Lacan on the Subject of the Unconscious


While analyzing Freud’s famous dream of Irma’s injection, Lacan brilliantly summarizes his view of the Freudian subject:

“That happens when we see the subject substituted for by the polycephalic subject – this crowd I was speaking about last time, a crowd in the Freudian sense, the one discussed in Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse, made up of the imaginary plurality of the subject, of the fanning out, the blossoming of the different identifications of the ego. At first this seems to us like an abolition, a destruction of the subject as such. The subject transformed into this polycephalic image seems to be somewhat acephalic. If there is an image which could represent the Freudian notion of the unconscious, it is indeed that of the acephalic subject, of a subject who no longer has an ego, who doesn’t belong to the ego. And yet he is the subject who speaks, for that’s who gives all the characters in the dream their nonsensical lines – which precisely derive their meaning from their nonsensical character” (Seminar II, 167).


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