Jacques Lacan

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Jacques Lacan : biography

13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981

Jacques Marie Émile Lacan ( 13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud".David Macey, "Introduction", Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (London 1994) p. xiv Lacan’s post-structuralist theory rejected the belief that reality can be captured in language.

Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France’s intellectuals in the 1960s and the 1970s, especially the post-structuralist philosophers.

His interdisciplinary work was as a "self-proclaimed Freudian….’It is up to you to be Lacanians if you wish. I am a Freudian’;"Lacan, "Overture to the 1st International Encounter of the Freudian Field" in Hurly-Burly Issue 6, p. 18 and featured the unconscious, the castration complex, the ego, identification, and language as subjective perception. His ideas have had a significant impact on critical theory, literary theory, 20th-century French philosophy, sociology, feminist theory, film theory and clinical psychoanalysis.

Clinical contributions

===Variable-length session=== The "variable-length psychoanalytic session" was one of Lacan’s crucial clinical innovations, and a key element in his conflicts with the IPA, to whom his "innovation of reducing the fifty-minute analytic hour to a Delphic seven or eight minutes (or sometimes even to a single oracular parole murmured in the waiting-room)"Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (London 1988) p. 4 was unacceptable. Lacan’s variable-length sessions lasted anywhere from a few minutes (or even, if deemed appropriate by the analyst, a few seconds) to several hours. This practice replaced the classical Freudian "fifty minute hour".

With respect to what he called "the cutting up of the ‘timing’", Lacan asked the question, "Why make an intervention impossible at this point, which is consequently privileged in this way?"Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (London 1996) p. 99 By allowing the analyst’s intervention on timing, the variable-length session removed the patient’s—or, technically, "the analysand’s"—former certainty as to the length of time that they would be on the couch.Bruce Fink A Clinical Introduction to Lacananian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique (Newhaven: Harvard, 1996), p. 18. Snippet view available on When Lacan adopted the practice, "the psychoanalytic establishment were scandalized"Bruce Fink A Clinical Introduction to Lacananian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique (Newhaven: Harvard, 1996), p. 17. Snippet view available on —and, given that "between 1979 and 1980 he saw an average of ten patients an hour", it is perhaps not hard to see why: "psychoanalysis reduced to zero",Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 1997) p. 397 if no less lucrative.

At the time of his original innovation, Lacan described the issue as concerning "the systematic use of shorter sessions in certain analyses, and in particular in training analyses"; and in practice it was certainly a shortening of the session around the so-called "critical moment"Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan: The Absolute Master (1991) p. 120 which took place, so that critics wrote that ‘everyone is well aware what is meant by the deceptive phrase "variable length"… sessions systematically reduced to just a few minutes’.Cornélius Castoriadis, in Roudinesco (1997) p. 386 Irrespective of the theoretical merits of breaking up patients’ expectations, it was clear that "the Lacanian analyst never wants to ‘shake up’ the routine by keeping them for more rather than less time".Sherry Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics: Freud’s French Revolution (London 1978) p. 204

"Whatever the justification, the practical effects were startling. It does not take a cynic to point out that Lacan was able to take on many more analysands than anyone using classical Freudian techniques… [and] as the technique was adopted by his pupils and followers an almost exponential rate of growth became possible".David Macey, "Introduction", Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (London 1994) p. xiv and xxxv