Editorial Issue 66-67

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages vi-viii


Monica Errity

In the summer of 2017 Patricia McCarthy stepped down as editor of The Letter, a role she had filled since 2013. As the summer 2017 issue was a special issue in tribute to Bill Richardson it’s only now that I have the opportunity to thank Patricia for the enormous time and effort she has devoted to The Letter, over the last four years in particular. Issues 52 to 64 bear the stamp of Patricia’s tenure as editor in the serialisation of Cormac Gallagher’s translation of Christian Fierens’ The Psychoanalytic Discourse: A Second Reading of Lacan’s L’étourdit, a valuable resource for anybody attempting to get to grips with this challenging but essential work. Also, her commitment to the work of the members of the Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis (ISLP) has served to support and encourage the work of the School and is something I intend to continue. I am glad to say that Patricia has not fully ‘retired’ from The Letter and will be continuing to lend her support as a corresponding editor.

This double issue of The Letter represents the proceedings of the conference entitled Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant? held on the 9 th December 2017 in Marino Institute, Dublin. The conference was hosted by the Dublin psychoanalytic study group New Studies on Hysteria in collaboration with the École Pratique des Hautes Études en Psychopathologies, Paris. The name of the group comes from the text they have been studying over the last three years, Charles Melman’s Nouvelles études sur l’hystérie, which has been translated by Helen Sheehan. The title of the conference makes us hesitate on two levels and these hesitations were voiced on the day. Firstly, the question of whether we can speak of a ‘founding’ of psychoanalysis: while this may be open to debate, I think we can certainly speak of an origin; of an emergence of a new way of thinking about humanity and a desire to cultivate this new approach against all odds. From this point of view I think we can ask if there is something specific to the status of emigrant that would be a foundation or support for such a development.

And the other doubt? Was Freud an emigrant? As some of the speakers point out, Freud was certainly aware of how his Jewish status put him in a position of outsider but what most characterises the position of emigrant is the loss of a homeland, the loss of a foundation: precisely the position Freud found iv himself in on the death of his father. In a letter to Fliess he writes: ‘the occasion of his death has reawakened all my early feelings. Now I feel quite uprooted’. Indeed it was this uprootedness which prompted him to begin a self-analysis which culminated in his writing of The Interpretation of Dreams.

Notwithstanding these doubts, the enigmatic nature of the question posed for this conference has struck a rich vein as is evident from the wide range of responses presented here. Whether the focus is on exile and language or hysteria and the unconscious, the common themes to be found among these papers are foreign-ness, rejection, uprootedness, loss and alienation. Clearly there is a connection.

Freud’s early work with hysterics and his discovery of the relation between symptom and language is the subject of Stephanie Metcalfe’s paper while Malachi McCoy focuses on the force which necessitates this conversion from language to symptom, repression, and its corollary, the unconscious. Terry Ball’s paper also addresses the concepts of repression and the unconscious but via a discussion which examines the relation between three terms which Freud uses: reminiscence, remembering and reconstruction. The question of what founds the hysteric’s desire comes under scrutiny in Ros McCarthy’s paper as she traces the development in thinking from Freud’s notion of the drive and its aim for satisfaction to Lacan’s notion of hysterical jouissance as a jouissance deprived of the phallic signifier. Helen Sheehan also revisits the beginnings of psychoanalysis via a reading of Lacan’s Seminar on The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, underlining in the process the ease with which we humans come to reject foreign-ness.

The question of the origins of psychoanalysis prompts an examination of Freud’s own interest in the origins of humanity from Nellie Curtin. Here she demonstrates how Freud used his knowledge of myths and primitive cultures to inform, support and elucidate his theories. Further addressing the question of origins, Glenn Brady revisits an early Freudian term, ‘abreaction’ (working– off), and proposes that Freud’s founding of psychoanalysis was in itself an abreaction of the trauma of his move away from the clinic of the image. He also makes a link here between the hysteric’s position in relation to the father and the position Freud found himself in once he turned to psychoanalysis. Themes of foreign-ness, language, exile and up-rooting predominate in the papers of Barry O’Donnell, Paul Bothorel, and Guy le Gaufey. The psychoanalyst’s concern with what is experienced as strange or foreign in the speech of the subject is the focus of O’Donnell’s paper as he enquires into the Lacaninan term lalangue, itself the result of a stumble, a foreign product. Keeping the emphasis on language, Bothorel, following Kafka, argues that exile is first and foremost in language and asks if psychoanalysis and emigration have an organic link and if undertaking a psychoanalysis can be viewed as a sort of emigration in that speaking necessitates loss. The concept of loss is also taken up by le Gaufey as he interrogates an apparent Heideggerian paradox with the help of an elucidation of Lacan’s concepts of ‘symbolic loss’ and ‘real lack’.

