In her essay entitled Purity and Danger, Mary Douglas famously wrote that dirt “is matter out of place.” Through examinations of Renaissance literature and culture we encounter two types of misplaced, alienated, or otherwise distorted materiality. The first is the inaccessible place of the Cartesian Subject, Cogito. As in Montaigne’s Apology for Raymond Sebond, the seminal question of the philosopher playing with his cat interrogates the very status of self-accountability: “who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?” The second, along the lines of this “pastime,” is the interloping value enjoyment plays in the everyday contingency of one’s reality.
Alenka Zupančič, in this way, extends Douglas’ primary formula to also include Jouissance as a classification for out-of-place dirt: “In order for matter to become dirt, something more is needed.” In relation to the surplus-value entailed in comedy, she thus makes the lateral connection: “Enjoyment is somehow always enjoyment at someone’s expense, even if at first it doesn’t appear so. As in the classic example of being driven mad by someone’s cooking. They enjoy, of course, in the privacy of their kitchen, but since their enjoyment has a smell, they enjoy at their neighbour’s expense.”
The subtraction entailed by this neighbour’s “expense” should not go understated. Mutatis Mutandis, the pivotal relation of Montaigne’s enjoyed “pastime” can be framed in direct homologous relation to this model; alongside the displacement of subject-experience, what is also at stake is the very locus of surplus-enjoyment itself. What either subject, Montaigne or his cat, attempts to claim is authoritative identification with the activity’s implicit value; if the cat enjoys “more than” Montaigne, it is precisely at the expense of Montaigne’s psychic pre-eminence. The object at stake is the very ‘out of place’ kernel that subtracts the ‘human’ particular from the ‘non-human’ universal. Margaret Healy, writing on the Historicity of Renaissance bodily regimen, makes a succinct case for this traumatic material separatism:
For the first time men could be ‘fashioned’ into gentlemen – made not born – and conduct books written by eminent humanists like Desiderius Erasmus instructed an emerging strata of educated lay-persons in ‘humane’ and noble conduct. It can reasonably be argued that Renaissance medical regimes were similarly participating in this process. ‘In-humane’ behaviour – the antithesis of what the humanists prescribed – was inevitably demonised and labelled bestial and ‘monstrous’ in all such texts.
Here, the discordant imbalance integral to the Renaissance subject emerges as a gap, or a void, giving way to an incorporeal lack. The subject’s loss is a doubly ontic one – where, at the same time, subjects must confront both the anxiety of their own ‘in-humane’ dimension, as well as the adversative organic violence of being “made not born.” At either end we discover the ontological lack of what Badiou describes as the discord between ‘the one’ and ‘the multiple,’ where in the event of any given situation, absolute identification is always impossible: “For if being is one, then one must posit that what is not one, the multiple, is not.” In other words, at its most formal logic, the predicate ‘being totally humane’ must also posit the ‘impossible’ infrastructure of the absolute non-existence of the ‘in-humane’ – and thus the disintegration of the reliable human and nonhuman identitarian edifice altogether.
This is why Sawday talks about Montaigne’s conundrum with his cat as a “Renaissance version of the Turing Test,” wherein, “when communicating with a computer, if the human cannot distinguish the computer from the human, then for all functional purposes the computer is human.” Not only was the Renaissance a time in which diseases such as Syphilis plagued men’s minds, it was also a time of considerable innovation with regards to machine-technology and automated systems, particularly in the craft of machine bodies “indistinguishable from a human.” The notion that these two objects can be thought of as having identical psychic affects suggests a point of parallax in the constitution of a singular – a subject. It is this subject that is torn between nightmares of both bestial and mechanical desublimation – of both a loss of surplus-enjoyment, as well as a fear of over-identifying with that very value. It is not enough to say that the Renaissance subject necessarily feared the ‘dehumanisations’ of contagious diseases, therefore; we must also add the fear of the loss of these inversions in the place of utilitarian bodily wholesomeness.
Against Healy’s assertion that Psychoanalytic Unconscious theory provides “little help in understanding early modern representations of behaviour deemed deviant and ‘monstrous’” as such, it is perhaps more edifying to consider models such as the Lacanian theory of desire in beginning to account for the theatrical resurgence of the ‘monstrous’ subject par excellence also developing at the same time.
