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Jacques Lacan Paperback – April 15, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan (1901- 1981) tried to provide a philosophical basis for Freudianism, which gained him prestige in his native land. Lacan accorded "paramount importance to what is said" and posited parallels between the structure of language and the unconscious?which explains his particular influence on literary theorists. The present biography is written in stately, heavy prose by a French historian, psychoanalyst and critic, who dutifully explicates Lacan's work, but also includes lots of fun details about some very weird French people, like the surrealist writer Georges Bataille, who proudly declared, "I jerked myself off, naked, at night, in the presence of my mother's corpse." Piling up enormous wealth and prestige, Lacan became a noted collector of modern art masterpieces and rare books. He was also determined to "collect all women," as Roudinesco puts it. While the author was aided by various of Lacan's relations, this is not a sugary account of the man's life. Lacan comes across as an often difficult figure; he often threw patients out or pulled their hair if they didn't speak enough to satisfy him (though these abbreviated sessions did not mean Lacan returned the high fees they paid). He was equally rude to friends: while visiting Claude Levi-Strauss one dinnertime, he ate all the food on his hosts' plates. In conspicuous contrast to Lacan's famously abstruse writings, this account?from the psychiatrist's birth into a family of vinegar-makers to his last words, "I'm stubborn... I'm dying"?makes for a lively read.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
French psychoanalyst Lacan (1901-85) gained a wide following from scholars in the humanities and social sciences through his popular public lectures at the University of Paris. Viewing language as a mirror of the unconscious mind, Lacan developed an innovative interpretation of Freud's theories using the methodology of structural linguistics. Known for his unorthodox and controversial psychoanalytic practices and his obscure, though stylistically brilliant, writings, Lacan was at the center of many professional schisms and quarrels. Given this rich subject, this third volume of psychoanalyst Roudinesco's "History of Psychoanalysis in France" will disappoint most readers. The book is neither a basic introductory work nor a comprehensive biography. Though containing some new material made available to the author since the publication of the second volume (Jacques Lacan & Company, Univ. of Chicago, 1990), this volume covers much of the same period and topics. For academic libraries with large psychology holdings.?Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
not only does roudinesco bring clarity to lacan's style of writing and lucidly describes the development of his ideas, she shows the paradoxes and discrepancies between the man and his professional ideas.
beginning with the 1930s we see lacan as a medical doctor, his interest in the surrealists who perceived madness and mental illness as forms of creativity and inspiration, the advent of the mirror stage, and his influence by melanie klein.
in the 1940s, there is the flamboyant life style of fast cars, erratic behavior, lavish parties, ownership of gustave courbet's ORIGIN OF THE WORLD, the wearer of designer clothing and mistresses, the friendship and family entanglements with bataille suggestive of `the name of the father.'
after the war he was influenced by crowd psychoanalysis as practiced by the english. there is his opposition to sartre's concept of freedom and the schism between anna freud and melanine klein.
the 1950s find him in conflict with the international psychoanalytical association, he broke with the organization in 1964, and his friendship with and inspiration of claude levi-strauss, and his strange relationship with martin heidegger.
the following decades of which roudinesco discussed lacan's writings and their publication, hiss admiration of the russian born intellectual, roman jakobson, and the influence of jakobson's ideas on the work of lacan's theory of the signifier and the signified.
ironically, the intellectual friends and peers who through their work influenced lacan were not reading lacan's indecipherable work, a reciprocation which changed with a new generation of thinkers in the 1960s beginning with louis althusser. it was althusser who introduced jacques-alain miller to lacan. miller became lacan's son in law and literary executer. in the concluding chapers of her book, roudinesco gives a history of the seminars in miller's possession and the lacanian legacy as perpetuated by miller.
in lacan's final years, the ideas he worked with, from maxims to symbols to the ineffable, made it difficult for followers who interpreted every word and gesture by lacan as meaningful to distinguish health from illness and the debilitations of aging.
in the end, this is not an objective writing of the affairs after lacan's death, however, lacan's interests, brought him in contact with many of the artists, philosophers, poets and psychoanalysts in france from the 1930s to the 1970s, and their brief biographies and association with lacan as described by roudinesco rounds her book out as an overview of a time in france, a book, for one of several reasons, worth owning.
First of all, this book is interesting from a peeping Tom perspective. And not surprisingly, Lacan is portrayed as self-absorbed, cold and opportunistic, desperate for recognition. The book covers the bitter institutional battles, too.
However, the book is also quite relevant from the point of view of Lacan's theoretical development. Roudinesco's explicit account of the thinkers Lacan uses / is inspired by when developing his concepts is very helpful. Note, though, that Zizek claims that some of these interpretations are problematic. To me it was particularly interesting to note that in addition to Freud, Bataille was important for Lacan when developing the notion of the Real.
Overall, Roudinesco's is number two on my list of intellectual biographies, just behind Safranski's superb Heidegger-biography.