Letter From An Alien: Subject/Object/Narcissist?

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Letters From An Alien, Writing
Tags: ,

In Barthes’ Lover’s Discourse he says that the ‘amorous subject’ suffers from an overload of empathy. In one sense it is the opposite of narcissism as the amorous subject focuses on the ‘loved object’ more than himself (Barthes always uses ‘he’ and ‘him’) but in another sense ‘love’ in the constructed sense of the word, is all about reflecting back on the self. There is this devestating bit in the book where he basically says every time you think you care about how your ‘loved object’ feels you are kidding yourself. You only care about how he feels in relation to you.

It really hit home to me.

But after reading it I was with Barthes all the way. He positioned himself as the ‘amorous subject’ and that seemed to me like the font of his creativity and knowledge and writing and work. If you are always the ‘object’ of someone else’s affections, it is a very passive role. What do you actually do?
This subject made me recall this, one of the first conversations I had with Mark Simpson, king of metrosexual narcissism, on his blog in 2010:
QRG: ‘Classic Pushy Bottom’ is a classic phrase!
MS: Well, I’ve enough experience of that particular species to recognise one when it pushes back at me – in Widescreen
QRG: Maybe the ‘Classic Pushy Bottoms’ and the ‘Classic Passive Tops’ should get together in a (very large) room and fight it out amongst themselves. With the cameras rolling of course, for the rest of us to enjoy the carnage.
MS: Oops, I think I may have already appeared in that movie….
  1. Thomas Wendt says:

    This goes way back into the annals (anal?) of psychoanalysis.

    There are a few things that we can assume from reading Freud and Lacan:
    1) We are all narcissists. To a certain extent, it’s necessary.
    2) Narcissism is defined as taking one’s ego as a loved object, as opposed to an other.
    3) There is a fundamental lack in subjectivity, which is the ontological object/cause of desire.

    However, within the narcissist, there is also a deep hatred for the self, a drive toward non-being (Freud’s death drive). So while narcissism protects the ego through a constant libidinal investment, it also engages in a constant folding and unfolding of itself as it struggles to latch on to a definite object. We find that object in a lover. The lover helps alleviate the anxiety of the lack, temporarily creating the illusion of filling a void. So in the end, two lovers do not necessarily participate in equal partnership; rather, they bounce narcissistic libido off one another, simultaneously trying to sustain the ego through the field of the other.

    That’s not to say that love is a waste of time. At the very least, it creates a feeling of wholeness. It only becomes problematic when one gets caught up in concerns for genuine truth and certainty.

    Lacan offers this advice: “What does it matter how many lovers you have if none of them give you the universe?”

    • well that’s an argument for ‘promiscuity’! But not necessarily for fulfillment in the more Barthesian sense. And I adore Barthes. I think he gets near to some kind of ‘fulfillment’ – in that he is one of few writers who fulfills me. And I am selfish.

      Do you know Mr Fuck Theory?


      I won’t taint your view of him. But it’s worth a look.

      • also the Lacanian notion of a ‘lover’ may be different from a purely physical version.

        I don’t know. It’s hard to read Lacan or Freud or Barthes on ‘lovers’ if you imagine them as casual sex partners. As they are all such intense people/writers.

        Not that you did. That was just how I was imagining it.

  2. Scott says:

    “He positioned himself as the ‘amorous subject’ and that seemed to me like the font of his creativity and knowledge and writing and work. If you are always the ‘object’ of someone else’s affections, it is a very passive role. What do you actually do?”

    This is Morrissey in a nutshell. A continually fascinating aspect of his work is how melancholic longing is always a form of activity, even attack. Always pursuing, its unimaginable that the “amorous subject” of a Morrissey lyric could ever be the pursued. You are the quarry.

    His work is constantly recriminating the loved object for its passivity. And here there is a secret collusion between lovers and enemies: “And what do you do? You just sit there”.

    • haha Scott excellent points. I’d forgotten, momentarily that Morrissey line – ‘and what do you do? you just sit there’ but its sentiment often goes through my mind!

      You are right. Morrissey refuses the position of object, whilst simultaneously placing himself ‘prone’ at the listener’s feet. ‘Shove me on the patio, I’ll take it slowly’ is what one might call the words of a ‘classic pushy bottom’ who is placing himself as ‘recipient’ but in an aggressive, active manner. This brings us back to the conversation I had with Mark Simpson above…

  3. […] Letter From An Alien: Subject/Object/Narcissist? […]

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