Signifiers and Acts

Freedom in Lacan's Theory of the Subject

By Ed Pluth

Subjects: Psychoanalysis, Continental Philosophy, Literary Theory
Series: SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Paperback : 9780791472446, 206 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791472439, 206 pages, October 2007

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Table of contents


1.  Lacan’s Subversion of the Subject
2.  The First Thesis
3.  Identity, or the Subject-as-Meaning
4.  The Second Thesis
5.  The Fundamental Fantasy
6.  How Acts Use Signifiers
7.  Badiou and Zizek on Acts and Subjects
8.  An Act beyond Recognition


Situates Lacan’s theory of the subject within contemporary philosophical debates over freedom and agency.


In Signifiers and Acts, Ed Pluth examines Lacan's views on language and sexuality to argue that Lacan's theory of the subject is best read as a theory of freedom and agency—a theory that is especially compelling precisely because of its structuralist and seemingly antihumanist framework. Presenting new aspects of Lacan's work and commenting extensively on the important yet unpublished seminars that still make up the majority of his contribution to contemporary thought, the book aims to make a Lacanian intervention into contemporary theory. In addition to Saussure, Sartre, Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Nancy, Pluth discusses works in political theory and identity theory by Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, and Slavoj Zðizûek.

Ed Pluth is Associate Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Chico.


"Pluth reviews Lacan's definitions of the trace, the sign, and the signifier, and provides formulations of metaphor and metonymy that nicely underscore the gap between signifier and signified. " — Philosophy in Review

"This highly original volume will leave an indelible mark on the rapidly developing field of Lacanian studies. Pluth has an excellent knowledge of both published and unpublished Lacanian sources, and he manages to integrate Lacanian theory and current philosophical thinking without sacrificing discursive clarity and scholarly rigor. Apart from demonstrating the ongoing relevance of Lacan's work for a wide variety of topical debates, Pluth also succeeds in showing how influential philosophical paradigms such as those formulated by Deleuze, Badiou, Nancy, and Zðizûek cannot be understood without reference to Lacan. " — Dany Nobus, author of Jacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of Psychoanalysis