Yeats’s Extimacy

Author: Jen Braun (SUNY Buffalo)

It has long been the desire of Yeats readers and critics to establish the real thread of meaning that might link all of Yeats’s work into a comprehensible whole, a desire that John Unterecker observes in Yeats himself: “His project, always, was to give his work organic unity. Everything, he felt, should fit into a whole.”[1] This project, though, has proven difficult, given the vast differences in style, perspective, and content between poems such as “The Song of the Happy Shepherd” and “A Crazed Girl.” In this essay I argue that the ligature that binds Yeats’s corpus into a whole is a thread not of meaning, but of meaninglessness. Using a Lacanian theory of extimacy, a traditionally feminine position associated with the hysterical subject, I explore several of Yeats’s poems as works of indeterminacy and ambivalence. For Yeats, doubling—a common trope in his corpus, in which the dialogical structure of many of his works suggests a profoundly divided subject (see, for example, “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” and “Ego Dominuus Tuus”)—represents the constant movement and instability that characterizes the lack at the locus of the object-cause of desire. This reading investigates several of his poems of doubleness, such as “Vacillation” and “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes,” as intentional contradictions that open up a space for the Real to emerge, conjuring and exploring the past as it echoes in the now. In seeking Yeats’s “organic unity,” this essay reads the irreconcilability of his work as that which allows it to fit into a w-hole.

Lacan’s term “extimacy” is, appropriately enough, related to everything—everything, that is, inasmuch as extimacy is the subject’s relation to the Other, and thus the subject’s access to desire and the unconscious. It is the Otherness at the very heart of the subject. According to Jacques-Alain Miller, “Extimacy is not the contrary of intimacy. Extimacy says that the intimate is Other—like a foreign body, a parasite.”[2] A parasite—a creature that survives by feeding off what is necessary to the host. Extimacy is the feeling that what is most intimate—the unconscious—is what is most Other, outside of the subject’s agency, and, by extension, what allows the subject to desire. Put another way, extimacy is the experience of being both interior and exterior at the same time. Put even another way, extimacy is love.

Lacan defines “love” in two famous axioms. One of those formulations can be translated as “To love is to give what you haven’t got to someone who doesn’t want it.”[3] The other goes like this: “I love you, but because inexplicably I love that in you which is more than you—the objet petit a—I mutilate you.”[4] Each of these poses a problem of desire. In the first formulation, to love requires that you pretend to have something that you don’t have in order that you might supply that lack in the loved Object—a lack the Other can’t acknowledge. Love is the desire to be that which ensures that the Other not lack, and yet that desire requires you to be in a psychic position that requires there to be lack—for why else would you exist? In the second formulation, the idea of love as an act is already assumed. What is significant is the idea that it is unethical, perhaps even evil, to love the other, to love another to whom you have no access—that is, loving someone-as-locus of the object-cause of desire is a way of destroying him.[5] Love is not one of these positions; it is both, or, rather, a constant movement back and forth between them—so constant, in fact, that it is impossible to experience them as separate. It is the giving of the “haven’t got,” the objet a, that allows us to love that in the other which isn’t his—because it is ours, our object-cause of desire—and it is the recognition that the objet a is not in us which allows us to seek it elsewhere, in the Other. The two constructions are inextricable and the movement between them is what makes the experience of falling in love so hypnotic, so addictive.

But what has this to do with desire? Desire is, after all, something immensely personal, and yet Lacan said, famously, that “Désir est le désir de l’Autre,” an ambiguous construction in the French, meaning either “Desire is the desire of the Other,” or “Desire is desire for the Other.” The ambiguity is interesting, because it engenders no small difficulty in placing desire, in finding its position. Is it actually in the Other, so that my desire is indistinguishable from the Other’s desire? Or is it simply that the object-cause of desire-in-me is to be sought in the Other? There may be no difference between the two. In any case, for my part, I can think of nothing more extimate than one’s experience of desire. It is something so close to one’s heart that it is hidden even from oneself, and yet it is to be found, or, rather, searched for but never found, in the Other. It is this frustration that constitutes love and allows us to go on desiring in spite of all. The search for the objet a in another person is what allows us to love that other person—and it is also what ends up causing us to destroy that person.

