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Lacan: I wouldn’t be displeased if someone understood something (1972)

August 8, 2019

SOURCE: Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) (ed. Jacques-Alain Miller). “On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, 1972-1973.” Editions du Seuil, 1975; W.W. Norton, 1998.

SETTING: Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) was a controversial philosopher/theorist who started his own psychoanalytic school of thought. For many years he gave a series of lectures to his followers who came from afar to Paris to hear him. In the extract below he is speaking to his classroom of students in 1972. His son-in-law J.-A. Miller transcribed (perhaps too meticulously) everything that was said in class.


I would really like it if, from time to time, I had a response, even a protest.

I left rather worried last time, to say the least. It [the lecture] seemed altogether bearable to me, nevertheless, when I reread what I had said — that’s my way of saying that it was very good. But I wouldn’t be displeased if someone could attest to having understood something. It would be enough for a hand to go up for me to give that hand the floor, so to speak.

I see that no one is putting a hand up, and thus I must go on.


Lacan was so famous and he had such a cult following that it is doubly alarming when everyone was trying hard but nobody could figure out what he was trying to say, or at least felt confident enough to expound on it in his presence. Every professor can sympathize from time to time. We often blame student apathy when something like this happens, but surely that was not the case here, and I think is rarely ever the case. However, I suspect blame is to be had by everyone involved in a perfect storm of non-learning, where students and professor alike did not take responsibility in constructing a deep learning environment.


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