Function of Language

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CHAPTER FOUR The functions of language Introduction In the first three preparatory chapters, on Freudian psychoanalysis, surrealism and philosophy, I have often alluded to language. In this chapter I want to focus on Lacan's constantly changing (and complex) view of language, and show how he draws on the work of Saussure, Jakobson, Levi-Strauss and Heidegger. Some of the topics I will discuss include: Lacan's emendation of Saussure's theory, the importance of metaphor and metonymy, the relationship betweeh language and human subjectivity, and the meaning of 'full' and 'empty' speech. In his attempt to define a new way of studying human phenomena Lacan was deeply influenced by the' methods of phenomenology. This is a method of philosophical enquiry elaborated by Edmund Husserl and, more recently, by Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The phenomenological method concentrates on the subjects' own account of themselves. They are not seen as objects of investigation, but instead as sources of meaning. The facts of desire are as real to the subject as the facts of nature viewed by positive science. I want to begin by saying something about the relationship between biology and language, on how the biological is always interpreted through language. Among Lacan's contemporaries both Sartre and Mer1eau-Ponty were concerned to refute the bio10gism and scientism of Freud's work, and both turned to the same sources as Lacan in order to support their critiques: the thought of Hegel and Heidegger. In Lacan's (phenomenological) view biological facts exist in psychoanalysis but only in so far as they are mediated through language and speech. Biological facts do not exist apart from the meaning that is given to them during the history of the 44

--- \ The functions of language 45 subject. Here is an example: imagine th<+t you were born a hunchback. You may consider that a calamity and be in despair. On the other hand, like Shakespeare's Richard III, it may help you to hide your ambition, or it may help you to obtain the love of women who are touched by your handicap. (We know that in certain feminine positions the handicap of the other is a condition for desire.) So you may possibly put your hunchback to use in many and various ways.l The same thing is true with all biological data. To put this in another way: biological 'facts' become signifiers. Language, even for the non-speaking infant, is already there in the world before he is born. He is born into a world of language. It is often said that the conversation between his parents before he is born may be the most important discourse concerning him the (unborn) child will ever have. . Lacan believed that the human being in particular is born premature; that is to say, he is dependent for a long time on the environment and on other beings to grow - for an especially long time if you compare him with animal species. A baby cries. From the beginning the satisfaction of biological urgencies necessitates the calling of the other. In that sense the biological urge is already modified because it is clear that what has begun to be more important than the satisfaction of thirst is that the other respond to the call. What is more important than the satisfaction of material, biological needs is the desire for recognition and love. In Chapter 2, I mentioned the fact that in the 1930s Lacan was much influenced by the work of Roger Caillois. By using examples from stick insects and the praying mantis, Caillois suggested that these creatures were seized by the image. Drawing on his work, Lacan argued that the human being (later, he was to use the phrase 'the speaking being') is captivated by the image or imago. There is a constituting image which determines what will be perceived. Our seeing is determined by images. It is not that we see but that we are seen by the imaging structure. Rather like these insects, we are seized by the image and this has a toxic effect. The human subject is alienated and is in bondage to the image. This is an interesting argument because later, in his second period (1948-1960) Lacan was to argue that language has this effect. Human subjects are caught, grasped, by the signifier. It is not the image but the word that has a toxic effect. The speaking being is poisoned by language. 46 Jacques Lacan Traditionally, language has been conceived as an instrument for communication, mastered by subjects fully conscious of what they are doing when they speak. In contrast, the Lacanian view of language centres round the lack of mastery of the speaking subject (slips of the tongue, and so forth). In this view of language, the subject is formed in a process which turns the small animal into a human child. The subject is seen as constituted by language and it appropriates the world through language. In a Freudian perspective, says Lacan, man is nothing but the subject caught in, and tortured by, language.2 ~ no Lacan's emendation of Saussure Lacan is against the idea that communication is a transferral of concepts from one mind to another, an exchange of tokens which already have their meaning clearly stamped upon them/}Ie rejects the view of language as a representation of pre-given objectSl Lacan believes that the (contractual nature of language) requires that, in order for two subjects to name the same object, they must recognise each other as recognising the same object, thereby transcending the struggle for possession. ~eech, argues Lacan, is always an inter-subjective pact~Lacan stresses that sp~ech is not simply a conveyor of infor~ation, but establishes a relation between speaker and hearer. ,In accordance with the dialectic of recognition the very being of the subject is dependent upon its recognition by other subjects.' Lacan has always been cohcerned with language <;lnd speech; ( Saussurean linguistics, on the other hand, did not become part of his theory until the 1950s) He believes that the essential property of language is the involvement of an interlocutor - one who takes part in a dialogue. Before it comes to signify something,Qanguage signifies for someone even though the interlocutor may be imaginary) It implies, then, a signifying intention on the part of the subject. Intentionality can be expressed iri one of two modes. Either it is expressed but not understood by the subject (in which case it has to be interpreted), or it is masked by the mechanisms of negation and disavowal. It was in about~948) a few years after the Second World War, that ~acan began to focus his attention on the use of Saussurean


The functions of language 47 linguistics in psychoanalysis)6n 1953 Lacan gave a paper in Rome ('the Rome Discourse'), 'The function and field of speech and language', which is the foundingxftatement of psychoanalysis as a theory of the speaking subject.4r.t is in this paper that Saussure first emerges as a major influence in Laean's thinking and where he contends that {he human subject is determined by langua~ Lacan was indebted to Ferdinand de Saussure's concept of the sign. Saussure argued that there is the signifier, which is an acoustic image, and the signified, which is a concept. In the sign, a signifier and a signified collide and are bonded. Their relationship is an arbitrary one, but once this bonding has taken place the sign becomes a fixity. In Saussure the components of the sign are thought of as symmetrical and interdependent. Lacan questions the symmetry and equilibrium between signifier and signified in Saussure. What Lacan does is to reverse Saussure's algorithm and make it S/s (Signifier over signified).5 The bar separating the two symbols stresses the cleavage between them. Note that the signified is below the signifier; in Lacan's account the signified does 'slip beneath' the signifier and successfully resists our attempts to locate and delimit it. For Saussure, words are signs, combinations of signifiers and ~ified."& Lacan, however, signifiers are contrasted with signD LWhile signs refer to absent objectsl(for example, Man Friday's footprint in the sand indicates hispresence on the island),)"Slg-nifiers do not refer to Object~but to the chain of language.lThey do refer, but~o other signifiers. en the signified seems ffiilally to be - within reach, it dissolves in 0 yet m~e signifie~Lacan often uses ~ metaphor of 'the signifying chain7/the chain is 'Yhat limits the speaker's freedom~ et the chain is mt;tnle; anyone of its links can provide a point of-attachment to other chains. The signifying chain of speech comprises the\'rings of a necklace that is a ring in another necklace made of ring !]In Lacan's view the characteristic sensations of 'being a person' or 'having a personality' come from the self-perpetuating imperative that propels the signifying chain. Lacan, then, has emended Saussure in several ways. While Saussure emphasised the co-presence of signifier and signified, Lacan always gives primacy (priority or precedence) to the signifier. He stresses the point that the signifier has an active, colonising power over the signified. It 'anticipates' the signified. He says that sentence openings like 'I shall never ... ', 'All the 48 Jacques Lacan same it is .. .', 'And yet there may be .. .', are already creating meaning before the arrival of the key terms. Retroaction, too, may be seen at work in sentences, in that they achieve their final 'effect of sense' only when their last word has been given. The single most important idea which Lacan adopts from structuralism is that of the 'arbitrary' relation between signifier and signified. This arbitrariness entails that there can be no natural, automatic or self-evident transition from signifier to signified, from langu~ge to meaning, or from human behaviour to its psychological significance. The bar between signifier and signified is described by Lacan as a barrier resisting 'signification'. Shortly after 'the Rome Discourse', a rapid and remarkable shift began to take place (about 1953) in Lacan's teaching. The theory of the Imaginary, which had been the central concern in the first phase of Lacan's work, was displaced - or rather, enriched - by the Symbolic. This shift was undoubtedly the result of a growing awareness of structuralist thought, and was marked by a break in the phenomenological vocabulary of his earlier work. Lacan mapped his concept of the Symbolic on to Freud's concept of the Oedipal process (see Chapter 1). Access to the Symbolic order is achieved by crossing the frontier, out of the Imaginary, the dyadic world of mother and child, into recognition pf the Father's Name and his Law. That is out of a body-based, maternal relationship into one created by social exchange, culture and taboos. These are the concerns of Levi-Strauss. ' lln important feature of Lacan's theory is its incorporation of some of the ideas of Levi-Straus~he leading structuralist of the time, Levi-Strauss argued that a society should be seen as an ensemble of symbolic systems~ in the first rank of which would be 1anguage,-JIlarriage-rules, economic relations, art, science and religion. Lacan accepts almost without qualification the LeviStraussian account of the rules of matrimonial exchange as the foundation of human society. J , (Levi-Strauss argues that the family structure manifests a tr~scendence of all natural order by the establishment of Culture,; It alone allows each and everyone to know who he or she is~ total - promiscuity no one could in fact be called father, son or sister and - no one would be able to situate her- or himself or recognise others - by the particular place they occupie~ow, the prohibition of incest is duplicated in the sacrifice of sexual relations with the

