*Lacan & the Question of the ‘real’ reading group: By way of a sort of an introduction to Lacan himself. … *brief notes, … —from a lecture on Lacan.

*(—follows on from *‘—notes of a dilettante attempting to read Lacan,… —an Introduction an Invitation to this Lacan & the question of the ‘real’ reading group thread. … ).

 

 

By way of a sort of an introduction to Lacan himself. …
*brief notes, …
—from a lecture on Lacan.

 

*—the following, then, is what’s left (over) from notes for lectures I gave on Lacan on the course on ‘Critical Theory’ I gave (taught) in the Drama Department at Queen Margaret University,—between 2008 and 2010. …

 

*… —the lectures were intended as a (very) basic introduction to Lacan’s thought.

 

—going back,… there’s not a great deal of substance in the notes *(—I think I riffed a great deal in delivering the actual lecture). …

 

… —a lot of what remains in the copy of the notes that I still have to hand has to do with contextualising Lacan in terms of the other thinkers and philosophers we were studying on the ol’ Crit. Theory course: Saussure and Barthes on Semiology and Structuralism, and Freud, in particular,—as well as setting up for Derrida, deconstruction, post-structuralism, (and so on… ).

 

… —I have, in the main, cut most of that material here, in the interests of clarity and brevity,—but I thought it was worth reproducing the notes here:

 

… —partly for ol’ – time’s – sake (—hell, … why ever not, ‘ey… —?),

 

and-but also—mainly—because it represents my first (—only, really) thoroughgoing (academic) engagement with Lacan, and an attempt to introduce and explain his thought clearly, and hopefully interestingly-engagingly *(though I’m not s’ sure such was the case f’ the poor fuckers I wus teachin’ ‘n’ tha- …), for-to an audience-readership new-fresh to him, and thus pulls out (so to) those things-concepts-ideas (—sic) that formed my own interest-focus at the time and the simplest, clearest… description of ‘em, of which I was capable. …

 

* … —part of what the lectures were trying to do was to set-up close-reading, and discussion workshop-seminars on ‘The Mirror Stage’,… and, since tha-s what we’re setting up to do here, it seemed sort-a… apt. …       

 

*—a curio, then, (of sorts). …

 

*—I hope that it proves useful—still—as a brief introduction to Lacan himself, and to one or two key ideas-themes. …

 

 

—In attempting to develop and refine these notes here, I owe debts, in particular, to Rob Lapsley’s introductory essay on ‘Psychoanalysis’, and to Huw Jones’s entry on Lacan in Simon Malpas and Paul Wake (eds) The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory, Routledge 2006, *—in which I also happen to have been published (with entries on ‘Northrop Frye’ and ‘Carl Jung’, those delightful maniacs … ), and which I’d recommend as a reference, study, and teaching resource: … —the essays and glossary are short, clear, and concise, and give great introductions to thinkers, concepts and areas-modes of thought. …

Routledge Companion to Crit. Theory

 

 

So, …

 

Lacan.

*Jacques Lacan (1901–1981). … —French psychoanalyst and intellectual. …

 

background:

 

Lacan has (had) a number of important historical and (often) personal overlaps with the most significant intellectual and artistic movements and figures of the early C20th. …

 

*(For example… )—During (what we now think of-characterise as) the inter-war period, Lacan associated with important artistic and intellectual figures such as: André Breton, Georges Bataille, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso. …

 

—He published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure, and attended the first public reading of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

*—Importance, then of a formative influence of, and relation to, Modernism *(—plastic and literary arts), and esp. to Surrealism. …

*(… —seen to colour his thought (so to). … ).

 

*—Early interest in the philosophies of Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger and attended the incredibly influential seminars on Hegel’s philosophy given by Alexandre Kojève.

 

—Lacan’s (awareness of, and relationship to) contemporary emergence of Existentialism, and Existentialist philosophy *(—esp. Bataille, with whom he had a… troubled personal relationship), Sartre, and de Beauvoir. …

 

—Also,… —importance of revolutionary politics in ‘60s France.

