What was the significance of the French Lacanian Movement?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lacan was known as a re-interpreter of Freud. His interests in linguistics, namely via his reinterpretations of Freud and applied to psychoanalysis, made him an interdisciplinary thinker. Consequently, his work was initially (and still is) embraced as much, if not more so, by literary and philosopher scholars as it was by psychoanalytic academics. 

Lacan was one of the early thinkers to articulate the function of the gaze; the feeling and awareness of being watched. This contributed to his notion that an individual would learn (significantly during the "mirror stage") that he/she was an object: a subject and object, subjected to gazes from others. With this awareness, the subject loses a sense of freedom; the gaze is seen as a form of authority and/or an awareness that makes the subject censor or repress some behaviors. 

Lacan's "mirror stage" is still a widely discussed theory even in literary theory. The child (around a year and a half) recognizes that he/she is a unique self. And yet, the child is divided from that self (mirror image). This division is similar to Lacan's notion of the division between the conscious and the unconscious. In more general terms, the individual feels divided between the Imaginary stage self (pre-mirror stage) and the Symbolic self which is formed by culture and the external world. Such notions of the divided self/subject have been central to postmodern discourses on the divided self during and following Lacan's life and work. 

The Lacanian movement can be seen as a continuation and a break from Freud's work. Lacan's differences from then mainstream psychoanalysis led him to form his own school. Over time, Lacan's followers would break into more and more factions, each supposing to be carrying on the genuine strategies of his work. This diversity of interpretations is fitting considering Lacan's work on subjectivity and division. The fact that his thinking has led to so many interpretations and conflicting analyses illustrates how complex and/or analogical his work still is.