A Cultural Misunderstanding
11 Mar 2010

This goal [“to put the reader to work: to the work of hearing all the different meanings in what people say and write and to the work of deciphering meanings that are not at all evident on the face of things”] does not necessarily excuse all the obscurantism that Lacan indulges in and that Sokal and Bricmont justly point out. They seem to neglect, however, that what works in France—talking over the heads of one’s audience and seducing them into doing background reading on the authors and technical terms mentioned—does not work quite as well in the English-speaking world. Lacan could easily assume that his faithful seminar public—his audiences numbered up to 700 in the 1970s—would go to the library or the bookstore and “bone up” on at least some of his passing allusions. To spell out every glancing reference and elaborate at length on every analogy (scientific, mathematical, philosophical, linguistic, or whatever) would have put part of his audience off, leaving them with the feeling that they were being talked down to, infantilized—after all, a number of them were accomplished scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and writers. The English-speaking lecture-going public does not, for the most part, operate in the same way, preferring to be spoon-fed rather than to be left to fill in the demonstration.

— Bruce Fink, Lacan to the Letter: Reading‘Écrits’ Closely (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), p. 130.