This evening my friend Tim told me a wonderful anecdote about his six year old daughter that underlines the Lacanian concept of the subject. In recent months she’s begun to express herself in the third person, saying things “Anna is hungry” or “Anna wants to draw”. As a Lacanian he was concerned. “Is she a psychotic? Is she not a subject?” Finally he asked her why she was speaking this way. “So you won’t make fun of me, daddy!”. “Make fun of you?” “I used say, ‘I’m hungry’ and you’d say, ‘You’re Hungry? Nice to meet you! I’m Tim!” In other words, Tim was subverting his daughter’s language through a grammatical pun that undermined her ability to articulate demands or requests. To subvert this dissemination in grammar and the play of the signifier, she had adopted a third person discourse that would be immune to this sort of play. It’s not that she was experiencing herself as a thing for the Other, but that she had devised a strategy to evade being erased in the play of language.
So what’s the point? If we took a subjectless approach to psychic phrnomena like we do when talking about physical illnesses like colds, we’d say symptom x means syndrome y. In other words we’d be committed to the thesis that a signifier = a particular signified. The mark of the subject is that there is a bar between signifier and signified (S/s), or that you can’t read the signified off the signifier. This bar, and the play it generates, is what uneraseable.