The Cambridge Companion to Lacan

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In his early seminars Lacan is categorical that this is a form of love that is nothing more than imaginary fascination Seminar I , p. Freud felt the need to introduce this split between ego-libido and object-libido in the context of the theory of narcissism. The consequence is that love is more than simply an outward extension of narcissism, more than just the libido projected outwards. Yet throughout his work Lacan is categorical that love has far less to do with object-libido and more to do with narcissism. If there is a dependency involved in love — the anlehnungstypus — it is insofar as the loved object has the capability to sanction or validate our relation to our own image rather than any organic need they can fulfil through their care or nurturing.

This is a view clearly very far from that of certain evolutionary psychologists, who look in love for a measure of the suitability of the object to satisfy the propagation of the wider species. Lacan has an interesting argument as proof for this: the relation of mourning to melancholia. Again, he takes as his starting point another distinction introduced by Freud, this time in the paper of the same name from In mourning, our relation is to the i a , the image of the other; in melancholia it is to the object a.

The i a indexes the narcissistic relation by denoting the relationship to our own image. This is why in mourning at the same time as losing the loved one we lose an investment in our own body or body-image. Not wanting to be seen by others, neglecting to eat, losing interest in physical activities, lack of personal hygiene and even behaviour destructive to the body binge eating, drinking, self-harm, etc are all hallmarks of this disturbance of the image in mourning.

By contrast, in melancholia what is at stake is the object a — the shadow of this object that has fallen upon the ego Seminar X , 3rd July, But as if to temper this danger there is an interesting twist in the mirror stage theory, introduced in Seminar VII.

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Not only is it the case, Lacan says, that the mirror gives the subject mastery over his or her previously-fragmented body, but it also has a secondary function as a barrier to keep the object inaccessible. It is that which cannot be crossed. Whether this is an actual mirror or the function of the mirror in the image of the other does not matter. Because on the one hand, in its very artificiality the mirror offers a way to establish a difference, a space other than the strict and immediate correspondence of the imaginary.

On the other, an intermediary in the form of another person can function to sooth the rivalry spurred by the dual-imaginary relation. Anyone who has worked in an environment where two rivals in similar positions vie for dominance will recognise how eagerly both will reach out to their colleagues for allies. Rather than seeing this as simply as the building of powerbases, are they not also ways to assuage the caustic rivalry the mirror relation generates? So is love just a purely imaginary phenomena for Lacan?

Even as late as Seminar XX he suggests that it is. This is love, Lacan says. The parrot loves Picasso, and his clothes, but not as some kind of proxy for Picasso but as Picasso. Picasso was inseparable from his image no less than his art was inseparable from its image. The idea that love, like all imaginary relations, hinges on a semblance is not a new one for Lacan.

Why not just get naked in front of your partner? Lacan does not dismiss the importance of the symbolic register for love in his work. What is loved in the other person is something beyond their image or physical attributes:.

He demands to be loved as far as the complete subversion of the subject into a particularity can go…. Falling in love therefore requires a confluence of forces from both the imaginary and symbolic registers Seminar I , p.

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This is likely why weddings are traditionally seen as the perfect place for a guest who is single to find love, and why it is sensible for anyone in a relationship to have some kind of observance for symbolic protocols like buying flowers, remembering anniversaries, and so forth. That said, a condition of love is that these symbolic relations be subverted. This produces a disturbance of symbolic relations, exactly what Lacan highlighted in the story of the unlikely coupling of Poros and Penia.

In fact, without the bulwark of symbolic relations, love can turn easily to hate. Just as we saw Lacan present love as sitting at the junction of the symbolic and the imaginary, he locates hate between the imaginary and the real Seminar I , So we have a situation something like this:.

If love is a fundamentally imaginary phenomena Seminar I , p. There is a fundamental ambivalence to love, and Lacan sticks to this idea right the way through his work. The poetry with which he describes it gives us some sense of how seriously he took it. Can we situate love on the side of demand or on the side of desire? And how do we get from one to the other? Demand reduces everything to a proof of love. This residue is the demand for love.

