Editorial Issue 53


 I am very pleased to include the final two sections of Christian Fierens’ book Lecture de L’Etourdit in this issue of The Letter. These are the Fourth Chapter on the First Turn of Lacan’s extraordinary text, entitled The Phallic Function and the Formulae of Sexuation and the section that bridges the First and the Second Turns, entitled From One Turn to the Other.

It is perhaps worthwhile reminding readers once again1 of the slightly complicated sequencing in bringing Fierens’ reading of L’Etourdit to your attention, because I anticipate that the instruments de travail that these texts provide, will be worked with by scholars of psychoanalysis for many years to come. Lacan’s First Turn was brought to you in Issue 41, accompanied by Fierens’ introduction to the text. Further chapter by chapter commentary then appears somewhat later in Issues 51, 52 and 53. The Second Turn of L’Etourdit, pub- lished over three issues (43, 45 and 49), is accompanied in each of these issues by the corresponding commentary by Fierens.

While it is impossible in a brief editorial comment to do justice to the sections of Fierens’ book included in the current issue, I nonetheless have to declare a particular interest in Chapter Four of The First Turn.

In Chapter Three of The First Turn There is no Sexual Relationship (Issue 52), Fierens had highlighted that ‘To say ‘there is no sexual relationship’ we must start from relationship (‘in general’) and relationship is always to meaning’. What is truly novel is the equating of meaning with the sexual. It is our under- standing that ‘meaning making’, the relationship of signifier to signifier, or of ‘said’ to ‘said’ becomes the symbolic journey encircling the real, synonymous at this time with ‘the absence of sexual relationship’ or ab-sens.

Let us move on then to Chapter Four of the First Turn The Phallic Function and the Formulae of Sexuation. This chapter is, to my mind, centrally important on two counts. Taking the two terms contained in the title, the phallic function and the formulae of sexuation, Fierens demonstrates how ‘by opening up the path of absense’ the psychoanalyst is freed up from a reliance on ‘relationship’(that word again), is freed up from relying on the linkage of one meaning to another meaning. The phallic function – consequence of ab-sens in the psychoanalytic discourse – is modulated by the movement in elaborate concert, not only of the first two formulae that we associate with meaning ( ‘for all of x, x is subject to the phallic function’ and ‘there exists an x not subject to the phallic function’), but of all four formulae.

The first reason I rate this chapter so highly has to do with its utterly contemporary contribution to our thinking on any possible treatment of psychosis. In psychosis, the fictitious plugging of the hole of ab-sens that the first two formulae provide, is problematic. This structural ‘problematic’ at the same time completely exposes the question of the subject as posed by Lacan. Let us recall that the question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis is the question of the Lacanian subject.2

The second reason this chapter has to be taken seriously has everything to do with the clarification it provides of feminine sexuality, in line with Lacan’s new logic. This new logic was unavailable to Freud, condemning him to leave unanswered the question of what a woman wants Was will das Weib? Feminine sexuality implies the logic of the third and fourth formulae (‘there does not exist an x not subject to the phallic function’ and ‘not-all of x is subject to the phallic function’) that ‘concern not only women but the second half of every subject, of every speaking being (him or her)…’

The best inducement I can offer you to further study this Chapter Four of Fierens, is to signal Lacan’s startling definition of heterosexual, as having little to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with what ‘is different from (heteros in Greek)’ meaning, or again, what allows ab-sense to be privileged.

A word on the section bridging the First and the Second Turns, entitled From One Turn to the Other. All I can do here is encourage you to engage with the glorious re-presentation that it provides of the riddle of the Sphinx, the Oedipal myth and Antigone’s role – thrilling stuff, indeed!

The Lacanian subject, already mentioned, is the focus of Barry O’Donnell’s thoughtful paper Speaking Subjects, delivered at ISLP’s Intercartel Day (June 2013). Taking as his starting point two of Lacan’s four addenda in Ecrits

(1966) to his 1953 Seminar on The Purloined Letter, O’Donnell deftly underscores the ambiguity we encounter when we speak of the subject of the real and, at the same time, the coming into being of the subject in the act of symbolization, or – more simply put – in the act of speaking. Lacan’s question about the subject is given its properly logical co-ordinates six years later in L’Etourdit – a claim, no doubt, requiring further validation. Referring to the phraseology surrounding Lacan’s use in the same addenda, of the word as- sujettissement, further subtle distinctions are played out around the subjection of subjectivity, O’Donnell concluding that the alternative to the subjection of subjectivity is never freedom or autonomy.

