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Skelton, R. (1995). Is the Unconscious Structured Like a Language?. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 4(3):168-178.

(1995). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 4(3):168-178

Is the Unconscious Structured Like a Language?

Ross Skelton, M.A.

The ideas of Jacques Lacan are too often idealised or vilified. This article sets out to give a just appraisal of his famous aphorism: “The Unconscious is structured like a language”. No familiarity with the ideas of Lacan is presupposed. The key idea is that the client, like all human beings is a highly persuasive being who, unknown to him or her self uses the figures of speech studied in the ancient discipline of Rhetoric. Thus the work of the analyst is partly directed to “seeing through” the rhetoric of the client. The pioneering use of rhetoric in psychoanalysis by Ella Sharpe to portray the dreamer as a poet is used to open the way to Lacan according to whom the client's signifiers form a “text”— that the client is a poem written by the workings of language. The conclusion is reached that his global view of language apart from being over ambitious conceals the Hegelian view that we are all being thought by the Absolute mind and raises the question whether Lacanianism is Marxism by another name.

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