no \

The functions of language 49 mother or the sisteiJh is also duplicated by the law of exchange, the obligation to take a wife from another family in order that the relationships of alliance may be established.V ~ short, the basic thesis of. Levi-Strauss is that marriage is governed by a preferential order of kinship which, like language, is imperative for the group, but unconscious in its structures. Rules governing alliance regulate the exchange of women and thereis a prohibition of incest. The Law which goy_erns this whole structure is identical with the law of language. It is on the basis of this argument that Lacan elaborates his theory of the Symbolic, the dimension of culture into which the child must be introduced --1nrough the acquisition of language and through the renunciation of incestuous desires for union with its mother-:J As far as language is concerned it should be remembered that, , though he draws on some of Levi-Strauss's ideas, Lacan criticises the claims of structuralism to produce an objective decoding of linguistic messages. For Lacan, meaning cannot be objectified; , rather, it is characterised by a fundamental elusiveness and unpre- \ dictability: since no signifier follows automatically from that which precedes it, in the very gap between signifiers something of the subject is revealed. The primacy of metaphor 1-acan believes that language is, in essence, metaphoricaL' This view derives from Roman Jakobson, who argued that metaphor and metonymy are two poles, or two processes in language which are at work everywhere in language._\ First of all, it is essential to be clear about the meaning of met~phor and metonymy. Broadly speaking, metaphor is based on a proposed similarity or analogy between the literal subject and its f!l.e.!aphorical substitute, whereas metonymy is based on a proposed contiguous (or sequential) association between the literal subject and its 'adjacent' replacement. Both metaphor and metonymy can be subdivided into other figures. A simile, for example, is a type of metaphor - in both cases there is a felt resemblance. A simile is explicit, while a metaphor simply asserts without explanation. A metaphor has an elliptical concentration which is lacking in the simile.7 It is usual to consider synecdoche as a variant of metonymy. A 50 Jacques Lacan synecdoche is usually defined as the part for the whole, or the whole for the part. A textbook example of metonymy is 'Bordeaux'. It is, first of all, the name of a town; then it began to denote the wine produced there - the product instead of the place of production. This is a type of meaning shift based on contiguity. Words are constantly changing their meanings in this way. Figurative meanings become literal, and there is a growth of new figurative meanings. c• As I said in Chapter 1, Freud believed that two processes were important in the formation of dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue or pen, and symptoms in general' condensation and displacement. ~ Freud first came to recognise ((he mechanism of condensatiort in the simple fact the dream itself is(much shorter and much more compressed! than its verbal representation.(ln his view, condensation, the 'n_odal point' of the dream, always allows multiple interpretations. (Displacement is a form of distortion in which censorship displaces the centre of the dream on to objects or words of minor importance~ ~ I mention this because [1acan has sought to correlate Freud's concepts, condensation and displacement, with Roman Jakobson's analysis of the two poles of languag:.$ Jakobson argued that metaphor and metonymy are two poles, which are at work in language. It is important to remember that they are not entities. They are categories of distinction, not bags to put things in. Neither describes an isolable thing; they describe a relation. Jakobson sees metaphor and metonymy as the characteristic mo no des of binarily opposed polarities which between them underpin the twofold process of selection and combination. An utterance or message is a combination of constituent parts selected from the repository of all possible constituent parts. Messages are constructed by a combination of a 'horizontal' movement, which combines words together, and a 'vertical' movement which selects the particular words from the available inventory of the language. The selective process manifests itself in similarity (one word or concept being 'like' another) and its mode is metaphoric. The combinative process manifests itself in contiguity (one word being placed next to anbther) and its mode is metonymic. In short, selection (the relation of similal'ity) and combination (the relation of contiguity) - the metaphoric and metonymic ways - are considered by Jakobson to be the two most fundamental linguistic operations.

The fUnctions of language 51 Of course, both metaphor and metonymy can be subdivided into other figures (simile is a type• of metaphor; synecdoche is a type of metonymy) but• the distinction between the two modes is fundamental: it is how language works. Second, as Jakobson reminds us, any metonymy is slightly metaphorical and any metaphor has a metonymic tint. ~ The distinction has great relevance in aesthetics. It enabled ":J~obson, for instance, to contrast cubism (which is metonymic: the "object becomes a series of synecdoches where each fragment stands for the whole) with surrealism (which is metaphoric), or to separate the metaphoric romantics and symbolists from the metonymic realists (Anna Karenina is described by Tolstoy through metonymic details, her handbag, her clothes, and so on). Widening his analysis, Jakobson concludes that the two processes appear in all symbolic organisations, for instance in the dreamwork: for him displacement is metonymic, but condensation is synecdoche, and identification or symbolism is metaphoric. r Lacan simplifies this by contrasting metaphoric condensation with metonymic displacemenDHe suggests that@ese two modes of symbolic representation provide a model for the understanding of psychic functionl1tIie concept of metaphor illuminates the notion of 'symptom' (tile replacing of one signifier by an associated one), that of metonymy sheds light on the origin of desire (through the combinative connection of signifier to signifier and the sense this implies of the infinite extension of such a process into uncharted areasU % recapitulate: Lacan assimilates the two processes of the Freudian unconscious, condensation ~isplacement, to the linguistic axes of metaphor and metonymyjE.,or Lacan unconscious meaning 'insists' in the signifying chain by means of metaphor and metonymy; in his view the symptom is a metaphor and desire is a metonymy] Lacan also refers to 'horizontal' and 'vertical' aspects of language. This distinction derives from Jakobson's alignment of metonymy with the horizontal dimension of language (the line of Western writing, the syntagmatic) and metaphor with the vertical dimension (the paradigmatic stack of possible selections for any point along the line). These points are important, as I said earlier, in literary studies because Jakobson linked metaphor to poetry, particularly to romantic and symbolist poetry, and metonymy to the realist novel. Lacan, too, links metaphor to poetry and makes 52 Jacques Lacan .>- an allusian to. metanymy's tie to. realism. There is, hawever, no. daubt that Lacan's preference is far metaphar.8 CLanguage, Lacan writes, can be used metapharically 'to. signify something quite other than what it says'.~n ather wards, the metapharic aspect af language allaws it to. pamt the ward to. samething beyand its literal meaning and referentJA metaphar always means mare than it says: 'Behind what discaurse says, there is what it means (wants to. say), and behind what it wants to. say !here is anather meaning and this process will never be exhausted' War Lacan, then, all uses af the ward are metapharic~ As an example he gives the French ward main, which signifies 'hand', to. shaw the numeraus ways in which the ward is used. I laaked up the ward in an English dictianary and faund: at first hand, change hands, came to. hand, fram hand to. hand, get ane's hand in, hand in glave, hands aff, hands up, have a free hand, have a hand in, lay hands an, lend a hand, affhand, aff ane's hands and so. farth. The paint Lacan is making is this: an entire cultural and ecanamic scene is evaked by the variety af uses af a term which is suppased merely to. designate a part af the bady. , Lacan has also. cammented an self-cansciaus uses af metaphar in literature. He refers to. the phrase 'soleil de mon coeur' (sun af my heart). Implied in this phrase is the fact that the sun warms me, the fact that it makes me live, and also that it is the centre of my gravitation as well as its producing this half of shade of which Valery speaks and which is also that which blinds and which gives it all this false evidence and tricking brightness. C It cauld be said that Lacanian psychaanalysis is akin to. paetry in which the interpla~ 9f metaphars is a majar means af encountering unspeakable truth.yln paetry, as in psychaanalysis, language is pushed to. its limits, and becames a struggle with the inexpressiblej But what is the significance af metaphar? Metaphor is a systematic farm af classifying and imputing value. Lacan followed closely his friend Jakabson's definition of this trape: it is the trape afselectian and substitution. Metaphar implies choice. The ability to. chaase depends an. the- 'ability to.. sart into. categories, and therefare to. be able to. say, 'this, nat that'. In ather wards, any substitutian af ane thing far anather is the preferring af that thing to. the ather. Chaice implies value judgement.


