable loss: "the disappearance, sooner or later, of the being of the former generation" (240). It is thus that sexuality implicates death, and Lacan's "immortal" lamella represents the sexed being's loss, an initial loss that "irremissibly condemns him to disappearance" (241).

The temporality of lamella - "cut off from the living body caught in sexual difference" (Zizek, How 65) - is vividly reflected in the Skriker's Underworld. Notably, the Skriker presents this undead realm for the gaze of Josie, whose destruction of her own offspring is also, in the Lacanian sense, an attempted rejection of the very finitude concomitant to sexuated reproduction.3 The initial focal point of this scene - the Hag, searching for the various pieces of her own body, chopped up and stewed by the Underworld's innumerable inhabitants - is an acute reflection of lamella's indestructibility. Severed into seemingly endless pieces - "Where's my head? where's my heart? where 's my arm? where's my leg? is that my finger? that's my eye" (35) - the Hag nonetheless persists. She is a creature which, as Lacan would put it, "survives any division, any scissiparous intervention" (XI 197). The Underworld itself "feeds" on this immortal corps morcelé, and Josie's decision to eat from it inculcates her into the undead life of this realm, opposed as it is to the life of normal sexed beings in the world "above." The Skriker's warning that Josie will die if she drinks from the fountain, though seemingly disproven, is technically accurate insofar as doing so returns Josie to the realm of sexual reproduction and its correlative finitude.

This "undead" temporality is accentuated through its juxtaposition with Lily's own descent at the play's close. Anticipating an experience similar to Josie's, she is subjected instead to a dialectic inversion. Willing to go with the Skriker on the condition that her own "sexuated" reality - defined for her by her relation to her offspring - remain preserved in time, Lily is confronted instead with a nightmare of sexual reproduction and its correlative temporality. As she journeys decades into the future, the succession of her offspring - "my child's child's child's" (56) - is set vividly beside sexuality's death and loss: "Lost and gone for everybody was dead years and tears ago, it was another cemetery," the Skriker's pun aptly merging "cemetery" with the symbolic place of "century." Here, Lily's eating of the food (a "mortel morsel"), far from endowing her with undead life, condemns her to disappearance.4

In this respect, what Lacanian and Zizekian psychoanalysis share with the Skriker is the latter's predilection for shapeshifting life and death themselves, enjoying the speculative correlations and torsions between these seemingly opposed states. Josie's experience accentuates the horrifying life correlative to Symbolic death (her release from the "sexuated" Symbolic order), while Lily's presents a "bad infinity" of sexuated life as death. Life and death function as though inscribed onto two surfaces of a Möbius strip, the torsions between them giving birth to the monstrous.

But just how monstrous is this Skriker - upon the stage? If Churchill's creature and its Underworld evoke the Lacanian lamella, this undead domain is of course a staged representation. With Zizek's reference to Alien in mind, the first impulse might be to question whether theatre can come close to evoking lamella with the same power as a medium like film. Even Herbert Blau, for all his championing of theatre, readily concedes the ways in which, apropos of lamella-like creatures, "the movies seem to have the advantage":

[N] o theatre event - no matter how excellent the staging - can approach the impression of an eeriness being realized (what Malinowski, speaking of magic, somewhere calls "the coefficient of weirdness") that can be achieved by any third-rate horror movie or some aesthetic atrocity from outer space or the filmed drawings of King Kong. . . . (Blooded 123)

Blau prompts a consideration not simply of the technical features on account of which filmic representation of such creatures is "more credible" (121) and "more overwhelming" (123) (its "documentary superiority," "the elephantiasis of reality in the closeup," etc.). His analysis raises a fundamental paradox: how to present undeadness in the artistic medium that "stinks most of mortality" (132)? Given the "perishable" nature of theatre (131) - its status, for Blau, asa realm "possessed with disappearance" (132) - the undead Skriker is the site of ontological disjunction not only with Josie's England but with its own medium. (As Blau remarks elsewhere, "Someone is dying in front of your eyes. That is another universal of performance" [Eye 181]). Or the supplementary paradox: how to stage a realm of undead life (prior to symbolic "mortification") in light of the famous semiotic assertion that everything on stage is always-already a sign (Elam 7)? The sense of representation may be all the more acute when theatre attempts to incarnate undeadness, the most astonishing imitations of which can have the paradoxical effect of accentuating their own theatrical status, drawing attention to the feat of artistic creation. To adapt Blau's argument concerning the "unmediated" in performance ("It can be a very powerful illusion in the theater, but it is theater" [E^e 164]), even the most vivid theatrical attempt to incarnate lamella may have the paradoxical result ("the more effective it is") of "radically increasing] the quotient of pretense" (167).

