Phallophany, and Heidegger’s Unconcealment

In section 4.2 of Enjoy Your Symptom, Zizek begins an interesting “postmodern” discussion of the appearance of the anal father. Once it “appears” to the Cartesian cogito, the “anal father” becomes a representation of the self. That representation, to some extent, is precisely what Hamlet confronts in the appearance of his dead father as a Ghost. The Ghost is an “anal father,” or, as Zizek coins it, a “phallophany,” that is not only a representation of something missing in Hamlet’s cogito, but becomes a God-like appearance of theophanic proportions.

I find it particularly interesting that Zizek’s phallophany seems to purposefully point to the theological concept of “theophany”–which means the appearance of God (“theos” as in God, and “phanos” as in appearance or revealed). The term “theophany” is, quite literally, at least theologically speaking, much more than just the appearance of God, but is the appearance (what Heidegger calls “unconcealment”) of a Tranecendental signifier–that which is of Kantian Transcendental value, whose value is quantified (signified) out of the qualitative. Like “theophany,” Zizek’s phallophany is about unconcealment. What Zizek describes is the appearance of what is already within–this aligns with Heidegger’s notion that what is “unconcealed” from concealment (a state of concealedness) merely exists “as it already is.” With this in mind, the “phallophany” of the anal father is the appearance of what “already is” within the cogito–this is crucial to what happens “within” Hamlet in Act 1 of Hamlet. 

To be clear, the Ghost (of Hamlet’s dead father) is not the result of something that happens “around” Hamlet. In other words, though others in Act 1–the watchmen–see the ghost and alert Hamlet to its presence, the ghost represents so much more than a “happening” occurrence. Instead, if we follow Zizek, the Ghost (of Hamlet’s father) is something happening “within” Hamlet’s cogito, especially if we follow Zizek’s notion of the anal father and phallophany. What the Ghost (of Hamlet’s father) represents is a representation of Hamlet himself–a side of his “self” that, though repressed (Heideggerian “concealed”) manifests itself as that which “already is.”

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