Editorial, Issue 54


The publication of Cormac Gallagher’s translation of Guy Le Gaufey’s acclaimed book Lacan’s Notall: Logical Consistency, Clinical Consequences in four segments, reaches completion in the current issue of The Letter with the appearance of the third chapter, Some Clinical Consequences of the Logical Difference between the Sexes. The sequencing and timing of the appearance of the four segments was again decided by the teaching and research interests of members of ISLP who were drawn to study different areas of the book at different times. Many made do with earlier proofs, particularly of chapter two Towards a Critical Reading of the Formulae of Sexuation which are now well thumbed and dog-eared, such was the excitement in 2006 when we were introduced to Le Gaufey’s reading of the formulae. This middle chapter was finally published in 2008 in the first issue (Issue 39) of a re-defined journal The Letter Irish Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis, with chapter one appearing in 2010 (Issue 45) and a scholion in 2011 (issue 47).

Regarding chapter two, this served as the primary text for my own teaching over an eight year period in the School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s University Hospital where, I observed, that its subject matter captivated many. We now bring you chapter three, which has a wide-ranging content not fully captured in the title Clinical Consequences… In the early sections, Le Gaufey forever ties down where, in the Three Essays, Freud with the use of the remarkable word ‘solders’, essentially allows for an originating absence of rap-port between the sexes. ‘..The sexual instinct and the sexual object are merely soldered together’, Freud says, thereby refuting a whole tradition where ‘every deviation with respect to a ‘properly’ soldered Trieb and Objekt – genital maturity, so called – ‘allowed the new concept of “perversion” to be thought out with the musty smell of unhealthy pathology’.

According to Le Gaufey, Lacan continued the fight against this pathologising trend with his now famous dictum ‘there is no sexual rapport’, a dictum that was painstakingly arrived at by means of an unrelenting interrogation of the square of opposition – a centuries-old touchstone of classical logic based on the sovereignty of the universal. For all our sakes, the formulae of sexuation is the outcome of this interrogation to which, in this chapter three, he hauls us back to again confront the quality of absence at the heart of the particular negative – Lacan’s neologistic notall – and how it shares ‘no space’ with the universal, now diminished and knowable only by means of a symbolic value.

A highlight of the chapter is Le Gaufey’s critique – tempered by the conclusions of Lacan’s formulae – of the clinical vignette.  ‘Born in the crucible’ of the minimal particular – where it is but an instance of a universal, conforming to a preconceived construct, a categorization already in place – the clinical vignette is correctly ‘diagnosed’ as serving ‘a collectivity engaged in acquiring professional mastery’ where, by its ‘imperious logic’ it ‘predisposes it to miss out on some of Lacan’s fundamental intuitions regarding the sexes and the standing of analytic knowledge in the clinic of that name’ It demands a consensus within a group (an ‘irenism’ which postures as peace-loving) which becomes ‘reversed into a warlike passion when it is a matter of considering a paradigm foreign to it’.

By contrast, a clinic based on the maximal particular – some but notall – is, for any of us more difficult to articulate. Le Gaufey attempts this on the very last page of his chapter three as follows. Quoting Lacan’s definition of the analyst’s desire to obtain ‘absolute difference’, he states ‘we try to allow thought (editor’s italics), which is only able to produce relations (again, editor’s italics) to hand over to the tongue so that it may be able to outline ..an edge..not a frontier, constituted by a lack of neighbourhood which alters its relational capacity, its aptitude for entering into relationship’. Le Gaufey’s text is challenging and requires an engagement with the thought of the logicians – Peirce, Benjamin, Quine, Blanché to name a few – but how else can we make our own of texts such as this, unless we familiarise ourselves with the proper fields of knowledge that inform them?

The title of Jacques Laberge’s paper CMJOYCIRENSFW – a portmanteau word – fuses the beginning, Chamber Music (CM) and the end, Finnegans Wake (FW) of Joyce, the singing writer or the writersinger’s immense literary song. This paper was first presented at the Joyce-Lacan Symposium in Dublin Castle before an international audience of psychoanalysts in 2005. Laberge’s thesis is that, through serial identifications with Ibsen, Wagner and finally, the tenor John Sullivan – who told Joyce he was banned from singing in some important opera houses – Joyce could become the artist, God-like yet banned himself, in likeness with Sullivan. These identifications being secondary to ‘a lack of identification through meaning’, served as a ‘repairing sinthome’.