*(—Lacan encouraged students to participate—and, indeed, facilitated this participation—but was careful to distinguish his own ‘revolt’ (so to) from mainstream politics. …)

 

*—Lacan as Parisian intellectual.

(—Paris as artistic and intellectual centre-focal point in early C20th. … ).

 

*—It’s from this important time, and this… nexus of artistic and cultural influences that Lacan’s thought emerged and developed.

 

 

… whilst (of course… ) best-known for his work in(-on) psychoanalysis, and as an analyst (himself),… Lacan’s intellectual influence extends well beyond *clinical psychoanalytic practice, to the study of (amongst other things-subjects): philosophy, literature, politics & ideology, and (… —of course,… —and very usefully for our current purposes) to *Critical Theory (—there it is. … … ).

 

*—inf. of thought (esp. on language) on ‘poststructuralism’: Derrida, Foucault, and (also) on feminism: (most notably, perhaps,) Julia Kristeva. …

 

 

—In his own (—idiosyncratic) practice of psychoanalysis, Lacan lay emphasis on its primary purpose being that of the treatment of a patient’s suffering.

*(… —a practical purpose, that is,… —with philosophical, literary, critical, political, artistic (… —&c.) ends or purposes, therefore having a secondary status. … ).

 

(…) —As different forms of suffering are seen to arise according to the influence—the particular conditions—of time and place (space), Lacan argued that psychoanalysis had to constantly evolve *[/—be evolving], in order to address these, continually changing, and therefore [always] new circumstances and developments *(—in the conditions of the suffering of patients). …

 

—He emphasised the singularity, then, and the individuality of each patient [/—the conditions of each patient’s suffering], and of each session of treatment with the patient. …

 

*—In this sense [/—for this reason] there is no [/—we cannot properly talk of there being] a *“Lacanian system”:

 

…rather,… each of his seminars was different *(—i.e.: … —not intended to—add up to a total work or comprehensive/total (philosophical/psychoanalytic) system. … ).

 

As such (/As a result … ),—It’s important to note that, in his career/-lifetime, Lacan published no actual books or finished (whole-entire,—concrete) works. …

 

*—Such work(s) as now bear his name (—in print) are, in fact, comprised of *transcriptions of seminars which he delivered (between 1948 and 1980). …

*(… —tie back to Saussure [—Course in General Linguistics]?, and bring up problem of authorship, and of a remove from authorship and *authority. … (—?): ‘d be useful when we get on to Derrida. …

 

—?).

 

*Lacan’s most important-significant and influential ‘works’ (so to speak/sic), then,… are… gathered together (—better way of saying that? … —collated. … —?) in *Écrits *(… —first published in 1966, and available in English translation in a reduced-edited-selected (and therefore selective) form in Écrits: A Selection *(available from Routledge),—first published in 1977, but now in a complete edition, translated (and annotated) by Lacan scholar Bruce Fink: *Jacques Lacan, Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink (London: W.W. Norton & Company, Ltd., 2006)… *(—wave the bloody book at ‘em. … ). … ), and especially the opening essay of the volume:

*—‘The Mirror Stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience’

(or,… —‘The Mirror Stage’, for (merciful) brevity. … ), which will be the focus of our own reading-study here. …

 

 

Lacan viewed his (idiosyncratic, psychoanalytic) work as a *return to the tradition in or of psychoanalytic criticism and practice, begun by (none other than) Sigmund Freud (and… —there he is ol’ Ziggy,—whom we’ve already read-studied-looked at-considered. … ).

 

And Freud is the most important and profound influence on Lacan and Lacanian thought.

 

—Lacan saw this tradition as having (essentially) been corrupted by Freud’s’’Freudian’,—North American, exponents-accolytes, after his influence spread-crossed the Atlantic.

*(…

 

—there’s an interesting historical-fictional take on Freud’s own visit to the States in E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime *(—a brilliant novel), for any interested (in such things). … —?).

