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Lacans ideas about the formation of the "I" developed over time in conjunction with his other elaborations of Freudian theory. He presented a paper on the mirror stage on August 3, 1936, at a conference of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Marienbad.(It is to this conference that Lacan is referring in the first sentence of the essay). Thirteen years later, on July 17, 1949, at a conference of the International Psychoanalytic Congress in Zurich, Lacan delivered another version of the mirror stage paper that later in the same year appeared in print in the . The essay was reprinted in the French publication of in 1966. Jean Roussel prepared the first translation into English, which appeared in 51 (September/October 1968): 63-77. This publication in English is significant, as it contributed to the introduction of Lacanian theory, and specifically the model of the mirror stage, into leftist intellectual circles in Britain at the time when cultural studies was emerging as a field. A new English translation by Alan Sheridan heads which was published in 1977.
Lacan, however, persisted in his unlikely project. In 1946 he gave a lecture in which he referred to the mirror theory as though it were his own without acknowledging the influence of Wallon at all. He adopted the same strategy in 1949 when he read a revised version of his mirror paper to the IPA congress in Zurich. Without explicitly claiming originality he leads his listeners by his opening words to assume that the theory in question is his own creation: 'The conception of the mirror stage that I introduced at our last congress,' he declares, 'has since become more or less established in the practice of the French group.' The argument which he goes on to develop is far from being merely an incidental fragment of his work. As Raymond Tallis has accurately written, 'the theory of the mirror stage is regarded as the cornerstone of Lacan's . It has excited an enormous amount of interest among his followers and the essay he devoted to it was written and rewritten over a period of thirteen years. It appears at the head of the English translation of his major papers, and its conclusions are alluded to or presupposed in nearly all the papers which follow.'
In the opening paragraph of the essay Lacan makes reference to his presentation on the mirror stage at the (congress). The concept continues to be important for psychoanalysis, Lacan argues, because it accounts for characteristics of the central focus of psychoanalytic practice--the "I" which presents itself to the analyst (and, of course, the "I" of the analyst as well). In the Freudian model of the psyche, which Lacan, as a Freudian, takes as a point of departure for his ideas, the "ego" is not fully self-aware or in control of itself; the ego's perception of itself and of the world is shaped, in part, by the desires and fears arising from the id and from the injunctions imposed by the superego. Lacan's concept of the mirror stage tries to dramatize how the ego itself becomes divided.