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1 Jacques Lacan In his discussion of the absolute division between the unconscious and the consciousness (or between

id and ego), Freud introduces the idea of the human self, or subject, as radically split, divided between these two realms of conscious and unconscious. On the one hand, our usual (Western humanist) ideas of self or personhood are defined by operations of consciousness, including rationality, free will, and self-reflection. For Freud and for psychoanalysis in general, however, actions, thought, belief, and the concepts of "self" are all determined or shaped by the unconscious, and its drives and desires. Jacques Lacan is a French psychoanalyst. He was originally trained as a psychiatrist, and in the 1930s and 40s worked with psychotic patients; he began in the 1950s to develop his own version of psychoanalysis, based on the ideas articulated in structuralist linguistics and anthropology. You might think of Lacan as Freud + Saussure, with a dash of Levi-Strauss, and even some seasoning of Derrida. But his main influence/precursor is Freud. Lacan reinterprets Freud in light of structuralist and poststructuralist theories, turning psychoanalysis from an essentially humanist philosophy or theory into a post-structuralist one. One of the basic premises of humanism, as you recall, is that there is such a thing as a stable self, that has all those nice things like free will and self-determination. Freud's notion of the unconscious was one of the ideas that began to question, or to destabilize, that humanist ideal of the self; he was one of the precursors of poststructuralism in that regard. But Freud hoped that, by bringing the contents of the unconscious into consciousness, he could minimize repression and neurosis--he makes a famous declaration about the relation between the unconscious and conscious, saying that "Wo Es war, soll Ich werden": Where It was, shall I be." In other words, the "it," or "id" (unconscious) will be replaced by the "I", by consciousness and self-identity. Freud's goal was to strengthen the ego, the "I" self, the conscious/rational identity, so it would be more powerful than the unconscious. For Lacan, this project is impossible. The ego can never take the place of the unconscious, or empty it out, or control it, because, for Lacan, the ego or "I" self is only an illusion, a product of the unconscious itself. In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the unconscious is the ground of all being. Where Freud is interested in investigating how the polymorphously perverse child forms an unconscious and a superego and becomes a civilized and productive (as well as correctly heterosexual) adult, Lacan is interested in how the infant gets this illusion we call a "self." His essay on the Mirror Stage

2 describes that process, showing how the infant forms an illusion of an ego, of a unified conscious self-identified by the word "I." Central to the conception of the human, in Lacan, is the notion that the unconscious, which governs all factors of human existence, is structured like a language. He bases this on Freud's account of the two main mechanisms of unconscious processes, condensation and displacement. Both are essentially linguistic phenomena, where meaning is either condensed (in metaphor) or displaced (in metonymy). Lacan notes that Freud's dream analyses, and most of his analyses of the unconscious symbolism used by his patients, depend on word-play--on puns, associations, etc. that are chiefly verbal. Lacan says that the contents of the unconscious are acutely aware of language, and particularly of the structure of language. And here he follows ideas laid out by Saussure, but modifies them a bit. Where Saussure talked about the relations between signifier and signified, which form a sign, and insisted that the structure of language is the negative relation among signs (one sign is what it is because it is not another sign), Lacan focuses on relations between signifiers alone. The elements in the unconscious--wishes, desires, images--all form signifiers (and they're usually expressed in verbal terms), and these signifiers form a "signifying chain"--one signifier has meaning only because it is not some other signifier. For Lacan, there are no signifieds; there is nothing that a signifier ultimately refers to. If there were, then the meaning of any particular signifier would be relatively stable--there would be (in Saussure's terms) a relation of signification between signifier and signified, and that relation would create or guarantee some kind of meaning. Lacan says those relations of signification don't exist (in the unconscious, at least); rather, there are only the negative relations, relations of value, where one signifier is what it is because it's not something else. Because of this lack of signifieds, Lacan says, the chain of signifiers--x=y=z=b=q=0=%=|=s (etc.)--is constantly sliding and shifting and circulating. There is no anchor, nothing that ultimately gives meaning or stability to the whole system. The chain of signifiers is constantly in play (in Derrida's sense); there's no way to stop sliding down the chain--no way to say "oh, x means this," and have it be definitive. Rather, one signifier only leads to another signifier, and never to a signified. It's kind of like a dictionary--one word only leads you to more words, but never to the things the words supposedly represent. Lacan says this is what the unconscious looks like--a continually circulating chain (or multiple chains) of signifiers, with no anchor--or, to use Derrida's terms, no center. This is Lacan's linguistic translation of Freud's picture of the unconscious as this chaotic

