Issue 24 (spring 2002)


This issue of THE LETTER brings together a selection of papers from those presented at the 8thAnnual Congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland, held in November 2001 at the Education and Research Centre in St Vincent’s Hospital Dublin. The format for that congress was somewhat different from those of past years. And this in virtue of the occasion which APPI wanted to mark in its own way – the centenary of the birth of Jacques Lacan. This departure from previous congresses was, for the first time ever, a two-day event: The Legacy of Jacques Lacan: l’envers de la psychanalyse, drawing together firstly, the work which had been done by those following the reading of Lacan’s Seminar XVII from 1969-70, and which was made possible by Cormac Gallagher’s unpublished translation of the text, and secondly, the work of those looking back over the legacy left by Lacan and the various arenas in which that inheritance might be extended and built upon.

The expanded programme offered the Association the opportunity to address a number of issues pertinent to the membership at this point in its history. So in addition to the work on Seminar XVII it was possible to introduce a section on training, on the work of the clinic, and a valuable section on the interface of psychoanalysis with the institutions. Although usually at this point in the introduction we give some indication of the content of the articles which appear here, this time we leave the reader to review at his leisure the result of the various contributors encounters with Lacan. It will not, however, diminish the status of any of the other contributions if we single out two for special mention: while over the years, Cormac Gallagher’s overview of the year’s Seminar has become a tradition in itself, an opening to the congress which sets the scene for… Continue reading

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THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 1-22

Introduction Almost halfway through the year, Lacan makes a caustic reference to the just published 50th anniversary issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis:

If you read the body of work that makes up this anniversary issue of the International Journal, you can understand why the authors congratulate themselves on the solidity displayed over the past 50 years. I would ask you to put it to the test. Take any issue whatsoever in the past 50 years – you will never know its date. It always says the same thing. It is always just as insipid, and since analysis is a preservative, it is also always by the same authors. They congratulate themselves, in short, that these 50 years have clearly confirmed these primary truths: that the mainspring of analysis is goodness, and that, happily, what has become obvious throughout these years, with the progressive effacing of Freud’s discourse is, in particular, the solidity and the glory of a discovery described as the autonomous ego, namely, the conflict-free ego. This is the result of 50 years of experience, in virtue of the injection of three psychoanalysts who had flourished in Berlin, into American society where this discourse about a solidly autonomous ego certainly…


THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 23-29

Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, lecture 16 is entitled Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry, and in it Freud castigates psychiatrists for making minimum contact with their patients and paying little attention to what they say. He goes on to say, however, that ‘in the not too distant future, it will be realised that a scientifically based psychiatry is not possible without a sound knowledge of the deeper-lying unconscious processes in mental life’. ‘Psychoanalysis’ he says ‘is related to psychiatry as histology is to anatomy. One is the continuation of the other’.

In 1926, in his Question of Lay Analysis he introduces and defends the role of the non-medically trained psychoanalyst. He asserts that doctors have no claim to the sole possession of analysis and he accuses those who practise it without learning or understanding, of quackery. He warns that those doctors who do engage with psychoanalysis will attempt to make things easier for themselves and will ‘pull out its poisonous fangs and make it pleasant’. He adds ‘we do not consider it at all desirable for psychoanalysis to be swallowed up by medicine and to find its last resting place in a textbook of psychiatry listed under ‘other methods of treatment’.

This APPI congress is ample proof that Freud succeeded in opening up psychoanalysis to non-doctors but what of his concerns regarding doctors and psychoanalysis?

Psychiatry is one of the largest medical specialties. It has waxed and waned in popularity since Freud. Young doctors who apply to specialise in psychiatry usually refer to their desire to relate to their…

THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 30-37

In modern life there is a proliferation of various alternative therapies centred on the body (for instance, craniosacral therapy, body emotive therapy among others); there is also a general public paranoia about the effects of conventional medicine on the body.1 Both are symptomatic of a denial that the body is an effect of the registers of the symbolic, imaginary and real as explicated by Lacan. They represent a wish for a return to some imagined state where man is in tune with nature and all that is ‘natural’. In a similar vein Lacan is frequently criticised for ignoring the body in favour of the signifier or there is the criticism that psychoanalysis ignores what is popularly known as body language. Those who voice these criticisms tend to see the body as completely exclusive of the field of the signifier; however nowhere is the body more in evidence than in analysis, especially when the signifying chain grinds to a halt, revealing the dependence of the real of the body on the signifier. Some months ago, in the course of a session with an analysand, I had a sense of her body looming large, being almost too close for comfort, although if anything she was slight in build. Moments later she commented that she felt uncomfortably large, as though she were taking up the whole room. The symptom that had provoked her to seek analysis was an inability to finish any intellectual project. The sessions were often characterised by a kind of immobility of the signifying chain which indeed…


THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 38-47

The twofold structure of the symptom

Ever since the discovery of the unconscious, psychopathological symptoms have been explained on the basis of defence, in which repression plays a prominent role. However, after Freud it was more or less forgotten that repression in itself is a second moment within the causation of psychopathology:

If what is spoken of as ‘repression’ is examined more closely, we shall find reason to split the process up into three phases which are easily distinguishable from one another conceptually. The first phase consists in fixation, which is the precursor and necessary condition of every repression. The phase of the repression proper – the phase to which psychoanalysis is accustomed to give the most attention – in fact is already a second phase of repression. The third phase is the return of the repressed.

