Jacques Lacan


Jacques Lacan : biography

13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981

Lacan thought that Freud’s ideas of "slips of the tongue," jokes, and the interpretation of dreams all emphasized the agency of language in subjective constitution. In "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud," he proposes that "the unconscious is structured like a language." The unconscious is not a primitive or archetypal part of the mind separate from the conscious, linguistic ego, he explained, but rather a formation as complex and structurally sophisticated as consciousness itself. One consequence of the unconscious being structured like a language is that the self is denied any point of reference to which to be "restored" following trauma or a crisis of identity.

The Poetics of Psychoanalysis: In the Wake of Klein word thing On Metapsychology Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis das Ding die Sache The Poetics of Psychoanalysis: In the Wake of Klein

Mirror stage

Lacan’s first official contribution to psychoanalysis was the mirror stage, which he described as "formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience." By the early 1950s, he came to regard the mirror stage as more than a moment in the life of the infant; instead, it formed part of the permanent structure of subjectivity. In "the Imaginary order," their own image permanently catches and captivates the subject. Lacan explains that "the mirror stage is a phenomenon to which I assign a twofold value. In the first place, it has historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. In the second place, it typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image".Lacan, J., "Some Reflections on the Ego" in Écrits

As this concept developed further, the stress fell less on its historical value and more on its structural value.Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis In his fourth Seminar, "La relation d’objet," Lacan states that "the mirror stage is far from a mere phenomenon which occurs in the development of the child. It illustrates the conflictual nature of the dual relationship."

The mirror stage describes the formation of the Ego via the process of objectification, the Ego being the result of a conflict between one’s perceived visual appearance and one’s emotional experience. This identification is what Lacan called alienation. At six months, the baby still lacks physical co-ordination. The child is able to recognize themselves in a mirror prior to the attainment of control over their bodily movements. The child sees their image as a whole and the synthesis of this image produces a sense of contrast with the lack of co-ordination of the body, which is perceived as a fragmented body. The child experiences this contrast initially as a rivalry with their image, because the wholeness of the image threatens the child with fragmentation—thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image. To resolve this aggressive tension, the child identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart forms the Ego. Lacan understands this moment of identification as a moment of jubilation, since it leads to an imaginary sense of mastery; yet when the child compares their own precarious sense of mastery with the omnipotence of the mother, a depressive reaction may accompany the jubilation.Lacan, J., "La relation d’objet" in Écrits.

Lacan calls the specular image "orthopaedic," since it leads the child to anticipate the overcoming of its "real specific prematurity of birth." The vision of the body as integrated and contained, in opposition to the child’s actual experience of motor incapacity and the sense of his or her body as fragmented, induces a movement from "insufficiency to anticipation."Lacan, J., "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I", in Écrits: a selection, London, Routledge Classics, 2001; p. 5 In other words, the mirror image initiates and then aids, like a crutch, the process of the formation of an integrated sense of self.