The functions of language 53 Language and human subjectivity I have aften referred to(ane af Lacan's key idea~ Uhe human subject is canstituted thraugh language!\The subject is the subject af speech and subject to. language.~ Three paints that Lacan makes abaut the symbalic arder (language) and the determinatian af hlJman subjectivity fallaw.' lOne: Lacan takes the mirrar stage as the madel af the ego functian itself, the categary which enables the subject to. aperate as'!,. He supparts his argument fram linguistics, which designates the pranaun as a 'shifter'. The'!, with which we speak stands far aur identity as subjects in language, but it is the least stable entity in language, since its meaning is purely a functian af the moment af utterance. The'!, can shift and change places because ~ anly ever refers to. whaever happens to. be using it at the time;) (T~a: besides the instability in the pronoun;@ere is equally lass, and difficulty in the ward. Language can aperate anly by designating an abject in its absence.' Lacan argues that(symbolisatian turns an the abject as absence.> We knaw, fram Freud, that a child hallucinates the abject it desires and that in ane af its games it aften thraws a cattan reel aut af its cat in arder to. symbalise the absence and presence af the mather (the 'fart-da' game).l0 Symbalisatian begins ,when the child gets its first sense that samething cauld be missing, , Th:e~§bjects in language persist in their belief that somewhere tnere, is a paint af c~rtainty, af knawledge and af tru~ut for Lacan this is a phantasy. He argues that the meaning af each linguistic unit can be established anly by reference to. anatheYfu short, there, Gan be no firial guarantee ar securing af languagel But if each significatian refers to. anather signification, andthat significatian refers to. anathe.E ane, in an endless chain, how do. we decide what wards mean] u'he Lacanian term point de capiton (literally, an uphalstery stud) refers to. a paint of convergence) Just as an uphalstery stud ar button is the centre far the canverging lines ar creases an the surface af a taut fabric, so. the linguistic point tie capiton pravides a vantage paint fram which everything that happens in a given discaurse can be situated bath retraactively and praspectivel~rThe subject attaches significance to. 54 Jacques Lacan certain signifiers; these signifiers, like upholstery buttons, pin down the floating mass of significatioll."Lacan stresses the fact that we do not understand a sentence until we know we have reache9 the end; its meaning remains in suspense until the closure. A point de capiton, then, is the 'anchoring point' by which the ,sigl1)fier stops the otherwise endless movement of signification. Its diachronic function is to put a halt to the otherwise endless process whereby signifier refers to signi&n From empty to full speech One of the interesting features of Lacan's view of languag~is tha~ the use of Saussure and Jakobson coq,ists alongside a Heideggerian exploitation of the poetics of language }Heidegger took it for granted that there was no Archimedean point of leverage 'outside' language and was impossible to step outside language, the 'house' of being'. Lacan shares this view. From this perspective, the fact that we are obliged to use language in order to talk about language proves that we cannot escape it in order to arrive at some ' " 'higher' level. There is no metalanguage: ! -There is, then, _a Heideggerian strand in, Lacan's thinking ,about language-:' He makes a fascinating distinction between \ full and empty speech; these terms correspond to Heidegger's Rede (speech, discourse) and Gerede (idle talk) respectively J Heidegger makes an important distinction between authentic and inauthentic forms of existential discourse. The authentic form he calls 'Saying'. This he identifies with our ability to remain responsible for our speech by remaining silent' so as to listen and thus genuinely respond to the voice of Being. The inauthentic form' he calls idle talk, which he goes on to define as opinioriated chatter unmindful of human Being. Discourse with the other can easily degenerate into idle talk. This occurs whenever the speaker ceases to respond individually to the address of the other and is content merely to correspond to the anonymous chatter of 'public opinion'. Capitulating to the unthinking sway of the 'They', my speech ceases to be authentically my own. In idle talk words become strategies for escaping from ourselves; we cease to communicate decisively on the basis of our own lived

The functions of language 55 exp~rience. Our existence is no longer lived by us. And so we fill up the hollow gaps within us by chattering away according to the rules of fashionable gossip. To put this in another way: idle talk operates as a form of closure which suspends any authentic interpretation of our being. Anonymous cliches and catchwords prevent us from using language thoughtfully, and by skimming over the surface of things we contrive to suppress the fundamental question of our rootedness in Being. I turn now to Lacan's view of 'empty' and 'full' speech( Within the analytical encounter language is not the vehicle for individual expression. For Lacan the subject is trapped in the labyrinthine system of a structure in which signifier refers to signifier]!p >the analytic session the subject does not speak; s/he is spok~ by language~ trapped in stereotypical, pathological, is, therefore, related to the category of empty speecIY'Within empty speech the subject is dispossessed, alienated and inauthentic.) (Empty speech belongs to the register of the Imaginary, and it is an obstacle to positive transference in that it blocks ,the possibility of full speechlin this process, the transition from empty to full speech, the subject gradually abandons the imaginaryautonomy of the ego, in order to accept its true location in the domain' of inter-subjectivity.I::=To atta~full speech means to cease to speak of oneself as an objecqlf language and speech are the medium of psychoanalysis, the liberation of full speech is its ' Consider the analyst-analysand situation. Unlike many analysts Lacan does not believe in empathy and empathic responsiveness. He stresses tha(analysis is approached from the point of view of language and speech~ (In other words, Lacan substituted references to the sciences of language for the biological references of Freud.)'"The main aim of an analyst is to elicit talk: say what you like, free associa~Psychoanalysts ask patients to talk about what they dQ not know/They assume that whatever patients say means something else. The analyst is there to say that what you believe you are saying by chance, is, as a matter of fact, perfectly determined, has a reason, has a cause. Nothing happens without a reason; there is a reason for everything.J CLacan suggests that new ways of understanding can be found by listening to subjects without preconceptions) (rhe way that subjects give accounts of themselves, with all their hesitations 56 Jacques Lacan and omissions, ambiguities and denials, their imaginary formations such as dreams, delusions and phobias, and their moments of incoherence, are phenomena which reveal the mental life of the individual" There are a~alysa~ds who chatter compulsively in order not to havy to s~y ~omething else., We should always ask ourselves: what is it that people are . not saying behind their verbal screens?: Although s/he is addressed. by the patient's words, the analyst realises that s/he is only taking the p~ace of, or listening, to what Lacan called the patient's Other, that is, to a discoursebeyonq tne , , ---- involvement of two people.:JThe analyst, according to Lacan, will not miss the tnitgJn what the patient is saying if s/he listens to the patient's Other] Lacan writes: 'The subject ... begins the analysis by talking abo~ himself without talking to you, or by talking to you without talking about himself. When he can talk to you about himself, the analysis is oveIJ ' , rOne of Lacan's famous statements (typically enigmatic) is that ~the subject receives his message from the other in an inverted form](The example he gives is the sentence 'you are my husband', which is an attempt to involve the other, to elicit the answer 'I am your wife' and so to get/my message back from you ~n a linguistically inverted formSrrhe meaning of 'you are my master' is 'I am your slave') in other words,lhe subject is implicated in an inverted mode of communication] Now, this form of communication necessarily opens up the possibility of deceit: speech is a gift of faith, but its other side is a 'i feint ('a sham attack intended to deceive'), a lie. The subject's / statement implies the possibility of a feint, but that in itself implie,s the possibil,ity of di~c6vering the truth in an inverted form. You may have heard the famous joke recounted by Freud which illustrates this~ 'If YOUS;ly you're going to Cracow, you want me to b'elieve . you,'re going to Lemburg. But I know you're going to Cracow. So why are you lying to me?'lJ In one sort of talk (Lacan called it fides) meaning is fullyapprehended and discourse is an attempt to communicate it, to make the other accept it and endorse it; (in lying meaning becomes uncertain,' because the other may be deceiving me ~ but that in itself implies the possibility of discovering the truth in an inverted form~ The possibility that you may be lying assures me that you are a subject in your own right.

