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Jacques Lacan

Jacques Lacan

Jacques Lacan is considered as one of the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud. He was born on April 13, 1901. He remained one of the most influential figures in Parisian academic circles for most part of the twentieth century. His ideas have had a major influence on critical theory, literary theory, 20th-century French philosophy, sociology, feminist theory, film theory and clinical psychoanalysis. Lacan went to medical school and later studied psychoanalysis. He studied patients suffering from automatism, a psychological ailment in which the patient believes that his movements and speech are being controlled by an external force. For his doctorate in 1932, he wrote a paper drawing a connection between psychiatric medicine and psychoanalysis which became his practice throughout his lifetime.

In the early stages of his career, from 1926-53, Lacan progressed from conventional psychiatric treatment to gradual inclusion of clinical psychoanalysis. Published in 1936, the “Mirror Stage” was Lacan’s first formal contribution to the field of psychoanalysis. The essay concerns infants aged 6 to 18 months and notes that when an infant recognizes its own image in the mirror, it does not see the image as merely a reflection but as a unified being instead of “bits and pieces” that it perceives itself to be, due to motor incapacity. This, Lacan believes, leads to the formation of ego and acts as a stimulant to the child’s development.

Jacques Lacan came up with the “Theory of Three Orders”: the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real. The theory formed the backbone of the psychical subjectivity according to Lacan and his whole career revolved around developing this theory. The Imaginary consists of how we perceive others and how we perceive what they mean when they communicate with us and how we perceive from someone else’s perspective. This idea is central to the “ego formation” in the “Mirror Stage”. Symbolic order was the second idea in the theory. Lacan described it as the order of symbols, illustrations and imagery, where the individual is formed as a subject. He argued that the subconscious is governed by the order of the signifier as opposed to suppressed desires which was a common belief at the time. The Real is much more difficult to grasp. Throughout the 1960s until his death, the Real took on ever increasing number of aspects and associations. It is that which is excluded from Imaginary- Symbolic reality, elusive by nature, impossibility.

Although Jacques Lacan claimed: “It is up to you to be Lacanians if you wish. I am a Freudian”, in the years 1964-73, he drifted further from Freud and traditional psychoanalysis. His dissertation became distinctively “Lacanian”, as he became known for his neologisms and complex diagrams. Lacan endeavored to form a more exact mathematically based theory in his last years: A “meta-theory” of psychoanalysis using mathematics, casting the trio he conceived earlier (the Real, Symbolic, and Imaginary) in the language of mathematics rather than linguistics. By the time of his death in 1981, Lacan had become one of the most dominant and controversial intellects in the world. His work has a profound impact not only on philosophy and psychoanalysis but even on literature and film studies.

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