1

WHAT'S REAL?

Butler, Fish, Lyotard


THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO

I can date very precisely the moment in 1985 when I first recognized the specificity of the postmodern. My sympathies were fully enlisted by Cecilia, the downtrodden wife at the centre of Woody Allen's film The Purple Rose of Cairo. I was relishing her pleasure in the black-and-white adventure story showing at her local picture house, when to my astonishment and delight, as well as hers, Tom Baxter, the romantic lead in the movie she was watching, came down off the screen to join Cecilia in the audience.

Much of the film is taken up with the fictional Tom's difficulties in the 'real' world. His money is movie money and restaurants won't accept it; violence, he finds out for the first time, can be painful; when he kisses Cecilia, he waits in vain for the fade-out and is not sure what to do next. He is not, Cecilia at last reluctantly acknowledges, real. But he is not simply Cecilia's fantasy either. The other black-and-white characters argue about how their film can go on without him, begging the projectionist not to switch it off and extinguish them; one presses her nose against the glass wall of the screen, complaining that she cannot get out. The actor who plays Tom arrives to coax him back

-1-

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Culture and the Real
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • General Editor's Preface ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xvi
  • 1 - What's Real? 1
  • 2 - Psychoanalysis Beyond Idealism 20
  • 3 - The Lacanian Real 38
  • 4 - ŽiŽek Against Lacan 52
  • 5 - Culture's Magic Circle 64
  • 6 - Making Space 81
  • 7 - Desire and the Missing Viewer 100
  • 8 - The Real and the Sublime 119
  • 9 - Sublime or Sublimation? 139
  • Further Reading 157
  • Notes 160
  • References 163
  • Index 169
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