Finally, Charles Melman, the proposer of the conference title, emphasises the ‘relation to the father’ as the key factor which links Freud, the hysteric and the emigrant. He proposes that the position of the emigrant is fundamentally a guilty one in relation to the father and suggests this was also Freud’s position. He also suggests that while this inability to deal with the castration of the father lies at the origins of psychoanalysis we must be aware that it still concerns psychoanalysis today.

Articles in this issue:

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 1-2

Conference: ‘Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant?’

9th December 2017 in Marino Institute, Dublin

Opening Remarks

Cormac Gallagher

Helen has asked me to open this conference and welcome you all. The title as you know is: Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant? and what’s interesting about the place we find ourselves in today, The Marino Institute, is that it was one of the training grounds for the Christian Brothers. The Christian Brothers were great founders (since we’re talking about founding psychoanalysis here today), founders of primary schools, secondary schools, Colleges and Universities even. Right across the English speaking world you had the mark of the Christian Brothers who were founding things and one question I have is; what is the difference between founding a University or a College and founding psychoanalysis? What does it mean to found psychoanalysis?

In our own history, you could say Jonty Hanaghan started off back in the Forties but I suppose psychoanalysis really got going in the University with several different schools of training, starting about the 1980’s. The school of psychotherapy was the first and then afterwards we had APPI, and then, after that, various other groups emerged.

The title is enigmatic. Helen told me that it’s not written down anywhere, it’s something that was discussed between Charles Melman (who is here to talk today) and herself – Pourquoi la psychanalyse a-t-elle été fondée par un émigrant? – Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant? Now all these Christian Brothers were emigrants – they started here and they headed off and they founded their various colleges and institutions throughout the English speaking world. The School of Psychotherapy also benefited from emigrants. We had a whole series of people – well not a whole series of people – but starting with Bill Richardson, a man greatly admired by Heidegger; he wrote a preface, as many of you know…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 3-10

An Intolerable Rejection

Malachi McCoy

In New Studies on Hysteria, Charles Melman identifies four concepts: traumatism, incompatibility, repression and unconscious. Beyond the image is to be found a repressed and rejected cast-off; the constitution of whom, Melman asserts, is freshly preserved. Unremittingly, this original signifier’s infiltration presents the hysteric’s psychosomatic manifestations. Sounding out that foreign body, Freud’s discovery assures us that psychoanalysis alone, in deciphering the language of symptomatology, gives recognition to and discharges that real place of suffering.

Keywords: Freud; Melman; repression; hysteria; incompatible; rejection; signifier.


It is intolerable. It is rejected. Its rejection becomes an intolerable and highly charged infiltrating agent. In New Studies on Hysteria Dr Charles Melman restores Freud’s inauguration of the essential concept of repression and of the unconscious, because one is correlative with the other. The development of these new writings presents us with an idea of the freshness with which hysteria signifies the embodying preservation of an ancient, pervasive, unconscious text. What is it that we don’t want to know about the history of our subject; what implicates a traumatism so incompatible? The psychoanalyst has something new to tell us; firstly, fundamentally, he refers us to Freud.

Freud’s Journey

‘Up to a time shortly before I entered the University it had been my intention to study law’, Freud tells us. It is not…’a matter of chance that the first advocate of psycho-analysis was a Jew. To profess belief in this new theory called for a certain degree of readiness to accept a situation of solitary opposition – a situation with which no one is more familiar than a Jew’. Freud writes that his interest, after making a lifelong detour…returned to the cultural problems which had fascinated him long before, when he was a youth. ‘I perceived even more clearly that the events of human history, the interactions between human nature, [and] cultural development…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 11-18

We See in Hysteria Something which is a Defence against Dissatisfaction

Ros McCarthy

Hysterical discourse is an attempt at creating a rapport with the Real of the body. The body’s expression of symptoms comes from the Real, a body disposed to jouissance. For the hysteric, it is a jouissance deprived of the phallic signifier. The pseudo original signifier replacing S is foundational and gives rise to a new moral order. The pseudo signifier and S will organise a gap, which will maintain a dissatisfaction. At the core of the hysteric’s discourse, the subject supports himself only by dissatisfaction as a result of the failure to seize the lost object through the signifier. Objet a as cause of desire is subsumed under an object as lost as if it were another human being. This is defended against through insistent demand.

