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~r'il11itative," and the second, "contagious"magic.-'This bipartition is indeed 1,lul11l1latmg. Nonetheless, for the most part, the question of the two poles is still neglected, despite its wide scope and importance for the study of any symbolic behavior, especially verbal, and of its impairments. \Vhat is the main reason for this neglect? Similarity in meaning connects the symbols of a metalanguage with the symbols of the language referred to. Similarity connects a metaphorical term wil'll the term for which it is substituted. Consequently, when constructing a metalanguage to interpret tropes, the researcher possesses more homogeneous means to handle metaphor, whereas metonymv, based on a different principle, easily defies interpretation. Therefore 'nothing comparable to the rich literature on metaphor can be cited for the theory of metonymy. For the same reason, it is generally realized that Romanticism is closely linked with metaphor, whereas the intimate ties of Healism with metonymy usually remain unnoticed. Not only the tool of the observer but also the object of observation are responsible for the preponderance of metaphor over metonymy in scholarship. Since poetry is focused upon the sign, and pragmatical prose primarily ~pon the referent, tropes and fLgures were studied mainly as poetic devices. The principle of similarity underlies poetry; the metrical parallelism of lines or the phonic equivalence of rhyming words prompts the question of semantic similarity and contrast: there exist, for instance, grammatical and antigrammatical but never agrammatical rhymes. Prose, on the contrary, is forwarded essentially by contiguity. Thus for poetry, metaphor-and for prose, metonymy-is the line of least resistance and consequently the study of poetical tropes is directed chiefly toward metaphor. The actual bipolarity has been artificially replaced in these studies by an amputated, unipolar scheme which, strikingly enough. coincides with one of the two aphasic patterns. namely with the contiguity disorder.

3. James


~ 11

chap. 3

C. Frazer, T~le Gulden

Bough: A Study

in iVJCtgic and Religion,

fA. e~


lecVi; b-

3d ed. (Vienna,

1950). pan




Difficult, polemical, and ironic, organized in sometimes baffling ways, and dotted with strange syntax, foreign vvords, wordplay, obscure allusions, personality, and mathematical formulas. Jacques Lacan's writings genuinely stretch the reader's resources. He writes psychoanalytic theory as if it were poetry, philosophy, and symbolic logic. In writing, Lacan says that he tries "to leave the rea'der no Ot'her way out than the way in. which I prefer to be diFficult." The reader cannot simply pick

up a "meaning" and carry it away. And that is the point. Jt IS no! rne IdLl '" c,,,,, culty, but the experience and path of difficulty that are significant. Lacan demystifies as a fantasy of omniscience the objective, impersonal, external position often associated with science and theory. But to analyze the consequences of wanting it anyway is at the heart of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Insofar as most psychoanalytic theory is today Lacanian or post-Lacanian, there is no way around Jacques Lacan, the French Freud. Lacan is knovvn for his larger-than-life persona, but his description of his career sounds distinctly unrevolutionary: it consists of a retuJ'll to the discoveries of his predecessor. For more than thirty years, Lacan analyzed a single case: the writings of S!G~!U;-.lD FHECO. Thus, what was revolutionary in his work was a reading-a reading that. he claimed, returned to what was radical about "the Freudian discovery" (which he always refers to in the singular). Lacan's return and its radicality were made possible by the development in his lifetime of modern linguistics: Lacan read Freud through the theories of FEHDINANDDE SAUSSUHE and ROMAN JAKOBSON, and, in the process, they all were changed. Like CLAUDEL1':VI-STRAUSS whose (by work he was also influenced), he found that the structuralist models opened up by Saussure made possible a sea change in theoretical thinking. Born to middle-class Parisian Catholic parents who named him Jacques-Marie, he was the first of four children (the second child did not survive). His father worked for a soap and oil manufacturer. While Jacques renounced religion and dropped the "-Marie" from his name, his brother Marc-Franc;:ois entered a monastery. Though the celibacy of one brother was more than counterbalanced by the active sexual life of the other. it can be argued that both remained profoundly marked by the church. [n the 1920s Lacan studied medicine in Paris, beginning clinical training in psychiatry (which requires a medical degree) in 1927. Interested in paranoia (delusions of persecution) and erotomania (delusions of love), he connected his work with surrealism, particularly with that of the Spanish painter Salvador Dali, a contemporary whose theory of "paranoid criticism" resonated strongly with Lacan's research. In 1932 Lacan published his doctoral dissertation, On Paranoiac Psychosis in Its Relations with the Personality. and sent a copy to Freud. Although Freud lived another seven years and passed through Paris when escaping Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938, the two men never met. Freud acknowledged receipt of the thesis by postcard. Lacan married Marie-Louise Blondin in 1934 (one month before the birth of their child) and pursued his training analysis with Hudolph Loewenstein, who later became, after emigrating to the United States, one of the founders of American "ego psychology," which was often a target of Lacan's critique. Like others of his generation, he was deeply affected by a famous series of lectures given on G. w. F. HEGELby Alexandre Kojeve in the 1930s. Lacan was particu larly inspired by Kojeve's interpretation of the Master-Slave dialectic and of the dynamics of recognition. But he was also struck by Kojeve's ability to revolutionize a text by reading it against its critical reception. His reading of Freud would do nothing less. And for twenty years Lacan's weekly seminars played, for the next generation of French intellectuals. the role that Kojeve's lectures had played for his. In 1938 Lacan became a member of the Societe Psychanalytique de Paris (SPP), the official French branch of the International Psycho-Analytical Society (1PAl founded by Freud in 1910. During the war, the SPP was forced to suspend its operations. Lacan's personal life was also in flux; the birth in ]941 of Judith Bataille, Lacan's daughter with Sylvia Bataille (the estranged wife of the celebrated critic and novelist Georges Bataille; their separation was not made public until the end of the war), ledlVlarie-Louise to seek a divorce. In 1953 Lacan became president of the SPP and married Sylvia. Helations between the Freudian establishment and Lacan were always fraught. The prominent psychoanalyst Marie Bonaparte, who had apparently had an affair

