Literature and Psychoanalysis

By Edith Kurzweil; William Phillips | Go to book overview

PART VI
THE FRENCH CONNECTION

THE ESSAYS IN the following section have all been influenced, in large measure, by French psychoanalysis, that is, by Jacques Lacan's reading of Freud, which itself owes much to structural linguistic theory. Like Lévi-Strauss, Lacan followed Saussure, who had postulated language as a self-sufficient system that is both complete and historical at every moment. Because binary relationships are said to exist between the signifier (sound-image) and the signified (concept), between langue (language system) and parole (individual speech), between phonemic (recognized) levels of speech and abstract systems of signs (they have their own built-in oppositions), between metaphor and metonymy, the method of structural linguistics is based on the mediation between these dualisms. Given the complexity of psychic phenomena addressed by Freud, such as reaction formation, defenses, oppositions, and transformations which occur in the relations between unconscious and conscious meaning, Lacan thought that the Saussurean method would prove a valuable tool to apprehend the structure of every psyche, including Freud's. Thus the various accepted meanings, for example, of Freud's own dreams, which had "fathered" psychoanalysis, could be broadened; and psychoanalysis itself could become even more complex -- or at least more French. Lacan was certain that Freud who, like any other writer, had to put down myn ads of simultaneous impressions sequentially, can be improved upon if only we examine his texts through "chains of signifiers." Such a reading allowed him to discover as yet unknown components of Freud's mind, components which allegedly went into the creation of psychoanalysis. In

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