3 realm of constantly shifting drives and desires. Freud is interested in how to bring those chaotic drives and desires into consciousness, so that they can have some order and sense and meaning, so they can be understood and made manageable. Lacan, on the other hand, says that the process of becoming an adult, a "self," is the process of trying to fix, to stabilize, to stop the chain of signifiers so that stable meaning--including the meaning of "I"--becomes possible. Though of course Lacan says that this possibility is only an illusion, an image created by a misperception of the relation between body and self. But I'm getting too far ahead of where we're going. Freud talks about the 3 stages of polymorphous perversity in infants: the oral, the anal, and the phallic; it's the Oedipus complex and Castration complex that end polymorphous perversity and create "adult" beings. Lacan creates different categories to explain a similar trajectory, from infant to "adult." He talks about 3 concepts--need, demand, and desire--that roughly correspond to 3 phases of development, or 3 fields in which humans develop--the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic. The Symbolic realm, which is marked by the concept of desire (I'll explain this in more detail later) is the equivalent of adulthood; or, more specifically for Lacan, the Symbolic realm is the structure of language itself, which we have to enter into in order to become speaking subjects, in order to say "I" and have "I" designate something which appears to be stable. Like Freud, Lacan's infant starts out as something inseparable from its mother; there's no distinction between self and other, between baby and mother (at least, from the baby's perspective). In fact, the baby (for both Freud and Lacan) is a kind of blob, with no sense of self or individuated identity, and no sense even of its body as a coherent unified whole. This baby-blob is driven by NEED; it needs food, it needs comfort/safety, it needs to be changed, etc. These needs are satisfiable, and can be satisfied by an object. When the baby needs food, it gets a breast (or a bottle); when it needs safety, it gets hugged. The baby, in this state of NEED, doesn't recognize any distinction between itself and the objects that meet its needs; it doesn't recognize that an object (like a breast) is part of another whole person (because it doesn't have any concept yet of "whole person"). There's no distinction between it and anyone or anything else; there are only needs and things that satisfy those needs. This is the state of "nature," which has to be broken up in order for culture to be formed. This is true in both Freud's psychoanalysis and in Lacan's: the infant must separate from its mother, form a separate identity, in order to enter into civilization. That separation entails some kind of LOSS; when the child knows

4 the difference between itself and its mother, and starts to become an individuated being, it loses that primal sense of unity (and safety/security) that it originally had. This is the element of the tragic built into psychoanalytic theory (whether Freudian or Lacanian): to become a civilized "adult" always entails the profound loss of an original unity, of a non-differentiation, a merging with others (particularly the mother). The baby who has not yet made this separation, who has only needs which are satisfiable, and which makes no distinction between itself and the objects that satisfy its needs, exists in the realm of the REAL, according to Lacan. The Real is a place (a psychic place, not a physical place) where there is this original unity. Because of that, there is no absence or loss or lack; the Real is all fullness and completeness, where there's no need that can't be satisfied. And because there is no absence or loss or lack, there is no language in the Real. Let me back up a bit to explain that. Lacan here follows an argument Freud made about the idea of loss. In a case study which appears in Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud talks about his nephew, aged about 18 months, who is playing a game with a spool tied with yarn. The kid throws the spool away, and says "Fort," which is German for "gone." He pulls the spool back in, and says "Da," which is German for "here." Freud says that this game was symbolic for the kid, a way of working out his anxiety about his mother's absence. When he threw the spool and said "Fort," he replayed the experience of the loss of a beloved object; when he reeled it in and said "Da," he got pleasure from the restoration of the object. Lacan takes this case and focuses, of course, on the aspect of language it displays. Lacan says that the fort/da game, which Freud said happened when his nephew was about 18 months old, is about the child's entry into the Symbolic, or into the structure of language itself. Lacan says that language is always about loss or absence; you only need words when the object you want is gone. If your world was all fullness, with no absence, then you wouldn't need language. (Jonathan Swift, in Gulliver's Travels, has a version of this: a culture where there is no language, and people carry all the objects they need to refer to on their backs). Thus in the realm of the Real, according to Lacan, there is no language because there is no loss, no lack, no absence; there is only complete fullness, needs and the satisfaction of needs. Hence the Real is always beyond language, unrepresentable in language (and therefore irretrievably lost when one enters into language). The Real, and the phase of need, last from birth till somewhere between 6 and 18 months, when the baby blob starts to be able to distinguish between its body and everything else in the world. At this point, the baby shifts from having needs to having DEMANDS.

5 Demands are not satisfiable with objects; a demand is always a demand for recognition from another, for love from another. The process works like this: the baby starts to become aware that it is separate from the mother, and that there exist things that are not part of it; thus the idea of "other" is created. (Note, however, that as yet the binary opposition of "self/other" doesn't yet exist, because the baby still doesn't have a coherent sense of "self"). That awareness of separation, or the fact of otherness, creates an anxiety, a sense of loss. The baby then demands a reunion, a return to that original sense of fullness and non-separation that it had in the Real. But that is impossible, once the baby knows (and this knowing, remember, is all happening on an unconscious level) that the idea of an "other" exists. The baby demands to be filled by the other, to return to the sense of original unity; the baby wants the idea of "other" to disappear. Demand is thus the demand for the fullness, the completeness, of the other that will stop up the lack the baby is experiencing. But of course this is impossible, because that lack, or absence, the sense of "other"ness, is the condition for the baby becoming a self/subject, a functioning cultural being. Because the demand is for recognition from the other, it can't really be satisfied, if only because the 6-to-18 month infant can't SAY what it wants. The baby cries, and the mother gives it a bottle, or a breast, or a pacifier, or something, but no object can satisfy the demand--the demand is for a response on a different level. The baby can't recognize the ways the mother does respond to it, and recognize it, because it doesn't yet have a conception of itself as a thing--it only knows that this idea of "other" exists, and that it is separate from the "other", but it doesn't yet have an idea of what its "self" is. This is where Lacan's MIRROR STAGE happens. At this age-between 6 and 18 months--the baby or child hasn't yet mastered its own body; it doesn't have control over its own movements, and it doesn't have a sense of its body as a whole. Rather, the baby experiences its body as fragmented, or in pieces--whatever part is within its field of vision is there as long as the baby can see it, but gone when the baby can't see it. It may see its own hand, but it doesn't know that that hand belongs to it--the hand could belong to anyone, or no one. However, the child in this stage can imagine itself as whole--because it has seen other people, and perceived them as whole beings. Lacan says that at some point in this period, the baby will see itself in a mirror. It will look at its reflection, then look back at a real person--its mother, or some other person--then look again at the mirror image. The child moves "from insufficiency to anticipation" in this action; the mirror, and the moving back and forth from mirror image to other people, gives it a sense that it, too, is

