Jacques Lacan, one of the most influential and controversial French thinkers of the twentieth century, was a practicing and teaching psychoanalyst in Paris, but his revolutionary seminars on Freud reached out far beyond professional circles: they were enthusiastically attended by writers, artists, scientists, philosophers, and intellectuals from many disciplines.
Shoshana Felman elucidates the power and originality of Lacan’s work. She brilliantly analyzes Lacan’s investigation of psychoanalysis not as dogma but as an ongoing self-critical process of discovery. By focusing on Lacan’s singular way of making Freud’s thought new again—and of thus enabling us to participate in the very moment of intellectual struggle and insight—Felman shows how this moment of illumination has become crucial to contemporary thinking and has redefined insight as such. This book is a groundbreaking statement not only on Lacan but on psychoanalysis in general.
Felman argues that, contrary to popular opinion, Lacan’s preoccupation is with psychoanalytic practice rather than with theory for its own sake. His true clinical originality consists not in the incidental innovations that separate his theory from other psychoanalytic schools, but in the insight he gives us into the structural foundations of what is common to the practice of all schools: the transference action and the psychoanalytic dialogue. In chapters on Poe’s tale “The Purloined Letter”; Sophocles’s Oedipus plays, a case report by Melanie Klein, and Freud’s writings, Felman demonstrates Lacan’s rediscovery of these texts as renewed and renewable intellectual adventures and as parables of the psychoanalytic encounter. The book explores these questions: How and why does psychoanalytic practice work? What accounts for clinical success? What did Freud learn from the literary Oedipus, and how does Freud text take us beyond Oedipus? How does psychoanalysis inform, and radically displace, our conception of what learning is and of what reading is?
This book will be an intellectual event not only for clinicians and literary critics, but also for the broader audience of readers interested in contemporary thought.
This is the best book in English about Lacan. Felman gives us, with the clarity and precision of a master teacher, Lacan’s vision of Freud’s discovery in all its scope and depth. After reading Felman, not only will we read Lacan differently, we will read Freud differently.
Of the major voices creating the astonishing, sometimes overbearing, onrush of French thought in recent decades, none has been harder to accommodate than that of Jacques Lacan. Shoshana Felman’s generous invitation to her reader to participate in her encounter of Lacan’s work does not make our introduction to the work easy, but she may well, for the first time, make it happen. She enacts the opening double message of the encounter of psychoanalysis with philosophy: that the difficulties in reading the originality of another are not barriers to the other but paths toward it; and that the encounter of reading is not a matter of putting on another’s achievements but a process of taking on one’s own change. In thus repaying her debt to Lacan, Shoshana Felman places us in hers.
- Harvard University Press
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