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Psychoanalyzing communication: Language, subjectivity, symbolization

Garnet C Butchart, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In contradistinction to social scientific theories of communication, this dissertation poses the philosophical question of why humans communicate to begin with. Drawing on the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan (1966/2006), it is argued that human being communicates not merely due to a need to overcome its separation from other human beings. Rather, it is argued that because language splits it into self and other, human being communicates due to an unconscious desire to overcome its separation from itself. The self-alienating cause of the subject of communication is explained via Lacan's theory of the dialectic of identification and the effect of symbolization. Three studies of visual communication are offered (on evil, ethics, and the event of being) to illustrate how the symbolic content of expressive media is tied irrevocably to the question of what it means to be human. In so doing, the direct relevance of psychoanalysis to the study of media and communication is demonstrated.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Butchart, Garnet C, "Psychoanalyzing communication: Language, subjectivity, symbolization" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242339.