It’s not really surprising, then, that Miller calls the extimate “parasitical.” Being caught in a position from which you can desire, from which you can love, is an impossible situation. Even as we destroy the thing we love, as Wilde so eloquently tells us is unavoidable, our experience of the extimate—our experience of love, desire, poetry, and beauty—eats away at us until…what?[6] That is precisely the question. What is the end of desire? Can there be an end of desire? Certainly there can be a death of desire, but that is a different thing entirely. When something dies it is still for us to mourn, and then to sublimate, so it really isn’t the end of anything. But if, instead of experiencing desire in momentary bursts of love and creation we were instead to constantly experience the frustration that is the position of the extimate, our experience of desire would become one of constant pain, and the parasite of the extimate would eat away at our souls, forcing us to seek reanimation until we wasted away and could finally welcome death. That is why Eros and Thanatos are so inextricably linked.

Understanding this, though—this, being the necessity of the position of extimacy if we are to be loving, desiring subjects of the unconscious—leads us to yet another question: how do we bear it? For Yeats the answer is wholeness, the unity of his corpus. His poetry and, in fact, his vision, reject utterly the sense we generally have that opposites cannot ever coexist—a sense we probably have because that coexistence ruins the necessary fictions we build that compose our identities.[7] No, for Yeats the project is never to choose a side and to remain there. His poetry seeks to find some way to make the coexistence work, to fill the space and to bridge the gap.

And so he created the gyres. As Helen Vendler explains in Yeats’s Vision and the Later Plays: “We usually need to be reminded that the gyres are always double, that there is no separating subjective and objective, aesthetic and moral, emotional and rational. As one diminishes, the other increases, and consequently no statement about these or other qualities is made absolutely.”[8] This doubleness is everywhere in Yeats’s poetry, not just in his later work. Take, for example, the first poem in the first collection of his poetry—appropriately enough, named Crossways—“The Song of the Happy Shepherd.” The poem places the speaker in an uncertain time, between the idealized past and the future, when

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn…

So the speaker is placed in a time between night and dawn—a traditionally liminal space—under the stars, yet he tells us not to “seek learning from the starry men,” and that “word of theirs—the cold star-bane | Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain.”[10] The speaker, then, is caught, for there is no truth to be sought from the past, and the future is a grave.

And yet he is still joyful, this speaker, speaking in axioms—“for this is also sooth”—which really don’t mean anything except to himself, seeking knowledge not in others, but in dreaming, for “there is no truth | Saving in thine own heart.”[11] He declaims “words alone are certain good” and advises to

Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell.
And they thy comforters will be,
Rewarding in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood…

Pretty sentiment, on the surface: seek truth only in yourself, the only truth in life that can be found is subjective, and dreaming allows us to access this truth. But, if this is so, then why is it that only in this repetition can we be comforted, and why will that echo “fade in ruth”? The answer lies in the starry men, precisely those to whom the speaker refuses to listen. Their hearts have been torn in two, and all their “human truth” is dead. If human truth doesn’t exist except in the heart, then it follows that truth is only established when there is a whole heart.

But the speaker specifies that it is human truth that is dead. Human truth for starry men? Of course they cannot have human truth if they are not men that seek to live amongst men. Human truth, sung to echoing shells, fades away. Whatever truth the starry men possess is not within the poem; it cannot be sung, and so cannot fade away. It is the truth that emerges when the heart is torn; it is the truth that only ever exists in emptiness. That is, it is the truth of the unconscious—the truth that there is an unconscious, that a subject is not simply an ego, a symbolic structure. It is the truth that there is a real subject, and that it is a thing-in-itself. It is what is left when all the noise fades away, and all the symbols come to naught. And this is why human truth must be sung. It is not in the singing, or in the repeating, that the truth can be heard. The noise simply serves to distract from what is really there. Hence why Lacan coined the term “litter-ature;” it allows for the empty speech, which must be spoken before full speech, to emerge. After all, it is in the space between the singer and the shell, the empty, silent space, that the echo is able to exist—the echo, which, in fading out, allows the listener to really hear.

The echo returns again—as it must—much later in Yeats’s poetry; in the Last Poems, he writes of “Man and the Echo,” zeroing in on the interaction between the man and the song in “The Song of the Happy Shepherd.” In this poem, the man speaks quite a lot, remembering his past, asking questions, seeking answers of himself. His echo, though, speaks only twice, and the answers it gives are not “happy,” neither joyful nor especially felicitous. It simply repeats “Lie down and die,” and “Into the night.”[13] These answers, as language, mean nothing. The first can either be an imperative—die and give up that you might rest—or Thanatos. The second is a sentence fragment; it is quite literally without subject. The reader must make her own meaning, must put herself in the place of lack. Even the secret shouted to the stone, the great secret, so great that it is never enunciated within the poem, cannot elicit a response. As the poem eludes stable interpretation, the reader is forced to encounter her own role in the poem as the locus of desire; she must acknowledge that any metonymic chains of meaning must be anchored by her own master signifier, the ultimate and ultimately subjective link between imaginary meaning and signification, a recognition that reveals the emptiness where there should be meaning.

