Issue 15 (Spring 1999)


As usual this present issue of THE LETTER, the final issue of volume V, is given over to the proceedings of the Annual November Congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland. The theme of this fifth APPI congress emerged in consequence of the labours of the collective participants of the Monday-night reading group which set itself the task of working through Lacan’s seminar on The Logic of Phantasy as with a fine-toothed comb. Although not all of the contributors whose work is represented here were part of that regular gathering together of heads, the articles which make up this issue can easily be seen as the remainders left over from equally fervent headscratching with relation to the subject posed there. And this reference to the fine-toothed comb, the gathering together of heads and the headscratching is anything but incidental. Rather, it refers directly to what Freud considered he had unleashed with psychoanalysis, – a plague certainly, but an altogether quite familiar one. The outcome represented here is really the result of the ‘nitty-gritty’ of psychoanalytic work.

We open with Lieven Jonckheere’s contribution to the question of what might be constituted by ‘the traversing of phantasy’, – what this phrase might encapsulate and what the effects of any such ‘traversing’ might be. These he approaches via a detailed account of transformations in the life and work of Marcel Duchamp, in consequence of the falling apart of the fundamental phantasy, attempts to plaster it back together and, finally, what he considers to be its traversal. Rather than being a psychoanalysis in absentia of Duchamp, this work aims at drawing on the testimony of his life and work to better understand what is at stake in the theory and clinical work of psychoanalysis. Towards this end, the detailed account of Duchamp’s life serves Jonckheere well in illuminating what is involved in the stumbling block inherent to the clinical vignette from his own practice included in this paper, as it also serves him in conceptualising what the end of an analysis might constitute. …Continue reading

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 1-50

From psychoanalysis to Duchamp … and back

When he found himself in a clinical deadlock, Freud often turned to art. Being a Freudian, like Lacan, I will try to tackle the problem of the fundamental sexual fantasy at the end of the analytic cure, by turning to an artist you all know, namely Marcel Duchamp. Indeed, I think Duchamp can teach something to a psychoanalyst about the fantasy – the means of finding a way out of it.

The fantasy according to psychoanalysis

But first of all, what is the fundamental fantasy, according to Freud and Lacan? For the time being I will define it in the most classical way: as a kind of play, a scene, or scenario – permanently produced on what Freud calls the Other Stage, in the unconscious. This scene deals with a specific situation, in which we ourselves are not involved in a direct or active manner; we only witness it, as a passenger – as if seeing something in a window display. Mostly this view can be summarised in one single sentence, this sentence being the only thing we can tell about our fantasy, be it with much feelings of shame. You may know the Freudian paradigm…

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 51-60


This does not sound like a title that makes sense, and clearly it doesn’t make sense at the level of what we, ordinarily, take the sexual act to be, that is, at the social or human level. However at the level of the subject, the sexual act is silence. There is a syncopation of signifiers when it comes to dealing with what is involved in sex. To syncopate a word is to shorten it by dropping out an interior letter or syllable, for instance the word ‘never’ becoming ‘ne’er’. The structural syncopation in meaning at the level of the unconscious, is already a consequence of a logic that sets the subject up. Can such a lofty theorisation have clinical relevance? To define the subject in terms of the difficulty of the sexual act is, hopefully, to allow us pinpoint more clearly, where on the path of difficulty, the neurotic or perverse subject places himself. Over all of this, the status of the analytic act hangs suspended …


In crime thrillers, the serial killer often turns out to be someone who is at the heart of the investigative team and more often still is someone of whom it is later remarked ‘Of course it had to be him! Look at the way he always straightened up the telephone directories or how neatly he arranged the files on his desk!’ In this escapist scenario, we don’t readily have to recognise aspects of ourselves in the investigator/serial killer. In relation to an unwitting individual who comes to see him, and who pays him with florins that have been previously laundered, Freud is…

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 61-70

In the recently released movie version of the life of Queen Elizabeth the First, there are two scenes which when taken together can serve as a point of attachment for a consideration of what is at stake in the case of female hysteria. We can find a justification for seeing these quite separate scenes as inextricably linked in virtue of the presence in both of them of the same man. And if in each scene he appears to dominate, being the active, virile member of each scenario, then this only covers over the truth,- that what happens ultimately unfolds between two women and the man is merely the go-between.