Tony Hughes’ paper The Klein Bottle has to be taken very seriously in light of our earlier comments on the phallic function. In analysis, the phallic function as ‘a-semantic signifier’ is linked to the process where a topology ‘that is not metaphorical’ is developed. ‘This topology will respond to the ab- sense proper to psychoanalysis. It alone allows access to structure. Then to interpretation’.3 Before giving us a masterclass on the topological entity that is the Klein Bottle – introduced by Lacan in the session of December 16th 1964 of Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis – Hughes makes a compelling case for respecting the radical difference between Lacan’s effort over many years to demonstrate (monstration) topological principles by imaginary means and the (real) topological shaping that, by way of ‘cutting’, analytic interpretation actualises.

Karina Melvin’s paper A Clinic of the ‘Not-all’ finds its natural home in this issue of The Letter, addressing as it does – from the very first page – the error in reducing Lacan’s formulae of sexuation to a binary form of thinking about men and women. Rather, she exhorts us to explore the riches of Lacan’s interrogation of logic from Aristotle to Russell, as the means to properly ‘read’ the formulae. Melvin bases her reading on two chapters of Guy Le Gaufey’s ground-breaking book Le pastout de Lacan. Consistence logique, conséquences cliniques (2006), highlighting, in particular, the distinction be- tween ‘minimal’ and ‘maximal’ interpretations of the particular proposition. The latter interpretation allows for a logically robust ‘maximal’ clinic – a clinic of the ‘not-all’ – reliant, not on the knowledge the psychiatrist or the psychoanalyst brings to bear on a ‘case’, but guided by the subject’s own truth.

 Patricia McCarthy

1      C.f. Cormac Gallagher’s editorial in Issue 51

2      Let us recall Fierens’ paper Foreclosure and Discordance:Is Schizophrenia Think- able? delivered at to the Schizophrenia Conference, organized by Tom Dalzell in 2008 at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin (available in Issue 40 of The Letter), where ‘ “What is said schizophrenically’ can only be understood by the complete development of the subject’

3      Page 2 of this current issue

THE LETTER 53 Summer 2013, pages 1-39.

Let us take phallic functioning up again starting from the Oedipus complex summarised in the first two formulae of the phallic function. What oblig-es us to go beyond the Freudian Oedipus complex formulated in that way?

Free association and the equally floating listening open up the path of ab-sense and of an saying freed from the search for a relationship between meanings. The experience of analysis demonstrates the ab-sense of sexual relationship: there is no relationship between the existences (‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’: nia and nya) and there is no relationship between the two universals (mascu-line and feminine). The masculine Oedipus complex cannot define ‘feminin-ity’.

Psychoanalytic discourse gives the means to go beyond the Oedipus complex: it produces the phallic signifier which will mean something quite differ-ent than the phallus. The phallus is reputed to be the sexual copula between the man and a woman; further, its meaning is supposed to condense every meaning among speaking beings. In opposition and as a contrast to this con-ception proper to the phallus, the phallic signifierwill not be a sexual copula, nor will it be the condensation of every meaning. But what will the phallic signifiermean positively? Starting from the ab-sense of the sexual relation-ship, the phallic function opens up a sexual bond between speakers which is based neither on an anatomical relationship, nor on a chromosomatic relationship, nor on a cultural relationship: the phallic function supplies for the ab-sense of the sexual relationship by its own functioning, which is unfolded in the four phallic formulae.

THE LETTER 53 Summer 2013, pages 41-46.

The starting point of psychoanalytic logic is the Heteros, the ‘notall’. If Plato’s Parmenides opens out onto the Heteros, we must nevertheless await the coming of the practice of ab-sense or psychoanalysis to set en route the logic of the Heteros; for it is only in ‘the equivocation of the signifie’ that the logic of the ‘notall’ appears as logic of the impossible or logic of the re-versal proper to the roundabout of discourses. Already at work in the firsttwo phallic formulae, especially in these naval manoeuvres and these dances with which history is woven, the ‘notall’ must be explained in a second turn.

