Issue 31 & 32 (Summer/Autumn 2004)


With the new year upon us, we bring to you a double issue of THE LETTER comprising issues 31 and 32. This double issue marks a change in the production of the journal with DBS stepping down from its involvement with THE LETTER after three years. We would like to take this opportunity to thank DBS for its support over the years and especially David Slattery for his commitment and support to the journal. We welcome back Jean Kilcullen to the editorial board in the position of chairperson. Henceforth, the journal shall be produced by the editorial board in conjunction with the School of Psychotherapy, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, and APPI.

We also take this opportunity to warmly welcome Andrew Lewis, editor of Analysis, as our new corresponding editor in Australia, and Professor Ian Parker, from Manchester Metropolitan University to our advisory board. Rik Loose of the Unit of Psychoanalysis, DBS School of Arts, shall henceforth act as corresponding editor in addition to his role on the editorial board, and Paul Verhaeghe moves from his position as corresponding editor to serve on our advisory board.

This double issue brings to the reader a diverse range of topics and theoretical trajectories and, as always, a rich engagement with the clinic. In issue 31, we kick off with Eve Watson’s article on crime and punishment. Eve discusses Lacan’s work on the Function of Psychoanalysis in Criminology in order to critique naive and mundane scientific explorations of the “criminal mind”. Next up we have Miquel Bassols’ article on law and desire. Miquel’s reading of Lacan’s Kant avec Sade pinpoints the moment at which Lacan ‘begins to place the Law beyond the symbolic father, beyond the Oedipus complex’. As such Miquel is concerned in this article to mobilize a discussion of a clinic involving the structural fact of this ‘beyond’ which Miquel calls the ‘Poly-Oedipus’. … Continue Reading

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THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 1-8

Nuts, sluts, perverts, prostitutes, slags, murderers, psychopaths, militants, muggers, rioters, squatters and scroungers are all social censures with the potential to mobilise the forces of law, order and moral purity against targeted sections of the population.

In A Theoretical Introduction to the Function of Psychoanalysis in Criminology, Lacan says we would do well to recognise that it is the law and its accompanying punishment that delineates the crime. Indeed, we can understand that a person becomes a criminal not by breaking the law, but rather when s/he is caught. Saint Paul famously agreed. He said, ‘where no law is, there is no transgression.’  Inasmuch as one cannot commit a driving infraction by speeding in the absence of a law on speeding, we recognise that punishment for transgression of the law is an anthropologic construct that requires the subjective assent of the population. Generally, the law is a social, cultural construct designed to manage a society’s population by requiring everyone to give up a portion of their individual jouissance for the benefit of the group. Most forms of unbridled individual jouissance fall into the juridical realm of “crime” and thus into the provenance of the agencies of law enforcement and the judiciary, who are empowered to capture, judge and punish respectively. Crimes are punished in order for the criminal to pay a debt to the society whose very rules s/he has transgressed and in order to set an example for the community, to prevent its remaining subjects from indulging in their own…

THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 9-23

Law and desire – these are two terms that have been taken together in ethics and in the moral tradition. They have been usually considered as opposites, even in some psychoanalytical orientations where law is understood as a prohibition, as a limit, as a regulation or repression of desire. In fact, this a limited understanding of a very complex articulation. We come across some paradoxes very soon if we hold this point of view, especially in the perspective of psychoanalytical clinics, where desire is very frequently founded in prohibition itself. In addition, prohibition itself can be desired. Therefore, law and desire are not two separate or disjointed fields but two terms that must be considered in a very complex articulation.

Our first approach to this articulation between law and desire is a clinical approach. If we follow Lacan’s teaching of the fifties, we would have to say that the diagnosis is founded on the relation of the subject with the object cause of his desire and his relation to the symbolic law. We make therefore a differential diagnosis between neurosis, psychosis and perversion regarding the inscription of the law in the unconscious and regarding the figures of desire in the subject’s discourse.

How do we conduct this differential diagnosis from a structural point of view?