with Lacan's analyst, was particuJarly suspicious of him. His practice of seeing patients for variable lengths of time (the so-ca1Jed short sessions) rather than for the prescribed fifty minutes led the commission on instruction to demand that he regularize his practice. He never did so. His intuitive brilliance as a clinician was often incompatible with institutional rules and safeguards, yet his charismatic personality seemed to call for new institutions. He resigned from the SPP and joined the newer Societe Franc;aise de Psychanalyse (SFP)-which, upon being told in 1963 that it could join the IPA if Lacan were not included, tried to ban his teaching and his practice. This episode is what Lacan called his "excommunication." Unwilling to conform to the existing rules and excluded from the official organizations, Lacan decided to set up on his own. He founded L'Ecole Freudienne de Paris (the Freudian School of Paris), and with the support of LOUISALTHUSSERhe moved his weekly seminar, which had been held at the Sainte-Anne hospital, to the prestigious Ecole Normale. In 1966 Lacan published a legendary 900-page collection of his essays and conference papers titled Ecrits nritings). Despite its diffIculty, the book was a sensation. Crowds began filling his weekly seminar. Along with other French thinkers, Lacan spoke that same year at Johns Hopkins University at a conference-"The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man"-that launched structuralism and poststructuralism in the United States. And together with Althusser, JACQUESDERRIDA,JULIA KRISTEVA, ELE:NECIXOUS,and many others, Lacan became very closely associated H with the intellectual ferment that helped lead to the student demonstrations in May 1968 in Paris. Indeed, some of his students became so disruptive that the director of the Ecole Normale made it known to Lacan that he would have to seek another venue. In 1969 he began holding his seminars at the Faculte de Droit (Law School). Meanwhile, at the just-opened branch of the University of Paris at Vincennes, the first university department of psychoanalysis in France was created by people sympathetic to Lacan. Among them was Jacques-Alain Miller, a student of Althusser who later became important as Lacan's editor and son-in-law. In 1975 Lacan visited the United States again, lecturing at Yale University and M IT. But controversy raged at the Ecole Freudienne de Paris over two developments: the influence of Miller (who was not a medical doctor and preferred Lacan-thelogician to Lacan-the-clinician) and the new pedagogical procedure (called "la passe") that Lacan had introduced into his school to certify those who would receive the title "Analyste de l'Ecole" (Analyst of the Freudian School). The controversy became so fierce that in 1980, the aging Lacan announced the closing of the school he had founded (and, in effect, his own impending death), saying, ".Ie dissous ... " (I dissolve). But many members of the Freudian School felt the school was not his to dissolve. As he created a new school CLa Cause Freudienne"), they fought the legality of his dissolution of the old one, but lost. He died of cancer a little more than a year later. Lacan published only one "book"-his 1932 dissertation; Ecrits was a collection of assorted papers. But his name is attached to the many articles he published in the numerous journals of the Freudian School, and transcripts of all twenty-six of his annual book-length seminars were and still are being edited and published by Jacques-Alain Miller. His speaking style resembled writing in its "poetic" richness and its need for active listening but he did not consider his Ecrits to be quite worthy of their name ("writings"). He jokingly referred to publication as poubellication (poubelle means "wastebasket"). The most influential seminar from the literary point of view is his 1955 seminar on EDGARALLANrOE's "Purloined Letter" (J 845); parts were published as the opening texts in the French Ecrits, but they are not included in the much shorter English translation of the book. (The entire seminar was published in English in 1988 as The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis.) In his "Seminar on The Purloined Letter'" Lacan shows how a text can be read even when a major

