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This review appeared in Volume 4 (2) of The Semiotic Review of Books.

Lacan's Return: Reading and Paranoia

by Hilary Clark

The truth ... is that which runs after truth -- and that is where I am running, where I am taking you, like Actaeon's hounds, after me. (Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis)

In Jacques Lacan & Co.: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985 (1990), Elisabeth Roudinesco tells the story of Jacques Lacan's first encounter with Salvador Dali in 1931. The young psychiatrist (at the time working on his thesis, De la psychose paranoiaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité) telephoned Dali, who invited Lacan to meet with him in his home. "As a provocation, (Dali) wore an adhesive plaster on his nose and expected a surprised reaction from his visitor. Lacan did not flinch."(110). Two like minds -- both at this time engaged on the problem of paranoia: Lacan in his work on his thesis, Dali in his work on "paranoiacriticism" Dali was developing a theory of paranoia as a coherently "delusional interpretation of reality," and delusion as "part and parcel of (any) interpretation" (Roudinesco 110).

In reviewing seven recent books on Lacan and his work (all published in English between 1990 and 1992) I would like to focus on this issue of paranoia -- as Lacan generalized this clinical term to encompass the nature of knowledge and interpretation -- in order to characterize how Lacan reads Freud and other sources, and how we read Lacan. The notion of transference can also help us in thinking about this question of reading a Master's text. In the interpretation of texts as in the analytic situation, we enter a transferential relation with an Author(ity): "Faced ... with an alterity which cannot be subsumed under existing knowledge ... what the subject does is to suppose a subject that knows, that comprehends what we do not ..." (Weber 181).

Thus, the main issue I want to address here is the nature of reading -- particularly, reading a Master's text. These various interpretations of Lacan have made me acutely aware that, as Dali put it, all interpretation is to some degree a "critical paranoia," delusional, and in its strategies uncannily given to repeating the strategies of the text it reads.

Paranoia and interpretation

"Paranoia" literally means disorder or derangement of the mind, clinically, the term refers to a state of "chronic psychosis characterised by more or less systematised delusion," especially delusions of persecution, but also erotomania, delusional jealousy and delusions of grandeur (Laplanche and Pontalis 296). Lacan emphasized the paranoid structure of human knowledge in general, as being irremediably alienated -- the subject being constituted and situated in the field of the signifier, the site of the Other (Four Fundamental Concepts 203-6).

In the clinical sense, we might see Lacan's career as characterized by paranoia -- delusions of persecution, brought on by his "excommunication" by the International Psychoanalytic Association, inspiring his formation of the Ecole Freudienne de Paris in 1964 and driving his relationship to his School and his disciples, his obsession with their loyalty and treason. In 1963, at the height of Lacan's political troubles over his infamous "short sessions," Vladimir Granoff ironically referred to Lacan as "the Nazarene" feeling betrayed by his disciples (Roudinesco 344). In Roudinesco's judgement, however, "Lacan was never mad, although he was occasionally a megalomaniac"(261).

In its more general sense, paranoia would seem to characterize interpretation of Lacan. Partly, the reason for this might lie in Lacan's deliberate cultivation of a writing style that placed him in the position of Other with respect to his students and his readers. Lacan's writing is notoriously difficult to read, and has invited charges of willfully confusing the reader (Roustang 43). Are these delusions of persecution -- or fair charges? His more charitable commentators argue that his "baroque" (Roudinesco 254) style deliberately challenges the conventional criteria of academic discourse (Weber 5), breaking down the boundaries between poetic and theoretical discourse (Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy 74). Lacan's writing in its "derailing of sense" (Weber 1) stages the movement of the unconscious itself. In "eroticiz(ing) the language of theory" (199), Borch-Jacobsen claims, Lacan's speech seeks to convey the "special potency of the transferential encounter" (201) between master and disciple, an encounter involving a paranoid sense of an always-already knowing Other within the self. Thus Lacan's discourse exercises power over its readers, who find it difficult to respond objectively to it.

Lacan reading his Master(s)

I would now like to turn to the question of the nature of Lacan's "return to Freud" (and his use of sources in general), as our commentators on Lacan characterize his interpretation of the Master's text. In taking up each book on this question, I will summarize the major Lacanian issues each addresses and assess the value of each for a reader with a general interest in Lacan.

Roudinesco's Lacan & Co. is an informative history of the French psychoanalytic movement in its changing cultural contexts from 1925 to 1985. It is also a fascinating biography of an elusive subject -- the man Lacan himself. Although Roudinesco's book is a little dry in places (only the truly committed will enjoy the lengthy and detailed accounts of the institutional structures and procedures of the different psychoanalytic associations such as the IPA and Lacan's Ecole Freudienne de Paris), it is on the whole a good read, particularly the sections on the relations between psychoanalysis and surrealism in the twenties and thirties, and between psychoanalysis and developments in the sixties and seventies such as structuralism, the student uprising in May '68, and the women's movement. Roudinesco traces the relationships of "His Majesty" (as she calls Lacan) with a wide range of intellectuals, including Derrida, Ricoeur, Sollers and Althusser, and explores the implications, for the transmission of his work, of his relations with his son-in-law Jacques-Alain Miller (as the transcriber of his seminars one of Lacan's most important interpreters).

Roudinesco's history of French psychoanalysis is full of interesting anecdotes, not the least of which is the tale of Lacan's own non-encounter with Freud: "He had sent off his thesis to the master, who had sent him a curious postcard, partially crossed out, in response. Freud wavered, writing two addresses: Alfred Lacan's at Boulogne and his son's on the rue de la Pompe. He acknowledged his receipt of Lacan's gift with polite indifference: 'Thank you for sending your thesis' (133-4). Lacan never met Freud, even though, at the time he sent his thesis, it was his wish that he be understood by him (134). As Roudinesco puts it, Lacan eventually realized that an actual encounter with "the founding father," the Other, would have "culminated at best in a misunderstanding, at worst in a disaster. Lacan identified far more with Freud's texts than with his person ..." (134).

In discussing Lacan's relation to Clerambault, his teacher and the chief of the Infirmary at Sainte-Anne, Roudinesco suggests that Lacan "laid claim to his master's teaching, but in order to transform it ... " (109). This also applies to Lacan's relation to Freud's work: he "laid claim" to it, presenting his work as faithful to it against all the perversions of Freudian doctrine circulating in the psychoanalytic community; yet at the same time he transformed Freud's ideas, using Freud as patron for a theoretical project the master would never have recognized (Bowie 53).

Lacan's thus drew heavily on Freud and other masters, often without explicit acknowledgement, through the work of "bricolage": "Lacan's genius was quite unlike Freud's. It lay less in an ability to forge a new mode of knowledge, than in a capacity to join together, in a subtle exercise in what Lévi-Strauss was to call bricolage, the essence of the knowledge of an era" (118). Borch-Jacobsen makes the similar point that Lacan was "incredibly agile at appropriating others' ideas," a master who "never really had a thought of his own" (1-2); his practice of "plagiarism" "annuls at its root the whole idea of intellectual private property" (2). Curiously, however, Lacan was supposedly very sensitive to the possibility that his own ideas might be stolen. At the Symposium on structuralism at John Hopkins University in 1966, for example, he implied to Derrida that the latter's ideas on the nature of the subject and the signifier were already to be found in his, Lacan's, work (Roudinesco 410). (Derrida was not amused.) Thus, even while Lacan evaded the authority of his masters by plundering their thought, he sought to impose his own authority on his disciples, seeking their love and approval, enmeshed in a delusory "narcissism of priority" (Roudinesco 410).