 

—In his influential seminars (—begun, privately, in 1951, becoming public in ’53, and continuing for 27 years) Lacan ‘returned’ to, and re-read Freud’s works,—in relation to contemporary philosophy, linguistics, ethnology, biology, and topology. …

 

*—So,… whilst I won’t dwell (here—for our current purposes) on the nature and details of the adoption (or, in Lacan’s terms,—expropriation (perhaps) of Freud over in the ol’ States (there),… —it’s worth bearing in mind the details of our own reading-study of Freud, as we go along here…

*[—briefly recap. … ]. …

 

 

*(N.B. … *—I’m being selective and offering a summary here for our current study, but it is fair to say, I think, that: … ) Lacan can be seen, in the main, to have made two crucial contributions to psychoanalysis *(in particular), and (—more widely) to the theory of human subjectivity:

 

 

*key ideas-concepts:

 

I.—‘the mirror stage’. …

 

—The first is the concept of ‘the mirror stage’ itself (—hence our focus … ), in which he put forward his account of the original formation of the ego *(— = “I” …). *[—ref. Freud.—? … ].

 

 

(in short. … )

—A child (—an infant. *—prior to development of instrumental intelligence-engagement-activity) recognises itself as(-in) the image it sees in a mirror.

*[—ref. debate over when (exactly) this: … ‘event’ takes place (… —around six months, is it… —?), and the efficacy of Lacan’s reading. … —?].

 

*… —Lacan argues that the child, in[/within] this moment or instance, *—misrecognises itself as the unified, coherent, singular, mirror image. …

 

 

—He argues that physical (—i.e. bodily) and psychical/(or)psychological unity, then,… are dependent upon the resulting, and fundamental, error in the child’s (—the subject’s) perspective. …

 

—Following ol’ Ziggy Freud—and particularly Freud’s early conception of ego-formation *(—especially up to point-time of the ‘Narcissism’ essay),… —Lacan saw ‘the mirror stage’ (and, consequently,—the formation of the ego itself) as a moment of (essentially) narcissistic self-misrecognition, founded(/-grounded) in a self-idealisation *(—and the term Ideal/ideal (—idealisation) which prove crucial to us in our own discussion of Lacan. … ).

 

*—The child(-infant), then,—identifies itself with an image of unity and of completeness [finality… —?]—an ideal which it anticipates, but which it will—and cannot—ever hope to (properly) embody. …

 

*—(As with Freud, and this will prove important in-to our study of Derrida: … ) No human being (that is) can ever hope to fully coincide with an(—the) ideal. …

 

 

Self-understanding (/self-comprehension), in this sense, then,… is seen as/—is revealed to be  … —a form of misunderstanding,… —ironically undermining or undercutting (so to) any claims to self-identity or self-knowledge. …

*(… —link to, and recapit., study of Nietzsche and Freud in particular, and to both Marx and Barthes,… particularly in-through L.’s influence on the study of *ideology… *—projection of ideals onto subject—forming-informing the subject, then,—from without. … ).

 

 

II.—language. …

The second of Lacan’s key contributions to the theory of subjectivity was (in) his *(later) adoption of the terms of Saussure’s critique of language: … —Semiology/(or) Semiotics.

*[and, again,… —(briefly) recapit. reading-study of Saussure (—to refresh). … ].

 

Language, Lacan argues,—building on elements of his theory of ‘the mirror stage’, both *joins subjects together—as it allows them to communicateand yet also (and, importantly,—at the same time … ) serves to *separate them: —communication is never complete. …

 

… —Just as we saw in-for Saussure, and his account of the ‘denaturalising’ of language and its arbitrary or shifting nature (—as coincidence of thought and sound… —of signifier and signified … )… Lacan argues that meaning is shifting, and is only constructed through a system of differences. …

 

(—in (roughly) psychoanalytic terms… )

—At different stages of in-of analysis, patients ascribe entirely different meanings to earlier episodes or utterances. …

 

This is where Lacan becomes an influence on the study of art (specifically literature) (and hence drama—?)