This emptiness of meaning soon becomes even more obvious: the speaker has learned nothing from his echo, for there was nothing to learn from it, even though he once did yell his great secret into the void. He follows his own questions around the stanzas until he can finally face the only truth: “What do we know but that we face | One another in the void?”[14] In recognizing the only truth is that there is an Other, and that that Other only echoes the words he himself has spoken—words that can deliver to him no knowledge of the world—the speaker loses his “theme”; there are no more questions to be asked, and he must be silent. He must be silent because, from his speaking, from his che vuoi, he can learn nothing; there is no response from the Other, telling him, in simple terms, what it is that he wants.[15] There is only the echo, and the void, and finally the silence, and from the silence emerges the real. Once the words die out—words, symbols, signs of the demand for meaning—what emerges is nothing more or less than the wordless, language-less real, the real of life and death, of nature and its inevitability, to distract the speaker’s thought from his pêche original, his original sin—the irresistible drive toward meaning.

But this silence isn’t simply the real, or else it wouldn’t come through in poetry. After all, the poem is made of words, words that must come from a subject but which are only ever symbolic, never real. Further, it is an uncertain image: “Up there some hawk or owl has struck | Dropping out of sky or rock, | A stricken rabbit is crying out | And its cry distracts my thought.”[16] We cannot know if it is an owl or a hawk, for nothing is known of it. We cannot know if it dropped out of the sky or out of a rocky outcrop, because nothing is seen of it. We cannot even know if this scenario even happened since nothing is known of it except for the rabbit’s cry—the only distinctive image. The seeming is only a construction, created from the speaker’s own imagination. Even more significant, it is an image that stands out, which inspires no little sense of dis-ease in the poem. It is an image intended to fill the hole where the real should have been allowed to emerge, where the unconscious should have been allowed to speak, where desire should have been.

There are two very memorable axioms about lying in Lacan’s theories. The first is that the analysand—or, really, any speaking-subject, any parlêtre (the construction in the French is significant, for in it we encounter the par-lettre¸ by-letter, with a hole inside of it where the extra “t” should have been)—never lies; his constructions, though not of the order of the real, always reveal some slip of his unconscious, and so always tell the truth of the subject. The second is that anxiety is the only affect that does not lie.[17] This is because anxiety—real anxiety, not that affect we call anxiety but by which we mean anything from unease to nervousness—is the lack of the lack. In the anxious subject there is no hole through which desire can emerge. Where the phallus should be—the master signifier, that which allows us to nail down meaning, and which constantly eludes Yeats in his astoundingly unsuccessful search for the comfort of meaning—there is no absence to cover, no lack to fill, no dearth of words playing off each other. Instead, we have images parading as reality, sounds filling the silence, the relentlessness of anxiety.

One can see this anxiety emerging in Yeats’s poetry. Anxiety is always connected with the desire of/for the Other. Wherever anxiety exists there are two levels: the desire of the Other, and the inability to answer the question of the desire of the Other on the part of the subject, because the desire of the Other is enigmatic: “I don’t know what he wants of me.” Instead of speaking to the desire of the Other and, in so doing, recognizing his own lack, the subject of Yeats’s poetry simply speaks; the signifying chain is not stabilized by any master signifier, and so the search for meaning is constantly thwarted. His language moves constantly, refusing to be other than what it is—symbolic—and refusing any attempt, on the part of the reader, at a necessary fiction. The first poem, “The Song of the Happy Shepherd,” is a song that has an answer to the che vuoi; in fact, it has many answers. All of them are wrong, of course, but that hardly matters. The movement between them is a movement of love, of desire. “Man and the Echo,” though, reveals no such surety, not on any level. It is a poetics of anxiety, a position which doesn’t pretend to have meaning, that doesn’t aspire to meaning.

