THE LETTER 58 Spring 2015, Pages 79-84
This paper seeks to uncover what lies behind Lacan’s conceptualisation of
repetition as a ‘missed encounter with the real’ which he introduces in his
1964 seminar on the foundations of psychoanalysis. Through re-examining
what Freud says about repetition in Beyond the Pleasure Principle it aims to
give some foundation and grounding to what, on first reading, may appear
enigmatic and elusive.
Keywords: repetition compulsion; pleasure principle; trauma; binding; death
In The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis Lacan makes the following
statement about repetition; ‘What is repeated is always something that
occurs… as if by chance.’ He then goes on to define chance as, ‘the real as
encounter – the encounter in so far as it may be missed, in so far as it is essentially
the missed encounter.’ Taken in isolation these words appear enigmatic
and bewildering leaving us wondering how they are to be understood. Fortunately,
Lacan doesn’t leave us completely in the dark. His frequent references
to Freud suggest that before we can begin to understand what he, Lacan, is
saying about repetition, we need to revisit Freud and revise, go over again
(wiederholen) what he has said on the subject.
The issue of repetition had been on Freud’s mind from the very start. While
brief references to it can be found in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900),
Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), The Uncanny (1919), it
is pivotal to his paper Remembering, Repeating and Working Through (1914).
But it is not until his 1920 paper Beyond the Pleasure Principle that he gives
the issue a comprehensive treatment. His central question here comes from…