Issue 63 opens with another remarkable chapter – this time the concludingchapter – of Christian Fierens’ The Psychoanalytic Discourse: A Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Étourdit (2012). It is accompanied by a sort of coda – Perspectives for the Psychoanalytic Discourse – referencing the laughter provoked by the witticism.
The title itself – The Structure of the Psychoanalytic Discourse, is Interpretation – straightaway forces us to ask how, indeed, can the structure of the psychoanalytic discourse actually be interpretation? We know that the practice of free association ‘proposes’ a ‘loosening of meaning’. But what next? What’s next is that ‘sense is produced at the moment when meaning fails’ which, in its turn also fails, in order – perhaps? – to allow sex-absens – what is playing for itself – to emerge. ‘Sense does not lead back to meaning but to the breakdown of sense, to sex; where ‘sex is always the fundamental subversion of a sense supposedly seeking a common meaning’. The implications of this are huge, because this ternary movement, this ‘whirlwind’ of the successive collapsing of meaning and sense in order to allow sex ab-sens emerge, allows a recasting, a ‘topological recasting’, where ‘the matheme of psychoanalysis retroacts, namely changes the value of’ a previously held identification – a previously held ‘true opinion’, a previously held ‘it’s that’.
Complex topological terms such as fixion, unique out-of-line point, the line of change without point, are here all given their full linkage with interpretation itself. Captured in the following: ‘The function of this unique point (a single true opinion or a single ‘it’s that’) is to be in relationship with the white thread, with the line of change without points, with the line that modifies the structure..’. It might yet repay us to come to grips with these complex terms.
And what of ‘true opinion’ – the ‘matter of fitting in things and concepts in totalising diagrams’? What status do we accord true opinion doxa, ‘expert’ opinion, moral opinion so seriously under interrogation in a ‘post truth’ world, a world where ‘facts and alternative sets of facts’ are taken as opposing versions of ‘reality’ itself, one ‘trumping’ the other? In the course of an analysis, we hold multiple ‘true opinions’, multiple ‘its that’s’. ‘To make the matheme function – ‘it’s that/it’s not that’ – we must start from a single ‘it’s that’, a single true opinion. ‘Fleeing the multiplicity that is always ready for synthesis’, from a single, ‘local, punctual, unique’ opinion, something can be precipitated, something started, which allows the work of structure. This might allow the collapse of a true opinion, an ‘it’s that’ where, ‘by avowing itself false … true opinion can leave room for the ex-sistence to saying’. It cannot be over-emphasised that the three terms of meaning, sense and sexabsens are needed to permit the whirling matheme to work, ‘hugging the wall of the impossible’. And any bi-polar relaunching of just two of them alone allows a particular phallic enjoyment to restrict saying.
Attempting to summarise the foregoing – we are reminded essentially, that‘the saying ..of analysis realises’. ‘It realises a performance , a transformation from top to bottom of structure; and this transformation implies not alone the cutting of the stuff, but moreover the creation of ‘stuff’including its effacing’ where ‘creation …is the doing of the analyser, who is not reduced to the personage who comes into analysis’.
And there is more, much more on the implications of the psychoanalytic discourse – particularly for the approach to psychosis which ‘is so knotted to the exercise of discourse that all speech summons up the question of psychosis’. Enough surely to provoke your interest..
This final issue of The Letter for 2016 fulfils this editor’s aspiration that, once a year, we would aim to have an issue dedicated to the proceedings of our Inter-Cartel Study Day. We have realised this by including seven papers from our day’s work in June. Listed in the contents in the order in which they were presented, they represent the work of four of the cartel groups of ISLP. Interestingly two of these groups chose Freud’s 1914 paper On Narcissism: An Introduction as the focus for their work, here reflected in the following contributions Narcissism: Is that all Psychoanalysis Is?, The Narcissitic Ego: Functions and Fallacies and What’s Love got to do with It?.
Monica Errity informs us in Narcissism: Is that all Psychoanalysis Is? that her interest in Freud’s paper arose from her question about psychoanalysis itself and whether or not it is a narcissistic pursuit. She reminds us that Freud was certainly of the view that it was not: ‘analysis cannot help the person who arrives with the expectation of receiving narcissistic satisfaction from the analyst’. Likewise Lacan, who, with the conception of the registers of the imaginary and the symbolic, was able to differently discern how narcissistic supports, though necessary in analysis, are not the source of cure that Freud’s ‘new psychical action’, the symbolic dimension of speech itself contributes. Her detailing of the debates and the clinical questions propelling Freud to revise his libido theory at this time remains very relevant.
In her paper The Narcissistic Ego: Functions and Fallacies, Nellie Curtin’s approach to the questioning posed by Freud in 1914 derives more from the responses given by Lacan to the same questioning in his seminar for 1953- ’54 Freud’s Papers on Technique – ‘a major contribution to understanding the origins and complexities of the ego’. She further comments that ‘the ego .. develops with the formation of narcissism and also gives form to it’. Guy Le Gaufey in his paper The Object a (1995) clarifies this further – ‘the necessary distinction between narcissistic and non-narcissistic is parallel to the strict opposition between what can fall under .. unity (ego) and what cannot’. Curtin’s critique of the ego therapies is effectively done as is her highlighting of ‘the structuring effect of lack without which the ego cannot develop’. Hergestures to Mannoni and Leclaire – silent partners to the cartel – Narcissus,Echo and Angelus Silesius are all additionally welcome.
