Looking at Lacan, I am fascinated by just how much of his ideas can be implemented in every day life (as Zizek constantly points out). It is frustrating, though, as Dr. Price-Herndl’s handout points out, that Lacan posits that coming into language is a journey, and “[Lacan] sees this journey as painful and difficult, and claims that he wants the entrance into his discourse to likewise be painful.”

In trying to understand Lacan, I began Jane Gallop’s intorduction Reading Lacan, which also attests to the difficulty in understanding Lacan. Gallop describes John Muller and William Richards encounter with writing about Lacan: “They [Muller and Richards] describe the experience of reading Lacan as ‘infuriating’ and ‘extraordinarily painful'” (Gallop 32). This has been my experience with Lacan as well, but this was Lacan’s point, I think.

From the outset of reading Lacan, I am castrated. I am never complete in my knowledge and never will be. From what I understand, once the subject enters language, he/she is castrated. The complete image that is mis-recognized as a complete whole is broken in language. Lacan says he is led to regard “…the function of the mirror-stage as a particular case of the function of the imago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality…between the [inner world] and the [outer world]” (1166), but there will always remain a gap between the psychological projection I create (the outer world) and reality (the fragmented inner world) because as Lacan goes on to say, the subject is always marked by fragmentation. As the subject enters the social symbolic (through language), the subject will lose the wholeness acquired in the beginning of the mirror stage and will spend the rest of its life trying to find wholeness again (1166-67).

Lacan’s idea of lack interest me because I believe Lacan can begin to voice the experience of heartbreak. The subject is always radically fragmented; it can never be present to itself and never be present to anyone else (which is what postmodernism will say as well: Eagleton points out that if language holds not fully present meaning, and if we can only know ourselves through language, then we can never fully know ourselves). As the handout and Lacan (1188) points out, our desire is always the desire of the other, what others desire of us. In a relationship, a subject takes up the identity of that desiring thing the subject thinks the other wants. When the other rejects the subject, though, the subject is radically castrated. In heartbreak, Lacan’s fragmentation, as well as subjectivity constituted as lack, is manifest in the subject’s statements of “why doesn’t he/she want me?”

What is being said in these statements (especially in cases of a lover leaving the subject for someone else: “what does he/she have that I don’t have”) is a breakdown in the symbolic order that keeps the subject stable. Since the sense of self is always predicated on the other, what happens when the other rejects me? If the subject is already marked by lack, what happens when that lack is highlighted by being rejected by an other? Heartbreak, just as its opposite love, is a temporary insanity. That is, the heartbroken identifies itself as a whole that can be fully-present. This is illustrated in statements that hold claim to whole-ness: “he/she will never find someone like me;” that is to say, someone as whole and complete as I.

I think– which leaves us back at my opening statements and the frustration of reading Lacan.

Gallop, Jane. Reading Lacan. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Print.

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