Jason Glynos – Metalanguage, formal structure, and the Dissolution of Transference

THE LETTER 17 (Autumn 1999) pages 21-37


This essay attempts precise the meaning  and significance of Lacan’s claim  that   ‘there  is  no  metalanguage’,  and   to  link  this  to  issues  of mathematical formalisation and the end of analysis.  My investigation will be  conducted   against  the  implicit  background  of  another   of  his  well­ known  claims:    ‘the  unconscious is structured like  a  language.’     I will approach this task, however,  from  the opposite direction.    The question then becomes:  In what sense can we say that Lacan thinks that there  is a metalanguage? In answering this question I will present some evidence in support of the  (hypo)thesis that  Lacan  does hold  onto  a conception of metalanguage – a quasi-transcendental conception – but that  this is, paradigmatically,  mathematics  qua non-glottic   writing.      This  line  of inquiry  generates  at least two  insights  which  I will highlight  in the final part  of the  essay.    First,  I argue  that  it  suggests a  productive way  of reading  the upper left hand side of the graph of desire, as found  in his text The  Subversion  of the Subject and the Dialectic  of Desire  in  the Freudian Unconscious.1 More specifically, I argue  that  we can conceive the relation signifier<?>jouissance in terms of a notion that can be called formalised delimitation, a process of formalisation-to-the-limits.  Secondly, and  finally, I…

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