Lacan in Public
Psychoanalysis and the Science of Rhetoric
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Title Page, Copyright
This book is a product of the efforts of a number of people whose names do not appear on the title page but without whom it would not have been possible. I would like to thank my colleagues in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina (UN C) at Chapel Hill for their support and...
Introduction: Lacan’s Uncanny Rhetoric
This book is as much an argument for a conception of rhetoric as it is a reading of Jacques Lacan’s interpretation of it. While I will argue that there are elements of Lacan’s work that one cannot fully grasp without understanding his reliance on the rhetorical traditions, in the pages that follow I would also like to highlight...
1. On Failed Unicity: Rhetoric and Structuralist Poetics
In a statement destined to become his theoretical calling card, in 1956 Jacques Lacan declared that “the unconscious . . . is structured like a language.”1 Nearly seventeen years later Lacan proffered his most explicit reflection on this claim: “the universe is a flower of rhetoric . . . that is what I am saying when I say that...
2. Locating Rhetoric
A difficulty looms as soon as one takes up the task of figuring rhetoric in Lacan’s work. The difficulty is not Lacan’s impenetrable writing, nor the possibility that there are lenses other than rhetoric through which one might read Lacan: the difficulty is a prevailing indecision about what exactly rhetoric is. But one might...
Lacan would like to “wring the neck” of a vision of rhetoric that locates it chiefly in the Imaginary order—a vision that focuses almost exclusively on the exchange of meanings in a context—by compelling rhetoric to attend to the Symbolic and the limit posed by the Real. In wringing rhetoric’s neck, Lacan’s goal...
4. Toward an Economy of Trope
Though the proper object of rhetoric has proved historically malleable, Lacan centers rhetoric as a science on the economy of tropes and investments that constitute the subject and its discourses. As Gilbert Chaitin has pointed out, the basic operation at play in this economy is deceptively simple. According to Chaitin, Lacan’s account...
5. Reference, Enjoyment, and the Materiality of Rhetoric
One of the most frequent targets of Lacan’s critical sensibilities is ego psychology, which holds that the goal of the talking cure is to square the function of the ego with the demands placed on it by desire. Ego psychology attempts to give a scientific account of symptoms as bearers of meanings produced by the...
6. Lacan in Public
So far, my task has been to locate the place of rhetoric in Lacan’s work, primarily by mapping the diverse discursive functions entailed in a theory of rhetoric onto the the Symbolic, Imaginary, and Real Orders. My attempt to locate rhetoric has focused on articulating its suspension between the formal charge of the Symbolic...
7. Trope, Affect, and Public Subjectivity
In this chapter, I demonstrate two strategies for reading public economies of tropological exchange. I undertake these readings under the presumption that the general and specific economies of tropological exchange and affective investment are mutually constitutive, and my goal is to embody a form of critical practice that...
To conclude, I would like to return to an opening theme: there exists a collective indecision in rhetorical studies regarding the precise nature of rhetoric. This indecision, and the subsequent squeamishness toward defining rhetoric that accompanies it, stems less from a paucity of ideas about rhetoric than from the copious...