Cormac Gallagher – Re-Englishing Encore

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 1-21


I cannot help being struck at the contrast between the Congress that we are participating in today and the 3T’s Conference on the response to suicide in modern Ireland that is also taking place this weekend and in which our head of Department is playing the leading role. Everyone can appreciate how important it is to try to understand and prevent suicide. It is only right that the conference should have been opened by President Mary MacAleese, the speakers be interviewed on prime-time television and the proceedings widely reported in the media.

But as we left this hall last Wednesday morning after Professor Malone had presented a forty two year old mother of four who had made a very serious attempt to take her life just the week before, I found it hard to explain to him how we would be spending our time today and in particular the relevance of trying to tell one another how we are proceeding in the year by year labour of striving to transform our clinical approach to seriously ill people by trying to reach up to and into the thinking of Jacques Lacan.

Lacan saw his work as being essentially concerned with the crucial problems of our society and in particular with the overwhelming distress that leads people to develop crippling illnesses and resorting to actions -you remember his passage a Yacte and acting out – that are self-destructive or even suicidal. Introducing a study week-end of his own School just before beginning this twentieth annual seminar he reminded members again and again that they had to understand and demonstrate the inextricable link between his teaching and the clinic. Clinic, he reminds us in the first session of Encore is derived from the Greek word for bed, the bed of the couple who are in it to make love and the couch on which the…

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