Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway

By Nick Mansfield | Go to book overview

3 Lacan: The subject is language

FREUD ARGUED THAT subjects could only deal effectively with unconscious material when they could talk about it with their analysts—by bringing it into language, in other words.It took the work of Jacques Lacan ( 1901-81) to draw out fully the significance of language for psychoanalysis.In doing this, Lacan was in tune with other major developments in twentieth-century thought. Indeed, it is hard to overstate the importance to the modern era of the idea that language defines human life. Ludwig Wittgenstein's ( 1889- 1951) idea of the 'language game', and Martin Heidegger's identification of language with the limits of (human) Being both in very different ways and in very separate traditions propose language as the centrepiece of the interactions of consciousness with both the world and others.

In the 1950s and 1960s, structuralism and semiotics encouraged the use of the linguistic theories of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure ( 1857-1913) as a general model of all human culture.The human being was to be seen as the signifying animal, and all human rituals and behaviours could ultimately be read. The anthropological work of Claude Lévi-Strauss (b. 1908) and the cultural analysis of Roland Barthes ( 1915-80) were pivotal in the application of structuralist models of the sign to human behaviour in general.

Lacan's ultimate and most influential conclusion is that the unconscious is structured like a language. The aim of this chapter is to give an outline of Lacanian thought in relation to its forebears: Saussurian linguistics and Freudian psychoanalysis.It must be said that Lacan's writing is notorious for its ambiguity and its intentional obscurity.Given that Lacan's aim was to challenge the commonsense idea that language exists in order to communicate, and is

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Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Subjectivity - Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway *
  • Series Introduction v
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Free and Autonomous Individual 13
  • 2: Freud and the Split Subject 25
  • 3: Lacan: The Subject is Language 38
  • 4: Foucault: The Subject and Power 51
  • 5: Femininity 66
  • 6: Kristeva and Abjection 79
  • 7: Masculinity 92
  • 8: Radical Sexuality 105
  • 9: Subjectivity and Ethnicity 118
  • 10: Deleuze and Guattari 136
  • 11: The Subject and Technology 148
  • 12: The Subject and Postmodernism 162
  • 13: Conclusion 174
  • Glossary 181
  • Bibliography 186
  • Index 193
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