Who will be Shot in the Middle Stages of the Zizekian Revolution?

In the first half of his remarks about Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove in The Parallax View, Zizek looks at the way James uses his long, winding, unexpected style to set a scene in a particular way. In the second part, he looks at the actual meaning of this particular, very Jamesian, scene:

She continued gently. “I think that what it really is must be that you’re afraid. I mean,” she explained, “that you’re afraid of all the truth.If you’re in love with her without it,what indeed can you be more?And you’re afraid—it’s wonderful!—to be in love with her.”

“I never was in love with her,” said Densher.

She took it, but after a little she met it. “I believe that now—for the time she lived. I believe it at least for the time you were there. But your change came—as it might well—the day you last saw her; she died for you then that you might understand her. From that hour you did.”With which Kate slowly rose. “And I do now. She did it for us.”

Densher rose to face her, and she went on with her thought. “I used to call her, in my stupidity—for want of anything better—a dove. Well she stretched out her wings, and it was to that they reached.They cover us.”
“They cover us,” Densher said.

Relying on Seymour Chatman’s 1972 book “The Later Style of Henry James,” Zizek goes on to explain:

Here Kate spells out the truth of Densher’s betrayal: he feels guilty, and refuses to profit from Milly’s death, not because he doesn’t love her and is for this reason unworthy of her gift, but because he does love her—not while she was alive, but from the moment she died. He fell in love with her gesture of dying for him and Kate, with how she turned her inevitable death from illness into a sacrificial gesture. Why, precisely, is this a betrayal? Because such love is a fake, a case of what Freud called “moral masochism.”

Poor Densher. In a footnote, Zizek describes the type:

In more political terms, Densher is a model “honest” bourgeois intellectual who masks his compromising attitude by “ethical” doubts and restraints—types like him “sympathize” with the revolutionary cause, but refuse to “dirty their hands.”They are usually (and deservedly) shot in the middle stages of a revolution (it is all the Millies of this world—those who like to stage their own death as a sacrificial spectacle—whose wishes are met in the early stages of a revolution).


About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
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13 Responses to Who will be Shot in the Middle Stages of the Zizekian Revolution?

  1. landzek says:

    What is your motivation to have posted this?


  2. landzek says:

    How do you relate to this post? I am curious.


    • David Roman says:

      I think Zizek is greatly misunderstood by those who don’t read his works closely.


      • landzek says:

        Can you tell me: what particularly about this segment is mis understood?


      • landzek says:

        What is misunderstood of your post?

        I jave a thoery that theory is a way to keep actual experience at a distance. That this is a modern phenomena that post-modernity justifies though establishing the legitimized route for idenity, that together they define the religious moment

        What does your post show of the usual misunderstanding of Z?


  3. David Roman says:

    The point of this segment is not explain Henry James, but to indicate how it relates to Zizek’s thought: Densher feels guilty, and so he can’t fully profit from Milly’s death, which he so greatly desired before the fact. Zizek’s reading is: this doesn’t elevate Densher, nor it does offset his acts and general outlook. Guilt is not a noble sentiment: “Freudian masochism” doesn’t pay off your previous debts of dishonor, misbehaviour, colonialism, racism or whatever. It only adds to them by piling up bogus “doubts and restraint” on top of the earlier charge sheet. Thus: punishment is merited, not despite the guilt and second thoughts, but because of them. This illustrates many of Zizek’s strongly controversial political positions very nicely, I would think.


  4. landzek says:

    thank you. I am always curious why we would need to conceal our points. It is interesting that in the very section of Parallax View, zizek talks about this. What is the purpose behind writing a detailed analysis of a work, in this case “wings”, and not come right out and say what he means? Why would he, in effect, rely upon others to draw out the meaning, as you have down here? I think Z is being quite characteristically forthcoming of his position.

    My initial question beckons this kind of answer. Why would zizek make a point about guilt and punishment that you had to draw out for other people? Perhaps it is an artistic kind of move, but is zizke really concerned about himself being an artist? Z is actually very forth coming with his opinions, Ive found. why would he disguise it?

    I have a little difficulty with using pieces of ideas for various uses; I am a ‘totalistic’ kind of guy . Though it is the way of the world, I had to ask for what are you putting to use this snippet. You seem a political kind of dude, so I got a political kind of answer, so it does really confirm what I was looking for.

    What I get from this section on “Wings” is Z is describing the current situation. We ‘deserve our punishment’ because we (as a Hegelian determinant, a kind of Kantian imperative – the vehicle Z always works within) have and are (as a political situation, perhaps Capitalist) stayed the middle ground, making gestures of commitment that are seeded in manipulation that attempts to put the weight of ethical judgement upon the object of our activity. We defer our activity to what occurs around us, but then taking back the ability to respond as a proactive move. But what does out of our mouths doesn’t say this, but only suggested it around the edges, and puts the ethical gesture in the hands of those who must see and hear us, for them not to slap us for our blatant chicanery, nor agree with us and becomes ‘allies’, but to uphold our suspicion and doubt that is at the very core of our ability to pose with confidence, to be complicit in our deception.

    Zizek is always quite confident in his assertions, and he defers, deflects and agrees in a very strategic manner, and our appraisal of this, of our coming to opinions about his various crass or non-PC or ironic stuff, places us exactly within the purview of his statement, and draws us into the situation that he himself cannot escape, even as he describes the situation. This is uncomfortable for us because we, as modern capitalists, must find the excess with which to generate our (profitable) identity, but Zizek is not involved in this perpetuation; or rather, he is ‘in the middle’, in that ‘place of nil’, where the subject disappears and is displaced into a multitude of identifiable objects.


    • David Roman says:

      Yes, but I wouldn’t say “we” as a collective are to take the blame in the middle stage of the revolution (whoever that “we” are). Z says that only some, those who use guilt for evasive purposes: Densher types. Not Milly, certainly. And, to put it in Zizekian terms, in the current predicament many of us are Milly here, rather than Densher.

      Liked by 1 person

      • landzek says:

        We as a political-historical moment. The some are the never located or identified post-traumatic subject who ‘has survived ones death’ and upon which the whole enterprise of reality lay. At least, through one view. If the some can be identified then we have only relapsed into a state of traumatic denial.


      • landzek says:

        But I’m not really attempting to get into a discussion of different interpretations of theory. I’m attempting to discover what allows people to be able to have such interpretations. I feel that philosophical theory has been propped up upon itself so much that even Zack is misunderstood, and he uses that for the purposes of continuing his philosophy actually.

        I was attempting to see if you could tell me what allows you to come to your ideas about this Zack that many people misunderstand him. I was not really attempting to engage in another philosophical discussion about how me and you are different in our interpretations of Z, because that nearly compounds the problem of having one person understand him and another person misunderstand him.

        I’m attempting to get to what it is that causes us to perpetually misunderstand each other. I’m attempting to get beyond the superficial political ideological real debate about who is right.

        If that is even possible.


  5. landzek says:

    Let us Grant each other that we both understand Z; what allowed you to understand him in a way that other people do not?


  6. Pingback: De Qué Va Slavoj Zizek, en 10 Cómodos Fascículos | Neotenianos

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