Metaphor and Metonymy in the Unconscious

In Lacanian psychoanalysis, metaphor and metonymy serve as unconscious processes similar to condensation and displacement. Metaphor brings dissimilar things together by using one object as a stand-in for another to which it is compared. On the other hand, metonymy involves substituting a person or object associated with another, which shares some connection.

Language and Loss in the Symbolic Order

Lacan emphasizes that loss and lack are fundamental components of the Symbolic Order, the world known through language. Words serve as stand-ins for things, indicating a separation between self and objects. The Symbolic Order marks the end of the comforting illusion of fulfillment and control, where others' needs, desires, and fears limit one's own. For little boys, this entry into the Symbolic Order involves the Oedipal prohibition, leading them to seek substitutes for Mother because she is no longer solely theirs.

The Name-of-the-Father and Patriarchal Power

Lacan's concept of the "Name-of-the-Father" refers to the rules and prohibitions of society, historically authored by male figures of authority. The phallus, symbolizing patriarchal power, ironically promises complete control but signifies lack within the Symbolic Order. Lacan's pun on the Name-of-the-Father underscores its restrictive nature.

Desire and the Influence of the Other

The Symbolic Order plays a monumental role in shaping our desires, beliefs, and biases. Lacan contends that "desire is always the desire of the Other," meaning our desires are socially constructed based on our immersion in the Symbolic Order and influenced by our parents and society's ideologies. Our subjectivity or "selfhood" is a result of our responses to these social constructs, making us who we are.


Lacanian psychoanalysis unveils the unconscious processes of metaphor and metonymy, resembling condensation and displacement, respectively. The Symbolic Order, grounded in language, introduces a world of loss and lack, challenging the illusions of fulfillment and control. The Name-of-the-Father represents patriarchal power and restrictive dimensions within this order. Additionally, our desires and subjectivity are shaped by the Other, encompassing societal ideologies and influences that construct our unique selves.

The Interplay of Symbolic and Imaginary Orders

In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the repression of desire for the preverbal world of childhood, with its illusion of fulfillment and control, does not eradicate the Imaginary Order. The Imaginary Order remains in the background of consciousness even as the Symbolic Order becomes dominant in human culture and social order. The Symbolic Order is crucial for functioning in society, but the Imaginary Order often manifests through experiences considered misinterpretations or deviations from societal norms. Despite its non-dominant role, the Imaginary Order is a source of creativity that shapes our identity as fully human. Its lack of control over our lives offers resistance to the ideological systems defining the Symbolic Order.

The Enigma of the Real

Lacan introduces the concept of the Real as that which lies beyond all our meaning-making systems and exists outside the world constructed by societal ideologies. It represents existence without the filters and buffers of our signifying systems. The Real can be glimpsed during moments of doubt when we question the purpose and meaning of life and suspect that societal rules and ideologies might be constructed illusions. It is a dimension of existence beyond our comprehension, and its presence induces the trauma of the Real—a sense of anxiety and terror at the realization of its unknowable nature.

Lacanian Literary Interpretation

Lacanian literary interpretation diverges from the more traditional psychoanalytic approach. Understanding this unique perspective can enhance your comprehension when encountering Lacanian literary criticism. While this overview won't enable you to conduct a Lacanian analysis yourself, it aims to acquaint you with this type of interpretation and facilitate your comfort and knowledge when reading or attempting Lacanian literary analyses.

By grasping these essential concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis, you can gain valuable insights into the complexities of human psychology and its interaction with literature. Exploring literary works from this perspective offers fresh and thought-provoking interpretations, enriching your understanding of both the texts and the intricate workings of the human mind.

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