We have two objectives in mind in bringing you this double issue of The Letter.
The first is to continue the chapter by chapter serialisation of Christian
Fierens’ Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Etourdit (2012) and the second is to
bring you a number of the presentations arising from the Inter-cartel Study
Day of The Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis ISLP held in June.
Chapter 3 The Logics of Sexuation, I would argue is the most important chapter,
but also the most challenging of this Second Reading of Fierens. A few
remarks: How to understand the logic of the psychoanalytic discourse ‘distinguished
from any other by its specific ‘reference’ to the phallus’? The formulae
of sexuation – pure logical formulae – have shed all the trappings that,
in our prior imaginings, might link them with men or women in their personages.
The first ‘masculine’ formula ‘for all x phi of x’ has, in L’Etourdit come
to specify that ‘for every subject (x), it is a question of a re-launching (phi)’ of
the phallic function. Note that phallic re-launching is a mechanism internal to
the signifier. The second formula ‘there exists an x not-phi of x’ the exception
to the phallic re-launch, must come to exist to serve as a supporting point –
however fleeting – for this same phallic re-launch from which it is excepted.
A semblance that falls, the exception does not contradict the ‘for all’. To use
a phrase of Le Gaufey’s, it serves as both ‘obstacle and support’.
What about the subject then? As Fierens tells us, far better to grasp the subject
in the context of ‘psychosis’ outside of the ‘decency’ of ‘neurosis’. While we
cannot avoid the intimacy of the subject and of the personal, the introduction
of the psychoanalytic discourse requires a ‘nay-saying’, an engaging with
ab-sens, with the impasse beyond the first two formulae. This ‘nay-saying’
does not ‘oblige the candidate to follow the logic of castration (of the two
masculine formulae)’ nor does it ‘promote a substantial void that the ‘analyst’
by essence is supposed to be’. ‘This nay-saying is not borne by the decision of
a personified subject’ – hence the entry of the two feminine formulae namely
‘there does not exist an x not-phi of x’ and ‘the notall’. ‘The ‘notall’ is only
inhabited by the processes of the subject (existential ‘masculine’ formula:
‘there exists…’) which is emptied out (existential ‘feminine’ formula: ‘there
does not exist…’) There is no way of inhabiting the ‘notall’ except by the
process of attempting the exception in order to leave its place empty.’ Love
knows hidden ways where the ‘logical power of the ‘notall’ presupposes the
past of the first three formulae as much as what it promises.’ Thereby a psyv
choanalysis, ‘which guides man towards his true bed, the one he has lost his
way to’ (AE 468) becomes ‘a matter of making limits rather than noting them’
– a process surely, whose ‘know how’ we need to engage with.
A ‘poetic awareness’ is required when listening to what our patients say –
Cormac Gallagher tells us. A Study Day then on June 13th 2015 that coincides
with the one hundred and fiftieth birth-date of William Butler Yeats, one of
the foremost Irish poets of the twentieth century, seems fitting. This year, the
abundance of contributions serves to highlight the importance of the ‘setting’
provided by ISLP’s cartel arrangement for the individual members whose papers
are included in this issue. Here, seven contributions are presented in the
running order in which they were made in June.
Mary Cullen and James O’Connor who took Lacan’s L’Etourdit and Christian
Fierens’ Second Reading as their topic, have made brave opening statements
concerning their struggle with these challenging texts. In an engaging way,
Cullen highlights the pervasiveness in contemporary media of artistic and
literary preoccupations with the void. She focuses on the second and third
formulae of sexuation to examine the logics that Lacan insists are necessary
in consequence of the advent of the psychoanalytic discourse. She suggests
an equivalence with the later work of Winnicott but remains uncertain as to
whether or not such an equivalence holds up.
In a thought-provoking paper, James O’Connor, in self-reported exchanges
with Christian Fierens, Plus One for the cartel, asks if psychoanalysis can
address itself to the autistic person, who, ostensibly has ‘no words to say it.’
In his response, Fierens is of the view that psychoanalysis ‘can address itself
to an autistic person by going back to its principles – without speech or writing
– to the heavy silence bearing a moment of failure that incarnates itself
in its own way.’ This is the reliance on ‘differance’ – ‘that comes before any
aggregation of meaning.’ The ‘differance’ ‘already in silence, the autistic discourse
– exists before it is said or written’ Reassuringly, Fierens reminds us of
the place of ‘act’ in the psychoanalytic process where ‘abstinence has nothing
to do with doing nothing’.
