Poets, Poststructuralists, and the Numinous


  • Robert Lumsden


There arc broadly speaking two possible points of view concerning the relation of language to Lhe numinous; that it can, if with difficulty, be truly indicated; and that any attempts to speak of it will be ineffectual, and perhaps self-deluding. Variations of the second position can be found in a number of linguist-philosophers and critical theorists. Jacques Lacan, for example, is rightly described as thinking that "the quest for the pristine, wordfree structures of thought ... is frivolous". 1 In contrast to his master, Freud, Lacan's concept of language is not of a semi-transparent veil through which the real may be discerned, however dimly, but of a medium by which the very idea of truth itself undergoes a continual reformation. When we recall that this language is - in Lacan's description of it - pervaded at every point by desire which can neither be satisfied nor openly declared, it is clear that 'numinous', far from naming that which is truly extra-ordinary, can be nothing more than a disguised wish given transcendental status.