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A Clinic of the ‘Not-All’

The Letter, Issue 53, Summer 2013, Pages 87 - 99


Karina Melvin

This paper looks to Lacan’s formulae of sexuation in an effort to clarify the meaning of the ‘not-all’. It explores how Lacan interrogates logic to produce the ‘not-all’ and questions what is at stake clinically by means of this production. Greatly influenced by the work of Guy Le Gaufey, this paper looks to a slightly different reading of the formulae. It is hoped that this presentation of the theory opens up space for another way of looking at the ‘not-all’ which is not all about feminine sexuality.

Keywords: enjoyment, speaking, ‘not-all’, maximal particular, exception, logic, Encore

Many post-Freudians are preoccupied with the contentious and allusive notion of feminine sexuality. Indeed the Miller translation of Encore, On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge[1] and Barnard and Fink’s accompanying Reading Seminar XX: Lacan’s Major Work on Love, Knowledge, and Feminine Sexuality, by their very titles, are caught up in this question of feminine sexuality which has been raging within psychoanalysis since at least the Great Debate. Yet this question is completely distracting and leads only to a cul-de-sac rooted in some notion of inequality erroneously attributed to Freud in his efforts to explore subjectivity.

The formulae refuse any binary…

The emphasis for both Freud and Lacan is on the becoming of the subject, a process which is uniquely particular, regardless of gender. Translation, which of necessity involves interpretation, has its part to play in the mis-cognition of this emphasis. There are, as is often the case with Lacan, differing interpretations of what exactly the quantified proposition, ∀x.Φx - ‘not-all of x is subject to the phallic function’ means. Some theorists in the English speaking world, most notably those who work with the Miller translation of Encore, rely on this text to provide the ‘last word’ on feminine jouissance. Others, influenced by Gallagher’s translation of the seminars and Le Gaufey’s direct engagement with the crucial seminars leading up to Encore, view the ‘notall’ as something more, an ab-sence which highlights the particularity of the subject.

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