Jacques Lacan and the Mirror Phase
Another interesting idea that may have bearing on poetic identity is Jacques Lacan’s ‘mirror phase’. The ‘mirror phase’ represents the moment when the child recognises their own corporeal or bodily unity; it is a moment of identification – the child identifies with an image outside his or her self when viewing his image in a mirror or another child. Before this the child’s identity is often defined in relation to its close relationship with the mother in something that is called a mother-child dyad (dyad meaning a unit of two individuals).
After this recognition of the whole, separate selfhood, the child has a new mastery over its body. See Anthony Wilden’s summation of Jacques Lacan’s ideas here:
The “mirror phase” derives its name from the impact of mirror relationships in childhood. The significance of children’s attempts to appropriate or control their own image in a mirror is that their actions are symptomatic of these deeper relationships. Through his perception of the image of another human being, the child discovers a form…a corporeal unity, which is lacking to him at this particular stage of development…Lacan interprets the child’s fascination with the other’s image as an anticipation of his maturing to a future point of corporeal unity by identifying himself with this image. Although there are difficulties in Lacan’s expression of his views on this extremely significant phase of childhood, the central concept is clear: this primordial experience is symptomatic of what makes moi an Imaginary construct. The ego is…another self, and the stade du miroir is the source of all later identifications.
The ego is another self, a form constructed outside the self. Can this idea be extended to apply to the poetic persona?
Later in relation to the mirror phase, Lacan poses the idea of the symbolic that is the social, cultural and linguistic networks into which the child is born. Lacan believes that language is the arbiter of the child’s entire existence even before he or she is born. Although, the child is born without immediately grasping language, Lacan emphasises that the networks inherent in family and surroundings are already drawing the child into a symbolic order.
Later he begins to talk of the ego-ideal and the ideal ego. The ideal ego is the identity that you take on and the ego-ideal is the point from which you self-examine. Who is it that you construct your selfhood for? Who is your audience?
Some questions that arise here are as follows:
*Could there be a parallel between Lacan’s thought about the self and the writer’s construction of a poetic persona?
*Have you looked into the mirror and found unity as a poet?
*Have you severed the links with your maternal precursors and found a new mastery of your poetry?
*To what extent is your writing defined by the symbolic i.e. the cultural, social and linguistic networks into which you were born?
*To what extent is your poetic persona a construction created with a certain audience in mind? Can it truly be called ‘natural’?