Issue 57 (Autumn 2014)


Readers of The Letter will be aware that, over the past few years, we have been engaged in bringing Lacan’s L’Etourdit, his great final écrit (1972) to you in a serialised form. This has been made possible thanks to the availability of Cormac Gallagher’s painstaking translations not only of L’Etourdit but of Christian Fierens’ accompanying Lecture de L’Etourdit. The line-by-line commentary of Fierens, on this most difficult and hermetic of Lacan’s writ-ten works has proved essential for those of us who continue to try to make sense of the vital elaborations that Lacan was introducing even in his 72nd year. We now have the good fortune to have from Fierens his second Reading of L’Etourdit, entitled The Psychoanalytic Discourse. A Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Etourdit. This was published in French in 2012 and recently translated by Cormac Gallagher.  A second reading is not a first reading – this is not meant to be tautological – rather, we are taking this second reading to be a re-presentation, ‘a second, different loop of reading’ where for Fierens ‘(i)t is .. a matter of engaging myself, with its risks and its perils, in the act of saying proper to the psychoanalytic discourse’.

In the current issue you will find the opening sections of the book, comprising Presentation, Introduction and Chapter 1: The Roles of the Analyst. We hope to bring you the complete translation in forthcoming issues.

This second reading of Fierens is on the discourse of psychoanalysis. Fierens reminds us again that ‘from start to finish, the thread of (Lacan’s) discourse has as object the analyst and his function’. In consequence, any discourse about analysis excludes, perforce, what happens in the humblest psychoanalytic session, which is where the psychoanalytic discourse locates itself. Confronting any of us who speak to others about our practice – be that through teaching, writing, speaking at a psychiatric case conference, having an exchange with a healthcare professional, with a colleague, with a partner etc – is the ‘crux of psychoanalysis’. That crux can give way to the necessity ‘to weave the chain of the discourse on the psychoanalyst, … with the texture of the experience of free speech, that of the psychoanalytic discourse.’ A weaving, a working, with ‘some but notall’ control over the ‘stuff’ produced – just how profitable can that be!

The Roles of the Analyst that Fierens highlights are those of the dogmatic analyst, the sceptical analyst, the dynamic analyst, the analyst as witness. Be… Continue reading

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Articles in this Issue:

The Letter No57 (Autumn 2014) pages 1-27


Discourse creates a social bond. How express (dire) the social bond specific to psychoanalysis? Must we base ourselves on the persons concerned by analysis?

Discourse in general does not have protagonists; it is not determined by the agents that are supposed to precede it.  On the contrary, it is the discourse which gives their place to people who will find in it their consistency by allowing it to resonate in them.  It is the master discourse which determines the master and not the inverse.  It is the hysterical discourse which challenges the hysteric and makes her exist and not the inverse.  It is the academic discourse which knows how to organise the academic and not the inverse.  In the same way, the psychoanalytic discourse is not the discourse held by the analyst, nor is it the discourse held by the analyser.  There is no analyst and no analyser who maintains the psychoanalytic discourse.  It is on the contrary the latter which maintains and sustains them.  One should not confuse the psychoanalytic discourse and the discourse of the analyst.

The discourse of the analyst consists simply in discoursing on the analyst, about the analyst.  Anyone engaged more or less closely in the process of analysis can discourse about the analyst in one fashion or another, master, hysterical, academic.  That is called transference whoever may be the semblance who engages in it, the analyst, the analyser, or a simple individual outside a psychoanalytic treatment.

From the Rome discourse to the end of his life, Lacan did not cease to inscribe himself in this transference by constantly putting the psychoanalyst ‘on the spot’.  From start to finish, the thread of his discourse has as object the analyst and his function.

One can discourse in a thousand ways about the analyst.  Rightly or wrongly.  And if it is wrongly (which never fails to be the case), it is better to traverse its impasses and its impossibilities to discover a path.

To speak about the analyst, it is better to follow the thread of psychoanalysis itself, it is better to stick to a discourse which is properly analytic, it is better to tack the discourse on the analyst onto a psychoanalytic discourse.

