Lacan

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Bowie (French language and literature, U. of London) traces the development of famed French psychoanalyst Lacan's (1901-1981) ideas over the 50-year span of his writing and teaching career, focusing on the mutations in Lacan's interpretation of Freud. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
London Review of Books

This is an astonishing feat of exposition, clear, judicious and economical in argument, and written with an elegance one would not have believed possible on so intractable a subject. Having read Bowie, one can revisit Lacan buoyed up by the conviction that he is a psychoanalytical thinker absolutely worth tangling with, a genuine enlarger of the mind and not a fly-by-night showman. Lacan is here thoroughly elucidated without being made simple, the elucidator having invested his intellectual all in being equally fair to the tortuosities of his subject and the needs of his readers.
— John Sturrock

Times Literary Supplement

While there have been a number of good studies introducing readers to Lacan's vatic discourse, Bowie's book strikes me as quite the best general presentation and evaluation of Lacan's thought. Witty, concise, irreverent, admirably well-written, Bowie's study represents a remarkable feat of organization and exposition.
— Peter Brooks

Virginia Quarterly Review
Well-written, well-argued, cogent, enjoyable to read--these are hardly the words that spring to mind when one thinks of a book about one of the most obscure and self-absorbed thinkers influencing literary and cultural analysis today; yet they describe this remarkably accessible and intelligent new study of the French psychoanalyst...Bowie cuts to the essential issues of Lacan's thought and intellectual development. For those put off by Lacan's pomposities and those engaged by his brilliance, Bowie's introduction is an indispensable new resource.
Times Higher Education Supplement

An introduction which simplifies nothing, an initiation which demystifies, and an invitation to the widest possible English-speaking readership to have a look, or another look, at Lacan.
— Katharine Swarbrick

London Review of Books - John Sturrock
This is an astonishing feat of exposition, clear, judicious and economical in argument, and written with an elegance one would not have believed possible on so intractable a subject. Having read Bowie, one can revisit Lacan buoyed up by the conviction that he is a psychoanalytical thinker absolutely worth tangling with, a genuine enlarger of the mind and not a fly-by-night showman. Lacan is here thoroughly elucidated without being made simple, the elucidator having invested his intellectual all in being equally fair to the tortuosities of his subject and the needs of his readers.
Times Literary Supplement - Peter Brooks
While there have been a number of good studies introducing readers to Lacan's vatic discourse, Bowie's book strikes me as quite the best general presentation and evaluation of Lacan's thought. Witty, concise, irreverent, admirably well-written, Bowie's study represents a remarkable feat of organization and exposition.
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen
I believe that this is the first true introduction to Lacan's work in English. [Bowie] brilliantly retraces the evolution of Lacan's thought, from the first essays to the mature writings.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Katharine Swarbrick
An introduction which simplifies nothing, an initiation which demystifies, and an invitation to the widest possible English-speaking readership to have a look, or another look, at Lacan.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674508521
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1991
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

1. Freud and Lacan

2. Inventing the 'I'

3. Language and the Unconscious

4. Symbolic, Imaginary,
Real, and True

5. The Meaning of the Phallus

6. Theory without End

Concluding Remarks

Chronology Notes

Bibliography

Lacan's Ecrits in French and English

Index

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