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A Commentary on Lacan's Hainamoration

The Letter, Issue 33, Spring 2005, Pages 36 - 50



Patricia McCarthy

In keeping with the title of this year's congress - On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, I am launching my own questions about love and feminine sexuality by talking firstly about a neologism of Lacan's - hainamoration - the sense of which he developed over the course of two sessions of his Encore seminar. I will quote the definition of hainamoration from the session of 20th March 1973 because here he renders its sense at its clearest:

One could say that the more man attributes to the woman a confusion of himself with God, namely, of what she enjoys - remember my schema from the last time, I am not going to do it again - the less he hates; and at the same time, I said that I was equivocating on hait and est in French. Namely, that in this business, moreover, the less he loves.[1]

Hainamoration versus ambivalence

As you can imagine, the yield of sense in this complex sentence is richer in the French because of the equivocation Lacan refers to around il est and il hait both sounding the same but having two meanings 'he is' or 'he hates'. That apart, the sense of the sentence seems to be that the more a man confuses himself with what a woman enjoys, the less he is/hates and the less he loves. Put differently, this is to say, the less a man confuses himself with what a woman enjoys, the more he is/hates (il est/il hait) thereby being more capable of loving. What should startle us about this condition for love between a man and a woman is Lacan's absolute contention that to love must also be to hate, one being the inverse or l'envers of the other; hence this 'made-up' word hainamoration comprising hatred and amore (yes, the same amore as in Dean Martin's great song When the moon hits the sky like a big pizza pie, that's amore!) About this term then, I can definitely hear you say 'I don't think it'll catch on!' Nonetheless Lacan is suggesting that hainamoration has to be a better word than what he refers to as the 'bastard' term of ambivalence. You have to agree, ambivalence certainly robs hate of its full measure and for that reason it may not serve us as well as hainamoration. Freud, Lacan further claims in this same session, aligned himself well with Empedocles, for whom the God of the Supreme Good must be the most ignorant of all,precisely because he doesn't know anything about hatred. Knowing only about love, he continues, God's ignorance about hatred is what Christianity later transformed into 'floods of love' and it has taken psychoanalysis to remind us that 'one knows nothing of love without hatred'. This then is a first stab at how a man might love a woman, to which I will return...

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