Lacan and Girard: sex and non-violence

This paper brings together the work of Jacques Lacan, the great Christianizer of psychoanalysis, and René Girard, the speculative anthropologist whose study of sacrifice and myth led not only to his rejection of Freud and Lacan but a dramatic conversion to Catholicism and growing conviction as to the revelatory power of the Gospels to expose the myth upon which psychoanalysis is built. Despite their antipathy I bring a psychoanalytic perspective to bear on Girard’s theory, interrogating the modalities of sacrifice according Lacan’s three registers of the psyche: the imaginary, symbolic, and real. I then explore Girard’s distinction between myth and Gospel in light of Lacan’s claim regarding the impossibility of the sexual relation. I argue that the difference between sacrifice in the register of the symbolic, and sacrifice in the register of the real not only restages the impossibility of the sexual relation, it conforms to Girard’s distinction between myth and Gospel. In this way I pave the way for a more mutual reading of their enterprises, and theology and psychoanalysis more generally.