Issue 63 (Autumn 2016)


Issue 63 opens with another remarkable chapter – this time the concludingchapter – of Christian Fierens’ The Psychoanalytic Discourse: A Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Étourdit (2012). It is accompanied by a sort of coda – Perspectives for the Psychoanalytic Discourse – referencing the laughter provoked by the witticism.

The title itself – The Structure of the Psychoanalytic Discourse, is Interpretation – straightaway forces us to ask how, indeed, can the structure of the psychoanalytic discourse actually be interpretation? We know that the practice of free association ‘proposes’ a ‘loosening of meaning’. But what next? What’s next is that ‘sense is produced at the moment when meaning fails’ which, in its turn also fails, in order – perhaps? – to allow sex-absens – what is playing for itself – to emerge. ‘Sense does not lead back to meaning but to the breakdown of sense, to sex; where ‘sex is always the fundamental subversion of a sense supposedly seeking a common meaning’. The implications of this are huge, because this ternary movement, this ‘whirlwind’ of the successive collapsing of meaning and sense in order to allow sex ab-sens emerge, allows a recasting, a ‘topological recasting’, where ‘the matheme of psychoanalysis retroacts, namely changes the value of’ a previously held identification – a previously held ‘true opinion’, a previously held ‘it’s that’.

Complex topological terms such as fixion, unique out-of-line point, the line of change without point, are here all given their full linkage with interpretation itself. Captured in the following: ‘The function of this unique point (a single true opinion or a single ‘it’s that’) is to be in relationship with the white thread, with the line of change without points, with the line that modifies the structure..’. It might yet repay us to come to grips with these complex……. Continue Reading

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Articles in this Issue:

THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 4 – 39


The Structure of the Psychoanalytic Discourse, is Interpretation

Christian Fierens


The psychoanalytic discourse has no stuff, no consistency outside the established discourses. What is neither an hysterical discourse, a magisterial discourse nor an academic discourse is quite simply not a discourse. The discourse of science is inscribed in the hysterical discourse, the capitalist discourse is inscribed in the magisterial discourse, the psychological discourse is inscribed in the academic discourse, etc. Psychoanalytic discourse resists being preferentially inscribed in any one whatsoever of these three established discourses. And it nevertheless cannot ever escape from them on pain of losing all consistency.

How situate it?

We are always already engaged in the perspective of the universal proper to the concept. Whatever we say, because saying always involves the universal. Rightly or wrongly, without rhyme or reason, the universal packs, condenses, synthesises. From the small condensation of a letter (of the V of the Wolfman), from a singular minimalist sentence up to the great condensation of a philosophical system like the Hegelian Encyclopedia, the same unique mechanism produces and synthesises meanings. It is Freudian condensation generalised (make no mistake).

But on what do these established and stabilised meanings repose? On a reality in itself prior to discourse? ………


THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 41 – 48

Narcisism: Is that al Psychoanalysis Is?1

Monica Errity

The perils of becoming too wrapped up in yourself has been known for over two thousand years as is evident from the Greeks’ cautionary tale of Narcissus, the boy who fell in love with his own reflection, but not understanding that it was his own image, pined away while waiting for it to respond to him. So, when Freud, in 1914, takes up the subject of self-love under the newly coined but apt term narcissism, it is not only to justify its existence, but to address the extent to which it is implicated in our lives.The result is a comprehensive account of narcissism. Examined from seemingly every angle, Freud’s argument casts it as an all-pervading influence on our lives. However, the paper is not without its paradoxes and contradictions and it is these I want to examine so that I might attempt to answer my question: narcissism, is that all psychoanalysis is?

Keywords: Narcissism; ego; ego-ideal; psychoanalysis; imaginary; symbolic

Freud used the title Narcissism: An Introduction for his paper on the subject but the use of the word ‘introduction’ belies the fact that these were not his first thoughts on the subject. He had long been searching for a way of explaining how the subject moves from a state of autoerotism to object love and, as early as 1899 in a letter to Fliess, while discussing paranoia as a dissolving of the ego’s identifications, he expresses a curiosity about ‘the special relations of auto-erotism and the original “ego”’. By 1907, in a discussion of the mechanisms of schizophrenia in correspondence with Jung, he seems to…….

THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 49 – 58

From Königsberg to Cartel

Kim Spendlove

This paper comes of my work in one of the cartels of the Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis (ISLP) where we focused on the Second Turn of Lacan‘s L’Etourdit and the later chapters of Christian Fierens’ Second Reading. It was presented at the ISLP Study Day on June 11th 2016. By compiling some historical references of note from mathematics, topology and psychoanalysis, my intention was to reference the usefulness of topology in the psychoanalytic clinic.

Keywords: topology; topography; torus; table of transformations; drug addiction; circle of demand

Why is topology useful in the practice of psychoanalysis? With a view to informing this question, we need to examine some historical aspects of the development of topology as a branch of mathematics. Topology comes from the Greek words μελέτη (study) and χώρα (space), and in mathematics, it designates properties of a particular space that are preserved under various manipulations. Its origins can be traced back to the early seventeenth century when Gottfried Leibnizbecame interested in geometria situs (Latin for geometry of place) and analysis situs (Latin for picking apart). Topology developed as a field of study out of geometry and set theory, through the analysis of concepts such as space, dimension, and transformation………

THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 59 – 68

Is Topology Meaningles?

Yes and No

Hugh Jarrett

This paper developed out of the work of our cartel on the first part of the second turn of L’Étourdit1 , and in particular the questions that developed from reading Lacan’s text and the commentary on the second turn written by Christian

Fierens2: What is the role of topology in L’Étourdit and why is it of value to psychoanalytic practice? The answer is not an easy one largely because of the nature of metaphor or ‘meaning’ and the problems inherent in it. This paper will attempt to draw out the train of Lacan’s thoughts on topology in this particular écrit and to briefly apply his thinking to one of Freud’s cases.

Keywords: Topology; L’Étourdit; Moebius strip; meaning/metaphor; mathemecase of the young homosexual woman


The topology of L’Étourdit begins with the torus, the ‘neurotic torus’as Fierens calls it in his analysis of the text, that undergoes a number of manipulations due to the effect of the phallic function and the psychoanalytic discourse. The first step in his ‘table of transformations’ is that the torus is emptied, ‘deflated’ but this does not involve any break in continuity, topologically the structure remains the same. The emptying of the torus prepares it for ‘a succession of operations’ cuts and sutures, that will alter the torus and ‘tear [it] from the grasp of spherical topology…..

THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 69 – 82

Looking back at On a Discourse that Might not Be a Semblance with L’Éto urdit in Mind

Patricia McCarthy


For the past year, our cartel has continued to work on Lacan’s L’Étourdit accompanied by Christian Fierens’ two Readings. To capture some of the questions that these texts provoke,1 I’ve chosen to re-read Lacan’s seminar from 1971 On a Discourse that Might not be a Semblance. This seminar appealed at this time because of its enigmatic title, a title that contains the words discourse and semblance and that seems to take the form of a question – is it possible to have a discourse that might not be a semblance? Lacan himself fashions it more as a negative hypothesis that he answers quite early on. A discourse that might not be a semblance posits that there is no escaping the fact that discourse – master, university or hysterical – is a semblance. In 1971, did Lacan wish that things could be otherwise? I would suggest that the fact that you cannot have a discourse that is not a semblance culminated in Lacan’s clarifying in L’Étourdit – completed a little over a year later on July 16th 1972 – how, by a strange unsettling of the stable habitatstabitat of the semblance, the analytic discourse works. As Fierens puts it, the analytic discourse is ‘then a matter of a discourse already there’ – master……..


THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 83 – 95

A Perfect Construction

A Perfect Construction

Marion Deane

This fore-tale to the Táin Bó Cualnge is a 9th century representation of an event in the 7th century when the poets of Ireland set about reconstituting a book whose original contents are imagined to have happened around the time of Christ. In this paper, I will examine, in light of Christian Fierens’ work on L’Étourdit, how its basic assumptions about what constitutes truth in its entirety do not stand up to scrutiny.