When Lacoue-Labarthe's and Nancy's The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan first appeared in 1973, Lacan advised the audience of his seminar to read the book: "I can say ... that I have never been read so well -- with so much love ... I regret never having obtained anything that comes close to it from my followers ... (Seminar XX, cited in Translators' Preface vii). The book is a very close reading of Lacan's article, "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud" (Ecrits 146-178).Readers who are interested in Lacan's transformation of the Saussurean sign, his interweaving of Freud and Saussure (through Jakobsen) in his revision of the concepts of metaphor and metonymy, will find The Title of the Letter to be both helpful in understanding the article and provocative in its deconstruction of Lacan's project, exposing the philosophical system underpinning Lacan's seeming subversion of traditional philosophical notions of the sign and personal identity.

Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy argue that Lacan is concerned to re-legitimize psychoanalytic discourse, given what he sees as its "perversion" as a doctrine of "ego reinforcement" in Anglo-American psychoanalysis (7). They note, as Roudinesco does, that Lacan's return to Freud's truth draws upon "a whole system of borrowing which appeal(s) to linguistics, structural ethnology, and combinatory logic" (7) -- as well as to Hegel's dialectic and Heidegger's philosophy of Being. Lacan's method is one of "diversion" (détournement), employing "signifying tropisms" or turns upon his sources (88); he works up a "system" (the authors' quotation marks) of borrowing, a strategic or "interested" (89) combination of elements, rather than seeking to erect a conceptual edifice (88). However, Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy argue that this bricolage calls forth a counter-discourse of systematicity; in the last part of their analysis they expose a centered, circular structure in "The Agency of the Letter," "a system in the most classical sense of the term" (113), in which Lacan ultimately synthesizes his many assembled sources. The translators in their Preface note that -- not surprisingly -- Lacan "expressed reservations," to the audience of his seminar, with respect to this deconstruction of the Lacanian "subversion" (Seminar XX, cited in Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy vii).

Like Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, Weber in Return to Freud (1991) gives the Master's work a fair and sensitive reading, while not displaying the idealizing love that Lacan always seemed to seek. Weber's first chapter is particularly good on the question of the nature of Lacan's relation to the Master, his "return to Freud." In subsequent chapters Weber also looks at Lacan's relation to other masters: Hegel in Lacan's theory of the "mirror stage," Saussure and Jakobsen in Lacan's theory of the sign and metaphor/metonymy through Freud, Descartes in Lacan's transformation of the cogito in his theory of the subject. Weber also discusses the relationship between Lacan's imaginary and symbolic stages, and has a good chapter on the function of the phallus as super-signifier in Lacan's system.

Lacan's "return to Freud," Weber argues, is a "return to reading" -- a "relearning (of) how to be struck by the signifier" (151). Like Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, who see Lacan's enterprise as one of "rescuing" psychoanalysis from "anything that ... could compromise it, weaken it, deprive it of its 'cutting power' ..." (89), Weber sees Lacan as returning psychoanalysis to a revived emphasis on the unconscious, and indeed, to the sources of unconscious power in Freud's work: Freud's "repressed conflicts, logical aporia, and linguistic ambiguities" (xxii), repeated by Lacan in the "avoidances, displacements and perversions" his discourse carries out on the discourse of the Master, enable him to approach the unconscious of psychoanalysis, giving this practice back the subversive power that the Surrealists had recognized and conveyed to him.

Bowie's Lacan (1991) is, to my mind, the most readable of the group of commentaries under review, offering perhaps the best all-round introduction to Lacan's thought. Each of Bowie's chapters deals first with Freud, then with Lacan's transformation of Freud, on a particular issue. The first chapter, "Freud and Lacan," is particularly interesting in its treatment of Lacan's "rhetoric" as contrasted to Freud's "plain style." In subsequent chapters, Bowie explores Lacan's transformations of Freud on the issues of narcissism (in his theory of the mirror stage), the unconscious (in his theory of the unconscious as a discourse), the triadic structure of the mind (in his Symbolic, Imaginary and Real), and Eros (in his theory of the Phallus as signifier of the subject's desire).

