The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901–1981) is a uniquely complex writer and the originator of an especially unsettling view of the human subject. But the singularity of Lacan’s achievement has been understated by many of his critics. Often he is seen merely as a figure famous for being famous—an essential reference point in structuralist and poststructuralist debate—rather than as a theorist whose writings demand and reward detailed scrutiny.Malcolm Bowie traces the development of Lacan’s ideas over the fifty-year span of his writing and teaching career. The primary focus is on the fascinating mutations in Lacan’s interpretation of Freud. Bowie reinserts the celebrated slogans—“The unconscious is the discourse of the Other,” “The unconscious is structured like a language,” and so forth—into the history of Lacan’s thinking, and pinpoints the paradoxes and anomalies that mark his account of human sexuality. This book provides a firm basis for the critical evaluation of Lacan’s ideas and the rhetoric in which they are embedded; it is based on a close reading of Lacan’s original texts but presupposes no knowledge of French in the reader.Although Bowie is sharply critical of Lacan on several major analytic questions, he argues that Lacan is the only psychoanalyst after Freud whose intellectual achievement is seriously comparable to Freud’s own. Lacan provides the ideal starting point for any exploration of the work of this formidable thinker.
Lacan in Public argues that Lacan’s contributions to the theory of rhetoric are substantial and revolutionary and that rhetoric is, in fact, the central concern of Lacan’s entire body of work.
Responding to the ongoing “objectal turn” in contemporary humanities and social sciences, the essays in Subject Lessons present a sustained case for the continued importance— indeed, the indispensability—of the category of the subject for the future of materialist thought.
Approaching matters through the frame of Hegel and Lacan, the contributors to this volume, including the editors, as well as Andrew Cole, Mladen Dolar, Nathan Gorelick, Adrian Johnston, Todd McGowan, Borna Radnik, Molly Anne Rothenberg, Kathryn Van Wert, and Alenka Zupančič—many of whom stand at the forefront of contemporary Hegel and Lacan scholarship—agree with neovitalist thinkers that material reality is ontologically incomplete, in a state of perpetual becoming, yet they maintain that this is the case not in spite of but, rather, because of the subject.
Incorporating elements of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary and cultural studies, Subject Lessons contests the movement to dismiss the subject, arguing that there can be no truly robust materialism without accounting for the little piece of the Real that is the subject.
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