CriticaLink | Lacan: The Mirror Stage | Jacques Lacan (1901-1981)

Jacques Lacan was born in Paris on April 13, 1901. He studied medicine, specializing in psychiatry, and received his doctorate in psychiatry in 1932. He began to train as a psychoanalyst sometime around 1934.

During the thirties, he associated with the surrealists in Paris, and throughout his life, he maintained friendships with writers and artists such as Raymond Queneau, Georges Bataille, and Salvador Dali. For a short time he was Pablo Picasso’s private physician.

In 1951 Lacan began to hold seminars on psychoanalytic theory in his own home; the first of his public seminars, at St. Anne, started on November 18, 1953, and throughout the following decades Lacan's seminars became one of the focal points for intellectual life in Paris.

His ideas were the cause of much controversy in the professional psychoanalytic community. Particularly disturbing for traditional analysts was his practice of the "short session": whereas the standard analytic session lasts about fifty minutes, Lacan varied the length of his sessions, sometimes reducing the time drastically. Although he never theorized in print about the utility of the short session, his reflections on time and consciousness throughout his work suggest that the abrupt interruption of a session might in some cases contribute to the patient's insight.

Lacan served as president of the Société Psychanalytic de Paris, but in the same year resigned from the SPP to join the newly founded Société Français de Psychanalyse. Lacan's unconventional approach to training analysts continued to cause problems for the SFP in its effort to seek the endorsement of the International Psychoanalytical Association. In 1964, Lacan founded the Ecole Freudienne de Paris, which endured until Lacan announced its dissolution in 1980, one year before his death in 1981.