The project of historicizing Freud’s work is well underway. Scholars from disciplines as diverse as German intellectual (and medical) history and Talmud have been having serious looks at how his theoretical enterprise was colored by his historical situation from several points of view, the ways that Freud represents (and radically departs from) the thinking of his time, as well as the ways that the peculiar position of Jews, especially Jewish men, in Central Europe at the fin-de-siècle, as well as the sex/gender crisis at that time and place impacted on his work. It should be emphasized, moreover, that this work has not been carried on with an intent to discredit Freud or his work, not at all, but rather with the intent of establishing more certain parameters within which to continue the process of building a psychoanalysis for the present and future. This is conceived (at least by this author) as a service that cultural studies can provide to psychoanalysis, thus returning in small part the bounty that we have been receiving for a century from psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts.
This sort of work has hardly been done yet on Lacan at all. Yet Lacan was as much a product of his history and current situation as Freud, as much, indeed, as any thinker or writer. This current cluster of papers is a first attempt to begin to address this lack in cultural criticism avec psychoanalysis. The papers were originally solicited for a session of the MLA’s division on religious approaches to literature, entitled “The Passion of the Signifier.”
Two immediate issues emerged from the papers that were submitted for this session (including several that are not being published here for various reasons): The first involves Lacan’s own Catholicism, i.e., his immersion in the texts and traditions of the Christian tradition, including such classics as Prudentius and his Psychomachia and Augustine. The other has to do with [End Page 103] Lacan’s responses to the Jewishness of Freud and many of his major disciples. The present collection offers a sample of both of these modes of historicizing Lacan in hopes that we will be stimulating an avenue of research into his work that will be as fruitful and as positive as the work that has been done on Freud.