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Issue 59/60: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 59/60, Summer/Autumn 2015, Pages iv - vii


We have two objectives in mind in bringing you this double issue of The Letter. The first is to continue the chapter by chapter serialisation of Christian Fierens’ Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Etourdit (2012) and the second is to bring you a number of the presentations arising from the Inter-cartel Study Day of The Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis ISLP held in June.

Chapter 3 The Logics of Sexuation, I would argue is the most important chapter, but also the most challenging of this Second Reading of Fierens. A few remarks: How to understand the logic of the psychoanalytic discourse ‘distinguished from any other by its specific ‘reference’ to the phallus’? The formulae of sexuation - pure logical formulae - have shed all the trappings that, in our prior imaginings, might link them with men or women in their person- ages. The first ‘masculine’ formula ‘for all x phi of x’ has, in L’Etourdit come to specify that ‘for every subject (x), it is a question of a re-launching (phi)’ of the phallic function. Note that phallic re-launching is a mechanism internal to the signifier. The second formula ‘there exists an x not-phi of x’ the exception to the phallic re-launch, must come to exist to serve as a supporting point – however fleeting - for this same phallic re-launch from which it is excepted. A semblance that falls, the exception does not contradict the ‘for all’. To use a phrase of Le Gaufey’s, it serves as both ‘obstacle and support’.

What about the subject then? As Fierens tells us, far better to grasp the subject in the context of ‘psychosis’ outside of the ‘decency’ of ‘neurosis’. While we cannot avoid the intimacy of the subject and of the personal, the introduction of the psychoanalytic discourse requires a ‘nay-saying’, an engaging with ab-sens, with the impasse beyond the first two formulae. This ‘nay-saying’ does not ‘oblige the candidate to follow the logic of castration (of the two masculine formulae)’ nor does it ‘promote a substantial void that the ‘analyst’ by essence is supposed to be’. ‘This nay-saying is not borne by the decision of a personified subject’ - hence the entry of the two feminine formulae namely ‘there does not exist an x not-phi of x’ and ‘the notall’. ‘The ‘notall’ is only inhabited by the processes of the subject (existential ‘masculine’ formula: ‘there exists...’) which is emptied out (existential ‘feminine’ formula: ‘there does not exist...’) There is no way of inhabiting the ‘notall’ except by the process of attempting the exception in order to leave its place empty.’ Love knows hidden ways where the ‘logical power of the ‘notall’ presupposes the past of the first three formulae as much as what it promises.’ Thereby a psychoanalysis, ‘which guides man towards his true bed, the one he has lost his way to’ (AE 468) becomes ‘a matter of making limits rather than noting them’ – a process surely, whose ‘know how’ we need to engage with.

A ‘poetic awareness’ is required when listening to what our patients say - Cormac Gallagher tells us. A Study Day then on June 13th 2015 that coincides with the one hundred and fiftieth birth-date of William Butler Yeats, one of the foremost Irish poets of the twentieth century, seems fitting. This year, the abundance of contributions serves to highlight the importance of the ‘setting’ provided by ISLP’s cartel arrangement for the individual members whose pa- pers are included in this issue. Here, seven contributions are presented in the running order in which they were made in June.

Mary Cullen and James O’Connor who took Lacan’s L’Etourdit and Christian Fierens’ Second Reading as their topic, have made brave opening statements concerning their struggle with these challenging texts. In an engaging way, Cullen highlights the pervasiveness in contemporary media of artistic and literary preoccupations with the void. She focuses on the second and third formulae of sexuation to examine the logics that Lacan insists are necessary in consequence of the advent of the psychoanalytic discourse. She suggests an equivalence with the later work of Winnicott but remains uncertain as to whether or not such an equivalence holds up.

In a thought-provoking paper, James O’Connor, in self-reported exchanges with Christian Fierens, Plus One for the cartel, asks if psychoanalysis can address itself to the autistic person, who, ostensibly has ‘no words to say it.’ In his response, Fierens is of the view that psychoanalysis ‘can address itself to an autistic person by going back to its principles – without speech or writing – to the heavy silence bearing a moment of failure that incarnates itself in its own way.’ This is the reliance on ‘differance’ – ‘that comes before any aggregation of meaning.’ The ‘differance’ ‘already in silence, the autistic discourse – exists before it is said or written’ Reassuringly, Fierens reminds us of the place of ‘act’ in the psychoanalytic process where ‘abstinence has nothing to do with doing nothing’.

