Psychoanalysis and Early Modern Culture: Lacan with Augustine and Montaigne

Belsey Catherine

in Shakespeare in Theory and Practice

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633012
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652235 | DOI:
Psychoanalysis and Early Modern Culture: Lacan with Augustine and Montaigne

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This chapter sets out to justify in historical terms the invocation of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of early modern texts. Lacan offers an understanding of meaning as perpetually unstable. His work vindicates a reading of texts as potentially inconsistent, and the culture inscribed in them as correspondingly precarious, the location of resistances to the law they also inscribe. Some of Lacan's most important insights have their roots in St Augustine, whose influence on early modern culture cannot be exaggerated. Montaigne's essay, ‘Of the Force of Imagination’, records the remarkable capacity of fantasy to bring about physiological effects. Like Augustinian theology, psychoanalysis allots a central place to the conflict between law and desire. Montaigne follows Augustine to the degree that he sees a perpetual conflict between sex and propriety. Augustine records his own conversion as a scene of reading.

Keywords: psychoanalysis; early modern texts; Lacan; St Augustine; Montaigne; Augustinian theology; law; desire; sex; propriety

Chapter.  9042 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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