Desire, Duras, and melancholia: theorizing desire after the 'affective turn'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Publication details

JournalFeminist Review
DatePublished - Jun 2008
Issue number89
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)16-33
Original languageEnglish


This article considers how the concept of desire can be theorized in light of recent work on emotion and affect. In so doing, it questions what desire does and how desire can be theorized, particularly within cinema. Instead of arguing that we must move away from a psychoanalytic interpretation of desire, I ask how this approach can be revitalized and reconsidered through work on affect. This article also highlights the way in which Lacanian and Deleuzian models of desire are constantly set in opposition to each other; in so doing, it seeks to move beyond this impasse and gesture towards alternative ways of theorizing desire. One of the central issues foregrounded within psychoanalytic theory is the process of remembering and forgetting: the method through which the subject can 'let go' and move forward. This relationship is figured primarily in terms of the discourse between self and other. Marguerite Duras' work questions this process of 'letting go' and offers an alternative conceptualization of desire through her use of melancholia. Beyond an intrinsic interest in her work, because Duras has been admired by psychoanalytic, feminist and Deleuzian scholars, her films present an opportunity to rethink a theorization of desire in light of competing interpretations. In discussing melancholia in terms of Duras' work, this paper also considers the extent to which her use of Hiroshima as a backdrop to the affair presented in the film colonizes desire and its transformative potential.

    Research areas

  • desire, Duras, affect, psychoanalysis, film, melancholia

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