Jacques Lacan
General Introduction
& Examples of Mirror Stage
Summary: Key Ideas
General Questions
Three Stages of Psychic Development;
– Mirror Stage ,Questions and ★ Examples
– Oedipal Stage
Gender Difference & Language:
Gender Difference
Insatiable Desire *
Questions: about Lacan’s views of love
Summary of Key Ideas
Chap 3: pp. 61-; chap 4 161- (The Unconscious as language and
Sexual development)
The unconscious is
– structured like a language.
– a constantly moving chain of signifiers (sliding of signifying chain.
The three-part personality (order): The Real, the Imaginary and
the Symbolic, in which we have needs, make demands, and
Development and splitting of self –mirror stage, self-Other and
subject position, fragmented body.
Gendering process (chap 4) and phallus and love: The Name of
the Father,
General Questions
Your questions? Your Examples?
Do you agree that the Father’s authority is associated
with language and interdiction(禁止)?
Do you agree that our learning of language is a process
of castration and fragmentation (splitting)? And that our
desire is drifting from one object to the next, and that
ultimately we desire a kind of pre-Oedipal unity?
Why are there only ‘signifiers’(意符 [roz]) but not
signified (意旨[the concept of rose]) in the unconscious?
The orders of human existence:
the Imaginary, the Symbolic & the Real
(chap 3: 62-63; chap 4: 164-65)
The Real – pre-linguistic ‘pure plenitude’ (no subjectobject distinction); beyond the Symbolic order (cannot be
talked about).
The imaginary (centering around the Mother) –from bits
and pieces to a sense of unity; (mis)recongnition of
one’s self through an external image; illusory unity with
the mother  split from her; fragmentary sense of self
The Symbolic (intervention of the Name of the Father) –
entry into language (a world of difference)  a loss of
wholeness, a split in the speaking “I” and spoken “I”
The orders of human existence:
the Imaginary, the Symbolic & the Real
The Real – oneness and jouissance
(undifferentiated unity of the mother,
objects of love, or objet a).
The imaginary (the mirror stage) – two
together and then separate (Baby and the
The Symbolic – three: the Father, the
(M)other, and Self
The Mirror Stage
(chap 4: 165)
The baby (with its fragmentary sense of self)
identifies with an external image (of the body
in the mirror or through the mother or primary
caregiver)  have a sense of self (ideal ego).
1) In the self: experiences fragmentation but sees
2) From the self: sees loss in the mirror image
Split Identity in Language
Against Cartesianism (rational
consciousness) and humanism (free will).
“Unconscious is the language of the Other.”
Language speaks us.
I think where I am not . . .(Ego alienated,
not the center of one’s identity.
– Ideal ego (mirror image) ego ideal (role
Review Questions
1. Do you agree that our identity is
fragmentary and why? Which of the
following do you agree with? "I think,
therefore, I am," "Where I think, there I
am," or "I think where I am not,
therefore I am where I do not think."
2. What are the three phases of psychic
development according to Lacan?
3. What is mirror stage? Why is it an
important stage in child development?
Mirror & Identity: Some examples
Vanity: In classical paintings & fairy tales
(actually it implies patriarchy’s repression of
female subjectivity)
e.g. Venus at
her Mirror
by VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez
de Silva y (b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660,
Uses of Mirror: Some examples
The return/assertion of the repressed:
a. Alter ego (or double)
b. Mirror image as deeper levels of self, or ideal ego.
e.g. 1. 19th century women in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso
Sea (textbook chap 4 166-69) – alter ego
e.g. 2. chap 4 (176-77)The Awakening; “The Yellow
Mother and Daugher in
The Piano
Uses of Mirror: Some examples
3. Looking at the mirror: changing one’s ideal ego or
discovering one’s selves. (Piano/French Lieutenant’s
Mirror Image & Double: extensions
We—esp. women-- are always conscious of our mirror
images, or looking for screen images for selfidentification.
What’s projected on the mirror: The Other, either ideal
ego or the repressed.
– e.g. Jane/Antoinette; movie stars as the phallic symbol
– The magical and the “uncanny”? “Mirror, Mirror on the wall”
 psychological roots: the strangest // the most
familiar (homely, unhomely)
Feminist Revisions: Madonna
Vogue (voguing and gender performance/cross-dressing,
fetishistic female image)
-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaIOilmo9z4
– 1990 MTV awards
– Super Bowl Medley 2012 (HD)
• Open your Heart (voyeurism)
Other Examples
• The Piano: Examples of Voyeurism
• Mirror & Animal
The Oedipal Stage and
the Symbolic Order
Second-stage split desire for the mother sublimated
into desire for the unattainable “Other”
Recognize the Name of the Father. (textbook chap 3:
63; chap 4: 164)
– Language as a system of difference (with no essential or
unchanged meanings) (chap 4: p. 171-73; e.g. “woman”
=femininity, fertility, lady, …etc.—all signifiers)
– the signified get repressed beyond recognition
The self, the other, the Other
(Lacan’s Schema L –revision of F’s triangle)
(man in the realm of ‘the Real’)
2. Interactions
of different
forces in the
the other
(e.g. mother,mirror image)
1. From The
Mirror Stage to
Oedipal stage
and after
the Other (Father)
the Other
The Other is embodied in the figure of the
symbolic father. Its major signifier: the phallus
. . . stands for language and the conventions
of social life organized under the category of
the law. (source)
(different from “the [feminine] Other”—which
is the feminine space on the margin or
outside of the Symbolic– Cf. chap. 4.)
