Issue 9 (Spring 1997)


It will come as no surprise to our regular readership that this third and final issue of volume III of THE LETTER is given over to the proceedings of the Third Annual Congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland which took Lacan’s 1964-65 seminar on Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis as its theme. Since its inception the congress has progressively grown from strength to strength, its momentum being such that the Editorial Board was left with, while not a crucial problem, a problem nonetheless. The number of papers presented at the congress exceeded the limitations of the journal size and so a selection of articles from those presented had to be made. Those having a more direct bearing on Lacan’s seminar are contained in this issue, while those following the theme of Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis in a related way will appear in issue ten.

In the paper which opened the Congress, Cormac Gallagher noted that this year’s assembly of practitioners, teachers and students of psychoanalysis would be addressing one of Lacan’s least well-known seminars, rendered inaccessible not only in virtue of the imposition of a policy of censorship with regard to the whole of Lacan’s works but also because being ‘(n)either edited nor published in French, it is available only in a typescript which has many gaps’. The text available to the English- speaking follower of the seminar is Cormac Gallagher’s unpublished translation of that typescript. In the blink of an eye one slips easily from 1997 to 1897 when on the 22nd of December Freud wrote to Fliess: ‘Have you ever seen a foreign newspaper which has passed the Russian censorship at the frontier? Words, whole clauses and sentences are blacked out so that what is left becomes unintelligible’. While it is by no means my intention here to suggest that we are left after the year’s work with a text which remains unintelligible, it is nonetheless with a certain sentiment of the Unheimlich that one notes that the way in which the text of the Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis comes to us echoes the initial themes of Freud’s earliest work… Continue Reading

Click here to order hard copy


THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 1-22

What must be known are the conditions required in order that someone may be able to say of himself: I am a psychoanalyst.

Jacques Lacan


Sandwiched, bulky but almost invisible, between The Four Fundamental Concepts and Science and Truth, the 1964-1965 Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis is one of Jacques Lacan’s least known seminars. For students of Lacan this is a serious loss in the first place because it leaves them in the dark about his teaching in the year following the foundation of the Ecole Freudienne de Paris in June 1964, the point at which he had assumed his definitive exclusion from the International Psychoanalytic Association and had set about the creation of his own school. It also marks more clearly than before a certain distancing from, a going beyond of Freud. The previous eleven seminars had all featured long and detailed commentaries on Freudian texts but here this dimension is almost entirely missing. Towards the end of the year – inspired possibly by Michel Foucault’s recently published Birth of the clinic – there is a proposal to establish a new framework for psychoanalytic clinical practice which will be not so much Freudian as Lacanian: …

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 23-36

Lacan considered the o object to be his most original contribution to psychoanalysis and it plays many roles in his theorising about the human subject. It moves from being the object of desire, an imaginary part-object to being the agalma, the object of desire we seek in the other. It gradually loses some of its imaginary status as it takes on connotations of the real and becomes the object cause of desire, that which sets desire in motion. This paper in many ways takes up from a previous one which followed a reading of Lacan’s seminar on Transference. My desire to understand the o object was evoked but avoided while writing an article on transference in analysis. Now, following a reading of Seminar XI1 and Crucial Problems, its centrality is once more apparent and this time it had to be confronted rather than ignored. This continued pursuit of the o object illustrates Melman’s point that the o object is;

… the object which ensures that when we pursue a reflection it comes to a limit, which doesn’t allow us to draw a conclusion but which sustains or activates our desire to know more about it.

This paper attempts to clarify something about the o object but it is necessary to point out that this grappling with it stems primarily from a reading of Crucial Problems and from Seminar XL There will undoubtedly be new…

THE LETTER 09 Spring 1997, pages 37-46

The Rapture of Lol V. Stein was written by Marguerite Duras in 1964. Lacan wrote a short commentary on the text in December 1965 – the only one he ever wrote on the work of a living author. As a consequence Duras’ book became widely known.

Michelle Montrelet was the first psychoanalyst to comment on the novel, which she did in Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis.

