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Owen Hewitson - LacanOnline. This is usually seen as the main text on the mirror stage theory, but there are a number of other texts roughly contemporary with it, through which Lacan develops related ideas. Rather than leaving the subject in the late forties, Lacan continued to develop the mirror stage theory from Seminar I in the early fifties, right up until Seminar XXII in Although the original paper on the mirror stage was presented in Marienbad in , the fact that both the and papers were delivered less than a year apart suggests that it helps to read both together.
Lacan clearly approved of their publication in reverse chronological order, which we can perhaps take as an indication that the aggressivity paper is an expansion or development of ideas put forward in the mirror stage papers of and Lacanian psychoanalyst Philippe Julien suggests just this, seeing the mirror stage theory as a compression of two phases: At the very moment when the ego is formed by the image of the other, narcissism and aggressivity are correlatives.
If we turn to the index at the back of the Ecrits that Jacques-Alain Miller has carefully compiled, we find references to the mirror stage stretched throughout the papers that comprise the Ecrits. But the theory of the mirror stage is not an entirely original contribution. Lacan stands on the shoulders of many theorists some might say appropriating their work in order to formulate, what is probably still in the Anglo-American world, his best known contribution to psychoanalytic theory.
The Absolute Master, p. Darwin also reports the different reactions of humans and apes when confronted with their reflection in a mirror.
Nevertheless, he is dependence on the imitation of the other for his own maturation paper available here , see p. A social self of this sort might be called the reflected or looking-glass self…. However, Lacan does not acknowledge Bolk in the article. If we look at this passage in the Ecrits that Roudinesco cites we find that in its entirety it reads: Seventeenth week, joy in seeing image in mirror…. Thirty-fifth week, his image in mirror is grasped at gayly…. Sixty-sixth week, child strikes at his image in mirror.
However probably the most important amongst these antecedents is Henri Wallon. But Roudinesco notes that Lacan neglects to cite Wallon as his source — quite astonishing given Wallon is his main intellectual reference here. The Absolute Master , p. Moreover, Wallon had already drawn much the same conclusions as Lacan. The non-acknowledgement of Wallon as such an important source for the mirror stage theory is made all the worse by the slightly too self-indulgent bragging Lacan engages in when crediting himself for the idea.
The article on the family complexes… makes no mention of Wallon. Wallon extensively quotes Darwin; Lacan does not. Is fantasy the specular image?
What Does Lacan Say About… The Mirror Stage? – Part I | windowsforum.info
Another question asked is: The use of gestalt theory To what extent is the theory of the mirror stage a gestaltist theory? Lacan makes multiple references to gestalt theory in the paper, and it is fair to say that he sees the mirrored image itself as a gestalt: According to gestalt theory the image is unified by the actions of the brain — it makes a recognisable, unitary form or image out of purely geometrical shapes, curves and lines. It would seem that we could use gestalt theory to help us solve one of the seeming contradictions thrown up by the mirror stage theory: We might imagine a kind of cognitive processing involved, but we do not need an ego or I function for this to happen.
Instead, what gestalt theory implies is to all intents and purposes a kind of automatic cognitive recognition of our reflected image as our own. Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen also comments on this apparent dilemma. Are both concepts solving the same problem which the mirror stage theory implies from different angles? Indeed, when we look at how Freud defines identification in we find it is very similar to the way Lacan sees the gestalt operating in the mirror stage.
Rather his point, with Freud, is to show that the ego is formed via this process of identification: Incidentally, Lacan makes reference to a similar phenomenon in the male stickleback in Seminar I, A more recent study on this can be found here. We can say that the entire mirror stage theory depends on an acceptance of the formative, capturing function of the image as gestalt.
This is clear from the definition of the mirror stage that Lacan provides in the paper: Is the mirror stage theory too vision-based? Suppose we were to try and relieve the mirror stage theory of its dependence on gestalt theory.
This would also have the effect of making the mirror stage not so dependent on the fact of vision — of actually seeing a reflection in the mirror. The refocusing of the mirror stage away from the imaginary realm and towards the symbolic would seem to get us round the dependence of the theory, as Lacan presents it in the Ecrits paper, on vision.
The obvious problem is that of the blind child: And if this was the case, what would be the consequences in terms of the development of a self-image, or perhaps even an ego? This is an objection voiced by philosopher Raymond Tallis: Whilst this might appear to be an apt solution to the problem, we have to accept that if Nobus is right Lacan is making quite a substantial shift from the conceptual basis he gives the mirror stage theory in the paper.
We have to also accept that Lacan evidently did not consider any major modifications to that paper to be necessary prior to its inclusion in the published version of the Ecrits in Lacan is quite clear there that the mirror stage is prior to any socio-symbolic insertion: The fundamental point is the same as we concluded above: Lacan does not seem to accept a gestalt of an image that occurs outside the field of vision if, indeed, there can be said to be such a thing ; it has to be either a mirror or the image of another child — in any case, some kind of image.