-The functions of language 57 Conclusion To conclude this chapter, I will summarise some of (the main stages in Lacan's conceptualisation of the symbolic order) In the first period (1932-48) Lacan asserts that the field of psychoanalysis is the field of meaning. He holds the Hegelian phenomenological / idea that the word is a death, a murder of a thing~That is to say, as ,soon as the reality is symbolised, caught in a symbolic network, the thing itself is more present in a word, in its concept, than'in its immediate physical reality. In this period the analysis gives meaning, retroactively, to what was in the beginning a meaningless trace, So the final moment of the analysis is reached when the subject is able to narrate to the Other his or her own history in its continuity; when his or her qesire is integrated, recognised in 'full speech'. I~ the second period (1948-60) Lacan's emphasis shifts from the word, speech, to language as a synchronic structur~e had a 'structuralist' conception of language as a differential system of elements) I have found some of the facts about language that Lacan stressed in the 1950s extremely insightful. He has made me aware, for example, that all speech has an effect, and that there is always a difference betweeiI what a speaker means and what the speaker's words mean. Moreover, signifiers produce significatiop. (~eariing) and that meaning is often constructed retroactively~ In the early 1960s there was a massive shift towards structm:alism in intellectual life, and the question arose:,.)f there is a move . from act to structure, what is the role of the human subject? y\nd so Lacan tried to correlate the structure of language with-the structure of the subject. He argued that a lack or want-to-be is 'produced by language. The~0'lished' subject is caught in a si~ni(ying chain and is confronted with alienatipn. We lose our being in language2When we are confronted with the lack ofbein~ speech is inadequate, there are mom'ents of sllenFe, of resistanceXThere is always something that language cannot grasp) I During this second period, in which the symbolic order is conceived as having a mortifying effect 'on the subject as imposing on him a traumatic loss - and the name of this loss, of this lack, is of . cours~ symbolic castration - the final moment of analysis is "reached when the subject is ready to accept this fundamental loss. Having, provided an introduction to Lacan by examining his wide-ranging interests in Freudian psychoanalysis, surrealism, philosophy and language, I now want to outline the development of his thought. I will give an exposition of Lacan's main ideas chronologically and will refer to: the early papers that are concerned with feminine paranoia (1926-33); the important work on the mirror phase (1936); the significant distinctions between need, demand and desire (1946); his polemic against egopsychology and the development of his own techniques (195364); his controversial beliefs about the unconscious and on interpretation (1953) and, finally, his views on the ethics of psychoanalysis (1959). The sheer variety of material that Lacan chooses to discuss is extraordinary, and so the following trajectory of his work may be ' helpful. In the first period, 1936-53, he stressed the idea that the way we relate to others is often determined by an image. There are images that 'capture' us. I deal with these concerns in the section on the mirror phase which is a stage that occurs in the Imaginary register. The Imaginary i~ related by opposition to the Symbolic, hence Lacan's interest in language. It is in the second period, 1948-60, that Lacan is mainly con~ern,ed with language. But as language is always dialogical, always dependent on the listener just as much as the speaker -, even \ more so in psychoanalysis- there is a gradual developnfent elf an interest in an ethics of social relations. I 58 Jacques Lacan f In the third period (1960-80) the main emphasis of Lacari's teaching is on the Real, that which is excluded from the Symbolic. (I will be discussing this concept in Chapter 7.) The symbolic order has a traumatic element at its very heart, and phantasy is conceived as a construction allowing the subject to come to terms with this traumatic kern~l. . , Lacan declared, in 1977, that he had corne to the conclusion that .•.. psychoanalysis ~as not a science. In his view psychoanalysis was closest to rhetoric. This is, of course, consistent with his long . I preoccupation with the workings of language. Thus analysis seeks to persuade analysands to recognise things that they know already and to act on their desire.' "


The development of the ,theory

",' 59 60 Jacques Lacan First works (1926-33) Feminine paranoia and its criminal manifestations I In his early work Lacan seems to have been fascinated by mad women and their violent acts. He ;was so capti~ated by the 'inspired', paranoiac writing that some of them produced that he incorporated in his own work aspects of the paranoid style. As early as 1931 Lacan presented his observa~ions on a woman who had gone insane. A thirty-four-year-old schoolteacher, Marcelle, produced inspired writings like those, of a prophet or a mad person. But what is the difference between them? It is said that the prophet stands on the edge of intelligibility, at the place where his or her linguistic innovations can still be understood by the group. The mad person, in contrast, is too far out, isolated and out of reach. What the mad person writes is often, superb but it makes no sense; its meaning cannot be communicated.1 A. few years later, in 1933, Lacan wrote about the notorious crime of the'Papin sisters. What Lacan discovered in his stlldies of women, and never repudiated thereafter, was the danger of too mu,ch closeness, the misfortune of one person's identification with another. Christine and Lea Papin were hard-working maids in the town of Le Mans. They were inseparable from one another. Even on their days off they never went out. One stormy night lightning caused a po«rer failure. When their employers, a woman and her daughter, returned from an evening out, they reprimanded the servants. Usually the two ~isters did not respond to their employers' anger. But this time events took. a different turn .. ~ Each of the sisters grabbed a victim .. They tore their victims' eyes from their sockets and, with their victims' on the ground,. they crushed their victims' faces, stamped on their bodies, slashed the thighs and buttocks of the two dead women and poured the blood of one over the sex organs of the other. When it was over they carefully washed all the knives,• hammers and kitchen tools in the sink. They then washed tnemselves and went to bed as usual. When Christine was imprisoned she was separated from Lea. A few months later Christine began to suffer from hallucinations and she attempted to tear her eyes out. Confined in a straitjacket, she

The development of the theory 61 refused to eat, engaged in acts of self-punishment and began to rave madly. The crime left such an indelible mark on the French imagination that Jean Genet used it many years later as the inspiration for his play, The Maids. (I described the play to illustrate the masterslave relationship in Chapter 3, note 6.) It is clear that the two sisters had grown up in a climate of extreme emotional deprivation. Their 'acting out' had transgressed the boundary between the imaginary and the real. Lacan discussed this crime in a long article in Minotaure. He suggests that separation was the cause of the d~lirium, just as the close relationship between the sisters was the cause of the crime. These two sisters found their pleasure together; they found in murder a sacred form of ecstasy. 'I am certain,' said Christine, 'that in another life I was supposed to be my sister's husband.' Actually, she was her sister's husband in this life as well. When another female couple appeared in a hostile guise, ~he Papin sisters exploded. The root cause of their 'twin insanity' was the 'difficulty of being two', the impossibility of distinguishing themselves from one another, to the point that the other ceased to exist. From these circumstances came loss of identity and madness. The case of Aimee again I must recapitulate here the story I told in Chapter 2 about a knife attack on a famous actress. One night a famous actress arrived at a theatre in Paris where she was performing. From among the crowd came a well:'dressed woman. She took a knife from her handbag and attempted to stab the actress. The unknown assailant was arrested and hospitalised. This woman became the subject of Lacan's thesis in medicine: Aimee. Just as Christine and Lea were inseparable, so was Aimee. ~)yer the course of her life she was 'inseparable' not from 'a single.' woman but from a succession of different figures: first, her mother, then a fallen aristocrat and after that her own sister. Ai~ee' had an amorous hatred towards her sister, her alter ego. Finally, she left home in the grip of a phantasy: she felt that certain courtesans and actresses were plotting against her and she resolved to do something about it. Lacan writes that each of these female persecutors was in fact merely a new image of the sister whom the patient had 62 Jacques Lacan taken as her ideal. In other words, they were mere prisoners of Aimee's narcissism. I want to stress that Aimee's inspired writings greatly impressed Lacan and his surrealist friends. Here is a typical passage: 'I' am going to be received as a bridegroom. I shall go to see my fiam;ee. She will be lost in thought. She will have children in her eyes. I will marry her. She would be too sad, no one would listen to her l songs.'2 What these stories, concerning the Papin sisters and Aimee, have in common is crime: the transgression of the social norm, the sudden dramatic act committed by an unknown person w;hose action stupefies society at large. According to Catherine Clement the similarity that links Christine, Lea and Aimee is their status as women: Jus,t as women alone can experience ecstasy without knowing what its nature is, so these women were able to act out their conflicts once and for all, releasing all their tensions and deciding their 'fate ... For acting out, however dangerous it may be, is ~lso therapeutic, monstrously so. A conflict that becomes a deed, a fact, ceases to exist.'3 What Lacan discovered in the crimes committed by the Papin sisters and Aimee was the so-called 'mirror phase'. Beyond the twin disturbances of Christine and Lea and the series of masks whereby Aimee identified herself with. her various doubles in order to destroy them, Lacan glimpsed the crucial importance of an essential phase in the constitution of the human personality: the moment when one becomes oneself because one is no longer the, same as one's mother. The mirror phase (1936) In contrast to the Anglo-Saxon tradition, which stresses the Lockean assumption of common-sense rationality, the Lacanian view stresses that debility - not ability - is at the heart of human beings. To explain this, let us begin with Freud. At the beginning of his career, in the 1880s, Freud was interested in hypnotism and practised it with his patients. He noticed a strange fact about people who carried out, in a post-hypnotic condition, instructions


