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Muller, J.P. (1991). The Works of Jacques Lacan: An Introduction: By B. Benvenuto and R. Kennedy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986, 237 pp., $27.50 (Paperback, $12.95).. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:807-810.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:807-810

The Works of Jacques Lacan: An Introduction: By B. Benvenuto and R. Kennedy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986, 237 pp., $27.50 (Paperback, $12.95).

Review by:
John P. Muller, Ph.D.

In contrast to the varied and often disappointing books that introduce Lacan in English, this book is consistently helpful, although the authors somewhat overreach themselves. They do not set out to cover all of Lacan's work, as the title misleadingly may suggest, but rather they highlight nine essays and seminars from a vast body of work that remains largely unpublished. On the whole, the authors succeed in their stated aim of giving "a clear introduction" to the work of Lacan by means of "a historical exposition of his main ideas" by using "ordinary English" (p. 9). They are wary of the danger of thereby simplifying Lacan's ideas, and for the most part they present a nuanced reading of Lacan from a psychoanalytic and historical perspective. Unfortunately, they at times resort to a useless tactic common to Lacan's expositors: precisely when Lacan's argument becomes turgid, so that clarity is most desperately sought, they quote or paraphrase Lacan's text. This at times appears motivated by the fear of simplifying Lacan, but it is not helpful to the reader who has followed the argument to that difficult point.

The authors, one a philosopher and psychotherapist practicing in London (Benvenuto) and the other a child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in the British Psycho-Analytical Society (Kennedy), are at their best as they relate Lacan's ideas to Freudian, Kleinian, and other currents in psychoanalytic history. When Lacan referred to his work as a "return to Freud," Benvenuto and Kennedy view this as a rereading of Freud's innovative period, especially from 1895 to 1915.

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