This is a fascinating paper that touches on many facets of Joyce’s work.  Taking Ulysses, each chapter, as we know, representing an organ of the body, Laberge judges the grand over-arching sublimatory schema of the book as descriptive of bodily fragmentation. Within each chapter, an organ comes to be annihilated, which ‘cannot (then) be joined to the next organ that will be high-lighted in the next chapter’. Joyce valued the voice of the singer above any instrument. Faithful to the theme of music, the Sirens episode it particularly privileged by Laberge as its organ is the ear. In this chapter 11, the orchestra of sounds brought into being by the Sirens of the Ormond Hotel, Bronzelydia and Minagold, through the clashing of Homer’s metals of bronze and gold, is riveting.

Joyce’s insistence, throughout his work, on the transposition from ‘sight to sound’ as the ‘true essence of art’ was informed in part by his insight that ‘you hear more in dreams than you think, more than you remember’. Laberge’s conclusion – that Joyce ‘the singer invades the writing’ thereby ‘radicalising the expulsion of meaning’ – gives much food for thought and justifies the in-exhaustible preoccupation with this genius of the word and of sound as word.  Finally, with all the largely negative things written about his father, John Stanislaus, the fact that it was by means of singing that James kept faith with the ‘musical voice’ of his father strikes a very poignant note.

Tom Dalzell’s paper Delusional Ideas of God and The Devil was first presented at All Hallow’s College in June 2011 to an audience of mainly religious. Dalzell is highly regarded within our group as the author of Freud’s Schreber between Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis: On Subjective Disposition to Psychosis and he returns to Schreber to delineate how, for Freud, the duality be-tween God and the devil was reflective of Schreber’s father complex. He also examines Freud’s 1923 account of the case of Haitzmann, a seventeenth century painter suffering from a devil neurosis, and asserts that, in both this case and that of Schreber, a feminine attitude towards the father was in evidence. Dalzell’s scholarly account of how differing religious traditions interpret ideas of God and the devil is revelatory, particularly the view within Christian theology that God can be understood as ‘loving and punishing, like Freud’s God and the devil, a God who, for Luther at least, must first be the God of love’.

This paper remains faithful to the oedipal ‘letters patent’ of psychoanalysis where Freud’s oedipal father and Lacan’s non/nom du père would have had a resonance with a religious audience where belief in God as Father is a constant. Nonetheless, Dalzell rightly emphasises that analysts and ministers of religion listen differently to patients who are suffering from delusions. He cautions us to put ourselves in the position of a little other i(o), a position that is reminiscent of Lacan’s ‘we are brothers and sisters to our patients’ and that has to be further informed analytically.

Gustavo Cetlin works in Centro Mineiros de Toxicomania, the first public in-stitution in Brazil to offer psychoanalytic treatment to patients with alcohol and drug addiction and is co-ordinator of the Centre’s research and teaching programme – Nucleo de Ensino e Pesquisa. In his paper, Case by Case: Approaching the Subject of Drug Abuse in Times of Over-Consumption, he elegantly describes how such over-consumption in all its expressions is an ‘exercise of repeating beyond the limits of pleasure’ – pleasure as defined by Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. He delineates how society with its ‘just do it’ philosophy ultimately leaves the subject in the lurch.

In Ireland, we are certainly not immune from the world-wide reach of addiction where its ravages are felt in every small town. The insistence of addiction as ‘a modern practice’ updates the debate promoted by Cetlin ‘between the biological and subjectivity or the instinct and the drive’. By attempting to return to a biological organization that matches an instinct to a single object, Cetlin proposes that the addict wants to be part of pure nature, wants to retreat from being a subject marked by language to a state of silence. By somehow making the Other reachable, psychoanalytic treatment is then the attempt to ‘force the impossibility of a natural condition’. The ‘somehow’ that Cetlin outlines is in three moments: Rebuilding the Other, Diagnosis – based, not on psychiatric diagnosis but on the subject’s form of relating to the Other – and Act. Can this be attempted as explicitly delineated by Cetlin? When we consider the standard treatments for bulimia, anorexia nervosa and other addictions within our own mental health settings – where even a psychoanalytic hypothesis such as Cetlin outlines is woefully absent – can we yet say?