Churchill's directions for staging the Skriker's realm seem intent to acknowledge or indeed accentuate this paradox. What is, on the level of narrative, a confrontation with horrible undead life, is presented in an explicitly stagey way; this realm "beyond" symbolic ordering is highly keen to draw attention to its theatrical status. The Skriker appears as "a fairy queen, dressed granthosely, with lapses" (35), and the whole of Josie's descent is underscored with music. Everyone u sings instead of speaking," and gradually all of the guests (from the Kelpie to Black Dog to Rawheadandbloodybones) uget up and dance" (37). The feast is offset with flourishes of the uncanny - usome of the beautiful people have a claw hand or hideous face" (34-35) - but to use Blau's terms, the "impression of an eeriness being realized" is unlikely to be acute amidst such showy excess, reminiscent of commercialized musicals. This seems to have been the impression for critics of Les Waters's production, in which the Underworld verged on "a parody of the musical as a genre, as if this were Out of the Woods [sic] with Sondheim's dark vision of the fairy tale, but not quite managing to convey any sense of menace" (Wilson 177). Churchill responds to the incongruity between lamella's undead life and theatrical representation by expressly and intentionally increasing the "quotient of pretense" (her lamella "is theatre").

But if this stagey Underworld (to which I will return) appears to accentuate the division between jouissance and symbolic ordering, the play journeys further around the circuit and emphasizes the inverse paradox. A conspicuous feature in performance is its horizontal merging of Josie's and Lily's regular (Symbolic) reality with the domain of undead life. Through Churchill's staging, this under- worldly domain is not decisively cut off from "normal" reality but constantly injected into it, lurking in the background of the girls' contemporary England even when unrecognized by the characters. The status of these creatures is not simply that of something lost to present reality ("a period before the decline of magic" [Rabillard, "On" 97]). The fact that there are "no clear boundaries between real world and underworld, everyday and nightmarish/dreamy" (Amich 399), accentuates what Lacan terms the "extimate" relationship between Symbolic reality and lamella's undead jouissance. Like Churchill's fairy creatures, lamella is of course a myth ("This lamella, this organ, whose characteristic is not to exist ..." [Lacan, XI 197-98]), yet like those creatures it is simultaneously implicated with and "injected" into the realms of reality. In this regard, what Churchill's play shares most prominently with the later Lacan is a complex exploration of the ex-timity between reality and the undead.

From Undead Speech to Undeadening Desire

To further explore this "speculative" dynamic of The Shaker is simultaneously to complicate existing discussions of the play's engagement with the "limits of representation." Most notable here is Ann Wilson's analysis, central to which is a psychoanalytic interrogation of language's impulse toward "mastery." Wilson's work resonates with several key "Lacanian" contentions, emphasizing how the subject's entrance into symbolization entails a traumatic "experience of loss" (179): of the pre -symbolic Real, of the jouissance of unity with the mother. But if language and its symbolizations work perpetually to displace this loss, the Skriker, evoking the "absolute absence which haunts language" (186), reveals what symbolic mastery would seek to repress. It accentuates how "the mastering narratives which an audience, which indeed any social subject, creates through language, are ruses inasmuch as the explanation banishes the repressed" (186).

This kind of psychoanalytic thinking would seem eminently appropriate for a play that deals with language as a site of constraint. Early on, the Skriker makes a direct impact on Josie and Lily by targeting their speech, employing for each girl a different strategy. Having resisted the creature, Josie finds her speech overrun with toads: "What? uh uh I'm sick, what, it's alive, it's - it's toads is it, where from, me is it, what?" (26), and indeed, "As she speaks toads come out of her mouth" A traditional Lacanian approach might be keen to interpret these toads (spewing out amidst the signifier) as language's own "return of the repressed," the slime of a pre-symbolic life-substance which the word has failed entirely to "kill." The toads could be thought of as the Real which Josie's signifiers cannot adequately master, a remainder not fully gentrified by language.

But Churchill is intent to supplement this dynamic with a "speculative" twist. The episode with the toads seems related to Josie's rejection of the Skriker, whereas Lily, having accepted and welcomed it, finds her speech affected in a different way - accompanied by a flow of money. Coins attach to her signifiers, falling out of her mouth the more she speaks, prompting the girl to continue talking as much as possible. However, if Lily is spared the seething life of the toads, Churchill's twist introduces a Real of another kind, one that complicates a more traditional Lacanian reading. Lily's speech, like Josie's, is incapable of full "mastery" - yet what escapes it is its own product. Speech is eternalized insofar as its attachment to money evokes an absolute Value that can never be reached - no amount of speaking will produce completion, since there is always more money to be had. If Josie's signifiers are derailed by the remainder of a prior Real, what Lily's episode reveals is how (to use Zizek's terms) "symbolization itself engenders the surplus which escapes it" (Tarrying 180). Lily demonstrates an immortalized spectral life injected into signification:

. . . singing thinging counting saying the alphabetter than nothing telling stories more stories boring sore throat saw no end to it fuckit buckets and buckets of bloodmoney is the root of evil eye nose the smell hell the taste waste of money got honey to swallow to please ease the sore throat so could keep on talking taking aching waking all night to reach retch wrench more and more and more on the floor. (19)

If, for Wilson, the Skriker evokes the "absence" correlative to symbolic castration (186), what Lily's episode emphasizes is how this absence is correlative to an excess. The by-product of her signifiers is surely a paradoxical reward, plaguing Lily to the point where she is dying to be freed from the "bad infinity" of her own speech: "another wish it would stop stop talking now and sleep at last fast asleep" (19). Here, "another wish" is directly intermingled with "wish it would stop" - two sides of the same coin. As Zizek argues, "it is language itself which pushes our desire beyond proper limits, transforming it into a 'desire that contains the infinite,' elevating it into an absolute striving that cannot ever be satisfied" (Violence 65). Churchill's speculative inversion thus accomplishes the same twist that we find in the later Lacan, for whom the "living dead' (the monstrous life-substance which persists in the Real outside the Symbolic)" finds its counterpoint in the eternal, undeadening life correlative to the Symbolic itself: "language as a dead entity which 'behaves as if it possesses a life of its own'" (Parallax 121). If lamella is a "noncastrated" remainder, its monstrous life is not, in Churchill's play, strictly pre -symbolic (cut off from the Symbolic order) but simultaneously a by-product of symbolic castration, the (horrifying) surplus generated by its cut.

Does not Churchill's (highly stagey) Underworld create a comparable speculative dynamic on the level of the theatrical medium? Wilson's own analysis of the Waters production draws attention to a proliferating excess that threatens to derail the theatrical representation during the Underworld scenes. Insofar as this escalating proliferation of conventions associated with commercial theatre is "out-of-joint with the rest of the play" (177), Josie's journey into the realm of monstrous jouissance reflects a short circuit between a Real beyond symbolic regulation and a surplus afflicting the medium of representation - a surplus of theatre, exceeding proper symbolic places. To use the terms of Hans-Thies Lehmann, in this highly "postdrama tic" moment, representation takes a backseat to "the emphatically or monumentally accentuated ostentation of the presentation" (69). Put differently, the representational medium does not simply attempt to "represent" jouissance but, in a manner analogous to the dynamic of Mangue, begins (excessively) to enjoy itself, this enjoyment overriding (if temporarily) the production's semiotici ty. In a 2008 production (directed by David Fancy at Canada's Brock University), the performers broke into an elaborate rendition of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." At the very moment of Josie's confrontation with the Real, the production gave itself over to an "illicit" enjoyment in movement, sound, spectacle, and corporeality "out of joint" with its representational regime. As with Mangue, however, this derailment of the performance's semiotic train was simultaneously a site of new meanings and associations - Jackson's lyrics themselves describe a force that takes hold of people and compels them to enjoy. This "break" with mimetic imperatives simultaneously mirrored the Skriker's own predilection for metaphorical detours and wild intertextual associations.

In both Churchill's play and Lacan, what makes this speculative inversion of the relationship between jouissance and the Symbolic far more than a merely "semantic" matter are its implications for the dynamics of human desire. Wilson's analysis evokes Freud's famous forti da (here/there), terms used by his grandson in a game which (according to Freud) served as a means of rehearsing his mother's absence. This game accentuates the impulse toward mastery that propels language - its symbolizations displace a traumatic absence, the loss of a primordial jouissance correlative to union with the mother. But Churchill's play seems most eager to complicate any notion of blissful oneness with the mother - Zizek's parallel between hmetta and Scott's devouring alien seems eminently appropriate here. Skrikers "drink your blood" (42), says Josie, and suitably the creature's first incarnation in Waters's premiere was "a huge, spider-like creature with wings like a bat's" (Kritzer 168). The creature "inverts mother-like traits, feeding herself off the young women and their offspring, rather than nurturing them" (170). In this respect, I'd argue, the play accomplishes a compelling "speculative" twisting of the Freudian fort/da, a shapeshifting of the game comparable to Zizek's own engagement with it. If, in Freud's version, the aim of the play between these signifiers is to master a loss, Zizek emphasizes how a properly Lacanian reading should "invert the standard constellation" (Puppet 59) .5 What if the true anxiety arises not from the mother's absence (fort), but from her excessive proximity, from the state of being suffocated, preyed upon, by the excess of her jouissancel In Zizek's version, "it is not that, anxious about losing my mother, I try to master her departure/arrival; it is that, anxious about her overwhelming presence, I try desperately to carve out a space where I can gain a distance toward her" (59-60). The da, in this sense, is not primarily an accommodation to lack, but a symbolic opening of the distance the child requires from an intense jouissance that comes too close.