piece of information is not disclosed, a lesson important for psychoanalysis. The path of the desired or feared letter in Poe's story does not depend on knowledge of its contents; and the behavior of those who seek it creates a story around theIr presumptions about the contents, whether or not the letter "is ever opened. In. thl~ seminar, Lacan is commenting on Freud's concept of the repetItIOn compulsIOl:, which he translates as "repetition automatism." The story is composed of two dIfferent scenes in which the same letter is stolen: the two scenes are repetitions of each other with the set roles being played by different characters. Like the lights on a news strip showing streaming headlines (the analogy is Lacan's), the individual characters are like the light bulbs that go on and off according to the structure being repeated and not according to their individual volition or characterIstIcs. The repetition is unconscious. For Lacan, in other words, Poe's story illustrates the fact that the letter's position among the characters, and not the psychology of the individuals determines what each will do: "Their displacement IS determll1ed by the place which a pure signifier-the purloined letter-comes to occupy." Lacan caJls this mechanism "symbolic determination." Like a "free ceJl" in the solitaire of that na~e (included in'the software of many computers) that allows the other cards to be moved, the "pure" signifier functions as the point of articulation whether or not anything is known about it. Although the story's reader never gains access to the text of the letter, the story's characters do read it; like the analyst, the read~r has to understand the functionino of the repetition without necessarIly knowll1g ItS content. For Lacan there a;e three "orders" or "dimensions" in the psyche: the "Symbolic," the "Imagin~ry," and the "ReaL" They are all equally important to the formation of subjectivity. The Real is the easiest to define and the hardest to talk about. In fact, It can't be talked about; any such discussion is "impossible." The moment it becomes an object of discourse, it ceases to be the "Real" because it becomes realf~,r so~eone and be'comes the "truth." "\,y'e are used to the real. The truth we repress, writes Lacan late in his essay ''The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious." "The truth is alwa,Ys disturbing." The "Real" is also defined by Lacan as "that to which the fact that 1m thinking about it doesn't matter." But what is disturbing can be dlsturbll1g o~ly for someone. The Real can thus only be studied in its effects on the other two dnnensions the Imaginary and the Symbolic. Th'e Imaginary originates in the human being's fascin.ation wi~h form'"The fundamental role of form for the human being is deSCrIbed 111 Lacan s essay The MIrror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I" (1949; the concept v:as introduced in a 1936 lecture), our first selection. The essay deSCribes the foundlllg moment of the Imaginary: the infant's recognition of its image in the mirror. The baby forgets how weak it is and identifies jubilantly with the wholeness of a reHected form. The human self thus comes into being throuoh a fundamentally aesthetic recognition. The self-image that causes identification"' and recognition is a fiction "over there," dictating the efforts of the subject CI") toward a totality ,and autonomy It can never attain. Through an external medium (a mirror), the chlid s f,~a~mented vb~dy IS made whole: the newly fashioned specular "I" precedes the SOCIal 1. SLAVOJ IZEKextends Z Lacan's concepts of the Imaginary, Real, and Symbolic, especially in his analyses of popular culture. . "." . The relation between the self and its image constItutes the Imagll1ary dnnension-so named not because it is unreal, but because it involves an image. The Symbolic, in contrast, is the dimension of symbolization into which the hun~an being's body, to the extent that he or she begins to speak, must translate Itself. 1he Symbolic is the dimension of articulation, not eqmvalent to POll1tll1g or namll1g. Like algebra, the "Symbolic" is a structure of relations rather than thIngs. (These terms can be confusing; for example, so-called phallic symbols would belong 111 the Imaginary, not the Symbolic, dimension.) . "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious" (1957), from whlCh our second selection is drawn, develops some aspects of the "symbolic" structure of the psyche.

It is one of Lacan's most explicit structuralist attempts to bring Freud and Saussure together. The unconscious, for Lacan, is not a hidden resen'oir of repressed desires hut rather a form of rhetorical energy designed hoth to disguise and to express those desires, which exist for psychoanalysis only in their effects. 'The unconscious is structured like a language," he famously claims. This means not that the unconscious is language, but that the unconscious is lilze a language-a foreign language. In other words, the unconscious is structured, not amorphous, and it spealzs rhetorically through the dreams, mistakes, and symptoms of the subject. In the case of psychoanalytic symptoms, it is the body itself that provides the raw material that the unconscious uses to express itself and that the analyst, like a literary critic, must "read." Saussure's influential model of the linguistic sign has tw'O parts: the sign is composed of a signifier and a sign~fzed, In his example, a drawing of a tree functions as t he sign iAed (concept-i magel, wh iIe the spoken word "tree" fu nctions as the sign iAer (sound-image). By playing with the notion of the tree in \Vestern theory and poetry, Lacan makes it clear that even this representative of "nature" is really a form of "culture," Saussure's model of the sign has three implications that Lacan wants to challenge: that a sign is the representation of a thing, that signs function individually, and that the line that separates signifier from signified is only an abstract function of the diagram (see chapter I of Saussure's COHrse in General Lingtlistic.\, above). Lacan's countermodel of the sign-or rather, of the signifying chain-consists of two doors: one is labeled "ladies" and the other "gentlemen." The sign can no longer be considered a picture of a thing (since the doors are identical, except for their labels, and resemble neither men nor women), Rather, the sign is a structure into which the reader has to fit his or her bodv, The signs tell the reader where to "go": they instate the law of sexual difference but do not explain it. They also create a difference where none existed before: the doors are the same, but "ladies" and "gentlemen" are henceforth different. The line in the di8gram plavs the role of censor merely by dividing one sex from the other. Lacan rewrites Saussure's model of the sign as S/s, The "signifier" (S) marks the spot where the "signified" (5) has been struck by the bar of repression, which is indistinguishable from the structuring function of civilization. Signs thus systematically and unconsciously constitute all social codes, conventions, and prohibitions. \Ne are constituted and acculturated by signs, Even before we begin to speak, we are 81readv being spoken. Language, in Lacan's analysis, operates on us as much as we operate on it. \Ne follow the signs. Language speaks us. But in the process, we become split between a conscious self and an unconscious self that we repress, deny, and repeat. Given the power (If the unconscious, Lacan rewrites the celebrated self-identitv of Descartes's "I think, therefore I am" as enigmatic self~estrangement: "[ think where I am not. therefore I am where I do not think." [n attempting to describe the rhetoric of this selfestrangement, Lacan aligns Roman ]akobson's linguistic studies of metaphor and metonymy with Freud's distinction (in The Interpretatio11 of Dreams, 1900) between condensation and displacement in the dream-work of the unconscious. Because an unconscious wish is, in Freud's model, unacceptable or forbidden, it must get around the censorship of consciousness if it is to express itself. It does so either by choosing a stand-in ("one word for another" = metaphor) or by sliding along and selecting adjacent' signifiers ("word-to-word"= metonymy), In "The Agency of the Letter," Lacan thus extends the theories of Saussure and Jakobson in the direction of Freud's implicit rhetoric of unconscious processes, while at the same time dr8wing on modern linguistics to precisely formulate that which, in Freud, remains largely intuitive. "The Signification of the Phallus" (1958), our final selection, is one of the most condensed, contested, suggestive, and misunderstood of Lacan's essays, It is about castration-a concept that never fails to be considered scandalous. \;\Ihy, he asks, did Freud need the concept of castrat ion at all? \;\Iomen are not castrated men, are they) Little boys don't really believe their fathers will castrate them, do they? It's

