Desire and its InterpretationThe Seminar of Jacques Lacan
Desire and its Interpretation
The Seminar of Jacques Lacan
Translated by Bruce Fink

What does Lacan show us? He shows us that desire is not a biological function; that it is not correlated with a natural object; and that its object is fantasized. Because of this, desire is extravagant. It cannot be grasped by those who might try to master it. It plays tricks on them. Yet if it is not recognized, it produces symptoms. In psychoanalysis, the goal is to interpret—that is, to read—the message regarding desire that is harbored within the symptom.

Although desire upsets us, it also inspires us to invent artifices that can serve us as a compass. An animal species has a single natural compass. Human beings, on the other hand, have multiple compasses: signifying montages and discourses. They tell you what to do: how to think, how to enjoy, and how to reproduce. Yet each person's fantasy remains irreducible to shared ideals.

Up until recently, all of our compasses, no matter how varied, pointed in the same direction: toward the Father. We considered the patriarch to be an anthropological invariant. His decline accelerated owing to increasing equality, the growth of capitalism, and the ever-greater domination of technology. We have reached the end of the Father Age.

Another discourse is in the process of taking the former's place. It champions innovation over tradition; networks over hierarchies; the draw of the future over the weight of the past; femininity over virility. Where there had previously been a fixed order, transformational flows constantly push back any and all limits.

Freud was a product of the Father Age. He did a great deal to save it. The Catholic Church finally realized this. Lacan followed the way paved by Freud, but it led him to posit that the father is a symptom. He demonstrates that here using Hamlet as an example.

What people have latched onto about Lacan's work—his formalization of the Oedipus complex and his emphasis on the Name-of-the-Father—was merely his point of departure. Seminar VI already revises this: the Oedipus complex is not the only solution to desire, it is merely a normalized form thereof; it is, moreover, a pathogenic form; it does not exhaustively explain desire’s course. Hence the eulogy of perversion with which this seminar ends: Lacan views perversion here as a rebellion against the identifications that assure the maintenance of social routines.

This Seminar predicted “the revamping of formally established conformisms and even their explosion.” We have reached that point. Lacan is talking about us.

Show More
Buy Now


Order Exam Copy

For Lecturers Only

More Info
  • July 2019 (hb)
    January 2021 (pb)
  • 568 pages
  • 163 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $45.00
  • 9781509500277
  • Paperback $26.95
  • 9781509500284
Table of Contents
  • Contents
  • Translator’s Note
  • Abbreviations
  • I. Constructing the Graph
  • II. Further Explanation
  • On Desire in Dreams
  • III. The Dream about the Dead Father: “He did not know he was dead”
  • IV. Little Anna’s Dream
  • V. The Dream about the Dead Father: “As He Wished”
  • VI. Introducing the Object of Desire
  • VII. Desire’s Phallic Mediation
  • A Dream Analyzed by Ella Sharpe
  • VIII. The Little Cough as a Message
  • IX. The Fantasy about the Barking Dog
  • X. The Image of the Inside-Out Glove
  • XI. Sacrificing the Taboo Queen
  • XII. The Laughter of the Immortal Gods
  • Seven Classes on Hamlet
  • XIII. Impossible Action
  • XIV. The Desire Trap
  • XV. The Mother’s Desire
  • XVI. There is no Other of the Other
  • XVII. Ophelia, the Object
  • XVIII. Mourning and Desire
  • XIX. Phallophanies
  • The Dialectic of Desire
  • XX. The Fundamental Fantasy
  • XXI. In the Form of a Cut
  • XXII. Cut and Fantasy
  • XXIII. The Function of the Subjective Slit in Perverse Fantasies
  • XXIV. The Dialectic of Desire in Neurosis
  • XXV. The Either/Or Concerning the Object
  • XXVI. The Function of Splitting in Perversion
  • Conclusion and Overture
  • XXVII. Toward Sublimation
  • Appendices
  • Jacques-Alain Miller, Marginal Notes on the Seminar on Desire
  • Translator’s Endnotes
  • Index
About the Author

Jacques Lacan (1901-81) was one of the twentieth century’s most influential thinkers. His works include Écrits, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis and the many other volumes of The Seminar.

Show More


'This Seminar predicted “the revamping of formally established conformisms and even their explosion.” We have reached that point. Lacan is talking about us.'
Jacques-Alain Miller

Show More