“The Other jouissance” and “Desire” in Emily Dickinson’s “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed”: A Lacanian Approach

Document Type : Original Article


1 MA in English Language and literature, University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran

2 Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, English Department, University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran



The present article investigates Emily Dickinson's poem "I taste a liquor never brewed" and aims to solve the confusion of scholars that struggled to specify the precise meaning of some of the terms in the text and fully appreciate the psychic dynamics of it in terms of Lacanian psychoanalysis. The first question the article asks is how is 'desire' represented, and the second is whether the speaker of the poem longs for an 'Other jouissance.' In Seminar XX, Lacan defines Other jouissance as the most intense and ineffable kind and equals it to the jouissance of the mystics. Desire, in Lacanian teachings, is unattainable and an inevitable consequence of language. The famous Lacanian maxims "desire is the desire of the Other," and the "Other is the treasure trove of signifiers" indicate that desire could be represented through signifiers. The article integrates These Lacanian notions in Paul Ricoeur's three-staged hermeneutic Arc, which consists of 1) explanation, 2) understanding, and 3) appropriation. The poem will undergo these three stages of interpretation. By the end of the last stage, the world of the text is appropriated by the selected Lacanian notions. The results of the study are the following: 1) the poem is unique in displaying what Lacan termed 'Other jouissance,' 2) it demonstrates an intense desire for a supreme being—the Other, 3) desire is explicitly named in the poem: it is manifested explicitly in the words ‘liquor," tankards," Alcohol," inebriate," debauchee," drams," drink," little tippler.'