Issue 37 (Summer 2006)


This Summer issue of The Letter brings to the reader an exciting manifold of writings.We are delighted to be able to publish three further articles originally presented at the Joyce-Lacan Symposium held at Dublin Castle in June last year.

In his article, Rolando Karothy explores the meeting points between the psychoanalyst and the writer and between psychoanalysis and writing. Led to consider an interesting correspondence between Joyce and Lacan, Oscar Zentner ponders the subversion produced by the Joyce effect as affecting Lacan’s theoretical tenets and ultimately psychoanalysis. There was only one woman for Joyce, Lacan says. In her piece, Colette Soler variously analyses the position of Nora for Joyce – as ‘luggage’, as “useless”, and as ‘fitting him like a glove’ before reaching her own conclusion about the woman who did not participate in Joyce’s phallic standard.

We are very pleased to publish a second article by Andrew Lewis.The reader may recall Andrew’s piece Models of Temporality in Psychoanalysis published in issue 31 of the journal. This time Andrew writes about the presentation of psychoanalytic case histories by the Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis.

Next up, no stranger to these pages, Stephen Costello provides us with his exploration of Freud’s political philosophy. In so doing, Stephen’s detailed analysis will journey through Freud’s important texts of Why War?, Thoughts for the Time on War and Death, and Civilization and its Discontents.

Another frequent contributor to The Letter, Aisling Campbell turns her attention this time to the Borderline Personality Disorder. Aisling discusses at length the notion of the ‘border’ which together with two very interesting images will be marshalled in support of her argument that many of the difficulties experienced by the ‘borderline’ and much of her activities are attempts to regulate jouissance. … Continue reading

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THE LETTER 37 Summer 2006, pages 1-7

Since its beginning, literature has rotated around an apparently non-existent, ineffable knot. Literature honours the ineffable in the very moment of going through it. If we have the courage to allow language to freely do its labour, we can trace the contour of that Real. Because behind the ineffable we shall see a variety of shadows cast that will draw its silhouette in negative.

The writer atomizes the signifier. In Lituraterre, Lacan states that literature excavates a void. Thus, he retakes Seminar VII, where he says that sublimation seeks to produce a signifier which shows the presence of the void of the Thing, further from the misleading object. Both analyst and artist share this relationship with the ineffable.

The meeting point between the psychoanalyst and the writer is that which is impossible to say and that which is impossible to write. But the analyst and the writer diverge when the relationship with language is considered. Writing and psychoanalysis do not take the signifier in the same way because psychoanalysis is an experience of the word. While literature wants to break off with Language even with the aid of Language, it goes against the word, it is an insurrection against speech, against inner and outer uproar, against what Blanchot calls the excess of writing, ‘that talking immensity which addresses us withdrawing us from ourselves.’ …


THE LETTER 37 Summer 2006, pages 8-17

What is the neutrality of the analyst?

If not exactly this, the subversion

of sense, that is a kind of aspiration,

not towards the real, but by the real

Jacques Lacan

Mors aut honorabilis vita

James Joyce

On the one hundredth anniversary of Bloomsday I gave in Melbourne the reasons for, as well as my thoughts on, my debt to Joyce. Following on from that, in the land of Ire, and in Dublin, his city, I wonder if we can miss the irony that it is only over Joyce’s dead body that we are today here as analysts.

Joyce’s works were designed to create aspiring Theseuses who, contrary to the myth, will remain in the Joycean labyrinth under the spell of his enigmas. My wager instead will be elsewhere. I will examine the Joyce effect that psychoanalysis has suffered as a result of his writings. …


THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 18-24

The often heard expression, “symptom-partner” is used to say that the object, the condition of puissance, is itself conditioned by the unconscious. This leads me to ask a question: what was the woman, Nora, for this man, James Joyce?

Freud tried to define various types of object-choice, narcissistic or anaclitic; Lacan, in turn, in the seminar, RSI., defined the typical partner of the man who follows the father-version [version-pere] of the symptom. Yet Nora is something other than this as Joyce hirnself is other.

He was more the idolater of his own text, the “Book of Himself” than of her body, and he wanted to know of nothing except the masterful saying [dire], in which he sustained himself as the Artist. His wife, Nora, his son, Giorgio, his daughter, Lucia, were not placed within the constitutive social bond. And yet he held to them in a way that was almost fanatical. This shows that the question cannot be decided at the level of observable social reality. What is more in accordance with the typical position than a wife and children? But this says nothing either of his heterosexuality or of his actual position as father. Joyce was the heretical non-dupe and was foreign to any Oedipal solution; he was not even a redeemer, for if he saved anyone, it was himself and only himself.

