The Groundlessness of Meaning in Lacan’s Work

  • Maria Balaska


Lacan makes use of a paradoxical phrase to describe the difficulty of expression accompanying an experience of astonishment, that of “the signifier in the Real.” In this chapter I explore the concept of the Real—an inherent limit to the symbolic capacities of language, as what encapsulates the Lacanian story about the groundlessness of meaning and the temptations to avoid it or conceal it. As I show, the Lacanian Real comes with two interpretative temptations: treating the Real as a pre-symbolic reality that conditions our sense-making corresponds to the temptation of a recourse to a metaphysical grounding of meaning, while treating the Real as a post-symbolic point of failure corresponds to the temptation to treat any limit of expression as a fictional product of the symbolic. However, I argue that there is a way to think about the limit beyond these two temptations through the idea that the Real is a potential state for any signifier when the latter has been excluded from significant use.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Balaska
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HertfordshireHertfordshireUK

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