From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
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French: refente
Sigmund Freud
Splitting of the Ego

Freud talks about the "splitting of the ego" (Gr. Ich-spaltung, Fr. clivage du moi) as a process -- observable in fetishism and psychosis -- whereby two contradictory attitudes come to exist side by side in the ego -- acceptance and disavowal.[1]

Jacques Lacan
Split Subject

Lacan expands the concept of Spaltung -- from a process unique to fetishism or psychosis -- to a general characteristic of subjectivity itself; the subject can never be anything other than split -- divided and alienated from himself.

The split is irreducible, can never be healed; there is no possibility of synthesis.

Barred Subject

The split or divided subject is symbolised by the bar which strikes through the S to produce the barred subject, StrikeS.gif.[2]


The split denotes the impossibility of the ideal of a fully present self-consciousness.

The subject will never know himself completely, but will always be cut off from his own knowledge.


It thus indicates the presence of the unconscious, and is an effect of the signifier.


The subject is split by the very fact that he is a "speaking being,"[3] because speech divides the subject of the enunciation from the subject of the statement.

Truth and Knowledge

In his seminar of 1964-5 Lacan theorises the split subject in terms of a division between truth and knowledge (savoir).[4]

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  1. Freud, Sigmund. "Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defence." SE XXIII, 1938. p. 273
  2. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 288
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 269
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 856