The exile: not travelling light

Alone, but not without his luggage. In a first approximation, and descriptively, I can say that Nora and the children had almost the status of “luggage”. Analytic theory has surveyed some of the typical partners: the…


THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 25-37

Her mask reveals a hidden sense

The Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis (ACP) has presented the clinical work of its members since its inception in 1986 under the name of the Melbourne Centre for Psychoanalytic Research. In 1987 this seminar became formalised into a fortnightly presentation known as the Clinical Seminar and was delivered at Mont Park Hospital, Melbourne. In 1991 the seminar moved to the Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital which in 1997 was decommissioned. Thus the seminar left the terrain of public psychiatry and was delivered at the Royal Society of Victoria where it continues today.

The seminar has been intrinsic to the development of the ACP as a psychoanalytic institution, serving as the meeting point of new version of psychoanalytic theory and the clinical practice which can be derived from it. Those presenting cases practice in a variety of settings, including practitioners working analytically in child and adult psychiatry, community health, drug rehabilitation services as well as in private practice. The seminar consists of the presentation of a written case history by the treating analyst, student or invited guest in a meeting lasting 90 minutes. The presentations are followed by a collective discussion of the…


THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 38-55

I: Freud and liberalism

The aim of this paper is to explore Freud’s political philosophy, to examine his description of himself as a liberal, to outline and define the liberal and conservative doctrines, to situate them within the broader philosophical tradition and to suggest that Freud is an admixture of the liberal and the conservative, a man then who defies easy definition.

That Freud viewed himself as a liberal is not in doubt as the following quotation from a letter of his indicates in which he states: ‘I remain a liberal of the old school’1. Freud’s supposed liberalism has been largely adumbrated, albeit in a wholly unsystematic and unstructured way, in three main works: Why War?2, Thoughts for the Time on War and Death3 and in his great cultural commentary Civilization and Its Discontents4. Drawing on these and other works, I will outline Freud’s political philosophy under four main headings: (1) the rule of law, (2) liberty, (3) distributive justice, and (4) just war theory. But, first, some brief, general comments on the relationship between psychoanalysis and politics.

II: Psychoanalysis and politics

The link between psychoanalysis and politics is an extremely interesting and important one which has not, it has to be said, been fully…

THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 56-71

The diagnosis of borderline personality is one of the few categories within psychiatric classification systems which retains the aura of its psychoanalytic origins. However, even this category is going the way of others; in the past many diagnostic categories hinted at some putative underlying mechanism, but the new trend is for categories which blandly describe symptoms or behaviours (for example, panic disorder, or somatisation disorder). The correct modern title for borderline is ’emotionally unstable personality’ which has a more neutral flavour -although there is still a subtype of “borderline type”. For the rest of this paper, as a nod to the psychoanalytic origins of the diagnostic category, I will use the term “borderline”, not least because – as I hope to show – it is a useful and apposite term.

It is notable that new therapeutic “technologies” for borderline personality disorder always involve some adjustment or “tweaking” of older types of psychotherapies. So for example, we have cognitive-analytic rather than just analytic, dialectical-behavioural rather than just behavioural and so on. Clearly, borderlines defy any attempt at sticking to the use of traditional, perhaps purer, models which have to be adjusted in order to make them work. It is no accident that the borderline personality disorder patient points up the very borders between the different therapeutic modalities, and has almost forced the development of therapy as technology. In my view, this effect is symptomatic of the very structure of the borderline. As we shall see, the triangular relationships between the unconscious, the conscious and behaviour are problematic for the borderline – and perhaps this is why therapies have tried to address the tension between these elements of subjectivity as per CAT, DBT etc.. I will…

THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 72-92

Buiochas daoibh as ucht an cuireadh a thabhairt sibh dom. Tá brón orm nach bhfuil mé in ann an toirbhairt a dhéanamh as gaeilge

I have chosen this title ‘Losing psychoanalysis in translation’ partly to evoke the title of a film, Lost in Translation, which was ostensibly about outsiders (played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) coping with being in a place, Japan, which they could not decipher. Actually, the film was not really about being in Japan at all, except insofar as the narrative required that they were somewhere strange; that it was Japan did not figure save as a setting for some jokes about that culture. Instead, the lack of ‘translation’ in which the characters were lost was the impossible relation between the man and the woman.