In the first scene we witness this young man engaged in a gentle seduction of the Queen, a tender, loving and sensual approach to her, a love-making which amounts to nothing else than an adoration of her body. In a later scene we witness the same young knave engaged in something altogether different with the Queen’s cheeky young maid, who is not an unwilling partner. For the occasion she is decked out in one of the Queen’s instantly recognisable gowns. Making ‘love’ is far from what he has in mind; he is … and nothing will be gained by being coy about it… he is fucking her. And what does the maximisation of his enjoyment depend upon, – what further demand does he make of her? Well, he begs of her: ‘Say you are Elizabeth! Say you are Elizabeth!’. All the requirements being met with, the scene proceeds towards its climax, literally in this case! And it is exactly at this point of penetration and orgasm that something unexpected, something disastrous takes place. Where we expect ecstatic murmurings, erotic groans, there emerges instead a horrendous shriek of pain, a terrifying screaming from the maid.

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 71-83

We have been talking here today of phantasy, and of its central place, in all its different forms, in psychoanalysis. As we know, phantasy is a signifier which immediately invokes another, which stands in a sort of antithesis to it, reality. Phantasy involves a kind of imaging that does not have a simple direct link to a current or past reality and we know that desire is implicated in its creation. In the papers which follow this one, on the false memory debate, we will no doubt hear about what happens when therapies adopt a naive pragmatic approach to technique, with insufficient theoretical underpinnings. False memory syndrome is one consequence of a confusion and a scandalously sloppy theorisation concerning the status of a patient’s discourse and the place of phantasy within it. The recent furore over false memory emphasises how important it is to continue to examine critically and develop our techniques and their underlying theoretical foundations. And it is to this question of foundations that Dr. Bergler turns in the work that I am introducing here today, which he ambitiously entitled The Basic Neurosis, first published in 1949 [this edition, 1977].

On nosology in psychoanalysis, Bergler has the following to say:

I sometimes get an impression very much as if scholars were to describe forms assumed by the sand of the desert under the influence of the desert wind and yet forget that at bottom they are after all dealing with sand. The forms assumed by the sand may very well be manifold, but if one wants to know the chemical composition of the sand, he will not be made any the wiser if in place of the formula for the

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 84-89

One of the topics dealt with in the seminar on the Logic of Phantasy concerns the question as to whether or not, at the level of the unconscious, we are structured as male or female subjects. In order to tease out this idea Lacan initially refers to Marx’s discussion on the value and its subsystem of use-value and exchange-value.

In order to give an understanding of Marx, I believe it best to let him speak for himself, for it is not possible for me to gild that lily.

Use-value derives from the material properties of a commodity, such as the ability of a watch to tell the time, or a car to get us to our destination.Exchange-value is related to use-value in a quantitative relation and represents the proportion in which the use- value of one commodity is exchanged for the use-value of another commodity. This relation changes constantly with time and place and appears to be something accidental and purely relative, and consequently an intrinsic value, that is, an exchange value that is inseperably connected with the commodity, inherent in it, seems a contradiction in terms. If, for example, a kilo of wheat is exchanged for x boot-polish, y silk or z gold etc., this is in effect done so in the most diverse proportions. Therefore, the wheat has many exchange values instead of one. But x boot-polish, y silk or z gold, must be mutually replaceable or of identical magnitude. It follows from this that valid exchange-values of a particular commodity express something equal, and secondly, exchange-values cannot be anything other than the mode of expression, the form of appearance of a content

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 90-96

The seminar on The Logic of Phantasy was held during the academic year following the publication of Lacan’s Ecrits. It has not been published in French and to the best of my knowledge the only English version available is the privately circulated translation produced and worked through by a group in St Vincent’s Hospital in 1997-1998.

Students seeking guidance in the reading of the seminar will find some in Jacques Nassifs Pour une Logicque du Phantasme which appeared in 1970 in issue 2/3 of Scilicet. An earlier version of this article had been presented at the seminar on the psychoanalytic act and had been warmly praised by Lacan.

However, Lacan’s own summary of the seminar, written for the yearbook of the institution under whose auspices it was held, must have a special place in its correct interpretation. This is an extremely condensed and labyrinthine piece of work that like many of Lacan’s scripta makes no concessions to the reader. The translation has attempted to follow Lacan’s text as closely as possible and for that reason may appear to be equally impenetrable.