Keywords: Táin Bó Cualnge; assertory propositions; body; concept; knowledgememory

Do Fallsigud Tána Bó Cualnge1

Concomgarthá trá filid Herend do Senchán Torpeist, dús in ba mebor leo Táin Bo Cualngi inna ógi. Asbertatar nach fetar di acht bloga nammá. Asbert iaram Senchán ria daltu dús cia dib no ragad ara bennacht i tíre Letha do foglaim na Tána berta in suí sair dar éis in chulmeinn … Iss ed dollotar do fertai Fergusa meic Róig ocus sech a liic oc Énloch la Connachta. Suidid Murgein a oenur oc liic Fergusa. & luid cách úad Gabais Murgen tra laíd don lííc amal bid Fergus fessin adgladad. a n-asbert riss iarum. ‘Manib do liic luaich-thech malgel mac Róig … Cuailngi in cech follus … La sodain forrubai in ceó mór imbi connach fúair a muntirco cend tri laa ocus tri n-aidche. Intí Fergus fo chongraimimm chain …

THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 97 – 102

The Narcisistic Ego:

Functions and Fallacies 1

Nellie Curtin

Ego therapies have as their aim the strengthening of the ego. This is in sharp contrast to Lacan’s statement that the ego is the capacity to fail. Freud identifies the functions of the ego as well as presenting the complex theory of its origins. Following Freud and Lacan, this paper, while recognizing the ego as an agency which speaks, searches back to the narcissistic fixation of the image and its precarious foundation in the imaginary. There is also an attempt to reflect on the implications of this for psychoanalytic practice.

Keywords: orthopaedics of the ego; identification; the moorings of speech; Echo; the image.

Freud’s paper On Narcissism: An Introduction (1914) is considered to be one of his most important writings. He had developed his ideas over a decade prior to this publication and he continued to refine them during the subsequent decade. His paper is interesting because it includes the hesitations and ambiguities of a theory in its beginnings. This is also true of what he says about the ego which is so closely linked with Narcissism.

The paper on Narcissism highlights the ego and its functions which play such a central role in the psyche. In analytic work, the ego therapies are considered ‘inauspicious’. If we do not wish to pursue the ‘orthopaedics of the ego’ as Lacan calls it, how do we deal with the ego in psychoanalysis? Ego’s place as outlined by Freud, appears in neurosis, in repression, in sleep and dreams, in melancholia, in psychoses, in everyday living. In face of this how do we understand and work with it if we are not to go the route of ego…….

Issue 63 Autumn 2016, pages 103 -107

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

What ’s Love Got to Do with It?1

Audrey McAleese

The mother-son relationship is examined with reference to Freud’s texts – including On Narcissism and Female Sexuality – and Lacan’s terms, the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real. The paper further explores what psychoanalysis offers in response to the absence of a sexual rapport between a man and a woman and questions ‘What’s love got to do with It?’ – the ‘It’ being any relationship, particularly that between a mother and her son.

Keywords: mother-son relationship; narcissism; female sexuality; the Imaginary; the Symbolic; the Real; the difference between the sexes; the Oedipus Complex; the absence of sexual rapport.

In light of our understanding that ‘there is no sexual rapport’ il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel, how do we assess what Freud writes about the mother-son relationship?

The evidence of psychoanalysis shows that almost every intimate emotional relation between two people which lasts for some time – marriage, friendship, the relation between parents and children – contains a sediment of feelings of aversion and hostility, which only escapes perception as a result of repression2… perhaps with the solitary exception of the relation of a mother to her son, which is based on narcissism, is not disturbed by subsequent rivalry, and is reinforced by a rudimentary attempt at sexual object-choice.3

A mother is only brought unlimited satisfaction by her relation to a son; this is altogether the most perfect, the most free from ambivalence of all human relationships… Even a marriage is not made secure until……..

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