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Ahlskog, G. (2018). Lacan on Love: An Exploration of Lacan's Seminar VIII, Transference. By Bruce Fink. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016, 253pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 105(1):125-129.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Review, 105(1):125-129


Lacan on Love: An Exploration of Lacan's Seminar VIII, Transference. By Bruce Fink. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016, 253pp.

Review by:
Gary Ahlskog, Ph.D.

This is a bargain, four books in one. Bruce Fink, protean in his translations and commentaries on Lacan, has collated multiple approaches from Lacan (and Freud) on the vexing topic of love.

One mini-book (chapters 1 and 2) offers close commentary on one of Freud's (1912) most insightful essays, “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love,” in which Freud posited that love and desire are distinct, a theme that Lacan focused on throughout his own work. The obsessive falls in love only when his beloved is already attached to someone else, a rival whose presence turns out to be the primary attraction for the lover. Since this love, in obsessive neurosis, dissipates if the rival disappears, Lacan concluded that the obsessive's desire is for “impossibility itself” (Fink, p. 10). The hysteric is always falling, in her own mind, from the favored position in her lover's eyes. She is baffled at the prospect that another woman could possibly be loved. She devotes herself to the task of reclaiming favor in her lover's eyes, that is, the task of giving him everything he desires, yet should she succeed in accomplishing this, she would have fallen again because he then would have no need to desire her further (pp. 11-14). This sketch is a tip of the iceberg when it comes to Fink's understanding of Lacan's understanding of Freud's understanding of these and other aspects of love's “conundrums” (p. 16).

Another mini-book (chapters 3 and 8) discusses Fink's views of Lacan's views of the views of love appearing in Plato's Symposium. The ancient Greek guests at the party reported by Plato created a cacophony of thoughts on love, some in earnest, some probably meant to be mocked. It is not clear why Lacan devoted so much effort to discussing the Symposium, other than to use Aristophanes' claim that “you can't give to another what you yourself don't have” (quoted in Fink, p. 35) as a foil to argue one of Lacan's most famous dicta, namely, that “Love is giving what you don't have” (Fink, p. 35).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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