6 an integrated being, a whole person. The child, still unable to be whole, and hence separate from others (though it has this notion of separation), in the mirror stage begins to anticipate being whole. It moves from a "fragmented body" to an "orthopedic vision of its totality", to a vision of itself as whole and integrated, which is "orthopedic" because it serves as a crutch, a corrective instrument, an aid to help the child achieve the status of wholeness. What the child anticipates is a sense of self as a unified separate whole; the child sees that it looks like what "others" look like. Eventually, this entity the child sees in the mirror, this whole being, will be a "self," the entity designated by the word "I." What is really happening, however, is an identification that is MISRECOGNITION. The child sees an image in the mirror; it thinks, that image is "ME". But it's NOT the child; it's only an image. But another person (usually the mother) is there to reinforce the misrecognition. The baby looks in the mirror, and looks back at mother, and the mother says, "Yes, it's you!" She guarantees the "reality" of the connection between the child and its image, and the idea of the integrated whole body the child is seeing and identifying with. The child takes that image in the mirror as the summation of its entire being, its "self." This process, of misrecognizing one's self in the image in the mirror, creates the EGO, the thing that says "I." In Lacan's terms, this misrecognition creates the "armor" of the subject, an illusion or misperception of wholeness, integration, and totality that surrounds and protects the fragmented body. To Lacan, ego, or self, or "I"dentity, is always on some level a FANTASY, an identification with an external image, and not an internal sense of separate whole identity. This is why Lacan calls the phase of demand, and the mirror stage, the realm of the IMAGINARY. The idea of a self is created through an Imaginary identification with the image in the mirror. The realm of the Imaginary is where the alienated relation of self to its own image is created and maintained. The Imaginary is a realm of images, whether conscious or unconscious. It's prelinguistic, and preoedipal, but very much based in visual perception, or what Lacan calls specular imaging. The mirror image, the whole person the baby mistakes as itself, is known in psychoanalytic terminology as an "ideal ego," a perfect whole self who has no insufficiency. This "ideal ego" becomes internalized; we build our sense of "self," our "I"dentity, by (mis)identifying with this ideal ego. By doing this, according to Lacan, we imagine a self that has no lack, no notion of absence or incompleteness. The fiction of the stable, whole, unified self that we see in the mirror becomes a compensation for having lost the original oneness with the mother's body. In short, according to

7 Lacan, we lose our unity with the mother's body, the state of "nature," in order to enter culture, but we protect ourselves from the knowledge of that loss by misperceiving ourselves as not lacking anything--as being complete unto ourselves. Lacan says that the child's self-concept (its ego or "I"dentity) will never match up to its own being. Its IMAGO in the mirror is both smaller and more stable than the child, and is always "other" than the child--something outside it. The child, for the rest of its life, will misrecognize its self as "other, as the image in the mirror that provides an illusion of self and of mastery. The Imaginary is the psychic place, or phase, where the child projects its ideas of "self" onto the mirror image it sees. The mirror stage cements a self/other dichotomy, where previously the child had known only "other," but not "self." For Lacan, the identification of "self" is always in terms of "other." This is not the same as a binary opposition, where "self"= what is not "other," and "other" = what is not "self." Rather, "self" IS "other", in Lacan's view; the idea of the self, that inner being we designate by "I," is based on an image, an other. The concept of self relies on one's misidentification with this image of an other. Lacan uses the term "other" in a number of ways, which make it even harder to grasp. First, and perhaps the easiest, is in the sense of self/other, where 1) "other" is the "not-me;" but, as we have seen, 2) the "other" becomes "me" in the mirror stage. Lacan also uses an idea of 3) Other, with a capital "o", to distinguish between the concept of the other and actual others. The image the child sees in the mirror is an other, and it gives the child the idea of Other as a structural possibility, one which makes possible the structural possibility of "I" or self. In other words, the child encounters actual others--its own image, other people--and understands the idea of "Otherness," things that are not itself. According to Lacan, the notion of Otherness, encountered in the Imaginary phase (and associated with demand), comes before the sense of "self," which is built on the idea of Otherness. When the child has formulated some idea of Otherness, and of a self identified with its own "other," its own mirror image, then the child begins to enter the Symbolic realm. The Symbolic and the Imaginary are overlapping, unlike Freud's phases of development; there's no clear marker or division between the two, and in some respects they always coexist. The Symbolic order is the structure of language itself; we have to enter it in order to become speaking subjects, and to designate ourselves by "I." The foundation for having a self lies in the Imaginary projection of the self onto the specular image, the other in the mirror, and having a self is expressed in saying "I," which can only occur within the Symbolic, which is why the two coexist.

