LACAN AND MEANING
SEXUATION, DISCOURSE THEORY, AND TOPOLOGY IN THE AGE OF HERMENEUTICS
LACAN ON MEANING
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continues to clarify the subject’s relation to the chain of signifiers throughout the second half of the 1960s, he will increasingly recognize the need to address the question of how the signifier and jouissance are related. This eventually becomes a question of establishing a link between objet a (or surplus-jouissance) and the chain of signifiers. This is first articulated in The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (1969–70). This seminar is well-known for having presented Lacan’s Theory of the Four Discourses – of the Master, the Hysteric, the Analyst and the University.
By way of introduction, recall how for Lacan meaning is retroactively buttoned-down as the signifying chain proceeds from left to right, from an earlier signifier (S1) to later signifiers (S2). This is visually captured in Figure 3.3.
The four discourses are based on the definition of the signifier (S1) as that which represents a subject ($) for another signifier (S2). What Lacan does is identify each of these three places, as well as the hitherto unidentified fourth place, as in Figure 3.4.
By superimposing the schema of Figure 3.3 onto the definition of a signifier in Figure 3.4, we can visualize Lacan’s idea that the subject emerges from the meaningless symbolic chain. Lacan tells us as much in the very first session of Seminar XVII: ‘[I]t is at the very instant at which S1 intervenes in the already constituted field of the other signifiers, insofar as they are already articulated with one another as such, that, by intervening in another system, this $, which I have called the subject as divided, emerges. Its entire status, in the strongest sense of this term, is to be reconsidered this year.’49 One aspect of this
49 Lacan, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, 15.« prev next »
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