This is a point privileged by many Lacanian writers. For Philippe Julien the relation to the image is essential: The child does not exteriorise itself. It does not project itself in an image. Rather, the reverse occurs. For his part, Borch-Jacobsen believes that Lacan abandons a theory of identification based on an affective bond to the other in favour of one based on the specular relation somewhere between the publication of the Family Complexes article in and the Mirror Stage article in For Borch-Jacobsen this is a shame because Lacan misses the opportunity to assert that the first imago the child identifies with not its own in the mirror, or that of the fraternal counterpart, but the maternal imago: The important thing here is not merely that Lacan explicitly recognises the existence, previous to the mirror stage, of a pre-specular relation to the image.
It is interesting to note that the results claimed by the rouge test align very closely to the age range at which Lacan says the mirror stage takes place in both cases at 18 months most children are believed to be able to recognise their reflection in the mirror as that of their own image.
Phantom limb syndrome is the sensation that a limb persists despite its having been amputated. One of the interesting things to note when we think about this syndrome using the theory of the mirror stage is that one of the most effective treatments for this pain involves the therapeutic use of mirrors. When the patient moves his good limb, he sees in the mirror next to it the reflected image of a symmetrical limb in the place where he feels his phantom limb.
By this method the patient is able to alleviate the feelings reported by many sufferers — that their phantom limb is clenched or contorted in a painful position.
Nevertheless, it is worth discussing in the context of the mirror stage and the related issue of aggressivity. Roudinesco defines primary narcissism as follows: From this ensues the constitution of the ideal ego.
Secondary narcissism results from the transfer to the ego of investments in objects in the external world.
We can wonder then whether there is really any such thing as primary narcissism. Perhaps we are to understand that the difference between narcissism and auto-erotism is that in the former the whole of the libido is employed towards the self? What does Freud say about primary narcissism? Remarkably, we find only a few references to it in the index of the Standard Edition.
An Introduction from Later in that paper, Freud separates auto-erotism from narcissism interestingly, he does not mention primary narcissism when making this separation , but accepts that there is a significant gap between the two and that he himself cannot provide an answer of how to fill it: For Lacan, a fundamental part of this shift from primary to secondary narcissism is the appearance in the infant of aggressivity and jealousy.
This assertion is based on what he detects as happening to the Freudian libido theory after Freud publishes the narcissism paper. At the start of the paper on narcissism, Freud is arguing in stated opposition to Jung for why he has chosen to stick to his guns about the dualism of the ego and sexual drives SE XIV, Freud has a tough time accounting for why, if there is, as he puts it, a primary libidinal cathexis of the ego, there is then any need to make the distinction between the sexual drives and the ego or self-preservative drives.
As we know, in later years this dualism of the libido theory morphs from one between the ego or self-preservative drives and the sexual drives, to one between the life and death drives, Eros and Thanatos.
His solution is not to introduce a new distinction between the life and death drives, as Freud eventually does, but to propose the idea that what follows the creation of an Urbild — a kind of prototype ego — from the gestalt or imago of the mirror image is a relation to the images of other people. Where Freud saw primitive destructiveness, Lacan sees all the phenomena of aggressivity — namely, jealousy, envy, dual imaginary rivalry, transitivism, and so forth.
Black Mirror on Steam
It is precisely this fact that entails the ambivalence of the phenomenon of transitivism. Does the mirror stage create the ego? But this raises an interesting question: It is almost taken for granted in many commentaries that the mirror stage leads to the development of the ego, as if once we have passed through the mirror stage we emerge at the other end with an ego.
What we find instead again and again is Lacan being very careful with his pronouncements on the subject.
To begin with, in the article on Family Complexes from we find the following: Notice how careful Lacan is to avoid saying that the mirror stage creates the ego: In comparison with the still very profound lack of co-ordination in his own motor functioning, that gestalt is an ideal unity, a salutary imago.
The definition of the mirror stage Lacan provides here is of a process that unifies the body image, as a response to the prematurity of birth, not the need for an ego. Aggressiveness has a significant role to play in ego formation, more so that the mirror stage, which only results in a kind of proto-ego.
Indeed, Lacan elaborates later in this paper a view that implies narcissism and aggressivity go together, that you cannot have one without the other: One has to wonder however why the relation to the image is marked by this aggressiveness. Perhaps the infant is aware of and frustrated by the distance that separates its experience of the body from the image that unifies it?
However, when defining the mirror stage in the Aggressivity paper Lacan appears to put the accent on the achievement this imago offers to the child: In the first place, it has historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child.