Jacques Lacan (April 13, 1901 - September 9, 1981) worked as a French psychoanalyst.
Lacan reiterated and clarified Sigmund Freud's findings. In contrast to the dominant Anglo-American ego-psychologists of his time, he focused on the powerlessness of the ego in relation to the unconscious. After having obtained a medical degree in psychiatry he settled in Paris, where he worked as a psychoanalyst, primarily with patients suffering from various forms of psychoses.
Lacan argued that the psychoanalytic movement towards understanding the ego as an active and dominating force in the self misinterpreted its Freudian roots. Lacan stated that the self remained in eternal internal conflict and that only extensive self-deceit made the situation bearable.
Lacan also initiated the ideas of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real, with which he explained the three aspects of human psychic structure. Describing the interaction of this triad, Lacan revised orthodox Freudian ideas about a stable psychic reality. The Imaginary, or pre-linguistic aspect of the psyche, formulates human primitive self-knowledge while the Symbolic, his term for linguistic collaboration, generates a community-wide reflection of primitive self-knowledge and creates the very first set of rules that govern behavior. Lacan's notion of the Real is a very difficult concept which he in his later years worked to present in a structured, set-theory fashion, as mathemes.
Although Lacan has joined Freud and Melanie Klein as one of the three major figures in the history of psychoanalysis, he made his most significant contributions not in the traditional form of books and journal articles, but through seminar lectures. "The Seminar of Jacques Lacan", conducted over a period of more than two decades, was transcribed by Jacques-Alain Miller, his son-in-law, and represents the main body of his thinking. Most scholars suggest that the Seminars are also more intellectually accessible than his published collection of writings, entitled Écrits. Lacan himself commented in Seminar XX that his Écrits were not to be understood, but would produce a meaning effect in the reader similar to some mystical texts.
The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis (1959)