THE LETTER 13 (Summer 1998) pages 39-49
Reading Lacan over the years I have often found myself, like Joxer in The Plough and the Stars in a state close to intoxicated perplexity. ‘What is the moon and what is the stars?’ are however questions which occupy me less than ‘What is the subject?’. Obviously one can address this question to the widest possible forum of experience but in Seminar VIII it is anchored to the issue of transference, and is linked repeatedly to the fundamental fantasy. The most striking feature in these repeated references is that this subject, the subject of the fundamental fantasy is a fading or vacillating subject.
The term ‘fundamental fantasy’ itself has an archaeological ring about it which would have pleased Freud. Even more poetically perhaps, Lacan’s desiccated algebraic formula $*o evokes in its strict neutrality those grey Japanese paper twists which when immersed in water, blossom into myriad multi-coloured flowers. Beneath the proliferating wealth of fable, myth and legend, beneath the multiplied scenarios of daydream and story, are we not to imagine this seemingly static formula, unvarying and absolute, yet capable of engendering almost infinite permutations? And it is not simply our fantasies and our creativity that this formula subtends. It magnetises the most disparate of biographical data, shaping it according to the inexorable curve of unconscious desire. For all of us as for Alcibiades, despite apparent contradictions, what is at stake always in the successive high points of our lives is as Lacan says ‘the same supreme point where the subject is abolished in his fantasy, his agalmata’.
Fantasy then, far from being the idle fluctuations of the imaginary can be said to constitute the fundamental object of psychoanalysis, which is the status accorded to it by Laplanche and Pontalis in their valuable article Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality. In the seminar on Transference Lacan takes for granted a comprehensive grasp of fantasy itself, focusing instead on the strange position of the vacillating subject. Regretfully therefore, I will leave…