Over all, Bowie sees Lacan's "return to Freud" as involving a paradoxical pattern of "dissenting assent" (6), a "continuous dialogue" (transferential) with the Master in which Lacan does not hesitate to misrepresent or oversimplify Freud's positions, always in the interests of bringing out the latently linguistic nature of Freud's enterprise. While Lacan, politically, needed to "disinter, rescue, restore and possess" the body of the Master and align himself with its "truth" at a time (in the 1950s and early 1960s) when he was threatened with professional exile and ostracism, his act of anamnesis, was a "calculatedly imperfect one" (Bowie 61), and he was perfectly able to evade the master's authority when strategically necessary.

In Lacan: The Absolute Master (1991), Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen pays more extended attention to Lacan's relation to Hegel than do the other commentators under review here. Borch Jacobsen's style is denser than that of Bowie or even Weber; quoting heavily, he teases out the implications of Lacan's concepts of paranoia, the mirror stage, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, full and empty speech, sign and subject, the phallus and desire. He is given to making unwittingly amusing pronouncements (my favourite being,"The phallus, erected and majestic, is the statue of the ego" 218), and he draws somewhat melodramatic conclusions on the implications of Lacan's oeuvre. Apparently, as subjects we are left like Oedipus with only "the empty, bleeding sockets of (our) desire" (239), Lacan's system leading us toward a final "apocalyptic revelation of (our) nothingness" (238). Such is the tone of Borch-Jacobsen's discussion; in reading his book, I found myself wishing for a little of Dali's silliness to put this vision of human delusion and alienation into perspective. Nonetheless, Borch-Jacobsen's book is valuable for its extremely detailed discussion of Lacan's work.

Borch-Jacobsen implies that Lacan's relation to Freud recalls the Hegelian dialectic of Master and slave. "For Kojeve, in this respect faithful to Hegel, the famous dialectic is resolved when I recognize myself in the other, who for his part recognizes himself in me" (9); however, in the non-mutual, transferential relationship of disciple to master characterizing Lacan's relation to Freud, the disciple must misrecognize the master. Despite his struggle against Freud -- and through him, Hegel (35) -- Lacan found it to be politically imperative to present his own work as being a return to the "truth of Freud, out of reach of the errings and falsifications of his unfaithful heirs" (125). As Roustang puts it, rather more cynically, it was "enormously important for him not to deprive himself of Freud's authority" in seeking to found psychoanalysis as a science (58).

Patrick Colm Hogan's and Lalita Pandit's collection of essays, Lacan and Criticism (1990) is the least satisfying of the works under review here. Colm Hogan's introduction on the reception of Lacan's person and work, his "Structure and Ambiguity in the Symbolic Order" (an introduction to basic Lacanian. concepts), and Michael Walsh's essay on Lacan's "Seminar on the Psychoses" are in my view the best pieces in the book. These essays form the first part of the book, covering the Lacanian concepts of the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real. The separt comprises two critiques of Lacan, by Norman Holland and Jane Flax, from the perspectives of psychology and feminism, respectively. Holland likes to repeat his male graduate students' stories about how quoting Lacan helps them get "girls," and he bases his rather paranoid thesis -- that Lacan's model of the subject is summed up in his own theory of human identity as governing and governed by a hierarchy of feedback loops (98-101) -- on a knowledge of Lacan gained, it seems, solely from a reading of Lacanian commentators ("I do not wish to produce one more explication of Lacan, a task for which I am singularly inapt. Instead, I shall happily rely on the many explications of Lacan ... " (871).

