Three Non-Lacanian Authors That Every Lacanian Should Read
There is no shortage of former Freudians who have abandoned the field and turned their talents to writing testimonies against Freudianism or psychoanalysis in general. Often these are semi-autobiographical accounts of their own shift in allegiance and recount in personal terms the reasons for their abandonment of the discipline. Perhaps the most celebrated amongst these is Jeffrey Masson thanks to his rise to the position of Project Director of the Freud Archives and his subsequent publication of work condemning not just Freud, but psychoanalysis, psychiatry and psychotherapy in general.
In this post I look at three Lacanian writers who have since turned their back on Lacanian psychoanalysis. Of course, there are more than three, but these writers are of particular interest due to the quality of their work written whilst Lacanians, and for the reasons they have given subsequently for why they are no longer. I have cited each of these authors numerous times in the articles written on this site, and this is testament to the high regard in which I hold them. I have refrained from describing these authors as ‘anti-Lacanian’, despite their stated abandonment of the Lacanian field. Rather, in each case I point the reader in the direction of their current work and link where possible to their own explanations as to why they abandoned the Lacanian orientation. Fortunately, they have not been silent in publishing their respective reasons for this abandonment on the web, so in each case I include links to their respective sites where possible, and encourage anyone interested in finding out more to start from there.
First, Dylan Evans. This name will probably be the most familiar to Lacanian readers thanks to his excellent An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. Whilst these days there is a wealth of secondary literature about Lacan’s work, with many authors contributing introductory works, when Evans’ dictionary was first published in 1996 it was a giant leap forward for anyone trying to study Lacan’s work. There is a lot to be said – some of it by Lacan himself – for not reducing Lacan’s thought into bite-sized, systematised chunks which the dictionary format so easily lends itself to. However, Evans’ dictionary is an extraordinary achievement which – at least as far as I am aware – is still unsurpassed today. It remains an absolute must-have reference for all Lacanians, in much the same way that Laplanche and Pontalis’ The Language of Psychoanalysis is for psychoanalysis in general.
Evans abandoned psychoanalysis for the field of evolutionary psychology in the late 1990s. Just as he wrote the inaugural English-language introductory dictionary to Lacanian psychoanalysis, so he has since written an introductory text to evolutionary psychology. His own account of his move from one field to another – From Lacan to Darwin – makes fascinating reading and can be found here.
Second, Stuart Schneiderman. Schneiderman was one of the first Americans to travel to France to study under Lacan and to undertake an analysis with him. He edited one of the early English-language publications on Lacan’s work, Returning to Freud: Clinical Psychoanalysis in the School of Lacan. Amongst his other works from his Lacanian era are an interesting book on The Rat Man case history, and Jacques Lacan: The Death of an Intellectual Hero, which traces the fraught and divisive events in Lacan’s School during the time that Schneiderman was part of it in the 1970s, towards the end of Lacan’s life. Personal anecdotes about Lacan as an analyst and the political schisms that dominated his final years are presented by – at least as he tells it – one who did not ‘take sides’.
Schneiderman now practices as a life coach in New York City. He maintains a regularly updated blog on which he posts much that is critical of the psychotherapies. He can also be found on Twitter. His own account of why he abandoned psychoanalysis is on his site here. Schneiderman’s present-day criticisms of Lacanian psychoanalysis are all the more intriguing given that, at least to a Lacanian reader, he appears to now embraces the very ideas that he attacked so effectively before. As a sample, I can recommend his excellent paper on affects written from a Lacanian perspective and available free online here. Scheiderman’s article spurred me to undertake my own study of Lacan’s work on this subject.
Third is Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. His best Lacanian work is Lacan: The Absolute Master, published in 1991. Also worthy of mention is The Freudian Subject from 1988. The book for which he is now best known, however, is Le Livre Noir de la Psychanalyse, a title currently only available in French but which translates into English as The Black Book of Psychoanalysis. This title teasingly recalls The Black Book of Communism, and like that work it seeks to document all the failures of psychoanalysis since its inception. It caused quite a stir when it was published in France in 2005 and provoked a rebuttal in the shape of L’ Anti-Livre Noir de la Psychanalyse, edited by Lacan’s son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller.
To a greater extent than the other two authors, Borch-Jacobsen has continued to produce work engaging with psychoanalysis, particularly on the history of psychoanalysis and of psychiatry in general. These are brilliant and insightful. I particularly recommend two recent books: Remembering Anna O.: A Century of Mystification and Making Minds and Madness: From Hysteria to Depression. He is currently Professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of Washington, Seattle.
By Owen Hewitson, LacanOnline.com
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