8 The fort/da game that the nephew played, in Freud's account, is in Lacan's view a marker of the entry into the Symbolic, because Hans is using language to negotiate the idea of absence and the idea of Otherness as a category or structural possibility. The spool, according to Lacan, serves as an "objet petit a," or "objet petit autre"--an object which is a little "other," a small-o other. In throwing it away, the child recognizes that others can disappear; in pulling it back, the child recognizes that others can return. Lacan emphasizes the former, insisting that Little Hans is primarily concerned with the idea of lack or absence of the "objet petit autre." The "little other" illustrates for the child the idea of lack, of loss, of absence, showing the child that it isn't complete in and of itself. It is also the gateway to the Symbolic order, to language, since language itself is premised on the idea of lack or absence. Lacan says these ideas--of other and Other, of lack and absence, of the (mis)identification of self with o/Other--are all worked out on an individual level, with each child, but they form the basic structures of the Symbolic order, of language, which the child must enter in order to become an adult member of culture. Thus the otherness acted out in the fort/da game (as well as by the distinctions made in the Mirror Phase between self and other, mother and child) become categorical or structural ideas. So, in the Symbolic, there is a structure (or structuring principle) of Otherness, and a structuring principle of Lack. The Other (capital O) is a structural position in the Symbolic order. It is the place that everyone is trying to get to, to merge with, in order to get rid of the separation between "self" and "other." It is, in Derrida's sense, the CENTER of the system, of the Symbolic and/or of language itself. As such, the Other is the thing to which every element relates. But, as the center, the Other (again, not a person but a position) can't be merged with. Nothing can be in the center with the Other, even though everything in the system (people, e.g.) want to be. So the position of the Other creates and sustains a never-ending LACK, which Lacan calls DESIRE. Desire is the desire to be the Other. By definition, desire can never be fulfilled: it's not desire for some object (which would be need) or desire for love or another person's recognition of oneself (which would be demand), but desire to be the center of the system, the center of the Symbolic, the center of language itself. The center has a lot of names in Lacanian theory. It's the Other; it's also called the PHALLUS. Here's where Lacan borrows again from Freud's original Oedipus theory. The mirror stage is pre-oedipal. The self is constructed in relation to an other, to the idea of Other, and the self wants to merge with the Other. As in Freud's world, the most important other

9 in the child's life is the mother; so the child wants to merge with its mother. In Lacan's terms, this is the child's demand that the self/other split be erased. The child decides that it can merge with the mother if it becomes what the mother wants it to be--in Lacan's terms, the child tries to fulfill the mother's desire. The mother's desire (formed by her own entry into the Symbolic, because she is already an adult) is to not have lack, or Lack (or to be the Other, the center, the place where nothing is lacking). This fits with the Freudian version of the Oedipus complex, where the child wants to merge with its mother by having sexual intercourse with her. In Freud's model, the idea of lack is represented by the lack of a penis. The boy who wants to sleep with his mother wants to complete her lack by filling her up with his penis. In Freud's view, what breaks this oedipal desire up, for boys anyway, is the father, who threatens castration. The father threatens to make the boy experience lack, the absence of the penis, if he tries to use his penis to make up for the mother's lack of a penis. In Lacan's terms, the threat of castration is a metaphor for the whole idea of Lack as a structural concept. For Lacan, it isn't the real father who threatens castration. Rather, because the idea of lack, or Lack, is essential to the concept of language, because the concept of Lack is part of the basic structuration of language, the father becomes a function of the linguistic structure. The Father, rather than being a person, becomes a structuring principle of the Symbolic order. For Lacan, Freud's angry father becomes the Name-ofthe-Father, or the Law-of-the-Father, or sometimes just the Law. Submission to the rules of language itself--the Law of the Father-is required in order to enter into the Symbolic order. To become a speaking subject, you have to be subjected to, you have to obey, the laws and rules of language. Lacan designates the idea of the structure of language, and its rules, as specifically paternal. He calls the rules of language the Law-of-the-Father in order to link the entry into the Symbolic, the structure of language, to Freud's notion of the oedipus and castration complexes. The Law-of-the-Father, or Name-of-the-Father, is another term for the Other, for the center of the system, the thing that governs the whole structure--its shape and how all the elements in the system can move and form relationships. This center is also called the PHALLUS, to underline even more the patriarchal nature of the Symbolic order. The Phallus, as center, limits the play of elements, and gives stability to the whole structure. The Phallus anchors the chains of signifiers which, in the unconscious, are just floating and unfixed, always sliding and shifting. The Phallus stops play, so that signifiers can have some stable meaning. It is because the Phallus is the center of the Symbolic order, of language, that