The development of the theory 63 given them during hypnosis. Asked why they did these (sometimes bizarre) actions, the subjects would always give excuses, invent 'reasons', or provide rationalisations. For example, it was suggested to a patient in hypnosis that after he woke up he should put both his thumbs in his mouth. He did so, and excused his action by saying that his tongue had been giving him pain since the previous day when he had bitten it. In so far as the unconscious answers to language, language acquires remarkable powers. This is most evident in the stage exploitation of hypnosis when the hypnotist induces the victim to eat a lemon by describing it as a sweet and juicy apple. A hypnotist can implant a connection that will cause the victim, even after 'wak~ng', to bark like a d<?g whenever somebody whistles. Freud remarked that in cases in which the true causation evades conscious perception one does not hesitate to attempt to make another connection, which one believes, ,although it is false. He concluded that when the real connections between the two events are not available, people fill in the 'gaps'. There seems to be a compulsion for the ego, under the influence of the pleasure principle, to make false connections.4 The (conscious) ego is associated with distortion and gloss ('to extenuate, to give a favourable explanation, to explain away'). It was awareness of this problem that led Lacan to formulate the theory of the mirror phase. Taking up this element of Freud's work - incidentally, Freud was not happy with the method of hypnotism and soon gave it up for 'free association' - Lacan argues that the ego is structured by compulsive false connections. The central function of the ego is to misunderstand. He called this misrecognition (meconnaissance). But we must begin at the beginning ... Lacan has developed a sophisticated theory of human subjectivity which is based on the mirror phase. Lacan borrowed the notion of a mirror from the French psychologist Henri Wallon, but reinterpreted it in psychoanalytic terms. The idea of the mirror stage (I prefer the term phase because it is less rigid) came up through a comparison of apes and l1umans; they each react differently to their mirror image. The ape can pick out something that moves as it moves, but once it has mastered the idea it gets bored with it. The infant, on the other hand, sees the relation between the movements of the image and those of its own body. 64 Jacques Lacan The mirror phase is supposed to occur (usually between the ages of six months and eighteen months)' when the child has not fully mastered its own body. The mirror phase is a period at which, despite its imperfect control ~ver its own bodily activities, the child is first able to imagine itself as a coherent and selfgoverning entity. What happens is this: the child finds itself in front of a mirror. It stops, laughs at its reflection, and turns around towards whoever is holding it. It looks at its mother or its father, and then looks again at itselLFouhisI1e_ce_s_s~r)::3tage_toJ)_C£!!I, the child must have been separated from its mother's body (weaned) and-must b~ble t~Jllr!! ~mund and-see- someone else as someone' • else. That is, it musLbe ableotosense its, discrete separation from an Other, and m\,!sL begin to a,ssume the' burden of. an identity which is se64.252.144.223ate, ~iscretel . ' , Why does the c1:uld tur~ rou~d to look at the Other? The ,Other warrants the ,existence C?f tl1e--c!Iild, certifies the difference between self and other. This is the action upon which all subjectivity is based, the moment in which the human individual is born. The mirror phase is crucial because it entails consequences that range from the most secure normality to the most psychotic disintegration of the personality. In a key passage Lacan writes: The mirror stage is a drama whose inner dynamic moves rapidly from insufficiency to anticipation ~ and which, for the subject caught in the snares of spatial identification, fashions the series of fantasies that runs from an image of a fragmented body to what we may call the orthopedic vision of its totality - and to the armour, donned at last, of an alienating identity, whose rigid structure will shape all the subject's future men- ' tal development.5 Note that the mirror phase is a drama played out between an insufficiency and an anticipation. Insufficiency: this means that the human child's resources at birth are insufficient for Its needs. Lacan believes that the child is born unfinished. Consequently, it can neither walk nor talk. 'Specific prematurity' is the term 'for this. The child is in many ways premature, tinable to stand up; it is dependent, unco-ordinated, chaotic. Anticipation: this refers to the fact that the child anticipates in front of the mirror its own shape as an' adult. Now, in order to be a subject, in order to be

The development of the theory 65 oneself, a structure is required. But this--structure-is rigid; it encloses and alienates. Lacan believes that the normal subject is alienatea;-s7he is"'the prisoner of his or her identity, whereby s/he is a member of a group, ~he offspring of his or her parents, the bearer of a family name as well as a first name that identifies him or her as an individual. , I~ the Lacan passage quoted ,above note also that the subject moves from 'a fragmented body' to an 'orthopedic vision of its totality'. This reference is an allusion to Melanie Klein's thesis that at this stage the child ,is' a• fragmented body full of horrible murderous phantasies.6 The term 'orthopedic' means 'that which helps the child to stand up straight'. Orthopedic devices such as crutches are Gorrectlve instruments. There isasuggestion that the identity of the subject is something added, something that helps you to stanq up straight within yourself. However, in obtaining its identity the child, in fact, only manages to achieve identification. The two things are radically different. The subject will never be truly 'himself or 'herself .ne child sees itself in the mirror, but the image is reversed. Identity is • a mere outer skin that constantly distorts one's relations with others. When the fragmented body gives way to the armour of the subject - and to its identity, already alienating by definition - the 'ego' is formed. ' The moment of self-identification is crucial because it represents a permanent tendency of the individual: the tendency that leads him or her throughout life to seek and foster the imaginary • wholeness of an 'ideal ego'. The unity invented at these moments, and the ego that is the product of successive inventions, are both spurious; they are attempts to find a way around certain inescapabk factors of lack, absence and incompleteness. il} human living. Lacan writes how the child 'proceeds in a fictional direction; that is to say, he resorts to phantasy to overcome his alienation from his own reality. Like a graph that approaches zero, but never reaches it, dIe child's self-concept will never match up to his own being. The gestalt that he has picked out in the mirror is both smaller ana more stable than he is and is something outside him that is having an effect upon him without his understanding it. It gives him the illusidn that he has control over his body when he has not. , • Lacan's account of subjectivity was developed with reference to the idea of a fiction. His concept of the mirror phase took the 66 Jacques Lacan child's mirror image as the model and basis for its future identifications. This image is a fiction because it conceals, or freezes, the infant's lack of motor co-ordination, and the fragmentatiQn of its drives. Nevertheless, it gives the child a sense of a coherent identity in which it can recognise itself. This moment has meaning only in relation to the presence and the look of the mother who guarantees its reality for the child. The mirror image is central to Lacan's account of subjectivity, because its apparent smoothness and totality is a myth. The image in which we first recognise ourselves is a misrecognition. Lacan's point is that the ego is constituted by an identification with another whole object, an imaginary projection, an idealisation ('Ideal-I') which does not match the child's feebleness. The ego is thus not an agent of strength, but the victim of an illusion of strength, a fixed character-armour, which need~ constant reinforcement. This alienated relationship of the self to its own image is what Lacan calls the domain of the ~maginary. The Imaginary. is the world, the register, of images, conscious or unconscious, perceived or imagined. It is the pre-linguistic,' pre-Oedipal domain in which the specular image traps the subject in an illusory ideal of completeness. The Imaginary is to be understood as both a stage in human genesis, and a permanenttevel-oN:-h~ human psyche. Hegel: Need, demand, and desire (1946) Just after the Second World War, in 1946, a Russian emigre, Alexandre Kojeve, gave a series of lectures that greatly influenced the French intelligentsia. At the lectures were writers like Raymond Queneau, Jean Hyppolite (the translator into French of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit), Georges Bataille and Jacques Lacan. From attendance at these lectures Lacan became acutely aware that there is a difference between our relation to things and to people. With people we have to ask: what does the Other want? Combining Freud's notion of wish and Hegel's idea of recognition; Lacan began to talk of desire. What is desire? And what is the difference between need, demand and dl1sire? But, first, some remarks about Freud's notion of wish and Hegel's notion of recognition. Freud's German term' Wunsch' is usually translated as 'wish'. The German and English words are limited to individual, isolated