When it was presented at the Congress the summary was accompanied by a rather detailed commentary which made it somewhat more palatable. We decided to offer it here unadorned in order to allow readers an uncluttered opportunity of seeing what they can make of the only published version of this very significant element of Lacan’s work


My return to Freud brings each of you up against the void central to the field that he, and no less those who work in it, sets up. …

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 97-99

At a conference entitled The Logic of Phantasy it is timely that some space be given over to a discussion of the issues raised by the phenomenon known as False Memory Syndrome. The three papers presented here on the subject all approach the problem from different angles but come to similar conclusions. The False Memory Syndrome debate has arisen almost a hundred years after Freud’s first psychoanalytic writings. The central issue has been highly publicised in the media. It has been alleged that patients in therapy have developed memories of having been sexually abused in childhood which are false, that is, the abuse did not occur. The result has been an attack on all forms of psychotherapy including psychoanalysis and a questioning of fundamental psycho­analytic concepts such as repression. All three papers here suggest a return to Freud and in particular to his writings about the relationship between memory and phantasy.

Unlike the polarised positions accompanied by certainty which has typified much of the writings in the media and both psychological and psychiatric journals, Freud has always written clearly of the uncertainty and ambiguity of memory. What is memory? What is the difference between recall and recapitulation? What is the difference between narrative truth and historicity? What is the relationship between phantasy and memory? Do phantasies conceal recollections or do recollections conceal phantasies?

Although false memories occur not just in therapy, it has been predominantly in therapy that the issue has arisen and this has brought into question many psychotherapeutic if not psychoanalytic techniques. However, psychoanalysis cannot afford to be complacent and as always a crisis like this does return us to Freud and help us appreciate yet again the…

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 100-116

Ever since the very first psychoanalytic patient, Anna O, who had been unable to drink for six weeks, recalled her disgust at the sight of a dog drinking from a glass, the role of forgotten memories in the generation of symptoms became part of psychoanalytic theory. Ever since Elisabeth and Lucy revealed the erotic conflict at the heart of their distress, psychoanalysis has concerned itself with unacceptable sexual desires on the part of the patient. And ever since Anna O cried out ‘Dr. B’s child is coming at the end of her treatment with Dr. Breuer the seductiveness of the therapeutic process has been impossible to deny.

Anna, Elisabeth and Lucy are some of the case histories making up Studies on Hysteria written in 1893.2 It was as a result of these case histories that the authors, Breuer and Freud concluded that the body speaks and that ‘hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences’. One hundred years on, at the close of another century, the same themes of forgotten memories, sexual desire, seduction, and the power of the therapeutic process have come to the fore again in the devastating phenomenon of recovered memories of sexual abuse. This time however, the diagnosis of hysteria is no longer available and instead of daughters nursing sick fathers we have daughters cutting off contact with debased father figures accused of outrageous acts of sexual and satanic abuse. The often idealised father of the 1890’s has become the debased, abusing father of the 1990’s.

False Memory Syndrome is concerned with memories recovered in therapy of extended, traumatic sexual abuse and is not concerned with…

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 117-124


False memory syndrome (FMS), as a concept, is a complete misnomer. As it describes a situation where someone reports a version of events which did not happen, it is not a memory. When we first challenged its status as a ‘syndrome’,1 commenting that it had been elevated to the status of syndrome by the media and pressure groups rather than mental health professionals, we drew a sharp response from both the US and UK FMS pressure groups.2 3 The use of the word ’false’ in the title can also be criticised: when an amputee describes pain in the missing limb, the condition is called a phantom limb, not false limb syndrome. Even psychiatric conditions where the patient tells lies, pseudologa fantastica and Munchausen’s syndrome, have a softer ring to them than false memory syndrome. Not only has the term FMS become widely acceptable in scientific and professional circles, but it has become the starting point for discussions about child sexual abuse, the value of and basis for psychotherapy and latterly, psychiatry.

The Either/Or Discourse

The FMS debate has frequently been reduced to two positions: the allegation of child sexual abuse (CSA) is true, and circumstances have…

THE LETTER 15 (Spring 1999) pages 125-137

There is a presupposition in the term ‘false memory syndrome’ that there are memories that are true and memories that are false; that a false memory is something fabricated and that it therefore has no bearing on the truth; and what is fabricated is described as ‘phantasy’. This approach distinguishes memory and phantasy so that their content is taken to be mutually exclusive.

A consideration of some texts of Freud problematises this set of assumptions and in the end renders them untenable.

The aim of this contribution to today’s debate is to present something of what Freud says of the relations between ‘memory’ and ‘phantasy’ so that the status we grant to childhood events recollected in analysis may be called into question.


In 1899 Freud wrote a paper entitled Screen Memories. What follows is the example that Freud gives of a seemingly trivial recollection from childhood which popped into a particular man’s mind from time to time during his adult years for no identifiable reason:

I see a rectangular, rather steeply sloping piece of meadow-land, green and thickly grown: in the green there are a great


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