To reverse the Historicist model along these lines, we account for the totalising parallax of both the out-of-place ‘inhumanity’ of surplus-enjoyment as well as the ‘human, all too human’ dimension of Cartesian subjectivity. Thus, to extend Healy’s analysis further, it is not so much that circumstantial contingencies of disease-outbreak necessarily predicated the regulatory ideologies of the early modern period, but that such ideological regimes always-already arose as symptoms of a universal lack.
This lack is something we might call the ontic Real of subjective ‘misrecognition’ – of always failing to reconcile the place of the ‘one’ with the multiple-place of the ‘other.’ One way to account for this misrecognition apropos of early modern ideology is to apply it to a systemic split already in place. We have already outlined the exaggerated affects regarding early modern ‘humane’ and ‘in-humane’ classifications. Another such model to contemplate along this separation is the period’s development of gendered subjectivity. What if we consider that the distinction of man and woman, as with Montaigne and his cat, and Turing and his computer, follows the same traumatic misrecognition? It is not that these oppositions are intrinsic a priori conditions beset in nature, but rather that nature – by its very inhumanity – compounds these objects into obscurity. It cannot be properly maintained that men are entirely separate from women, or even from animals or machines, only that these classificatory systems are constructed as material symptoms to ‘account’ for man’s inherent lack – the incorporeality of Cogito itself.
Thus early modern developments of gendered desire fall subject to the same traumatic re-doubling – at once, excessively regulated and Patriarchal, giving rise to despotic male homosociality and the continued subordination of women, while at the same time, bleeding apart at the edges through ‘blurred’ representations, homoeroticisms, and cross-gender experiences. Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II perhaps best exemplifies the sublime ambiguities pent-up in this excessive split:
EDWARD: Rend not my heart with thy too-piercing words;
Thou from this land, I from myself am banished.
GAVESTON: To go from hence grieves not poor Gaveston,
But to forsake you, in whose gracious looks,
The blessedness of Gaveston remains,
For nowhere else seeks he felicity.
EDWARD: And only this torments my wretched soul,
That, whether I will or no, thou must depart.
[…] Here, take my picture and let me wear thine.
The exchange of pictures, here, deserves proper emphasis. More than a ritualised ‘social code’ or formality, the physical embodiment of image-transference marks the exact point of reflexive desire. As Slavoj Žižek puts it, “desire is the desire of the Other.” In other words, the image we have of ourselves – the face that reflects us back in the mirror – is never sustained in isolation; our subject-position is always posthumously mediated in the gaze of another.
The locus of the Cartesian subject, therefore, is not to be understood in reference to the straightforward ‘inward’ Freudian Unconscious, but in Lacanese, of the Unconscious inscribed into the structuring order of language itself.  In this case, the language of desire places self-reflexivity always in the recognitions and misrecognitions of the other’s use of language about us.
For example, Edward starts by making several lateral connections in his recursive use of signifiers: “Thou from this land, I from myself…” In a spontaneous sense, it is clear that the place of the “I” is something too disproportionate – always escaping as an exception. The first homology is the identification of “land” with “myself;” in this sense, the structuring order Healy describes takes the place of the Phallic Superego of Kingship. What gets in the way, however, is the second intrusive kernel that links “thou” with “I,” giving rise to the out-of-place blurring effect of desire. What Marlowe recognises, in the logistical placement of Cogito here, is the lack of accommodation integral to the place of the Phallus. If desire always necessarily constitutes “I” through reference to the secondary “thou,” the institution of a tautological and self-accountable “myself” is always not enough.
This deadlock articulates the Lacanian problem of the barred subject. Lacan realised, as did Marlowe, that the Big Other is always a self-thwarting antagonism, over-determining its internal ‘in-humane’ contradictions. Edward’s “I from myself” encapsulates this symptomatic split between masculine and feminine – the masculine always projecting its vulnerabilities, anxieties, and absences into the place of a ‘hysterical’ other. The Ego, in this way, always falls short of Superego in its persistent encounters with self-reflexive femininity. This is why Gaveston’s words to Edward are “too piercing.” The boundaries of Superego masculinity, in their relation to Ego-desire, are insufficient.