Keywords: Hysteria; loss; jouissance; signifier; drive; Other

Situated in Draft G, in his letter to Fliess in 1895, Freud outlines a schematic diagram of sexuality, divided along the lines of a somatic-psyche boundary and an ego boundary. It depicts a quadrant with a psyche-soma frontier and an ego frontier. It is interesting to note that the schema is embedded in Freud’s paper on ‘Melancholia’, in which he states ‘The affect corresponding to melancholia is that of mourning – that is, longing for something lost. Thus in melancholia it must be a question of a loss – a loss in instinctual life’. We see melancholia in other discourses in the clinic, where ‘the shadow of the object, [has fallen] on the ego’, where object-loss retreats to ego-loss. In these presentations, there is a persistent encounter with the Real of loss, whereas in the work of mourning there is usually an endpoint to grief, according to…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 19-25

Being a Stranger to Oneself

Guy Le Gaufey

Is there any kind of relationship between knowledge and fatherland? Between the fact of knowing something (a lot of things) and the fact of belonging to a land, a language, a culture? To answer such a question, I will rely on two strange statements, the first one coming from Heidegger in The Principle of Reason: ‘There is a mysterious play of correspondences between the appeal to provide reason and the withdrawal from native ground’. And the second one coming from Lacan, when he enigmatically uttered as a ‘formula’ of his, in the seminar On Anxiety: ‘As soon as it is known that something depends on knowledge (tient au savoir), there is something lost; and the surest way to approach this something lost is to conceive it as a fragment of the body.’

Since its very beginnings, psychoanalysis as a knowledge has pretended to be a very special one, not to be confused with any other one already established. This is the reason why: quite early on, Freud inscribed his name in a prestigious series of scientists who were at first condemned and thereafter celebrated: Copernicus, Darwin and himself. And all because all three of them had dismissed Man: decentring him with regard to everything; the world, Creation, consciousness; each one of them contradicting religions as well as philosophy. How right was Freud to say so? I won’t be so quick to consider psychoanalytical knowledge as something so special, especially in its ambition to decentre Man. After all, it is a man that asserts it, and in a rather proud way; and so we are not to forget, in this circumstance – and thanks to psychoanalysis itself – that the truth of an utterance can be contradicted by its proper enunciation. I would, therefore, rather take into account the fact that this way of being decentred is but a general property of…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 27-35

Aliens, This Way Please

Helen Sheehan

This paper aims to consider the four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis, as outlined by Jacques Lacan in Seminar XI. Special attention will be paid to his theory of Alienation and Separation.

Keywords: Freud;Lacan; unconscious; repetition; transference; the drive; excommunication; aliens; legislation; alienation; separation; desire.

It is fitting that this group New Studies on Hysteria which is hosting this Conference today has had no permanent place of domicile since its inception. For quite some time, the Milltown Institute offered us a place of refuge but due to its imminent closure we are once again searching for a place in which to work. Some of you will recognise something of the same kind of situation in which Lacan found himself in November 1963 when he was finally excommunicated (a word he himself uses) from the International Psychoanalytic Association. To be more precise, Lacan’s teaching had been the object of censure and a ban on this teaching ensured that he would never again be sanctioned by the I.P.A. Lacan regarded this as tantamount to excommunication. This is of course a religious reference and excludes the possibility of a return within the Jewish tradition while the Christian tradition delights in the one who has been lost coming back to the fold. Lacan was devastated by the decision of his being the ‘subject of a deal’ which was finally taken on November 1963 and he seems to have concluded that his teaching role was at an end. He was to begin his 1963-4 Seminar on the Names of the Father that year. He was reduced to silence. But quickly he found his courage and found too that his desire was stronger than anything that an Institution could impose on him and by January 1964 he had been given a new teaching position…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 37-45

What Freud Allowed the Hysteric to Teach him

Stephanie Metcalfe

This paper aims to look at how, through working with hysterical patients, Freud developed the revolutionary technique of psychoanalysis which allowed the patient to both make sense of her symptom and enabled her to find a way of resolving it through speech. The way is paved for a relief through speaking because, as Freud demonstrates, each symptom is constituted symbolically. His humility of approach and willingness to learn from his patients is striking. Lacan follows in Freud’s footsteps and impresses on us the importance of listening to what in the patient is struggling to be heard. In this way, in attempting to deal with the past, we are given the opportunity to approach the future differently, having transformed the Imaginary via the Real through working in the Symbolic.