 

 

—If reinterpretation is always possible ((that is)—if the event or text itself is—can never be—finished, self-identical,—complete … ), then there can be no (such thing as a)—final reading.

 

—In different contexts, and at-in different times and/or places, that is, artworks can assume entirely different meanings. …

 

*—For Lacan, then,… —the meaning of an artwork (always) comes from the future. …

 

 

For Lacan, the speaking subject can never put everything into words. … —They, at once, (always) say, on the one hand, more than they intend to

*[—this is tied to Freud’s conception of the inevitable return of the repressed, and compensation structures: … —jokes, verbal slips, etc. … ].

and (and—at the same time) … less than they intend to say *(—there is always something missing, something that it is impossible to put into words-to say. … ).

 

—The unconscious can never be fully verbalised, and, as result, psychoanalytic treatment/analysis is always endless-interminable. …

 

There is always something that it’s impossible to say… —some form of remainder or unspoken. …

 

—The subject is always between signifiers, and cannot attain self-identity.

*(—This element of Lacan’s thought most of all is a profound influence on the thought which will follow him: poststructuralism—especially the work of Jacques Derrida, and that of Michel Foucault, as well as Feminism—such as in the work of Julia Kristeva, as well as Gender and Queer Theory, each of which we will be studying next semester. … ).

 

The results of this are two other key Lacanian concepts. …

 

I.—*Alienation.

 

—To be a subject, the subject must (try to) identify themselves with a  signifier, even though it is impossible for them to ever fully coincide with it.

 

Prior to its birth, the human infant is spoken of with hopes, fears, and desires, and is assigned an identity: … —is given a (proper) name. …

 

—This name acts as a summons to the child to adopt an identity not of its own making or choosing, and which, then, embodies an—ideal. …

 

This summons,… —the impossibility of its fulfilment, and the sensed imposition of an ideal… give rise to Alienation. … —Although there is no (sense of) ‘self’ prior to the assignment of a name, the subject revolts (on some level—so to speak … ): … rebels, then, against the assignment-imposition of the ideal as betrayal, or a loss, of their ‘true self’. …

 

 

II.—*Separation.

 

The sense of something having been lost gives rise, for Lacan,—to desire. …

 

—The child’s (—the infant’s) existence(-experience) is delimited by its entrance into signification, and a feeling is born that there must be more to existence than the role assigned to them (—to the subject) by society and by signification.

 

… —From the moment of their entrance into society and the chain of signification, the subject is in search of something they feel themselves to be lacking. …

 

Lacan argues,—pessimistically, that this search is (—will always have been)—in vain. …

 

—The ‘object’ (so-called) of the search never truly existed, nor could ever truly exist. …

 

 

*—There will be (-have been) a perpetual gap,—between the enjoyment of whatever the subject finds (will have found) to fill the place of the ‘lost object’, and the enjoyment that they will have anticipated. …

 

—Existence falls short (inevitably) (—of imagination). …

 

 

*—The most common form of this kind of fantasising (—of coinciding, or of identity, with the ‘lost object’) is romance. …

 

*—Lovers imagine that the other embodies the ‘lost object’, and will (—can) make good the feeling of a lack.

 

Lovers, Lacan argues, bring to each other not what will make good the lack, but (in fact) the lack itself.

 

*Hence one of Lacan’s key axioms: *—there is no sexual relation.

 

*Rather than accept or confront this (nonetheless unavoidable) reality, Lacan argues,—we take refuge in fantasy.

 

 

*—The concepts, then,—of the imposition of the ideal, alienation, and the lack and (in) the Other, will prove crucial in-to our study of Critical Theory, and, more particularly (for our current purposes), to our reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. …

 

 

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7 thoughts on “*Lacan & the Question of the ‘real’ reading group: By way of a sort of an introduction to Lacan himself. … *brief notes, … —from a lecture on Lacan.

  1. […] II— By way of a sort of an introduction to Lacan himself. … *brief notes, … —from a lecture … […]

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