Closing the symbolic exchange of pictures, therefore, Gaveston ‘confirms’ the desire of his beloved by mirroring his use of language: “To go from hence grieves not poor Gaveston,/But to forsake you, in whose gracious looks,/The blessedness of Gaveston remains.” Once more, we encounter the paradigm of self-misrecognition in the formulation of the split-subject ‘Gaveston’. On one hand, there is the “poor Gaveston,” constructed in exiled isolation “from hence.” This Gaveston encompasses only the lack constitutive of his desire. On the other hand, the “blessedness of Gaveston” negotiates its ontic foundations in the “gracious looks” of the other, Edward. That which closes the hole, or lack introduced by desire, as Alain Badiou realises, is the calcifying “truth-event” of Love itself.  Thus the exchanging of pictures that follows is the foreclosing symbol of a suspended and retroactive Love encounter –or, to put it into a violent homologous re-context, the exchanging of wedding vows.
One possible Historicist account of this scenario would be to attempt to ‘situate’ the language of Renaissance homoerotic desire in pivotal relation to homosociality. The obvious, nominalist gesture is that the early modern period lacked a way of describing Queer desire in the same way that contemporary language can. Therefore, one must be careful not to misconstrue what looks to ‘us’ like the formal closures of same-sex love and desire, precisely because to ‘them’ it takes the social, pragmatic role of maintaining and offsetting the antagonisms intrinsic to the foundation of the Patriarch.
To an extent, this is true: one should be wary not to misplace the ideological role of Renaissance homoeroticism. As Rebhorn identifies, while Renaissance culture “accepted homosexuality,” it was only insofar as it resisted becoming “excessive or involved in an inversion of what was considered proper social hierarchy.” At the same time, however, one must not make the opposite error of attempting to force the minimal-difference framework of historical nominalism into the place of the encounter. After all, one cannot deny that Contemporary postmodern society also maintains Phallic Order in precisely the same way:
One should ask a naïve but nevertheless crucial question here: why does the Army community so strongly resists accepting gays into its ranks? There is only one possible consistent answer: not because homosexuality poses a threat to the alleged ‘phallic and patriarchal’ libidinal economy of the Army community, but, on the contrary, because the libidinal economy of the Army community itself relies on a thwarted/disavowed homosexuality as the key component of the soldiers’ male bonding.
The reason Edward II’s homoeroticism became ‘excessive’ and unacceptable, therefore, is because it over-stepped the formal boundaries of its own self-negating disavowal. This is why King Edward’s final execution resembles an all-too-excessive inversion of that object of ‘buggery’ – “with a table and a red-hot spit.” The function of homoeroticism in the Army community’s “male bonding” is, as such, identical to that of Renaissance courtly homosociality. In confronting the traumatic place of the feminised Ego directly, the Phallic, ‘impossible’ position of the masculine Superego is formally sustained. Thus, returning to the split between enjoyment and self-regulation, precisely that which sustains the framework of mechanic, ‘humane’ conduct is always a partial minimal-sacrifice to the unrelenting “libidinal economy” of ‘in-humane’ Jouissance – or, in other words, the “dirt” of human subjectivity. If the place of enjoyment is “matter out of place,” then Cogito, too, must come to manufacture its own repressive self-displacement.
In this way, we account for all the ‘peculiar’ inversions of Renaissance theatre and culture – or, as Maryanne Cline Horowitz catalogues them: “topsy-turvy play, women on top, carnival, masks, and misrule.” Among these inversions stands most prominently the figure of the ‘dark lady’ or the ‘witch,’ always returning to excite and plague the imaginations of its audiences.
As we have discovered in Edward II, the thing we call the interior subjectivity of desire always ‘escapes’ the formal boundaries of the exterior ‘body’ – it is, in a manner of speaking, transcendent. Apropos to this figure of the witch, the place of subjective ‘horror,’ as such, lies in the gap, or the remainder, generated in the void of this discord between interior and exterior spaces. Through this antagonism of boundaries emerges ‘the thing itself’ – a traumatic alienation representative of the surplus-value in Jouissance.
Thus, it is not so much that the figure of the witch is False, even in an existential sense. Precisely what the witch represents is the externalisation of something too real in our experience of subjective enjoyment – a guilty ‘imp of perversity’ that must be purged or disavowed in order for consistent, Patriarchal social order to persist.
