Dr. Kate Liu
April 18, 2000
The Mirror Stage in Lacanian Psychoanalysis
I. Introduction to Lacan's "The Mirror Stage" (stade du miroir)
A. The concept of "the mirror stage" was firstly propounded in 1936.
B. Lacan attributes the idea of mirror associated with human psychology to Baldwin. However, it was firstly described by the French psychologist, Henri Wallon in 1931.
II. Lacan's elaboration of the mirror stage
A. The mirror stage: 6-18 months
to recognize its own image in the mirror (before attaining its control over bodily movement) U to regard its image as a whole (Gestalt) U a sense of contrast between the synthesis of the mirror image and the uncoordination of the body U a fragmented body (corps morcele), the wholeness of the image threats the subject with fragmentation. U the subject identifies with the image (the formation of ego) U
a the moment of jubilation for an imagery sense of mastery
a depressive reaction, the ego in anticipation
B. Definition of the mirror stage
1. The mirror stage describes the concept of the ego via the process of identification; the ego is the result of identifying one's own specular image.
2. The mirror stage also represents a permanent structure of subjectivity, the paradigm of the imagery order; it is a stadium in which the subject is permanently caught and captivated by his own image.
C. The function of the mirror stage
1. The mirror stage has its historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. U It illustrates the conflictual nature of the dual relationship.
2. The mirror stage typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image.
A. Primary narcissism
B. The mirror stage shows that the ego is the product of misunderstanding (meconnaissance) and the site where the subject becomes alienated from himself.
C. The mirror stage is the introduction of the subject into the imaginary order.
D. The identification involves the ideal ego which functions as a promise of future wholeness which sustains the ego in anticipation.
Gestalt is a German word meaning an organized pattern or whole which has properties other than those of its components in isolation. The imagery unity of the ego is constantly threatened by fears of disintegration, which manifest themselves in images of the fragmented body. (Evans 74-5)
Barry, Peter. "Lacan." Beginning Theory. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1995. 108-120.
Evans, Dylan. An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge, 1996.
Gallop, Jane. "Where to Begin?" Reading Lacan. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1996. 74-92.
Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton, 1977. 146-78.
- - - . The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Trans. Alan Sheridan. Eds. Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: Norton, 1981.
- - - . "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience." Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. 178-83.
- - - . "The Symbolic Order (from "The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis)." Literary Theory: An Anthology, 184-89.
- - - . "The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud." Literary Theory: An Anthology, 190-205.
Mellard, James. "Introdution." Using Lacan Reading Fiction. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1991. 1-68.