In the work of Jacques Lacan there exists an extended metaphor of clothing, whereby the ‘naked’ truth is always ‘clothed’ in deception. For Lacan, clothing functions at the intersection of the symbolic and the imaginary, with outward appearance shaping what we imagine to be underneath in order to determine the landscape of symbolic desire. Joan Copjec considers the political implications of this metaphor, arguing that utilitarianism, in particular, divides desire into a false dichotomy of rational, naked desire, and the ornamental clothing of irrationality, a mindset woven into both capitalism and French colonialism. The article then examines two examples from Lacan’s commentary on ethics: the story of Saint Martin and the beggar, and the myth of Actaeon and Diana, further demonstrating how clothing metaphors are entwined with notions of truth and deception. The article concludes by considering whether Lacan’s words are similarly clothed in deception, and ponders whether he should be telling us the naked truth. Lacan weighs both options and concludes that the most effective form of communication constitutes a double bluff in which he strategically pretends to lie, not for the sake of deception, but in order to ‘clothe’ (and thus protect) the naked truth concealed underneath.
Mathews, Peter D.
"The Symbolism of Clothing: The Naked Truth About Jacques Lacan."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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