In other words, we mustn’t forget Freud’s axiom that symptoms are not only a compromise formation between two contradictory tendencies, but also a locus of jouissance. …

THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 48-63

By way of an introduction

How can psychoanalytic theory introduce itself within a present day mental health care institution without solely producing toxic effects of Truth amongst the members of staff? Can an ethics of the real invade the dominant discourse of mastery as it is presently identified in the bio-engineering of human behaviour and cognition? How does a psychoanalyst speak when working together with a multidisciplinary team? The history of psychoanalysis in (clinical) institutions suggests various modi operandi for organizing institutions based on psychoanalytic theory and ethics. But what about the introduction of psychoanalysis within an ‘established’ institution? In this paper I investigate whether psychoanalysis, given its marginal position on a cultural level, has any assets (left) in dealing with the unbearable real and the impossible sexual relation. Anxiety, psychoanalytic experience and Lacan’s logic of the four discourses will serve as signposts.

Setting the Scene

In Belgium the year 2001 has been declared the year of Mental Health Care. The patient rights movement, the tearing down of the walls segregating the mentally ill, providing information about mental illness to the lay person, teaching people how to cope with mentally ill family members, all these actions and intentions illustrate the nature of the…


THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 64-74

After the preliminary Studies of Hysteria, the publication of the Interpretation of Dreams, at the very beginning of the twentieth century, constitutes, establishes, the real act of birth of psychoanalysis. The inaugural book of a new rationality will be the masterpiece of Freud’s oeuvre.

His investigation of the dream led him to consider the psychic causality of the neurotic symptom and, along the way, to develop his theory of the unconscious. The dream in fact presents the same structure as the other?,formations?’ of the unconscious – the joke, the lapsus, the acte manqué, the symptom, etc.

In Freud’s first studies then – which Lacan held to be canonical – he tries to define the unconscious as a clinical operator which is indispensable for the interpretation of the dream. The unconscious, however, is not identical with the dream itself; rather, it constitutes the stage where the latter takes place. The dream-message includes fault, transgression, guilt on the one hand and absence, gap, lack on the other, teaching the subject that he is split, that he is himself spoken from elsewhere, that he is the crossing point of a radically different, heterogeneous dimension.

In this regard, Lacan’s approach is certainly the most innovative and most original. It intervenes after the end (clôture) of the work of the first analyst and thus belongs not only to a different generation, but also to a different logical time. If Freud’s name is synonymous with the discovery of the Unconscious, Lacan for his part, has largely contributed to elaborating its logic and rhetoric, redefining and perhaps establishing, for…

THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 75-82

Everyone has his own Lacan! I mean that each one has found in the work of Lacan an invention that has opened new horizons on psychoanalysis. Lacan, himself, considered that his main discovery was the ]matheme] of drive: I mean the object little a. For myself, I’ve never been really convinced of the originality of the object a, because Freud had already considerably explained this by the notion of drive. Freud is even clearer than Lacan, especially in distinguishing between the ‘aim’ and the ‘object’ of drive. Some Lacanians mix up the aim and the object, which can lead to some quite embarrassing results. The ‘aim’ of the drive is the phallic signification, the (Vorstellungs Representanz) while the object is only the ‘representative’ of this signification, an interchangeable representative of which each avatar becomes important only in function of the inaccessible aim.

However, the notion of the barred subject is entirely original: it is a great invention of Lacan, the consequences of which have enormous influence. In Freud you cannot find the notion of ‘subject’ because it is mixed up with the notion of the ‘ego’. In fact in German, the ‘subject’ and the ‘ego’ are the same word, ‘lch’. To correctly translate in French the german word ‘Ich’, one must examine the context. For example, in the aphorism ‘Wo Es war, soll Ich werden’, one needs to translate ‘Ich’ by I (it’s the subject of the verb!). Indeed, the term ‘ego’ is not suitable since ‘Ich’ does not as yet have its imaginary consistency, which is the aim. However, when Freud mentions ‘Ichspaltung, he’s talking about the splitting of the ‘ego’, since a certain part of the ‘Ich’ keeps its imaginary consistency. It’s the imaginary dimension, also introduced by Lacan,…

THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 84-88

Lacan’s phrase can be translated thus: ‘The woman gives to puissance to dare the mask of repetition’. However, this morning during the congress, Jacqueline Rose proposed another more easily understood translation: ‘The woman issues to puissance the challenge of wearing the mask of repetition’. You will find this quotation from Lacan in Seminar XVII, Venvers de la psychanalyse, in the session of 11th February 1970.

