Narcissus in the field : Jacques Lacan' s Le stade du miroir

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Ruane, Medb
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Psychoanalytic Studies
Dublin Business School
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The 'drama' of Jacques Lacan's mirror stage/Le stade du miroir is a drama of identifications. Spurred in part by the 'knotty problem' of primary and secondary narcissism arising from Sigmund Freud's 1914 paper, the mirror stage emerges within the context of family complexes, before becoming a stand-alone developmental 'phase' in 1949. That notion of phase is later subsumed schematically and topographically. Lacan's quest for a 'new psychical action' to apprehend how the human infant becomes 'me' is by other names a quest to apprehend a structural basis for the emergence of self-consciousness, understood chronologically before the Oedipus Complex, and topographically for the light it casts on the neuroses and psychoses, along with notions of regression and repression. It concerns representation as 'the little subject' comes into being. It wonders how a subject comes to be represented or re-represented as such, how s/he represents himself as subject and how psychoanalysis may or may not represent the subject in its praxis. It undermines intuitive notions of inside/outside that encourage us to suppose we are discrete beings in 3-dimensional space. The thesis is a brief introduction to the issues at stake. For reasons of brevity at least, some important debates contemporary to Lacan's texts and seminars are not discussed for reasons of adequacy. Chief among these is the impact of object relations, in particular Melanie Klein's clinical work, noting that Lacan's work on Le stade also impacted on Winnicott, Bion and others. Nor will it engage his debate with mainstream French existentialism and its notions of nothingness and negativity. Belief in the mirror is belief in a mirage. Le stade du miroir is instead a field of relations, in every sense. Chapter I discusses the precipitating issues. Chapter II explores Lacan's depth notions of imago and complex, along with his theory of aggressivity. Chapter III reaches the mecca of his 1949 text, only to conclude the quest may actually be starting. Chapter IV looks towards the future, reviewing in outline the implications of Lacan's early optical schemas and arguing that they follow on from the tasks he set himself to find a 'guiding grid for a method of symbolic reduction. '