What is the basic "plot" of Churchill's play if not an extended game oí forti da understood in this way, that is, as "a desperate oscillation between the two poles, neither of which brings satisfaction" (Zizek, Puppet 60) ? If (in a gesture of da) Josie initially distances herself from the Skriker, setting her onto Lily instead - "I wish you'd have her instead of me" (17) - she instantly regrets the decision: "Wait. I don't mind you any more," and a moment later, "Oh but I'll miss you now." Words cannot contain the horror of the creature's oppressive presence: "When you feel her after you it's . . ." (34; ellipsis in orig.). "But," adds Josie, "when you've lost her you want her back." Josie does everything in her power - facing almost certain death - to escape confinement in the Skriker's Underworld, yet once she is away from this realm, she is instantly torn apart by loss: "Everything's flat here like a video. . . . I'm never going to be alright" (43). The Skriker proffers a fulfillment beyond all worldly conceptions, but it is simultaneously a monstrous encroachment which must be evicted from the girls' world, its insidious presence the source of ultimate anxiety.

Josie's relation to babies offers a precise mirror-reflection of this game. Whatever the reason for her actions, the murdering of her child demonstrates the formal dynamic sketched above: the baby's status as excess is directly evoked in Josie's references to a "changeling" (44), something intruding from undead realms, something that must be forcibly evicted so reality can function normally: "You put the changeling on a shovel and put it in the fire" (44) ? For Josie, the life usually associated with a baby takes a horrifying twist, becoming an invasive, undead life, injected through the cracks of reality and literally "feeding" on the living.

This fort/da dynamic can apply on an experiential level in the theatre. On one hand, the Skriker constantly slips away, escaping spectators' efforts to "master" it, inspiring them to pursue it. But conversely, the Skriker's passionate direct-address of the audience confronts them with a potentially overwhelming excess - in Lacan's terms, a "lack of the lack." The spaces left open in regular communication are congested. Its statements are excessively supplemented, interwoven with an interminable wealth of their own unconscious associations and extensions; the space of possible meaning beyond the given (a space evoking desire) is saturated - we get too much meaning, a torrential joui-sense that congests the normal "non-all" quality of communicative language. The "claustrophobic effect" remarked upon by Amich (397) is thus correlative to Lacanian anxiety - what these speeches deny their audiences is the lack itself, the elusive space of something which does not appear, receding behind representation (da). Zizek uses the term "informational anorexia" to describe a common response to such "excessive filling-in of the voids" (Tarrying 155).

In these senses, what the play conveys is the "speculative" dynamic defining Lacanian jouissance in the final years of his teachings - jouissance as that which "simultaneously attracts and repels us - which divides our desire" (Zizek, Sublime 180). To be clear, the contention here is not simply that the Skriker "stands for" jouissance, as though jouissance is its hidden "meaning." What needs to be accomplished, in Zizek's terms, is a "properly dialectical reversal of the explanans into exphnandum" (Enjoy 119). What Lacan himself is trying to get his head around in his later theorizations oí jouissance is nothing other than this monstrous shapeshifting creature that Churchill calls the Skriker - both a sublime Thing traumatically lost to us and a traumatic over-presence, an excess that comes too close.

From Enjoined Enjoyment to Late Capitalist Anxiety

The deeper relevance of this speculative dynamic emerges when we consider how it brings divergent thrusts in Skriker criticism into closer conversation. While the play, as Rabillard writes, "initially drew attention because of the ways in which it tested the limits of representation" (97), many recent analyses emphasize its interrogation of globalization and late capitalism, their imbrication with ecological crises, and their "decentring" impact on subjective experience. Amich, for instance, explores the relationship between the play's temporal discontinuities and the "decentring forces of postmodern life" (394). What my analysis suggests is how psychoanalysis can help to reveal the (speculative) correlation between these thrusts: the play's dynamic enables a consideration of the effects of late capitalism through the complexities of symbolic representation and its limits. The "umbilical cord" between these thrusts is the parallactic dynamic of jouissance: "that which we can never reach, attain, and that which we can never get rid of (Zizek, Parallax 115).

