Jacques Lacan and the concept of the 'real'

Abstract

This thesis proposes a new philosophical reading of the work of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. In particular, it is argued that it is Lacan's concept of the 'Real', one ofhis three registers of the Real, Symbolic and the Imaginary, that provides the crucial conceptual horizon for La can' s work, early and late, against those who would locate the emergence of the centrality of the Real only late in Lacan's teaching. The thesis sets out to establish the conceptual genesis and multiple instantiations of the concept of the Real in both Lacan's articles and seminars, arguing that, far from being a hypostatized 'outside' to the Symbolic and Imaginary, the Real is to be understood as immanent to both. Further, Lacan's theory of language is highlighted as revealing the particularity of the Real, especially through the concept of the material signifier. In developing a novel typology of the 'signifier-in-relation' and the 'signifier-in-isolation', the thesis underscores the singularity of Lacan's theory of language and its transcendence of its roots in Saussure's linguistics. Finally, the Real is shown to have a central pertinence to the novel theory of the body proposed in Lacan' s final seminars, a theory of the body that is itself shown to be intimately connected to Lacan' s theory of language, and to his revision of Freud's theories of primary narcissism.

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Tom Eyers
Duquesne University

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