In this way, the sublime ambiguity pent-up in the ‘dark lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets always takes the place of both internal self-doubt and external, symptomatic desire:
Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrowed from this holy fire of Love,
But found no cure, the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire; my mistress’ eyes.
In Sonnet 153, Renaissance medical orthodoxy lifted from Greek tradition, (pertaining to bodily heat and the purging of excess) germinate in the spaces of poetic desire. ‘Excess’ in the Renaissance sense, of course means the objects produced by the material ‘body’ that do not belong there. As such, in Shakespeare’s verse, excess always takes shape when the subject loses fixation with the borders of a reliable selfhood.
Thus, when Cupid’s eyes fall shut in his “sleep,” the given boundaries of object materiality – the “fountain” and the “fire” – collapse into obscurity. Along the lines of this obscurity, the event becomes increasingly mystifying as the reader attempts to locate bodily symbolism within the spaces of the verse. The most obvious of these is the fetishized distinction of the Phallic “fire” with the Yonic “valley,” made all the more palpable, of course, by their associations with masculine ‘heat’ and feminine ‘coldness’. But without the place of Cupid’s fixation, the locus of this fiery object “quickly steeps” into the extinguishing “ground” of feminine anonymity.
Without wanting to misread the scene in the most naïve way possible, of course the “love-kindling” object here is the sublimated act of penetrative sex. More than this, however, Shakespeare is un-coy about presenting to his reader the precise ridiculousness of the act itself; it is not an act that can sustain itself in the simple connection of two bodies. As Lacan detailed, in the desiring space of sexuation, there is never an ‘inter-subjective’ sexual experience, no matter how similar the other’s desire happens to be; there always has to be an ‘excessive’ tertiary subject – “the gaze of the spectator” – that must be imagined in the void of the fantasy-space. This subject, in Sonnet 153, is of course Cupid himself.
Moreover, the strangeness elevates because this Cupid who intrudes upon the scene of desire is not observing but “asleep.” Thus it comes as no surprise why, rather than thrusting or burrowing its way into the Yonic space, “his love-kindling fire” has to “steep.” In other words, to put it in crudest most literal way possible, the enacted sex is a failure to perform – a flaccid member entering a cold and unexcitable valley. The remainder of this failure is the very place of emasculation – that is, of a predicated ‘Phallic’ object inverting its Superego position, becoming devoured by its own contingency. In the obverse, Shakespeare reveals the true place of the ‘Phallus as such’ as being embodied by the feminine itself – “Where Cupid got new fire; my mistress’ eyes.”
In homology to Edward II, the irreconcilable place of Cogito is clearly caught amidst the deadlocks of this gendered split. This speaker’s “my mistress” follows the same tautological recursion as Edward’s “myself.” In both cases, there is a doubling between the place of the possessive “my” and the embodiment of both the “mistress” and the “self.” To abstract these terms in Lacanese, the object of the “my” is the barred Other constituting ‘masculinity,’ – the subject always acting as an authoritative ‘agent’ of the body; the “mistress” or the “self,” on the other hand, represents the opposing side of the same coin – the ‘inward’ self-discourse of the subject interior to its body. At its highest formal level, therefore, the tautologies of both “my mistress” and “myself” represent the strange synthesis of the singular and the multiple in sexual difference. Along these lines, the precise message of sexual difference is not that men and women are ontologically ‘separate,’ but that these binary signifiers are always insufficient stratagems of articulating the split-subject of the singular itself.
Here, if we are to understand the meaning of this split proper, the opposition ‘man and woman’ cannot be thought of as an equally-confronting equipoise, constituting an “either/or” binary. As Bruce Fink explains: in the constitution of a subject, the separation of gender-identity can only ever be read as “neither/nor” misrecognition – always a failure to attribute the singular with the multiple. Mutatis Mutandis, bodily ‘excesses’ such as blood, mucus, defecation, and so on, can neither be thought of as part of the subject-itself, nor entirely separate from that predicate. Rather, the ‘external thing’ – whether it be a woman, a ‘monster,’ or a machine – always partially-irrupts in the dialectical locus of its beholder.