In a first step, extending the logic employed above, we should recognize how Churchill's Skriker subjects the theme of "damage" (central to almost all analyses of the play) to yet another twist. This creature, shapeshifting between damaged (Life) and damaging (Death), also confronts us with the paradox of a monstrous, undead life concomitant to damage. The problem is not simply that the Skriker is dying from damage or that its undead life causes damage, sapping the living. From another angle, the Skriker's damage is a wound by virtue of which it cannot die. Like the boy in Kafka's "Country Doctor" or Wagner's Amfortas - both plagued by a wound that, while parasitizing on the body, prevents them from dying - the Skriker is not only threatened by damage but somehow undeadened by it, brought into life and perpetually resurrected by that which derails the planet's circuit. The creature compels consideration of an undead jouissance correlative to damage - an immortalized life arising insofar as the circuit does not "work properly" (52).

We can explore this paradox by taking note of two crucial features of Churchill's world. If damage and death, for critics such as Perrault and Cousin, are associated in The Skriker with hegemonic constraints, what seems striking about the world of the play is the absence of patriarchal representatives and paternal Law. In Lacan's terms, this is a realm in which the Name -of- the - Father is literally lacking - the fathers of both Josie's and Lily's children are missing, not even referred to (named) . And from the beginning, Josie's own remarks on the complete lack of consequences for her crime ("Licence to kill, seems to me" [15]) cast Symbolic Law as absent or ineffectual.

The second step is to note the peculiar way in which Josie is "fed upon" in this realm. She is not simply sapped of life but afflicted with it. Put another way, it is precisely in her capacity of Enjoying that Josie is preyed upon by the Skriker. Churchill's Underworld feeds on human beings not by stifling them or repressing the life-substance in them, but by making them Enjoy, pushing food and drink upon them to excess, compelling them to consume and sing and dance without cease: "Look at the colourful, smell the tasty. Won't you drink a toasty with me" (36). Enjoyment becomes (to use Lacan's terms) a "forced choice," an imperative: "You might as well say yes. You can't get rid of me" (24).

Placing these two features side-by-side, we find in the play a vivid expression of the late capitalist dynamic theorized in the later Lacan and emphasized throughout Zizek: a shift from Symbolic Law as prohibitive (Oedipal) agency to the contemporary Superego as injunction to Enjoy, an injunction which, like the Skriker, follows us relentlessly and assumes innumerable forms. In our contemporary world, we are "bombarded from all sides by different versions of the injunction ^Enjoy!', from direct enjoyment in sexual performance to enjoyment in professional achievement or in spiritual awakening" (Zizek, How 104) - the paramount "ethical duty" imposed by contemporary capitalism is the duty to extract maximum Enjoyment from all facets of existence.6 The damage and death correlative to "hegemonic constraint" thus finds its speculative inversion in the undead life correlative to a damaged (lacking) Symbolic order, fuelled by the excessive jouissance of its subjects - an order which, like the Skriker, masters its subjects not simply by subjugating them but by undeadening them.

We should not lose sight of the reason Josie falls into the Skriker's world in the first place. In a crucial scene, wherein the girl gives herself over to the creature, Churchill is intent to evoke both the enigma of desire and desire's relation to the enigmatic:

JOSIE. What do you want?

SKRIKER. I want a lot but so do you. We could both have it.

JOSIE. Have what? (34)

This passage evokes (in its own mutability) Lacan's notion of desire as "desire of the Other" (XI 115). The scene revolves around an unsymbolized, enigmatic "it" - Josie's forceful attraction to the Skriker is itself a product of this enigma. Hers is both a desire for the enigmatic Other and a desire spurred by the enigma of the Other's desire; its true object remains thoroughly enigmatic not only to the audience but also to Josie herself - she must go with the Skriker, she tells us, because otherwise "you've lost your chance and it could be the only chance ever in my life to - " (34)

A commonplace of Lacanian psychoanalysis is that the Symbolic order functions (and "masters" its subjects) by determining the coordinates of their desire - it teaches them how to desire (appropriately). But Josie's example makes clear how the mastery in question works not simply by naming the objects of desire but by opening a dimension beyond representation. What the Skriker embodies for Josie remains utterly mysterious and ungraspable to Josie herself, which is why it ensnares her so forcefully. She doesn't know what it will give her or why she needs it - the dash in her line signifies the space of an "it" definitively irreducible to signifieds, a spectral "something more" that fuels desire. It is in the Skriker's capacity to open the space of this dash that it most forcefully embodies the "mastering" force of contemporary capitalism.

More precisely, the Skriker gives body to the speculative dynamic between this spectral "it" (which we can never reach) and an over-proximate, excessive Thing "injected" into social reality, harassing us with its obscene over-proximity. The Skriker marks their "short circuit," their status as two sides of the same coin. If, for Lacanian psychoanalysis, anxiety arises not "when something is missing in reality, but, on the contrary, when there is too much of a Thing in reality" (Zizek, Metastases 77), then the Skriker is late capitalist anxiety par excellence - an oppressive Superegoic presence which, in breathing down our necks, in clinging to all we do, in enjoining perpetual enjoyment, threatens to saturate the very space of enjoyment, rendering it impossible. It is this injunction to Enjoy that transforms even the most gorgeous food into "twigs" and "dirty water" (36), depriving sublime objects of their transcendent Schein and turning them into trash. (In folkloric tradition, as Cousin points out, "Trash" is another name for the Skriker [Women 186]).