The riddle of the notall (24e; 468)

How conceive the riddle of the notall?

To the riddle posed by the Sphynx – ‘what is the animal that walks on four paws in the morning, two paws at midday, and three paws in the evening? – Oedipus responded: ‘man’.

Far from repeating the riddle of the Sphynx and Oedipus’ interpretation, Lacan asks himself the question: ‘What is a woman’? And he responds by the count of four, two, three: – by the quadrupod of the four places of the dis-courses (chapter 2), – by the bipod of the sexes that remain without a relation-ship (chapter 3) and – by the tripod formed by the two sexes and the phallic function (chapter 4).

THE LETTER 53 Summer 2013, pages 47-55. 

Close attention to Lacan’s writing provides a basis for discerning an account of subjectivity in terms of speech and in terms of the option of refusal of a position as a speaking subject. In this exercise a reference to the Symbolic Order is indispensable.

Keywords: subjectivity and its refusal, assujettissement, Symbolic Order, speaking, memory

What are the grounds for our insistence on speech being the basis of psycho-analytic practice? It is, to be sure, something more than the slogan that ‘it’s good to talk’. Freud discovered early on that speaking is not simply a medium, the use of which can be cathartic in effect.1 It was because of this discovery that he found his way in The Interpretation of Dreams to the mechanisms of the dream work. Then, again, in Jokes and their relation to the Unconscious these same mechanisms of condensation and displacement are revealed to be operating in the work that produces a joke, the Witzarbeit.

THE LETTER 53 Summer 2013, pages 57-85.

Some arguments about Lacan’s use of topology are explored in the light of the debate as to whether or not it adds anything beneficial to the clinic of psychoanalysis. This paper discusses the essential difference between sense and meaning and addresses Le Gaufey’s critique of the use of the Borromean knot to support Lacan’s formulae of sexuation. The issues raised by Lacan at the time of his first introduction of the Klein bottle are dealt with in some depth, in order to show the rigour of his endeavour. The addendum clarifiesthe use of the cut and the dimensions in Lacanian theory.

Keywords: Lacan, topology, Nobus, Le Gaufey, the Klein bottle, the cut, the suture, the dimensions

Lacan’s use of topology continued from the 1950s to the end of his life, and this project was facilitated by his friendship with the mathematician Georges-Th. Guilbaud. He put an enormous effort into developing this aspect of his work in order to make psychoanalysis an even more rigorous discourse.

In 1951, Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Guilbaud, and Benveniste met to work on structures and establish bridges between the human sciences and mathematics. Each made use of the teaching of the other as one might a topological figue. On the basis of that collective effort, Lacan was not satisfiedwith empty talk or mere reflectionson the history of math-ematics. For thirty years, with or without Guilbaud, he engaged in daily mathematical exercises…Privately they [he and Guilbaud] shared a common taste for mathematical games: strings, inflatablebuoys, min-iature designs, children’s cubes, the art of braiding and cutting, Que-neau-like exercises in style. The fieldof topology retained the whole of Lacan’s attention; he never hesitated to blacken reams of paper to teach his audience the elements of his doctrine as transcribed in topological figues.

THE LETTER 53 Summer 2013, pages 87-99. 

This paper looks to Lacan’s formulae of sexuation in an effort to clarify the meaning of the ‘not-all’. It explores how Lacan interrogates logic to produce the ‘not-all’ and questions what is at stake clinically by means of this production. Greatly influenced by the work of Guy Le Gaufey, this paper looks to a slightly different reading of the formulae. It is hoped that this presentation of the theory opens up space for another way of looking at the ‘not-all’ which is not all about feminine sexuality.

Keywords: enjoyment, speaking, ‘not-all’, maximal particular, exception, logic, Encore

Many post-Freudians are preoccupied with the contentious and allusive notion of feminine sexuality. Indeed the Miller translation of Encore, On Femi-nine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge1 and Barnard and Fink’s accompanying Reading Seminar XX: Lacan’s Major Work on Love, Knowl-edge, and Feminine Sexuality, by their very titles, are caught up in this ques-tion of feminine sexuality which has been raging within psychoanalysis since at least the Great Debate. Yet this question is completely distracting and leads only to a cul-de-sac rooted in some notion of inequality erroneously attrib-uted to Freud in his efforts to explore subjectivity.

Comments are closed.