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The development of the theory 67 acts of wishing, while the French 'desir' has the much stronger implication of a continuous force. In Freud, unconscious wishes can be fulfilled even though only in a distorted way in dreams or in the symptom (through a chain of condensations and displacements which ke~ps them repressed). Freud states that need derives from a state (lfinternal tension and achieves satisfaction through the specifi,c action which obtains the object (food, for example). Wishes, on the other hand, ~are indissolubly bound to 'memorytraces'. He believed that a deep unconscious wish was required to provide the motive force for the dream and that all such wishes were infantile ~nd sexual. And what does Hegel mean by recognition? This term means more than simply that one is aware of the other's existence. Recognition means being recognised as a person, and for Hegel this means being recognisep as an independent and autonomous agent.' '. For Lacan, the story begins at birth. Birth entails trauma - a separation. At birth the baby separates from a, part of itself. Wholeness is lost and s/he w\ll desire it always. Of course, the baby does not know what is missing; the baby cannot articulate its lack. The baby cries. We ask what does the cry mean? What is its demand? The mother has to interpret what the baby wants. S'he gives the baby her breast. Need is biological; it can be satisfied. But the baby needs, more than the milk - what is this 'more'? If a mother offers 'too much' satisfaction, the child will never feel hunger ancl, therefore, will never know the pleasure of assuaging its hunger. Similarly, when the mother anticipates the child's hunger and stuffs it, the child will cease to eat. When the child asks something of its mother, there is a loss that will persist over and above anything which she can possibly give, or say, in reply. The demands of the child are answered by the satisfaction of its needs - but there is always something left over. Demand is always transitive, for it is always directed to an other (usually the mother). While need aims at an object which satisfies it, demand appeals to an other in such a way that even if the demanded object is given, there can be no satisfaction. This is because the demand is really for something else. For the next thing the other can give, for the thing that will 'prove' the other's love, The child addresses a series of demands to the mother. She may respond to them with a variety of specified objects, but none will satisfy the chi.ld's wants. One demanded toy, for example, is 68 Jacques Lacan rapidly replaced by another, and the entire list of substitute objects is ultimately unsatisfying. The child wants to be filled by the other, to be the other, which is why no determinate thing will do. It demands a love that paradoxically entails its own annihilation, f9r it demands a fullness of the other to stop up the lack that conditions its existence as a subject. The demand for food is not simply the demand for satisfaction of nutritive need. It is also a demand for love. The demand operates in the interplay of the demanded object, and the other who, in delivering up the object, affirms the subject as loved. Freud described how the baby can be observed to hallucinate the milk that has been withdrawn from it and the infant to play throwing-away games to overcome the trauma of its mother's necessary departures. This game is called the fort-da game. Freud observed his eighteen-month-old grandson who had a cotton reel with a piece of string tied to it. Holding the string, he would throw the reel over the edge of his cot and utter sounds that Freud interpreted as being an attempt at the German 'fOrt', m~aning 'gone' or 'away'. He would then pull the reel back into his field of vision, greeting its reappearance with a joyful 'da' ('there').7 By this game the child was learning to control his feelings about the presence and absence of the loved object, the mother. In the fortda game one can see the beginnings o~f(angUage, what Lacan calls the Symbolic. But the main point is thi§.:. Lacan ~ es .the'example of I'he game to show that the object that is longed ~or comes into existence as an object only when it is lost to the infant. Thus any satisfaction-thaL might subsequently be attainep will always contain this loss within it. The baby's need can be met, its demand responded to, but its desire exists only because of the initial failure of satisfaction. Desire persists as an effect of a primordial absence. The concept of desire is crucial to Lacan's account of sexuaHty. ' It has been said that if we fail to grasp this Hegelian concept there is danger of a reduction of sexuality back into the order of a (satisfiable) need.8 Need always tends to become 'demand', 'new needs'. Desire is seen in Lacan as that need which is 'unable to be' articulated in demand'. Need is satisfiable, desire is insatiable. I believe that Lacan says many profound things about desire. Consider the following: 'I always find my desire outside of me because what I desire is always something that I lack, that is other

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The development of the theory 69 to me.' That is to say, demand is for an object, whereas desire i~ for a lack. Lacan says that all demands are ultimately demands Jor love. But one can never be sure of what the Other wants or whether the, Other is satisfied. And he suggests that one ought to sustain desire, and not seek an object that will gratify it and thereby erase it. Focusing on the role of desire, Lacan drew attention to the nostalgia binding the subject to the lost object (for example, the breast/the mother), and how the subject made repetitive attempts' , to find the lost object. But~acal).,did not, bt:lieve that there was a simple relation between' desire and anobjectthat ~ill satijify it. He , tried to show that. aesire is linked with the desire of the Other. Hegel had already brought up this latter notion in the mastei-:"-slave story in which both master and slave strive for recognition. Lacan a:~gued that it was Freud ~ho had brought to light the notion of uncOIiscious desire. In Lacan's view, the object of human desire is , always the desire of I' he Other - it is both the desire for the Other's desire and desire for the Other. Thus as the subject's desire is at • first unknown to him, he looks for it in the Other, and his desire. becomes the Other's desire. I have tried to show the meanings of desire, but how does it arise,' what unleashes it? The 'objet-petit-a' represents the little machine that unleashes d'esire. It is really Lacan's formula for the lost object which underpins symbolisation, cause of, and 'stand in', for desire. The 'objet-petit-a' is found wherever there is a passageway on the body linking tpe interior to the exterior. Desire takes place in a specific place. All the objects have some relation to separation. The breast, for example, is something that the infant , will one day lose. The penis is another such object because it is imagined to be detachable or severable. The breath, the voice, a song, all of these things can be objects of desire. Even a glance can be an 'objet-petit-a'. L One of the most enigmatic objects in the list of 'objets-petit-a' , that Lacan gives is the pound of flesh desired by Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. As is well known, if the judgment were awarded and Shylock were to get his pound of flesh, the young Christian in his debt would die. Lacan sees this as, one of the possible figures of the 'objet-petit-a': an object that is part of somethip$._else from which it cannot be separated, an inaccessible part of a larger whole.

70 Jacques Lacan


v- r'\'c,.t 1,

I mentio~ed separation j~st now. ~.e sepa~ation o~ the ~other '-..1 ~ ) from the chIld and of the chIld from Its Image IS paradIgmatIC of all ~ '\ separation. P~I2S, as Freud _suggested, in eve~y human being, ...• -r \ thereis a fundamental cleavage or 'split'. Lacan refers to the story -. ----- ' •..... """\ told by AristOphanes, in Plato's Symposium, of the androgynous, four-legged creature who is split in two by an angry Zeus. Since that" time the two parts of the creature have been struggling to rejoin one another .and to reconstitute the original spherical whole. Each half ~ holds fast to any object it thinks might be its lost counterpart.9 This is a phantasy. (A phantasy is an imaginary scene in which the subject is a protagonist, representing the fulfilment of a wish. \" Sometimes it is not clear whether a phantasy is conscious, pre

. conscious or unconscious. The 'ph' spelling is used to indicate that \, .the process is unconscious.) We all have our own authentic phan- /', t ~ tasies, belonging to ourselves and no one else. There are as many " t: ~ phantasies as there are subjects. The essence of phantasy is its x. ~.) . impossibility: Though imaginary, phantasy is a structure abso- "" ~.( hltely necessary to the subject. Phantasy is for each individual a. ti:. private stage on which the subject's relationship to-the objeCl-DLits -. Qes~s ptayecrout, ~nd fli~,rerafiOfis~jpis-impossible in_th~~al. ~ .0-;' I wIll conclude thIS sectIOn by tellIng you a story. The story, . ~ <:;; which fascinated Lacan, is by Marguerite Duras and is called The ~~.~,)' ~avishin~ of Lol. V Stein.lO The story illustra~es some of ~aca?'s ~ ~ ~ hfe-Iong Inter~sts: wo~m, lovers, h~stencs; the .SCOpiC dnve i ':! ~ (the pleasure In lookIng) and he gaze. Ius about desIre and lack,~ '.' how this dialectical opposiy'on is present in every visual reCOgni-j(;-.1 .~~ tion, Love, says Lacan, is th~self-:image in which you ar.e wrapped '\.," by -t-he-other, and. which leaves you' when it is stolen away ... Lacan's interest in the novel focuses on the ambiguity of ravisse- ment, which means 'rapture' in both an abstract and passive sense, being enraptured and ravished away. Very briefly, the novel is about an American woman called Lola Valerie Stein. On the night her engagement was being celebrated the man she loved walked out before her very eyes with a woman in black with whom he had danced in an intimate manner. LQla was struck dumb and re- mained so for some time. She changed her name then to Lol. V., as though it had besome necessary to amputate her true name. She lived a quiet life but the embers of madness smouldered beneath the ashes. She then conceives a strange passion: she arranges for another couple to make love and watches them. When the man

