An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
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An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis

Dylan Evans

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eBook - ePub

An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis

Dylan Evans

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About This Book

Jacques Lacan's thinking revolutionised the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and had a major impact in fields as diverse as film studies, literary criticism, feminist theory and philosophy. Yet his writings are notorious for their complexity and idiosyncratic style. Emphasising the clinical basis of Lacan's work, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis is an ideal companion to his ideas for readers in every discipline where his influence is felt. The Dictionary features:
* over 200 entries, explaining Lacan's own terminology and his use of common psychoanalytic expressions
* details of the historical and institutional context of Lacan's work
* reference to the origins of major concepts in the work of Freud, Saussure, Hegel and other key thinkers
* a chronology of Lacan's life and works.

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(sadisme/masochisme) The terms ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ were coined by Krafft- Ebing in 1893, with reference to the Marquis de Sade and Baron Sacher von Masoch. Krafft-Ebing used the terms in a very specific sense, to refer to a sexual PERVERSION in which sexual satisfaction is dependent upon inflicting pain on others (sadism) or upon experiencing pain oneself (masochism). When Freud took up the terms in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, he used them in the same sense as Krafft-Ebing (Freud, 1905d). Following Krafft-Ebing, Freud posited an intrinsic connection between sadism and masochism, arguing that they are simply the active and passive aspects of a single perversion.
Lacan too argues that sadism and masochism are intimately related, both being related to the invocatory drive (which he also calls the ‘sado-masochistic drive’; S11, 183). Both the masochist and the sadist locate themselves as the object of the invocatory drive, the voice. However, whereas Freud argues that sadism is primary, Lacan argues that masochism is primary, and sadism is derived from it: ‘sadism is merely the disavowal of masochism’ (S11, 186). Thus, whereas the masochist prefers to experience the pain of existence in his own body, the sadist rejects this pain and forces the Other to bear it (Ec, 778).
Masochism occupies a special place among the perversions, just as the invoking drive occupies a privileged place among the partial drives; it is the ‘limit-experience’ in the attempt to go beyond the pleasure principle.


(scène) Freud borrowed the expression ‘another scene’ (eine andere Schauplatz) from G.T.Fechner, and used it in The Interpretation of Dreams, stating that ‘the scene of action of dreams is different from that of waking ideational life’ (Freud, 1900a: SE V, 535–6). This led Freud to formulate the idea of ‘psychical locality’. However, Freud emphasised that this concept of locality is not to be confused with physical locality or anatomical locality, and Lacan takes this as a justification for his own use of TOPOLOGY (see E, 285). Lacan makes repeated reference to Fechner’s expression in his work (e.g. E, 193); the ‘other scene’ is, in Lacanian terms, the Other.
Lacan also uses the term ‘scene’ to designate the imaginary and symbolic theatre in which the subject plays out his FANTASY, which is built on the edifice of the real (the world). The scene of fantasy is a virtual space which is framed, in the same way that the scene of a play is framed by the proscenium arch in a theatre, whereas the world is a real space which lies beyond the frame (Lacan, 1962–3: seminar of 19 December 1962). The notion of scene is used by Lacan to distinguish between ACTING OUT and PASSAGE TO THE ACT. The former still remains inside the scene, for it is still inscribed in the symbolic order. The passage to the act, however, is an exit from the scene, is a crossing over from the symbolic to the real; there is a total identification with the object (objet petit a), and hence an abolition of the subject (Lacan, 1962–3: seminar of 16 January 1963). The fantasy scene is also an important aspect in PERVERSION. The pervert typically stages his enjoyment in terms of some highly stylised scene, and according to a stereotypical script.

