Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Joel Faflak

Second Advisor

Dr. Angela Sheppard

Third Advisor

Andy Begbie


In this project, I consider psychoanalytic theories of the first taboo, on parricide and incest, to investigate the unconscious desire motivating the recent plethora of texts on ‘the last taboo.’ I discuss Freud’s, Lacan’s, and Klein’s theories of subject formation, and the role of aggressiveness in that process. Working with Bataille’s theories of transgression, I argue that laughter is the sacrifice that completes the original taboo in a sublimated form, compensating the subject for the impossibility of desire’s realization. I turn to literature to analyze the shame that results from a failed Oedipal identification. In conclusion, the taboo structure that brings the individual into subjectivity is paradoxical, demanding prohibition’s transgression in order to reinforce that prohibition. Laughter is its own paradox, highlighting the subject’s alienation while simultaneously masking it. The subject must learn to bear his guilt in order to resist the shame that society would impose on him.



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