THE LETTER 22 (Summer 2001) pages 39-58
By way of introduction
Freud made use of hieroglyphics (in dream analysis), whilst Lacan drew inspiration from Chinese writing. Having studied the basics of this, Lacan went so far as to say, ‘it is perhaps only because I studied Chinese in the past, that I can now call myself Lacanian’.
Not only did Lacan find the same ambiguity in Chinese characters as in the signifier – thus re-enforcing the claim that the unconscious is structured like language – but he went further and placed emphasis on the particular dimension specific to the written word. He demonstrated (for example, using Edgar Poe’s The Purloined Letter) how the instance, the insistence of the letter determines the subject’s wishes. Each individual is determined by the letters from language, whether poetic or scientific, relative to his personal life story. Lacan was himself taken in by the letter when he invented a form of writing specific to analytical discourse.
Recognising the specificity of the written word in speech and language has led to a new clinical approach since Freud, used for example amongst children faced with learning problems in respect of reading and writing. This specificity opens up a new approach to a question that has never been totally resolved: that of the link between the Oedipus complex and the child’s curiosity regarding the difference between the sexes. This question raises problems for the child later (it is the driving force behind his sexual theories), and is also an object of research for the psychoanalyst. Taking these issues into consideration, one can better identify care demands in child psychoanalysis. …