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The Lacanian spectator: Lacanian psychoanalysis and the cinema

Ke-Ming Lin, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation seeks to offer a revision of the Lacanian film theory, which was prevalent during the 1970s but declined in the 1980s. The revision is an attempt to establish a Lacanian interpretation of film spectatorship by means of a new focus on Lacan's "real" to which the contemporary theorists paid limited attention. Underpinned theoretically by the concepts situated in Lacanian psychoanalysis, a discursive approach to locating the spectator in the film is applied to answer the following two questions: Why people love to watch movies and how movies make people "different." By means of Lacan's master discourse, the spectator now has two different roles in watching a film: producer and reader, which have different goals. While the former looks forward to a unified symbolic order, the latter seeks the jouissance. These two different roles cause a conflict within the spectator because of the film. Hollywood cinema is a special form of film designed to deal with this conflict by suppressing the spectator's role as the reader while maintaining his/her role as the producer. On the contrary, Avant-garde film is another form of film which seeks to satisfy the desire of the spectator as the reader by offering him/her the jouissance. The devices and techniques adopted by these two types of film are discussed and analyzed in this dissertation. The finding suggests that not only Hollywood movies, but also most of Avant-garde films, are failed to provide the jouissance to the spectator. Following Barthes's "the third meaning" and Heath's "excess," I argue that the author's style can help the spectator to obtain the jouissance while watching a film. The dissertation concludes that Lacan's film is a film with style.

Subject Area

Psychology|Mass media|Motion pictures

Recommended Citation

Lin, Ke-Ming, "The Lacanian spectator: Lacanian psychoanalysis and the cinema" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3275744.