1st Edition

Lacan and Psychoanalytic Obsolescence The Importance of Lacan as Irritant

By Jean-Michel Rabaté Copyright 2025
    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book explores the importance of Lacan’s role as an irritant within psychoanalysis, and how Freud and Lacan saw that as key to ensuring that psychoanalysis remained fresh and vital rather than becoming obsolescent.

    Drawing on Freud’s thinking as well as Lacan’s, Rabate examines how Lacan’s unwillingness to allow psychoanalytic thinking to become stale or pigeonholed into one part of life was key in his thinking. By constantly returning to psychoanalytic ideas in new and evolving ways, Lacan kept psychoanalysis moving and changing, much as Socrates did for philosophical thinking in classical Athens. This ‘gadfly’ or irritant role gave him free reign to explore all aspects of psychoanalytic thinking and treatment, and how it can permeate all aspects of life, both in the consulting room and beyond.

    Drawing on a deep understanding of Lacan’s work as well as Freud’s, this book is key reading for all those seeking to understand why Lacan’s work remains so important and so challenging for contemporary psychoanalysis.

    Introduction. Irritations 1. Psychoanalysis as Irritant Translation 2. Freud's Irritations 3. Affects in Freudian and Lacanian Psychoanalysis 4. Cruor, or the Cruel Fiction of Psychoanalysis 5. Irritating Kant with Sade, Irritating Sade with Kant 6. Lacan's Quarrel with Nancy and his Posthumous Victory 7. "Perpetual Translation Made Language": Lacan Responds to Deconstruction in "Lituraterre." Conclusion. "I am a poem, not a poet": Lacan's Autopoiesis


    Jean-Michel Rabaté, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania

    This delightful, sparkling book is both a scholarly exploration of themes and encounters in the history of psychoanalysis and also a suggestive and stimulating study of psychoanalytic concepts. Rabaté turns the subject matter of these essays into prisms which allow broader problems and traditions to come into focus, from the question of translation for Freud and Lacan to the context of 'Kant with Sade' and the place of affects in psychoanalytic thinking. Rabaté's fluid, effortless prose, together with his well-known erudition, make this a pleasure to read.

    Darian Leader, psychoanalyst and author (London). 

    Life irritates. It stings. Offends. Aggravates. Draws blood. But what irritates the most today is language—nine billion others speaking, posting, writing, chattering. Take a wild trip with Jean-Michel Rabaté and Lacan, who show us how irritation can be an invitation to liveliness rather than cruelty. 

    Jamieson Webster, psychoanalyst and author (New York).


    Using the experience of irritation as an index of discursive renewal, this wide-ranging yet tightly constructed book offers the reader countless new insights into some of the most intractable quandaries that have beset Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis. From age-old irritants such as the Freudian death drive to Lacan’s woefully irritating claim that he was a born poem, Rabaté demonstrates magnificently how the discomfort that psychoanalysis and its most uncompromising proponents elicit is the true measure of its ongoing relevance. Where complacency was, there irritation shall be!

    Dany Nobus, professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology, Brunel University (London).