Keywords: Symptom; hysteria; psychoanalysis; symbolism; transference; he hustera

‘…[T]he first to consent not to look away nor to investigate elsewhere, the first not to attempt to hide it in psychiatric theory that more or less harmonised with the rest of medical knowledge; the first to follow its consequences with absolute rigour.’  So says Michel Foucault of Freud in Madness and Civilisation. The question posed by today’s conference brings us back to the beginnings of psychoanalysis. Before we can address what it was that enabled Freud to take those first steps along a different path I intend to retrace those beginnings in order to remind ourselves of what the hysteric and her symptom taught Freud; a lesson most succinctly expressed in A Question of Lay Analysis, ‘one cannot run away from oneself’…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 47-54

Post Hoc Exsilium Ostende

Paul Bothorel

This paper looks at the link that might exist between psychoanalysis and emigration within language, by examining the perspective that Freud, who emigrated to London towards the end of his life, gives us in “Moses and Monotheism”.

Keywords: Exile; language; psychoanalysis; loss; Moses.

First of all, I must tell you that I came up with this title in an instant, as a reply to Helen Sheehan’s pressing question. It brings to mind a Witz or a slip of the tongue…

I shall try to explore this further with you. This verse comes from a beautiful hymn to the Virgin Mary which is sung at Compline, at evening prayer. It evokes our position as humans; as separated beings exiled from the object of our desire which is within God; as children of Eve, exsules filii Hevae, that is to say, permanently excluded from earthly paradise, from Eden, awaiting celestial paradise and eternal felicity. So, we can follow this with Saint Paul, ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known’. In another letter he evokes that future in which we will have full knowledge.

Thus, there is a homeland that is postulated, that of Heaven, where the lack of knowledge, the lack of being, the lack of words will be filled. It may be, also, that in Heaven I will speak the language of angels, free from the embarrassment of sex, as it is well known that angels do not have a gender. So, that will be the end of our position as wandering pilgrims on earth, as exiled, as perpetual migrants. Of course, we are not within the psychoanalytical lexicon, which offers no eschatology. Psychoanalysis does not have…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 55-64

Reconstructing Reminiscences

Terry Ball

‘Hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences’

This paper looks at the distinction between three related but distinct terms, reconstructing, remembering and reminiscences, in order to examine the origins of the key psychoanalytic concepts of repression and the unconscious. Imbedded in this exploration is a discussion on psychoanalytic practice, its task and its aim. Freud’s texts from 1893 to 1937 are consulted as are some of Lacan’s Seminars and texts from the 1950s which support Freud’s theses. There are musings on Freud’s being made to feel like an alien in his early student years and how he later described the unconscious as an alien, foreign body.

Keywords: unconscious; alien; foreign body; archaeology; metaphor; metonymy reconstructing; remembering; reminiscences; repression;

The starting point of this paper is Freud’s assertion that ‘[h]ysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences’ and furthermore that the task of the analyst is to reconstruct these reminiscences so that the patient can be induced to remember. It is worth clarifying at the start, therefore, that reminiscences are not synonymous with remembrances and, furthermore, that remembering is not the same as reconstructing.

This paper sets out to elaborate on these distinctions and is organised, more or less, around three questions. Firstly, what indeed are reminiscences if they are not the memories that can be remembered? Secondly, what is actually entailed in reconstructing these reminiscences? Lastly, what does the term, remembering, mean – a term so often referenced from Freud’s earliest to his latest deliberations on psychoanalysis? Founded by an Emigrant? which was hosted by New Studies on Hysteria, Dublin in collaboration with the École Pratique des Hautes Études en Psychopathologies, Paris and held on December 9th Press. p. 7. While addressing these questions, this paper will, therefore, in actual fact be circling around the ideas and the development of ideas relating to repression and to the unconscious, exploring particularly…

Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 65-68

Conference: ‘Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant?’

9th December 2017 in Marino Institute, Dublin

Morning Discussion

Patricia McCarthy: I have two comments. My first comment is addressed to Malachi – Malachi, given that we suffer from a passion for ignorance, all of us, leaving us all, at the end of analysis, having to tolerate a certain ‘I don’t want to know anything about it’, my comment touches a bit on Cormac’s opening question on the difference between founding institutions of learning as opposed to the founding of psychoanalysis. Given that we suffer from this passion for ignorance, isn’t it necessary then for us to speak about the discourses, and the psychoanalytic discourse in particular, in order to better get our bearings?

