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Lacan’s Medievalism

Erin Felicia Labbie
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Lacan’s Medievalism
    Book Description:

    Erin Felicia Labbie demonstrates how Lacan's theory of desire is bound to his reading of medieval texts. By analyzing the systematic adherence to dialectics and the idealization of the hard sciences, Lacan's Medievalism asserts that we must take into account the play of language and desire within the unconscious and literature in order to understand the way that we know things in the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9694-9
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Unconscious Is Real
    (pp. 1-34)

    What does it mean to call the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901–1981 ) a medievalist? What are the implications at stake in speaking of his medievalism? Although these questions seem similar, they articulate two different ideological and taxonomical systems by which we consider the differences among disciplinary lines and among epochal distinctions.

    The assertion behind the first question presumes that Lacan may be described in the category known as those scholars who study the Middle Ages. Lacan is not a medievalist in the sense that some other psychoanalytic theorists like Julia Kristeva, who wrote her dissertation on Antoine de...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Singularity, Sovereignty, and the One
    (pp. 35-65)

    When, inSeminar VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis,Lacan names Geoffrey Chaucer the father of the trope of the fool, he asserts Chaucer’s influence on his own participation in the quarrel of the universals and his articulation of the real of desire in the unconscious.¹ Lacan says, “A tradition that begins with Chaucer, but which reaches its full development in the theatre of the Elizabethan period is, in effect, centered on the term ‘fool.’”² The importance of the fool to the transition from the medieval to the early modern periods reflects the coincidental rise in the literary expression of the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Duality, Ambivalence, and the Animality of Desire
    (pp. 66-106)

    Whereas Chaucer’s Clerk’s representation of the naked King Walter is a figurative understanding of the fragility of sovereignty, Marie de France presents a more literal example of nudity in the king’s chambers inBisclavret.In thislai,it is not the king who is naked, but his supplement, the werewolf Bisclavret who displays rationality as an animal and animality when he is human. Although the subject and the king are altered in the movement from Chaucer’sThe Clerk’s Tale,addressed in chapter 1 , to Marie de France’sBisclavret,we should not take the difference to be one of the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Dialectics, Courtly Love, and the Trinity
    (pp. 107-145)

    The triangulation of desire is exhibited in three different ways in psychoanalysis and medieval studies. First, the triangular configuration of desire is represented in the scene of courtly love. Second, the triangulation of the Trinity is expressed in the formula of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Third, the triangular mathematical structure of the dialectical process (thesis-antithesis-synthesis) reflects the ideal of the triangle as wholeness. This chapter will investigate the role of courtly love in the intersections of medieval studies and psychoanalysis; and to this complex of triangulation, those of us in the humanities who are not comfortable...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Quadrangle, the Hard Sciences, and Nonclassical Thinking
    (pp. 146-189)

    When the dialectics of desire have arrived at a limit and we are left with a knot, we begin to approach the moment when Lacan turns to themathemein his attempts to understand the navel of the unconscious.¹ As the knot of desire unfolds in the resistance to the (non)dialectics of courtly love, the real of the unconscious emerges as a universal category. Instead of three, we find four elements at play in the unconscious dimension of desire and language.

    Invested in making his point as clear as possible (despite opinion to the contrary), Lacan searched for the properly...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Pentangle and the Resistant Knot
    (pp. 190-222)

    The perfect circle of the five-pointed pentangle shares the knot-like structure of the unconscious and its resistance. Resistance is in psychoanalysis and it is necessary to the function of the psyche and the knot of language. The pentangle and the knot additionally resist cutting or untying, and analysis will remain a symptom of the navel of the real of the unconscious.¹ As Elizabeth Scala has shown, resistance among medievalists to psychoanalysis is yet another symptomatic example of the fact that psychoanalysis is in textual criticism.² In teaching and in writing about theory and literature the questions always return: Why read?...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 223-254)
  11. Index
    (pp. 255-264)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)