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Talking Cures: A Lacanian Reading of Hegel and Kierkegaard on Language and Madness


In examining Hegel's and Kierkegaard's theories of language, I argue that both entail conceptions of the therapeutic power of language to heal us from madness and despair. I show that whereas Hegel quite straightforwardly celebrates the emancipatory power of language, Kierkegaard is more ambivalent; on the one hand, he devotes his life to a maieutic authorship in service of aiding the reader, but on the other, he believes that ultimately it is only faith in God that can cure us, and that faith requires silence. I use Lacan's psychoanalytic account of the role of language to explore Hegel's view that language constitutes the self and Kierkegaard's experimentation with an indirect form of communication that he hopes will enable him to fulfill each of his apparently conflicting goals, to write and yet to remain silent.