ridiculous to think that Mommy once had a penis and lost it, isn't it? How could a theory so manifesLly absurd and disprovable have been taken seriously? The OLltrageousness of these infantile sexual theories is of course the point. The human being comes into sexuality epistemologically unprepared. But why did Freud imagine that these were the theories that came most readilv to mind to stanch the wound created by the discm'en' that not everyone resembles -me, and that that has something to do with sexuality~ Lacan tackles these questions in several ways, His originality lies in the connections he makes between the functioning of language and the functioning of desire, As soon as man begins to speak (there is no getting away from the masculine universal in Lacan), he must launder everything important or even routine about his bodily life through linguistic structures that don't exactly correspond to biological requirements, Lacan defines desire as what is left of absolute demand when all possible satisfaction of needs has been subtracted from it. In other words, desire is what by definition remains unsatisfiable. Linguistic structures preexist the subject and are not created by him, Lacan calls "the Other" "the verv locus evoked bv the recourse to speech." (The other designates a mirror image: a counterpart competitor, another person; the Other, capitalized, designates the Symbolic dimension itself insofar as the subject has to relate to it.) The very fact of speaking routes everything through the Other. The intuition that somehow one has lost direct connection with the body-that something about the body is missing-is itself a Arst definition of the concept of castration. This lost object that is deAned retrospectively is also called, in Lacan's terms, objet petit a (a phrase that should be translated "object little 0," since the a is from autre, "other"), The lost object is one that the subject never had, the loss brought into being bv svmbolization itself. - B~,t if that were aiL then evervone would be in exactlv the same position with respect to the unattainability of ,;aturalness, There would- be no sexual asymmetry, Sexual difference would disappear. Thus, what Lacan has to add to this "universal" castration is a specific castration caused by the encounter with sexual difference, The castration that counts is the symbolic castration of the mother-the mother as not-all (not all there is for the child, not a total body form, not entirely focused on the child without other relationships), At this point, in other writings, Lacan describes the function of the father as both the instatement of language ("Ie nom du pere"-the name of the father) and the prohibition of incest ("Ie non du pere"the "no" of the father). The phallus that is determining in the phallic stage of human development is thus the one that has never existed. The "something missing" cannot be anything real: it can be generated only by the fact of structure itself, It is missing without ever having been there. It is an interpretation, a theory, a comparison, not a thing. The linguistic counterpart of the missing thing is an extra signiAer whose only function is to be the name of the missing thing, There is no signified, but the sign ifler names the fact of signification-the fact that sexual difference is an interpretation-as such, For Lacan, the phallus is the name for that signifier. In his seminar Feminine Sexu.ality (1972-73), Lacan goes so far as to claim that "there is no sexual relation." If there were a sexual relation, that would imply that the sexes are complementarv, that they fit together to make a whole, But (according to Lacan and, he claims, all of literature), they don't. \;\Iomen's pleasure is supplementary, not complementary, to a sexualuni"erse that revolves around the position of the one, the phallus, the center. The wholeness and completion that is desired in the sexual relation is prccisely what would make it impossible, deadly, When Lacan says that woman does not exist, he is referring to "woman" as a fantasy of complementarity. [f "woman" existed, women could not. To account for the existence of women as something that does not merely confirm the preeminence of the phallic


signifier, Lacan adds "God" to the couple. God is the third who keeps "two" from collapsing into "one." The point is not that Lacan "believes" in God, but that the position God occupies in the structure (that of the Other) cannot disappear. For that reason, Lacan focuses on the writings of mystics: Saint John of the Cross, Hadewijch d'Anvers, Saint Teresa-and Jacques Lacan. It is easy to see why Lacan has been both useful for and anathema to feminists. On the one hand, his theory is useful because it is not in any simple way essentialist: "men" and "women" are not essences or biological givens but rather positions in a structure. On the other hand, his theory is "phallocentric" in the verv terms he uses to displace phallocentrism. He writes as if the menage a trois impli~d in every relationship consisted of the phallus, the not-all, and God. Like Freud's theory, Lacan's theory takes patriarchy as a given. \A/hether his writing constitutes a defense or simply an analysis of that given is open to interpretation. The writings of the French feminists Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous, in particular, are attempts to give voice, figure, and flesh to alternative versions of sexuality starting from the feminine, not the phallic, perspective without falling into essentialist thinking themselves. Any analysis, whether clinical or scholarly, implies what Lacan memorably calls "the subject presumed to know." The knowledge sought is presumed to exist somewhere. That fantasy of a knower "out there" is what we have to be cured of. But it is therefore ironic that no one performs the role of that knower better than Lacan. One can only conclude that the demystifier of the "subject presumed to know" is the most powerful of its incarnations. This is an observation with which PLATO'S Socrates, who "knew nothing but the fact that he was ignorant," would agree.