I also wanted, by way of this title, to acknowledge the presence here of Shingu Kazushige, who I was so glad to meet during a visit to Japan in 2004; and I cannot help but recall an embarrassing moment there. Shingu said to me, as we were walking along, that, in his view, if we wanted to understand Lacan it was crucially important that we read him in the original French. I cannot remember exactly what I muttered to cover…


THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 93-113


The act of eating is of great significance in the process of mourning. This point, the first of two upon which this paper relies, is reflected in myth, Buddhism, and psychoanalysis. In psychoanalysis, Freud viewed the act of eating as a stage of identification lying at the root of melancholia. Karl Abraham, a direct disciple of Freud, placed particular theoretical and clinical emphasis on this understanding; according to Abraham, the mourning process includes three phases: anal expulsion, oral introjection, and metabolic reconstruction.

The second point is that myth and dream share a homological kinship. The two domains have long been compared in terms of similarities of content, but structural analysis reveals a close formal relationship as well.

In this paper I introduce a Japanese myth and two Buddhist legends, each of which represents the process of mourning in relation to eating. I then discuss two clinical cases concerning eating disorders that occurred during processes of mourning for an aborted child, with particular attention to the dream analysis the cases entailed. In this way I…


THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 114-119

The text written by Kazushige Shingu examines the relations between the symptomatic expressions of anorexia and eating disorders with certain mythical narratives from the Japanese Buddhism. Thus a curious association between eating and mourning is brought up, especially that of a mother mourning the loss of a child. The argument’s clinical details are very persuasive. They show thematic and discursive similarities between the trajectory of unresolved mourning and the saga of mythical heroes. An analogy is suggested between the present experience of a Japanese young woman and many ordeals or obstacles faced by the gods, considering that they both aim at resolving an initial state of unbalance and conflict with the same type of narrative resort.

The article written by Ian Parker apparently follows an opposite line when addressing the topic of translating Lacan’s texts both to linguistic and cultural universes – distant from where psychoanalysis was originated, such as Japan and the Far East – and to current English. The motion picture, Lost in Translation, works as a sort of allegory for the problem showing how translation always loses something. The trust in the permanence of sense and in the semantic fidelity of concepts is, in some way, tensioned by the same psychoanalytical principles extracted from Lacan on language and transmission of culture. This is confirmed by closely reviewing the references made by Lacan in regard to the famous case of the Fresh Brains Man, treated by Ernst Kris in the forties. There is also something lost in the translation of Lacan’s reading, albeit it does not invalidate the reading’s originality. …

THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 120-143


I would like to begin our dialogue by briefly recounting the path that led me to this moment. I believe it may be used as an example for the proposed objective, which is to introduce some Lacanian concepts and place them within a context. Therefore, the questions are: Which context? Context for whom?

Six years ago I was completely at a loss at a psychology conference being held in Venezuela. I don’t know if you have had the opportunity to participate in one of these mega conferences. There are hundreds of things going on at the same time and none of it is leading anywhere. It’s almost like a supermarket of lectures, strictly controlled by the flow of time that is coordinated by speech and activity between one meeting-room and another. It was under these circumstances, taken over by inconvenient red tape typically found at universities, and by exaggerated consumption, typically encouraged by the hype of masses, that I had a strange experience. I came across Erica Burman criticizing developmental psychology. All of a sudden I heard familiar references: Lacan, Benjamin, Freud, Derrida, and Foucault. It was also there that I met Ian Parker and discovered that there were people who were interested in Lacan7 s school of thought in the United Kingdom. Each new encounter and each of my rereadings of the work of the group from Manchester allowed me to perform an exercise in awareness and versatility, one that offered alternatives to issues and the forms by which they are generally dealt with in the Lacanian universe. Some elements were known, others not so well

THE LETTER 37 (Summer 2006) pages 144-151

Historically, psychotherapy began with the aim of consciousness-raising and insight; later, the emphasis shifted towards insight and cognitive restructuring. [ ] Where the focus is solely on insight and knowledge, it will result in a caricatural subject who “knows” perfectly well why it is doing certain things, but without this knowledge effecting the slightest change in daily life.


I begin with a short quote from the final passages of Paul Verhaeghe’s book, On Being Normal and Other Disorders, which perhaps presents us with a note of caution concerning what clinicians of all creeds need to be alert to and which indicates the book’s primary aim. This is to develop a much-needed metapsychology for the field of clinical psychodiagnostics. This one argues that psychic identity is created through one’s primary inter-subjective relationships. The ramifications of such a proposition are wide-ranging not just at the level of clinical practice: it also strikes at the heart of some contemporary debates within the fields of psychoanalysis and psychiatry and at the plethora of psychological approaches to the treatment of mental suffering in use…

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