Cormac Gallagher – Lacan for Beginners

THE LETTER 13 (Summer 1998) pages 117-124

The two notes that follow formed the basis of a discussion with psychiatric and nursing colleagues in St Vincent’s Hospital who at that time (1981) were rather skeptical about the clinical relevance of Lacan’s work. They are reproduced here for the convenience of students who claim they still help clarify the way in which Lacan re-articulates Freud’s case histories.

The note on Dora is based on Intervention on transference (1951) which has since been translated into English. That on Hans gives a very condensed account of Lacan’s exhaustive commentary on the case in the still untranslated seminar on ‘La relation d’objet’ (1956-1957).

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The Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (1905) was Freud’s first extended account of the process of a treatment using the psychoanalytic method; the first also in which he tried to deal with the question of his own position – the position of the analyst – in such a treatment. Here, for the first time in the literature, the problem of transference and counter-transference emerged as being of decisive importance in the success or failure of an analysis.

The psychoanalytic method invites the patient to say whatever comes into his or her head without omitting anything or without trying consciously to organise the order in which the material is presented. It further instructs the analyst to adopt a position of listening with a neutral ‘floating attention’. These two recommendations seem to set the stage for endless hours of aimless and pointless monologue by the patient. However, the free association of the neurotic in the presence of the analyst…


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