In French, it is indeed a very poetic and beautiful phrase since it carries with it the promise of a gift, the gift that the woman should bring to puissance in daring to make use of the semblant as a way to jouir. Of course, the Lacanian woman, as you know, is a woman who is not lacking puissance. This could even oppose her to the Freudian woman. The Freudian woman is riveted to the missing phallus and to the dissatisfaction that this missing phallus leaves her with, unless she finds its equivalence in maternity. The Lacanian woman offers another point of view on feminine sexuality insofar as Lacan is able to make ‘The Woman’ (the one who doesn’t exist) equivalent to puissance. For Lacan, not only is woman fully in phallic puissance, but she also has access to a supplementary puissance. This supplementary puissance is beyond the one she obtains when consenting to refer herself to the phallus.

In rendering homage to Lacan here in Dublin, and given what we inherit from him as psychoanalysts, I have chosen this sentence from L’Envers de la Psychanalyse as an epigraph for my paper because it seems to pay witness to the extraordinary audacity of Lacan. His audacity consists here in a discourse on puissance which, in laying the groundwork, places…

THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 89-98

We are all familiar with the unique pleasures attendant on studying the work of Jacques Lacan. His complexity and his unparalleled ability to find the perfect equivocation upon which to balance his ideas have undoubtedly ensured that platitudes and simplifications concerning the nature of human subjectivity are no longer acceptable for anyone wishing to be taken seriously in the field of psychoanalysis. Many of us, I imagine, have experienced the dullness and banality of much of what passes for psychoanalytic theorizing after the brilliant intransigence of a Lacanian text. This being said, however, his legacy is not without its problems and I would like, briefly, to raise a few of them. The factor common to these difficulties concerns Lacan’s approach to the theorization of knowledge.

In correspondence to Lacan one brave soul, quoted by him in Seminar XVII, puts his finger on the problem thus. He asks: ‘In what way is the unconscious a key notion that subverts the whole theory of knowledge?’ This question underpins much of what follows.

What, then, are the problems?

Firstly, and most obviously, there is the problem of style. This is a well-worn criticism but one that continues to be relevant. The difficulty is exacerbated for those of us who study Lacan in English, an additional obstacle, with many of his idiosyncrasies appearing to admit of no…


THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 99-110

If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it … A book must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.

The contract binding the word and the world, the Covenent between logos and cosmos, held until the late nineteenth century in Europe and Russia. The break-up of this linkage virtually defines Modernity itself. Psychoanalysis was central in this endgame. Freud, after all, was called the ‘demoraliser’ by Karl Kraus, the influential Viennese satirist of the time. We have entered what Steiner ominously calls the ‘after-word’.

There are two key quotations around which I want to situate some developing thoughts:

1) ‘If thought is not measured by the extremity that eludes the concept, it is from the outset in the nature of the musical accompaniment with which the SS liked to drown out the screams of its victims’.

2) ‘ [J]ust as terror, and abjection that is its doublet, must be excluded from the regime of the community, so it must be sustained and assumed, singularly, in writing as its condition’.

Later we will take up where this extreme that must measure our thinking, or this horror that must be a condition of our writing, can be…

THE LETTER 24 (Spring 2002) pages 111-126

Introduction In this brief article, my questions – to paraphrase Lacan – are preliminary to any possible theory of discourse! In that sense, I’m departing from the usual meaning given in English to VEnvers de la Psychanalyse, The Reverse of Psychoanalysis, Lacan’s seminar of 1969-70. I am taking ‘reverse’ in its sense as a verb. To reverse is to return to where you’ve come from, to pick up something that you have left behind or to get a better look at something you’ve passed by too quickly. It’s in that spirit that I’m reversing here. In fact I’m reversing to take a better look at discourse, knowledge and enjoyment, terms that are the main concerns of this seminar. The seminar itself which deals with the four discourses, the master’s discourse, the university discourse, the hysteric’s discourse and the analytic discourse is often quoted as representing the essence of a Lacanian teaching that goes beyond Freud. My effort here is to understand that position and judge its validity for myself. Also by way of introduction, I should explain that, for my part, working on this seminar is part of a continuing engagement with Lacan’s seminars which has spanned the past thirteen years, where as a member of the Monday Night reading group here in St Camillus, we manage to seriously read one seminar a year. So my reading of Lacan’s seminars began with The Formations of the Unconscious in 1988. Thirteen seminars later, it’s hard to discern this current seminar as more exceptional than another, except to…

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