Lacanian Phases

The academic in me really loves the work of Vanheule’s “The Subject of Psychosis” as well as Lorenzo Chiesa’s “Subjectivity and Otherness.” Both of these books offer a particular organization of Lacan’s work that notes developments in thinking or if not developments than ‘phases’ of his thought. This appeals to academic presses no doubt, and, for those of us who like archives and suffer that strange obsessional symptom of needed to have everything in its place, it appeals to our sense of scholarly rigour.

This approach also seems to offer a remedy to that other approach which attempts to find within Lacan’s teaching a coherent world-view or system.

But I maintain that both the academic position which emphasizes phases or developments of Lacan’s thought as well as the world-view position are in a secret solidarity with one another: they both intend to offer a vision of Lacan’s work that ultimately has everything in its place.

It is possible to adopt the systematic reading of Lacan’s work while avoiding the possibility that Lacan’s work had phases or developments. For example, a favoured point of discussion among Lacanians is to situate oneself within an ‘early,’ ‘middle,’ or ‘later’ moment of his teaching; but isn’t it the case that this very manner of understanding already privileges one of those moments of his teaching? If one wants to take the ‘later’ Lacan serious then one has to avoid the assumption that there is a ‘later’ Lacan to begin with!

It is possible to emphasize the universality of Lacan’s teaching without succumbing to a world-view. The trick is to place rupture or the real at the centre and to demonstrate that Lacan was forever attempting to reshape the real through, for example, his very concept of the nom-du-pere or the quilting points.


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