This issue of THE LETTER opens with Cormac Gallagher’s article on sexual difference in The Logic of Phantasy, Lacan’s Seminar XIV held during the academic year 1966-67, which remains unpublished in French, the only English translation of which is that available for private circulation through the working group at St Vincent’s hospital. Regular readers will know that the seminar was the focus of last year’s November congress of APPI, the proceedings of which were published in Issue 15, Cormac Gallagher’s contribution to that publication being a translation of Lacan’s summary of his own seminar. We are delighted to be able to continue an engagement with that particular seminar here. Gallagher’s paper re-introduces us to Lacan’s programme ‘to refine Freud’s use of logic by introducing logical symbolism in a much more explicit way’, culminating in the Phantasy as axiom.
Jason Glynos’s paper continues this exploration of Lacan’s formalisation of psychoanalysis. Beginning by looking at the significance of Lacan’s assertion that ‘there is no metalanguage’ when viewed against the backdrop of his other, seemingly paradoxical, claims that ‘the Unconscious is structured like a language’ and that ‘all language implies a metalanguage’, he arrives at a point already underscored for us by Gallagher, – ‘The Unconscious writes’. … Continue reading
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THE LETTER 17 (Autumn 1999) pages 1-20
Making sense of the Lacanian clinic
I hope that the title of this paper will have lowered any expectations that it will be a wide-ranging, comprehensive and contemporary consideration of the burning questions surrounding the multiple aspects of the debate on sexual difference.
The very circumscribed nature of what I have to say comes from a style of working on Jacques Lacan that we have been engaged in at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin for the past twelve years.
Our main interest is a clinical one. There is good reason for this because in many ways we are still at the stage that Freud found Charcot when he observed his presentations at the Salpetriere. Last Wednesday for example a man was presented at our weekly case conference who had developed a severe shake of the head after a relatively minor work accident some years ago. He had consulted neurologists in the United States, England and Scotland as well as in several Irish hospitals and had defeated their best endeavours. The only relief he obtained from this distressing condition was when his wife found and massaged a certain spot on his back but the success of even this procedure was, he admitted ‘a little erratic’!
The only thing that threw light on his condition was Lacan’s remark that a hysteric is one who devotes his/her life to looking for a master that they can master. The essential first step in dealing with this particular case was above all for the therapist to renounce from the outset any pretension to expertise and invite the patient to undertake an analysis. …
THE LETTER 17 (Autumn 1999) pages 21-37
This essay attempts precise the meaning and significance of Lacan’s claim that ‘there is no metalanguage’, and to link this to issues of mathematical formalisation and the end of analysis. My investigation will be conducted against the implicit background of another of his well known claims: ‘the unconscious is structured like a language.’ I will approach this task, however, from the opposite direction. The question then becomes: In what sense can we say that Lacan thinks that there is a metalanguage? In answering this question I will present some evidence in support of the (hypo)thesis that Lacan does hold onto a conception of metalanguage – a quasi-transcendental conception – but that this is, paradigmatically, mathematics qua non-glottic writing. This line of inquiry generates at least two insights which I will highlight in the final part of the essay. First, I argue that it suggests a productive way of reading the upper left hand side of the graph of desire, as found in his text The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious.1 More specifically, I argue that we can conceive the relation signifier<?>jouissance in terms of a notion that can be called formalised delimitation, a process of formalisation-to-the-limits. Secondly, and finally, I…
THE LETTER 17 (Autumn 1999) pages 38-62