10 the term "I" designates the idea of the self (and, additionally, why any other word has stable meaning). The Phallus is not the same as the penis. Penises belong to individuals; the Phallus belongs to the structure of language itself. No one has it, just like no one governs language or rules language. Rather, the Phallus is the center. It governs the whole structure, it's what everyone wants to be (or have), but no one can get there (no element of the system can take the place of the center). That's what Lacan calls DESIRE: the desire, which is never satisfied, because it can never be satisfied, to be the center, to rule the system. Lacan says that boys can think they have a shot at being the Phallus, at occupying the position of center, because they have penises. Girls have a harder time misperceiving themselves as having a shot at the Phallus because they are (as Freud says) constituted by and as lack, lacking a penis, and the Phallus is a place where there is no lack. But, Lacan says, every subject in language is constituted by/as lack, or Lack. The only reason we have language at all is because of the loss, or lack, of the union with the maternal body. In fact, it is the necessity to become part of "culture," to become subjects in language, that forces that absence, loss, lack. The distinction between the sexes is significant in Lacan's theory, though not in the same way it is in Freud's. This is what Lacan talks about in "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious," on p. 741. He has two drawings there. One is of the word "Tree" over a picture of a tree--the basic Saussurean concept, of signifier (word) over signified (object). Then he has another drawing, of two identical doors (the signifieds). But over each door is a different word: one says "Ladies" and the other says "Gentlemen." Lacan explains, on p. 742: "A train arrives at a station. A little boy and a little girl, brother and sister, are seated in a compartment face to face next to the window through which the buildings along the station platform can be seen passing as the train pulls to a stop. 'Look,' says the brother, 'We're at Ladies!' 'Idiot!' replies his sister, 'Can't you see we're at Gentlemen.'" This anecdote shows how boys and girls enter the Symbolic order, the structure of language, differently. In Lacan's view, each child can only see the signifier of the other gender; each child constructs its world view, its understanding of the relation between sfr and sfd in naming locations, as the consequence of seeing an "other." As Lacan puts it (742), "For these children, Ladies and Gentlemen will be henceforth two countries toward which each of their souls will strive on divergent wings..." Each child, each sex, has a particular position within the Symbolic order; from that position, each sex can only see (or signify) the otherness of the other sex. You might take Lacan's drawing of the two doors literally: these

11 are the doors, with their gender distinctions, through which each child must pass in order to enter into the Symbolic realm. So, to summarize. Lacan's theory starts with the idea of the Real; this is the union with the mother's body, which is a state of nature, and must be broken up in order to build culture. Once you move out of the Real, you can never get back, but you always want to. This is the first idea of an irretrievable loss or lack. Next comes the Mirror stage, which constitutes the Imaginary. Here you grasp the idea of others, and begin to understand Otherness as a concept or a structuring principle, and thus begin to formulate a notion of "self". This "self" (as seen in the mirror) is in fact an other, but you misrecognize it as you, and call it "self." (Or, in non-theory language, you look in the mirror and say "hey, that's me." But it's not--it's just an image). This sense of self, and its relation to others and to Other, sets you up to take up a position in the Symbolic order, in language. Such a position allows you to say "I", to be a speaking subject. "I" (and all other words) have a stable meaning because they are fixed, or anchored, by the Other/Phallus/Name-of-the-Father/Law, which is the center of the Symbolic, the center of language. In taking up a position in the Symbolic, you enter through a gender-marked doorway; the position for girls is different than the position for boys. Boys are closer to the Phallus than girls, but no one is or has the Phallus--it's the center. Your position in the Symbolic, like the position of all other signifying elements (signifiers) is fixed by the Phallus; unlike the unconscious, the chains of signifiers in the Symbolic don't circulate and slide endlessly because the Phallus limits play. Paradoxically--as if all this wasn't bad enough!--the Phallus and the Real are pretty similar. Both are places where things are whole, complete, full, unified, where there's no lack, or Lack. Both are places that are inaccessible to the human subject-in-language. But they are also opposite: the Real is the maternal, the ground from which we spring, the nature we have to separate from in order to have culture; the Phallus is the idea of the Father, the patriarchal order of culture, the ultimate idea of culture, the position which rules everything in the world. As you might imagine, feminist critics, whom we'll start talking about on Wednesday, have a lot to say about Lacan, as they do about Freud. All materials on this site were written by, and remain the property of, Dr. Mary Klages, Associate Professor of English, University of Colorado, Boulder. You are welcome to quote from this lecture, or to link to this web page, with proper attribution and citation. For more information, see Citing Electronic Resources.


The Mirror Stage Carl Steadman Illustration: Two persons, man and woman, facing each other, holding full-length gilded mirrors on a theater stage. The man and woman holding the mirrors are slightly askew and ape-like, while each mirror holds not the reflection of the other, but an image of the "ideal image" of the holder, upright, handsome, but not relaxed. A spotlight is on the mirrors; the bearers are in the shadows. The man speaks "Hello," with his gaze on his mirror-image; the woman says "How'd you do," with her eyes looking at her mirror-image. The mirror-images are exchanging gazes. The word "mirror" points to each mirror with a mirror; the word "stage" labels the stage with an arrow. Lacan tells us, in his 1949 lecture on the mirror stage (following up on a lecture of 1936), that the human child is born prematurely. Its experience, based on its uncoordinated motor skills, is of a world in bits and pieces. Born with senseless senses, unorganized organs, and disjointed joints, the child makes no delineation between inside and outside, between self and (m)other. Illustration: disjointed, unorganized baby, and mother's breast (or multiple breasts), with no clear separation between the two or foreground/background. (Lacan talks of Hieronymous Bosch's paintings.) The human being comes into the world without an ego - without an identity, without a sense of self separate from an other (its mother). Illustration: Baby: "You mean I need to be Born Again?" Then, one day, there is a "startling spectacle" in front of the mirror... "Unable as yet to walk, or even to stand up, and held tightly as he is by some support...he nevertheless overcomes, in a flutter of jubilant activity, the obstructions of his support, and, fixing his attitude in a slightly leaning-forward position, in order to hold it in his gaze, brings back an instantaneous aspect of the image." Illustration: Child, presenting its form to the reader, saying "Tata! How specular!" In the mirror image, the child senses stability, unity, and stature a mastery it hopes to one day attain. It is here that the subject recognizes - or mis-recognizes - its self. Illustration: Child, standing, gazing into the mirror, saying "Pleased to meet me." Off to the side, Shakespeare says "When we are born we cry that we are come/To this great stage of fools."

