What can be said of Halloween as a symptom or form of surplus-enjoyment? Perhaps that it is queer or a repudiation of what Lacan called the university discourse, or what we might call the dream of a big Other that exists. It is unfortunate that Lacan referred to this discourse as the “university” discourse, for naturally this evokes connotations of universities (for a discussion of how Lacan’s discourse theory works, cf. the appendix to my article “Zizek’s New Universe of Discourse”). While certainly we can draw on this discourse to understand what transpires in universities or what Kuhn referred to as “normal science”, it would perhaps be better to refer to it as the “universal discourse”. Within the universal discourse, we have S2, the big Other or system of signifiers, addressing the objet a or anomalous; naming it and situating it in a system of social categories and identities. In the universal discourse– a fantasy if ever there were one –there is the idea that everything is and can be named, that there is already a place for all that is no matter how anomalous, alien, or strange it might appear. The universal discourse is committed to the imperialism of the signifier, of the sign, holding fast to the thesis that all that exists is always already known, even if we are yet to encounter it. Adam in the Garden and nothing new under the sun.
It is for this reason that the universal discourse produces an alienated or divided subject as it product ($), a “dividual” rather than an individual. The universal discourses that form always conquers matter; for as Aristotle taught, only form is that which can be thought and copied. Matter is that which always escapes. As Lacan argued, the subject is always dividual, divided, because “the signifier represents the subject for another signifier” (S1 –> S2). In the universal discourse, the objet a, the material, the remainder, is carried up into another signifier, a discourse, a set of social relations and categories that pre-delineate its place in the Other. It is for this reason that the subject is dividual or divided within the universal discourse. It is always represented for another signifier, and the objet a which was its last scrap of being, that which evaded all discourse, is effaced in the dream of complete mastery and total representation. A surveillance state before the surveillance state existed. All is here surveyed. Or, at least, that’s the fantasy.
In Halloween, by contrast, we have a sort of marking of the failure or impossibility of this fantasy. There is a return of the repressed, the objet a, or an eruption of the failure of naming. This is the event of the queer, of the freaks, of that which does not fit with any system of categories, names, places, or identities. It is the space of desire refusing to identify with the options offered by the Other. Everywhere there is the appearance of werewolves, witches, goblins, zombies, mummies, hobos, and an infinite number of other figures of drive. Halloween circulates in the domain not of desire, but of drive. Where desire always looks for the signifier in the Other that would name and complete it, drive instead embraces the utter failure of that system of names or identities. Within Deleuze and Guattari’s framework, Halloween thus alludes to the domain of molecular packs that pulsate beneath the social field, perpetually threatening to upend it. It is the zone of becoming-animal that contests all Oedipal identities and where becoming-animal knows no descent, filiation, or resemblance. The werewolf does not resemble the wolf, but is something else altogether; a becoming of desire that cannot be captured in the pinchers of the signifier. This is why, in the queerness of Halloween, we will have so many different figures of repudiation with respect to the naming of the universal discourse. The zombie will mark and mock, for example, the mortification that takes place in the universal discourse. The vampire will signify how the undead– those mortified in the universal discourse –nonetheless feed off and from the last vestiges of the objet a lost in the play of the signifier. The werewolf will be that which has become-pack, which refuses the entire rotten game to instead run across the steppes.
Perhaps, then, from the standpoint of the health of social assemblages– a health measured in terms of whether or not becoming is still possible within them –we can use the degree to which Halloween has been gentrified and tamed as a measure of where we are at with respect to the big Other or the universal discourse. At present things do not look good. We have a deficit of freaks.