Dermot Hickey: Is your question specifically to Malachi’s paper?

Patricia McCarthy: Not necessarily, because the two papers we’ve heard to date, both on hysteria, might seem a little distant from the title of the conference, namely, how to speak about the founding of psychoanalysis and why it was founded by an emigrant.

Malachi McCoy: Patricia, I have something written here that we discussed in the work of the seminar group on New Studies on Hysteria. Just to read you a short paragraph from it. The unchanged persistence of the hysterical discourse constitutes the greatest opposition to what it would be to enter into a psychoanalytic discourse. So in that sense then isn’t the founding of psychoanalysis to do with the individual person … through the subject and beginning to speak, doesn’t the hysteric choose not to speak?

Patricia McCarthy: But is it possible to speak about a founding of psychoanalysis? I suppose that’s my bigger question.

Malachi McCoy: That’s the pivot of today’s conference.

Barry O’Donnell: Thank you both very much. There’s a lot in what both of you are saying. I was just interested Ros, in the point you were making about the oral drive. You took that as an example and the way that…


The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 69-74

Why Was Psychoanalysis Founded by an Emigrant?

Charles Melman

This paper addresses the question ‘Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant?’ It draws parallels between Freud’s position in relation to his father and that of both emigrant and hysteric. It is proposed that the position of the emigrant is fundamentally a guilty one in relation to the father and therefore the problem posed by emigrants is not simply at the origin of psychoanalysis but is still current to psychoanalysis.

Keywords: Freud; Psychoanalysis; masochism; emigrant; hysteric; father

First of all I will say that we are – all of us – masochists. It’s the very condition of our survival. We are all masochists, which means that we live out our suffering and our problems face to face with God, as a confrontation with the very presence of the real of God, in other words, He who stops us from going too quickly to get to the end of our lives. First of all, he says that our time is His, in other words, what He has prescribed for us. A maniac is someone who wants to go too quickly to the end of his life. If we are masochistic and if that is the condition for our survival, we can’t tolerate the idea that God himself is a masochist because that would mean cutting him off from His power, as if He himself were subjected to another influence.

As it happens, the emigrant suffers precisely for this reason. He suffers because the one who is for him his God or his father is castrated, cut off from his power. If I am an emigrant I suffer from the fact that the God or the father of my line of descendants cannot be honoured but I feel just as guilty with respect to the God or the society in which I find myself because, as an emigrant, I have denied the totality of His power. The emigrant is in a fundamentally guilty position with regard to the figure of…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 75-82

Freud’s Interest in the Origins of Humanity as Reflected in his Theory of Psychoanalysis

Nellie Curtin

From his earliest writings Freud frequently drew parallels between origin stories and psychoanalysis. In his later writings he goes further and makes direct links between the prehistoric and the unconscious: ‘the man of prehistoric times survives unchanged in our unconscious’ In relation to a similar theme of myth, Lacan states that to establish these connections seems ‘to me indispensable if we are to situate our domain well, or even simply find out where we are.’  This paper attempts to look at these parallels and connections with a view to assessing their relevance and application to psychoanalytic theory and practise.

Key words: Mythic Formations; ancestral prehistory; totem; archaic heritage; residual phenomena.

With the approach of the Winter Solstice and its association with Brú na Boinne, Newgrange, we are reminded of the ceremonies and mythologies relating to these ancient peoples of 5000 years ago. There is a curiosity about their origins. There is also a certain mythology surrounding our individual origins: we don’t remember our own birth – birth itself being a primeval experience. Combining myth and research seems to be one way of finding pointers that might solve the puzzle concerning the origins of humanity and civilization. Freud was interested in these questions. He tells us that in his youth he felt an overpowering need to understand something of the riddles of the world and perhaps even to contribute something of their solution as an adult. Understanding the riddles of medicine wasn’t quite enough for him. So he moved from the verifiable scientific world of neurology and entered into the unknown territory of psychoanalysis. Part of this excursion into a new field included his interest in and use of anthropology and archaeology…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 83-92

Moving Away from the Familiar

Glenn Brady

The founding of psychoanalysis is a milestone historical event. Freud’s ideas challenged our preconceptions of who we think we are. He embarked on a journey away from the familiar. Is there something pertinent in Freud leaving the familiar? Does ‘moving away’ from what is ‘familiar’ create a new space where we can dare to unshackle ourselves from stultifying influence of the mob? I will not attempt to draw conclusions from a biographical study of Freud’s early life but rather ask the question of whether something monumentally significant to an understanding of who we are, that is, the founding of psychoanalysis, could only be achieved through the speaking of a loss and thereby, truly moving away from the familiar.

