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2.9 out of 5 stars
Introducing Lacan: A Graphic Guide
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 December 2014
When I first read the book I didn't think that much of it, however I then read Lionel Bailly's brilliant 'Lacan; A Beginner's Guide' and came back to reread this book and found it much more comprehensible than the first time I read it. I think it's a brilliant guide but Lacan's ideas are difficult and no matter how good the guide they take some getting used to. So my advice is to read this book along with Bailly's and you'll start to get your head around Lacan's difficult but brilliant insights about human beings and their relationship to language as mediated by their early caregivers and beyond. And if you really want to get into the deeper stuff then I recommend Bruce Fink's 'A Clinical Introduction To Lacanian Psychoanalysis'.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2009
To be brutally honest, this book is infuriating, as much no doubt are the words of Lacan - interpreted widely, accurately or not, through translation, through transmission and through cultural appropriation. His words are enigmatic and this book is unflowingly incomprehensible at times and counter-intuitive. Should the maternal phallus have a symbolic existence? What is jouissance..? (I have read different versions). What are the boundaries between the Real, Symbolic and Imaginary? Surely my identity is constructed as an inward structure too?

With no prior knowledge of Lacan, I would be quickly surprised if the entirety of the concepts offered here could be fundamentally grasped. The author weaves a thread of understanding and goes a long way to describe Lacanian thought, but if you have made it through the head-twisting turns of the revamped castration complex with only a glimmer of enlightenment, the infamous Graph of Desire must surely prove a challenge. This is where I put the book down, and went back to the beginning again and again.. and again..

Reading any great philosopher is a challenge.. can any of their words be actually proven? Lacan was a clinician that trained psychologists may baulk at, but even hobbyist philosophers can instinctively relate to.. All you can accuse this person of is original thinking? If you look to his influences they are myriad and transparent, his project always evolving. What can be overlooked though is the great care and exacting attention with which Lacan delivered his words; very aware of the difficulty of making pronouncements. Instead he recognised fully the value of realisations to his students..

Therefore his theory may turn out to be thoroughly understood in a way that is beyond words and only in practice, and a book with cartoons may only be a crude starting point. With this in mind, Lacan for Beginners is an oxymoron, an ironic undertaking in the sense that you could actually consider yourself any the wiser at the end.

My advice is to enjoy the challenge, and see where it leads you.. and just from time to time discover the brilliance of where he was going, and admittedly never arrived. It could provide insightful dynamics of the psyche.. and if nothing else offer intuitive cognitive gymnastics born from a theory full of nourishing holes..!!

I have dropped a star because this book is in the wrong category.. "beginners".
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 7 October 2009
No one can say studying Jacques Lacan is easy but these authors have made an excellent effort in explaining his complex ideas in a manner which is reasonably comprehensible. That doesn't mean to say they make sense outside the realms of continental philosophy, Freudian psychoanalysis or Marxist ideology (which is why they were lapped up by French post structuralist philosophers in the 1960's and 1970's) but, within his own intellectual paradigm, Lacan believed they made sense. Whether they do is dependant on the assumptions from which one starts and there is no question that he was influential in France in the fields of aesthetics, literary criticism and film theory and, to a limited extent, political theory.

Having completed his doctorate on "Paranoid Psychosis and Its Relation to the Personality" Lacan developed the theory of "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I". He argued that human beings are born prematurely, inasmuch as at the biological level they are incomplete, unable to talk, walk, or have much control over their physical activity. He suggested children's behaviour was not a conflict between child and spectator but internal conflict within each which leads to an identification with the other party. The child's later entry into the human world (which is decisive in its mental development) is at the price of fundamental alienation from itself. Narcissism does not exist from the start of life, it is constituted by an alienating identification based on an initial lack of completeness in the body and nervous system. The ego functions to conceal the lack of unity within the body. Therefore, human beings oscillate between two poles, the image, which is alienating and the real body which is in pieces. The individual self is not innate it is an external structure.