If the play reflects this late capitalist realm of enjoined Enjoyment, it also avoids equating late capitalist consumption with straightforward gluttony - the true monstrosity lies elsewhere. Many commentators have stressed how the Skriker's world, with its "false feast" and "deceptive, horrid foodstuffs" (Rabillard, "On" 98), reflects the glamorous insubstantiality of commodities. As the Girl informs Josie, "It's glamour. . . . Twigs and beetles" (36), yet Josie cannot help but eat. For Amich, this "inability to differentiate between cake and twigs is what happens when the logic of commodity fetishism is pursued to its extreme" (406). I suggest that the Skriker's world subjects this logic to yet another (Zizekian) twist. It is not simply that we mistake twigs for cake - indeed, a defining feature of contemporary hedonism is the glamorization of twig-cakes as such. Today's market offers a whole series of products expressly deprived of their substance: "coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol" (Zizek, Puppet 96), products in which pleasure short-circuits with renunciation, gluttony with anorexia, jouissance with joui-sans - "Everything is permitted, you can enjoy everything, but deprived of its substance." In the Skriker's ultimately insubstantial (and theatrical) Underworld, the monstrous undead life -substance coincides with the (Möbius) dynamic of caffeine-free diet Coke: such products, in "transcending any immediate use-value," twist their very nothingness around, directly staging that "mysterious and elusive X we are all after in our compulsive consumption of merchandise" (Zizek, Fragile 22). The passionate consumption of twig-cakes and dirty water graphically illustrates how renunciation itself can be absorbed into the Skriker's own game (a point hammered home in Lily's demise, an apparent act of self-denial) .

To consider this contemporary undeadening from yet another angle, if the Skriker, for many critics, embodies the hegemonic forces that confine Josie and Lily to symbolically determined roles, I argue that what most conspicuously marks their relation to the creature is their desperate, anxiety-ridden attempts to symbolize what roles it desires from them. The question that preys upon the girls is the very question around which the later Lacan insistently circulates: Che Vuoi? - what do you want? (Ecrits 690).

JOSIE. I think you'd like me to do something tomorrow.

SKRIKER coughs. (53)

Josie feels powerfully "interpellated" by the Skriker - she is the special addressee of its call. It clearly wants something from (or in) her, but this object remains (traumatically) unspecified, prompting Josie to perform all kinds of acts (going "further and murther in the dark" [54]) in the desperate hope of getting it right. If, as the later Lacan insists, the Name -of- the -Father comes as answer to the enigma of the (m) Other's unfathomable desire - allowing us to symbolize its object and resolving our anxiety in the face of it - then Josie's and Lily's is a realm in which no answer is provided to this enigma. The horror of the Skriker reflects the anxiety arising from the utter ambiguity of our symbolic place, of what we are supposed to be or do (for the big Other) ; and the play's dynamic gives forceful expression to the undeadening impact of this uncertainty itself. More specifically, the Skriker's peculiar manner of parasitizing on the girls reflects the paradoxical way in which a late capitalist system is fueled and sustained by our incessant, desperate attempts to symbolize what it wants from us.

Decentered Centers

What the current approach thus brings to light are the speculative relationships between key critical preoccupations. The play engages with the "limits of representation" and the dynamics of late capitalist experience as two sides of the same Möbius strip. To take an additional step here, and with the theatrical status of Churchill's undead realm in mind, I'll suggest a final "speculative" shift concerning The Skriker's engagement with ideology.

In production, a key feature of this play is the spectacle of witnessing a single performing body reappear in such a variety of ways. Ralf Erik Remshardt describes watching Kathryn Hunter in the title role of Waters's production: "Metamorphosing ceaselessly (from arachnid monster to prepubescent waif, from derelict woman to tipsy American dowager, from suave boyfriend to dying émigré), [Hunter's] Skriker changes tone, size, sex and countenance as it stalks Josie and Lily" (121).

