structuring absence

A more general application of the concepts regarding absence/presence in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, this term refers to the way that which is absent in the denotative level of a sign structures its overall meaning.[1] Since every sign contains not merely affirmative connotative meaning (THIS is what this sign IS) but also negative connotative meaning (THIS is what this sign IS NOT), both constitute the ideological meaning of the sign. In classical Hollywood cinema, the woman as object of desire “makes sense” because she IS NOT the active subject. The simpering “fairy” “makes sense” because he IS NOT endowed with heterosexual signifiers. The male hero fulfilling the standard Oedipal trajectory “makes sense” because he IS NOT “queer,” female, of color, etc. Thus the structuring absence is a central part of any stereotype. Because structuring absence is part of the subtext, it operates as an invisible counterpart to the naturalizing process within cinema, and within ideological systems in general.

[1] In psychoanalytic film theory, the cinema, functioning as a representation of the imaginary, makes what is absent, or repressed, present.


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