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A disturbance of memory at Dublin Castle

The Letter, Issue 35, Autumn 2005, Pages 93 - 100


Helen Sheehan

The minimum pact demanded by the Symbolic Order[1] so that one human being is able to recognise another like himself and thereby suppose an Imaginary dimension has had strange innings in Ireland. Perhaps it's like this in all colonial or post colonial societies where the effect of the Symbolic on the Real has resulted in a psychic space where the Name of the Father as the promise of Otherness has been badly shaken - a place where social bonds make for very tenuous and sometimes very violent links.

Psychoanalysis began by refusing to take sides with common discourse, especially the discourse of freedom. Rather, psychoanalysis is directed at the effect of human discourse within the subject. But, as Jacques Lacan continues to remind us 'we always have to come back to disturbances of memory to know what the point of departure for psychoanalysis is'.[2] If there is a disturbance of memory here at Dublin Castle for me today it is not that I was around when it was built in 1220 but that this edifice is a testament to the Symbolic determinants of its foundation. Ordered by King John to be built by ecclesiastics so as to prevent the flow (or the flaw) of heritage from father to son, it was built therefore not on what is known as primogeniture but what in legal terms is called mortmain* - literally 'dead hand', which had the effect of preventing further transmission.

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