Schema L

(schéma L) The various ‘schemata’ that begin to appear in Lacan’s work in the 1950s are all attempts to formalise by means of diagrams certain aspects of psychoanalytic theory. The schemata all consist of a number of points connected by a numbe r of vectors. Each point in a schema is designated by one of the symbols of Lacanian ALGEBRA, while the vectors show the structural relations between these symbols. The schemata can be seen as Lacan’s first incursion into the field of TOPOLOGY.
The first schema to appear in Lacan’s work is also the schema which he makes the most use of. This schema is designated ‘L’ because it resembles the upper-case Greek lambda (seeFigure 14, taken from Ec, 53). Lacan first introduces the schema in 1955 (S2, 243), and it occupies a central place in his work for the next few years.
Two years later, Lacan replaces this version of the schema with a newer, ‘simplified form’ (Figure 15, taken from Ec, 548; see E, 193).
Although schema L allows many possible readings, the main point of the schema is to demonstrate that the symbolic relation (between the Other and the subject) is always blocked to a certain extent by the imaginary axis (between the ego and the SPECULAR IMAGE). Because it has to pass through the imaginary ‘wall of language’, the discourse of the Other reaches the subject in an interrupted and inverted form (see COMMUNICATION). The schema thus illustrates the opposition between the imaginary and the symbolic which is so fundamental to Lacan’s conception of psychoanalysis. This is of practical importance in the treatment, since the analyst must usually intervene in the symbolic register rather than in the imaginary. Thus the schema also shows the position of the analyst in the treatment:
Figure 14 Schema L
Source: Jacques Lacan, Écrits, Paris: Seuil, 1966.
Figure 15 Schema L (simplified form)
Source: Jacques Lacan, Écrits, Paris: Seuil, 1966.
If one wants to position the analyst within this schema of the subject’s speech, one can say that he is somewhere in A. At least he should be. If he enters into the coupling of the resistance, which is just what he is taught not to do, then he speaks from a’ and he will see himself in the subject.
(S3, 161–2)
By positioning different elements in the four empty loci of the schema, schema L can be used to analyse various sets of relations encountered in psychoanalytic treatment. For example Lacan uses it to analyse the relations between Dora and the other people in her story (S4, 142–3; see Freud, 1905e), and also to analyse the relations between the various people in the case of the young homosexual woman (S4, 124–33; see Freud, 1920a).
In addition to providing a map of intersubjective relations, schema L also represents intrasubjective structure (insofar as the one can be distinguished from the other). Thus it illustrates the decentering of the subject, since the subject is not to be located only at the point marked S, but over the whole schema; ‘he is stretched over the four corners of the schema’ (E, 194).
In addition to schema L there are several other schemata that appear in Lacan’s work (schema R—see E, 197; schema I—see E, 212; the two schemata of Sade—see Ec, 774 and Ec, 778). All of these schemata are transformations of the basic quaternary of schema L, on which they are based. However, unlike schema L, which serves as a constant point of reference for Lacan in the period 1954–7, each of these schemata only appears once in Lacan’s work. By the time the last of these schemata (the schemata of Sade) appear, in 1962, the schemata have already ceased to play an important part in Lacan’s discourse, although it can be argued that they lay the groundwork for Lacan’s more rigorous topological work in the 1970s.


(école) When Lacan founded the École Freudienne de Paris (EFP) in 1964, after his resignation from the Société Franchise de Psychanalyse (SPP), he chose to call it a ‘school’ for precise reasons. Not only was it the first time that a psychoanalytic organisation had been called a ‘school’ rather than an ‘association’ or a ‘society’, but the term ‘school’ also highlighted the fact that the EFP was more a means of psychoanalytic formation centred around a doctrine than an institutional order centred around a group of important people. Thus the very use of the term ‘school’ in the name of the EFP indicated that it was an attempt to found a very different type of psychoanalytic institution from those which had been founded before. Lacan was particularly keen to avoid the dangers of the hierarchy dominating the institution, which he saw in the INTERNATIONAL PSYCHO-ANALYTICAL ASSOCIATION (IPA), and which he blamed for the theoretical misunderstandings which had come to dominate the IPA; the IPA had become, he argued, a kind of church (S11, 4). However, it is also important to note that Lacan’s criticisms of the IPA do not imply a criticism of the psychoanalytic institution per se; while Lacan is very critical of the dangers that beset all psychoanalytic institutions, the fact that he himself founded one is evidence that he thought that some kind of institutional framework was necessary for psychoanalysts. Thus Lacan is just as sceptical of those analysts who reject all institutions as he is of those who turn the institution into a kind of church.
Many of Lacan’s ideas cannot be understood without some understanding of the history of the EFP (1964–80), especially those of Lacan’s ideas which relate to the TRAINING of analysts. In this context it is important to note that the EFP was not merely a training institute, and that membership was not restricted to analysts/trainees, but was open to anyone with an interest in psychoanalysis. All members had equal voting rights, which meant that the EFP was the first truly democratic psychoanalytic organisation in history.
There were four categories of members in the EFP: M.E. (Membre de l’École, or simple member), A.P. (Analyste Practiquant), A.M.E. (Analyste Membre de l’École), and A.E. (Analyste de l’École). Members could, and often did, hold several titles simultaneously. Those who applied for membership of the school were interviewed by a committee called the cardo (a word meaning a hinge on which a door turns) before being admitted as an M.E.
Only the A.M.E. and the A.E. were recognised as analysts by the school, although other members were not forbidden to conduct analyses, and could award themselves the title of A.P. to indicate that they were practising analysts. The title of A.M.E. was granted to members of the school who satisfied a jury of senior members that they had conducted the analysis of two patients in a satisfactory manner; in this sense, the category of A.M.E, was similar to that of the titular members of other psychoanalytic societies. The title of A.E, was awarded on the basis of a very different procedure, which Lacan called the PASS. The pass was instituted by Lacan in 1967 as a means of verifying the end of analysis, and constitutes the most original feature of the EFP. Another original feature of the EFP was the promotion of research in small study groups known as CARTELS.
The final years of the EFP were dominated by intense controversy over the pass and other issues (see Roudinesco, 1986). In 1980, Lacan dissolved the EFP, and in 1981 he created a new institution in its stead, the École de la Cause Freudienne (ECF). Some of the original members of the EFP followed Lacan into the ECF, whereas others left to set up a variety of other groups. Some of these groups still exist today, as does the ECF.


