Patricia McCarthy – Writing and Enjoyment – A Commentary

THE LETTER 27 (Spring 2003) pages 72-82

Like the beautiful game of soccer, writing this paper has been an effort of two halves. The little blurb you have there in your Congress programme, refers to the first half, which, earlier this week, I decided I would have to completely abandon! Relying on the oracular function of interpretation, ‘interpretation … is only true by its consequences, like every oracle. Interpretation is not put to the test of a truth that can be settled by a yes or no, it unleashes the truth as such’ – and by means of a simple clinical example – I had intended to talk about a truth-effect or subject-effect as it was unleashed in the context of a dream. Essentially, I had intended to confine my comments to the action of the signifier, to the pas-de-sens, the step of sense/nonsense produced by the signifier for another signifier. This is in keeping with Lacan’s 1957 paper The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious in which he elaborates on the status of the letter as indistinguishable from the signifier.

But I’ve backed off at the last minute from playing this first half. In the course of the past year in the Monday Night Reading Group, we had a first run at Lacan’s Seminar for 1971 D’un discours qui ne serait pas d’u semblant (On a Discourse that might not be a Semblance). Reading it a couple of times since and finishing it up again a few weeks ago, it took me until very recently to glimpse that the conception of the letter that Lacan is developing in this seminar – twenty plus years after The Agency of the Letter- differs substantially from the letter as grounded in the signifier. The…

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