Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jacques Lacan

The Suppling Mind returns with a few posts about some Psychoanalytic theory I've been reading...

Jacques Lacan is one of the most influential theoreticians of the 20th century. Lacan's work is notoriously difficult as he changed his mind and reformulated his ideas throughout his career. For example, before the early 1970's he viewed jouissance (the idea that one uses an "other" to fulfill a lack in one's self) as a negative thing, but later shifted his position and saw jouissance as a positive and necessary move. Lacan also wrote in a style that mimics the unconscious because he wanted his readers to do the work of the psychoanalyst to gather meaning from his work. Ecrits is a collection of Lacan's work that is dense and turgid, but, in the end, worth struggling with.

One of Lacn's major interventions into psychoanalytic theory was his reworking of Freud. What Lacan did was to use the structuralist moves of Ferdinand Saussure and transpose the materialist Freud into language. Once Freud had been transferred into language, Lacan was then able to create a new and reformulated psychoanalysis. After this shift, the material basis of Freud, such as the physical father and a physical phallus, was then able to be read in terms of language and symbol. The father in Lacan is not a physical man who throws the football around with his kids, rahter, he is now representative of law and power. The same holds true for the phallus. The phallus moves from being a penis (or in the case of Freud's mono-sexual tendencies a "small penis" in the female) to representing power and law, as well, and becomes somthing that both sexes feel they lack and thus desire. While Lacan did reformulate much of Freud, he failed to address the patriarchal and misogynistic tendancies in his work, that of Freud, and psychoanalysis at large (In future posts I intend to discuss the intervention of post-structuralist feminists, such as Kristeva, Irigaray, and Cixous in this discussion).
Turning to the specifics of Lacan's formulation of human experience, Lacan posited his famous triumvirate (the real, the imaginary, and the symbolic) to represent what he considered to be the main registers of the human psyche and how the world is experienced (these ideas are found scattered throughout Ecrits).
The first term in Lacan's formulation is the "Real." For Lacan, the Real is the easiest term to define, but, paradoxically, it is a term that is impossible to define. In other words, the Real is that which cannot be labled and what lies outside of language and experience. The moment something is put into language, it has left the realm of the ral and has entered into the the "Symbolic." The real is infinite and unexplainable...
Next time...Lacan Part Deux: The Imaginary, Symbolic, and Mirror Stage

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