The Real Cleopatra Was Black


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For Jacques Lacan, the order of the real is not only opposed to the imaginary but is also located beyond the symbolic. Unlike the symbolic, which is constituted in terms of oppositions such as "presence" and "absence", there is no absence in the real. The symbolic opposition between "presence" and "absence" implies the possibility that something may be missing from the symbolic, the real is "always in its place: it carries it glued to its heel, ignorant of what might exile it from there. " If the symbolic is a set of differentiated signifiers, the real is in itself undifferentiated: "it is without fissure. " The symbolic introduces "a cut in the real," in the process of signification: "it is the world of words that creates the world of things. " Thus the real emerges as that which is outside language: "it is that which resists symbolization absolutely. " The real is impossible because it is impossible to imagine, impossible to integrate into the symbolic order. This character of impossibility and resistance to symbolization lends the real its traumatic quality.