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The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance Paperback – 15 December 1996
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- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0691015899
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691015897
- Dimensions : 15.6 x 1.37 x 23.39 cm
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; 1st edition (15 December 1996)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 102,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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From the Back Cover
"Fink provides the first clear, comprehensive, systematic account of Lacan's work in English. The influence of this book is certain to be immense on theorists and therapists alike as it provides the fully articulated foundations for a Lacanian pedagogy, and makes generally available a radically new understanding of the analyst's role. A magnificent piece of intellectual synthesis, an imposing and original contribution to psychoanalytic thought."--Richard Klein, Cornell University
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"The Lacanian Subject", like all of Bruce Fink's books, is firmly grounded in both the Letter of Lacanian theory as well as his own experience as a psychoanalytic practitioner. This is the most "philosophical" of Fink's Lacanian introductory texts, and is thus the best suited for "intellectuals" and other dentists of the mind. If your primary concern is psychoanalytic practice, Fink's other two books ("Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique" and "A Clinical Introduction") would be better options.
Overall, I strongly recommend this book, which I anticipate will be increasingly useful in the coming years.
So rather than trying to come up with some objective rating, I thought I would just list what I think some of the pros and cons of this book are. I should state upfront that I am an absolute newcomer with Lacan. I have read almost nothing that Lacan has actually written, and have actually found reading Lacan to be quite frustrating, but I am interested in a number of French philosophers who were influenced by Lacan, either positively or negatively (esp. Deleuze and Badiou) so I thought I had better try to understand him. So my review is written from that perspective. If you already know Lacan fairly well then my review will probably be of little interest to you. I am writing for people who are looking for a good introductory text on Lacan.
I guess I will start with the cons. There are two major problems I had with the book. First, I did not feel like Fink did a good enough job defining Lacan's terms, or his mathemes, or giving concrete examples, to illustrate Lacan's concepts. This was not universally true. There were places where I felt like Fink did a good job at illuminating Lacan's concepts with examples, but there were also places where I felt like Fink left something to be desired. There were times where I felt like I was getting a good formula definition of Lacan's concepts, but still had a hard time imagining how those concepts played out in the real world. I could repeat the formula if pressed. I could, for example, define object (a) as the cause of desire, but what does that actually mean? I would have a hard time saying exactly.
When I read an introductory text I do not just want to have the formulas so that I can go around saying "Lacan thought x about y". I want to "see" how the concepts really work. I think that when we first learn concepts they need to be attached to empirical content. Hegel analyzed the sentence "This leaf is green" in terms of the pure concepts of particularity (this), being (is), and quality (green), but in order to understand those pure concepts we first need to understand them attached to some content. In other words, we need to move from the sentence "This leaf is green", which is full of empirical content, to the pure concepts. If we start with the pure concepts we are going to get very lost. For much of the book I felt like Fink was starting with the pure concepts, and not spending enough time attaching them to content, and so, even though I could usually follow what Fink was saying, many of the concepts Fink was working out were never made entirely intelligible to me. The places where Fink did attach the concepts to empirical content, and there were plenty, were the best parts of the book.
Second, I felt as I was reading that the organization left a lot to be desired. I did not feel like Fink explained things in an orderly way. Sometimes his discussions seemed to depend on notions that he only elaborated later in the book, so they were hard to follow. They seemed chronologically out of place, and Fink confirmed my suspicions in the afterword where he admits that the book was never conceived as a whole, but was pulled together from a selection of papers given at different times under different circumstances. That is not a huge problem, but it did make the book harder to follow in some places since the concepts were not worked out in an orderly fashion, each new concept building on the last, etc.. Again, that would probably not be a problem for someone who is already more familiar with Lacan's concepts than I was, but for the absolute newcomer it can be a problem.
Alright, onto the pros. Fink is, in general, a pretty clear writer. He is really attempting to make Lacan intelligible, and to give the reader some sense of how Lacan's concepts play out in a clinical setting. He is fairly successful in those tasks. I think, perhaps, part of the difficulty in understanding Lacan is that many readers, such as myself, lack any detailed clinical knowledge or experience of how his concepts actually work. Fink points out that psychonalysis is a praxis, not just a theory. Sometimes concepts that may have proven themselves in clinical contexts seem very strange and implausible to us outsiders who are not in the profession. Fink is aware of that, and does a pretty good job trying to relate the concepts to clinical experience. I actually wish that he gave more examples from his clinical experience, because the examples he did give almost always proved illuminating. There is certainly no doubt that Fink has spent a lot of time studying Lacan, and has first hand knowledge of how his concepts apply in a clinical context.
All in all, I would say this was a pretty good introduction to Lacan. I think the ideal audience for this book might be people with a little more knowledge of Lacan than I had going in. I am not sure that the absolute beginner is the ideal audience for this book. It seems like it would have been beneficial if I had read a little more Lacan first hand before reading this book. If you are an absolute beginner I would recommend trying Lacan: A Beginner's Guide (Beginners Guide (Oneworld)) by Lionel Bailly. I have just started it and it seems to me to be a little bit closer to what I was looking for with this book: a working through of Lacan's most basic concepts in a step by step fashion for the absolute beginner. Then it would probably be a good idea to read some Lacan first hand, and then, once you have that background, I think Fink's book would probably be a very worthwhile read. I intend to re-read it after I have read some Lacan on my own, and perhaps I will update my review after I read it for a second time.