Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman: A Subversive Cartesian Thought Experiment

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Birlik N.

FORUM FOR WORLD LITERATURE STUDIES, vol.10, no.3, pp.473-492, 2018 (ESCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.473-492
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Carter's novel revolves around two opposing characters and two opposing definitions of truth: Desidcrio and Dr Hoffman. Dr Hoffman commits himself to destabilize all the givens in the 'Enlightenment' civilization of Desiderio by breaking the spatial and temporal moulds and demarcations and by destroying all the symmetries in its logocentric thinking. He aims to create a civilization without the chains and structures of reason in an alternative site of existence filled with mirages and elements of phantasy. Against the backdrop of the problematic relation of reason to unreason, he interrogates the nature and function of the rational acts. Proposing another mode of consciousness, Dr Hoffman indulges in a Cartesian thought experiment in a subversive fashion and rethinks a fundamental Cartesian problematic: the ontological status of reality and identity, thus, the disjunction between imaginary and symbolic registers. This essay aims to give a Lacanian hearing to Hoffman's project which makes more sense from a Lacanian vantage point as he tries to open a gap in the symbolic register or create a disastrous disturbance in it, and tries to delete or distort the place of the shared Other, by creating a domain outside symbolization through imaginary distortions.