• Jacques Lacan

    Metaphor: substitutes a word for another word.

    Metonymy: involves a linear form of displacement.

        These two axes of language—substitution and displacement—correspond to the working of the unconscious.  Metonymy, which carries language along its syntagmatic axis, corresponds to the displacement of desire that characterizes the dream work in Freud.  Metaphor, on the other hand, corresponds to the paradigmatic axis, the axis of substitution and, therefore, corresponds to that aspect of condensation whereby different figures can be substituted or are condensed into one through an over determined nodal point.

       Metonymy follows the horizontal line of signifiers, which never cross the bar (of repression) that leads to the signified and to signification.  Just as desire is always deferred from one object to the next, so the signifier suspends signification while following the horizontal chain.  Each signifier that fails to cross the bar has exactly the same meaning.  If signifies lack (desire).

       Metaphor is placed in a vertical relation.  One signifier can substitute as the signified for another signifier.  “Crossing the bar” is really the action of one signifier becoming signified by taking the place reserved for the signified itself—the bar allows the substitution of one signifier for another.

        Lacan reinterprets Freud in light of structuralist and post-structuralist theories, turning psychoanalysis from an essentially humanist philosophy or theory into a post-structuralist one.

        Lacan is one writer who makes no bones about his genius. He reveals his grandiose self-concept not so much in “The agency” as in his other writings.


    Pradigmata: relation of items within the same category.

    Syntagmata: relation of items from different categories in the meaningful structure.

    Displacement: the occurrence of an element in a sentence in other than its canonical position as in preposing and dislocation.

    Substitution: or condensation (and displacement) occurs in any process of signification. Rather than a stable center of a structure, Jacques posits that such a center is always already a substitution for a center.

    Done by:

    Eman & Fatma  

    Jacques Lacan (1901-1981)

    Lacan challenges Saussure’s structure of the sign, arguing that the sign doesn’t represent the thing but actually shows it how to be. (explained in the mirror stage formation of the subject)

    Infants go through a stage in which their minds find the “I” through seeing an external image of themselves. This identification of self becomes like a gestalt (fragmented form recognized as a whole) of self-recognition. Since this image appears more complete that the actual physical weakness of the infant, it becomes the Ideal-I that the subject always aspires to.

    Jacques Lacan. “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience,” in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. P. 1285-1290.

    Ego’s perception of self is shaped by desires of id and censorship of superego. Descartes Cogito (human mind is a complete whole governed by reason) is an illusion. (1885)

    Identification: (1886)

    During mirror stage (6 months), child strains to reach her/his image (as an adult aspires to reach the imago expected of him).

    When mirror stage ends (18 months), relation between subject and her/his imago never stops as subject always aspires to reach her/his imago.

    This identification is fictional as infant’s unified image (the Ideal-I) doesn’t correspond with her/his fragmented reality (the fictional “I”) much like adult’s image of self doesn’t correspond to the real adult.

    The Ideal-I, as gestalt (fragmented form seen as a whole) represents all the potentialities of the “I” it establishes in the child’s psyche. But this image is separate from the child and could never be completely realized though it is always sought after.

    Our divided/paranoid identity: (1888-9)

    We are all paranoid as we are always haunted by an image of the others who influence us.

    Mirror stage forms a link between the subject’s psyche and the world, becoming the grounds for the cultural formation of identity (Althusser’s interpellation)

    In dreams, fortresses and enclosures divide the setting into interior and exterior spaces manifesting those of the id and the ego.

    Hysteria, neurosis, paranoia are linked to the formation of the “I” as when the identification with the Ideal-I becomes influenced by cultural conventions.

    The “I” is like an internal fortification against the forces of the id and the hostile environment as it can become static in the face of these hostilities, resulting in neuroses. When this fortification breaks down and the subject cannot distinguish between internal and external world the result is the more severe psychoses.

    There is no “normal” mind, as the idea of normality itself is a méconnaissances .

    Méconnaissances (1290)

    Unlike Sartre’s existentialism that rests on a theory of a consciousness that is self-aware and self-present, Lacan’s self experiences itself as a méconnaissances (misrecognitions).

    Denial (related to méconnaissances): I know I am mortal subject to death and to my instinctual drives, yet I disavow this reality in order to function as a normal human being. This reality however doesn’t go away. These distressing truths of my id pressure my consciousness and erupt in my dreams and neuroses.

    Function of psychoanalyst isn’t to help people feel better, but to understand that to be human is to be subject to a desire that cannot be fulfilled.

    Prior to the formation of the ego the human infant is unable to differentiate between the self and the world ad experiences reality as a disorganized flux of bodily impulses and external sensory stimuli.
    The infant’s reflection in the mirror (or the gaze of the mother or caregiver) offers an image of a whole, organized, autonomous being that does not correspond with the infant’s actual experience.
    This image establishes the Ideal-I, an internal representation – a gestalt – of a physical integration that inaugurates the infant’s sense of separateness and autonomy as a subject, but that remains fundamentally other to the infant, an unattainable ideal.
    The mirror stage initiates the internal image of an “I” which will serve as the foundation for the subject’s relations with the world and with other people.
    At the same time, the mirror stage establishes the discontinuity of the ego with itself that becomes the foundation for neuroses and other forms of psychic distress.

     Graph taken from: http://maven.english.hawaii.edu/criticalink/lacan/index.html