In the obsessional neuroses we find, firstly, the known figure of desire as the impossible to attain; desire as powerlessness or desire as that which is denied. The subject denies his own desire because he refuses to pay the price for it. Secondly, the law becomes an obligation always…

THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 24-42

E.M. Forster’s A Passage To India is often regarded as a social or political commentary on the British in India, but according to Forster himself, it is much more than that. It is ‘…the search of the human race for a more lasting home, about the universe as embodied in the Indian earth and the Indian sky, about the horror lurking in the Marabar Caves and the release symbolised by the birth of Krishna’.

Mrs. Moore is an elderly English lady who travels to India with her young companion and prospective daughter-in-law, Adela Quested. They take a trip to the mysterious Marabar Caves, which are famous for their interior mirrored surface and strange echo. Both women will suffer from a ‘fright’, a traumatic experience following the visit. But it is Mrs. Moore who will suffer from an irreversible breakdown. It is shocking that she does so, primarily because Forster presents her to us as somebody to whom this should not have happened. It is through the drama of this crisis of the soul that he explores the interplay between idealised notions of ‘truth’, ‘love’, and ‘God’, on the one hand, and fantasy, illusion, and disillusion, on the other. The outcome for both ladies, following the ‘fright/ will be different. Mrs. Moore, much older, is looking back on her life, as she struggles to get a sense of what it was all about. Miss Quested, on the other hand is looking ahead, to her marriage to Mrs. Moore’s son Ronny, and wonders in anticipation ‘what it will all be about?’ …



THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 43-51

The name ‘Stendhal’s Syndrome’ was first given by the psychiatrist Graziella Magherini in about 1988 to a strange illness which seems to afflict a proportion of visitors to Florence. Tourists arrive at the psychiatric unit of Santa Maria hospital in Florence suffering from symptoms ranging from a strong sense of unease to an acute psychical breakdown. It would appear that the sight of the artistic masterpieces of the city, as well as the overwhelming sense of the passage of time in the buildings and streets, provokes these disturbing symptoms, which may include dizziness, panic attacks, paranoia, confusion, and often cause a profound shaking of the patient’s sense of personal identity. These episodes are usually of short duration, and benign.

According to Magherini, the necessary conditions include being a sensitive and impressionable personality who has undergone the stress of travel and has arrived at a city like Florence, which is haunted by the ghosts of famous people, and is imbued with a sense of art, death, and history. Sufferers are most often single females, aged between twenty-six and forty, usually travelling alone. All were well when they left home. Dr Magherini, who is also a Freudian psychoanalyst, believes that the art trip may be considered as a form of soul journey, an opportunity to gain in self-knowledge, but that it may provoke an emotional crisis, which not everyone is capable of coping with to the same degree. Her research into the illness has shown her that these sufferers are in fact experiencing in an extreme form something which ordinary travellers on art-trips experience to a lesser extent.

There are three different types of disturbance, the mildest being panic attacks and an anxiety which is somatized in the form of…

THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 52-66

The symptom is the way in which each person derives jouissance from the unconscious.

The neurotic comes to analysis for two reasons: to decipher the truth of the unconscious message she believes is concealed in her symptom, and because she wants to know how she desires. She seeks truth and knowledge. In the 1970s, when he was reflecting upon subjective truth and knowledge, Lacan added the symptom to his three pre-existing registers of meaning, as a fourth order in Seminar XXIII.

The message the symptom writes is an enigma that fixes an enjoyment at the level of the imaginary; it is a message that must be symbolised to become part of the neurotic subject’s personal myth. Through the jouissance of the symptom, she identifies with the ‘unary trait’, that point from where she is seen by the Other. The disassembling of identifications in the transference releases the subject to another possibility: the identification with her symptom. The signifiers of her symptom speak the discourse of that Other from whom she is ontologically separated, by her primary experience of repression, by her insertion in language. Its toxicity derives from the truth that Lacan revealed to us: the signifier is metonymical, leading not to knowledge but to the object cause of desire. Bestowed upon us by the Other, the signiher segregates us from ourselves, from the order of the real, with only jouissance to hint at meaning. …



THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 67-78

What follows is the text of a talk presented at the sixth annual conference of the Affiliated Psychoanalytic Workgroups held in Omaha, Nebraska in September 2004. The APW began several years ago with the aim of providing lines of communication between otherwise disconnected Lacanian groups in the United States. The 2004 conference was hosted by the Centre for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, Creighton University, Omaha. This centre was established four years ago and provides a locus of study and discussion for people coming from different perspectives and training in the fields of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, including Lacanian and Kleinian. Originally suggested by Tom Svolos, the Centre has been supported with tremendous enthusiasm by Daniel Wilson, Professor of Psychiatry in Creighton University, a self-confessed biological psychiatrist with a doctorate in anthropology.

What came across was a sense of a group of people meeting and talking because they have questions about the work they are doing. There was a remarkable ease with which discussion took place in response to the papers delivered despite the challenging nature of the material. Some of those present spoke of work in different settings where they were introducing an analytic position. Tor example, one spoke of her work in a university counselling service, another of his work in a probation context, and a third in a challenging social services setting in a ghetto of an American city.

The conference was entitled ‘Working with the Symptom’ and it provided me with an opportunity to return to Lacan’s Seminar on…


THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 79-100

Psychoanalysis can be defined as a praxis and thus we can assume that this constantly unravelling process requires a certain time in which to both extend and unfold. A logic of the psychoanalytic treatment therefore requires certain temporal concepts such as punctuation, historicity and repetition and these will be the focus of this paper. The paper will also examine the formal representations and demonstrations which are used to integrate and illustrate these concepts.

The understanding of time required by the analytic experience is the subject of an ongoing debate among competing analytic orientations, a debate which has had its institutional ramifications. Both the centrality of speech and the status of time in the analytic situation were similarly neglected in the theory of psychoanalysis until the work of Jacques Lacan. There is certainly more at stake in the concept of time than a question of technique, since the manner in which an analyst ‘handles’ time – the length and frequency of sessions, the timing of interpretation, the length of the analysis as a whole – can only be derived from his or her general theory of psychoanalytic praxis. Needless to say, what emerges from this ‘putting into question…the function of the analyst’ has not failed to make Lacan’s work both challenging and controversial. …

THE LETTER 32 (Autumn 2004) pages 101-113

The protagonist in Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. The story accurately captures something of the essence of the condition, a boy who knows a great deal about maths and very little about human beings.

Although (conservatively) Asperger’s Syndrome affects five to seven children in one thousand and is found throughout the world with some estimating the figures as high as one in a hundred, the apparent increase in the disorder in recent years is explained within psychiatry in terms of an increased awareness of the disorder rather than an actual increase in incidence. Having worked with two teenage boys diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome over a period of one year I became very interested in the condition and wondered, can psychoanalysis offer any insights? The temperament of autistic individuals is now a subject of research because autistic presentations although they can be classified in a general manner, also display individual peculiarities. What strikes me about this assessment is the correlation between what is classed as temperament i.e. personality, and the existence of an unconscious subject.

THE LETTER 32 (Autumn 2004) pages 114-125

Freud, Lacan and psychosis

It is usual to associate Freud with hysteria and Lacan with psychosis. Let us develop this theme.

Freud started from hysteria and considered psychosis as falling outside the limits of a psychoanalytical treatment, but he never stopped conceptualizing hysteria, obsessional neurosis and paranoia in parallel, and he could not avoid psychotics in his practice (and amongst his colleagues!).

Lacan started from psychosis but he was not the first to focus on it. Melanie Klein was the first, when she decided to apply psychoanalysis to children. While trying to conceptualize the preOedipal phase, she described what she called the schizoparanoid position. This was a way to situate psychosis and that opened the door to her followers, Herbert Rosenfeld especially, who devoted himself to the theorization and practice of psychoanalysis with psychotics. But that led him to a theoretical impasse which has to do with narcissism and interpretation, an impasse that Lacanian theory is able to avoid.

