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Jacques Lacan: Radical Criticism: The Psychoanalyst as a Textual Analyst

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Abstract

This dissertation is a critical engagement in one of the most influential psychoanalytic thinkers of the twentieth century, Jacques Lacan (1901-1981). It investigates how Lacan has a great effect on developing the psychoanalytic critical theory by making use of Saussure's structural linguistics to produce a model of unconscious which, he argues, creates "a linguistically structured system of cultural symbols and social patterns." Thus, the unconscious, for Lacan, is no longer a mere seat of instincts, but rather an endless network of signifiers. These signifiers combine together via two main axes of language (metonymy and metaphor) that correspond to Saussure's syntagmatic and paradigmatic axes, respectively. Through these two main axes, one can express something that is completely different from what he says. Lacan's failure to apply his theory to Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Purloined Letter" (1844) as well as the interest of most critics and writers in his ideas theoretically rather than practically make Lacan's theory a mere repetition to Freud's and imprison it in what is called a "theoretical claustrophobia." Hence, bridging the gap between Lacan's theory and practice is the main objective of this dissertation. In this regard, the dissertation investigates and analyzes three twentieth-century short stories from a Lacanian approach. These short stories are "Eveline" (1919) by James Joyce, "A Rose for Emily" (1931) by William Faulkner, and "The Chrysanthemums" (1937) by John Steinbeck. To accomplish this objective, the dissertation adopts an analytical/theoretical method of Lacan's psychoanalytic critical ideas.

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