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Examining A Clinic Of The Not-All

The Letter, Issue 30, Spring 2004, Pages 19 - 30


Claude-Noele Pickmann

When Lacan introduced the notion of the not-all into psychoanalytic knowledge, at the beginning of the seventies - more than thirty years ago then - his goal was 'to draw out (faire sortir) something new about feminine sexuality'. He says it explicitly in the seminar Encore: 'We have to pave the way by means of an elaboration of the not-all. This is my real topic this year, behind this 'Encore', and it is one of the meanings of my title. Hopefully I will manage to draw out something new about feminine sexuality.'[1]

'Faire sortir' (literally, to make exit) is a strange expression in French when it is a question of theory. It evokes the idea of a concrete skill like, for instance, that of the magician who is able to extract an unexpected object from an unlikely place. Here, however, it is going to be a question of logic, about a skill with logic, and this is the reason why this expression evokes especially the idea of forcing. It is the structure itself which Lacan is going to attempt to force. Indeed, The woman, the one that Lacan tells us does not exist, can only exist paradoxically, by making a hole at the very heart of the structure. That being so, one can say that Lacan gives a place to the feminine as such, in the structure; the feminine as such, or in other words as the Other sex, as what is radically Other to the signifier, but also as what comes to ask the question of the heteros at the very heart of the world of the One, phallically ordered.

The first consequence, therefore, is that it divests the question of the feminine of all its Imaginary associations. Up to this it had been posed in terms of mystery or enigma, terms which, calling upon an added signification, could only ever miss it. It is from this that everything has always been able to be said concerning women; everything, which as we know is another way of saying absolutely anything whatsoever.

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