This issue of the journal sees the light of day on the same morning as the guests assemble in the hall of the Education and Research Centre of St. Vincent’s Hospital for the fourth annual November congress of the association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland. Returning to the great hall and the many guests of the opening lines of the inaugural dream :psychoanalysis serves as a reminder that, whatever happens on the day, its essence is rooted in something which was inaugurated and transmitted by Freud and which was carried forward by Lacan’s return to what the essence of Freud’s work implicitly inaugurates: The Unconscious structured as a language; the primacy of the signifier.
This issue of THE LETTER, beginning with William J. Richardson’s article* on a subject who ceases to write in the encounter with what never ceases being written and ending with Cormac Gallagher’s Spare ‘Despair’, continues that tradition.
Richardson’s paper, via consideration of the subjective destitution of Thomas Aquinas, looks at the question of whether it is possible for religious faith to confront the real without repressing it, putting forth for our consideration the possibility that the confrontation of the real in certain religious experiences might bear directly on the profound desolation which marks the end of analysis.
Following on this is Colman Duggan’s return to the subject(ed), which looks at the historical development of psychoanalytic thinking on the subject of childhood seduction, from Freud to Ferenczi to Laplanche, in the light of recent researches and his own clinical work with children. He asks what contribution psychoanalysis has to make towards making sense of the apparent contradiction involved in the fact that some subjects experience sexual seduction in childhood and are traumatised while others are not traumatised by similar seductions and while still another group is traumatised in the absence of any such seduction. This topic really goes to the very heart of the Freudian theory of trauma which has often been aired in this journal, – that the trauma implied in the real of sexuality is traumatic only insofar as trauma concerns the discovery that desire is caused by a lack. That the discovery was happened upon on the basis of a drive to know the real of sexuality, prefiguring us retroactively as always already having been desiring, only further compounds the trauma.
Stephen Costello continues this return to the Freudian corpus, tracing the concept of the pale criminal, the criminal from a sense of guilt, throughout Freud’s work like Dupin in search of the whereabouts of the letter.
Antoinette Wills in an exploration of the drawings of two adopted children, examines the sense of the subject cut loose from its moorings finding itself lost in its writing. What is worth noting here is that if the human being firstly appears as a biological unit, a creature of need, he is soon transformed by the symbolic structure in which he finds himself. So we are all adopted by desire, and by language, even if we have the impression that we adopt it.
Josette Zouein’s article is the first of a group of four papers devoted in one way or another to affect, each bearing the mark and style of its author. Ms. Zouein’s piece on anxiety has its own inimitable style and is the kind of reading that is possible when our language is approached with the fresh ear of someone unaccustomed to it. This is the ear which listens to ‘an exeyety’ in ‘The Sandman, ‘an x-eye-eaty’ in Caillois’ devouring eye, and which can conceive of the end of analysis as ‘an ex-sighty’.
Aisling Campbell’s paper on affect addresses the familiar criticism that Lacan completely neglects it. The criticism is generally voiced by those who see affective states as the primary state, the real subject, underlying and predating any later symbolic constructs. Campbell argues that it is in a rush from the anxiety of the real that this phantasy’ support of the subject, this mythological’ primal affective state is constructed.
Rob Weatherill’s ‘Affects: the absolute subject’, represents a contrary view in his treatment of Michel Henry’s The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis. Here, the unconscious is not ‘structured like a language’ but is, rather, ‘destructured like an affect’ The contrast aims at inferring that life in its living essence is opposed to representation. Speaking from the perspective of the British Independent tradition, he raises the subject of the of countertransference, (also see as neglected by Lacan), as an affective state. Here, it is because the analyst speaks out of affective experience, with feeling, that the countertransrerence can work. In contrast to Campbell’s ‘mythological primary state’, representation is here only a simulacrum of life, – the essence of life recapturing ‘the trace of the original disorder, the material, objectal vehemence of things without qualities, the erotic potency of a senseless world’.
Cormac Gallagher’s paper counters the criticism of Lacan’s supposed rejection of affect with what he terms a collage’ of viewpoints on affect drawn from a thirty year period of Lacan’s work. It might also be viewed, although it was not intended as such, as a direct answer to the paper preceding it here. If Weatherill can look at Henry’s work and see it as more than a simple rehash of the old argument of the intellect versus affect, Gallagher reminds us of Lacan urging us ‘… to renounce quite radically … the use of an opposition like that of the affective and the intellectual’ as being ‘most contrary to analytic experience and most unenlightening when it comes to understanding it’. Although when he says this it is precisely at the moment when Leclaire has raised the definition of transference as an affective phenomenon opposed to the intellectual, it could equally apply to what was said above about countertransference.
If the jury is still ‘out’ on the question one could do worse than take up Lacan’s suggestion that we return to Freud and ‘… appeal once more to the testimony of the man who, since he discovered the unconscious, is not entirely without credentials to designate its place; he will not fail us’.
*We would like to thank Kluwer Academic Publishers for permission to reprint W.J. ichardson’s article which originally appeared in FESTSCHRIFT – EROS, ERIS, BERAMICORUM: – un homage a Adriaan Peperzak, Van Tongeren (Ed). 1992, pp. 93-104.