This is the crux of psychoanalysis:  to weave the chain of the discourse on the psychoanalyst, that of transference, with the texture of an experience of free speech, that of the psychoanalytic discourse. …

The Letter No57 (Autumn 2014) pages 29-40

The historical attempts of psychoanalysis to remedy its sense of fragility by forging a pseudo-solidity alongside psychiatry, psychology and anthropology have led to a deviation of its aims and an inhibition of its efficiency. Michel Foucault has argued that psychoanalysis, and psychoanalysts outside Lacan, has not had the courage to think of itself and to exercise itself as a form of spiritual exercise – as understood from ancient times, where only a transformation of the subject can permit his access to the truth. Psychoanalysts need to rediscover a sense of fragility which refuses to offer guarantees, renounces psychiatric and even early Lacanian clinical categories, abstains from classifying analysers and in particular from describing their sexual behaviour as perverse. Freud’s final arrival in Moses and Monotheism, at Geistigkeit (spirituality) as opposed to psychology and religion is an illuminating guide to what is truly at stake in the Freudian field.

Key words: fragility, Michel Foucault, clinical categories, the diverse, spirituality.

Easy to break, to falsify, to damage, to destroy, with a weak composition and a lack of solidity, fragility could scarcely be said to have a good press. There is however no paradox in devoting the remarks which follow to a eulogy of the fragility of the analyst and that of analysis itself. All the more so because analysis has acquired, in the course of time, what could be designated as a false or pseudo-solidity, due to an excessive weight, which, far from suiting it, inhibits its efficiency or even deviates its aims. This excess is composed of three different strands.  1) While Sigmund Freud expected from his alliance with Carl Jung that psychoanalysis would conquer psychiatry, nothing of the kind took place since, on the contrary, it is psychiatry which has ceaselessly informed (in the sense of giving a certain form to) the treatment of problems encountered in analysis:  ‘psychopathology’ is the name of this teratological combination of two incompatible methods. 2) While Freud knew the risk to psychoanalysis if it were to fall into the hands of priests, a far too distant, fearful and finally rigid relationship with respect to religion returned to analysis in the form of a psychoanalytic religiosity:  ‘psychoanalytic ethics’ is the…

The Letter No57 (Autumn 2014) pages 41-45

ἐπιμέλεια ἑαυτοῦ, (epimeleia heautou)

This phrase was brought to prominence in the work of Michel Foucault and is usually translated into English as ‘care of/for the self’. This translation is, arguably, misleading in an age of enthusiasm for predominantly narcissistic practices of ‘self-care’. ἐπιμέλεια (epimeleia) translates as ‘care bestowed upon a thing’ or ‘attention paid to something; it has a sense of ‘attending with diligence’, of ‘employment upon a matter’. ἑαυτοῦ,  (heautou) is a third person reflexive pronoun and is therefore literally ‘of himself, or itself’. A possible translation of the phrase epimeleia heautou can be ‘care of what is of oneself’ or ‘care for what is one’s own’. The Hiberno-English ‘it’s himself’ comes to mind. In light of the discussion in Jean Allouch’s paper of das Ding and the Freudian thing the translation  ‘attending to one’s thing’ suggests itself. Foucault translated the Greek with soucie pour le soi and argued that it referred to practices whereby the subject is engaged in his or her own ques-tion vis-à-vis the Other. He represents it as a development in Plato – a ‘fairly profound reorganisation’ of earlier practices concerned with the self. Foucault finds the phrase in Plato’s Alcibiades, 127e. He proposes that involved in any use of the term are two questions:

‘… what is this thing, this object, this self to which one must attend? Secondly, there is the care in “care of the self”. What form should this care take, in what must it consist, given that what is at stake in the dialogue is that I…

The Letter No57 (Autumn 2014) pages 47-54

Based upon ‘The Psychoanalytic Discourse: A Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Etourdit’ by Christian Fierens, I look at ‘The Tollund Man’ by Seamus Heaney as the first stage of a process. I consider the limitations of certain hermeneutic tactics brought to my first hearing it. Then, I consider a hypothetical situation, in which the words were spoken and heard in a psychoanalytic setting. I examine the further inadequacies of these interpretive strategies for such a situation together with the possibility of going beyond them.

