In the most comprehensive study of Jacques Lacan yet to be published in English, David Macey challenges many of the assumptions that have come to surround Lacan’s work. He shows that key elements of Lacanian thought relate not to structuralism, as is often claimed, but to surrealism, Bataille and the early French phenomenologists. The famous “return to Freud” is shown to mask Lacan’s adherence to a psychiatric tradition and to trends within French psychoanalysis which were opposed by Freud himself.
A detailed and challenging reading of work by Lacan and his associates on femininity reveals its reliance upon a virulently sexist discourse and upon an iconography derived from surrealism. The view that Lacanian psychoanalysis has a positive contribution to make to feminism and to theories of gender and sexual difference is contested. As well as providing a new and provocative reading of Lacan’s work, Lacan in Contexts is an important contribution to psychoanalytic history and to the history of French intellectual life.