II. Questions
1. Why is gender definition slippery?
2. What is phallus to Lacan? Why
is it “transcendental signifier”?
Do you agree our desire centers
around “being” or “having”
3. Why is the unconscious
structured like language?
Causes of Gender Fluidity and Unstable
Self: Slippery Chain of Signification
Meaning of a sign is not in it; rather, it resides in its
difference from the other signs. (textbook chap 3: 62; chap
4: 169)
Sign = signifier (form) + signified (concept; usu. more
than one)
To determine its meaning(黃﹚, we need to look at
its context (its differences from and relation to the signs
around it 黃帝、黃禍、黃狗).
Transcendental signifier: absolute sign whose
meaning(s) does not change in its context; who fixes
the chain of signification. (chap 4: 173)
Gender Difference
Lacan’s analogy of the restroom signs: (chap 4:
Arbitrary meaning structure determine gender difference
Slippery chain
3. It speaks man
Phallus vs. Woman as Other
(chap 4: 172-73)
In the Symbolic Order, phallus = wholeness and
power; wholeness  hole, in fact, nobody owns
the phallus/power.
Women as Lack, or ‘Other’ which can move
outside of language and be in “jouissance”
(transgressive pleasure)
the unconscious-- structured like
supported by F’s view of repression (ideas repressed
as codes)
evidence from Freud’s language of Dream
(condensation, displacement, symbolization);
S/s :
/ = the barrier between the conscious and the
unconscious, which resists being represented; / = the
We are conditioned by the Symbolic order. 
movement of our desire –like metonymy. (Cf. chap
4: 172)
Insatiable Desire:
Need, Demand, and Desire (1)
(chap 3: 62)
A child develops from need to demand and desire.// its
movement from the Real, to the Imaginary and
the Real
the Imaginary
The Symbolic
Need – requirements for brutal survival.
(e.g. biological need for milk)  absence of the mother 
the baby’s social, imaginary and linguistic functions
Effects of the three orders:
Need, Demand, and Desire (2)
Demand: need formulated in language (with meanings; e.g.
need for breast as good or bad).
-- Demand has two objects: one spoken, the other unspoken.
-- verbalization of imaginary subject-object, self-other relations.
66 (Grosz pp. 59 - 67)
Desire: primally repressed wishes [for unity with the Mother
or for self-confirmation] reappear in and as unconscious
-- insatiable; characterized by lack. (Grosz pp. 59 - 67)
Desire: expressed as
Demand of Different Objects (e.g. pacifier,
receiving blanket, the mother’s handkerchief,
The conflict or gap between one’s demand and
The connection of the desired object and the
demanded: metonymic connection = whole and
parts, or continguity (鄰近).
Questions III
Lacan thinks that both our desire and
demand (for love) are insatiable,
because there is always an
otherness to it which cannot be
represented in language, or because
we ultimately desire an impossible
unity with the lover/Mother.
Do you agree?
Lacan’s Views of Love (1):
a Mirage to Hide the Impossible
Why is there love? Because there is no sexual relationship.
Love is the mirage that fills out the void of the impossibility
of the relationship between the two sexes.
Why impossible? Unity with the other and in one’s self.
Demand = a demand for the unity of the self and the other
“Love consists in a series of …demands for the proof of the
other’s commitment. The proofs sought from the other are
impossible, imaginary tests of love.” (G 132)
The obstacles of love is actually internal, a fact which courtly
or romantic lovers cannot face.
Lacan’s Views of Love (1):
the Impossible
Examples: Woman: conflict between being a sexual
object and a subject demanding recognition.
As a sexual object, she
“paints/shaves/dyes/diets/exercises her body, and clearly
derives pleasure from compliments about her looks. Her
whole body becomes a phallus to compensate for a genital
‘deficiency.’ (G 133)
As subject, she ‘demands’ the man, his attention,
affections, and his capacity to give her identity…
Lacan’s Views of Love (1):
the Impossible
Examples: Man: conflict between desire and affection.
When desiring a woman, he “explores, conquers and
appreciates” her enigma as a phallus, which, once
unveiled, is a lack and confronts the man with his own
After a period of familiarity, the mystery is gone and the
sexual partner becomes more an object of affection than of
desire. The man then turns to another woman for her
recognition of his having a phallus.
Note: Having phallus and being phallus, places in the circuit of
Lacan’s Views of Love (2):
paradoxical fulfillment
For Lacan, love’s sublime moment occurs when the
beloved enacts the metaphor of love, when he substitutes
his position of the lover for that of the beloved object and
starts to act in the same way the lover has so far
acted. . . .it occurs when the beloved returns love by
giving what he does not have.
Beloved, realizing the real object-cause of the other’s
love does not reside in me  beloved object (metonymy;
what he does not have; lack)  can only return “love”
(Bozovic 69; 77)
Elizabeth Grosz Jacque Lacan: A Feminist
The Other (with a big O)
Lacan and Love New Formations 23 (1994).

Jacques Lacan