The Rapture of Lol V. Stein is the story of a nineteen-year-old Jewish woman who has been engaged for six months to Michael Richardson. One evening she goes to a ball with him at the T. Beach Municipal Casino and during the course of the evening a mysterious woman – Anne-Marie Stretter – enters the ballroom accompanied by her daughter. Stretter is wearing a low-cut black dress and she and Richardson dance together and they are caught up ‘in a passion that is as sudden as it is definitive’. As Lol watches the excruciating scene unfold before her, she becomes hooked by it and it traumatises her. She is simultaneously ecstatic with happiness and beside herself with loss. The lovers leave the…

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 47-60

A young man had the following dreams. He is obsessional and his symptom involves a sexual attraction to other young men, always in a form more perfect or beautiful than himself. The first dream is as follows:

We were at the scene of an accident. My friend, (male) was stuck in a shaft in the ground. It was as if he was standing up in it wedged in by his heels. The situation was desperate as the water level was rising. We put planks around the edges of the hole to shore it up and to give him some leverage to get out of this shaft. I went off to phone the fire brigade but when I returned the situation had worsened. The water level had almost covered his head and in the dream, my gaze focused on this pair of heels wedging him in.

So, as you listen to an anxiety dream like this, you cannot be immune to the danger that this young man is in. However, what presented itself in the account was a pair-of-heels. This reference to a pair-of-heels is Other. It jars with the otherwise distressing content of the dream. And, likewise, my intervention seems to jar, when all I ask him is, ‘What about this pair-of-heels?’ His response was, ‘Now that you mention it, I think of women’s high heels, breasts or testicles’. In the next session, he produced a second dream. It is in three parts.

(1) I was in a cafeteria like Bewleys. It was just before opening time. The doors were still closed and the waitresses were doing some last minute brushing to the floor, just before the crowd outside was to come in. Inside, I was aware of the tension and

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 61-72

In the Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis Lacan announces: The psychoanalyst is the presence of the sophist in our time …’. In this paper I will investigate this provocative statement. The paper is divided into four sections. Firstly I will introduce you to different understandings of the term sophist and then in the subsequent three sections I will situate and explore a text of Plato’s entitled Sophist under the following headings:

One: Definitions and Defining.

Two: Getting it wrong: the possibility of falsehood and deception.

Three: Mimicry and Knowing: the sophist and the psychoanalyst.

In this last section I will return to the quotation from Lacan and attempt to situate his reference to the sophist. As we proceed through what is a broad outline of the story of Plato’s Sophist I would ask you to bear in mind that the figure of the sophist as presented by Plato is in some significant way comparable to the psychoanalyst as presented by Lacan.

What do we understand by the term sophist? Firstly let us distinguish between the historical sophist and the Platonic sophist.

The historical sophist was a professional, itinerant teacher. Prominent in Greek society at the perceived high point of that culture – the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., the sophist travelled from city to city educating, in…

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 73-83

We do not pay enough attention to the fact that the unconscious was not discovered alone, and that something else saw the light at approximately the same time, I mean: the psychoanalyst as such, as he appears in the sheer movement of transference. We regularly lean to those last years of the previous century as to a cradle into which, in the shape of a certain Dr. Freud, a sort of psychoanalytical Adam emerged. We admire the feat through which Freud gave birth to a new kind of being, and we comment untiringly on the old story of the dawn of psychoanalysis.

I would prefer to consider each of these – the unconscious and the psychoanalyst – as a pair, from their very beginning right up to today and even, while I am at it, for the foreseeable future. During the first half of this century, the psychoanalyst was not the main problem; at first he was simply someone deeply interested in the new field of the Freudian unconscious; then, on top of that, he became someone having experienced, more or less, a psychoanalytical treatment; but he has become something else too, through Lacan’s teaching; a sort of product, or shadow, or scrap of the unconscious.

I suppose some of you see me coming: he is going to talk, once again, about the object a\ But this time I promise I am not about to do that, because here I am more interested in studying the relationship between this analyst and the unconscious. I cannot say the unconscious ‘itself since this unconscious knows no reflexivity. So I am initially going to approach the question of transference as the only place where the unconscious and the psychoanalyst are supposed to meet. If we take a look at the analyst at the moment where he leaves room to the transference itself (here I can use this reflexive term), is it not obvious that this analyst is playing a double game? …

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 84-101

Morse is my name

In the final chapter of Colin Dexter’s Death is now my Neighbour, Chief Inspector Morse and his girlfriend Janet McQueen walk towards the Roman Baths of Bath, when Janet suddenly disturbs the silence to ask her ever grumpy partner a most delicate question: ‘Does he know your Christian name?’. Of course, the he is the ever jolly Sergeant Lewis, without whose dedication Morse could not possibly have solved the myriad complicated murder cases for which he has become famous. And of course, Morse has to admit that even his beloved assistant has been refused access to the mystery of his given name. But Janet insists: ‘How come you got lumbered with it ?’. Hesitantly, but ostensibly carried away on the wings of love, Morse reveals the story:

They both had to leave school early, my parents – they never had much of a chance in life themselves. That’s partly the reason, I suppose. They used to keep on at me about trying as hard as I could. They wanted me to do that. They expected me to do that. Sort of emotional blackmail really – when you come to think of it.

What Morse articulates here, is not unusual or peculiar, although his story is obviously highly singular. As a matter of fact, Morse’s…

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 102-116


‘I am not one of those who philosophise’. The less’, Lacan continues, ‘one wants to do philosophy, the more of it one does’. I don’t particularly want to philosophise either but as both Aristotle and Lacan have confirmed, in order to want not to philosophise, one must philosophise. What I have to say locates itself within theological and philosophical discourses as much as within Lacanian psychoanalytic praxis.

Today, I would like to confine myself to exploring the relationship between fideism and psychoanalysis or, to put it more specifically, the fideist position and analytic praxis, a connection tentatively adumbrated for us by Lacan in week 19 of the seminar entitled Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, which we are here considering. To this end, I shall cover three topics: (1) a succinct historical and hermeneutical survey of fideism in the Western intellectual tradition; (2) a brief exposition of Pascal’s and Kierkegaard’s philosophical psychology of religion, as two examples of such a fideist position and; (3) to conclude by connecting the fideist position to the Lacanian clinic and to the sujet suppose savoir.

Firstly, let’s define what we mean by fideism. Fideism, as a reaction to rationalism and under the influence, if not inspiration, of Protestant thought, has sought to subordinate reason to faith. The insistence that…

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 117-127

We have had an inspiring day with many different approaches to a complex subject. I have been asked to formulate the closing remarks, and of course this always entails the danger of what Freud called ‘secondary elaboration’, that is, the smoothing out of all difficulties. In order to avoid that danger, I want to keep the problem open on the point which I consider to be the most difficult one, namely the end of the treatment and the transmission of psychoanalysis. Moreover, I intend to demonstrate that the maintenance of this opening is indeed crucial.

In this respect, Seminar XII occupies a special place. From a conceptual point of view, it follows directly on the content of Seminar XI, that is, the introduction of the Real as a category; this introduction adds a new dimension to Lacan’s theory, thus necessitating a nachtragliche re-elaboration of this theory. For Lacan, the crucial problems concern identification, the transference and demand, and the relations between those three, which he will approach from a topological point of view. It is this introduction of the Real that will rework the division between Being and Knowing.

Nevertheless, if we overstress the conceptual content of the seminar, we may loose sight of the institutional framework in which it took place. Let us not forget that the previous year saw Lacan thrown out of the IPA, and that he founded his own school in 1964 (EFP). From the twelfth seminar onwards, a number of lessons will be given for a restricted audience, that is, for the privileged ones. In itself, this is already an illustration of the central problem, namely the end of the treatment and the transmission of psychoanalysis.  …

Comments are closed.