Vol 1 No 1 (2021)

The enigma of the gaze, the trauma of the nightmare, Lacan’s elucidations

Clotilde Leguil
Université Paris 8
Published February 10, 2021
  • gaze,
  • vision,
  • unconscious,
  • dream,
  • nightmare,
  • trauma,
  • Freud,
  • Lacan,
  • Sartre,
  • Merleau-Ponty
  • ...More


This article questions the status of the gaze in psychoanalysis, particularly in dreams, on the basis of Lacan’s theses in Book XI -The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Lacan described the traumatic unconscious as a vision at the very core of the dream. Clotilde Leguil clearly demonstrates that the gaze in psychoanalytic theory is not only connected to a logic of the perception or to a logic of the image ; it is also linked to a logic of the real, in other words of the trauma and the drive which recur in the traumatic dream. Lacan made use of the gaze in order to address the dream as an « index of truth ». The enigma of the dream which was first considered as being of a signifying order, was solved in 1964 as being of another order. The dream is no longer an « index of truth » as per Jacques Alain Miller’s expression but an « index of the real ». Thus, according to the author of the article, the dream acquires a new status : it no longer carries a message but becomes a dream which shows and exposes something that cannot be said. In order to account for this enigma in the vision of the dream, Lacan went as far as examining what is seen in a painting. Beyond all narcissistic logic, Clotilde Leguil shows that with Lacan, the gaze in the dream becomes the royal road to access the real unconscious.