Lacan &- Co. (1990), and a separate work, Jacques Lacan, has also been translated (1993; trans. 1997). For a shorter but equally zesty account of psychoanalysis in France centered on Lacan's life and works, see Sherry Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics (1978; rev. ed., ]992). There are many introductions to Lacan's thought. The most useful for the nonspecialist are Eli;abeth Grosz, Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction (1990); Malcolm Bowie, Lacan (1991), a book that focuses particularly on Lacan's style; Lacan and the Subject of Language, edited by Ellie Ragland-Sullivan and Mark Bracher (1991); Madan Sarup, Jacques Lacan (1992), an introduction to Lacan Il1 cultural context; Michael Payne, Reading Theory: An Introduction to Lacan, Derrida, and Kristeva (1993); Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject (J 995) and Lacan to the Letter: Reading "fcrits" Closely (2004); and Lacanfor Beginners, written by Philip Hill and illustrated by David Leach (J 997, 1999), which is unusually good as well as funny. Students should also consult Sean Homer's Jacques Lacan (2005), whIch engages key Lacanian concepts and suggests useful further readings. For advanced engagements with the process of reading Lacan, see Jane Gallop s Readmg Lacan (J 985) and Shoshana Felman's Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight (J 987). For a good explanation of the differences between Lacanian and American psychoanalysis, see The Subject and the Self: Lacan and American ;sychoanalysts, edIted by Judith Feher Gurewich and Michel Tort (1996). On Lacan s Importance for cultural and historical studies, see Juliet Flower MacCannell's Figuring Lacan (J 986) and Teresa Brennan's History after Lacan (1993). . There are many critical and polemical books about Lacan. Some of the most interesting are Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, The Title of the Letter (1973; trans. 1992), which continues the famous critique Jacques Dernda had begun in his reading of Lacan's seminar on "The Purloined Letter" (see "The Purveyor of Truth" in The Purloined Poe); Fran<;ois Roustang, Dire Mastery (1976; trans. ]982), which considers the combination of the religion like nature of psychoanalysis and the tyrannical power of Jacques Lacan; and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan: The Absolute Master (1990; trans. 1991), a more restrained but still thoroughgoing critique of the effects of power in Lacan's t~eory. A t,)1.~oristwhose work is an ongoing reinterpretation of the work of Lacan IS SlavoJ Zlzek; see hIS 1992 Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know about Lacan (But \,vere Afratd to Ask Hrtchcock), How to Read Lacan (2007), and other works. For a dated but annotated bibliography, see Michael Clark, Jacques Lacan: An Annotated Bibliography (J 988). Dylan Evans has published An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (]996), which is extremely useful and contall1S ,a good bibliography. Also worth consulting are the suggested readll1gs 111Homer s Jacques Lacan; in addition, The Cambridge Compamon to Lacan, edIted by JeanMichel Rabate (2003), has a solid bibliography.

The literature on Lacan illustrates the axiom that the more difficult the text, the more extensive the bibliography. In addition to his thesis, De la psychose paranoi'aque dans ses rapports avec la personnalitl! (1932, On Paranoiac Psychosis in Its Relations with the Personality; not yet translated), Lacan published Ec'rits (1966), a small selection of which appeared in English as Ecrits: A Selection, translated by Alan S~eridan (1977). Bruce Fink offers a judicious translation of Ecrits in the aptly titled Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English (2006). The "Seminar on 'The Purloined Letter'" as it appears in the French Ecrits can be found, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman, in The Purloined Poe, edited by John Muller and William Richardson (1988), an excellent casebook containing essays by Jacques Derrida, Barbara Johnson, and many others. Another notable early translation of and commentary on one of Lacan's essays is Anthony \A/i1den, The Language of the Self (1968), which treats Lacan's "Rome discourse," "Fonction et champ de la parole et du langage en psychanalyse" (J 953, "The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis"). A selection of Lacan's writings on female sexuality with two substantial introductions was published as Feminine Sexuality, edited by Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose (J982). To date, the annual seminars of Lacan that have been translated into Enolish are hook I, Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54 (J988); book 2, The Ego Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, ]954-55 (1988); book 3, The Psychoses (199.'); book 7, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60 (1992); book II, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (1977), a series of lectures given in ]964; book [7, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (2007); and book 20, On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge (1998). Several others have appeared in French. Lacan's My Teaching, translated by David Macey (2008), contains three lectures directed at those who are not psychoanalysts. For an information-packed, fascinating biography, see the \York of Elisabeth Roudinesco; volume 2 of her two-volume history of psychoanalysis in France (La Bataille de cent ans, ]982-86), devoted to Lacan, has been translated as Jacques


The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the 1 I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience
The conception of the mirror stage that I introduced at our last congress, thirteen years ago, has since become more or less established in the practice of the French group.2 However, I think it worthwhile to bring it again to your attention, especially today, for the light it sheds on the formation of
1. Translated by Alan Sheridan, who occasionally includes the original French in parentheses. 2. That is, the Psychoanalytic Society of Pans, the official French branch Psycho-Analytic Society. of the International

