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Issue 13: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 13, Summer 1998, Pages i - iv


How does one produce something new?

What is the status of the new?

In the very act of posing such questions as essential ones for psychoanalysis to answer, there is already implied a particular orientation to its theory and practice. In the first place there is implicit to the very articulation of these the notion that psychoanalytic work is not concerned with a remembrance of things past, which would amount to a simple rehash of this past, a view which in its turn has profound implications for any understanding of those central concepts of transference, transmission and interpretation. One might add that, in the genesis of every human subject out of vagaries of the past, the 'hole' will always be greater than the sum of its parts.

Quite apart from the effect that applying oneself to these questions has on any orientation with respect to the least notion of subjectivity and the possibilities for clinical work, they can only invigorate the theory itself, ensuring its salvation from the transfixing clutch of Orthodoxy, the soulless perpetuation of a theory leading to the ’dispiriting formalism that discourages initiative by penalising risk’ ... so much decried by Lacan. Insofar as this journal is concerned it is the spirit of that questioning which unites the various authors even if their application of the questioning makes for their difference. In this regard the present issue finds representations of these which covers the fields of both the clinical and the cultural and their intersection.

Lieven Jonckeheeres articles, presenting his ongoing work towards a psychoanalytic theory of depressions, bring something new to the discourse by extracting what is covertly implied on the topic in the works of Freud. His valuable work serves to underline the general poverty of available theory on so familiar a phenomenon while his own rigorous study will doubtless speak volumes to those engaged in clinical work.

Olga Cox-Cameron's paper on fantasy underlines the notion that memory is not a representation of the past but is, rather, a revision of desire, never something old, rather, something new. Her elucidation of Freud's A Child is Being Beaten might well prove a valuable point of attachment for those setting their sights on APPI's forthcoming November congress, which will find its bearings in la logique du fantasme. Equally, her paper would serve as a point of navigation for the crew of The False Memory Syndrome lost on the sea of confusion onto which their failure to recognise the landmarks of the unconscious has steered them .

Remaining on the theme of the clinic, Andre Michels article on femininity and hysteria, which ends with the questions with which we opened here, returns to the centrality of femininity in psychoanalytic theory. Here is underlined the process by which something new can emerge, linked to the function of the symbolic mother as facilitating the possibility of the articulation of the name in an original way. The symbolic mother is here figured as translator of the name-of-the-father' for the child, and the case study presented here highlights the consequences, which again will be familiar to those engaged in clinical work, of the translator's attempt to omit the name altogether.

Following on these clinical works are a group of papers applying themselves to the field of culture. Stephen Costellos article on religion and psychoanalysis can be viewed as a continuation of the debate, which Lacan comments on God provoked, on the question of whether there is anything more to the religious life than the symptomatology of the obsessional neurosis. Hugh Cummins writes on the double in R. L. Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde in the context of what Lacan calls the 'structuring of the subject as a rival with himself, while Yves-Pierre Baumstimlers article, looking at the structure of ’identity hate’ at the heart of racism, in the context of the Nazi regime and of the more recent attempts at ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, underlines the cultural implications of the subjective splitting dramatised in this literary work.

It’s probably fitting that in the midst of these papers on the cultural my own report to the Lacan-Archiv on Lacanian psychoanalysis in Ireland is to be found. And this for the simple reason that while psychoanalysis is first and foremost a praxis unfolding in the quite special circumstance of a room far away from the Madd(en)ing crowd, it does not for all that operate outside the culture in which it finds itself, even when it goes to the absolute limit of that culture. The paper presented to the Lacan-Archiv really has less to do with the status of Lacanian psychoanalysis here than it has to do with the way in which a place was opened up for it by those who are already well known to you, the efforts to broaden the arena of that ’new thing' and the determination that this place will remain open despite the demands of a culture that really wants to know nothing about it. The challenge now is to negotiate that interface. The reference here is of course to the new direction which APPI appears to be taking in response to a nascent demand of our culture. For anyone who doubts the necessity of such moves perhaps the situation in which those good people of the Lacan- Archiv, the centre for Lacanian psychoanalysis in Austria, have found themselves, might ring warning bells. These analysts stayed outside the ’accreditation debate'. Suddenly, and to their horror, the State declared that they had two years in which to regularise' themselves or cease to practice. In short they must entirely submit themselves to a set of procedures which they had no act, hand or voice in fashioning. So remaining outside doesn't render one untouchable. The irony of the situation is that the State agency had not initiated the demand for 'regularisation' of psychotherapy nor had it dreamt up the accreditation criteria. These were forced into existence by the various other psychotherapy practitioners themselves. Is not the same demand from the same protagonists flexing its muscle here in Ireland? Where psychoanalysis is concerned, while giving in to demand is a certain path to error, ignoring demand is the path to catastrophe. The question now it seems is one of the possibility of a re-articulation of the name APPI in such a way as to allow us to walk on without the symptomatic marks of Oedipus, adding impediment to our impedimenta. In sum, can we avoid shooting ourselves in the foot?

Concluding the issue are a group of brief writings which leave us ending with beginnings. Cormac Gallaghers brief notes for beginners on ’How to Read Dora and ’How to Read Little Hans' have in the past served as springboards from which many have begun their plunge into the work of Lacan. We reproduce them here less as a wetting of the toes than as a whetting of the appetite for more. Rik Loose and Sara McAuley furnish us with their comments on two beginners' guides to Lacan, each of which serves a similar aim, -to provoke an interest in Lacan's work rather than to circumscribe it so completely that the reader goes no further.

Finally, -and to return to our own beginning, -what of the new? Lacan in the Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis said:

'Nothing is created without a sense of urgency' .

We can translate this: ’ Necessity is the mother of invention'.

Helena Texier


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