With Issue 52 of The Letter, Tony Hughes has decided to hand over the role of Editor, a step that he takes reluctantly for health reasons. Happily for the Board, he will stay on as a corresponding editor, thus continuing his sympathetic and rigorous guidance and influence in an invaluable ‘backroom’ capacity. Over three years his editorship has seen the publication of nine stimulating Issues – 43 through 51. In a singularly important way, he fostered the blossoming in print of papers from members of the Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis (ISLP). The publication of papers is a crucial formative step for members of ISLP, following on for the most part, from oral presentations made in the course of Intercartel Study Days that are held twice a year in Dublin. These papers, in turn, are the life-blood of The Letter and Tony has unstintingly overseen, championed and guided their publication during his tenure. For that we cannot thank him enough.
And so, with the handing over of the helm, members of ISLP can be assured that The Letter continues on an unchanged course.1 This is reflected in the fact that three papers from members of ISLP feature in this current issue 52, along with one further impressive and challenging chapter from Christian Fierens’ Lecture de L’Etourdit, Chapter Three of the First Turn: There is no sexual relationship.
The printing in the next issue (Issue 53) of Chapter Four The Phallic Function and The Formulae of Sexuation and From One Turn to the Other will then complete the publication over three issues (51, 52 and 53) of the five sec- tions of Fierens’ essential and remarkable guide to the First Turn of Lacan’s L’Etourdit, itself available in Issue 41 and at www.lacaninireland.com.2
Marion Deane’s compelling work – Do Druthaibh ocus Meraibh ocus Dása- chtaib- Of Fools Madmen and Lunatics- is in two parts. It not only introduces us to old etymologies for fools, madmen and lunatics in the Gaelic tongue, but transports us back to early Irish society. Deane achieves this by means of an amalgam of ‘residual and interpolated’ literary references in order to re-imagine the legal system then in operation to protect ‘those from whom reason had departed’ and to define the responsibilities of those in their vicinity or those who had responsibility for their care. All this ‘to explore the rationale for both their inclusion in and their exclusion for mainstream society’
In the second part she looks to Buile Suibhne (The Frenzy of Sweeney) where by means of ‘a first-hand account … of the madness that afflicted the protagonist-king – Sweeney’, Deane introduces ‘the (then) lived experience of a human being in crisis’. Her thesis is that Sweeney, King of Dál nAraidhe, lost his reason following on the trauma of battle and its frightful carnage. Her more important point however is that St Ronan’s curse which, as a precipitating event in serving to destabilize him, had its effect at the level of his ego- ideal. His ‘shame arose from an awareness of being seen by others who saw that (as king) he had dishonoured himself by failing their expectations’. One further poignant insight concerning the role of St Moling with whom Sweeney shares his story, highlights the eternal function of the listener who ‘makes no effort to restore (him) to a preconceived normal condition’ but to ‘simply provide a platform (for Sweeney) to talk..’
Donat Desmond, in his paper Godisnowhere: Psychoanalysis – Negative On- tology, Negative Theology introduces us to the pun God is no where/God is now here as a means of capturing two faces of Lacan’s work. Viewed as negative ontology, one face he ascribes to the influence on Lacan of Hegel’s Begi- erde (Desire) and Heidegger’s Dasein (Being there) while the other face (Janus-like?) – a negative theology – he considers to be grounded in Lacan’s later work on RSI and Joyce and the Sinthome which provides a God of the Real,‘neither of the Symbolic or the Imaginary’. Further distinctions between this negative theology of Lacan, theology and religion are equally well wrought.
Desmond, very crucially, makes a clinical distinction between two types of work – both equally psychoanalytic. One, wherein the traumatised subject could bear intolerable existential pain only by relying on religious faith, by means of an appeal to ‘God as a Father as sustainer, provider, protector, … something that enabled him to bear the pain of the work’ contrasts with a clinic of negative theology, a clinic of the Real where ‘patients for whom faith was not a source of support and grace, and for whom the work was a profound engagement of coming to realize the unrealizable demands for love..’
My own paper, The big Other, its Paradox and the Ruse of Knowledge continues my engagement with Lacan’s Seminar From an Other to the other to get to grips with the notion of inconsistency or paradox at the heart of the big Other. Paraphrasing E M Forster- ‘How do I know what I think, until I see what I write?’- the act of writing this paper has given me a certainty about the crucial logic at work for Lacan at the heart of the Real that sloppy formulations – of the Other as m(O)ther, for instance – completely evade.
In The Function and Field of Speech and Language, Lacan turns to the fol- lowing few lines by Boileau when enjoining the French translators of Freud’s works to try harder to find a better translation for Durcharbeiten or ‘work through’.
Gently make haste, of Labour not afraid;
A hundred times consider what you’ve said: Polish, repolish, every Colour lay,
And sometimes add; but oft’ner take away.
From The Art of Poetry by Boileau
These same lines might well describe the craft and the effort that have gone into the fashioning of each of the contributions to this issue. They might also give us some insight into why the publishing effort of Lacan’s School was so highly prized by him – to write is surely to leave behind a trace. Can we in ISLP, through the pages of this publication, come to better own and prize our own written efforts in the name of the School? With the emergence of further contributions from our members, the answer is surely yes.
1 let us recall Freud’s use of the motto on the coat of arms of the city of Paris fluctuat nec mergitur ‘it is tossed by the waves but it does not sink’ as a metaphor for psychoanalysis and as epithet to On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement (1914) – a ship may require a helmsman but surely he or she cannot manage without an able crew?
2 See editorial, Issue 51 for Cormac Gallagher’s sequencing of the printing in The Letter of the two turns of L’Etourdit and the corresponding chapters of Fierens’commentary Lecture de L’Etourdit .
