Cormac Gallagher – Sexual Difference in the Logic of Phantasy

THE LETTER 17 (Autumn 1999) pages 1-20

Making sense of the Lacanian clinic

I   hope    that   the   title   of   this   paper    will   have    lowered  any expectations  that   it   will   be   a   wide-ranging, comprehensive and contemporary  consideration of  the  burning questions surrounding  the multiple aspects of the debate on sexual difference.

The very  circumscribed nature  of what  I have  to say comes  from a style  of  working on Jacques  Lacan  that  we  have  been  engaged in  at  St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin for the past twelve  years.

Our  main  interest  is a clinical one.   There  is good  reason for  this because in many  ways  we are still at the stage  that  Freud found Charcot when he observed his presentations at the Salpetriere.  Last Wednesday for  example a man  was presented at our  weekly  case conference who  had developed  a  severe   shake   of  the  head   after   a  relatively  minor   work accident some  years  ago.   He  had  consulted neurologists in  the  United States, England and Scotland  as well as in several  Irish  hospitals and  had defeated their   best  endeavours. The  only  relief  he  obtained from  this distressing condition was  when  his wife  found and  massaged a  certain spot on his back but the success of even this procedure was, he admitted ‘a little erratic’!

The only thing that threw light on his condition was Lacan’s remark that  a hysteric is one who devotes his/her life to looking for a master that they can master.  The  essential  first  step  in  dealing with  this  particular case  was above all for  the  therapist to renounce from  the  outset any  pretension to expertise and  invite the patient to undertake an analysis. …


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