Editorial, Issue 57


Readers of The Letter will be aware that, over the past few years, we have been engaged in bringing Lacan’s L’Etourdit, his great final écrit (1972) to you in a serialised form. This has been made possible thanks to the availability of Cormac Gallagher’s painstaking translations not only of L’Etourdit but of Christian Fierens’ accompanying Lecture de L’Etourdit. The line-by-line commentary of Fierens, on this most difficult and hermetic of Lacan’s writ-ten works has proved essential for those of us who continue to try to make sense of the vital elaborations that Lacan was introducing even in his 72nd year. We now have the good fortune to have from Fierens his second Reading of L’Etourdit, entitled The Psychoanalytic Discourse. A Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Etourdit. This was published in French in 2012 and recently translated by Cormac Gallagher.  A second reading is not a first reading – this is not meant to be tautological – rather, we are taking this second reading to be a re-presentation, ‘a second, different loop of reading’ where for Fierens ‘(i)t is .. a matter of engaging myself, with its risks and its perils, in the act of saying proper to the psychoanalytic discourse’.

In the current issue you will find the opening sections of the book, comprising Presentation, Introduction and Chapter 1: The Roles of the Analyst. We hope to bring you the complete translation in forthcoming issues.

This second reading of Fierens is on the discourse of psychoanalysis. Fierens reminds us again that ‘from start to finish, the thread of (Lacan’s) discourse has as object the analyst and his function’. In consequence, any discourse about analysis excludes, perforce, what happens in the humblest psychoanalytic session, which is where the psychoanalytic discourse locates itself. Confronting any of us who speak to others about our practice – be that through teaching, writing, speaking at a psychiatric case conference, having an exchange with a healthcare professional, with a colleague, with a partner etc – is the ‘crux of psychoanalysis’. That crux can give way to the necessity ‘to weave the chain of the discourse on the psychoanalyst, … with the texture of the experience of free speech, that of the psychoanalytic discourse.’ A weaving, a working, with ‘some but notall’ control over the ‘stuff’ produced – just how profitable can that be!

The Roles of the Analyst that Fierens highlights are those of the dogmatic analyst, the sceptical analyst, the dynamic analyst, the analyst as witness. Be forewarned if you claim ‘I don’t recognise myself in any of these roles’ be-cause these imaginary roles we assume anyway. To quote Fierens ‘Well may we deny, reject, ignore them. They must be recognised in order to question and transform them and thus to allow onself to be operated on by the practice of the signifier’.  I encourage you to read on.

Thanks to Cormac Gallagher, many of us had the chance over the summer to read Jean Allouch’s Fragilities of Analysis. This wonderful paper can inspire, console and even give us direction. We can indeed take heart from Allouch’s words. Apropos of analysis, consider the opening sentence ‘ Easy to break, to falsify, to damage, to destroy, with a weak composition and a lack of solidity, fragility could scarcely be said to have a good press’. Psychoanalysis, Allouch goes on to say, has acquired ‘a false or pseudo-solidity’ in three ways: in its attempt to be equal to or conquer psychiatry; in assuming ‘a rigid psychoanalytic religiosity’ that was so suspect to Freud; and in the position it takes in responding to ‘a pressing social demand for norms’ – namely ‘psychoanalytic anthropology’.

The author has turned to Foucault, who in his ‘Hermeneutics of the Subject’, declares that psychoanalysis, apart from Lacan, has shied away from ‘the very old … question of epimeleia heautou’ or ‘spirituality as a condition of access to the truth’.  (I would encourage you to read Barry O’Donnell’s detailed notes appending Allouch’s paper, on epimeleia heautou and other Greek expressions). Allouch says, we are uniquely regulated in our practice by the diverse. This resonates strongly with the notion of differance separately proposed by Fierens.

I now have the pleasure of introducing three papers presented at the Inter-Cartel Day of the Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis (ISLP) held in June. Marion Deane’s Subject and Subject-Matter communicates a very elegantly crafted message, arising from her engagement with Fierens’s Second Reading of L’Etourdit, that calls on an extensive literary sensibility. Deane examines an interpretation on her part of certain signifiers in The Tollund Man by Seamus Heaney, to demonstrate the limit of a ‘delusional type’ of interpretation. Delusional remains an adjective that shocks. How then to recognise in it the ‘hermeneutic tactics’ that the author describes and that we all assume in any discourse that relies on linkages based solely on meaning. In her text, the linkages between Aarhus/our house and feeling ‘at home’ are indeed convincing of such tactics.  Her further separating out of the ‘I’, the agent of speech, from saying, or, in other words, from what might be a ‘subject’, is especially effective.

In her paper Irish Myth: Culture and Psychic Structure, Nellie Curtin, whose cartel engaged in a re-examination of Freud’s case of the Wolfman, introduces us to an Irish myth, Altram Tige dá Medar The Fosterage of the House of the Two Goblets.  The question of why myth arranges itself so and of what relevance this is to psychoanalysis is central in the text. Curtin’s interpretation of the story of Eithne whose fate hinges negatively on a sexual comment, perceived as insult or curse, is juxtaposed with broader cultural questions such as the transition from druidic religion to Christianity. For the author, these richly drawn myths, individual and societal, indicate what is primal. In this context, the notion of the primal scene, so central in the case of the Wolf-man, is also raised. Eithne we are told means ‘kernel’. This hints at the ‘hole’ or the void around which the ‘half-saids’ of any myth turn. Perhaps this might inform another perspective on what is primal, a perspective that is hither to the meaning solution that myth provides.

In An Examination of the Function of the Proper Name as Introduced in Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, Micheli Romão engages with whether the proper name masks or reveals the subject. This she highlights, by means of the viscerally charged participles, sticking and detaching. Romão examines two forms of parapraxis, Serge Leclaire’s nonsense word poor(d)j’eLI spoken about in the closed sessions of Crucial Problems and Freud’s forgetting of the name Signorelli. In a careful analysis of these parapraxes, she effectively argues for the proper name as a mask, a patch over the place of absence, that becomes detached when a name is forgotten. This paper also introduces us, by the way, to forms of work undertaken by members of the Ecole Freudienne de Paris (EFP) – one of whom was Leclaire – that were taking place during the closed sessions of Lacan’s Crucial Problems seminar. Coinciding with the early days of the School, this seminar may be of interest to members of ISLP.

Patricia McCarthy


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