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Gurnari, M.C. (2009). The Mirror: From Narcissistic Image to Symbolic Device. Ital. Psychoanal. Annu., 3:119-136.

(2009). The Italian Psychoanalytic Annual, 3:119-136

The Mirror: From Narcissistic Image to Symbolic Device Language Translation

Maria Carmela Gurnari

Translated by:
Richard Bates

Few of Lacan's ideas have been as successful with psychoanalysts as the so-called «mirror phase»; but, precisely because it has become so widely known, it is worth reconsidering to bring out its value as a metaphor not only for a stage of mental development but for the very structure of the psyche. The mirror device illustrates the beginnings of identification and, with it, the very possibility of representing, and also allows us to grasp the link between different psychoanalytical agencies and concepts such as narcissism, the Ego, the object, and the Ego Ideal, establishing links between different fields such as ethics, filiation and love life.

The aim, then, is to tackle Lacan's complex path around the question of the mirror, moving from theorising the mirror phase to that of the optical schema, and to try to disentangle the complexity of a thought, whose theoretical richness always tries to remain faithful to clinical practice, which is never taken for granted. I shall start with some questions that have been left open by the introduction of the concept of narcissism in Freudian theory.

Narcissism in Freud

In 1914 Freud made narcissism a fundamental and unavoidable intermediate stage in psychic development, between auto-eroticism and object relations. He had already used this term in his of homosexuality, to establish a connection between homosexuality and paranoia, and to explain certain aspects of the psychic life of primitive peoples, but now, with the introduction of the theory of an original libidinal investment of the Ego, narcissism became a structural part of a subject's normal sexual development, going beyond the confines of homosexuality, perversion and psychosis.


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