André Michels – The Unconscious and the Real

THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 64-74

After the preliminary Studies of Hysteria, the publication of the Interpretation of Dreams, at the very beginning of the twentieth century, constitutes, establishes, the real act of birth of psychoanalysis. The inaugural book of a new rationality will be the masterpiece of Freud’s oeuvre.

His investigation of the dream led him to consider the psychic causality of the neurotic symptom and, along the way, to develop his theory of the unconscious. The dream in fact presents the same structure as the other?,formations?’ of the unconscious – the joke, the lapsus, the acte manqué, the symptom, etc.

In Freud’s first studies then – which Lacan held to be canonical – he tries to define the unconscious as a clinical operator which is indispensable for the interpretation of the dream. The unconscious, however, is not identical with the dream itself; rather, it constitutes the stage where the latter takes place. The dream-message includes fault, transgression, guilt on the one hand and absence, gap, lack on the other, teaching the subject that he is split, that he is himself spoken from elsewhere, that he is the crossing point of a radically different, heterogeneous dimension.

In this regard, Lacan’s approach is certainly the most innovative and most original. It intervenes after the end (clôture) of the work of the first analyst and thus belongs not only to a different generation, but also to a different logical time. If Freud’s name is synonymous with the discovery of the Unconscious, Lacan for his part, has largely contributed to elaborating its logic and rhetoric, redefining and perhaps establishing, for…

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