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Issue 58: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 58, Spring 2015, Pages iv - vii


With Issue 58 we keep our commitment to bring you the next instalment of Christian Fierens’ The Psychoanalytic Discourse. A Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Etourdit (2012). This, the second chapter - entitled The Impossibility of the Psychoanalytic Discourse – confronts us with the necessity that ‘it is the clinic of a failure which is decisive for psychoanalysis’. Never to be understood as ‘a clinic of the failure of mental health’. Implicit in the notion of failure is ‘the omission of occurence or performance’ of a certain task. Let’s call this task the making of meaning. What is it then to be tasked with a work of omission that might disallow such meaning-making, might disallow the inevitable ready-to-hand incest between the saying and the said and thereby permit ‘the sap of saying’ to emerge?

The psychoanalytic discourse cannot be separated from the roundabout of the other discourses, that is broadly speaking, from the very stuff of speech and communication, the imaginary roles we inhabit, our saids and our truths, the meaning we give to things. Yet, we have to start from this roundabout, knowing that it merely ‘situates the loci by which saying is ringed’. How to move beyond a mere circling, to not merely ‘delimit the rings of a dead tree’ in order ‘to rediscover a saying that on the one hand has been forgotten and which on the other hand cannot be expressed in the form of a said’?

Yes, we only have ‘saids at our disposal’, but can nonetheless ‘find a logic as a work of thought that will be able to make saying return’. This by means of two paths: the first, a lack of resource (negative), a clinic of failure where we refuse the fixed meanings – even oedipal – usually relied on in our (always er- roneous) constructions. The second, a response (positive) which relies on the matheme – what is doable by oneself, starting only from ab-sens (absence of sense). Ab-sens – the failure of sense ‘always there and nevertheless always latent’ is ‘hollowed out at the heart of the signifier which does not even correspond to itself, at the heart of differance.’

With the use of such mysterious terms as the saying and the said, the matheme, a failure of resource, ab-sens etc are we not now hard-pressed to know to whom these terms actually refer? Cormac Gallagher recently reminded us that ‘it’s our patients who are our teachers’. How true, if only we can tolerate the emergence of ‘neutral speech which does not allow itself to be determined either by a precise stating subject, nor by a fixed object of which one might speak’. A tall order indeed.

The final section of this chapter on The Undecidable makes for a particularly challenging invitation to attend to the radical quality of the void or absence we are trying to speak about. ‘The void, the nothing, the radical absence. The locus of this void, of this nothing only subsists in the equivocation that might fill it. The undecidable only subsists in the decisive suspension of the decision’. An omission, a failure, no attempt to link saying with any said, past or present. This same section looks toward Chapter 3 The Logics of Sexuation where Fierens gives attention to the third formula (the forgotten, unloved one) of the four formulae of sexuation which ‘remains the least commentated on, because it disqualifies precisely everything that could give reference points for a decision.’

In an ambitious paper Going beyond Castration in the Graph of Desire, Magdalena Romanowicz and Raul Moncayo highlight the authors’ research inter- est in the application of different mathematical models to psychoanalysis. Romanowicz, who works as a psychiatrist in Elliot Hospital in New Hampshire completed her psychiatric residency and fellowship at the Mayo Clinic and Stanford. Moncayo, a psychoanalyst on the faculty of the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis in the San Francisco Bay Area serves on the faculty of several universities and is author of at least four books on psychoanalysis: Evolving Lacanian Perspectives for Clinical Psychoanalysis (Karnac, 2008); The Emptiness of Oedipus (Routledge, 2012); The Signifier Pointing at the Moon (Karnac, 2012); and The Real Jouissance of Uncountable Numbers (Karnac, 2015) with Magdalena Romanowicz.

In the lead up to their question regarding the difficulty of representing the beyond of castration by means of the graph of desire, the first half of this work provides us with a summary of the levels of complexity, mathematical and otherwise, introduced by Lacan in its construction from 1957 to its major exposition in 1960 in The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire. Commendably, the authors keep central questions regarding desire and its avatars in the foreground throughout. The sense of the graph having to be continually adapted by Lacan to keep pace with his advancing theorisation regarding S barred, the Other, the signified of the Other, the signifier of lack in the Other etc is well delineated.

