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Marcus, M.G. (1984). Lacan and Language. A Reader's Guide to Écrits: By John P. Muller & William J. Richardson. New York: International Universities Press. 1982. Pp. 443.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 65:238-241.

(1984). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 65:238-241

Lacan and Language. A Reader's Guide to Écrits: By John P. Muller & William J. Richardson. New York: International Universities Press. 1982. Pp. 443.

Review by:
Maurice G. Marcus

Jacques Lacan is notorious for his difficult prose. There are those who aver that his chief claim to fame derives from his responsibility for an unprecedented outbreak of book-flinging among otherwise well-composed psychoanalysts. Indeed, for the typical, traditionally-educated, American psychoanalyst, Lacan's work is not only infuriatingly difficult but, in many places, depressingly impossible. This common experience deters active reading and intelligent discussion of his work; and this is unfortunate, as he has much to offer. It is beyond the scope of this review to give an adequate presentation of his contributions; others have done so persuasively. However, to indicate something of the nature of his contribution, I would simply assert, for one thing, that his conceptual framework provides a way for refining and expanding our knowledge of the psychoanalytic meaning of meaning—something certainly worth knowing about. But his style does block the way, resulting in several undesirable consequences. On the one hand, it encourages easy dismissal and misunderstanding, on the other, incurious adoration and intellectual cultism. It also discourages systematic summary and critique.

Lacan and others favourably disposed toward him provide several reasons for his deliberately troublesome mode of presentation. (1) Given his views of the relationships between truth, speech, and language, he cannot express himself truthfully in any other way. As he asserts that truth is not fixed or rigid and is known only in open, fluid dialogue, he presents his ideas to invite the reader into a dialogue in which his intention is not primarily to instruct or inform, but rather to evoke and thereby disclose.

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