(science) Both Freud and Lacan use the term ‘science’ in the singular, thus implying that there is a specific unified, homogeneous kind of discourse that can be called ‘scientific’. This discourse begins, according to Lacan, in the seventeenth century (Ec, 857), with the inauguration of modern physics (Ec, 855).
Freud regarded science (Ger. Wissenschaft—a term with markedly different connotations in German) as one of civilisation’s highest achievements, and opposed it to the reactionary forces of RELIGION. Lacan’s attitude to science is more ambiguous. On the one hand, he criticises modern science for ignoring the symbolic dimension of human existence and thus encouraging modern man ‘to forget his subjectivity’ (E, 70). He also compares modern science to a ‘fully realised paranoia’, in the sense that its totalising constructions resemble the architecture of a delusion (Ec, 874).
On the other hand, these criticisms are not levelled at science per se, but at the positivist model of science. Lacan implies that positivism is actually a deviation from ‘true science’, and his own model of science owes more to the rationalism of Koyré, Bachelard and Canguilhem than to empiricism. In other words, for Lacan, what marks a discourse as scientific is a high degree of mathematical formalisation. This is what lies behind Lacan’s attempts to formalise psychoanalytic theory in terms of various mathematical formulae (see MATHEMATICS, ALGEBRA). These formulae also encapsulate a further characteristic of scientific discourse (perhaps the most fundamental one in Lacan’s view), which is that it should be transmissible (Lacan, 1973a:60).
Lacan argues that science is characterised by a particular relationship to TRUTH. On the one hand, it attempts (illegitimately, thinks Lacan) to monopolise truth as its exclusive property (Ec, 79); and, on the other hand (as Lacan later argues), science is in fact based on a foreclosure of the concept of truth as cause (Ec, 874).
Science is also characterised by a particular relationship to KNOWLEDGE (savoir), in that science is based on the exclusion of any access to knowledge by recourse to intuition and thus forces all the search for knowledge to follow only the path of reason (Ec, 831). The modern subject is the ‘subject of science’ in the sense that this exclusively rational route to knowledge is now a common presupposition. In stating that psychoanalysis operates only the subject of science (Ec, 858) Lacan is arguing that psychoanalysis is not based on any appeal to an ineffable experience or flash of intuition, but on a process of reasoned dialogue, even when reason confronts its limit in madness.
Although the distinction between the human sciences and the natural sciences had become quite well-established by the end of the nineteenth century (thanks to the work of Dilthey), it does not figure in Freud’s work. Lacan, on the other hand, pays great attention to this distinction. However, rather than talking of the ‘human sciences’ (a term which Lacan dislikes intensely—see Ec, 859) and the ‘natural sciences’, Lacan prefers instead to talk of the ‘conjectural sciences’ (or sciences of subjectivity) and the ‘exact sciences’. Whereas the exact sciences concern the field of phenomena in which there is no one who uses a signifier (S3, 186), the conjectural ...

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Citation styles for An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
APA 6 Citation
Evans, D. (2006). An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2006)
Chicago Citation
Evans, Dylan. (2006) 2006. An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Evans, D. (2006) An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Evans, Dylan. An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2006. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.