the I as lie experience il in psychoanalysis. II is an experience thaI leads us to oppose any philosophy directly issuing from the Cngito. ~ Some of you may recall that this conception originated in a feature of human behaviour illuminated by a fact of comparative psychologv. The child, at an age when he is for a time, hovvever short, outdone bv the chimpanzee in instrumental intelligence, can nevertheless already recognize as such his own image in a mirror. This recognition is indicated in the illuminative mimicry of the Aha-Erlebnis, which Kohler4 sees as the expression of situational apperception, an essential stage of the act of intelligence. This act, far from exhausting itself, as in the case of the monke\', once the image has been mastered and found empty, immediately rebounds in the case of the child in a series of gestures in which he experiences in play the rclal ion between the movements assumed in the image and the reflected environment, and between th is virtua 1complex and the reality it redupJicatesthe child's own body, and the persons and things, around him. This event can take place, as we have known since Baldwin,' from the age of six months, and its repetition has often made me reflect upon the startling spectacle of the infant in front of the ,mirror. Unable as yet to walk, or even to stand up, and held tightly as he is by some support, human or artincial (what, in France, we call a 'tmtte-be]Je'6), he nevertheless overcomes, in a flutter of jubilant activity, the obstructions of his support and, nxing his attitude in a slightly leaning-forward position, in order to hold it in his gaze, brings back an instantaneous aspect of the image. For me, this activity retains the meaning I have given it up to the age of eighteen months. This meaning discloses a libidinal dynamism, which has hitherto remained problematic, as well as an ontological structure of the human world that accords wit.h my reflections on paranoiac knowledge,7 Vile have only to understand the mirror stage as aPI identification, in the full sense that. analysis gives to the term: namely, the transformation that takes place in the subject when he assumes an image-whose predestination to this phase-effect is sufficiently indicated by the use, in analytic theory, of the a ncient term imago. S This jubilant assumption of his specular image by the child at the infans9 stage, still sunk in his motor incapacity and nursling dependence, would seem to exhibit in an exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form, before it is objectined in the dialectic of identincation with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject. This form would have to be called the Ideal-I, I if we wished to incorporate it into our usual register, in the sense that it will also be the source of

scconda ry identincat ions, under wh ich term 1 would place the functions of libidinal normalizCltion. But the important point is that this form situates the agency of the ego, before its social determination, in a fictional direction, which will alwavs remain irreducible for the individual alone, or rather, which will only rejoin' the coming-into-being (Ie de1'eni.r) of the subject asymptoticallv,2 whatever the success of the dialect.ical syntheses by which he must res~l\'e as T his discordance with his own reality. The fact is that the total form of the body by which the subject anticipates in a mirage the maturation of his power is given to him only as Gestalt,! thaI is to sav, in an exteriorit\' in which this form is certainly more constituent than co~stituted, but in ;vhich it appears to him above all in a contrasting size (1m relief de statHre) that nxes it and in a symmetry that inverts it, in contrast with the turbulent movements that the subject feels are animating him. Thus, this Gestalt-whose pregnancy should be regarded as bound up with the species, though its motor style remains scarcely recognizableby these two aspects of its appearance, symbolizes the mental permanence of the I, at the same time as it prengures its alienating destination; it is still pregnant with the correspondences that unite the I with the statue in which man projects himself, with the phantoms that dominate him, or with the automaton in which, in an ambiguous rclation, the world of his own making tends to nnd completion. Indeed, for the imagos-whose veiled faces it is our privilege to see in outline in ou r daily experience a nd in the penumbra of symbolic efncacitlthe mirror-image would seem to be the threshold of the visible world, if we go by the mirror disposition that the i.mago of one's own body presents in hallucinations or dreams, whether it concerns its individual features, or even its innrmities, or its object-projections; or if we observe the role of the mirror apparatus in the appearances of the double, in which psychical realities, however heterogeneous, are manifested_ That a Gestalt should be capable of formative effects in the organism is attested by a piece of biological experimentation that is itself so alien to the idea of psychical causality that it cannot bring itself to formulate its results in these terms. It nevertheless recognizes that it is a necessary condition for the maturation of the gonad of the fema Ie pigeon that it shou Id see another member of its species, of either sex; so sufncient in itself is this condition that the desired effect may be obtained merely by placing the individual within reach of the neld of reflection of a mirror. Similarly, in the case of the migratory locust, the transition within a generation from the solitary to the gregarious form can be obtained by exposing the individual, at a certain stage, to the exclusively visual action of a similar image, provided it is animated bv movements of a stvle sufflciently close to that characteristic of the species, ~SLlch facts are insc;ibed in an order of homeomorphic identificCltion that would itself fall within the larger question of the meaning of beauty as both formative and erogenic.s But the facts of mimicry are no less instructive when conceived as cases of heteromorphic identincation, in as much as they ra ise the problem of the
2. Coming ever closer but never reaching. 3. Form. pattern, whole (German). 4. Cf. CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS [b. 1908], Strllctural flI1throl'ology [19581. chapter 10 p.aean's notel 5. Giving rise to sexual desire. "Homeomorphic": having the s~)Jne form (as opposed to "heteromorphic." differing from the usual form).

3. I t hi n k (Latin), a reference lathe ph ilosophv of Rene Descartes (1596-1650). which was founded on the statement "I think, therefore I am" {co[.!ito (Jrg,rJ SlIlll)-that is, the occurrence of thought guarantees the existence of the thinker. Here, it implies IhM thinking call perfel:t1y coincide with being ~Incl is the bclSis for human reality. 4. 'vVnlfg3ng Kiihler (1887-1967), Germen corOll Ilcler of Cestalt psychology. Aha-Erie/litis: aha experience (German). S. Jemes Baldwin (1801-1934). American developmenta [ psychologist.