How can a subject be both a desiring subject and a subject of anxiety at the same time? It would seem they are two necessarily opposing conditions; after all, they inhabit the same psychic position. When there is anxiety, desire is inaccessible, for anxiety closes the hole where desire must emerge. When desire exists—when the subject is able to convince himself that there is a singular object-cause, and he begins to seek it—then the subject must have nailed down some sort of meaning, must have constructed some metonymic chain, because there must be a phallus, there must exist some lack.[18] The conditions are simply contradictory.

But in Yeats’s poetry they exist impossibly together; the coexistence is problematic, of course, but I don’t suppose that matters very much. The solution must have to do with what is between desire and anxiety, what we introduced earlier as the condition of extimacy. And for that we must turn to a certain theme in Yeats—a theme of the in-between the doubleness. The ideal place to search for this is in “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes,” a poem that begins with what Freud calls the ego-ideal:

Under blank eyes and fingers never still
The particular is pounded till it is man.
When had I my own will?
O not since life began.

Contrained, arraigned, baffled, bent and unbent
By these wire-jointed jaws and limbs of wood.
Themselves obedient,
Knowing not evil and good;

Obedient to some hidden magical breath.
They do not even feel, so abstract are they,
So dead beyond our death,
Triumph that we obe

This passage calls to mind dolls that must obey the Other from whose breath all life springs, but who are fortunate not to know; they are more dead than man can ever be. Still, the speaker seems to recall that once upon a time he had his own will, his own spirit, and was not constrained by the obedience that now he labors under, with empty eyes and moving fingers that never let him rest. We have to wonder who exactly “they” are who are triumphant in our obedience—for we are brought into the poem; his “we” is inclusive. There are two separate possibilities—either the “they” is some Other, some thing that controls us and gives us life, or the “they” is us, ever obedient to the desire of the Other. “They” inhabit what is recognizably the position of the extimate, the position of two separate but equally necessary and simultaneous situations that have to inhabit the same space. What allows them to exist together?

The next image provides some sort of answer, for the Sphinx and the Buddha emerge at the same point as the “they” of the previous section—“On the grey rock of Cashel”—and between them is “a girl at play | That, it may be, had danced her life away | For now being dead it seemed | That she of dancing dreamed.”[20] We are as good as told in the next stanza that this is the position that the speaker believes himself to inhabit, since “Although I saw it all in the mind’s eye | There can be nothing solider till I die; | I saw by the moon’s light | Now at its fifteenth night” [21]the fifteenth night of the moon’s cycle being, for Yeats, the position of ultimate subjectivity and the thing in-itself, das ding en sich. Whatever the sphinx and the Buddha symbolize—and this is impossible to say, since each is so heavy with the potential for meaning that it would be a feat to know precisely which meanings Yeats intended to signify—the girl between them symbolizes nothing but herself. She is a dancer, and she is a figure caught between two ends which cannot be pinned down: “To such a pitch of folly I am brought, | Being caught between the pull | Of the dark moon and the full.”[22] What is important in her is not what she seems to be, but what she cannot help being.

This movement emerges again in “A Crazed Girl”. She, too, dances alone, “Her soul in division from itself” (3), singing not to be heard, but only for herself; she is a subject aware of her doubleness, and perfectly content to be so.[23] The poem itself, written about Margot Ruddock after their ill-fated affair, is located and balanced between the two poems preceding it and just before Yeats begins to consider in earnest the process of his own writing in the poem immediately following “To Dorothy Wellesley”; it inhabits an even more obvious position of extimacy than did the dancer in “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes.” Of the two preceding poems, the first of the two, “What Then?” is an almost perfectly balanced poem, with four stanzas of equal length and matching rhythm. The final line of each stanza reads “‘What then? sang Plato’s ghost, ‘what then?’” except for the last stanza which reads “But louder sang that ghost’ ‘What then?’”[24] Immediately following “What Then?,” “Beautiful Lofty Things” is not as well-balanced, but it is a collection of clear memories, one after the other and each leading into the next. The first of the two poems follows the speaker from youth to old age, through all of the changes of life, but with a constant refrain: what then? The poem speaks of potentiality, desire, and unfinished business—the future. The second is pure reminiscence; there is no future, just the past.

