This study aims to read the aspects of discourses and ethics in Salman Rushdie's major political novels―Midnight's Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, and The Moor's Last Sigh―in terms of Jacques Lacan's theories of discourses and ethics. Both theori ...
This study aims to read the aspects of discourses and ethics in Salman Rushdie's major political novels―Midnight's Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, and The Moor's Last Sigh―in terms of Jacques Lacan's theories of discourses and ethics. Both theories have close relationship with desire: his theory of discourses reveals how a discourse in a society is formed and worked by the Other's desire, while that of ethics uncovers why the subject of a discourse can't be that of ethical acts.
'Rushdie Affair' is a conflict between Islamic and Western worlds over Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, in which he challenges the authority of Quran and the Prophet Mohammed by considering it as 'satanic verses' and his wives as prostitutes respectively. The West respond to the novel with the freedom of expression, whereas the Islamic see it as a book which intends to blaspheme Islam. As a result, it has been defined as a incident caused by the differences between two cultures or censorships. The truth of 'Rushdie Affair', however, lies in a discours surrounding the book because the Islamic world believe that it represents the well-plotted great conspiracy of the West on Islam: after undermining Islam, the West will plunder the Islamic world of its resources. This rumor or public opinion has been prevailed so wide that Rushdie gets the sentence to death by Khomeini.
'Rushdie Affair' shows the power of religion discourse. When it functions as Master's discourse in a society, the society is moved or worked by it. As well described in Midnight's Children and Shame, Indian subcontinent was divided into India and Pakistan by two master signifiers of Hinduism and Islam when it was freed from the rule of British Imperialism. And in the newly-born countries, both religions have continued to have negative effects on the their politics, being abused in political elections and power by politicians or governments.
Discourse of Master is a discourse that a master signifier rules a society. It is repressive and violent since it requires unconditional obedience. That is why Rushdie criticizes Master's discourse. In Shame, his target is dictatorships in Pakistan. Its society is still groaning under repression, as it was under the dominance of Imperialism: Harappa who suggests 'Islamic Socialism' to people rules his nation by means of 'panopticon' system; Hyder emphasizing 'Islam Fundamentalism' governs his people though rigid commandments. Both are failed masters, that is, the dictators.
'Rushdie Affair' and his political novels reveals the impossibility of ethical acts in the level of discourse. Conflicts and confrontation or antagonism between Islamic and Western worlds can't never be solved, as shown in 'Rushdie Affair.' Likewise, as indicated in the division of India-Pakistan, reconciliation and side-by-side living between Islam and Hinduism also can't be accomplished. Because these discourses are moved by desires or interests which is contrary to each other, ethical acts can never be done by the subject of discourse. That is the point Rushdie wants to show us through a series of his political novels.