Earlier this year, one of my papers was published in the inaugral issue of the Goldsmiths ECL departmental e-journal, which is very exciting. Although I have largely moved away from James Bond, this article I think quite nicely encapsulates some of my early work. It’s called ‘The Fate of the World Rests in Your Hands, 007: Where Crisis and the Symbolic Order Come In (in the Spy Genre)’.
By the end of Casino Royale (1953), James Bond is confronted with a crisis of identity. Increasingly his perception of the symbolic order, society’s unwritten constitution represented by the government he serves, is failing. It is no longer something he can subscribe to, yet he is unable to articulate or properly make sense of why, nor can he imagine another order to which a sense of reality can be attributed. Bond’s experience as the anxious subject struggling against the higher power of authority is compounded by his position as an agent for the British Secret Service. Throughout Ian Fleming’s fourteen-book series, the dominating plotline is not that of an all-conquering superspy set to save Western civilisation, but that of a subject seeking reconciliation with a lost identity, a repressed self attempting to redefine his body and his subjective identity in terms of his role as assassin. In this paper, I turn to Lacan’s conception of the symbolic order, to examine the crisis of identity that erupts in James Bond at the imago  of Bond-as-machine. Faith in the symbolic order is traditionally what holds the spy-hero together; though intangible, it is what spurs the spy to action and what allows his actions to be justified. Yet, in the James Bond series, this order is a source of conflict and appears to be the very thing that causes Bond’s breakdown. Induced by Rene Mathis, this imago is a violent disruption to Bond’s experience of himself as a living, thinking subject, causing Bond to disconnect from the symbolic order he serves. Yet the spy genre is full of anxious subjects struggling to protect a symbolic order and convince themselves that the symbolic order is worth protecting. Fleming’s portrayal of James Bond is just one in a long history of anxious subjects in the spy genre. Here I first offer an examination of the symbolic order and look at two examples of how the relationship between it and the spy-hero and symbolic order developed.
There are a lot of other articles in the issue that are well worth reading, so definitely check it out. I have an article to be released in the second issue, entitled , hopefully in the next month or so, entitled ‘Cause for Alarm: How in becoming spy holes develop in the hero’s Symbolic order’.
Other exciting news is that I will be off to Mexico to speak at the HUC conference in November. Now to buy my tickets…