'" " ~ - -' t '\ ~~

~ .{ " j ~ ~ ~ '\.. {; The development of the theory 71 \1 tries to bring things to a head by seeking out Lol. she becomes mad " on the actual spot where her reason was stolen from her by the "L fiance and the woman in black some years earlier. 1 LacaQ saw the novel as being about 'scopQphilia', theJQQltion of -S th~ghject of desire in the act of looking itself. The plot turns on a ~ gaze. Every gaze desigrurtes~ and'it designates the person who is looking. Lol.; by forcing the couple to be looked at, also forced 1 them to look at her. She did not 'see' them, but their love depended on her gaze. She can find herself only in the other couple. At the end of the novel Lol: sinks into madness - she could be touched by love only'at a ~istance .. ~. ~'." The ego and the id (1953-64) <:\ ~ Aga~nst ego-psychology

In 1963 Lacan was expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Association. The stbry is a complicated one.ll The Societe Psychanalytiquede Paris, founded in 1926, was active until the Second World War. After losing many members in the conflict, it resumed its activities in 1946. Two years later Lacan became a member of the 'committee on teaching'. In 1953 it ~as proposed to' found an Institute bf Psychoanalysis. Only physicians were to be permitted to become members. Understandably, psychoanalysts who were not physicians raised a protest against these proposals. After a short period of time, Lacan resigned from his influential position as director and, together with a few friends, founded a new Societe Franc;:aise de Psychanalyse. 'The new society asked to be affiliated to the International Psychoanalytic Association (IP A). The IP A demanded Lacan's expulsion. Lacan was expelled, finally excommunicated by the International, and his teaching was condemned. In 1963 the IP A permitted him to practise analysis but not to teach or train candidates. In 1964 Lacan went on to found his own school, L'Ecole Freudienne de Paris. Why was Lacan expelled? It is generally held that there were important theoretical issues in question, especially concerning Lacan's attacks on the theory of ego-psychology and his practice of the short session. Let us look at these two issues. { 72 Jacques Lacan Lacan never missed an opportunity to criticise American egopsychology. Founded by European immigrants, this sort of psychoanalysis overemphasised adjustment and adaptation of the individual to existing social conditions. In the view of the American analysts the ego is to be protected, the job of analysis is to reinforce the ego against the demands made on it by the double call of the superego and the id. Ego-psychologists, like Heinz Hartmann, Ernst Kris and Rudolph Loewenstein, asserted that the ego had an aspect that was not tied up with the individual's neurotic conflicts. There was a conflict-free zone (the 'autonomous ego'), which seemed free to act and choose, independent of constraints. In their view the analyst's role was to become the ally of the 'healthy' ego forces in their struggle to dominate instincts and drives. It was said that the patient, in order to strengthen his or her 'autonomous ego', should identify with the ego of the psychoanalyst. Hence it was the analyst's job to develop a powerful ego. Lacan attacks this position with many arguments. First, he criticises the ego-psychologists' concept of a 'healthy part' of the ego. How, asks Lacan, can they ~now which 'part' is 'healthy'? Does this not assume that the purp_ose of analysis is achieved by an identification with the analyst's ego? Is the goal of psychoanalysis to bring the patient to see the world ao/the analyst sees it? Lacan traces most of ego-psychology's pro\:>,Iems and contradictions to the idea that there is an 'objective', ~knowable' reality. For Lacan, the ego is the enemy! The origin of the ego is in the . mirror phase. The mirror, held by the mother, proffers the developmentally half-formed and muscularly uncontrolled child its first idea of itself as a stable unified appearance. As we have seen, the ego is constituted by 'alienating identifications'. Lacan's own conception of the ego suggests that it must be profoundly distrusted because it is unable to discriminate the subject's own desires from the desires of others. According to Lacan, the ego is not autonomous, but subordinated and alienated to the people and images with which it has identified during its development. He thought that an analysis had failed if it ended with the analysand (I prefer to use this term rath~r than the word patient, which has negative connotations) identifying with the analyst. At the conclusion of therapy what should have disappeared is the armour of the ego, the glass cage of narcissistic illusions. There is a famous remark of Freud's about the continuing work

I . ;

The development of the theory 73 of analysis: 'Where id was, there ego shall be. It is a work of culture - not unlike the draining of the Zuider Zee.' In the original the first sentence is: 'Wo Es war, soli Ich werden.' This is usually translated: 'Where id was, there ego shall be'. Of course, most ego- , psychologists like this translation because it prioritises the ego; the 'primitive' id develops into the 'rational' (well-adjusted) ego. For Lacan the ego represents false identification. Lacan observes that Freud used the pronouns ~ithout articles; he did not write 'das Ich' but merely 'Ich'. Nor did he ~rite 'das Es', so he is not writing about the id. Lacan therefore translates the sentence quite literally: 'Where it was, there must I come to be.'12 One of the main concern,s of psychoanalysis is ~o find a way of moving between the repressed material in the unconscious ('Where it was') and a subject free of all defensive dependency ('I must come to be'). Other translations by Lacan include: 'Where it was, there ought I to become.' Or, 'Where it used to be, it is my duty that I come to be.' Lacan contends in each of these reformulations that the realm of unconscious energy, far from requiring even firmer custodianship and control from the ego, has unsuspected bounty to offer: it'is the proper site for the subject, a respository of truth. For the variable session Some people say that Lacan was expelled because he was experimenting with analytical sessions of variable duration. The conventional length of a session was an invariable fifty-minute hour. Lacan came to the conclusion that the length of the session should be adjusted according to what the patient was saying: some long, some short. He argued that the psychoanalyst attends not so much to the meaning of the analysand's words as to their form. In his view the ritual ending of the session after a predetermined fixed length of time was 'a merely chronometric stopping place'. By contrast, he wanted to find for each session a stopping place suited to what the patient was saying. He believed that nothing in theory warrants the fifty-minute session. Rather, the adjustment of the length of the session should become one pf the tools of psychoanalysis. Lacan antagonised many people by putting the length of the psychoanalytic session into question. The difference between the fifty-minute hour and the 'short' session is a difference between 74 Jacques Lacan two concepts of time. On the one side, time is filled with precision; on the other, it is approximate and variable. In the normal psychoanalytic hour it is the clock that decides the ending of the session. Lacan argued that some analysands, knowing that they were guaranteed fifty minutes no matter what, used their sessions to discuss things that did not interest them in the least. Lacan reasoned that such analysands were using the fifty-minute hour as a resistance, as an excuse to waste the analyst's time, to make him or her wait for them:, 'We know how the patient reckons the passage of time and adjusts his story to the clock, how he contrives to be saved by the clock. We know how he anticipates the end of the hour ... keeping an eye on the clock as on a shelter looming in the distance.'13 One argument in favour 'of the vaJ:iable session is that it prevents. boredom. Many patients come to know when the analyst is going to end. If the 'analyst cuts off quickly, sessions cannot become an empty ritual. The analyst can thus use the element of surprise to open up new pathways. Lacan's view was that if the patient could be dismissed in the middle of a sentence or a dream or an interval of silence it would provoke the patient to make a clear revelation of that s/he had been hesitant to disclose. In analysis, associations emerge in a rather disconnected )Y3:~ a series or chain. It is presupposed that the last element in the series or chain will link the others that could not have been grasped before this last element emerges. This is another way of saying that we do not know the meaning of a sentence until the final term is pronounced and until the punctuation is placed.I4 Usually free association takes place within the analytic session. With Lacan, the variable, or 'short' sessions act as a stimulus to new thoughts or associations that take place between sessions. This means that the most relevant associations are not likely to be the ones produced within the session but the ones produced between the sessions. IS The combined pressure of the, shortness of the sessions and the unpredictability of their cessation creates a condition that greatly enhances one's tendencies to free associate. Through the experience of short/variable sessions the analysand learns first to get right to the point and second, to say as much as possible quickly. Some people believe that psychoanalysis has the medical model of treatment and cure. The social acceptance of analysis seems to

