Trous ← Torus → Tours — Işık Barış Fidaner


(Image source: The Autistic Subject by Leon Brenner)

Torus is a donut-shaped mathematical object with a special significance in Lacanian literature [1]. According to the Lacanian interpretation the Torus is traversed by spiraling along its surface: First we are placed at a certain point on the donut. Then we begin spiraling over the little local circles thereby traversing the first dimension which represents the repetition of demand. But while spiraling the donut, we don’t return back to the starting point, instead we slowly drift along the donut thereby covering the big global circle and traversing the second dimension which represents desire. This Lacanian parable about traversing the Torus aims at forming some intuition by staging a simulation that maps a combinatorial difference (“demand” vs “desire”) onto a spatial object (Torus) [2]. Now let’s play a little game with the word Torus.

Imagine the word TORUS as a simple mechanism with two endpoints: T is a hard endpoint on the left, S is a soft endpoint on the right. The third consonant R is a moving piece in the middle that is placed over the wave of the vowels O and U. In TORUS, R is a mediator between TO and US; this mediation by R makes TORUS a valuable simulation tool that stages a balance of desire between O and U.

Now shift the R towards S, the soft endpoint on the right, and we get TOURS. Now the wave of the vowels O and U has changed status, it no longer stages a balance of desire, instead it stages a dynamic forward momentum of drive. The wave of OU is unlocked by the soft stopper RS. R is no longer a mediator of simulation, instead it enables the repetitive movement of the Tours that spiral around the Torus.

Now go back to TORUS and shift the R in the opposite direction towards the T, the hard endpoint on the left, and we get TROUS. Trous means “holes” in French. Torus is composed of little local holes and a big global hole. Now the vowels O and U have changed status again, they stage neither a balance of desire nor a momentum of drive, now they stage the static structural properties of the Torus. The hard stopper TR locks the wave of OU which loses its dynamic balance and movement. The word now refers to a static structure and also shifts to a foreign language. Thus a loss of dynamism overlaps with a loss of meaning and makes sense.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See Leon Brenner’s The Autistic Subject (2020) pages 154-162.

[2] About the parable about traversing the Möbius strip, see “The Möbius Strip is an Island”


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