Olivia Fox’s Can I Say Who I Am is perhaps a model for the subtlety required to address the in-between nature of the subject we encounter in analysis. This paper comes of her participation in one of ISLP’s cartels where she presented it at the Inter-Cartel Study Day in June 2103. In light of the ‘saying’ and the ‘said’ introduced by Lacan in the late sixties and early seventies, and in L’Etourdit in particular, Fox’s stated aim is to re-examine ‘empty’ and ‘full speech’, first introduced by Lacan in 1953 in The Function and Field of Speech and Language.. By means of thoughtful and measured quotation and enquiry, she breathes a freshness into these terms and goes on to remind us of the theoretical distinctions wrought by Lacan at this time between speech and language. There are undoubted similarities between the opposed terms full and empty speech and the saying and the said, but they are not equivalent, nor does the author make any such claim. A whole questioning of a logical tradition that excludes the subject has been undertaken by Lacan in the intervening years, making for more work to be done in order to evaluate the differences.

   Patricia McCarthy

THE LETTER 54 Autumn 2013, pages 1-44.

We have tried to follow as closely as possible the movements of the writing by which Lacan arrived at his formulae, in the hope of dissipating while doing so some stubborn obscurities, due in large measure to the interpretations that he was the first to make of them – among others, the one that sees in the exception, in  , the logical writing of the totemic father, of him who is supposed by definition to escape the phallic law valid for all, except for him.  Taken in an uncritical way, this interpretation confuses a singular (there are never x totemic fathers per hoard) and a particular which, by definition, does not as such lay claim to singularity.  At least in logic, where it is of overriding importance to distinguish between a particular proposition and a singular proposition which, for its part, implies one and only one individual, posing by this fact other problems a propos the existence of the element with respect to which it asserts something.  Lacan, though giving the example of the totemic father, does not get involved in this confusion since he believes it appropriate to name this  ‘theatleastoneman’ (‘l’hommoinzun’), and therefore leaves open the possibility that there are several of them capable of supporting this exception.  By reducing the particular affirmative to a singular proposition, one is exposed inversely to missing out on the difficult status of the exception that this particular encircles because by bringing its extension down to just one individual, we may as well let the narcissism of each do as it will to reduce this exception to a ‘self’ (momentarily projected into the exceptional other), and in this way play half the fish caught by Lacan.

THE LETTER 54 Autumn 2013, pages 45-62.

From Chamber Music to Finnegans Wake through the Sirens’ episode in Ulysses, we have the revelation of a man who cannot really be a writer without being a singer. Joyce is a mixture of Henrik Ibsen and Richard  Wagner. At the end, he identifies himself to the tenor Sullivan considered by him better than any genius in literature, painting, or sculpture and defines his last book as ‘pure music’.

Keywords: Ibsen, Wagner, Lévi-Strauss, Didier-Weill, Sullivan

The works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Richard Wagner (1813-1883), and Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) made a special mark on the life and work of James Joyce. What do they have in common? Drama, theatre, and, especially, voices. On the basis of this drama, Joyce will invent a kind of writing that is meant to be heard. On Shakespeare, Joyce tells us in Drama and Life, written in 1900, that his art is, properly speaking, ‘literature in dialogue’, literature being ‘an inferior art-form’. It is in Henrik Ibsen that one finds, according to Joyce, a form of drama that ‘transcends the critics: the artist forsakes his own self and sets himself up as a reverential mediator of truth before the veiled face of God. ….when the art of a dramatist is perfect, criticism is superfluous. Life is not be subjected to criticism, but to be confronted and lived’.

THE LETTER 54 Autumn 2013, pages 63-72.