The crazed girl, though, represents neither of these. She is the moment of the now, of creation; she is “improvising her music,” moving back and forth between creation and the dance. She is a “beautiful lofty thing, or a thing | heroically lost, heroically found”;[25] the crazed girl can never be pinned down, neither in the past nor ever in the future, but moving between them, and “heroically found” in both. Her instability allows her, according to Yeats’s verse, the freedom to improvise; her divided soul suspends her somewhere between reality and the imaginary. She is heroic in her very ability to make meaninglessness out of music, out of language. If the crazed girl is to be taken as a creature of doubleness, of the frenzy in the transition between opposing positions that is the very moment of creation, then one might assume she would belong, as did the other dancer, between two more solid objects, the past and the present—between the poems “What Then?” and “Beautiful Lofty Things”—not caring who could see her dance, yet inextricably caught. Instead, she is marginalized, yet somehow connected to the first two—connected, as it were, by language; she is the “beautiful lofty thing” and she answers the question, “what then?” She is placed extimate to the dialogue between the Yeats looking forward in “What Then?” and the Yeats looking backward in “Beautiful Lofty Things”; she looks neither forward nor back, but outward: towards the open sea.

The speaker seems to identify with her position. It is her space, the space of poetic potential, the mania that inspires art, that he wishes to inhabit. It is her ability to be both fragmented and whole, linear and circular, to be double, to which he aspires. Her “triumph” is in her very desperation, for it is out of the tragedy of being “heroically lost” that she can be “heroically found,” and so she is able to make her music, the music of the non-sense. Her extimacy is precisely that which allows her to sing, and so it is not really a tragedy at all. But what is it about this space she inhabits, or about her, that does inspire art, and allows the boundaries to exist together? Or, is this dancer, beautiful as she is, just an ideal for Yeats, an ideal that, if she existed, would allow for the opposites to exist together? Is this space, with which Yeats’s speaker always seems to identify, just an imaginary construct?

No doubt the girl herself is, in fact, simply a wish-fulfillment, for it is she who “had outdanced thought”; in “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes” the speaker tells us “I knew that I had seen, had seen at last | That girl my unremembering dreams hold fast | Or else my dreams that fly | If I should rub an eye….[26] She is a dream, nothing more, and yet to the speaker she is so much more. For the speaker she has the power to hold him in dreams or to wake him up; she has the power to make him move from the world of the unconscious to the world of “reality,” the world of the symbolic. She is, in fact, a personification of the imaginary, in at least one respect; she forces the real and the symbolic to remain connected, and so serves a necessary purpose. However, instead of forcing him to make meaning, as the imaginary usually does—instead of allowing him to construct that identity, that necessary fiction, that allows people to find their place in the world—she eludes meaning-making. In her very movement between borders she refuses to be pinned to a single meaning, to a single position. She vacillates, and in that vacillation not only seems to be trapped between the irreconcilable but also seems to allow the irreconcilable to exist. In her vacillation, she is love.

Perhaps this would become a bit more clear if one were to look at one final poem, a poem from which the dancer herself, as a construct, is noticeably absent: the poem “Vacillation.” It begins by positioning the reader exactly where we ought to be to answer a question like this: “Between extremities | Man runs his course.”[27] The first section of the poem reveals the deep ambiguity the speaker feels: even as he sees death, he seeks joy.

A brand, or flaming breath
Comes to destroy
All those antinomies
Of day and night;
The body calls it death,
The heart remorse.
But if these be right
What is joy?

The speaker poses his question: should he seek to collapse all of life into one whole? After all, the return to an organic whole, the return to one-ness, is Thanatos, the unbearably irresistible drive toward death. Is not Yeats’s search for wholeness, for coexistence, for an escape from the dialectics of life, imaginary though they be, inspired by the death drive? The search for completeness? If the object of one’s desire were to finally be found, held in one’s hand, there could be no joy, for that is the end of desire, the true end of desire. At the end of desire, when there is no more reason to seek, no more reason to move, there can be no more reason to live.