Lacan started from psychosis and did much more: he took psychosis as the model for understanding neurosis (Freud had done the opposite) and, in that way, he was the first.

In this paper, I will first point out the major Freudian and Lacanian elaborations about psychosis and I’ll try to show how much Lacan is right to call himself the only Freudian analyst, the only one who proposes to go back to the Freudian text. Then I will illustrate with a clinical example that which Lacan has taught us and how Lacanian theory permits us to…

THE LETTER 32 (Autumn 2004) pages 126 -147

There is a voice crying in the wilderness, the voice of a body dancing, laughing, shrieking, crying. Whose is it? It is, they say, the voice of a woman, newborn and yet archaic, a voice of milk and blood, a voice silenced but savage.

In writing this paper I have set myself the task of examining female subjectivity in pregnancy. However, in addition to this being a much larger question than can be addressed in a single paper, it is immediately apparent that in order to examine pregnancy one must first look at female subjectivity itself, and in doing this we must also look to female sexuality, the female position in a patriarchal society, the mother-daughter relationship, and the silence of women surrounding all of the above that led Freud to declare in 1926 ‘that the sexual life of adult women is a dark continent for psychology’.

Lacan’s Seminar XX, Encore, and the current congress in which we find ourselves discussing this seminar provoke a diversity of feelings, thoughts and most importantly, dialogue concerning female subjectivity and more particularly female sexuality. I think that this is not surprising as there is dialogue, questioning and constant debate in society in general regarding female sexuality. But how do we respond to these debates?

I will turn to the work of Helene Deutsch as a starting point. Helene Deutsch is careful from the outset to distinguish between the concept of motherhood, (the relationship of a mother to her child as a whole), and motherliness, which she sees as a quality in a woman’s character and also as emotional phenomena directly connected to the…

THE LETTER 32 (Autumn 2004) pages 148-174

And as one sees most fearful things, In the crystal of a dream, We saw the greasy hempen rope, Hooked to the blackened beam, And heard the prayer, the hangman’s snare, Strangled into a scream.

He looked upon the garish day, With such a wistful eye, The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die.


In his seminal article entitled Mourning and Melancholia, Freud explained and distinguished the clinical differences between the two phenomena, but remained stymied in his attempts to develop a fundamental clinical structure to account for the appearance of melancholia in a subject as opposed to a mourning reaction. Yet, it seems that within the pages of his paper on melancholia and later articles, there are clues, which might serve to theorise an underlying clinical structure of melancholia.

This paper will revisit the concept of melancholia as outlined by Freud, and informed by the Lacanian perspective on perversion, proposes that where a perverse clinical structure is extant, melancholia is actively engaged in as a perverse act itself. Heretofore, melancholia has been regarded as a state, not an act. The perverse act is a defensive stance erected against anxiety which is engendered in the perverse subject via the adoption of the position of objet a. …

THE LETTER 32 (Autumn 2004) pages 175-219


In 1980, shortly after the dissolution of L’ecole freudienne de Paris, Lacan invited his “Lacanoamericans” to a Congress in Caracas,Venezuela. As homage to the occasion I took my interrogations, interrogations that were alluded to intentionally in the title and content of my paper : The Freudian Unconscious, Symbolism and Censorship.

In regard to that Freudian unconscious, we have today only the remains of a formation, a blunder, a lapsus, even a failure, and as a consequence another is the status of cause.

We opened our paper with Mallarme’s words:

… to describe an object is to already eliminate three quarters of the pleasure found in a poem, since poetry is the puissance of a gradual discovery. The dream is to suggest. This is the perfect use of the mystery encompassed by the symbol.

And we closed the paper specifying that:

… Symbolism is unconscious thought, but it is not part of the formations of the unconscious. The symbolism of the dream is not a creation of the dream-work …though it provides the dream-work with appropriate material for condensation, displacement and representation. Symbolism, and this was my proposition, is of the order of language. Stated in another way, the symbol is not formed by the unconscious, it is rather that the symbol, being as it is language, that indeed makes unconscious.  …



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