6. Raby trotter (French); that is. a walker. 7. According 10 Lacan, knowledge itself is structured like paranoia. in that it projects a coherence onto the world that mav not he there. 8. Likeness, statue (Latin). 9. Incepeble of speech (Latin). 1. Throughoullhis article I leave in its peculiarity the translation I have adopted for Freud's Ideal-leI, [i.e .. "je-ideal"] without further comment, other than to say th<:\t I have not maintained it sinee ILaean's note].

concepts hardly signification of space for the living organism-psychological seem less appropriate for shedding light on these matters than ridiculous attempts to reduce them to the supposedly supreme law of adaptation. We have only to recall how Roger Caillois6 (who was then very young, and still fresh from his breach with the sociological school in which he was trained) illuminated the subject by using the term 'legendary psychasthenia'7 to classify morphological mimicry as an obsession with space in its derealizing effect. I have myself shown in the social dialectic that structures human knowledge as paranoiacs why human knowledge has greater autonomy than animal knowledge in relation to the field of force of desire, but also why human knowledge is determined in that 'little reality' (ce peu de realite), which the Surrealists,9 in their restless way, saw as its limitation. These reflections lead me to recognize in the spatial captation manifested in the mirror-stage. even before the social dialectic, the effect in man of an organic insufficiency in his natural reality-in so far as any meaning can be given to the word 'nature'. I am led, therefore, to regard the function of the mirror-stage as a particular case of the function of the hnago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality-or, as they say, between the Innenwelt and the Umwelt.1 In man, however, this relation to nature is altered by a certain dehiscence at the heart of the organism, a primordial Discord betrayed by the signs of uneasiness and motor unco-ordination of the neo-natal months. The objective notion of the anatomical incompleteness of the pyramidal system2 and likewise the presence of certain humoral residues of the maternal organism confIrm the view I have formulated as the fact of a real specific prematurity of birth in man. It is worth noting, incidentally, that this is a fact recognized as such by embryologists, by the termfoetalization, which determines the prevalence of the so-called superior apparatus of the neurax,3 and especially of the cortex, which psycho-surgical operations lead us to regard as the intra-organic mirror. This development is experienced as a temporal dialectic that decisively projects the formation of the individual into history. The m.irror stage is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation-and which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality that I shall call orthopaedic4-and, lastly, to the assumption of the armour of an alienating identity, which will mark with its rigid structure the subject's entire mental development. Thus, to break out

of the circle of the Innenwelt into the Umwelt generates the inexhaustible quadrature5 of the ego's verifications. This fragmented body-which term I have also introduced into our system of theoretical references-usually manifests itself in dreams when the movement of the analysis encounters a certain level of aggressive disintegration in the individual. It then appears in the form of disjointed limbs, or of those organs represented in exoscopy, growing wings and taking up arms for intestinal persecutions-the very same that the visionary Hieronymus Bosch6 has fixed, for all time, in painting, in their ascent from the fifteenth century to the imaginary zenith of modern man. But this form is even tangibly revealed at the organic level, in the lines of 'fragilization' that define the anatomy of phantasy, as exhibited in the schizoid and spasmodic symptoms of hysteria. Correlatively, the formation of the I is symbolized in dreams by a fortress, or a stadium-its inner arena and enclosure, surrounded by marshes and rubbish-tips,' dividing it into two opposed fields of contest where the subject flounders in quest of the lofty, remote inner castle whose form (sometimes juxtaposed in the same scenario) symbolizes the id in a quite startling way. Similarly, on the mental plane, we find realized the structures of fortified works, the metaphor of which arises spontaneously, as if issuing from the symptoms themselves, to designate the mechanisms of obsessional neurosis-inversion, isolation, reduplication, cancellation and displacement. But if we were to build on these subjective givens alone-however little we free them from the condition of experience that makes us see them as partaking of the nature of a linguistic technique-our theoretical attempts would remain exposed to the charge of projecting themselves into the unthinkable of an absolute subject. This is why I have sought in the present hypothesis, grounded in a conjunction of objective data, the guiding grid for a method of symbolic reduction. 8 It establishes in the defences of the ego a genetic order, in accordance with the wish formulated by Miss Anna Freud,9 in the first part of her great work, and situates (as against a frequently expressed prejudice) hysterical repression and its returns at a more archaic stage than obsessional inversion and its isolating processes, and the latter in turn as preliminary to paranoic alienation, which dates from the deflection of the specular I into the social I. This moment in which the mirror-stage comes to an end inaugurates, by the identification with the im.ago of the counterpart and the drama of primordial jealousy (so well brought out by the school of Charlotte Buhler in the phenomenon of infantile transitivisml), the dialectic that will henceforth link the I to socially elaborated situations.

6. French philosopher and critic (1913-1978). who when young was a surrealist. 7. A term once used for general neuroses. 8. Cf. 'lAggressivity in Psychoanalysis," in E,'crits [Lac3n's note]. uThe social dialectic": human interactions. 9. Members of an experimental literary and artistic movement founded in France in 1924; inspired in part by SIGj\'IUND FREUD, surrealists sought to express subconscious thought and feeling.

I. The inner world and the oLiter world (German). 2. Part of the central nervous system that links the brain and spinal cord and controls voluntary movement. 3. Neuraxis, or central nervous system. 4. Relating to correct child rearing (Lacan is drawing on the core meanings of Ihe word's Greek roots).

5. An allusion to "squaring the circle," or constructing a square whose area is qualto that of a given circle (an impossible task if, following the dictates of classic-al geometry, one uses only a straightedge and a compass). 6. Dutch painter (ca. 1450-1516), best known for his detailed depictions of grotesque, fantastic creatures. "Exoscopy": a view from outside. 7. Garbage dumps.

8. A method derived from the phenomenologists' practice of "bracketing" or isolating the experience being described. 9. Austrianhorn English psychoanalyst (18951982), Freud's daughter; her "great work" is The Ego and the Mechan.isms of Defense (1936). I. Aggressive mimicry. Buhler (1893-1974), German child psychologist.

