From reel to real: Harold Pinter's screenplays and the object of desire

Renton, L (1999) From reel to real: Harold Pinter's screenplays and the object of desire. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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Taking as a starting point Pinter's statement that The more acute the experience, the less articulate its expression', this thesis offers a theorisation of that essential point beyond representation, through Lacan's objet petit a, the focal point of the subject's desire. It is this small object, unarticulated in language, unrepresented in the visual field, that is most acute for the subject, and more real than external reality. It is a structure applicable to poetry, psychoanalysis and film, and it is through Pinter's screenplays that this approach is made. Using previously unpublished material from the Pinter Archive, the progress of each screenplay is charted to find Pinter working towards just such a structure of desire for the central character within the narrative, and for the spectator. Chapter one outlines the basic premise of Lacanian theory and its relevance to the most recent writing on film. A direct link is established between Pinter and the Surrealists through Pinter's unpublished poem 'August Becomes', placing vision at the centre of being, and connecting Pinter, through the Surrealists, to Lacan. The construction of an object of desire is outlined in general terms within the screenplays, and the chapter concludes by identifying three different aspects of the object. The first two aspects are those of lack, which evokes desire: the object which is eternally lost, and can only be retrieved in fantasy or dream, and the object which, aligned to a real object in the external world, will change once that real object is achieved. The third aspect emerges when instead of a lack we encounter a fullness, which destroys the relationship with desire, and causes anxiety. Chapter two is a resume of all the screenplays to date in the light of this reading, while chapters, three four and five, offer a close reading of three screenplays: The Remains of the Day, The Handmaid's Tale and Victory, each of which offers a different aspect of the object as outlined above. In chapter six this approach is offered as a reading of Pinter's stage plays. Finally, a postscript outlines Pinter's latest screenplay, The Dreaming Child, which reinforces the subject of this thesis, that it is the object of desire which is more real, more acute than external reality. Throughout the screenplays Pinter can be seen to shape narrative and structure to create just such an acute, invisible object for his spectator, placing her in a vacillating relationship with desire.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the
requirements of the University of the West of England, Bristol
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

This PhD was subsequently published as a book - Renton, L (2002) Pinter and the Object of Desire: An Approach through the Screenplays. Legenda: Oxford. ISBN 190075553X. Available at

Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2013 09:27
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 13:27
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