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Lacan: the topological turn

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posted on 2023-06-09, 00:51 authored by Will Greenshields
This thesis introduces and explores Jacques Lacan’s controversial topologisation of psychoanalysis and attempts to establish whether or not it was necessary, successful or important by providing readings of texts that have been largely ignored by the Anglo-American reception of Lacan (such as ‘L'étourdit’ and Seminar XXII). In Part I, Lacan’s efforts to present the topological architecture of the real, the symbolic and the imaginary are introduced as inextricably linked with less hermetic topics such as his concerns regarding the future of (institutional) psychoanalysis and his own legacy. Two particular figures (the infinite straight line and the knot) are looked at as exemplifying some of the theoretical impasses that Lacan hoped the writing of topological structure would formalise rather than resolve. Part II explains the purpose of each of the figures of Lacan’s ‘surface’ topology (the Möbius strip, the torus and the cross-cap). In Part III, his ‘topological turn’ is given context by being examined alongside some of the more well-known and well-regarded elements of the Lacanian bricolage such as linguistics and logic. The role topology played in the ‘return to Freud’ is also examined and some key principles of topological reading and interpretation are established. The question of how the shift from an unconscious ‘structured like a language’ to an unconscious that is structured topologically (and thus not entirely reducible to linguistic mechanisms) might affect psychoanalytic literary criticism is addressed in Part IV. The thesis concludes in Part V by returning to some of the issues and questions raised in Part I, concentrating particularly on the validity and consequences of Lacan’s provocative contention that, with the Borromean knot, he produced writings that ‘support a real.’ We will also see how it is that with these nodal writings Lacan finally distinguished psychoanalysis from science, philosophy and religion.


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