Criticism and Lacan also contains some clinical applications of Lacanian concepts of the signifier and the gaze of the Other (the latter in a case of bulimia); these remain fairly abstract, and seem to bear out Bowie's charge that Lacan's theories are somewhat inconclusive in their applications or clinical consequences (158-9). Finally, there is a series of essays applying Lacanian concepts to religion, art and literature; for example, Northrop Frye contributes a very short piece applying Lacan to a reading of Scripture from Creation to Apocalypse. Over all, I found this collection of essays to be somewhat incoherent (as such collections often tend to be). The reader wanting a general overview of Lacan's thought is better served by Bowie, Weber or Borch-Jacobsen.

Of Lacan's relation to Freud, Walsh in "Reading the Real in the Seminar on the Psychoses" holds a view rather similar to that of Roudinesco, for whom Lacan's work is a "completion of the Freudian project" (297). For Walsh, Lacan "picks up where Freud leaves off, focusing on what he believes to be the open questions in Freud's text ..." (Colm Hogan and Pandit 66).This gesture of completion, Colm Hogan suggests, is an essentially rational one -- Lacan's aim being "to find the authentic direction of Freud's initiative and to pursue that in a rational and scientific manner" (29).

Colm Hogan's position could not be more different than François Roustang's in The Lacanian Delusion (1990). Roustang claims that Lacan only appears to be accounting for and drawing upon Freud's discovery (118); in reality, Roustang argues, Lacan constructs an "extravagant" and incoherent pseudo-scientific system (118), an "oeuvre (that) ... through the sheer force of its incoherence ... (is) invested with a coherence of its own" (115), elaborated in a delirious discourse which Roustang characterizes rather well as performing a "permanently controlled skid" (118).

The first two chapters of Roustang's short book assess Lacan's project of turning psychoanalysis into a science summing up all other sciences. Roustang concludes in his final chapter that Lacan manages to deceive his audiences of the scientificity of his system by consistently drawing upon the principles of "equivocation" -- "saying and not saying something at the same time" (49) -- and "unilaterality" -- rejecting "all the material unable to be assimilated by (his) theory" (116-7).

It is helpful, in reading Roustang's argument on Lacan's delusions, to know that Roustang was once closely associated with Lacan: formerly a Jesuit father, Roustang joined Michel de Certeau, also a Jesuit, "in creating the Ecole freudienne de Paris, founded by Lacan after the second split (between Lacan and the Societé français de psychanalyse, in 1964)" (Roudinesco 205). Roustang was trained as a psychoanalyst in Lacan's Ecole; however, he eventually came to disagree with the "scientific" line Lacanian doctrine was taking~ particularly under the influence of Jacques-Alain Miller. The Lacanian Delusion, (originally published in France in 1986), picks up on an earlier critique of Lacanianism, Un destin si funeste (1976), which "accused (the movement) of all the defects of religion, an opium for -- or art of -- manipulating crowds" (Roudinesco 633). If in Roustang's view, then, Lacan is delusional in his use of Freud and of science as models, we might also wonder whether Roustang's interpretation of Lacan's project is not a little paranoid in its turn, the work of a disciple turning against a formerly loved Master. This relationship with the ghost of the Master is no less transferential (only negatively so) than that between Lacan and the followers who "blindly" idealized him.

Reading Lacan as Master

Turning now to the question of reading Lacan, we might ask the following: how do our commentators say Lacan is read, or should be read? Do strategies in reading Lacan bear any resemblance to Lacan's strategies in reading his Masters?

Roudinesco opens the biographical portion of Jacques Lacan & Co. (Chapter Four, "Jacques Lacan: A Novel of His Youth") by indicating that she will take a fictional approach to history; she will "forge ... something of a novel, halfway between a complete reconstitution of the facts and the necessary invention of a story" in order to find "a way of imagining the truth" (101). Roudinesco's tale of "His Majesty" Lacan, her ironic delight in his paranoid relations with his courtiers and his enemies, is a fitting approach to a life and origins that were deliberately kept secret (101).