Desire enters demand as a Trojan horse. This means we can never see a demand as simply a demand. Lacan says in Seminar VIII, for example, that all demand is a demand for love insofar as it is a demand to be heard. What is really important is not that the other person can satisfy your demand by actually giving you the thing that you want, but that they can give you the thing that they themselves do not have. What you demand is for the other person to show his or her desire, his or her lack.


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This lack is the source of love. And this is how we get to the idea that loving is to give what one does not have. But this process does not explain what makes us fall in love with one person rather than another. Freud calls this liebesbedingung , the condition for love. These kinds of particularities would completely escapes the notice of the neurosciences or evolutionary psychology precisely because they are conditions singular to each subject. As Lacan reads Freud, what we look for in our object is not just their own lack, but what is lacking from our world.

The Cambridge companion to Lacan / editor, Jean-Michel Rabaté.

In the early s Lacan turns to the transference as a model of love. There are many points in his work where he argues the two are equivalent see for example Seminar I , p. His approach is unique. The symposium in question is less a philosophical debate than a kind of semi-drunken, semi-hungover party in which each of the guests has to give a speech about Love.

Of the eight guests the main characters for Lacan are Alcibiades and Socrates. Alcibiades is a handsome, charismatic war hero; Socrates an ugly old man. This scene appears out of place compared to the rest of the dialogue, which has led other commentators to dismiss it, but for Lacan this is where things really start. So why does Plato have this scene happen in the dialogue at all? And it is in this that we can detect the obvious parallels to how Lacan believed the analyst should work in the transference situation. Our sexuality, he says, is not about our choice of object whether we are a man who loves a woman, a man who loves a man, or a woman who loves a woman but about the quality or character of the love involved.

This is a crucial comment and its implications are profound. It forces us to pivot our ideas about love away from sex, gender, or the other attributes of the object, and towards the different ways in which love can be expressed. Firstly, the obsessional.

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In Seminar IX Lacan says that for the obsessional love is equated with possession. But it can go so far as to lead to the destruction of that object. Importantly however, this is not perversion, and Lacan is clear that we should distinguish the two.

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The essential problem for the perverse subject is that he or she is stuck in a contradictory attitude to castration. Rather than accept and register a lack in whatever form this would take , they turn to an object or fetish that would enable them to believe this lack simply does not exist. On the side of hysteria, one thing that psychoanalysis has always stressed since the days of Dora and Anno O, is that where the hysterical subject cannot speak the body provides a voice.

Where there is a deadlock in a love relationship — some kind of unsaid problem or quiet discontent — this will be expressed through the body instead of being expressed directly. It is from there that there comes the encore, the en-corps [from within the body]. We might recognise this in our everyday experience. The sign that a relationship is about to break up is often not found in something couples talk about directly, but will instead appear as some kind of minor physical complaint — a sudden illness, a loss of appetite, or a problem with some area of the body.

Without the proper functioning of the symbolic in cases of psychosis, there is no margin for desire. This produces a direct translation from the object supplied to satisfy demand to what is taken as the sign of love. Food, for example, is not taken as symbolic of the gift of love as we saw in neurosis, but as something that will always and strictly mean oral satisfaction.


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There is no room for the displacements and slippages that desire allows, and which open the way for a kind of autonomy or particularity of love. We could not end our exploration of what Lacan says about love without commenting on its relation to sex. Without restating what we have already explored elsewhere on this site , the position of woman is one in which there is a difference between what he or she will love in the object and what they will desire in them. If she is a woman, she will love a man only insofar as he is castrated. This may signal sexual attraction, but it is not love; love looks for the mark of castration, which Lacan calls the phallus, and which is completely different from the penis Seminar VI , 7th January, To address directly the question of sex: we have to differentiate love and sex at the level of the drive and the object.

Sex is not about the object but the drive. Quite aside from anything else, there seems here to be a tacit equation between love and sex. But Freud says it is instead the drive rather than the object we should turn our attention to. This leads him to contrast the satisfaction we get from sex with the satisfaction the alcoholic gets from drink:. So why the difference with sex? Why is this so? If sex is a strange cobbling together of erratic drives under the form of the body, love is the exact opposite — the product of something left over from this process, something which does not quite fit.

The rise of online dating sites and apps like Match. Contenido Lacans turn to Freud. The mirror stage an obliterated archive.