13 But this act of (re)cognition is marked by a lack - the sense of a whole achieved points out a hole. Illustration: two onlookers off to the side. One says "Oh, look this is getting Freudian." The other says "What are you looking at?" For Lacan tells us that this act of recognition is ultimately a misrecognition: that is, by seeing my self in the mirror - by saying this, what I see with my eye, is I - I glance over the fact that the existence of this "I" assumes a split between the self and the (mirror-image) other: I glance over the fact that the "I" does not, in any way, pre-exist. In recognizing my self - in accepting the image before me as my self (but then, there is no choice; there would be no "I" to reject my self), I create a self before the mirror: this is I, as I must have always been. But this is also a misrecognition in another sense: I recognize the "miss", the gap between my self and my image, and, in doing so, I am alienated from myself. Once again, I create a self before the mirror: this time, in the sense that I stand before it, to create this uncanny double outside of myself, which is me. Illustration: Reader, holding Lacan for Beginners to side, with his back to Lacan, saying: "I'm alienated. I fail to recognize..." Lacan: "Yes! You got it!" Reader: "Apparently, I did." Let's review: We are born into this world premature, experiencing a fragmented reality through underdeveloped senses and motor skills. Faced with an image of itself as a masterful, totalized whole, the child recognizes its self in the mirror, and the ego is born. In (mis)recognizing the self in the mirror, we create an alienated self - a self which is forever marked by a lack, and forever trying to attain what it saw in the mirror. Illustration: Man, standing in front of mirror, saying "Le'go my ego."

Some notes on subject formation in Lacan.

14 Comments and Questions to: John Protevi LSU French Studies Protevi Home Page March 23, 1999 Preliminary notes: 1. Lacan does not present his work in the form of theses. Rather, he attempts to map form and content. This means that since his object of study, the unconscious, is for him "structured like a language," then his presentation should embody the rules of language. Following his conception of language, this means that Lacan's text enacts a continual slippage and deferral of meaning produced by an ineluctable displacement and substitution of signifiers. The surface of Lacan's text, then, is part of his theoretical production, and cannot be reduced to theses without essential loss. However, precisely this reduction to theses is the essential marker of science, to which Lacan sometimes aspires. The following presentation of some aspects of Lacan's work relevant to subject formation and hence to D/G's project will thus take the form of theses, although one should be aware of the violence of such a move. 2. I will present a reading of what Lacan writes about subject formation. There's another sense to the phrase "subject formation in Lacan," and that is the formation of a subject who reads Lacan and hence learns to read the world in a Lacanian way. The process of forming a Lacan-subject can never dispense with the reading of Lacan's text as we attempt here, so one shouldn't be fooled into thinking treatments like the following are reliable substitutes for reading Lacan, should one wish to learn to think like him. 3. The following presentation is largely based on Kaja Silverman, The Subject of Semiotics (NY: Oxford University Press, 1983), and is thus a third-hand account intended only as a brief classroom introduction. Silverman presents her account as a narrative of subject formation following the effects of lack and [always inadequate] compensation. Lack is experienced as a split of the subject and its "being," that is, what is revealed as the nostalgic projection of its "natural" and "instinctive" life. As with all such prospective narratives, one should recall that they are only reconstructions based on analytic experience in which analysands tell retrospective narratives. One should also remember that all such "stages" are as much logical as temporal and hence retain their effects throughout the life of the subject. 4. Three key terms: A. "real" = that which is cut off upon the entry into language; the "natural" and "instinctive." B. "imaginary" = the realm of identification and binary opposition via

15 images of wholeness. C. "symbolic" = the realm of differential meaning via a system of signifiers. In utero: "real" lack. Sexual difference, the lack of being both male and female, is the first "real" lack. Another "real" lack, individual mortality, is compensated for by sexed reproduction. Infancy: pre-Oedipal territorialization. At first, the infant is an undifferentiated libidinal field w/ no distinction of self/world. Needs are met contigently But pleasure of met needs is not localized as inside or outside Then, the differential care of the maternal caretaker inscribes erotogenic zones. Channeling of libido by social machine. Formation of drives oriented eventually to hetero-reproductive sex. Indirect libidinal flows: drives represent organs as privileged zones Organs: points for introjection/expulsion of pleasurable things such things are felt as complements to felt lack these become objets petit a: imaginary identifications with missing part Mirror stage: [mis-]apprehension of self as other Split between image of whole and co-ordinated self (moi) and uncontrolled body Thus image supplements bodily lack And self-recognition is mis-recognition [subject sees imaginary whole self] Love-hate relation with this image: binary oppositions as logic of the imaginary However, there is no strict division between imaginary and symbolic, so that desire for image of wholeness is itself culturallymediated Thus "images" in the imaginary are not strictly bio-visual, but symbolically mediated Language acquisition: the divorce from the real Signifiers = synchronic differential chain; signifieds = set of concrete discourses Meaning from deferring chain; no referential function of language Non-linguistic signifiers from other cultural codes mediated by language Production of the unconscious with acquisition of language:

16 Further split of subject and being (needs and drives) Articulated demands submerge needs and drives in unconscious Unary and binary signifiers [L reads "fort/da": lost self rather than F's lost mom] The "first" ["unary"] signifier: nonsensical yet irreducibly non-"real" non-sensical bcs w/o opposing signifier irreducibly non-"real": marks point of trauma: repression of drives in uncns focal point of uncns: arche of displacement, substitution, slippage The "second" ["binary"] signifier: "fading" of the subject's being institutes play of meaning marks end of subject's contact with its "real" being subject now only "signifier for another signifier" Impossible desire: Energy from drives (but these are now inacessible/repressed by lang) Goals from [symbolically-mediated] images of wholeness: cannot be satisfied Fundamental narcissism of desire: chasing objects that will fulfill me Desire = "desire of the Other" ("locus of deployment of speech") Entry into the symbolic: the Oedipal crisis as linguistic transaction Reworking of Lvi-Strauss: incest taboo = exogamy obligation = social structure for exchange of women = language game in which family names produce subject position Thus for L, "father" and "mother" are signifiers Family is cultural not biological Focus on socially-sanctioned role, not persons contingently filling them Three meanings for the signifier "phallus" Signifier of fullness of being what has been lost by the subject women are in closer touch with this "real" hence they can "be" the phallus Signifier of masculine privilege in patriarchy although the actual father will always fail to fulfill this symbolic role institutionalized masculine privilege will supplement this lack desire of son must be to "have" this phallus son identifies actual father w/ symbolic father (believe he has phallus) son perceives mother's lack of the phallus (she doesn't have phallus)

17 son must perceive mother's desire for the phallus son must desire to supply the phallus for the mother son must pay for his accession to symbolic realm in which he will have the phallus in his own family by renouncing his penis this is "castration" that is, male renunciation of direct access to his sexuality Signifier of the castrated penis: representation of lost "real" sacrificed by masculine subject yet as signifier, "phallus" should have renounced representation Female subject Not as completely cut off from "real" drives she is not "really" castrated: she "lacks lack" although she is "symbolically" castrated thus she can be overflowingly "real" (= jouissance) and thus can "be" the phallus (but never symbolically "have" the phallus) Thus she is not completely inserted in the symbolic female sexuality is not represented in patriarchal symbolic order thus it is "censored" rather than "repressed" (i.e., no uncns signifier) thus female sexuality can threaten the patriarchal symbolic order Thus the female subject is both plenitude and lack she can "be" phallus #1 (signifier of plenitude) she "lacks" phallus #3 (signifier of castrated penis: she "lacks lack" she can never "have" phallus #2 (signifier of masculine privilege) Production of sexual difference Mother is initial object of desire of both sexes source of warmth/nourishment/pleasure source of objets petit a (breast/voice/gaze) Father is terminal object of desire child desires the mother's desire (it wants to be the phallus for mother) but mother desires patriarchal phallus she lacks since mother identifies actual husband/father with patriarchal phallus she desires him child's desire for mother's desire is now displaced onto her object of desire thus the child is now structured in relation to phallus the boy identifies w/ father who has the phallus the girl identifies w/ mother who lacks the phallus but this sex role assumption is also an assumption of lack the boy can never fill the symbolic role any more than father could

18 the girl can only identify with lack from the start Concluding notes: Silverman offers the following critiques: 1. The phallus is "radically impossible." As a signifier it must be non-representational, yet it refers to "real" plenitude, to the castrated penis, and to vagina as lack. It thus collapses the symbolic and real orders. 2. The female subject as both plenitude and lack is patriarchal strategy of oppression. Her "plenitude" is really a lack: as a fully linguistic subject, not just a patriarchal signifier, she too is cut off from the "real" (she too is "really" "castrated"; she does not "lack lack"). On the other hand, the supposed compensation for her symbolic lack, her possession of an unrepresented, dangerously "real" sexuality, in fact makes her all the more subject to social construction and regulation ("jouissance" is a patriarchal signifier). 3. Maternal desire for the patriarchal phallus is the key to family dynamics and is itself culturally mediated: the mother too is prey to the "desire of the Other." 4. Lack is the key to the whole narrative. Without the supposition of a "real" originary lack, all compensatory images of wholeness are symbolically-mediated, hence historically contingent, unless one falls prey to an unwarranted pessimism or an unprovable naturalism. Lacan: An Overview of The Mirror Stage Lacan introduces the mirror stage, a developmental stage that he observed in infants from 6 to about 18 months. In this stage, the infant recognizes him or herself in the mirror as a whole entity instead of the fragmented movements and undefined boundaries between self and other (baby and mom especially) that have constituted his or her world up to that point. Lacan says this shows that the infant has desires to see him or herself as an "I." The vision in the mirror, which comes at a time when the infant doesn't have control over his or her own body yet, gives that image of the "I" as a "mirage" of control and "perfect self" or imago. Conversely, this imago has "the effect in man of an organic insufficiency in his natural reality"; it creates a permanent sense of being imperfect, but looking forward to perfection. The mirror stage "is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation." It creates fantasies of both a very fragmented body and an alienating identity, or the idea that our "self" is protecting something more real within, or perhaps keeping us from having "real" interactions with others. As the specular mirror stage ends and the "I" must become social, we find ourselves at odds with ourselves. Instinct and desire become things that could destroy the ideal-I. But our very ability to say "it's me" depends on the external

