To read Lacan closely is to follow him to the letter, to take him literally, making the wager that he comes right out and says what he means in many cases, though much of his argument must be reconstructed through a line-by-line examination. And this is precisely what Bruce Fink does in this ambitious book, a fine analysis of Lacan’s work on language and psychoanalytic treatment conducted on the basis of a very close reading of texts in his Écrits.
As a translator and renowned proponent of Lacan’s works, Fink is an especially adept and congenial guide through the complexities of Lacanian literature and concepts. He devotes considerable space to notions that have been particularly prone to misunderstanding, notions such as “the sliding of the signified under the signifier,” or that have gone seemingly unnoticed, such as “the ego is the metonymy of desire.” Fink also pays special attention to psychoanalytic concepts, like affect, that Lacan is sometimes thought to neglect, and to controversial concepts, like the phallus.
From a parsing of Lacan’s claim that “commenting on a text is like doing an analysis,” to sustained readings of “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,” “The Direction of the Treatment,” and “Subversion of the Subject” (with particular attention given to the workings of the Graph of Desire), Fink’s book is a work of unmatched subtlety, depth, and detail, providing a valuable new perspective on one of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers.