Jacques Marie Émile Lacan
The Freudinator; Jacquot; The Charlatan; The Shrink from Hell
Male/The Holder of the Phallus
I am a Frenchman, born in Paris, who fought long and hard to support the ideas of an Austrian psychoanalyst (Freud) in a not so welcoming French culture. (When polled, 65 percent of all respondents said that they would not undergo analysis even if it were totally free.) I lived in Paris for most of my life, studying and then working at St. Anne's Hospital.
Guys, can we have a moment of real talk? I'm not just any old psychoanalyst; I've singlehandedly revolutionized the whole headshrinking enterprise.
See, Freud died in 1939, so the field was wide open—that's where I come in. In addition to practicing psychoanalysis and being a licensed forensic psychiatrist, I teach a few seminars here and there and give complex reports to the Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association now and again. In short, I'm kind of a big deal.
My seminars are mind scramblers, game changers, like an intellectual Cirque de Soleil, if you will. The post-structuralist ideas I've developed have spread like pink eye throughout the academy and have held sway for a good spell.
Okay, so admittedly my teaching methods can get a little offbeat. A fair few of my students get pretty uncomfy because I refuse to speak to them directly, and I've been known to pause for, oh, fifteen minutes or so smack dab in the middle of a lecture. Awkward? Yes. But oddly effective.
Naturally, I write, too, but some folks sincerely wish that I wouldn't. Have you ever heard anyone talk about how overly complicated and jargon-filled French theory could be? Well, yeah, they're probably talking about me. Sure, my books have sold like hotcakes, but the dark truth is that, like, five people understand them—they just look good on peoples' shelves. And I'm okay with that.
My older brother took off for a monastery (talk about a cry for help) and I went to the Jesuit Collège Stanislas, a Parisian Catholic school. Let's just say any old SAT scores won't get you into this brain trust. Only those aiming for admission to one of the elite Grandes Ecoles go to this school.
Okay, I may be smart, but the sad truth is I'm a skinny-bone-jones, so I was rejected from military service. So instead of serving my country, I made use of my brain at medical school, where I made psychiatry my forte. But I'm not just one of those docs who sits around writing prescriptions. I'm heavy into philosophy and deep thinking like Heidegger and Hegel (in other words, if you want to talk about feeling unpopular in high school, I'm not the doctor for you). By 1932, I wrapped up my dissertation, On Paranoiac Psychosis in its Relations to the Personality, which, like any good dissertation, went basically unnoticed. But it's cool—I can rise above it. Harrumph.
Full disclosure time. I'm not proud of this, but when I was a was a young lad just trying to make my way in the world, I went to some Action Française political meetings and kinda palled around with its main ideologist, Charles Maurras.
Back then, Action Française was basically a fascist group that later got behind the French collaboration with the Nazis (but by the time that rolled around, I was not associated with them). Yeah, it was not my finest hour. But thankfully, people tend to conveniently overlook my childish flirtation with the right wing and generally think something along the lines of, "Lacan and politics is like chicken fingers and hot fudge." And fair enough, I say: psychoanalysis cares about the individual and politics are all about the collective, so the two don't exactly go together like peas and carrots.
Now, in the interest of clarity, I just want to say that when people talk about "psychoanalytic politics" (and they do, a lot), they are not referring to, say, such-and-such shrink voted for the Obama-Biden ticket. They are talking about all of the intrigue, reaction, theater, and upheaval of psychoanalysis as a field.
And that's definitely something I can yak about. I really made psychoanalysis what it was in France and that means a lot to the folks who participated in one of the grandest political moments in 20th-century France: the uprisings of 1968. That big-deal revolutionary event started as a bunch of student protests and then became a full-blown street battle with cobblestones a'flying. Which is when we headshrinkers realized that psychology can be—must be!—about more than just individual brains—it can be about a the big messy mass of social life, which is the foundation of politics.
I never write about religion—that's the simple answer. Why's that? Well, for one thing, I'm an atheist. And I'm inclined to agree with Freud that religion is the universal neurosis of mankind.
The more complicated answer is that my mom was a hardcore Catholic, and my brother became a Benedictine at a monastery. But I say no dice to their deep faith because I believe that religion is for psychotics (sorry, Mom). Also, I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out that it's thanks to neurotics that religion is as popular as it is. Sounds harsh, I know, but I believe that sums it up for religion, more or less. How many people do you know who have a divine relationship to "the Father" (let alone their own father) and are not neurotic and delusional? Nuff said.
Musing on unconscious desire