Issue 33 (Spring 2005)


In the opening session of his seminar – Encore – Lacan remarks to his audience that he is always amazed about his being there again, to address his audience again, and that they, his audience, are there… again. While I cannot compare the ‘laborious journeying’ which takes him again and again to that particular place of address, to my own efforts in bringing you
– encore – to this location, I can admit to being somewhat amazed that yet again I have the privilege of bringing to you a manifold of ideas, thoughts and theses, in the collection of articles which comprise this issue of The Letter. All of these articles were presented at the eleventh annual congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland, held on 12th and 13th November 2004. The congress was entitled On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge, and indeed, many of those who presented their work at the congress made use of Lacan’s Seminar XX in order to furnish their discursions. In this issue we present to you a number of those presentations. We can look forward to further contributions from the congress in later issues.

This issue opens then with Cormac Gallagher’s presentation to the congress. In Re-Englishing Encore, Cormac points up the consequences of things (and people) getting ‘lost in translation’. One of these consequences is that for most of the English-speaking readership of the ‘authentic versions’ of Lacan’s work, aspects of his discourse are simply not permitted, .or worse, misrepresented. In his paper, Cormac highlights a range of such omissions and inexplicable translation decisions that have (mis)guided large numbers of readers.

In her article, Pauline O’ Callaghan examines the significance of theories of courtly love for our understanding of love, desire, limits and feminine jouissance. Referring to Lacan’s comments on courtly love in his Ethics seminar of 1959-1960 as well as in Encore, Pauline traces the function of the Lady and the mobilization of feminine jouissance in works of art, and the lyrical comments of modem day rock stars. …Continue Reading

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 1-21


I cannot help being struck at the contrast between the Congress that we are participating in today and the 3T’s Conference on the response to suicide in modern Ireland that is also taking place this weekend and in which our head of Department is playing the leading role. Everyone can appreciate how important it is to try to understand and prevent suicide. It is only right that the conference should have been opened by President Mary MacAleese, the speakers be interviewed on prime-time television and the proceedings widely reported in the media.

But as we left this hall last Wednesday morning after Professor Malone had presented a forty two year old mother of four who had made a very serious attempt to take her life just the week before, I found it hard to explain to him how we would be spending our time today and in particular the relevance of trying to tell one another how we are proceeding in the year by year labour of striving to transform our clinical approach to seriously ill people by trying to reach up to and into the thinking of Jacques Lacan.

Lacan saw his work as being essentially concerned with the crucial problems of our society and in particular with the overwhelming distress that leads people to develop crippling illnesses and resorting to actions -you remember his passage a Yacte and acting out – that are self-destructive or even suicidal. Introducing a study week-end of his own School just before beginning this twentieth annual seminar he reminded members again and again that they had to understand and demonstrate the inextricable link between his teaching and the clinic. Clinic, he reminds us in the first session of Encore is derived from the Greek word for bed, the bed of the couple who are in it to make love and the couch on which the…

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 22-35

Lacan’s references to courtly love in his twentieth seminar Encore of 1972-73 may seem intriguing and anachronistic at first. What can be the relevance of a medieval code of morals, which quite possibly was merely a literary movement, to the problems and difficulties of the relations between the sexes in the twentieth century, relations which, according to Lacan in seminar XX, are not working out? Lacan also wrote extensively about courtly love in his Ethics seminar of 1959-60. I propose to look at the issue of courtly love and some of the theories about its significance, and to ask what its appeal was for Lacan, and what relevance, if any, it has for us now in attempting to understand the issues raised in Seminar XX, issues such as love, desire, limits and feminine jouissance.

If we take the two most famous statements from Seminar XX – ‘The woman does not exist’ and ‘There is no such thing as a sexual relationship’, and interpret them very loosely, then the connection with courtly love may seem clear enough. For in some ways the woman might as well not exist in courtly love, she is an ideal locked away in her Ivory tower, like the Lady of Shalott, rather than a breathing walking person, and the relationship between the knight and his Lady, although erotically charged, was usually chaste. Courtly love poets spoke to their Lady, or about her, in the exalted language usually reserved for a deity, or indeed for the Virgin Mary, with whose worship their poetry frequently seems to overlap.

The nineteenth century revival of interest in courtly love and the chivalry of the Middle Ages, exemplified in poems like The Lady of Shalott, La Belle Dame sans Merci, or Morte d’Arthur, was reflected also in art and…

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 36-50

In keeping with the title of this year’s congress – On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, I am launching my own questions about love and feminine sexuality by talking firstly about a neologism of Lacan’s – hainamoration – the sense of which he developed over the course of two sessions of his Encore seminar. I will quote the definition of hainamoration from the session of 20th March 1973 because here he renders its sense at its clearest:

One could say that the more man attributes to the woman a confusion of himself with God, namely, of what she enjoys -remember my schema from the last time, I am not going to do it again – the less he hates; and at the same time, I said that I was equivocating on hait and est in French. Namely, that in this business, moreover, the less he loves.

Hainamoration versus ambivalence

As you can imagine, the yield of sense in this complex sentence is richer in the French because of the equivocation Lacan refers to around il est and il hait both sounding the same but having two meanings ‘he is’ or ‘he hates’. That apart, the sense of the sentence seems to be that the more a man confuses himself with what a woman enjoys, the less he is/hates and the less he loves. Put differently, this is to say, the less a man confuses himself with what a woman enjoys, the more he is/hates (il est/il hait)…


THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 51-60

In considering the topic for my presentation today, my first thought was that by discussing The Village. I would give the ending away and spoil it altogether for those of you who have not seen it. It is a movie with a “twist in the tale” at the end, like the other movies I will discuss, The Sixth Sense and The Others. The twist, as usual, adds an extra frisson of anxiety to whatever frightening things we have already seen; we are often asked, as we leave the cinema, not to give the ending away to others who have not seen it. As well the risk of reprisal for revealing the end, the other risk of writing about any movie is that Zizek has already done so and has said virtually all there is to be said about it!

The popularity of these movies bears witness to the fact that the twist is structural to the subject. In all of them, the ending throws an entirely different perspective on the subjective discourse of the main characters and retroactively shows up their inconsistency; the twist in the tale reveals the retroactive nature of repression and the dependence of the subjective discourse on this inconsistency and on an ignorance of it. The movies reveal the subject as structured like a Moebius strip – literally with a twist – in which the border, where inside and outside are shown to have a common surface, is the locus of anxiety.

In The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis plays Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a successful child psychologist. He has a beautiful house, a beautiful wife and is clearly in the position of Master – he has just received an award for his work, although we get the sense that this work has never impinged very much on his subjectivity. However, the Real is only waiting in the wings – or in this case, the bathroom – in the shape of a deranged ex-patient of his, who holds him responsible for the failures of his life and has…

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 61-71

According to Lacan, there is a fissure, an irreducible gap in the unconscious in the place of the absent signifier of woman and this is where feminine puissance is located. Lacan also says that there is only one libido and that therefore there is no psychical representative of the opposition masculine/feminine. If woman functions as the Other and finds herself representing the phallic value, she comes to figure as the object of puissance. The woman can be said to have access to ‘an-Other’ enjoyment. However, it is elsewhere that she poses the question of her own jouissance. How is it that we can know about the operation of ‘an-other’ enjoyment? It is by means of its failures that the phallic is revealed to be ‘not-all.’ Analytic experience indicates that the ‘no!’ of the hysteric is informed by a rejection of phallic enjoyment. The symptom of the hysteric often points to a denial of the role of the phallus.

Why is it that women seem to have a greater access to the non-phallic realm, i.e. the area we designate as the feminine? While admittedly women have not made any better sense of the feminine, (think of Dora’s contemplation of the ‘Madonna’), the man, who is more wholly subject to the arena of the phallic has a tough task in forming for himself an assessment of that which lies outside of it. His enjoyment is generally speaking co-relative to the function of the signifier, whereas some of woman’s enjoyment lies ‘perversely’ outside of the phallic realm. Woman, the ‘not-all,’ uses the phallus as the means of access to the Other for both…

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 72-90

To speak about love, Lacan says, is in itself an enjoyment, a jouissense. So we must be enjoying ourselves today! And it is indeed at the level of the enjoyment that I want to focus our attention here on coupled-subjects who – for all that we may accept are – unrelated sexually, nonetheless persist in the direction of an enjoyment which they posit as commensurate with the couple-relationship. What I want to examine in particular are the ways in which the narration of couple-relationships may be said to abduce certain discourses, and in turn, the ways in which subjects take up a position in a discourse in order to provide themselves with a formula by which the sexual relationship may be written, and love, spoken.

But, love is impossible says Lacan, and the sexual relationship drops into the abyss of nonsense.

Zizek however has suggested that within the field of love, the love-object finds itself occupying a pre-given fantasy place, and that the role of this fantasy is to suggest a formula which makes up for the impossibility of love and the non-existent sexual relation. Although as an aside in Seminar XXIII Lacan says that James Joyce and Nora have a sexual relationship, indeed he says ‘it is a funny sexual relationship’, in Encore he is saying that the $ qua man ‘never deals with anything by way of a partner but object a’, which is the basis of the Lacanian formula for the fantasy, $ > a. He says: Men, women, and children are but signifiers. A man is nothing but a signifier. A woman seeks out a man qua signifier. A man seeks out a…

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 91-97

“I am mad about love.” This is the phrase with which Mario localizes his suffering. Love drives him crazy, taking him, as he says “to the edge of danger”.

I first met him at the hospital where I was working when he was in his thirties. He had been hospitalized eight times in the previous ten years. He spoke to me saying that he wanted a “psychologist”, and that he had already had “five”. He said: “I need to develop the trust for talking; through psychoanalysis one can find what one wishes the most (…) I want to talk and, thanks to what you know, get to know which is the path I have to follow…”. I accepted his demand for talking, not without introducing certain limits from the beginning.

He referred to his father’s death as a “radical” change in his life. This father had a singular “authority”: organising Mario’s existence. He described the subjective experience with which this death confronted him as “being left dislocated from reality”; since when, he said, he “lost the helm, the pattern that stabilises every person”. His father’s death, which occurred ten years before, left what Mario referred to as “a hole”, which he attempts to cover, even today, with music, metaphysics and poetry.

His “reality” changed from that moment on, and what he calls “to go without a compass” expresses the loss of the coordinates that sustained his world. The “superior being” that guided him was not there anymore.

He described the corporal suffering associated with this loss: “strong, mixed emotions, sadness, honor; Sometimes I felt my head was a blender machine”.

This return in the body will become linked, by Mario, to the signifier “love”. …

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 98-104

Where can we place a discussion about the mystic while trying also to balance the intuitive and the sensible? In his seminar Encore, Lacan devotes some thought to this area and on this I dwell for this paper.

‘”That’s not it” is the very cry by which jouissance obtained is distinguished from the jouissance expected’ Lacan is involved here in a via negativa, the way of what is, by what it is not. It is a sure ground going back to many mystical writers such as John of the Cross, Juliana of Norwich, and her famous work The Cloud of Unknowing. He presents the mystical as an experiencing of ejaculation and not knowing about it. That’s not it – that is not what was expected or sought – that’s not it: that’s it – is when it is it: so that’s not it – is its opposite. That’s not it – is the acknowledgement of the limit between desire and realisation, it can posit the empty gap, the hollow of being; between the expected and realised, and realisable, comes – that’s not it.

The overdrive of expectation and anticipation is not met within, in this context, the body – so it becomes: that’s not it. Here it is where we look at the mystical position of Teresa of Avila and the texts of Bernard of Clairvaux.

There is, for Lacan a not whole, or for Zizek, an agalma, for whom the Kinder Chocolate Egg with its gift within, tells us – that’s not it either. In this area of the mystical experience we are engaged with the limit – the limit of love and the limit of knowledge, and feminine jouissance. We can turn Freud’s question – what does a woman want? – into, what is this want of a woman? Jouissance as a pull to the Real, the paradoxical pleasure and pain…

THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 105-128


Jean Genet and Jacques Lacan were Parisian contemporaries, and belong to the flowering of French intellectual life hothoused by the Second World War. On the nineteenth of March 1944, Lacan partied with Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Bataille, Picasso and Braque. Four days earlier, the petty criminal, Jean Genet, was released from the Camp des Tourrelles in Paris, a known deportation centre for the concentration camps. He emerged as one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, and would never again be behind bars. For Genet, prison became a metaphor for language, and Genet used words to make his escape. His masterpiece, Our Lady of the Flowers, had already been written during the nine months Genet spent in Parisian jails in 1942. It was begun in the Sante prison at the start of the year, and finished towards the end of the year after his release from the prison of Fresnes.

While Genet and Lacan come from different backgrounds, what they have in common is that they are fiercely original thinkers, with the result that in their lives they were provocative figures. Lacan chose a theoretical route, and Genet’s pathway was through literature. Both were moulded by the elegant subtlety of their French heritage (langue), but they share in addition a profound interest in the nature of language (langage), about which they enunciate the same type of thought, which we can recognise as psychoanalytic. To give an example of Genet’s work, here is a sequence in the translation by Bernard Frechtman, which I have re-punctuated to make it instantly comprehensible. It articulates clearly, without the jargon, ideas propounded by Lacan: …

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