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Oakley, C. (1995). Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen talks to Chris Oakley. Free Associations, 5(4):423-452.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(4):423-452


Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen talks to Chris Oakley

Chris Oakley

Many may be unfamiliar with either the name or indeed the work of the subject of the interview: Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. He is a young philosopher at present professor of Romance Languages and Comparative Literature at the University of Washington in Seattle and has been persistently engaged in a rereading of psychoanalysis via its philosophical underpinnings for a number of years. Born in France with a father of Danish nationality, his initial interest in psychoanalysis was in conjunction with the theatre in the early 1970s whilst based at the University of Strasbourg where he was particularly influenced by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and the work of René Girard. He later taught on psychoanalysis at the University of Vincennes in the mid 70s. However, despite the claim on the flyleaf of the Macmillan edition of The Freudian Subject, he was never professor of philosophy at the University Louis-Pasteur in Strasbourg (there has never been a department of philosophy there!), although he did lecture in psychology.

In 1982 his initial work on Freud, The Freudian Subject came out in France (published in the UK also; London: Macmillan, 1989) in which in a style characterised by lucidity and philosophical erudition he explores the crucial function of identification in the constitution of the subject. Furthermore, despite Freud's disavowal of philosophy, Borch-Jacobsen shows that he was always already dependent on philosophical concepts, even if not as yet aware of them. Perhaps, particularly for a continental philosopher, it would have been inconceivable not to engage with the work of Jacques Lacan and his Lacan: the Absolute Master (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991) is a profound exemplification of the philosophical and intellectual context of Lacan's work whilst engaging in a critique of what he took psychoanalysis to mean.

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