It is this moment that decisively tips the whole of human knowledge into mediatization through the desire of the other, constitutes its objects in an abstract equivalence by the co-operation of others, and turns the I into that apparatus for which every instinctual thrust constitutes a danger, even though it should correspond to a natural maturation~the very normalization of this maturation being henceforth dependent, in man, on a cultural mediation as exemplified, in the case of the sexual object, by the Oedipus complex,2 In the light of this conception, the term primary narcissism,3 by which analytic doctrine designates the libidinal investment characteristic of that moment, reveals in those who invented it the most profound awareness of semantic latencies. But it also throws light on the dynamic opposition between this Iibid04 and the sexual libido, which the first analvsts tried to defll1e when they invoked destructive and, indeed, death instinct~, in order to explain the evident connection between the narcissistic libido and the alienating function of the J, the aggressivity it releases in any relation to the other, even in a relation involving the most Samaritan of aid.' In fact, they were encountering that existential negativity whose reality is so vigorously proclaimed by the contemporary philosophy of being and nothingness,6 But unfortunately that philosophy grasps negativity only within the limits of a self-sufficiency of consciousness, which, as one of its premises links to the meconnaissances i that constitute the ego, the illusion of autonomy to which it entrusts itself. This flight of fancy, for all that it draws, to an unusual extent, on borrowings from psychoanalytic experience culminates in the pretention of providing an existential psychoanalysis. At the culmination of the historical effort of a society to refuse to recognize that it has any function other than the utilitarian one and if the anxiety of the individual confronting the 'concentrational'8 form of the social bond that seems to arise to crown this effort, existentialism must be judged by the explanations it gives of the subjective impasses that have indeed resulted from it; a freedom that is never more authentic than when it is within the walls of a prison; a demand for commitment, expressing the impotence of a pure consciousness to master any situation; a voyeuristic-sadistic idealization of the sexual n;lation; a personality that realizes itself only in suicide; a consciousness of the other than can be satisfied only by Hegelian murder.9 These propositions are opposed by all our experience, in so far as it teaches us not to regard the ego as centred on the perception-consciO'IAsness system, or as organized by the 'reality principle'~a principle that is the expression of a scientific prejudice most hostile to the dialectic of knowledge. Our experi-

ence shows t hat we should start instead from the function of 1'Juiconnaissance that characterizes the ego in all its structures, so markedly articulated by Miss Anna Freud. For, if the Verneinung1 represents the patent form of that function its effects will, for the most part, remain latent, so long as they are not illu~inated by some light reflected on to the level of fatality, which is where the id manifests itself. \;\Ie can thus understand the inertia characteristic of the formations of the J, and find there the most extensive definition of neurosis~just as the captation of the subject by the situation gives us the most general formula for madness, not only the madness that lies behind the walls of asylums, but also the madness that deafens the world with its sound and fury, The sufferings of neurosis and psychosis are for us a schooling in the passions of the soul, just as the beam of the psych.o~nalytic ~cales, wh.en we calculate the tilt of its threat to entire commUnItIes, proVIdes us WIth an indication of the deadening of the passions in society. At this junction of nature and culture, so per~istent~y examine? by ~10dern anthropology, psychoanalysis alone recognIzes thIS knot of Imagmary senitude that love must always undo again, or sever. For such a task, we place no trust in altruistic feeling, we who lay bare the aooressivit)l that underlies the activity of the philanthropist, the idealbb

ist, the pedagogue, and even In the recourse of subject mav accompany the patient which is revealed to him the mere power as practitioners nev begins,

the reformer. . to subject that we preserve, psychoanalysIs to the ecstatic limit of the 'Thou art that,' in cipher of his mortal destiny, but it is not in our to bring him to that point where the real jour-

From The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious

As my title suggests, beyond this 'speech', what the psy~hoanalytic experience discovers in the unconscious is the whole structure of language, Thus from the outset I have alerted informed minds to the extent to which the notion that the unconscious is merely the seat of the instincts will have to be rethought. But how are we to take this 'letter' By 'letter' I designate that material here? Quite simply, literally.2 support that concrete discourse


2. The universal internalization of the prohibited desire for one's mother and the love-hate relation to one's father posited by Freud. Lacan's point is that human desire is not natural: it is shaped by fictions and prohibitions. 3, Self.preservation. 4. Desire (Latin), a Freudian term. ), That is, generous and altruistic help: for the parable of the good Samaritan. see Luke 10.30-37. 6. That is. by JEAN-PAUL SAHTHE, author of Bej,ng and Nothingness (1943), the French philosopher argued that humans have no essence before they

act and thus shape themselves through their autonomous choices. 7. M isreeognitions (French). 8. "Concentrationnaire," an adjective coined after World War II (this article was written in 1949) to describe the life of the concentration camp. In the hands of certain writers it became, by extension, appl icable to many aspects of "modern" life rtranslator's note]. 9. An allusion to the Master-Slave dialectic (see above) described bv GEORG WILi-IELI\l FRIEDRICH HEGEL (1770~183J): German idealist philosopher.

rows from language. . This simple definition assumes that language is not tobe confused w.lth the various psychical and somatic functions that serve It I.n the. speakmg subject~primarily because language and its structure eXIst poor to the moment at which each subject at a certain point in his mental development makes his entry into it.

1. Denial (German). J. Translated by Alan


who occasion-

ally includes the original 2. "A la lettre" \translator's

French in parentheses. note].