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The Sinthome in Instrumental Music: The Case of Schubert

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Christopher Tarrant



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The concept of the sinthome (or ‘sinthom’ in English) - the construction which provides a unique structuring of jouissance, but which is divested of any symbolic meaning - arrived late in Lacan’s work, in his seminar on 1975-6. The sinthom’s most notable application in Žižek’s output is found in Part I of his The Sublime Object of Ideology, in which he explores the homology between the form of commodities and of dreams. It has since been used widely in discussions of literature, art, and cinema, but is missing from musicology, aside from the occasional remark from Žižek himself. This paper demonstrates that the medial caesura which deflects the tonal trajectory of a sonata exposition, and not the themes themselves, should be identified as the locus of this aspect of Schubert’s compositional voice. Drawing on ideas emerging from Žižek’s critique of Hitchcock, the aim is to demonstrate how the Lacanian concept of the sinthom reveals a deeper, more fundamental intertextuality in Schubert’s compositional project than has hitherto been available.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tarrant C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Zizek Studies

Year: 2017

Volume: 11

Issue: 3

Pages: 95-117

Print publication date: 01/05/2017

Acceptance date: 01/03/2016

Date deposited: 08/10/2019

ISSN (electronic): 1751-8229

Publisher: Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds



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