The Mirror Stage

Jacques Lacan’s paper of 1968 ‘reflects’ upon the process of self-perception. Lacan’s argument is underpinned by the idea that the literal act of reflection is formative of the ego. Merleau-Ponty’s idea that consciousness is confirmed by reflection – ‘seeing itself seeing itself’ – Lacan instead stressed the fact that my first recognition of myself in the mirror is in fact a willed misrecognition, or meconnaissance: I am seduced by identification with the external impression of myself as a coherent, autonymous totality – when in fact I am fragmentary and incomplete. The reflection in the mirror does not confirm the certainty of our self-identity; instead, the reflections destablise the ego’s fragile veneer. It is unpleasant, even disturbing to see the reflection of a reflection of myself, and stare into eyes that are certainly not anybody else’s, but which do not feel commensurate with ‘me’.

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