So said Jacques Lacan, and one imagines him, having delivered this gnomic or Zen-like utterance, sitting back with a smug smile and folded arms, or perhaps just getting up and going home, but certainly not offering any kind of amplification or explanation. Actually it doesn’t matter, because if — and it’s a big if — you decide that Lacan, unlike most 20th Century French Intellectuals, is worth persevering with, you will find that almost everything he said was said more clearly by Freud 100 years earlier. The best that can be said of Lacan is that he is the poet of Psychoanalysis. Freud was its prose writer, and a very fine prose stylist he was too, and that fine style carries across into the Standard English translation of his works by Strachey.
But what does it mean, ‘The Unconscious is Linguistic’? Well, if you’re at all familiar with the techniques of psychoanalysis, and sometimes try (perhaps just for fun) to interpret a dream — your own or someone else’s — and relate its content to the events, thoughts, and memories of the dream-day, you will often find that some word, thought of or heard or read during the dream-day, has entered the unconscious and re-emerged transformed, and that the transformation is in some way linguistic. The unconscious loves word-play. The ‘World of Dreams’ (sorry about that — don’t you just hate it when people talk of ‘The World of Football’ or ‘The World of Clitoral Carcinoma’ or whatever? But sometimes it’s just the right expression) where was I? Oh, yes: the world of dreams is the unconscious’s licensed playground, but it happens in waking life too, when we’re not paying attention or, especially, when we’re trying to hide something, usually from ourselves.
Look, people have told me they like my blog posts to be short (or perhaps to disappear altogether) so I’ll stop now, but: ‘To be Continued…’
Oh. Here’s another picture of Lacan: