This article argues that the creative autobiography The Sword Went Out to Sea and other later work of the modernist American writer H.D. evidence foreclosure: a mode of psychic “denegation,” as Jacques Lacan describes it, in which words, thoughts, and people are not differentiated from one another and the symbolic function of language is not apprehended. Sword testifies to the foreclosure of difference and a wish to establish it by means of its formal characteristics, apocalypticism, and witness to the spectral return of what cannot be symbolized in the form of the living dead, divinities, and individuals who are also multiplicities. It thus calls for different interpretative strategies than those usual in literary criticism: to read it primarily as symbolic communication is to lose perspective on the structures of thought and language that it grapples with. The article describes a “language disorder” that psychoanalysis associates with psychosis and thus with interminable suffering and loss of reality without drawing conclusions about the range of experiences that might be concurrent with asymbolic thought and writing.

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