The development of the theory 75 be based on the idea that it can provide cures. If this is the case it is part of medicine. In contrast, Lacan tried to introduce a break between psychoanalysis and medicine. He said that his theorisation had nothing whatever to do with medicine or even with natural science. Psychoanalysis did not have as its, goal curing patients; if people in analysis did get better, it was a welcome sideeffect. I( the goal of analysis is not cure, what is it? Lacan believed tpat the direction of analysis ought to lead towards a verbalisation of the unconsci'ous. The unconscious: 'The 'discourse of the Other' Traditionally, the main characteristics of the unconscious appear in the descrip~ions of the id, but it should be remembered that the ego ;md the superego also have unconscious portions. 1=he-uIl:: conscious ihsists on being heard in our dreams, forgettings, misrelT).emberings, slips of the tongue, jokes and our symptoms. But it is always speaking in the face of censorship and repression. For Lac~n, Freud's essential insight was not that the unconscious exist~, but that it has a structure, and this structure affects in innumerable ways what human subjects say and do and thus, in betraying itself, it becomes accessible to analysis. Lacan conceives the unconscious as a 'language which escapes the subject in its operation and in its effects'. For Lacan the unconscious is a self and not a series of disorganised drives. He repudiates-- any conception of the unconscious as linked with the instinctual,' the archaic or the regressive, as the place of the divinities of the night. In his view the key to understanding the unconscious is to realise that it is structured logically. For Lacan knowledge is something that is written as logic. He wanted to formalise ,the structures of psychoanalysis. By this he meant writing' them in the kind of letters that have been the hallmark of formal logic since the time of Aristotle. Certainly such' a project could no't cover the entirety of the field, nor was it intended to. 'The basic argument is that knowledge should be writable. Freud had declared in The Ego and the Id that the materials of the unconscious 'could not be present to consciousness without passing through preconscious word-representations. If the thingrepresentations in the unconscious are ultimately readable as letters, as forming letters, these letters can become clear to c~nsciousness 76 Jacques Lacan only when they are part of words. As such they gain a meaning that is the meaning of the words, and consciousness will latch on to those words as the content of the unconscious. Here is an example: a child sees a woman's legs in the form of a M or a V, and if the experience makes a large enough• impression, this letter will run through the child's history. as a thread linking the names of peopl~ and places, each of which w~ll take on a certain meaning for consciousness. 16 Let us now consider what is happening when an element from the unconscious finds its way into a spoken sentence: Freud's concept of 'negation' ('Die Verneinung') is discussed by Lacan in Ecrits. Freud argued that the subject matter of a repressed image or thought can make its way into consciousness on condition that it is denied. Here are two well-known examples; 'You may think that I mean to say something insulting, but, really I've no such intention.' This means: 'I want to insult you."'I saw someone in my dream. It was certainly not my mother.' This means: 'It was my mother.' Negation, then, is a way of taking account of what is repressed. It is always a sort of admission. In short, this phenomenon of Verneinung (translated as negation or denegation) permits the speaking of unconscious material that would otherwise be censored by the ego. From a Lacanian perspective, denegation affirms the existence of an Other with whom the subject wishes to maintain his or her difference. The subject who uses a denegation says that what the Other is supposed to be thinking is wrong. Not only is the Other' different from the subject, but it is wrong. In short, whatever is negated in the sentence is the unconscious material. The subject experiences the unconscious as what Lacan called 'the discourse of the Other',17 You may have heard people say: 'Someone keeps putting words in my mouth, words that are not mine.' Lacan believes that the concept unconscious has become fixed and essentialised. His view of the unconscious challenges libertarian-Freudian attempts to speak about the unconscious as a universal substratum of vital energy, to be merged with or plugged into. Lacan is also critical of the practice of referring to an 'individual's unconscious' as if it were a particular possession. In his view we do not own our unconscious. We do not control it. It is not a prior or inferior emanation of ourselves that we can somehow school or train. The unconscious is Other. I should point out that Lacan's Other is PQlysemic. Like many

The development of the theory 77 other Lacanian concepts, the meaning of the Other depends upon the context in which it is used. It can refer to the Subject-Other encounter ('the first object of desire is to be recognised by the other'), the Father or the Mother, the site of the inter-subjectivity of analysand and analyst and sometimes, the unconscious. When Lacan says that 'the unconscious is the discourse of the Other' he is knotting together several suppositions: the human subject is divided; the unconscious has a linguistic structure; the subject is inhabited by the Other; psychoanalysis is a variety of speech. There is a hint too that there is a kinship between the structure of language and the structure of the subject; both are articulations of difference; neither has a centre; both involve endless displacement; n~ither has a point of plenitude or stasis. Lacan argues that ,there is a split between the conscious and the unconscious. This)is a daily experience. (I have castration anxiety at the same time as I regard it as impossible.) Moreover, he says that to grasp the unconscious is, at the same time, to fail to grasp it. Lacan remarks that 'twice-lost Eurydice is the most striking image we can give, in terms of myth, of the relation between Orpheus the an"lyst and the un.conscious',18 Let us now turn to the analyst and some problems about interpretation. On interpretation (1953) While many ego-psychologists ask, what is the patient doing? What is s/he saying and to whom? Lacan argues that we need to know where the subject is. From where is the subject speaking? Some Kleinian analysts believe that they can give complete, non-contradictory interpretations to their patients.19 They often give a little interpretation in each session. This implies that when the analysis is concluded, all the little pieces of mosaic add up to one whole, coherent picture. Their assumption is, of course, that there can be a c'omplete interpretation. In contrast, Lacan believes that there can never be a complete interpretation; meaning, like a dream, is always slipping away. We can never know the whole truth :...- only a half-truth. Furthermore, it could be said that the interpretations of Kleinians are often literal; for example, a tunnel represents a vaginjl, a train equals a penis., Against such a view, Lacan argues that interpretation works only through equivocation. 78 Jacques Lacan Lacan makes some interesting points about interpretation, about speaking and listening, in his paper Variations on the Standard Treatment (1953). He emphasises the role of speech in psychoanalysis and argues against the idea of speech as a mere vehicle or a tool. He stresses the constituting power of speech, its structuring aspect. We have to listen not only to the intention of the speaker but also to what the discourse tells us about the speak- er. There is often ambiguity, but there is a point at which ambigu- ity stops. T~ list~~r _c~"~ al~~ys..ask: whaLdoe_uLhe }y~m.!9..say? We_can,dedqce fn>m this that the speaker does nOHay~what-s•t~-.R .••. e __ wants~to say. Th,ere is a well-known distinction between what a speaker means by his or her words and what the speaker's words mean. It should also be noted that there is a difference between speaking to someone and speaking with ~omeone. The speaker and listener are linked; this is what Lacan means by inter-subjectivity. But there is always the point at which the listener decides fhat the speaker wants to say. The meaning of the speaker's d~course depends on who hears it. In contrast to the usual view that the speaker reveals the true meaning, Lacan writes of 'the discretionary power of the listener' .. The stress is on the responsibility of the listener. Lacan argues that truth does not exist before the interpretation. Interpretation creates the truth - it' is an inter-subjective process. The analyst has to decide what the analysand is saying but - whether slhe speaks or remains silent - slhe cannot escape ethical problems because so much depends on the interpretation. Antigone: A model of ethical action (1959) Lacan was deeply interested in ethics. In one of his essays, 'Kant avec Sade' (1962-3), the attempt to construct a rationally coherent system of ethics by Kant is discredited by a structural analogy with the delirious rationality of Sacle. It is argued that by attempting to universalise ethics and to establish the criteria for universally binding ethical laws which are not dependent on the logic of the individual situation, Kant merely succeeds in separating pleasurability from the notion of the good.

The development of the theory 79 'An important theme in one of his seminars, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1959), is the desire for death. Lacan believes that there are two deaths. He suggests that there is a difference between biological death and symbolic death. In Sophocles's play, Antigone is excluded from the community; in other words her symbolic death precedes her natural death. In Shakespeare's play the ghost of Hamlet's father represents the opposite case: natural death unaccompanied by symbolic death. In the above seminar Lacan comments on the tragedy of Antigone, in a play which clearly expresses human beings' relation and debt to the dead. , For Lacan,Antigone is a model of ethical conduct. But, first, let us remind ourselves of the story. The sons of Oedipus, brothers of Antigone, Eteocles and Polynices, have killed each other in battle. Eteocles was fighting on the side of the state, Thebes, and Polynices was attacking it. The ruler of Thebes, . Cr.eon, brother of Jocasta, decrees that the corpse 'of Eteocles be buried with full honours and that the corpse of Po~ynices be left to be ripped apart by dogs and birds. Wilfully disobedient, Antigone performs the proper funeral rites for Polynices. She takes full responsibility for her actions. Creon. sentences her to be walled up in a cave with just enough food to relieve his guilt for her death. Antigone chooses to die: she hangs herself. As a consequence, Creon's son Haemon, fiance of Antigone, also kills himself, and so does Creon"s wife, Eurydice. For having declared himself and the state as mightier than the gods, Creon loses everything. Creon represents what we could call. a strong ego. He cannot tolerate a defiance of his authority, especially from a woman. On the other hand, Antigone's action is ethical. She is not in flight from responsibility and is not afraj'd of desire. Her act is disinterested; she does not consider the claims of her ego for happiness. She does not procrastinate about something she knows she must do. Antigone represents a principle of ethical' conduct:' she acts according to her desire ~nd that desire is the desire of the Other.