Jacques Lacan Talks About Psychoanalysis with Panache (1973)

Both psychoanalysis and psychotherapy act only through words. Yet they are in conflict. How so? There we have the question posed to psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, and world-famous public intellectual Jacques Lacan in the video above, a clip from a scripted quasi-interview called Television whose answers play like his famous lectures. Watch it, or watch our previously featured video of Lacan giving a talk, and you’ll experience one quality that made him world-famous. Few others could combine such high-flown subject matter with such theatrically emphatic oratorical ability — an ability you can sense even if you don’t understand French. Fortunately, subtitles have been provided, offering Anglophones a chance to understand what connections the man saw between the unconscious, language, Freud, sexual relations, and comedy.

“There are, insofar as the unconscious is implicated, two sides presented by the structure, the structure which is language,” Lacan begins. “The side of meaning, the first side, the side we would identify as that of analysis, which pours out a flood of meaning to float the sexual boat.” These remarks come pre-written in the script of Television, something between a conversation and a play that grew out of Jacques-Alain Miller’s failed attempt to film a traditional interview of the psychoanalytic luminary. “After every cut, when it was time to start up again, Lacan shifted a bit in his discourse,” Miller wrote in Microscopia: An Introduction to the Reading of Television. “Each time he gave an additional twist to his reflections which were unfolding there, under the spotlights, thwarting any chance of bridge-building. We stopped after two hours; I gave him in writing a list of questions; and he wrote [Television] in about two weeks’ time. I saw him every evening and he gave me the day’s manuscript pages; then he read or acted out — with a few improvised variations — the written text. He made a spring-board of this false start.”

Related content:

Jacques Lacan Speaks; Zizek Provides Free Cliffs Notes

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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  • So presumably the other side of the structure of language (as far as the unconscious is concerned of course) is meaningless?

    He goes on to talk about the ‘high point of comedy’, a lofty height I’m only prepared to accept he knows anything about if the whole routine is a piss-take. Something I don’t rule out.

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