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Issue 52: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 52, Spring 2013, Pages v - vii


With Issue 52 of The Letter, Tony Hughes has decided to hand over the role of Editor, a step that he takes reluctantly for health reasons. Happily for the Board, he will stay on as a corresponding editor, thus continuing his sympathetic and rigorous guidance and influence in an invaluable ‘backroom’ capacity. Over three years his editorship has seen the publication of nine stimulating Issues - 43 through 51. In a singularly important way, he fostered the blossoming in print of papers from members of the Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis (ISLP). The publication of papers is a crucial formative step for members of ISLP, following on for the most part, from oral presentations made in the course of Intercartel Study Days that are held twice a year in Dublin. These papers, in turn, are the life-blood of The Letter and Tony has unstintingly overseen, championed and guided their publication during his tenure. For that we cannot thank him enough.

And so, with the handing over of the helm, members of ISLP can be assured that The Letter continues on an unchanged course.[1] This is reflected in the fact that three papers from members of ISLP feature in this current issue 52, along with one further impressive and challenging chapter from Christian Fierens’ Lecture de L’Etourdit, Chapter Three of the First Turn: There is no sexual relationship.

The printing in the next issue (Issue 53) of Chapter Four The Phallic Function and The Formulae of Sexuation and From One Turn to the Other will then complete the publication over three issues (51, 52 and 53) of the five sections of Fierens’ essential and remarkable guide to the First Turn of Lacan’s L’Etourdit, itself available in Issue 41 and at[2]

Marion Deane’s compelling work - Do Druthaibh ocus Meraibh ocus Dásachtaib- Of Fools Madmen and Lunatics- is in two parts. It not only introduces us to old etymologies for fools, madmen and lunatics in the Gaelic tongue, but transports us back to early Irish society. Deane achieves this by means of an amalgam of ‘residual and interpolated’ literary references in order to re-imagine the legal system then in operation to protect ‘those from whom reason had departed’ and to define the responsibilities of those in their vicinity or those who had responsibility for their care. All this ‘to explore the rationale for both their inclusion in and their exclusion for mainstream society’

In the second part she looks to Buile Suibhne (The Frenzy of Sweeney) where by means of ‘a first-hand account ... of the madness that afflicted the protagonist-king - Sweeney’, Deane introduces ‘the (then) lived experience of a human being in crisis’. Her thesis is that Sweeney, King of Dál nAraidhe, lost his reason following on the trauma of battle and its frightful carnage. Her more important point however is that St Ronan’s curse which, as a precipitat- ing event in serving to destabilize him, had its effect at the level of his ego- ideal. His ‘shame arose from an awareness of being seen by others who saw that (as king) he had dishonoured himself by failing their expectations’. One further poignant insight concerning the role of St Moling with whom Sweeney shares his story, highlights the eternal function of the listener who ‘makes no effort to restore (him) to a preconceived normal condition’ but to ‘simply provide a platform (for Sweeney) to talk..’

Donat Desmond, in his paper Godisnowhere: Psychoanalysis – Negative On- tology, Negative Theology introduces us to the pun God is no where/God is now here as a means of capturing two faces of Lacan’s work. Viewed as negative ontology, one face he ascribes to the influence on Lacan of Hegel’s Begi- erde (Desire) and Heidegger’s Dasein (Being there) while the other face (Janus-like?) – a negative theology - he considers to be grounded in Lacan’s later work on RSI and Joyce and the Sinthome which provides a God of the Real, ‘neither of the Symbolic or the Imaginary’. Further distinctions between this negative theology of Lacan, theology and religion are equally well wrought.

Desmond, very crucially, makes a clinical distinction between two types of work – both equally psychoanalytic. One, wherein the traumatised subject could bear intolerable existential pain only by relying on religious faith, by means of an appeal to ‘God as a Father as sustainer, provider, protector, ... something that enabled him to bear the pain of the work’ contrasts with a clinic of negative theology, a clinic of the Real where ‘patients for whom faith was not a source of support and grace, and for whom the work was a profound engagement of coming to realize the unrealizable demands for love..’

My own paper, The big Other, its Paradox and the Ruse of Knowledge con- tinues my engagement with Lacan’s Seminar From an Other to the other to get to grips with the notion of inconsistency or paradox at the heart of the big Other. Paraphrasing E M Forster- ‘How do I know what I think, until I see what I write?’- the act of writing this paper has given me a certainty about the crucial logic at work for Lacan at the heart of the Real that sloppy formulations - of the Other as m(O)ther, for instance - completely evade.

In The Function and Field of Speech and Language, Lacan turns to the following few lines by Boileau when enjoining the French translators of Freud’s works to try harder to find a better translation for Durcharbeiten or ‘work through’.

Gently make haste, of Labour not afraid;

A hundred times consider what you’ve said:

Polish, repolish, every Colour lay,

And sometimes add; but oft’ner take away.

From The Art of Poetry by Boileau

These same lines might well describe the craft and the effort that have gone into the fashioning of each of the contributions to this issue. They might also give us some insight into why the publishing effort of Lacan’s School was so highly prized by him – to write is surely to leave behind a trace. Can we in ISLP, through the pages of this publication, come to better own and prize our own written efforts in the name of the School? With the emergence of further contributions from our members, the answer is surely yes.

Patricia McCarthy


[1] let us recall Freud’s use of the motto on the coat of arms of the city of Paris fluctuat nec mergitur ‘it is tossed by the waves but it does not sink’ as a metaphor for psychoanalysis and as epithet to On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement (1914) - a ship may require a helmsman but surely he or she cannot manage without an able crew?

[2] See editorial, Issue 51 for Cormac Gallagher’s sequencing of the printing in The Letter of the two turns of L’Etourdit and the corresponding chapters of Fierens’commentary Lecture de L’Etourdit .

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