In the second section of the poem, he speaks of “A tree there is that from its topmost bough | Is half all glittering flame and half all green | Abounding foliage moistened with the dew; | And half is half and yet is all the scene….[29] This is an image of life and of death, of the spiritual and the earthly, of apparent opposites growing together in a single image: a tree, the quintessential representation for representation, used a million times over to represent a million different things, and never intended to mean just one thing. The tradition of utilizing the image of trees to represent anything and everything reaches back as far as Norse mythology (Yggdrasil), The Book of Genesis (the Tree of Knowledge), and even the mythology of Sumer (the Huluppu Tree). Trees exceed us. They existed before us and will last into the future. They support life within their branches; we use them to build our shelters, cook our food, make our ships. They extend deep into the ground and far into the sky, and they maintain within themselves a record of their lives, their environment. Everything from suicides and furies to goddesses and witches have lived in trees, hidden in trees, sought succor in trees. The tree, together with the history of literary trees, is a perfect image for the extimate; it is both earthbound and skyward, it lives and dies and is reborn, all within the same calendar year. There is nothing static about the image of a tree, and yet it is rooted in place for its entire life, barring human interruption. It conflates everything and, instead of collapsing in on itself, instead of engendering anxiety or desire, it simply grows larger and encompasses all at once, unproblematically. As for the subject’s role in this, “He that Attis’ image hangs between | That staring fury and the blind lush leaf | May know not what he knows, but knows not grief.”[30] He that is able to add to the chaos that is the tree can experience what the tree is; he can live without needing to know everything about himself—that is, he can exist as a split subject without seeking to master his unconscious—and he can live without grief—the grief of mourning, the grief that is the death if not the end of desire. In sum, he may not know what he knows, but what he knows, unknowing, is love—the only thing that keeps desire alive.



[1] John Unterecker, A Reader’s Guide to William Butler Yeats (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996), 4.

[2] Jacques-Alain Miller, “Extimity.” The Symptom 9 (Fall 2008),

[3] Or, originally, “L’amour, c’est donner ce qu’on a pas a quelqu’un qi ne’en veut pas.” I’m using here a personal translation, but the original French source can be found in Lacan’s Seminar VIII; see Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire. Livre VIII. Le Transfert, 1960-61, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 1991), 147.

[4] Jacques Lacan, “In You More than You,” The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Book XI, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998), 263.

[5] The object-cause of desire will be indicated hereafter as the objet a, following Lacan’s formulation of the structure of desire.

[6] “Yet each man kills the thing he loves” comes from Wilde’s poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”

[7] A vision, or, quite literally, his A Vision, the work he created inspired by his wife’s sleep-talking and automatic writing.

[8] Helen Vendler, Yeats’s Vision and the Later Plays (London: Oxford UP, 1963), 7.

[9] W. B. Yeats, “The Song of the Happy Shepherd,” The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, ed. Richard J. Finneran (New York: Scribner Paperback Poetry, 1996), 7-8, ll. 44-48.

[10] Ibid., ll. 28, 32-33.

[11] Ibid., ll. 26-27.

[12] Ibid., ll. 35-42.

[13] W. B. Yeats, “Man and the Echo,” The Collected Poems (1996), 345-46, ll. 18, 37.

[14] Ibid, ll. 38-39.

[15] Before the subject can interrogate the object-case of her desire, she must first seek it in the Other by demanding of him “What is it you want of me?” This question, the che vuoi, is constitutive of desire; it is the originary recognition of lack.

[16] Yeats, “Man and the Echo,” ll. 43-46.

[17] This is to be found in Seminar X, L’Angoisse, published under the title Anxiety: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book X, ed. Jacques Alain-Miller, trans. A. R. Price (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2014). Incidentally, the translation of the title—L’Angoisse—is under debate. There is a very important difference between the word “anxiety,” as it has usually been translated, and “anguish,” which is a newer, but increasingly common, interpretation. “Anguish” implies that the affect is an affect of the real, as Luis Izcovich argues in his paper, “Affects in the Transference” (presented at the Lacanian Forum of Washington, D.C., August 2011).

[18] Lacan discusses the metonymic chain of signification in “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,” found in his Ecrits. Each signifier leads not to the signified but rather to another word, and on and on in this way ad infinitum. This is how he describes desire: its object cannot be located through language, but it must be sought through the never-ending chain of signifiers; see Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconsious, or Reason Since Freud,” Ecrits, trans. Bruce Fink (London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999), 412-41.

[19] Yeats, “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes,” The Collected Poems (1996), 170-72, ll. 5-16.

[20] Ibid., ll. 21-24.

[21] Ibid., ll. 25-28.

[22] Ibid., ll. 58-60.

[23] Yeats, “A Crazed Girl,” The Collected Poems (1996), 303, ll. 3.

[24] Yeats, “What Then,” The Collected Poems (1996), 302, ll. 5, 10, 15, 20.

[25] Yeats, “A Crazed Girl,” ll. 7-8.

[26] Yeats, “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes,” ll. 39, 49-52.

[27] Yeats, “Vacillation,” The Collected Poems (1996), 249-53, ll. 1-2.

[28] Ibid., ll. 3-10.

[29] Ibid., ll. 11-14.

[30] Ibid., ll. 16-18.