One of the most striking features of The Butcher Boy is that it is a novel sustained almost entirely by one voice. True, this is a voice which exists in a kind of antiphonal relationship to the other voices in the world where the antagonist finds himself. But in contrast to the nineteenth century novel, there is no perceived need to establish the novelistic character in a densely created representational world. Everything is carried by the voice. Perhaps for this reason it is a voice which is very distinctively textured. Like other twentieth century novels, it is a voice which is inserted into regional rhythms and a novel which is almost impossible to read without the reader somehow entering these rhythms. One thinks of other recent twentieth century novels, for example, the award winning recent novel by Kathleen Fergusson, Maids Tale or the celebrated or notorious Trainspotting or indeed any of Roddy Doyle’s novels. This luring of the reader right inside the rhythms of speech creates a seductive effect which is very different, for example, to the seductive effect of Dickensian description. At one level, of course, the fictional world is always a world sustained by a voice. If the voice were to stop, the world would cease to be. So the fictional enterprise presentifies, in a way, a different version of the psychotic dilemma as described so vividly by Schreber. For Schreber too it was absolutely necessary for the voices to continue. Except for Schreber it was not simply his own speaking voice which held the world in existence but equally the persecutory voices emanating from the rays, emanating in tum from God. …
THE LETTER 17 autumn 1999, pages 63-69
In three letters written by Freud in 1908 and addressed to Jung, references were made to the addiction of their colleague, the rebellious and burlesque, Otto Gross. It is most peculiar that these references are not mentioned in any of the surveys, reviews or texts dealing with Freud’s ideas and theories on addiction. Freud’s remarks on addiction in these letters, and indeed on the case of Otto Gross itself, are interesting enough to warrant (at least) a brief discussion. Gross was an assistant to the famous psychiatrist Kraepelin and a patient of Jung. Freud knew Otto’s father, Hans, who was professor in criminology in Graz and Prague. Otto was a psychoanalyst and philosopher and he was also hopelessly addicted to cocaine and opium. Otto’s addictive behaviour became at some point so problematic for his entourage that his father decided to have him locked away in a psychiatric institute. Needless to say that the relationship between father and son wasn’t the best and it certainly didn’t improve after the incarceration. Otto was, and remained, a troubled and rebellious character. He was freed after a while and then disappeared from the scene until his death, due to drug addiction, was announced in 1920. In relation to Otto Gross’s addiction Freud writes to Jung the following: …
THE LETTER 17 autumn 1999, pages 71-78
The work of the Bulgarian psychoanalyst, Julia Kristeva, provides an interesting parallel with the theories of both Freud and Lacan with regard to women. Her ideas on the formation of the subject; her theory of the semiotic and the chora; her views on the origin of poetic language and its relationship to psychotic babble; the maternal role and the abject; all of these seem very relevant to any attempt to understand the development of the female subject.
Kristeva, a Bulgarian living in France, contends in an interview in 1989 that psychoanalysis offers a way to approach foreignness and alterity because ‘the Freudian message, to simplify things, consists in saying that the other is in me. It is my unconscious ‘.1 She claims to be ‘very attached to the idea of the woman as irrecuperable foreigner … (having) a permanent marginality, which is the notion of change’.
Following Lacan, Kristeva maintains that subjectivity is formed in conjunction with language acquisition and use and she challenges the unity and claim to mastery of a sovereign subject. However, she focuses her analysis upon the transgressions of the law of the symbolic in the form of the semiotic, which she argues is an integral and revolutionary part of symbolic language.
Kristeva bases language on the pre-Oedipal relationship between the child and the mother, thus shifting the emphasis away from the Freudian and Lacanian concern with the Oedipal father. In this she resembles Melanie Klein, from whose work she draws. Kristeva uses the term ‘semiotic chora’ for the pre-Oedipal stage of life, suggesting that it is…
THE LETTER 17 (Autumn 1999) pages 79-119
It is not to his conscience that the subject is condemned, it is to his body
Study of Lacan’s work may start from two different points of view. Either one considers that everything is there, right from the start, thus considering the rest of his work as one long elaboration. The standard example of this approach lies with the Freud scholars who include the whole of his theory in his early Project for a Scientific Psychology. Or one considers his theory and teaching as a ‘work in progress’ marked by an evolution which contains drastic changes. Both approaches can be defended. I have opted for the second one, which does not mean that we will not be confronted with the first option …
From this point of view, Lacan’s theory concerning the relationship between body and subject can be divided in three periods, each one demonstrating a certain evolution in his work as such. …