When we recall the exchange of pictures in Edward II in this way, the symbolic connection is clear. More than simply affirming a subjective distance to the other whom ‘I’ loves, Love literalises subjective difference to an excess, making its affects impossible. In precisely this sense an inversion always takes place: I exchange the image of my selfhood for the selfhood of my other. Or, as Edward recapitulates this point in an address to his lover: “Thy friend, thy selfe, another Gaveston.” Through love, and “Love’s kindling-fire,” I can become that which ‘I am not’.
The way in which Renaissance Phallic Order places a block on this transference, as such, is by maintaining the minimal-distance always constituted in the remainder of desire. The inventive creations of the ‘dark lady’ and the ‘witch’ form these phantasmal boundaries to which desire can never give itself over to the universality of love. This is why the Phallus in Sonnet 153 had to fail; it is not so much that Phallic Order predicates itself on the efficacy of its potential to fulfil feminine Jouissance, but rather, that phallic sexuation itself always falls short of totally fulfilling one’s desires. In this way, the symptom of feminine subjectivity can always maintain its proper distance from the Phallus; just as soon as it comes to blows with the masculine object, it must always return to itself, unfulfilled, ready to start fresh with a “new fire.”
That Renaissance audiences enjoyed the feminine subject as a figure of ‘horror,’ therefore, marks the exact point to which feminine phantasy inverts itself as an object of masculine disavowal. As we have already outlined, with regards to the Renaissance culture of regulation qua disease-maintenance, the predicated psychoanalytic model of masculine regulation in reaction to enjoyment is perhaps incomplete. In the split between Jouissance and regulation, we in fact encounter two kinds of regulatory behaviour. The first, already established, is the regulation of ‘excess’ in masculine non-subjectivity. The second, on the other hand, is the regulation of regulation itself.
In effect, the true function of ‘inverted’ plays such as Witch of Edmonton is precisely to drip-feed this counter-enjoyment in order to keep the regulatory subject from going too far. Why? Insomuch as ‘fashioned’ gentlemen’ were starting to become a social ideal, in order for such a de-subjectivised framework to function it needed to retain its internal oppositions. The paradox of self-regulation, as such, is that its motives always arise out of a zero-level subjective framework; in order for there to be the ‘one’ of homogeneity, there must first be the predicate of the ‘multiple’ in difference.
In Nancy Gutierrez’s reading of witchcraft and adultery in Othello, she describes the place of witchcraft as a “human activity, encouraged, if not initiated, by the Devil, that aims to thwart God.” Thus, witchcraft, she follows, “is not simply subversive thinking but rather activity that disrupts the social order, that is, the status quo as determined by masculine authority.” However, is not this probing into the status of “masculine authority,” rather than functioning to disrupt its pre-emptive social position, the very “activity” that sustains it?
The so-called subversive contents of witch plays, as such, in which the characterised ‘third-dimension’ always attempts to humanise the otherwise flat objects on stage, are thus not threats to the established social order. Instead, these ‘self-thwarting’ perversions stand as boundary zones to which the elastic social body can always return to its formal core values.
As Foucault has already outlined in his History of Sexuality, resistances to power are not only ‘re-structured’ into the very power edifice itself, moreover, power already-ordains its own set of resistances.  This is why, in Žižek’s account of the Army Community’s homophobia, “disavowed/thwarted” homosexuality always takes the place of actual Queer enjoyment.
In the Witch of Edmonton, apropos of Margaret Healy’s analysis that “humane” and “in-humane” binaries construct the very edifice of Renaissance social order, the ‘Devil’ that takes the place of Godly resistance assumes the form of a “bestial” dog:
DOG: Do any mischief unto man or beast,
And I’ll effect it, on condition
That, uncompelled, thou make a deed of gift
Of soul and body to me.
M.SAW: Out, alas!
My soul and body?
DOG: And that instantly,
And seal it with thy blood: if thou deniest,
I’ll tear thy body in a thousand pieces.
M.SAW: I know not where to seek relief: but shall I,
After such covenants sealed, see full revenge
On all that wrong me?
DOG: Ha, ha! Silly woman!
The devil is no liar to such as he loves
One cannot resist the most obvious analysis that the signifier ‘dog’ is indeed a diabolical inversion of ‘god.’ Moreover, in direct relation to the criss-crossing homology of oppositions inherent to Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady,’ can we not then apply the same structural logic here?
The ‘dog’ is literalised as an invention of the almighty God himself, self-inverted in order to reify that very paternal authority. Thus, following the dog’s claim, “the devil is no liar to such as he loves,” the standard logic ‘god is Truth’ and ‘god is love’ also applies at an obscene level of accuracy. Mutatis Mutandis, regulatory culture, taken to its obscene boundaries of self-evidence, partially permits the subject to act as an agent of Jouissance itself.
In order to become the witch, as such, Mother Sawyer first has to relent “soul and body” to the prevailing authority. In this way, the subject can no longer claim to function as her own agent, but rather, as an observer “out” of her own interior self. To complete this passage, she thus has to “do any mischief onto man or beast,” and embody the strange disavowal of both excessively de-subjectivised categories.
The dualities at play in this scene, between “soul and body” and “man or beast,” return us to Montaigne’s original conundrum, this time reframing the question: who knows if Mother Sawyer is not a pastime to the dog more than the dog is to her? Montaigne, in An Apology to Raymond Sebond, of course, rejects the placement of ‘humane’ subjectivity over bestial classification, writing, “it is apparent it is not by a true judgement, but by foolish pride and stubbornness, that we set ourselves before the other animals and sequester ourselves from their condition and society. ” To this end, Montaigne perhaps offers some recourse to the deadlocks of early modern desire. Along the same lines, John Dupré writes with regards to the Darwinian revolution that comes later: “It is widely recognized that Darwin’s theory of evolution rendered untenable the classical essentialist conception of species. Perfectly sharp discontinuities between unchanging natural kinds could no longer be expected. The conception of sorting organisms into species as a fundamentally classificatory exercise has nevertheless survived.”
The survival of this classification is crucial to our gauging of the persistence of early modern misrecognition. The lynchpin here, as Dupré well acknowledges, (in his amendment: “it is desirable to have one general set of classificatory concepts”) is the placement of an ethical ‘desirable’ background to the singular predicated human subject. In the original formulation, “dirt is matter out place,” we nonetheless find ourselves at a deadlock. For, if the human-subject desires that which is “dirt,” and this so-called immaterial “dirt” then has no proper “place,” it follows that man’s desires cannot be appropriately categorised or assimilated into any symbolic register. Thus classification is always insufficient towards fully structuring one’s access to Jouissance.
It is in this sense that the classification ‘witch,’ in all the “subversive” dimensions Gutierrez speaks about, apparently prevents any subjective enjoyment from taking place whatsoever. Of course, the object Madame Sawyer ‘desires’ is revenge on the cruelty of her neighbours. Precisely that which makes this desire ‘inconceivable’, however, is its very ‘permission’ on behalf of the dog – that is, the fantasy’s symbolic sublation into the Superego’s narrativised structure. Rather than maintain the minimal-distance necessary in order for desire to function, the witch approaches her desires too forwardly. This direct approach manufactures what, in Marcusian terms, is called repressive desublimation – the prevention of an object’s affects by its ‘constructive’ integration.
In the Witch of Edmonton, this repressive affect can be properly articulated as an aversion to the unspeakable Death Drive of total identification with Jouissance. Precisely because Mother Sawyer accepts the Superego’s injunction ‘enjoy,’ she circumvents her displacement into the traumatic, violent epicentre of surplus-enjoyment itself – to have her body torn “in a thousand pieces.” In contrast, Montaigne, in his dismissal of the injunction of Superego enjoyment, makes a point to emphasise that “Death mingles and fuses with our life throughout.” Along these lines, he identifies his enjoyment not as a ‘positive’ value to be formally assimilated into ‘life’, but always as a devouring excess – a displacement of selfhood in favour of the shattering potential of Jouissance:
I have a vocabulary all my own. I “pass the time” when it is rainy and disagreeable; when it is good, I do not want to pass it; I savour it, I cling to it. We must run through the bad and settle on the good. The ordinary expression “pastime” or “pass the time” represents the habits of folk who think they can make no better use of their life than to let it slip by and escape it.
Here, we return to the original conundrum of the “pastime” positioned in the void between Montaigne and his cat. In this case, Montaigne points his critique at the semiotic efficacy of the floating-signifier itself; the expression, “to pass the time” as he extends it, perfectly embodies that minimal-sacrifice necessary to maintain both the regulation of excess as well as the regulation of regulation. The “pastime” represents the null-position of the ‘living’ obsessional subject – an obsessional always, as Lacan puts it, “caught in a mechanism, in a trap increasingly demanding and endless.”
The “more than” value of Montaigne’s question, as such, demonstrates this strange nulling synthesis of regulation and excess. With the obsessional always self-probing into the fundamental question, ‘am I alive or dead?’ they find themselves at once caught in the paradox between Jouissance and subjectivity – dirt and matter. Along the lines of this antagonism, Bernard Williams interrogates the body as a figure always-already constituted by its potential for death: “Immortality, or a state without death, would be meaningless. […] I shall rather pursue the idea that from facts about human desire and happiness and what human life is, it follows both that immortality would be, where conceivable at all, intolerable, and that (other things being equal) death is reasonably regarded as evil.”
Montaigne, however, takes us a step further. Rather than regarding death as an evil (or even a necessary evil), he takes to the task of identifying with its material displacement – embracing it so much as to “savour it.” Why? In a Freudian sense, this ‘Death Drive’ to which Montaigne self-associates does not simply follow the transcendental ‘self-annihilation’ philosophy of ego-death, but rather – on a much more brutal material level – of the embracement of a kernel of subjectivity that functions as though it were immortal.
In this way, Montaigne resolves the conundrum Williams poses, which follows, “there is a total obscurity about how these conjunctive sets of material-body predicates are in general to be categorised. We can in fact produce a dummy to stand in place of each such set: the predicate ‘being a material body.”As Starobinski details, the proper material predicate for Montaigne is the total non-existence of this ‘wholesome’ body, where instead of having to confront Williams’ “total obscurity,” excessive identification with the surplus-value of enjoyment makes for a “stable and equal relationship of the segments of the self.”
For Mother Sawyer in The Witch of Edmonton, total subjective obsessionalism renders a straightforward relationship with the implicit value of the Death Drive impossible. Apropos of her fear of being “torn in a thousand pieces,” we can read the Superego figure of the dog as a disavowed ‘externalised’ symptom of the witch’s relationship to her desires. Following this logic, it comes as no surprise that the dog then manages to survive the play’s moralistic structure – escaping as an excess, and boasting his repetitious chant: “I am for greatness now, corrupted greatness.” Like the death drive itself, this floating agent of Jouissance does not die with its subject, but keeps on going – always threatening to return and “corrupt” social “greatness” once more.
Identification with this drive therefore – especially as a dissident subject – is crucial. It is thus not about futurity or of measuring one’s time, in turn letting it “slip by,” but about arresting the immediate sensory experience of the moment – to “cling to it.” Williams’ ontological question about the predicate ‘material body’ is insufficient because it refuses to acknowledge the minimal ‘immaterial’ framework necessary for constituting that subject-placement. For Montaigne, “fullness” itself always starts with an excess – of not simply attempting to ‘fill’ the body with the fragments of its partial-objects in ensemble, but always over-filling these conjunctive sets, and enjoying too much. The moral question suspended by The Witch of Edmonton, thereby, about the imposition of a ‘rational’ account of its deaths and misdeeds is maybe short of the point. The lesson Montaigne provides us is recourse away from the fallacy of the ‘rational’ Cogito subject; for, in an ‘irrational’ context such as that which Dekker presents us, one cannot then be expected to act in line with its regulatory, self-cancelling norms. As Zupančič is expedient to remind us, “something more is needed.”
If enjoyment as “dirt” renders matter ‘out of place,’ one comes to realise that enjoyment has no place. The Renaissance was a time in which subjectivity itself became a displaced object – a time in which men are “made not born” and where the violent traumas of disease plagued the rational conscience. Among those who fell to the waysides of this sublime anxiety – who, as Montaigne puts it, let their lives “slip by” – included the likes of Shakespeare’s cipher, whose Cupid “fell asleep,” Marlowe’s King Edward, whose partial-affair with Gaveston failed to materialise a proper renouncement of Paternal kingship, as well as Dekker’s Mother Sawyer, who went so far as to trade her “soul and body” in peculiar exchange for bodily integrity. Montaigne, on the other hand, takes the apparent void at the heart of Renaissance subjectivity to its foregone boundaries – not into the ‘rational’ place of the prevailing symbolic order, but like the drive itself, into an ‘out of place’ dimension, unspeakable and eternal. And the flow of this impulse – its potential to shatter our worldly experience – drives forever onwards, beyond even the shadow of the body itself.
