on 29 November 2004
This is a good book. Like most of the stuff both by, and on, Lacan, it is not easy reading. Yet Bowie offers clear, succinct and judicious readings of most of the major points of Lacan's work. Bowie is concerned with Lacan's work first and foremost from the viewpoint of a philosophical kind of psychoanalysis. The book is not, then, directly related to either literary criticism, or to recent developments in philosophy (e.g. there is no section on 'post-structuralism').
The study starts with an extended discussion of the relationship between Lacan and Freud. This is important for 2 reasons: 1. because Lacan claimed he was 'returning to Freud', and 2. because Freud obviously a standard reference point for psychoanalytic literature. On this point, Bowie is well balanced, pointing out the value of Lacan's work, but not afraid to make what are at times sharp criticisms.
The chapter headings should give some idea of the rest of the content: "Inventing the 'I'"; "Language and the Unconscious"; "Imaginary, Symbolic, Real..and True"; "The Meaning of the Phallus"; and "Theory Without End".
As you can probably see, the book is oriented principally towards academic psychoanalysis. This is, of course, intrisically interesting, but I might have liked to see something on Lacan's relationship to philosophy and to politics. But then, this is only an introductory volume, so perhaps that would be little too much to expect.
All in all, this is a very intelligent, well-written book on Lacan. If it had been a little more ambitious, and less dry and academic, then it might have gotten 5 stars. But if you want a good 'introduction' to Lacan, and are willing to make the effort at understanding, then you could do a lot worse than to read this.