Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Working and Walking in the Wall of Language: Lacan’s Linguistic Re-conceptualization of Literary Studies.

Ecrits, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience.”
Lacan discusses the mirror stage as stage in which the external image of the child’s body reflected in the mirror establishes a relationship between the “I” and its image of itself which is an illusion perceived as an ideal reality toward which the subject will perpetually thrive throughout his or her life.

Ecrits, “Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis”
Lacan re-conceptualizes Freud in Linguistic terms to propose a solution to the problems that limits psychoanalysis.

Ecrits, “The Signification of the Phallus”
Lacan moves beyond biological misrepresentations of the phallus and establishes it as a symbol that signifies the desire of the other.

Having read Lacan for the last three weeks, my observation is that his most valuable contribution to the Humanities is his destabilization of the latter. By elucidating the consequences of training a subject supposed to find “concrete” meanings and solutions, Lacan opens up ways that allow the reader to reflect on the issue of language in any given field. In his attempt to revise psychoanalysis, in “Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis,” Lacan’s emphasis on language does not only rejuvenate psychoanalytic practice, but it also re-grounds the humanist liberal subject, especially the literary critic, to the foundation of her or his field. In his Ecrits, Lacan problematizes the necessity to rethink and re-conceptualize the meaning and role of language is any interpretive practice. He warns the analyst as well as the literary critic that it is their responsibility to move the subject beyond the illusory image of truth that he or she perceives in the mirror or in discourse.

“Here it is a wall of language that blocks speech, and the precautions against verbalism that are a theme of the discourse of “normal” men in our culture merely serve to increase its thickness” (Ecrits, 233).
This sentence is a paragraph that appears in the second section of “Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis.” In this section entitled “Symbol and Language as Structure and Limit of the Psychoanalytic Field,” Lacan discusses the limits of a Psychoanalytic interpretive analysis that is centered on the reality surrounding the subject. In this sense, according to Lacan, “the subject is spoken instead of speaking” (232). Without indulging in the analysis of the section mentioned above to the cost of deciphering the sentence I pointed out, one may ask what constitute the “wall of language?”

The sentence starts with the adverb “here” followed by “It is” to intensify or to point to a condition posed in the previous paragraph. The condition is “if the subject did not rediscover through regression –often taken as far back as the mirror stage [stade]- the inside of a stadium [stade] in which his ego contains his imaginary exploits, there would hardly be any assignable limits to the credulity to which he would have to succumb in this situation” (233).
To push Lacan’s hypothesis further, I ask if the mirror is the stadium/field through and in which the subject admires the performance of its self as a fan and at the same time performer of its favorite game, can the same stadium be the locus that blocks its acting out its performance/acting out?
Lacan plays with the double meaning of the French word “stade,” which may mean stage as a well as stadium. Lacan schematizes how the body is caught in the play of meaning-formation between subjects, and expressive of the subjectivity that “lives” through it, as well as being an objectificable tool for the performance of instrumental activities. Lacan stages his play with words to reiterate that the “cogitation of discourse”(676) through the “ideal I” only points to some parts of the mental apparatus that do not reveal much about the “history” of the subject. As such, it creates a transparent wall similar to the mirror through which the subject misrecognizes itself. As a result one may draw the conclusion that the wall of language is the unified image the subject perceives in the mirror. It only names the body’s motions and identifications with others and “external” objects that insist on his/her conscious control.

1 comment:

  1. This is a particularly intriguing moment in the chapter, and I'm glad that you gave some attention to the paragraph preceeding it. Certainly one key question here is "what is the wall of language"? But what of the central opposition within the sentence itself, why is there a wall that blocks speech? What is Lacan implying about the relation between speech and language? What, also, about the related word "verbalism," abut which you are silent. How does the wall of language that block speech comparable (by the structure and topic of the sentence) to the precautions against verbalism? It is these precautions that thicken that very wall. There are multiple points of attack here in Lacan--the attack against the privileging of the "late Freud" at the expense of the earlier work, signalled in the previous sentence by the ego/id/superego, but there's also a critique of how psychoanalysis overwhelms reality with terminological description at the expense of getting to the actual speech of the subject to analyze what must be analyzed. Try to direct more attention to the specific sentence and less on prolegomena to reading (however astute and helpful that foreword certainly is).