 Mary Douglas. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo. (New York: Routledge, 2003), 44.
 Michel De Montaigne. “Essays.” In Michel De Montaigne: The Complete Works, translated by Donald M. Frame, 2-992. (London: Everyman’s Library, 2003), 401.
 Alenka Zupančič. “German Idealism and Psychoanalysis.” Lecture. Berlin: Deutsches Haus at New York University. Video recorded and edited by Laia Cabrera & Co., Friday, April 20th 2012.
 Margaret Healy. “Bodily Regimen and Fear of the Beast: ‘Plausibility’ in Renaissance Domestic Tragedy.” In At the Borders of the Human, edited by Erica Fudge, Ruth Gilbert and Susan Wiseman. (New York: St. Martins Press Inc., 1999), 65-66.
 Alain Badiou. Being and Event. (London: Continuum, 2007), 23.
 Jonathan Sawday. Engines of the Imagination: Renaissance Culture and the Rise of the Machine. (London: Routledge, 2007), 51.
 Margaret Healy, 55.
 Jonathan Sawday, 231.
 Margaret Healy, 53.
 Maryanne Cline Horowitz, ix.
 Ibid., xi.
 Christopher Marlowe. “Edward II.” In Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays, edited by Frank Romany and Robert Lindsey, 397-507. London: Penguin Books, 2003), 417.
 Slavoj Žižek. The Plague of Fantasies. (London: Verso, 2008), 118.
 Bruce Fink. The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance. (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997), 8.
 Slavoj Žižek. How to Read Lacan. (London: Granta Publications, 2006), 11.
 Alain Badiou. In Praise of Love. (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2012), 11.
 Wayne A. Rebhorn. The Emperor of Men’s Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discoure of Rhetoric. (London: Cornell University Press, 1995), 145.
 Slavoj Žižek. The Plague of Fantasies. (London: Verso, 2008), 31.
 Christopher Marlowe, 500.
 Maryanne Cline Horowitz. “Introduction: Playing with Gender.” In Playing With Gender: A Renaissance Pursuit, edited by Jean R. Brink, Maryanne C. Horowitz and Allison P. Coudert, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991), xi.
 William Shakespeare. “Sonnet 153.” In The Arden Shakespeare: Complete Works, edited by Richard Proudfoot, Ann Thompson and David Scott Kastan, 43. (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 2011), 43.
 Richard Sennett. Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization. (London: Penguin Books, 2002), 48.
 Bruce Fink, 98.
 Slavoj Žižek. The Plague of Fantasies. (London: Verso, 2008), 228.
 Bruce Fink, xiv.
 Christopher Marlowe, 405.
 Nancy Gutierrez. “Witchcraft and Adultery in Othello: Strategies of Subversion.” In Playing With Gender: A Renaissance Pursuit, edited by Jean R. Brink, Maryanne C. Horowitz and Allison P. Coudert. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 4.
 Ibid., 4.
 Michel Foucault. The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge. (London: Penguin Books, 1998), 97-98.
 William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, and John Ford. “The Witch of Edmonton.” Early English Collections Online. (accessed December 26, 2012), 17-18.
 Michel De Montaigne, 435.
 John Dupré. “On the Impossibility of a Monistic Account of the Species.” In Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays, by R. A. Wilson. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999), 1.
 John Dupré, 2.
 Slavoj Žižek. The Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Women and Causality. (London: Verso, 2005), 18.
 Michel De Montaigne, 1031.
 Ibid., 1040.
 Jacques Lacan. Interview by L’express. Interview avec Madeleine Chapsal (31 May 1957).
 Serge Leclaire. Écrits la Psychanalyse 2. (Paris: Seuil/Arcanes, 1957), 129f.
 Bernard Williams. Problems of the Self. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 82.
 Slavoj Žižek. The Plague of Fantasies. (London: Verso, 2008), 89.
 Bernard Williams, 68.
 Jean Starobinski. Montaigne in Motion. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. London: (University of Chicago Press, Ltd., 1985), 13.
 William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, and John Ford., 41.