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Issue 1: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 1, Summer 1994, Pages i - iii


Lacan, at a certain moment in his teaching, seized upon the story of a letter to illustrate how it is that, circulating before the mutism of some and the blindness of others, this letter is the original, radical subject of the unconscious. All of the characters in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter are carried along in an intersubjective game in which each is defined in relation to the most potent character in the plot, - a letter, a signifier, determining and dominating each in turn, subverting the illusion that possession of it entails mastery over it.

This is the scenario which Lacan constantly re-presents us with in his work, - a drama in which language is not an instrument which an autonomous subject grasps, as it were, from outside. Here language is, rather, that through which, and in which, subjectivity comes to manifest itself. It is we who are grasped by it.

It is in the spirit of that teaching that we now launch our letter, as the servants of language and not its masters. We, therefore, take as our subject the subject of the unconscious and language(s). As such, this letter too is purloined, - taken from the proceedings of the first congress of the European Foundation for Psychoanalysis.

That inaugural meeting of the Foundation, held in Dublin in acknowledgement of the place given to it by James Joyce as a city of language and languages, aimed to provide analysts and others influenced by Freud and Lacan with an opportunity to make their work known to like-minded colleagues, in order to discuss it and see how it could be carried forward.

In the wake of the congress this remains our prime motivation, our task being to continue to provide a forum in which the consequences,- scientific and ethical, theoretical and practical,- of Lacan's reading of Freuds discovery, can be drawn out and discussed.

exist, what am I as a man, a woman, what is my place within the line of generation as a son, a father, as a daughter or a mother?" Again, in this paper, it is evident that the response to the question will determine, in the same way as the difference in responses to the Kantian question, the particularity of the different discourses. Verhaeghe sees psychotherapy as making use of the cominon-sense and universal responses which are precisely what the hysteric refuses. Psychoanalysis responds by leaving a way open for the hysteric to arrive at her/his own response which will ultimately have no guarantee outside the subject. This article is the text of a paper delivered to an audience of psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and students of psychoanalysis at LSB College earlier this year.

Aisling Campbell's paper on the Marquis de Sade’s writings illustrates the irony inherent in The One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom, showing up the fragility of the supposed masters of desire, in both their dependence on their objects and on the inescapable driving force of language. In a story which chronicles the debauchery at the Chateau of Silling and the pursuit of a pleasure unbridled by thoughts of what the consequences might be for the subject, the whole perverse scenario is shown to be driven by the Word, utterly reliant on the script of the storyteller, Duclos, and her colleagues. Those committed to the 'act' are shown to be as much prisoner of the words which drive them as the objects of their acts are by the high walls incarcerating them.

Cormac Gallagher and Mary Darby have co-authored a paper on Lacan's optical schema, detailing the historical development of its use in Lacan's work as his thought progressed, - a progress which is mirrored in the transformations of the optical metaphor itself. Reflecting the usefulness of the schemas as a theoretical device to illustrate the reality of a clinical practice, this paper includes a section on clinical observations made possible by its usage.

consequences for psychoanalysis in a place where a loss has been incurred on the level of language itself? In addition the article illustrates the division in this island, as elsewhere, between those who view language as a tool to be mastered for the communication of thoughts, and those who view language as the core manifestation of subjectivity. It is this appeal to subjectivity which is the hall-mark of each of our contributors in their writing.

We close this issue, however, not with a 'writing' but with a 'speaking’,in the form of the text of a spoken communication to the School of Psychotherapy, delivered by Charles Melman. This piece retains all the richness, texture and resonance of the word as spoken, and a certain immediacy engendered by the presence of an audience whose questions prove to be an intrinsic element in the unfolding discourse.

Besides the text of his 'speaking', Charles Melman left us with a memory. Before delivering his lecture he held up a facsimile, a signifying substitution, of the Book of Kells, drawing our attention to an illuminated letter and the sensitivity of the illustrators to the permeability of the body to the letter which weaves its way through it, becoming of the one material as it, - to purloin a tongue, lettre becomes inseparable from l'être.

Between the letter as illustrated by Lacan and the letter as illuminated in an ancient text, we now open a space into which to launch our own.

Helena Comiskey


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