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Visual pleasure and La Vita nuova: Lacan, Mulvey, and Dante

by Robert S. Sturges
Senses and Society ()


This article examines the relevance of psychoanalytical theories of the gaze to medieval visuality, represented by Dante's text. Lacan's and Mulvey's work has attracted attention from scholars concerned with the medieval representation of vision, and Mulvey's claims about the phallic gaze may be linked to the extramissive model. However, Dante rejects extramission, and Mulvey's theories cannot account for the simultaneity of pleasure in looking and the sensation of dissolution in Dante's visual experiences. Lacan's writings suggest a theory better adapted to medieval texts: the openness to the other implied in intromission suggests Lacan's order of the Real.

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