Fragmented body

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French: [[corps morcelé]]

Jacques Lacan

The notion of the fragmented body is one of the earliest original concepts to appear in Lacan's work, and is closely linked to the concept of the mirror stage.

Mirror Stage

In the mirror stage the infant sees its reflection in the mirror as a whole/synthesis, and this perception causes, by contrast, the perception of its own body (which lacks motor coordination at this stage) as divided and fragmented.

Ego Formation

The anxiety provoked by this feeling of fragmentation fuels the identification with the specular image by which the ego is formed.


However, the anticipation of a synthetic ego is henceforth constantly threatened by the memory of this sense of fragmentation, which manifests itself in "images of castration, emasculation, mutilation, dismemberment, dislocation, evisceration, devouring, bursting open of the body" which haunt the human imagination.[1]


These images typically appear in the analysand's dreams and associations at a particular phase in the treatment - namely, the moment when the analysand's aggressivity emerges in the negative transference.

This moment is an important early sign that the treatment is progressing in the right direction, i.e. towards the disintegration of the rigid unity of the ego.[2]

Illusion of Synthesis

In a more general sense, the fragmented body refers not only to images of the physical body but also to any sense of fragmentation and disunity:

"He [the subject] is originally an inchoate collection of desires - there you have the true sense of the expression fragmented body."[3]

Any such sense of disunity threatens the illusion of synthesis which constitutes the ego.


Lacan also uses the term fragmented body to explain certain typical symptoms of hysteria.

When a hysterical paralysis affects a limb, it does not respect the physiological structure of the nervous system, but instead reflects the way the body is divided up by an "imaginary anatomy".

In this way, the fragmented body is "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."[4]

See Also


  1. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 11
  2. Lacan, Jacques. "Some Reflections on the Ego", Int. J. Psycho-Anal., vol. 34, 1953 [1951b]: 13
  3. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.39
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 5