Perversion, Religion and Anxiety take the stage in this Autumn’s issue of our journal. Late last year Dr André Michels journeyed from Luxembourg to Dublin to deliver a series of lectures on Oscar Wilde and the subject of perversion. While the first of these aimed at presenting details of the life of Oscar Wilde, linking his homosexuality with his aesthetic theory and his work, the second draws on this ‘case history’ of the man who took on the cloak of the Wandering Jew, to elaborate the theoretical framework within which the enigma of perversion can be situated. We are pleased to be able to open this issue of THE LETTER with transcripts of his contributions, which are all the more valued and valuable since his remarks bear all the hallmarks of observations gleaned from clinical practice. Since the texts of his work produced here rely largely on a taped recording of those lectures, we hope these retain the texture of the author’s spoken offering.
Stephen Costello, during the discussion following André Michels’ first lecture, (a transcript of which accompanies the text given here), wondered what it was in Bosie that so captivated Wilde. His article, an annex to that discussion, represents some of this ‘wondering’ about the lure of the look, le regard.
Following the theme of perversion, Temmerman and Quackelbeen survey the literature with regard to the phenomenon and structure of Autoerotic Asphyxiophilia. The clinical ‘picture’ which the far-too-successful practitioner of this particular act presents, has on the whole provoked a kind of response which could be qualified as a Clinic of the Eye, the ‘picture’ serving as a gaze which is met by the gaze of the professional who can only always miss the point. (One is reminded of Petit Jean talking to petit Jacques: ‘You see that can! Well, it doesn’t see you!’).Their research underlines the poverty of the literature in that regard as much as it signals the richness that a psychoanalytic framework might bring to any clinical investigation of the structure involved, provided that the Clinic of the Ear maintains its proper field of reference.
Indeed it was this very Clinic of the Ear that Cormac Gallagher wished to make heard in his address to a group of moral theologians on the subject of the relation between psychology and religion, (the text of which is included in this issue), drawing their attention to what is most characteristic of human beings, – that ‘we, alone among creatures, speak’. Any approach to the enigma which human subjectivity presents, that would ignore the fact that for us ‘In the beginning was the Word …’ „is destined to leave aside what is fundamental to us.
Where he concludes his lecture with a call for the generation of an ethics of desire, Robert Levy’s article evokes this ethics of desire as its point of departure. Taking Freud’s article A Religious Experience, he shows the manner in which Freud’s desire as analyst makes itself heard. In his discussion we witness Freud, the unfaithful (and not wandering) Jew, meeting with a young religious convert on the field of transference, out of which an interpretation falls. It is interesting to note that where the young man has looked for infallible proofs (of the existence of God) Freud’s interpretation falls outside the field of what can or cannot be proven, of what is either true or false. Here we have an allusion to what might constitute an ethics of interpretation; an interpretation should be neither true nor false, – it should be right!
In drawing our attention to this point his article contrasts the quest for meaning and knowledge in general with the non-sense (the pas- de-sens referred to in André Michels’ article) which is proper to psychoanalysis. The way in which this hole of nonsense, which forms the kernel of our being, generates anxiety and the precipitation toward signification is explored by Helen Sheehan in her paper on anxiety and the objet a. Her work, which is part of an ongoing project, serves as a means of preserving the space of that hole which always threatens to close too quickly.
We conclude this issue with a brief resumé of the work of Ella Sharpe by Barry O’Donnell, who details the specific contribution of an analyst whose engagement with language and whose intuition of the effects of language on our being in the world were singled out for praise by Lacan.
The next issue of the journal will be given over to the proceedings of the third annual congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland which takes Crucial Problems in Psychoanalysis as its theme. As well as marking the third year of APPI’s existence, that issue will signal the end of the journal’s third year. Like all three-year-olds we find that ours has found its own particular way of being in the world.
Finally it remains for me to congratulate on behalf of the members of the Editorial Board and, I am sure, on behalf of the psychoanalytic ‘community’ generally, those students who were recently conferred with a primary degree in Psychoanalytic Studies, following the completion of a course which spanned those same three years. Many of you will know that this is the first degree of its kind in this part of the world but may not be aware of the strength of the students’ interest in their chosen field and the courage and faith they showed in opting for a course of studies which, at the time, had no ’official’ sanction. I offer you my own congratulations to which the other members of the Editorial Board add, – in the spirit of psychoanalysis, – Ear! Ear!