Lady Chandos and the Humanity Function: Reading the Postscript to J. M. Coetzee’s "Elizabeth Costello" with Lacan and Badiou

Fiona Hile

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Badiou has said that his entire philosophical project stems from the need to “update” the traditional philosophical categories of Truth, Being, the Infinite and the Universal in the wake of the 19th Century German mathematician Georg Cantor’s explication of transfinite set theory. In his essay, “What is Love?”, he provides an account of one of the ways in which a post-Cantorian reconfiguration of the ontological status of the category of Woman might operate. This is given in the form of a postscript subtitled “The Feminine Position and Humanity” wherein he gives Lacan’s conception of supplementary feminine jouissance “an extra turn of the screw”. This essay draws on Badiou’s reconfiguration of the philosophical category of Woman to examine the implications of another postscript, that which abruptly concludes the 2003 novel Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee. It reads Coetzee’s invention of the “Letter of Elizabeth, Lady Chandos” with recourse to Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and on through the ontological reconfiguration of the philosophical category of Woman demonstrated by Badiou. It argues that Coetzee assembles, through the intervention of the postscript, a situation that “makes it possible to argue”, along with Badiou, that, for the woman position, love knots together the four types of truths – Politics, Art, Science, and Love (2008, 196).

Hile F. Lady Chandos and the Humanity Function: Reading the Postscript to J. M. Coetzee’s "Elizabeth Costello" with Lacan and Badiou. Síntesis, Rev filos.. 2022;5(2): 77-97. Disponible en: doi:10.15691/0718-5448Vol5Iss2a389 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2023].
Hile, F. (2022). Lady Chandos and the Humanity Function: Reading the Postscript to J. M. Coetzee’s "Elizabeth Costello" with Lacan and Badiou. Síntesis. Revista de Filosofía, 5(2), 77-97. doi:


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