The Self and Its Pleasures: Bataille, Lacan, and the History of the Decentered Subject

The Self and Its Pleasures: Bataille, Lacan, and the History of the Decentered Subject

The Self and Its Pleasures: Bataille, Lacan, and the History of the Decentered Subject

The Self and Its Pleasures: Bataille, Lacan, and the History of the Decentered Subject

Synopsis

Why was it France that spawned the radical post-structuralist rejection of the humanist concept of ?man? as a rational, knowing subject? In this innovative cultural history, Carolyn J. Dean sheds new light on the origins of post-structuralist thought, paying particular attention to the reinterpretation of the self by Jacques Lacan, Georges Bataille, and other French thinkers.

Excerpt

If the theoretical problem of unmotivated crime challenged psychiatric expertise and rendered many, though not by any means all, medical men sympathetic to the insights afforded by psychoanalysis, most doctors represented the immediate criminal threat to social order in terms of gender--in terms, above all, of nonconformist, "deviant" women. This chapter examines the relationship between the psychiatric and psychoanalytic constructions of female criminals and the young Lacan's effort to save men and women from the trap of the imaginary. In order to address that relationship, we must turn once again to the perceived dissolution of the boundaries between the normal and the pathological after the Great War. This time we are concerned with the boundaries between normal and pathological women. I focus on how female deviance came to symbolize a crisis of male authority which began in the late nineteenth century and crystallized after 1918. Second, I examine how these representations of female deviance both symbolized and shaped a new representation of the (male) self as other in the work of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and Lacan. Of what did Lacan construct the (male) self? Of what did Lacan construct his resolution of the conflation of self and other represented by the imaginary?

The New Woman

French cultural critics had long linked national decline and moral decadence to female deviance. When the French lost the Franco- Prussian War in 1870 . . .

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