Working on L’Etourdit and Fierens’ Second Reading in the same cartel group,
Marion Deane turns her attention to a ninth century Irish tale Feis Tigi Becfholtaig
‘Sojourn in the House of Little Wealth’ to address how ‘the stuff with
which it deals …engages with concepts pertaining to knowledge and reality
and their relationship to truth.’ She brings her scholarship in Celtic Studies
to bear on this scrutiny of an ancient text, uniquely informed as this scrutiny
is by the conclusions of the psychoanalytic discourse. Her reconsideration of
the tropes, the multiple versions and personages that populate the story, questions
its reliance on the philosophical discourse where ‘..there is a knowledge
of being’ and where ‘the existence of whatever is referred to’ is assumed. This
relationship to our knowledge of the world is contrasted with psychoanalysis
which holds that ‘it is the discourse of being that presumes that being is’.
It remains difficult to tolerate that – again to quote Fierens – ‘the world is a
pure idea of which we do not have and will never have the slightest idea’. An
unbearable terrain that surely comes to be leavened in this particular myth by
the echoes of the supernatural, the spiritual, ‘divine illumination’, ‘the light of
the mind’ as personified by dawn and daylight – echoes that are deftly drawn
down by Deane in this paper.
Audrey McAleese and Monika Kobylarska took as their object of study
Lacan’s 1958 écrit The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its
Power. Like Freud’s Papers on Technique, this text of Lacan’s continues to
provide the trainee practitioners on the psychoanalytic training programme
in The School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s University Hospital with an
essential primary grounding for the proper questioning of the praxis of psychoanalysis.
In her paper An Incorrect Interpretation McAleese revisits one of the case
studies discussed by Lacan in 1958 and elsewhere. Ruth Lebovici’s case study
of a man who, in the course of his analysis with her, developed a transitory
sexual perversion, poses many questions, not least for Lebovici, but, which
McAleese argues, remain completely relevant today. She particularly cites
the analyst’s confusion regarding her position in the transference, a position
that, on the face of it, relied on a certitude of interpretation – the analyst as
dogmatic analyst – where the equivocation proper to interpretation is rendered
The significance of inexact interpretation in psychoanalytic practice is the
focus of Monika Kobylarska’s contribution. She examines Edward Glover’s
1931 paper The Therapeutic Effect of Inexact Interpretation: A Contribution
to the Theory of Suggestion which came of Glover’s abiding concern about
the practice of psychoanalysis proper versus other ‘therapeutic’ methods that
he describes as suggestionist. For Glover, it was a question of not closing
down on the unconscious phantasy systems, rather than ‘the function of the
signifier’ and its importance ‘in locating analytic truth.’ – the basis of Lacan’s
critique. While critical, Lacan also thought highly of this work of Glover’s.
Kobylarska reminds us of Lacan’s further comment on it in The Logic of
Phantasy to the effect that, while inexact interpretation ‘has nothing to do
with what is at stake at that moment, in terms of truth.’, it may nonetheless
have an ‘eventual fruitfulness’ in that ‘however inexact it might be one has
all the same tickled something.’ These timely contributions from Kobylarska
and McAleese should compel us to continue to take very seriously the later
work of Lacan and the current work of Fierens, in order to – as Kobylarska
recalls – ‘fix the deontology of our practice.’
Lacan’s 24th seminar 1976 – ‘77, L’Insu que sait de l’une bévue s’aile à mourre
was the focus of the contributions from Terry Ball and Tony Hughes. Lacan,
now in his seventy seventh year remains preoccupied with what constitutes
the end of an analysis. In her paper, Terry Ball takes us through the minutiae
this seminar yields, in order to describe an analysis as a ‘mapping out’ in a
Borromean way, that is synonymous with ‘identifying with one’s symptom’.
Lacan is saying that ‘…identification is what is crystallised in an identity’.
An identity as an analyst? How hold onto such a place while being subject to
‘the unbeknownst1 that knows something of the a-mistake..’? – this is indeed
a long story! And while Ball, in this elegant work, is reading from the final
chapter, we all know that to enjoy a book we must read it from the beginning.
Tony Hughes’ paper Lacan’s Use of Topology – A Chronology: Part 1 is part
of a bigger project to chronicle the progression of Lacan’s engagement with
topology throughout his published work. Part 1 introduces us to these earliest
references beginning with The Function and Field and the early seminars.
Hughes’ introduction to the work of Granon-Lafont on ordinary and moebian
space is especially challenging but fascinating. In the same paper, he also
reminds us of a Lacan who, at the other end of his teaching life in L’Insu, is
still asking ‘what is a hole?’ This might encourage some of us to continue to
pose similar sorts of questions.