I'm writing a paper on economies of love in Gertrude Stein for a conference in Helsinki next week, and although I have no intention of linking love in Stein with love as a neurosis, a Lacanian concept keeps nagging me: Can one stage a passage à l'acte? Can one plan it or arrange it or organize it? Lacan's dissecting of the Freudian notion of agieren, acting out, to also include, beside a call for attention as a defense against anxiety, what Lacan calls a passage to the act, is interesting to consider, especially since Lacan never talked about this notion as being anything other than spontaneous. There are times, Lacan contends in Seminar X on anxiety, when because of strong desire for an object which the subject sees as unattainable, the subject may experience a moment of total identification with the object, which brings about a sense of falling, an inverse kind of afhebung often manifested in some violent act that is unmotivated and devoid of message to anyone. It can take the form of slapping someone on her face, saying something really stupid, or more drastically throwing oneself in front of a train. As the subject becomes object, the subject exits the scene. While in Tromsø last month, I've been asked expressly to talk about this concept, but I didn't think of the possibility of the passage to the act as being consciously premeditated, even though an occasion prompted me to consider that, until today when I read these lines from Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – which, as everyone knows, is not written by Alice but by Gertrude, and it's not about Alice but about Gertrude:
“I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken, and I may say in each case it was before there was any general recognition of the quality of genius in them. The three geniuses of whom I wish to speak are Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Alfred Whitehead” (9).
What happens here is a cross between what can be perceived as a liminal statement on self-love as an economy of enunciation and its unfolding against the background of another economy, namely an economy of geography. Gertrude Stein as “Gertrude Stein” takes herself out of “here” and places herself over “there”. Gertrude knows the genius of herself but she cannot localize it within the space of enunciation that reflects a first person's perspective, and which is already part of a dominant discourse with fixed hierarchies: man is a genius and woman is merely aspiring. For a woman, where is this 'there', then? In the slapping of all men so that the subject can cross over to consciously enact the object, arguably that of embracing one's womanhood, in Stein's case. 'I am', Gertrude suggests, 'the premium genius' when I become “Gertrude Stein,” the desired object—here, genius or not—and the one talked about in the 3rd person, and one that is also aligned perfectly with men. The subject in general as a recognized genius resists localization which brings about a desire to escape fantasmatic narratives about geniuses into the real space of 'there is' or 'it's there' precisely as this space is devoid, or rather it is desired to be devoid, of any symbolization, whether contingent on gender difference or not. If you are a genius then you are a genius, and that's all there is to it. Gertrude, the writer of the autobiography becomes an object of her own desire. Gertrude desires to desire herself desiring. Thus, geographically speaking, an economy of love can be expressed at the limit of the point of convergence between first and third person narrating voices, when the border of figurality dissolves both the 'there is' or 'it's there' and 'there is not.' What is suggested is that there is a whole different country between the enunciating 'I' and the receiving 'other,' which allows for a premeditated criss-crossing of 'there is' with 'there is not'. It is as if Gertrude says that when something 'is there' beyond the opposite of what may be expressed in words through 'but there is also'– a new situation, a new stage, or a new act - the only position that makes sense in acknowledging the significance of topos and one which accounts for the function of a premeditated passage à l'acte is the one which relies on repetition. One of Gertrude's favorite phrases in her writing is namely the reminder to her reader: “As I was saying...”
—Before I started writing this morning, I've cleaned the lid of my Miele washing machine. I like to see it spotless. I like to see the metal inside it glistening through the spotless glass. I was thinking of how the aluminum color matches my hair which is turning more and more irrevocably white. The remnant of auburn is diminishing vertiginously. I imagined my “whitehead” separated from my body and tumble-drying in the machine. I wondered what Salomé did with the head of John the Baptist after it was presented to Herod on a silver plate. What did she do with its continuous reflection? I'm known to make drastic decisions on the 11ths of the month. Today I'll shift my angle and make this claim in my writing: In its relation to the passage to the act, the economy of love can be described as an act of losing one's head to own the words (or the love of another).