19 effect of some image of ourselves reflected in an exchange with the "other" (most often mom, a lover, a close friend). Built into the maturation process, then, is "mconnaissance," or misrecognition, of ourselves. It is the "diffrance" that creates the "I" (sound familiar?). Before you go completely mad, here are a few more thoughts about Lacan's work: Lacan concerns himself with the concept of lack as central to the human psyche. When baby looks in the mirror and has the complete vision of him or herself, it is an image in contrast with his or her actual experience of the world and the self as fragmented. The difference between the ideal image and the fragmented (le corps morcel: the body in pieces) experience of the infant constitutes lack. The infant first knows itself as lacking. Similarly, Lacan works out a model of desire that, like lack, is deeply rooted in the psyche and cannot be completely fulfilled. He describes it in terms of infant feeding: the little baby, when breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding for that matter) has a primary experience of completeness in that he or she is getting food and love all at the same time. When the baby cries, he or she is asking for food and love together. But as weaning occurs, either from the breast or from a primary caregiver to another, the child is forced to separate the two. The child still cries for love and food togther, but may only get food. Thus begins the great space of desire, which will characterize the rest of our lives, propelling us in quests for the ideal man, the ideal woman, the ideal job, the ideal child, etc. in which we set ourselves up for chronic disappointment. The implications of Lacan's thought are rich, and I wouldn't pretend to summarize them here. We should note, however, the way that Lacan's model of the subject (the self) is very close to Derrida's analysis of diffrance; the "I" produces its idea of self relationally (like signs do). It seems to overcome its own lack and fragmentation as an adult, but is in fact always threatened by the thought of "going to pieces" or of discovering its own unreality. Literary critics have used these concepts to talk about the haunting effect of "others" to a character and the ways that the impossible desire for unity and completeness (to be without lack) drives characters' lives and, sometimes, writers' literary texts. Think about the ways you could do a Lacanian or a deconstructive reading of "Kubla Khan" as a text. Bibliography of Psychoanalysis Recent Works in Continental Philosophy

Kristeva, Julia. The Sense and Non-Sense of Revolt :The Powers and Limits of Psychoanalysis. Trans. Jeanine Herman. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000 [Psychoanalysis/Freud/Lacan] Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI. Ed & Trans. Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: W W Norton and Co., 1998.

20 Lacan, Jacques. On Feminine Sexuality the Limits of Love and Knowledge: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX Encore 19721973. Ed. & Trans. Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: W W Norton and Co., 1998. Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. Joyce Crick. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Derrida, Jacques. Resistances of Psychoanalysis. Trans. Peggy Kamuf, Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. Althusser, Louis. Writings on Psychoanalysis. Trans. Jeffrey Mahlman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Lacan: Some Key Concepts We only come to know ourselves as a self , as an independent entity distinct from others and the world, through language and other systems of representation. But because of the nature of representation and subjectivity, this self-recognition involves a series of losses, an absence or lack inscribed in the heart of subjectivity. Language precedes and determines subjectivity. Language is not a function of our identities and desires so much as our identities and desires are functions of language. Language genders our identities. This is one of our first losses: a fall from androgynous wholeness into sexual difference ("it's a boy!"). Lacan's mirror stage is best understood as a metaphor for subjectivity. In the mirror stage, the fragmented infant identifies with and desires to be like an image of wholeness (the image in the mirror, the "I" or subject position that implies a coherent, unified, subjectivity). But while images of wholeness give us an image of ourselves as distinct from the world, they never align with us perfectly. There is an inevitable, structural, gap between the truth of fragmentation (a body that constantly takes in and spews out matter, a consciousness riven by representations) and images of self-identity and wholeness. In the Oedipal Complex, as Lacan imagines it, the subject passes from a register of imaginary fusions with the world and with others (The Imaginary) into language (the Symbolic). Lacan almost describes

21 this as a fall from Eden presence and fusion with the world into a postlapsarian world of subject and object, division and desire. Lacan's notion of desire is, at its heart, a desire for wholeness--a "hole in the self" that the subject attempts to close through an endless, metonymic chain of supplements: the perfect car, the perfect boyfriend, a tenure track job, etc. But as soon as one supplement is acquired, desire moves onto something else. Desire is a (representational) itch that can never truly be scratched. The Phallus! While all of them agree it's important, some critics say the term "the Phallus" has as many as eight meanings and as few as one meaning in Lacan's work. One thing everyone pretty much agrees on, though, is that Lacan tries to maintain a distinction between the Phallus as a signifier privileged male attributes, and the penis, as a spongy little organ that can rarely (if ever) live up the Phallus's inflated claims. Anyway, looking at the gap between masculinity as it is "supposed" to be (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and as it's experienced is a fruitful area of analysis. Other Developments Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari mount a powerful critique of the notion that desire is lack and that the Oedipus Complex determines subjectivity, sexual difference, and just about anything else in their 1972 book Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Among other things, the book is a wild, wild read. In her book, Gender Trouble, Judith Butler agrees with Lacan and French Feminists that language is patriarchal, but critiques the idea that this has determinative effects. In her words: "the law [of patriarchal language] is not deterministic, but bumbling; it prepares the ground for the insurrections against it." Terms Desire as Lack The Semiotic The Symbolic Ideal Ego & Ego Ideal The Gaze Unconscious The Mirror Stage