Keywords: delusion of interpretation, unary trait, semantic equivocation, infra-linguistic differance 

The Tollund Man

Some day I will go to Aarhus

To see his peat-brown head,

The mild pods of his eye-lids,

His pointed skin cap.


In the flat country near by

Where they dug him out,

His last gruel of winter seeds

Caked in his stomach,


Naked except for

The cap, noose and girdle,

I will stand a long time.

Bridegroom to the goddess,


She tightened her torc on him

And opened her fen,

Those dark juices working

Him to a saint’s kept body, …


The Letter No57 (Autumn 2014) pages 55-62

The relationship of myth and psychoanalysis is present in Freud’s writing from the beginning. He uses myth to help explain his theories of infantile sexuality and the interpretation of dreams. His references are to stories from Greek literature, as for instance the myths of Oedipus and Narcissus. This paper draws on an Irish myth which deals with a culture in transition as well as the structuring of a human subject. Using this myth, the paper attempts to identify remnants of prehistory which are likely to remain in the unconscious and how these are woven into analytic experience.

Keywords: primal scene, Irish myth, phylogenesis versus ontogenesis, products of construction,  refusal, oral subject

In the closing paragraph of the Wolfman analysis, Freud refers to two problems which he says deserve special emphasis. They are, what he calls, ‘the phylogenetically inherited schemata’ and a ‘primitive kind of mental activity’ which he compares to the ‘the instinctive knowledge of animals.’  He gives a warning also: ‘I consider that they are only admissible when psychoanalysis strictly observes the correct order of precedence, and after forcing its way through the strata of what has been acquired by the individual, comes at last upon traces of what has been inherited.’ While paying heed to his counsel about the primacy of the individual’s experience in psychoanalysis, it seems worthwhile to reflect on these psychological factors which he considers significant.

Freud wrote Totem and Taboo in 1913 while he was still treating the Wolf-man. He was on the one hand elaborating the complex theory of infantile sexuality based on this analysis and at the same uncovering lessons from social anthropology. In his study of anthropology he noted the comparison between obsessional neurotic symptoms with those of collective observances of a tribe. …

The Letter No 57 (Autumn 2014) pages 63-77

This paper explores the occurrence of parapraxis in two different instances, and its relation to the function of the proper name. The first parapraxis is cap-tured in the word Poor(d)J’eLI, presented by Serge Leclaire during the closed sessions of Lacan’s seminar Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis 1964/1965. The second instance is Lacan’s reading of Freud’s The Forgetting of Proper Names. Leclaire argues that the nonsensical utterance Poor(d)J’eLI functions as a proper name and that it is linked to a primordial unconscious phantasy. For Lacan, Freud’s forgetting of the name Signorelli is also a reference to the function of the proper name, this time linked with absence. The comments on Leclaire’s work and the subsequent reading of Lacan’s interpretation of Freud’s example reveal two different ‘acts’ concerning the same psychoanalytic method.  

Keywords: Poor(d)J’eLI, Signorelli, proper name, unconscious phantasy, absence, sticking/detaching, Leclaire.

Proper name

Lacan states that ‘the first function of the proper name is denomination, is that of introducing oneself into one of the different.’ Our name, even though not unique, is the one that represents us. By our name we respond to the call of the Other. Our name is given by the Other, who inserts us into the chain of signifiers, and even though our name was there before us it becomes part of our own subjectivity.

The proper name precedes the subject, a fact illustrated by the difficulty that faces every couple, the naming of their offspring. It is often said that nobody knows how many names they dislike until the day that they have to name their child. It seems that from the pot of many, very few end up being appropriate. …

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