The second half of this paper addresses the beyond of castration, largely by the use of mathematical ‘imagery’ which some readers might find off-putting cf ‘A subject has a +1 in the form of a breast, or other o-objects..’ Nonethe- less, the linking of castration to lack in the Other - ‘Castration for Lacan, is, ultimately negotiated in relationship to lack in the Other, and the realization that the phallus (and the Other) does not exist and was only ever there as a function’, or ‘the Other is empty of signifier, letter and representation’ - is given serious attention. Despite the erudition of this work, the authors have not referenced the new logic of Lacan that equates castration with the break- down of sense where ‘saying and said no longer constitute incest, they form a very special couple. Living apart together’ cf The Impossibility of the Psychoanalytic Discourse by Christian Fierens in the current issue .

The following three papers are introduced in the sequence in which they were initially presented by their authors: Ros McCarthy’s in October 2013 at a study day of one of the cartels of The Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Stephanie Metcalfe’s at the School’s bi-annual Intercartel Study Day in February 2015 and Monica Errity’s at the June 2015 Meeting.

In reading Ros McCarthy’s faithful reprise of the case of the Wolfman - The Wolfman: Symptoms as a Representation of Identificatory Conflicts - we can- not but be reminded of how this case continues ‘from first to last (to) hold(s) the reader’s fascinated attention.’ Not one of us who professes to practise psychoanalysis ignores the rudiments regarding the drives, sexual differentiation, primal phantasy and identification that were gleaned by Freud from his analysis of the Wolfman and that are carefully chronicled by the author in her paper. Thanks to Lacan and the advent of the psychoanalytic discourse, this given for our practice, cannot, however exonerate us from re-evaluating Freud’s contribution. The role of the analyst has to be taken into account, if only to moderate the language we sometimes use about patients (such as the Wolfman) who we further exclude from the pantheon of ‘normality’ so- called, by our references to the patient’s refusal to budge from one or other identificatory position in the course of treatment. Or to the patient’s rejection of castration etc without taking into account the role of the analyst. The role of the analyst remained a troubling question for Freud right to the end cf Analysis Terminable and Interminable. In the current paper, the reference to the veil on which absense is painted does however hint at the ‘misconstruction of the real’ to which we are all subject, irrespective of our relationship to castration.

In her paper Inside Bungalow 3: A Psychoanalytic Perspective, Stephanie Metcalfe eloquently brings to our attention the sorry consequence of the lack of any reference to the unconscious in the professionalisation of care services in Ireland. This, by highlighting an all too contemporary instance of the protracted, systematised neglect at the hands of their carers, of the residents of a care facility confined to living there by virtue of their intellectual dis- ability. The author further singles out the ‘culture of cruelty’ and sadism that accompanied this neglect. Referencing the ideals of partnership and ‘person centredness’ at the heart of social care policy, she recalls ‘that Freud teaches us that at the root of idealism lies aggression’. Citing the causal anxiety at the root of such all too human behaviours, her ensuing recommendation is that those working in this most challenging domain must be supported psychoanalytically for their own sakes and those of the patients entrusted to their care. In this regard, her attention to the contribution of Dodd, Mannoni and Sinason is most fitting.

In Revis(it)ing Repetition, Monica Errity approaches Freud’s most comprehensive teaching on the subject in Beyond the Pleasure Principle in order to ‘uncover what lies behind Lacan’s conceptualisation of repetition as a “missed encounter with the real.”’ In this elegantly written paper, Errity brings us through the many familiar themes in this work: the repetition of unpleasur- able experiences at odds with the pleasure principle, the link with the drives and the compulsion to repeat such experiences. She then outlines the concept of unbound energy proposed by Freud in the Project, the further connection he made with internal (the drives) and external (trauma and the absence of anxiety) sources for this unbound energy and his conclusion that as long as there is a failure to bind there will be repetition. This exercise in revisiting and revising a particular facet of Freud’s work serves to illustrate its necessity for the author in order to appreciate Lacan’s work. Few would argue with this.

Patricia McCarthy

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Revis(it)ing Repetition

This paper seeks to uncover what lies behind Lacan’s conceptualisation of repetition as a ‘missed encounter with the real’ which he...


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