Lacan advocated a return to the meaning of Freud emphasising the importance of language and never overcoming his early commitment to the Surrealist notion of civilisation and its discontents. As such it was, rather like James Joyce's Ulysses, a stream of consciousness which avoided disciplined structures. This was reflected in Lacan's analytic sessions which were indeterminate in length. He stopped sessions on an important word of phrase leaving the patient to meditate on this until the next session. His rationale was that interrupted activities could evoke more associative material than completed ones. In all these sessions he was seeking to identify the unconscious mind which he eventually came to believe was not separate from the conscious but was structured "like a language" and therefore could not serve as a reference point in time of an identity crisis.

Infantile sexuality and its relationship with the real, as opposed to the symbolic, world is one of the major factors why Freud has fallen out of favour. Certainly Freudian analysis differs from the idea of counselling which appears more concerned to bring out subject experiences rather than fit them within an artificial framework of the ego, castration complex and identification of the self. The suggestion that the neurotic is searching for the maternal phallus assumes too much thinking on the part of the child and too much disassociation between the real and the symbolic in human relationships. The notion that the organism's passage through and into language is castration i.e. the emptying out of jouissance (a surplus excitation or bombardment of stimulation) from the body bears so little relation to mental health practice as to be ludicrous.

Lacan defended the idea that psychoanalysis was a science, that Freudian ideas made a permanent contribution to knowledge and that analysis was the only method to question the shortcomings of both science and philosophy. Lacan, who set up his own short lived school of analysis, argued strongly for the use of the Symbolic as the means by which analysis completed the process of the purification of desire. In this sense he was repeating the Surrealistic error of regarding madness and irrationality as an expression of reality in an alienating world.

In fairness to Lacan it is not possible to do him complete justice in such a short review, particularly in view of the sharp divisions about his contribution to the world of ideas. Supporters of Lacan argue that he has been misunderstood, critics that he did not understand what he was talking about in the first place. Some of the latter considered his work to be pseudo scientific fashionable nonsense. Feminists, not without good reason, considered his analytic methods buttressed male bias in psychoanalysis relating to nineteenth century perceptions of female mental instability. Feminists, such as Judith Butler, who find support for Feminism in Lacan's theory appear to be stretching their imagination beyond breaking point.

The obscurity of Lacan's discourse should not hide his own over-developed sense of his own importance, nor hide the weakness of the Freudian and Marxist analysis on which it was based. I've given it three stars for the effort put in by the authors, although the book is for beginners rather than the public at large. I would have given it more had I thought Lacan had anything to offer but, having read this volume, it appears to me that Lacan belongs in the ranks of the obscure - a genuine intellectual imposter.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2009
You would think that an introduction to Lacan would be written with a non-specialist reader in mind. I'm afraid that this introduction makes no such concession - it fairly quickly lapses into unnecessarily impenetrable terminology. As it is written by a paid-up Lacanian, one can't help but wonder whether or not there's something to the oft-repeated accusation that Lacanian ideas lack precision, are pseudo-profound, and hide this fact behind a jargon habit.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2013
Let me start this by saying that although I am not trained in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, I did read Freud and Jung at University and I have read a number of current thinkers who have been influenced by Lacan, so for that reason I decided to try to understand him a bit more.

Perhaps I do understand him a bit more, but only a little bit. Although this is an 'illustrated' guide to Lacan, it would appear that the words were written first, and the illustrations just inserted afterwards. Many of them are just pictures of Freud and Lacan with words coming out of their mouths. A proper graphic writer could have helped here...

What can I say? I understood less than half of this book and I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent and reasonably well educated. If you already understand the language of psychoanalysis this might work for you, but you would probably want more than a picture book...
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2012
For those trying to understand Lacan more, you might be a bit disappointed. Also there is no criticism of Lacan. Lacan has come under lots of criticism, and the book didn't really mention that most of what he says is probably just rubbish. Not a bad book, but a bit difficult to read in parts as Lacan likes inventing new words and complex ideas, which makes him very hard to understand at the best of times. The book gives it a good go though. If your writing an essay on Lacan I would probably still recommend this book as there is not many books that attempt to explain Lacan.
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2009
Well Lacan is the high priest of reader flattery after all- with no credible underpinning to his theories but plenty of impenetrable waffle mixed in with a neo mystical interpretation that appeals to the artist without talent- and Leader is the arch defender of endless psychoanalysis and resists anything such as - god forbid- regulation of fellow practitioners or short term tools such as CBT which may help prepare for the deeper trauma's unleashed by the endless in depth probing he promotes
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