As Roudinesco opts for fiction as a means of chasing the truth of Lacan, Weber in Return to Freud argues that "we must strive to read his ... texts no less metonymically than they read the unconscious" (62). The significance of Lacan's writing is not to be found "in terms of the meanings his words convey" - that is, in privileging the signified; rather, Lacan may only be apprehended by taking his text "at its word' "literally," following the slipping movement of the letter, or the signifier. Thus, any reading of Lacan's writing will (and must)participate in the movement of desire, in the very mechanism of Enstellung (distortion or dislocation) posited by Freud as characterizing the dream-work (xvii) An ingenious explanation for the difficulty of reading Lacan...

Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, in The Title of the Letter (1992) likewise argue that Lacan must be read in much the same way as he reads Freud. As Lacan performs a "détournemente" (a strategic detour or trope) on his sources, so it is also necessary to perform this 'kern of reading" until Lacan's text overflowing 'the order and the authority to which traditional commentary is submitted (5-6). Such a reading, responding to "a certain play of metaphor in Lacan's text would also seem to function as metaphor of Lacan's text, beginning with the letter of the text but going beyond it to expose its signified -- the philosophical system underpinning d. Lacoue Labarthe's and Nancy account of the metaphorical nature of Lacan's willing and commentary upon it offers an interesting complement to Weber's emphasis on the metonymic displacements characterising both the Lacanian text and its interpretations. Both accounts emphasize the figurality of interpretation, the way it repeats the discourse of the unconscious which is its source.

In his discussion of Lacan's relation to an impossible Freudian truth, Borch-Jacobsen focuses on the myth of Actaeon and Diana (199). Rather predictably seeing Ruth as a goddess, a feminine object of desire, and seekers after truth as "men," Borch-Jakobsen brings in this myth to figure the relationship between desire and Its objects. As Freud pursued the truth of the unconscious, which reveals itself through errors and lies, so Lacan pursued the Freudian object, the unconscious itself as the truth of Freud (repressed in developments in psychoanalysis since Freud's death and so, as well interpreters of Lacan pursue, like hounds on the trace, their (Lacanian), a body of meaning both revealed and concealed by impossibly elusive style of Lacan's prose.

Bowie and Colm Hogan insert a note of dissent in this emphasis on the fictive, figural and desiring nature of both Lacan's writing and commentaries upon it. Bowie reminds us that despite Lacan's "characterization of himself as an impenitent and embattled baroque stylist," he frequently has the "capacity to be memorably simple" (3) -- syntactically if not conceptually -- in making assertions like "The unconscious is structured like a language" or "There is no such thing as a sexual relationship" (cited in Bowie 3). Bowie speculates that such statements "are glimpses of what a fully intelligible and transmissible psychoanalytic theory might be like" (3). Lacan, despite his emphasis on the impossibly obscure and deceiving nature of truth, its fictive and intersubjective nature (Bowie 115), presented his theories as true, as intelligible and as commanding his disciples' assent. Further, he worried about whether his ideas were being properly transmitted and received, as shown by his entrusting of the transcription of his seminars to his son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller. Might not Lacan's commentators likewise assume that Lacan's work is fundamentally intelligible, presenting a system of thought which can (eventually) be mastered and understood, as long as the reader strives to step out of the delusions offered by the Lacanian myth?

In this vein, Colm Hogan is concerned with overcoming the "stagnation of the dialectic" (xviii) entailed by the transferential nature of commentary swept up in the Lacanian myth. He expresses the hope that in reading Lacan, we will eventually be able to follow Lacan's example in reading Freud, attempting "to find the authentic direction of (the Master's) initiative and to pursue that in a rational and scientific manner" (29). Of course, if like Roustang one thinks that Lacan proceeded, on the contrary, on the basis of a delusory scientificity, then there is hope for purely "rational and scientific" reading of Lacan (though Roustang would probably argue that his is such a reading), the commentary being necessarily caught in the "critical paranoia" (Roustang 118 of the master's text).