Audrey McAleese, in What’s Love got to do with It? approaches her questionon narcissism by looking at Freud’s writings on female sexuality and that supposedly most narcissistically-invested relationship, the relationship between a mother and her son. Love, it would seem, might have little to do with narcissism, in light particularly of what narcissism springs from – the absence of sexual rapport between speaking beings il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel. Perhaps her question about what satisfies a woman, and the apparent pigeon-holing of this by Freud in such phallic terms, requires further finessing. By all means we can focus on Freud’s ‘saids’ – to find fault, to lionise or, as in this paper, to question. Perhaps more is now required of our group, particularly in light of Lacan’s enjoinder to us in writings such as L’Étourdit that, rather than focussing on his ‘saids’, we must restore Freud’s ‘saying’ – a task that is ‘necessary for the discourse of analysis to be constituted’. Would that then better allow us to respond to McAleese’s challenging and important question about love?
Kim Spendlove’s From Königsberg to Cartel introduces some important references to topology’s evolution as a branch of mathematics, where spatial imagery completely deserts us. Can one believe in a dimension, such as is the fourth dimension, beyond the lure of the image? The challenges to credibility posed by topology, she reminds us, have similarities with the vast challenges faced by Freud in trying to represent the field of the unconscious. Spendlove highlights his topographical descriptions which always remained unsatisfactory to him. Moving on to Lacan’s table of transformations and Fierens’ commentary thereon, her insight into the toric circulation of demand is given relevance in her analytic work in a community of the most marginalised, where the act of simply listening to the patient – now become a truism? – is newly justified.
Is Topology Meaningless? Yes and No – the paradoxical title of Hugh Jarrett’s contribution alerts us to the extraordinary relevance for interpretation in psychoanalysis of the transformations back and forth between the torus and the moebius strip. Answering the question posed by his title in the affirmative – yes topology is meaningless – allows us glimpse that topology is outside meaning, that it is structure itself. ‘The psychoanalytic discourse has no stuff,no consistency outside the established discourses’ (Fierens). Jarrett’s exposition of the ‘more real exercise’ that is at stake in the workings of the true moebius strip – a disappearing line without points, a cut that is pure disappearance unless it is supported by a representational prop such as a spherical disc – is deftly and, for newcomers to the subject, convincingly carried out.
My own contribution Looking back at On a Discourse that Might Not be a Semblance with L’Étourdit in Mind was motivated by the wish to better understand the terms semblance and discourse, and to trace their earlier emergings in relation to ab-sens. The highpoint of my enquiry centres on Lacan’s conclusion that there is no thing in reality which the semblance represents – the semblance being only a connotation, ‘an indirect and allusive association to a “something” unattainable in itself’. This something we might name the oobject or Das Ding. Such an imagined ‘existence without essence’ is a lure that distracts from the shock of the real as pure absence of any ‘thing’. The exercise in itself of a re-reading was of interest to me. It allowed me discern, at first hand, the outcome of a certain retroaction or re-casting, as teased out by Fierens in his sixth chapter. In simpler words, former ‘it’s that’s’ about the text no longer hold, while new ‘it’s that’s’ emerge allowing me better appreciate Lacan’s wish to be read properly, which I further realise cannot be reduced to a ‘being taught how to read Lacan’ as was the case in Plato’s Meno.
In A Perfect Construction, Marion Deane approaches differently the question of non-existence. In this accomplished and most persuasive work, she takes an example of a ‘perfect’ (re)-construction – as recounted in two mininarratives, a fore-tale to the epic prose tale of the Táin Bó Cualnge along witha colophon – to show how the reconstitution into a whole corpus, a wholeand perfected written account, carries within it, and yet disavows, the illusionof ‘an already-made image of the body (corps) to create a metaphor for an imaginary unity and cohesion’. Quoting Fierens ‘there is no concrete reality which can exist independently of representation’, Deane reminds us that ‘… a concept implies the existence of whatever it alludes to, but that the “something” to which it refers does not exist in reality’. Her further critique of the methodology of the academic, which is ‘to collect and to collate narratives … to reach an absolute knowledge of reality’ leaves us in no doubt as to the limit of such an approach, wherein the preservation of fixed truths condemns ‘guardians of tradition’ to being ‘rooted in the past’ without ‘capacity for innovation’.
Finally, in these closing days of 2016, we learn with sadness of the death in Boston of Bill Richardson SJ (2nd November 1920–10th December 2016). Bill has been a friend, corresponding editor and contributor to The Letter since its inception in 1994. His support will be a great loss to us. In recognition of his contribution, it is our intention in the coming year to dedicate a special commemorative issue of the journal to his life and work in philosophy and psychoanalysis. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam