French psychoanalyst and intellectual. Lacan was director of the École Freudienne de Paris from 1963, but his influence rested more on the series of seminars that he gave at the university of Paris from 1953, and which decisively influenced French thought of the time. His endeavour was to reinterpret Freud in the light of the structural approach to linguistics inaugurated by Saussure. Language becomes a manifestation of the structures present in the unconscious. The central theme is that the growing child must give up the narcissistic stage of absorption in the mother, and becomes aware of loss and difference as it begins to take its place in a network of linguistic and social roles. The repressions involved in this procedure open up a world of insatiable desires. Lacan's work is notoriously obscure, repeating the same shifting nature of dreams and, presumably, the unconscious; like that of Derrida after him it is also replete with wordplays, puns, and reason-defying leaps. His lectures, in transcript, are collected in the two-volume Écrits (1966, 1971, trs. under the same title, 1977).
Subjects: Arts and Humanities.