THE LETTER 52 Spring 2013, pages 1-27.
Chapter 1 was centred on the said as it operates in the master and academic discourses. Chapter 2 demonstrated saying in the scientificand psy-choanalytic discourses. Ab-sense separates these two chapters. On the one hand, saying ex-sists with respect to the said, does not belong to the dit-men-sion of truth and on the other hand the said is always only half-said, has no hold whatsoever on saying; impossible in the dit-mension, saying is demon-strated from the impossibility of the said. The rupture between the first and second chapters or the impossibility between said and saying will be put to work in the third chapter: there is no sexual relationship.
We will grasp in these pages the passage from relationship to non- relation-ship, from the possible to the impossible, from the discourse of the master to the discourse of the analyst. This passage is accompanied by a displacement of Lacanian theory: the theory of discourses has as matrix the discourse of the master; it is built on the meaning-relationship and on the possibilities offered by the signifie. In this sense, it is centred on the symbolic and the practice which flowsfrom it turns around the signifying word and its deciphering. In opposition to the theory of discourses, the theory of the formulae of sexua-tion has as nexus the absence of sexual relationship; it is built on the phallic function which here supplies for it. In this sense it is centred on the real and the practice which flows from it turns around enjoyment and interpretation
THE LETTER 52 Spring 2013, pages 29-46.
This paper will examine attitudes towards the mad and insane in early Irish society and explore the rationale for both their inclusion in and their exclu-sion from mainstream society. It will attempt to interpret a range of terms, now defunct, that indicated the characteristics of their illness. As no individ-ual case history survives, and since the mad were seldom afforded a signifcant role in the early literature, the investigation of the topic has to proceed obliquely. The material for it is in two parts. The first is formed from a composite of material, notably, legal, satirical and gnomic, from an amalgam of residual or interpolated material, dating from the seventh to the ninth centuries. However, much of the evidence is more suggestive than definitive.Furthermore, in most of it, the mentally ill are regarded as members of a social category, not as distinct human subjects. However, when Irish social and kingship theories are taken in conjunction with Buile Suibhne, hence-forth, The Frenzy of Sweeney, the text that grounds the second part of the investigation, their alliance brings the lived experience of a human being in crisis into focus for us. In preparation for the commentary on Sweeney, most of the general material selected will have direct relevance to his life.
In the seventh century, scholars from abroad came here to study medicine. Yet not a single record of pre-Arabic medicine remains. Fortunately, the Na-tional Library of Ireland possesses a fifteenth century manuscript composedmainly of medical treatises and preserved within it are two Old Irish law tracts from the eighth century.3 They reveal the operation of a primitive legal system regarding compensation for injury at a time when public institutions of justice or of health care were still unknown. For example, a person who had inflicted serious injury on another was obliged to pay the physician The perpetrator had also to pay a fine for the injury proportionate to its seriou-ness and proportionate to the victim’s status. His was the responsibility for
THE LETTER 52 Spring 2013, pages 47-55
The ambiguity or pun in the title ‘God is now here’,‘God is no where‘ is entirely intentional as it explores Lacan’s subject engaged in the task of analysis depicted as a ‘negative ontology’ influenced by Hegels concept of ‘Begierde’ (Desire) and Heidegger’s concept of ‘Dasein’ (Being there) or alternately as a ‘negative theology’ where the later Lacan’s RSI facilitates a God of the Real which is neither of the Symbolic or the Imaginary. This article does not argue in an evidential way regarding the superiority of one position over another but argues that both have validity within a Lacanian reading where truth is a subjective ontological position rather than an objective epistemological position.
Keywords: epistemology, ontology, Hegel, Heidegger, RSI, sinthome, lack.
This paper arose from participation during the academic session 2013-2014, in an ISLP Cartel Group at Milltown studying Lacan’s (1974-5) Seminar XXII RSI and Seminar XXIII Joyce and the Sinthome (1975-6). In the latter seminar, James Joyce is studied as a subject for whom the instatement of the nom du père in inserting him into the symbolic was deficient. In a profoundsense Joyce’s writing was an attempt to make a name for himself, a name and a writing which would intrigue, baffle and confound future generationsof scholars.
In addition to the cartel study, I also saw a patient for two years for whom the nom du père was not fulfilling its designation.When a severe trauma occurred in my patient’s middle life it provoked an existential crisis which his symbolic bulwarks were unable to contain.
THE LETTER 52 Spring 2013, pages 57-77.
The fact of repression is that a thought or knowledge solution is launched. Freud’s hysterics showed him that they suffered from reminiscences where things did not add up. A knowledge solution is the means by which we live our lives – of necessity, a fictional or lying means that masks/speaks the truth. This knowledge solution launches agency in the Other – again a fiction. Lacan’s radical formulation of the real makes for a very disconcerting disconnect between an agent Other e.g. God, mother, father, superego and a knowledge without a subject. And yet and yet… psychoanalysis takes place in the presence of a flesh and blood other, who refuses the demand of the analyser, grounded as this demand is on an acceptance by him or her of this very refusal – a ‘thy will be done’. For those who are committed to psycho-analysis, the question remains, what conditions such acceptance?
Keywords: the hole in the big Other, paradox, lack-of-sense (ab-sens), the drives, the real of sex, knowledge solution, the pervert, the mystic
Unwittingly, I realise, that for the past three years of my work in three separate cartels within ISLP, I have been preoccupied with the conceptual challenge posed by the big Other2 – particularly as Lacan speaks about it in the Seminar for 1968–69, Seminar XVI From an Other to the other. This preoccupation was given an unexpected boost by a teaching exercise in the academic session of 2011–12 where I had the opportunity to re-read Seminar V The Formations of the Unconscious delivered by Lacan some eleven years earlier in 1957–58.