Lacan and Meaning pages header text: Lacanian Theory 1933-81
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LACAN AND MEANING

SEXUATION, DISCOURSE THEORY, AND TOPOLOGY IN THE AGE OF HERMENEUTICS

dividing-line

CHAPTER 3

LACAN ON MEANING


    [E]very dream has a meaning, though a hidden one.

    [E]very dream reveals itself as a psychical structure which has a meaning.

    There is at least one spot in every dream at which it is unplumbable – a         navel, as it were, that is its point of contact with the unknown.

                                                                                    ―Sigmund Freud

    Freudian psychoanalysis has always had its adherents. But even in its earliest days, its detractors far outnumbered the faithful. And once the former group brought the dissenting school of ego psychology to prominence, pitching it as the true inheritance of Freud, important psychoanalytic discoveries were in danger of being lost. So it is not surprising that calls for a ‘return to Freud’ were soon heard after the founding father’s death. The majority of these returns were partial, as Habermas’ rather tendentious use of Freud typifies. The same with Ricoeur. He may have had a more comprehensive reading, yet he similarly overlooks vital aspects of psychoanalytic thought. It is Lacan’s own reading which makes these failings obvious. Over the course of many decades he returned time and again to Freud’s original texts, producing his own set which at first blush seems to offer little by way of resemblance. But closer examination reveals how Lacan’s methodology reflects the same multi-leveled approach he found in Freud. This methodology is discernible in any one of Lacan’s works. Yet it may also be used to characterize his lengthy career which divides accordingly into three distinct periods. Expressing this division in terms of the previous chapters, while his hermeneutical phenomenological period (roughly 1933–mid 1950s) makes obligatory petitions to meaning, his structuralist period (mid 1950s–60s) produces withdrawals from meaning. It is the work of his final period, however, which suggests how psychoanalysis proves foundational for the theorization of meaning. For Lacan’s non-hermeneutical phenomenological period (1960s–1981) opens up the possibility of a full suspension of meaning. Part II directly demonstrates how this is theoretically accomplished. The present chapter discusses texts from each of his three periods in turn. Generally speaking, these three periods correspond to the Lacanian registers of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real.

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Last modified: August 26, 2018