In Bodied Spaces, Stanton Garner argues that theatrical perception is constitutionally "bifurcated," characterized by an "irreducible oscillation between perceptual levels" (41)- No matter how entrancing a show's fictional world may be, the performers of that world carry with them a "physiological facticity," a corporeal being-in-the-world "that always, to some extent, escapes transformation into the virtual realm" (44). Perception involves an uncanny circuitry, the on-stage entity remaining resiliently attached to the audience's space -time even as the fictional world comes to life. In the case of the Skriker, this phenomenological dynamic is subjected to an additional twist. Given the performer's radical transformations and unexpected reappearances, audience members may often fail to recognize the entity that appears on stage as the same ontological body previously designated "the Skriker," mistaking it not only for another character but also for another actor. Josie frequently begins responding to this entity as though it were the Skriker well before the audience has received enough information to ascertain the presence of the "self-same" performer. Spectators must work not simply to integrate fictional persona with physiological facticity but to perceive vastly divergent appearances as manifestations of an ontologically continuous "ground."7

These phenomenological complexities - which, far from simply disrupting the theatrical fiction, may substantially increase the uncanny dimension of the on-stage figure, endowing it with a quality that simultaneously fascinates and disturbs (fort/da) - prompt an inversion of the Lacanian adage that naming kills the Thing. In the case of the on-stage Skriker, the implicit gesture of naming - i.e., of designating this multiplicity of appearances as one and the same entity - significantly enhances the impression of mystery, depth, and unusualness. A given Skriker's individual appearances, however malevolent, would not have the same fascinating impact if experienced in isolation, or if they failed to be recognized (implicitly named) as reflections of the same underlying thing. The cognitive -perceptual operations involved in grounding an array of divergent theatrical appearances in a single performing body can inject a highly uncanny quality into the on-stage entity.

Perhaps this element of theatrical experience offers a key to the play's complex engagement with ideology. The Skriker, as discussed, is incredibly difficult to interpret, insofar as it seems to "stand for" so much. In addition to those things it literally embodies - homelessness and disenfranchisement, abandonment and baby-killing, mental illness - it indicates a vast multitude of fears and horrors: "Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Drought. Apocalyptic meteorological phenomena. The increase of sickness" (48). It both relishes and seems implicated with the proliferation of "snuff movies" (49), attempts at suicide (54), "the kind of war we're having lately" (49), and motorway pileups on foggy days (53). It is not only multivalent but contradictory - it is both the effects of humankind upon nature and the unruliness of nature beyond human control, both the horrifying apocalypse and the horrors posed by fanatical apocalyptic thinking.

What if the primary "ideological significance" of the Skriker is to be found not in any of the divergent things for which it "stands," but in the very formal gesture whereby such a multitude of terrors, threats, atrocities, etc., are perceived as manifestations of the self-same ground! If, as Kritzer states, "the Skriker manifests a primal and inexplicable evil that poisons every human society" (168), we could argue (with Zizek) that a central element of any ideological field is its introduction of such a "negative magnitude": "the positivization of the opposing force of 'evil'" (Phgue 76). This "magnitude" serves as what Lacan would call Ie point de capiton or "quilting point" (Ecrits 681), an entity which, in its consummate shapeshifting, provides a "container" for society's divergent and inconsistent fears, anchoring them. This poison, this evil, this additional fear - in its fascinating presence - has the paradoxical effect of blocking other terrors, out-screaming them.

To reverse exphnans into expfanandum, contemporary racism and xenophobia are themselves characterized by an increasing skill at staging Skrikers in the world around us, monstrous "others" with a horrifying capacity for shapeshifting. To locate the Skriker's dynamic in social reality, we need only look to the xenophobic image of the immigrant, who, invasive and overpresent, has the remarkable capacity to switch costumes. In a single scene he/she can be both a workaholic who threatens to steal our jobs and an idler too lazy for work, leaching the benefits of others' labor: "it is quite amusing," writes Zizek, "to notice the haste with which one passes from reproaching the other with a refusal to work to reproaching him for the theft of work" (Tarrying 203). This monstrous "other" is of course a most effective point de capiton if, like the Skriker, it appears to have access to an enjoyment inaccessible or lost to us.8 And what the analogy with theatrical experience most accentuates here is how the peculiar power and fascination of this fantasy-construct derives from the very appearance of mutability. It is not simply that the "other" is (wrongfully, irrationally) cast as the grounds of various damages and disasters, acquiring negative status through the cumulative weight of the frightening costumes it is made to wear. Its perceived ability to appear in such an impossible array of formations is a central element of its impact. The xenophobe's horror is the experience of repeatedly and unexpectedly discerning the features of a self-same actor in apparently disparate entities, suddenly recognizing in yet another guise the same thing, its traces barely discernible but unmistakable. Of course, the most astonishing act of shapeshifting here is the xenophobe's own - he or she occupies simultaneously the role of astonished spectator and director, taken aback by the uncanny reappearance of the very actor he or she has cast in his or her symbolic fiction.

