This dissertation advances a reading of four of Marlowe's plays (Dido Queen of Carthage, Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta) from a perspective informed by Lacanian psychoanalysis. One thesis that is developed throughout the dissertation is that Marlowe's plays present two different kinds of subjects. The first is the subject conventionally associated with philosophical and aesthetic productions that can trace their genealogies to the humanist thought of the Renaissance. This subject, which regards itself as self-authoring agent of the historical process, has been exposed to an extensive critique -- in the field of English Renaissance literary studies, most notably and influentially by the new historicists and their sympathisers (Greenblatt, Dollimore, Sinfield and so on). Such a critique typically endeavours to illustrate, through a scrutiny of particular Renaissance texts and their contexts, how the subject is fashioned by non-subjective processes. The other subject that Marlowe's plays posit is close to the psychoanalytic "subject of desire" or "subject of the unconscious", the subject as lack of substance, representable only as a void. This dissertation contends that these two subjects are not in fact unequivocally separate, but that they arise from a split within the humanist subject itself. The subject as self-authoring plenitude, as ego which represents itself to itself as consciousness, is possible only insofar as there subsists a "non-subjective" remainder, a non-presence, at the heart of the experience of an egoist subjectivity. In Marlowe's plays, the relationship between subject represented as void and subject qua ego is staged from a variety of perspectives. In Dido Queen of Carthage, the name Aeneas becomes attached to silences, moments of semantic opacity and distortions of Virgil's text: Aeneas is represented as a place-holder for lack in the symbolic order. In a sense, Aeneas announces the formal possibility for the experience of the humanist "self" before such a "self" becomes filled with a determinate subjective "richness". In Tamburlaine and Faustus, the vacancy that is announced in Dido becomes filled with a striving for self-presence. A sense of lack is both the condition of possibility of the struggle for prestige, and its constant foil. In The Jew of Malta, the focus shifts from the subject in its purely individual capacity to a notion of the subject as a citizen. The status "citizen of Malta" is qualified (in the sense of being defined and being limited) by reference to a figure who simultaneously belongs to and is not included under the geographic and political determination "Maltese", who is located at a point where Malta appears to itself as lacking or not fully present to itself. Ultimately, the critique of the subject as plenitude and agented centre of meaning is necessarily latent in the same discourse that gives rise to such a subject in the first place. In retaining the concept "subject" for the subject of psychoanalysis, Lacan indicates that the critique of the subject does not in some sense come after the subject, that it is not an autopsy performed by an epoch without subjects, but that it is a possibility within humanist discourse. Thus my contention is that Marlowe's plays, often used by the new historicists to show how the "self" is subverted, are not delivering a meta-critique of the processes that they stage, delivered from some trans-historical moment, but are simply actuating the necessity of humanism's failure to present itself exhaustively -- a necessity that can emerge as easily in the early modern period as during "late" modernity. This dissertation aims to demonstrate, in a limited way, how the subject of the unconscious can be reintroduced to the Renaissance text in the wake of its thorough excision by the historicists, and argues that psychoanalytic notions like the death drive and desire echo a failure of interpellation immanent -- and radically necessary -- to humanism.
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