RR 5.7: Lacan and the Ideal-I

by on Feb.20, 2013, under Uncategorized

Lacanian psychoanalytic criticism has always been the most difficult school of thought for me to understand. While I usually try to work out quotes I don’t understand through our class’ Moodle forum, there are so many quotes for me to work out that I’m going to use this space as well.

“This form would have to be called the Ideal-I, if we wish to incorporate it into our usual register, in the sense that it will also be the source of secondary identifications, under which term I would place the functions of libidinal normalization. But the important point is that this form situated the agency of the ego, before its social determination, in a fictional direction, which will always remain irreducible for the individual alone, or rather, which will only rejoin the coming-into-being (le devenir) of the subject asymptotically, whatever the success of the dialectical syntheses by which he must resolve as I his discordance with his own reality” (Lacan 442).

If I’m understanding what Lacan is saying, the Ideal-I is the reflection in the mirror that the child in the infans stage is seeing. The child begins recognizing the other that he or she sees in the mirror before the “social determination”; this social determination is what solidifies the child’s imaginary self. During the mirror stage, the baby is recognizing an ego that is idealistic; the mirror image, or the Ideal-I, cannot be broken down or simplified, which means that this “idealistic ego” that’s been created by the mirror image can never be attained, yet the person will always strive for it. The creation of the Ideal-I also brings aggressiveness and narcissism to the child’s personality because of the “lack” that occurred during the child’s realization of separateness.

Lacan states that “the fact is that the total form of the body by which the subject anticipates in a mirage the maturation of his power is given to him only as Gestalt, that is to say in an exteriority in which this form is certainly more constituent than constituted” (442). Now this was a little more complicated, but it certainly helps establish Lacan’s theory about the mirror stage. If I’m understanding this passage correctly, the child, upon recognizing that the mirror image is gestalt, then the child understands at this point that the Ideal-I is separate but still part of him. But as I’ve said before that the Ideal-I can never be broken down or simplified, it remains idealistic and unattainable even though the ego of the child attempts to match the mirror image.

While I think that I’ve developed a basic understanding of Lacan’s Ideal-I, after we discuss Lacanian psychoanalytic criticism is class on Thursday, I’m going to revisit this blog post and add material that demonstrates that I understand more of Lacan’s writings.


2 Comments for this entry

  • tylercarter

    The interesting thing that I have found and you speak, is that the child can recognize at that young age that there are things that exists outside themselves that are connected. Maybe this is the first time that I have considered a mirror to have significance, but this example sheds light on how we can begin to uncover ego and perception.

  • Jamie Leigh Kegg

    I’m with you in looking to Thursday’s class for better understanding of what we read in this text. I’m particularly interested in the last page or so of the essay at this point–the implications of the mirror stage later in life. While every time I read the essay, I understand a little bit more, I’m still struggling to make the connection between the significance of the mirror stage in the formation of the ego and things that happen later on–this is where he talks about primary narcissism, the illusion of existential psychoanalysis, the contributions of nature versus culture to self-identity and recognition, and the way the ego functions in neurosis and psychosis.

    I find that every night I get to sleep on something I’ve read that was difficult to understand, I wake up the next day with new understanding and new ideas. You’d think eventually I’d get the point and start reading these things WAY in advance, so by the time the blog posts are due, I’d be most of the way there!!

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