Interpreting the gaze in Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris: a Lacanian approach
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Gaze and anxiety are the pivotal constructs in Hugo's magisterial Notre Dame de Paris, with Esmeralda as the Ur-object for both Claude Frollo and Quasimodo. Both characters face a loss and, are, thus, in a confrontation with the real void in being. Jacques Lacan discovered, anxiety has an object: "the positivized real of the void, which has a literal weight, be it a heaviness or depression, or the piercing pangs of anxiety" (Seminar X, 21-35). The resulting void, then, is not nothing. Insofar as the gaze qua object a (a fantasy object, e.g. Esmeralda) symbolizes this central lack, paradoxically, in the real of desire, Frollo and Quasimodo's responses to the real, are attempts to cork their own holes, and, in effect in the real, object a denotes an excess of jouissance as they attempt to imagine themselves as whole. This level of visual apprehension, or psychic point in the scopic function is what Lacan refers to as the split between the gaze and vision, which enables the scopic drive to provide an illusory pastiche of the whole rather than the reality of lack. I re-examine the dynamics at play among the three central characters from a psychoanalytic perspective with respect to the gaze and vision and re-define Esmeralda's role in the narrative.
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