As is usual, this third and final issue of the current volume brings the reader a selection of papers from those presented in the course of the 9th Annual Congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland, held in November 2002. The congress, entitled Psychoanalytic Discourse: Truth or Make-believe?, addressed a broader range of topics than in previous years, reflecting the growth in ambit of the interests and work of the APPI membership, the graduates of the School of Psychotherapy, St Vincent’s Hospital and of the School of Arts at DBS. We, therefore, can bring you papers on subjects as diverse as racism, institutional/social abuse and the sexual life of children, the mythical, art, impotence and the desire to know. In addition a number of contributors concentrated on some aspect of Lacan’s 1970-71 Seminar XVIII D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant (On a discourse that might not be a semblance).
We’re delighted to be able to open this issue with Cormac Gallagher’s commentary on that year’s seminar, which he terms ‘a collage’. His declared aim is a modest one, ‘to stitch together with minimal commentary a selection of the sometimes clear, sometimes obscure, but always provocative passages that risk being lost in the labyrinthine argumentation of this seminar’.
Following on this is the paper delivered by the invited speaker, Frédéric Declercq, whose many contributions to the journal will already be known to readers. Examining the case of the Wolfman, he will argue that essentially it was Freud’s desire to know that precipitated psychotic-like disturbances in the Wolfman corresponding to an ‘acting out’.
Marion Deane’s presentation to the congress falls here into two parts. The first is a translation from Irish into English of Lebar Na H-Uidre – Book of the Dun Cow, the tale of Cuchulainn’s conception and birth. The second part could also be deemed a translation, since it penetrates the condensed, disguised content of the mythical to expose and re-present the form and structure of the tale in such a way as to render it legible. It’s a particular privilege to be able to have both pieces of work here for a psychoanalytically informed audience, and especially so since the myth presents a unique and Irish expression of the conception and birth of the Hero as consummate with the inception of civilisation. In this tale, ‘When the brother no longer impregnates, but regulates his sister’s fertility, it is then we can say that the shift from nature to culture has been made’.
Patricia McCarthy’s article charts her reading of Lacan’s attempt in Seminar XVIII to develop a theory of the letter as inextricably linked with repetition and enjoyment. Here writing is the bone on which language is the flesh. Writing, providing ‘a bone for all the enjoyments which through discourse, open up for the speaking being’, is determining of the drives.
Brendan Staunton examines the relation that he finds holds between the projects of Matisse and Cézanne, seeing in this relation a parallel to the one holding between the works of Lacan and Freud. His thesis here is that ‘Matisse did with Cézanne what Lacan did unth Freud, their performative articulations giving direction and new relevance to the artists and psychoanalysts that came after them’.
David Cluxton asks how it is that in the permissive and liberated society where the prohibitions of the Freudian super-ego are no longer sufficiently empowered to prohibit, how is it that some are totally prohibited from enjoyment? And he attempts an answer, the hypothesis that there exists a Law beyond the law of the Freudian super-ego, a law beyond the symbolic order, the Real super-ego.
Helen Sheehan’s paper looks to a subject matter – racism – that has become an issue in the New Ireland, which is not to say it is at all new. In Of Course I’m Not A Racist… But’, informed by Lacan’s work on the mirror stage, she explains that racism is as old as the dawn of the human subject, correlate to an original absorption of Otherness, and the recourse to the surplus of enjoyment, which that invites.
Maryrose Kieman, writing from, reflecting on her experience in a sexual abuse treatment unit argues that we are living through a period of sexual expression which effects an untrammelled sexual stimulation of children. The irony here being that while society can have a particularly scathing attitude towards perpetrators of sexual abuse, the many other ‘seductions’ of children, including the ‘intrusions’ legal system are deemed quite acceptable.
Reflecting on the contributions, one cannot help but be struck by the way in which this congress has developed over the years. From within the works of Lacan and of Freud, another vantage point emerges from which to comment on the world in which we find ourselves today.