While Lacan’s particular form of psychoanalysis owes much to its founding father, Freud, he expands and develops on the original work, taking psychoanalysis further and delving into language itself. In 1964, Lacan even founded his own breakaway, ‘Ecole Freudienne Paris.’
The Mirror Stage
It was Lacan who posed the well-documented concept of the ‘Mirror Stage.’
Between 6 and 18 months, the child develops an essential libidinal relationship with the body image. The resulting permanent structure of subjectivity is called the ‘imaginary.’
Before 6 months of age, the child identifies with those surrounding it, and feels no sense of individual identity. The ego forms via recognition of the mirror image.
Later, Lacan’s thinking on the Mirror Stage evolved – by the 50s, he believed that the child’s reflection was a misrecognition, a paradigm of imaginary order used to bind the individual to class identity. Identity, then, is specular, based on slef-misrecognition and ideology.
“I am where I think not”
Like Freud, Lacan believed the unconscious to be the ‘kernel of our being.’ He openly opposed Descartes’ famous theory – ‘I think, therefore I am,’ and instead suggested that humans exists within the unconscious – “I am where I think not.”
Lacan and Literary Theory
Lacan’s research was very much focused on language. He examined the way in which the text itself, as a manifestation of language, is self-contradictory. He chose to analyse the text rather than the author, and used language to emphasise his three orders – the imaginary, symbolic and real.