Notes: Jacques Lacan in Theory Lecture by Prof. Paul Fry at Yale University


metonymy – elaboration of plot through a series of detour; what happens to signs along the axis of combination (Jakobson);

metaphor – there is a binding of these signs, an effect of unity from the experience of reading a fictional plot; recurrence of identity, self-identity, close correspondence in the meaning of the variety of events ~ unity (Jakobson: poetic function) > a perpetual form of the delay of desire

e.g. marriage plot


metonymy – understanding of the unconscious
discourse of desire, deferall of bringing into consciousness/presence the object of desire (Freud, Jakobson); impossibility of realizing one’s desire for an other

metaphor -quilting button of the metonymic chain that holds together a sequence of disparate signifiers such that substitution of signs instead of displacement is accomplished

desire – we can never have what we desire, the big other that can never be appropriated (Big Other)

need – the small other that can be had

triadic distinction: the real, the imaginary, the symbolic

big other vs objey petit a

the gaze

X stable consciousness
X stable human subjectivity
X unique subjectivity
– continuous nonabsolute consciousness
– limited nonautonomous individual subjectivity
X power of will, agency
X emerge from analysis or maturation a stable, coherent, well organized sense of self and identity

the mirror stage

baby in the anal phase (me – other) looks in the mirror: i’m okay! i // object of mother’s desire

baby falls into language, Oedipal phase: no longer the ideal I, no name, no identity // competition in desire, what it desires is not accessible in mutuality of desire; admire and envy

the object of lack that perpetually motivates desire (for what one lacks) is not at all physical, but rather symbolic: ego ideal that is no longer oneself/what one has but what one lacks

why language?

metonymic course of desire is an asymptotic course, also a-symptotic, does not reveal the symptom except through metaphor

the unconscious is structured like a language (a semiotic system) // a puzzle with an underlying sentence if you figure out the sequence of signs taken from different semiotic systems to get at the meaning

unconscious is, therefore, not the seat of the instincts > the id is the signifier that emerges as language not that which is foundational to language > language does not express thought, but that it constitutes thought, brings thought, consciousness, a sense of things into being articulated through language

materialist > things come first and consciousness second (marxist); ideology and consciousness is determined by existing material circumstances

positivist > meaning of things expressed by language, language brought into being to express

lacan > priority to language

id : signifier, the letter

consciousness begins with the letter

>>Levi-Strauss: languaged doesn’t come into being just a little bit of a time, suddenly there is a way of conferring meaning on things, this way is differential

id : the beginning, which disseminates consciousness through the signifying systems which it makes available

metaphor: I see what has been displaced by the very act of signification

the poetic function is the transference of the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection to the axis of combination (Jakobson)

the movement of desire is the articulation of a lack, making the signifier hook on to the signified, the impossibility of doing this is the impossiblity of realizing an object of desire

consequence: language thinks me

I think where I am not therefore I am where I do not think // I am not present to myself because what is present is the way in which my self comes into being is discourse which cannot identify me as subject or an object of desire


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