Working on L’Etourdit and Fierens’ Second Reading in the same cartel group, Marion Deane turns her attention to a ninth century Irish tale Feis Tigi Becfholtaig ‘Sojourn in the House of Little Wealth’ to address how ‘the stuff with which it deals ...engages with concepts pertaining to knowledge and reality and their relationship to truth.’ She brings her scholarship in Celtic Studies to bear on this scrutiny of an ancient text, uniquely informed as this scrutiny is by the conclusions of the psychoanalytic discourse. Her reconsideration of the tropes, the multiple versions and personages that populate the story, questions its reliance on the philosophical discourse where ‘..there is a knowledge of being’ and where ‘the existence of whatever is referred to’ is assumed. This relationship to our knowledge of the world is contrasted with psychoanalysis which holds that ‘it is the discourse of being that presumes that being is’. It remains difficult to tolerate that – again to quote Fierens - ‘the world is a pure idea of which we do not have and will never have the slightest idea’. An unbearable terrain that surely comes to be leavened in this particular myth by the echoes of the supernatural, the spiritual, ‘divine illumination’, ‘the light of the mind’ as personified by dawn and daylight - echoes that are deftly drawn down by Deane in this paper.

Audrey McAleese and Monika Kobylarska took as their object of study Lacan’s 1958 écrit The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power. Like Freud’s Papers on Technique, this text of Lacan’s continues to provide the trainee practitioners on the psychoanalytic training programme in The School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s University Hospital with an essential primary grounding for the proper questioning of the praxis of psychoanalysis.

In her paper An Incorrect Interpretation McAleese revisits one of the case studies discussed by Lacan in 1958 and elsewhere. Ruth Lebovici’s case study of a man who, in the course of his analysis with her, developed a transitory sexual perversion, poses many questions, not least for Lebovici, but, which McAleese argues, remain completely relevant today. She particularly cites the analyst’s confusion regarding her position in the transference, a position that, on the face of it, relied on a certitude of interpretation – the analyst as dogmatic analyst - where the equivocation proper to interpretation is rendered unavailable.

The significance of inexact interpretation in psychoanalytic practice is the focus of Monika Kobylarska’s contribution. She examines Edward Glover’s 1931 paper The Therapeutic Effect of Inexact Interpretation: A Contribution to the Theory of Suggestion which came of Glover’s abiding concern about the practice of psychoanalysis proper versus other ‘therapeutic’ methods that he describes as suggestionist. For Glover, it was a question of not closing down on the unconscious phantasy systems, rather than ‘the function of the signifier’ and its importance ‘in locating analytic truth.’ – the basis of Lacan’s critique. While critical, Lacan also thought highly of this work of Glover’s. Kobylarska reminds us of Lacan’s further comment on it in The Logic of Phantasy to the effect that, while inexact interpretation ‘has nothing to do with what is at stake at that moment, in terms of truth.’, it may nonetheless have an ‘eventual fruitfulness’ in that ‘however inexact it might be one has all the same tickled something.’ These timely contributions from Kobylarska and McAleese should compel us to continue to take very seriously the later work of Lacan and the current work of Fierens, in order to - as Kobylarskarecalls - ‘fix the deontology of our practice.’

Lacan’s 24th seminar 1976 – ‘77, L’Insu que sait de l’une bévue s’aile à mourre was the focus of the contributions from Terry Ball and Tony Hughes. Lacan, now in his seventy seventh year remains preoccupied with what constitutes the end of an analysis. In her paper, Terry Ball takes us through the minutiae this seminar yields, in order to describe an analysis as a ‘mapping out’ in a Borromean way, that is synonymous with ‘identifying with one’s symptom’. Lacan is saying that ‘...identification is what is crystallised in an identity’. An identity as an analyst? How hold onto such a place while being subject to ‘the unbeknownst[1] that knows something of the a-mistake..’? – this is indeed a long story! And while Ball, in this elegant work, is reading from the final chapter, we all know that to enjoy a book we must read it from the beginning.

Tony Hughes’ paper Lacan’s Use of Topology – A Chronology: Part 1 is part of a bigger project to chronicle the progression of Lacan’s engagement with topology throughout his published work. Part 1 introduces us to these earliest references beginning with The Function and Field and the early seminars. Hughes’ introduction to the work of Granon-Lafont on ordinary and moebian space is especially challenging but fascinating. In the same paper, he also reminds us of a Lacan who, at the other end of his teaching life in L’Insu, is still asking ‘what is a hole?’ This might encourage some of us to continue to pose similar sorts of questions.

Patricia McCarthy


[1] As Ball reminds us, das Unbewusste ‘the unbeknownst’ or ‘the unaware’ better conveys the original sense of what Freud had in mind for what came to be renamed ‘the unconscious’.

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An Incorrect Interpretation

This paper explores Ruth Lebovici’s question as to whether or not she has made an incorrect interpretation. Lacan’s critique offers...


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