Each of the seven returns to Lacan reviewed here in some way addresses the nature of Lacan's return to Freud and other Masters, and either reflects on or helps us understand the nature of Lacanian commentary, still thriving twelve years after the Master's death. In concluding I would like to speculate on the nature of the relation between Lacan's return to Freud and any critical return to Lacan's work.

Basically, I have explored two divergent views of Lacan's relation to Freud. The first (held by all our commentators except, perhaps, Colm Hogan) is that Lacan as disciple is caught within a transferential or even Oedipal relationship with Freud, seeking to transform his work, perform a detour on it strategically misrepresent it, make its gaps speak -- all versions, in the history of psychoanalysis, of Harold Bloom's notion of misprision: "To live, the poet (disciple) must misinterpret the father, by the crucial act of misprision, which is the writing of the father' (19).

Lacan's work upon Freud is thus a strategic work of both repetition and avoidance. Lacan's return to Freud may be seen as unconsciously strategic, just as a dream or a slip of the tongue is strategic (evading the censorship of the Master or all powerful Other; or it may be seen as strategic in a more conscious and systematic sense, reworking and completing the Freudian project, "misprising" it. Both types of strategy are operative within a reading relationship that I have termed transferential and paranoid.

However Colm Hogan implies that Lacan maintained "rational and scientific" relations with Freud as a predecessor rather than Absolute Master elaborating and even improving upon Freud's ideas (29) with an eye to the concepts themselves, so to speak, beyond the transferential circuit characterized by strategy or interests. In this view, readers of Lacan can maintain a similarly critical stance with respect to Lacan's work, a dialectic unmarked by conscious or unconscious strategic displacements of the Master's text.

The thrust of most of these accounts of Lacan, however, is that such a non-transferential reading is impossible -- precisely because it is the truth of the unconscious that is at stake (a truth that the Surrealists never tired of celebrating), a truth that can never be approached objectively or "rationally." So whether we think Lacan is wholly deluded (Roustang), or madly lucid (Roudinesco), or rational with blind spots (Weber, Bowie, Borch-Jacobsen, Lacoue Labarthe and Nancy), or rationally scientific (Colm Hogan) in his return to his sources, we as readers cannot return to Lacan without encountering our own desires and delusions, along with Lacan's, as we read. As the Cheshire Cat says to Alice in Wonderland, Lacan says to us: "We're all mad here."


Bloom, Harold. (1975) A Map of Misreading. New York: Oxford University Press.

Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. (1991) Lacan: The Absolute Master. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bowie, Malcolm. (1991) Lacan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Colm Hogan, Patrick and Lalita Pandit, eds. (1990) Criticism and Lacan: Essays and Dialogue on Language, Structure and the Unconscious. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Lacan, Jacques. (1977) Ecrits: A Selection. Transl. Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton.

---. (1981) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psych-Analysis. Ed. Jacques Alain Miller. Transl. Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton.

---. (1975) Le Seminaire de Jacques Lacan, Livre XX: Encore. Texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Editions du Seuil.

Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe and Jean-Luc Nancy. (1992) The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan. Transl. Francois Raffoul and David Pettigrew. Albany: State University of New York Press .

Roudinesco, Elisabeth. (1990) Jacques Lacan & Co.: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985. Transl. Jeffrey Mehlman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Roustang, Francois. (1990) The Lacanian Delusion. Transl. Greg Sims. New York: Oxford University Press.

Weber, Samuel. (1991) Return to Freud: Jacques Lacan's Dislocation of Psychoanalysis. Transl. Michael Levine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hilary Clark teaches critical theory and women's studies in the Department of English, University of Saskatchewan. Her most recent article in The Semiotic Review of Books was "The Universe of Interpretations" (January 1992), reviewing Umberto Eco's The Limits of Interpretation and Yuri Lotman's The Universe of the Mind. Other articles include "Encyclopedic Discourse" in Substance 67 (1992) and "Living with the Dead: Narrative and Memory" in Signature 4 (1991). She is currently beginning a project on women's depression and women's life writing.

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