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Jacques Lacan
Jacques Lacan

Jacques Lacan’s Files

Dig into the personal files of your favorite critic.

Seminar on the Psychoanalyst as Rock Star

Delivered at Shmoop University as the keynote lecture of the 10th Annual Pop Psychology Conference.

It's such a treat to have all of you here today just to indulge, er, listen to me talk about some of my favorite subjects, among them, me.

As you know, I rocked the post-war Parisian scene, am heir to Freud and rival to Jean-Paul Sartre (just in terms of popularity, of course—he was an existentialist, not a psychoanalyst), and am generally the most awesome headshrinker to have ever shrunk heads. So it would not be inaccurate to say that I am something like the Lindsay Lohan of psychoanalysis, causing scandal wherever I go and generally keeping cool about it. (How many people get kicked out of the organization they started—twice?)

I like to think of myself as "transgressive" because it just sounds so edgy and unacademic—and it works for Foucault, so why not me? Unlike Foucault, though, I don't have to participate in erotic romps in bathhouses to be considered transgressive. I'm just so hard-core to begin with that all it takes is a slight deviation from the psychoanalysis's standard operating procedure and people get real witch-hunty, real quick. But I can out-Freud those Freudians any day (and the Lacanians, too), and that bunch is as territorial as a pit bull in a junkyard.

But I digress.

The fact that I am clearly the cat's meow has stuck in a lot of people's teeth. Why? Well, for the real reason, we'll have go back a bit. See, everyone's panties are in a bunch because I didn't get on board with the student uprising of May 1968—I just went along my merry way like an unruffled dandy not minding the upheaval happening on the cobblestoned streets of Gay Paree. I think Sartre ruined things for the rest of us theorists cause people expected critics to be social activists—that dude had his problems, but I digress… again.

What I really came here to tell you people is that my status as a rock star derives from my work as a psychoanalyst—not from being a political voice. Who am I, Jesse Jackson? Those leftists are nothing but naïve—they want to hit the streets and effect change over night—like a four-year-old expecting to jump on a bike for the first time and ride off. This is a fantasy of political action.

Now other scholars don't like it when one of their own has the soapbox and doesn't use it for what they see as a good cause. That otherwise lovely critic Rosalind Krauss has gotten all hot and bothered lately, asking me if I think I can "have a political effect by describing subjectivity as constituted by an identificatory relationship with the image?" (source, p.259). Duh. Obviously not, but what she doesn't get is that I'm not terribly concerned with having a political effect in the first place. Can't you guys get that through your thick heads?

Just as I was not interested in taking part in the events of May 1968, I am not one to get all cray cray about global capitalism, either. It's just not my thing. I'd rather impact individual people with my ideas, and through my mere presence and raw charisma (hello, rock star). And I'd like to point out that I'm never one to turn people away. My office is a veritable motley crew of freaks and fans, as one person described it: "The door at the rue de Lille was open to anyone and without appointment: to members and non-members, to analysands and the 'sick,' to robbers, thugs, psychotics, and the troubled" (source). Ladies and gentlemen, my point in quoting this arguably unflattering passage is that it shows how open minded a guy I am. I may be a celebrity, but I never forget the little people, just like a rock star never forgets his fans.

But I digress.

The larger point I am trying to make in this lecture is that, as a rock star, I am not responsible for anything other than my rockstar-ness. My image (or imago, image ideal, Ideal-I) should be enough, right. But it's not. I'm expected to offer critiques of everything from Mission Impossible to the capitalist system? Give me a break. As someone so often subjected to the gaze of others, I am naturally drawn to a theory of subjectivity based upon a specific reading of the gaze. Basically, I will never be what you all want me to be, which tells me more about you than it does about me. So there.

But I doubt you'll roll with me here. You're all just far too contrarian. So that leaves me to rely on my groupies, like the flamboyant and ever-sweating Slovene philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek. When it comes to Žižek, psychoanalysis, and mass media, I say go at it. I'm passing the torch. That way people get to see the incredible range of ways that my theories can be applied, but I don't have to sully my hands by giving the people what they want.

And giving you what you want is something I have no interest in. That's just not how rock stars behave. To that end, in lieu of questions, I will be accepting gifts or donations to the cause of psychoanalysis. Thank you very much.

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