Lacan, at a certain moment in his teaching, seized upon the story of a letter to illustrate how it is that, circulating before the mutism of some and the blindness of others, this letter is the original, radical subject of the unconscious. All of the characters in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter are carried along in an intersubjective game in which each is defined in relation to the most potent character in the plot, – a letter, a signifier, determining and dominating each in turn, subverting the illusion that possession of it entails mastery over it.
This is the scenario which Lacan constantly re-presents us with in his work, – a drama in which language is not an instrument which an autonomous subject grasps, as it were, from outside. Here language is, rather, that through which, and in which, subjectivity comes to manifest itself. It is we who are grasped by it.
It is in the spirit of that teaching that we now launch our letter, as the servants of language and not its masters. We, therefore, take as our subject the subject of the unconscious and language(s). As such, this letter too is purloined, – taken from the proceedings of the first congress of the European Foundation for Psychoanalysis.
That inaugural meeting of the Foundation, held in Dublin in acknowledgement of the place given to it by James Joyce as a city of language and languages, aimed to provide analysts and others influenced by Freud and Lacan with an opportunity to make their work known to like-minded colleagues, in order to discuss it and see how it could be carried forward.
In the wake of the congress this remains our prime motivation, our task being to continue to provide a forum in which the consequences, – scientific and ethical, theoretical and practical, – of Lacan’s reading of Freud’s discovery, can be drawn out and discussed.
The forum which this journal aims to create, owes its existence to the associations forged between the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies at LSB College and the School of Psychotherapy, St. Vincent’s Hospital. The Centre is a focal point for psychoanalytic research and last year launched the only undergraduate degree course in Psychoanalytic Studies available in either Ireland or Britain. The School of Psychotherapy has for many years played a pivotal role in the training of psychotherapists in psychoanalytic work. Equally it has been instrumental in bringing us into contact with analysts from abroad and facilitating access to their work. Among those who assisted us when the School was in its infancy were Marcel Czermack, John Forrester, Guy Le Gaufey, Charles Melman, John Muller and William J. Richardson.
Emerging from this background in teaching and research, we envisage that this journal will serve to introduce the English-speaking reader to a perspective on psychoanalysis which has not always been readily available. In consequence, we aim to provide a space for those of our European and American colleagues who have already concerned themselves with the teachings of Freud and Lacan, whilst at the same time preserving a territory for those who approach psychoanalysis in the particularity of an Irish setting.
This first letter reflects all of these interests and concerns, and so our summer offering comprises a selection of papers from those delivered at that first congress of the European Foundation for Psychoanalysis. We thank Claude Dumézil for permission to print them here. The papers appear in the order in which they were presented at the congress – except for one.
Every beginning entails and relies upon the exception to the rule, an exception which serves to ground it. This is why we have ejected to introduce our journal with an article by Cormac Gallagher serves to situate us, here on this island of Ireland with our own consequences for psychoanalysis in a place where a loss has been incurred on the level of language itself? In addition the article illustrates the division in this island, as elsewhere, between those who view language as a tool to be mastered for the communication of thoughts, and those who view language as the core manifestation of subjectivity. It is this appeal to subjectivity which is the hall-mark of each of our contributors in their writing.
We close this issue, however, not with a ‘writing’ but with a ‘speaking’, in the form of the text of a spoken communication to the School of Psychotherapy, delivered by Charles Melman. This piece retains all the richness, texture and resonance of the word as spoken, and a certain immediacy engendered by the presence of an audience whose questions prove to be an intrinsic element in the unfolding discourse.
Besides the text of his ‘speaking’, Charles Melman left us with a memory. Before delivering his lecture he held up a facsimile, a signifying substitution, of the Book of Kells, drawing our attention to an illuminated letter and the sensitivity of the illustrators to the permeability of the body to the letter which weaves its way through it, becoming of the one material as it, – to purloin a tongue, lettre becomes inseparable from l’être.
Between the letter as illustrated by Lacan and the letter as illuminated in an ancient text, we now open a space into which to launch our own.