In searching for the true substance or meaning of the Skriker amidst its multiple associations, we ultimately find ourselves on the other side of the strip: one of the horrifying things for which the Skriker stands is interpretation itself - i.e., the interpreting of a vast array of horrors, the uncovering of their hidden "meaning," the recognition of them as associated with a particular substance. Perhaps what Churchill's Skriker "symbolizes," most fundamentally, is this eminently ideological gesture of formal conversion, this interpretive "quilting" of the ideological field. And perhaps the true "damage" resides in this gesture as such. Is this not the lesson of Lily's final sacrifice? However selfless, her suicidal gesture symbolically grounds the play's multitude of fears and horrors in a single entity whose neutralization would provide deliverance for society. ("You'll leave everyone else alone if I do that" [55], she says to the Skriker) .

When Amich examines Churchill's play as a "formal exploration of the decentring forces of postmodern life" (395), she has in mind Fredric Jameson's Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Decentring pertains here to "our insertion as individual subjects into a multidimensional set of radically discontinuous realities," "the unimaginable decentring of global capital itself," and "the fragmented and schizophrenic decentring and dispersion" of the subject (Jameson 413). Following Jameson, Amich identifies the key challenge faced by "political art in the era of late capitalism" as twofold: "to represent postmodern reality accurately, but not to succumb to its vertigo" (402). The present study is itself concerned with "decenterment," but in a different (Lacanian) mode than Jameson's. Faced with a multitude of differing and indeed contradictory interpretative assessments of Churchill's play, its primary aim is not to replace a previous reading (a previous center) with a new one, purporting to speak more truthfully the play's hidden core. As Zizek writes, "Lacan defines the psychoanalytic subversion not as the replacement of one (false) center with another (true) one but as the very intermediate position of a 'decentered center,' of a center that does not coincide with itself (Organs 6). What I have spoken of as a Möbius dynamic involves precisely this mode of decenterment (what is a Möbius strip if not a perpetually self-decentring geometry?) My method has sought to reveal decentring as the paradoxical core of Churchill's play. This parallactic dynamic enables the play to "represent accurately" key elements of postmodern experience and simultaneously to offer opportunities for grappling with its vertigo. My analysis has sought to reveal how the decentred thinking promoted by this engagement with fantastic realms and creatures may itself serve as a productive response to a decentred late capitalist condition.


1. This usage of "speculative" is abundant in Zizek. See, for instance, chapter 3 of For They, where he explores Hegel's assertion of the "speculative identity" (103) between Subject and Substance.

2. This resistance may seem particularly valid in light of the "anti-psychiatric" impulse in much of Churchill's earlier work. Dan Rebe 11a to notes how plays such as Schrebers Nervous Illness associate psychiatry with an "authoritarian, rational, repressive form of power" (168), and with "the oppressive logic of capitalism" (169). At the same time, in light of the playwright's "early interest in Freud," Elin Diamond postulates that she "may have absorbed some of the psychoanalytic discussion of desire" re -popularized by the work of Lacan in the 1960s and 1970s (130) . Yet the question (if ultimately important) of whether psychoanalytic dynamics discernible in The Skriker were "consciously intended" by the playwright is especially difficult to answer in light of her notorious reticence. As Rebellato writes, this "lack of commentary reflects itself both in her avoidance of guiding the audience to particular interpretations of the work and in her reluctance to supply me ta- textual commentary in the form of articles and interviews about her own work" (174).

3. As Adrian Johnston clarifies, "the individual rebels against being reduced to 'a mere link in a chain,' that is, to the mortal vessel of a seemingly immortal genetic material" (51).

4. This "monstrous" dimension correlative to the realm of sexual reproduction was also remarked upon by Freud, who contemplated a possible relation between the sexual difficulties of neurotics and the death tied up with sex itself. See Johnston 51.

5. Lacan himself discusses the fort/da game in his Seminar Xl, yet Zizek makes an important contribution here by bringing ideas increasingly emphasized by the later Lacan to bear on this analysis.

6. Zizek' s analysis of the superego injunction to enjoy extends upon Lacan's discussion in Seminar XX: "The superego is the imperative of jouissance - Enjoy I" (3).

7. Certain productions - for instance, a 2011 production directed by Amy Wyllie and Sally Waters at Suffolk's Theatre Royal - have utilized different actors for each of the Skriker's incarnations.

8. "We always impute to the 'other' an excessive enjoyment: he wants to steal our enjoyment (by ruining our way of life) and/or he has access to some secret, perverse enjoyment" (Zizek, Tarrying 203) .

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Author affiliation:

GRAHAM WOLFE recently completed a PhD in Drama at the University of Toronto. His dissertation, entitled Encounters with the Real: A Zizekian Approach to the Sublime and the Fantastic in Contemporary Drama, was nominated by the University for the CGS/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award. His articles have been published in journals including Modem Drama, The International Journal of Zizek Studies, PsyArt, and Canadian Theatre Review. He currently teaches courses in theatre and critical theory at Brock University.

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