This paper demonstrates that both psychoanalysis and theology have understood God and the devil to be two sides of the one coin. Concentrating on Freud’s 1911 Schreber case and his 1923 case of devil-neurosis, it concludes that imagos of God and the devil are based on the infantile experience of the father and it argues that both the psychoanalyst and the minister of religion need to be what Lacan called a ‘little other’ [i(o)] for the psychotic patient, refraining from correcting non-threatening delusions, but rather providing a space where the patient can reconstruct his or her world of sense and develop an appropriate sinthome to hold his or her subjectivity together.

Keywords: Freud, Lacan, psychosis, God, devil, nomination, sinthome


The intention of this paper is to draw on psychoanalysis to make sense of delusions about God and the devil and to suggest appropriate pastoral responses to the psychotic patient. Psychoanalysis understands a delusion as the patient’s own attempt at healing or reconstruction. It will be argued, therefore, that pastoral care needs to suspend its theological objections since, if it questions a psychotic patient’s image of God or belief in the existence of the devil, the patient has to begin the process of reconstruction all over again.

Daniel Paul Schreber

The most famous case of psychosis in the history of psychiatry is Dr. Daniel Paul Schreber. He was born in 1842 and became a presiding judge in the High Court, or Court of Appeal, in Dresden in 1893. Thanks to Freud’s interpretation of the case in 1911, Schreber is still well known for his procreation delusion.4 In this, he had become God’s wife, for the procreation of a new humanity.

THE LETTER 54 Autumn 2013, pages 73-80.

The article argues that once nurtured by language, the human subject is removed from the condition of a natural existence where every instinct is matched to an external object; instead he is driven to pursue the lost object where satisfaction is rather a path than a fact Taking drug addiction as paradigmatic of modern illness, the author describes how the suffering and decay involving consumption pathologies are related to the attempt to return to a natural state, non-dependent on language and desire, where objects of reality would be sufficient to silence the drive. However, by doing so it reinforces the constancy principle, later related in Freudian theory to the death drive, leading to the worst developments. In conclusion, basic directions for treating these patients are offered taken from the experience of the clinical practice of the ‘Centro Mineiro de Toxicomania’, a public health Centre in Brazil for patients with alcohol and drug abuse problems and supported by a psychoanalytic orientation.

Keywords: consumption, modern pathologies, psychoanalysis, drug addiction, treatment, Centro Mineiro de Toxicomania.

Many are the authors that have been elaborating the role that consumption plays in our daily lives and culture, identifying not only the action of consuming, but its paradigms and philosophical consequences. Psychoanalysts are no different and have approached the problem by acknowledging the appearance of symptoms that differed from those usually addressed to them.


THE LETTER 54 Autumn 2013, pages 81-91.

That one might be saying this second, remains forgotten behind what is said’ is a phrase emphasised and repeated in L’Etourdit.  This paper suggests that, although the above quote is written in 1972 and late in Lacan’s career, he may have laid down the fundamentals for it  in a much earlier  paper ‘The Function  and Field of Speech and Language’, written in 1953.  Lacan’s writings tell us that the speaking subject who uses language to convey a meaning or sentiment, reveals itself as a subject not equivalent to the one speaking as I, but as a subject which can be detected in the very words or signifiers themselves. An examination of the intricacies of ‘full speech’ and ‘empty speech’ in Lacan’s 1953 paper was thought necessary by the author to establish if it is possible ‘to say who I am’.

Keywords; L’Etourdit, subject, saying, said, full speech, empty speech

The title of this paper Can I say who I am, is a question without a question mark and deliberately so. This was a question for me as a trainee psychotherapist, however the question mark is no longer there as my study of psychoanalysis has revealed to me that ‘to say’ anything has a dimension beyond what is said. This understanding was the reason for my engagement with the first turn of Lacan’s L’Etourdit2 as part of a cartel group in 2013 for The Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis, ISLP. As Christian Fierens says in his Reading L’Etourdit ‘L’Etourdit is the primary form that diverts us from our conscious semantics, it is the apparition of the unconscious in its dimension of non-sense, and it opens up a beyond of common meaning’ …

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