Keywords: Psychoanalysis; Freud; hysteria; emigration; loss; speak-being.

The online etymology dictionary tells us that the word ‘emigrant’ comes ‘from the Latin emigrantem (nominative emigrans), present participle of emigrare, ‘move away’. Why was psychoanalysis founded by this person who ‘moved away’? And from what did Freud move away but from that which was familiar, not only to him, but also the rest of us. ‘Familiar’-from Latin familiaris,‘domestic, private, belonging to a family…The Latin plural, used as a noun, meant ‘the slaves’.3 The family unit is the primary influencing structure in the psychological development of the individual, in the psychoanalytic view. The delicate balance of our nuanc(ed relationships with our parents will shape our destiny in a monumental way. Our familial ties influence us in ways beyond our own awareness. How can we influence our own destiny, but by moving away from the familiar? ‘Moving away’ implies a loss of some sort or other. Is there the opportunity for finding something new in this loss? Must we experience loss to find ourselves anew? Is this loss a trauma? In Freud and Breuer’s Studies…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 93-106

A Foreign Tongue

Barry O’Donnell

This paper is a response to the question: Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant? The paper proposes that speech being strange to the speaker is fundamental to psychoanalytic practice. This has consequences for the transmission of psychoanalysis.

Keywords: subjectivity; speech; strange; lalangue; Gaeilge.

Psychoanalysis occupies itself with what is experienced as strange in the most intimate aspect of ourselves, our speaking. 1 Whether a dream, a slip, a symptom or a joke there is a quality of it being a foreign production, albeit one of my own subjectivity, a product alien to my conscious sense of myself. It is in this direction that I am drawn in response to the question: Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant? This fundamental experience of what is strange presents some problems: how do each of us in the field sustain the ability to tolerate the strange? How do we work together without making the language of the group over-familiar and the basis of group membership? How do we ensure that the discourse of psychoanalysis remains alive to the strangeness? Why would anyone engage in the work of psychoanalysis in this age, which is arguably more and more intolerant of subjective effects, of anxiety, of questioning?

In 1971 Lacan introduced, through a slip, a term he then adopted – lalangue. Without fully grasping what he found to be usefully indicated by this product of a stumble [Versprechen], I propose that its appreciation may assist us in staying with the strangeness inherent in subjectivity. Attending to this term may prevent us straying too far into more calming waters.

Dubhglas de hÍde(2) writes in his 1894 polemic ‘The necessity for de- Anglicising Ireland’…

The Letter Issue 66-67 (Autumn 2017/Spring 2018) Pages 107-109

Conference: ‘Why was psychoanalysis founded by an emigrant?’

9th December 2017 in Marino Institute, Dublin

Afternoon Discussion and Closing Remarks

Guy le Gaufey: Charles you mentioned the omnipotence of God, or of the Father, and there is a history of omnipotence. God hasn’t always been omnipotent. He only became so after Job. Job is the inventor of omnipotence when he recognises that he will never understand the reasons why God works this way and not another way. That is the invention of omnipotence; the ignorance of the reasons of God, instead of the principle of reason I commented on this morning.

I would like to comment on the invention of atheism. Lacan in the seminar on anxiety wants to give a new definition of atheism because he wants to think about the obsessional and he says that omnipotence is not the invention of the obsessional. In the Freudian world when we say omnipotence then, immediately, the Ratman comes to mind because Freud invented the expression the ‘omnipotence of ideas’. Lacan says, but of course, omnipotence does exist, it is the symbolic order – the name of omnipotence is in the symbolic order. The question is, is there any presence in this world? And the answer is, obviously, we have to think of omnipotence as the symbolic dimension without any kind of presence. My question is what about this definition of atheism? What do we think about it because there is a real conflict between this way of thinking about psychoanalysis and religion?

Charles Melman: I wanted to speak about Job but you can’t talk about everything. Now, I am going to give you a very simple and a very lay definition of omnipotence. In my way of thinking, the feeling that omnipotence exists, the idea of omnipotence comes when your signifying chain is interrupted by a single trait. It’s not that there is one moment that comes before the other, it’s a simultaneous thing. In other words, the isolation of the Real in speaking breaks up this chain of speech between the element One and the element Zero…


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