We welcome the reader to the thirty-sixth issue of The Letter with the proceedings of the A.P.P.I. annual congress held on 26th November 20051. The principle theme of the congress was the examination and exegesis of Jacques Lacan’s twenty-first seminar: Les non-dupes errent. The consonance of les non-dupes errent with les noms du père is anything but haphazard as Lacan will tell us very early on in the seminar:
In these two terms put into words, les noms du pere and les nondupes qui errent, it is the same knowledge…. It is the same knowledge in the sense that the unconscious is a knowledge from which the subject can decipher himself.2
It is precisely to this knowledge that contributors to the symposium based on Lacan’s seminar at the congress dedicated themselves. This issue of the journal features all of the contributions made at this symposium. According to the tradition that we continue greatly to appreciate, Cormac Gallagher began the day’s proceedings with his own experience of the seminar: both as an attendee in Paris in 1973-1974, and through his reading of the unedited French manuscripts over the past year whilst working on its translation into English. In his paper, Cormac reflects at a certain moment on the probability that of the seven or eight hundred attendees at the seminar, barely ten people present actually understood what Lacan was talking about. Cormac tells us why:
Lacan was not trying to remedy our ignorance, our lack of knowledge, as a good university teacher sets out to do. For him we already have knowledge, the unconscious knowledge that determines everything we do. And his teaching had its effect not by what he said but by the fact that his saying of it was a happening, an event that reached into the unconscious of his listeners.
Barry O’ Donnell’s article focuses on Lacan’s own self-declared invention: the little o-object. Whilst this declaration takes place in the eleventh week of the seminar on les non-dupes errent, Barry points up the centrality of the o-object in the seminar on Anxiety. Indeed, in the seminar on Anxiety Barry finds the historical antecedents of other aspects of what we might regard as ‘Lacan’s inventions’.
Florencia Shanahan’s article comments on the shift in Lacan’s teachings around the unconscious from the fifties with the emphasis on the elucidation of the meaning of signifiers to the emphasis in the seventies on the exercise of jouissance. The analyst’s function accordingly shifts from that of punctuation/deciphering to the problem of dealing with the operation on the jouissance of the symptom by means of speech, even as speech works at the service of jouissance. Florencia takes us through these shifts via the exegesis of a clinical vignette.
In her article, Patricia McCarthy urges us to reflect on our ‘task to link the notion of the contingency of saying with the Borromean knot.’ She says: ‘A new paradigm must be sought for thinking about the interrelatedness of the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary, and its link with the contingency of love.’ Drawing on the work of Stephen Barr, Patricia brings us through a thoughtful explication of the topological terms employed by Lacan which describe how unconscious knowledge is arranged.
Denise Brett’s article reflects her interest in Lacan’s twenty-first seminar and in particular her focus on the Borromean knot. Her readings find the knot in use at UCLA as the theoretical construction for advanced chemical molecule synthesis!
Our invited speaker at congress last year – by now a familiar and fond figure to APPI members – was Charles Melman. On his way from the airport to the City, Charles is quizzed by one of our Dublin taxi drivers: ‘Did you know that George Best died?’ Charles said that he did and was moved to reflect that ‘Here is a remarkable man who throughout his life tried to be the best’. He will go on in his article to say that it was the name of the father that had determined Best’s whole existence. This determining of existence, the mobilization of desire, misled by the object without a name which dupes us, will afford the possibility for Charles to take us through the Lacanian aphorisms in order to see why Lacan invites us to be duped.
There were two other symposia held at last year’s congress: one on Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis, and the other on Psychoanalysis and Addiction. We are delighted to be able to publish some of the contributions from those symposia in this issue.
We have an article from Marie Walshe presented at the Child and Adolescent symposium charting the analytic work carried out with a thirteen year old girl and in particular looking at the importance of the girl’s dreams for the analytic work.
Next we have articles by Peter Kelly and myself presented at the symposium on Addiction. Peter’s article explores the Lacanian concept of the Real within the context of addiction. He will argue: ‘that symptoms in general and alcohol/problem drug use in particular, are curiously both movements towards and away from this ‘real’.’ My own article informed by my work with addicts in recovery asks how as analysts we can challenge the ‘discourse of recovery’ within which former addicts have become located, in order to mobilize a discourse of analysis which doesn’t involve a ‘recovering’.
As is customary, we also had an ‘open’ section at congress and three of those papers are published here.
Oliver Murphy presented his Master’s research work on the correlation of psychical structure with suitability for and benefits from association with Alcoholics Anonymous.
Eve Watson and Ray O’Neill jointly presented their work at congress based on their reflections on the Oedipus Complex with reference to the movies: Bicentennial Man and A.I. Eve’s article is presented in full form here and Ray’s article is an extended version of that which he presented at congress taking into account his engagement with the work of Baudrillard, particularly with his mobilization of the concepts of simulacra and simulation.
Once again, we are struck by the richness, eloquence, diversity of experience and scholarship of the authors marshalled together in this issue of the journal.
Finally, I would like to end this editorial by announcing a new addition to the journal. Beginning with the next issue (i.e. Summer 2006), there will be a Book Review section where two or three books will be reviewed. Readers are invited to submit reviews of books that would be of interest to fellow readers of The Letter. It is hoped that new writers will come forward and embrace this opportunity and we would especially like to encourage student readers to submit reviews. Reviews and other articles can be sent to the editor at the email address below.
1 In fact all contributors to the congress are invited to publish their articles in the journal as a matter of course. Therefore it is necessary to point out to the reader that this is not a complete proceedings of the congress, but that we look forward to publishing other contributions at some point in the near future.
2 J. Lacan. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book XXI. Les non-dupes errent/ The non-dupes err/The Names of the Father. 1973-1974. Unpublished. Trans. Cormac Gallagher, 2005, Session of 13th November, 1973, p. 2.