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Issue 61: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 61, Spring 2016, Pages iv - viii


We continue our undertaking to publish over six issues back to back, the full text of Christian Fierens’ Second Reading of Lacan’s L’Etourdit (2012). This project we began in 2014 with Issue 57. Four issues later, we bring you Chapter 4 The Stuff of the Psychoanalytic Discourse and its Cut. This issue has an additional international feel with contributions from Marc Darmon and Michael Plastow who participated in work-exchanges in Dublin during 2015. Issue 61 also carries contributions from two of our colleagues Helen Sheehan and Marion Deane in addition to an essay on Joyce, addressed through the prism of three of Lacan’s seminars, from Daniel Bristow.

Fierens reminds us that the philosophical discourse and the psychoanalytic discourse come of the same stuff – these we name saids, which, at this stage of our engagement with L’Etourdit and Fierens’ two Readings, we, at a minimum, understand to be distinct from saying. The philosopher ‘will always remain at the dit-mensions of the said, the truth does not get away from the said and does not touch saying.’ It’s not enough (then) for the ‘haughty analyst’ to want to have nothing to do with the philosopher, as both, we have to admit, when speaking about psychoanalysis ‘side by side, situate themselves perfectly in the arena of the (half-)said’. Hence, when we (psychoanalysts) talk about our subject, we remain firmly in the domain of saids - having ‘not left the philosophical discourse by a sliver’ - and the philosopher, like us, can ‘very well explain the theoretical corpus of psychoanalysis’. Where does that leave us? Surely with an urgency to speak about how to differentiate the master discourse qua philosophical from the psychoanalytic discourse in action.

The emphasis in this chapter is on topology, on how the torus, that ever circling ‘dynamo’ of saids, is transformed by means of a cut-stitch. Fierens’ metaphor of the torus as a giant digestive tract with an input and output of saids and demands that we repeat, synthesise and interweave around the axis of desire is helpful. ‘By actively refusing to remain with the satisfaction of the said’, the breakdown of the system, sex-absens, must be produced, not simply to bring about a disorder of the viscera or to pause the movement of the gut in order simply to get things going again. The cut is not enough. There must be a stitching inherent in the cut which shows ‘how the functioning goes exactly in the same direction as the stoppage of functioning.’ For example, rather than believing that my woes are the fault of my mother, a cut is differently placed when I glimpse that the truth is only ever half said ‘it’s my mother’s fault’ and ‘it’s not my mother’s fault’. But when this differently placed cut is stitched into the functioning of the saids and their very movement, doesn’t it allow me relinquish a version that blames and also glimpse that what ails me goes beyond my grievance with my mother? We are not aiming simply for the cut as stoppage of the functioning of the saids but must bring about a segueing or a re-stitching of the stoppage into the functioning of the saids.

The pure cut, the stoppage of the functioning, pure detachment between saids, as when our patient says ‘I have nothing to say..’ leaves only the possibility of the matheme, what is ‘doable’ by itself. ‘The psychoanalytic discourse allows us to express (dire) the detachment by what remains: imaginary islets, saids, narratives, multiple heards’ – what remains is only waste, imaginary fragments or paltry scraps. We work by means of no-thing at all, firstly, pure effacing of the author of the discourse, ‘I have nothing to say’ but ‘... something occurs to me (where from I do not know)’ This is where the topological ‘operating’ of the cut-stitch, ‘the line without points and the point outside the line’ in its utter lability and contingency has a chance to come into its own.

The final section of the chapter addresses the saying of interpretation. The limits of the modal, of Aristotle’s apophantic, are set aside in favour of ‘a whole new sense of interpretation’ where the ‘very principle of every stabilisation is .. put in question’. It remains the case that the relevance of Fierens’ work for psychoanalytic practice in our time cannot be over-estimated.

In her paper Sitting There Saying Nothing: What is Involved in the Psychoanalytic Act? Helen Sheehan ably highlights in a few short pages what is at stake in the psychoanalytic act and thereby leaves no doubt regarding its pur- view. In addition to Lacan’s crucial elaborations in The Psychoanalytic Act, she invokes Freud’s compulsion to repeat as a fact of discourse and as central to what decides how we act in the analytic setting. As underlined by Lacan, she presents four endings for consideration – all of which are consequent on Freud’s ‘spelling out’ of the unconscious - the end of Metaphysics, the end of Theology, the end of Science and the end of Analysis. The multiple nuances attaching to the simple words ‘end’ and ‘ending’ have to be borne in mind. The futile (etymologically derived from futilis as in a ‘leaky’ sieve) dimension of Science, despite its boundless advances, is particularly striking.

Sheehan’s most sustained message is for those who might seek to define psychoanalysis as a profession, such as teaching for example, ‘one cannot make a profession out of a discourse’ or those who confuse a therapy of the self with what ‘the truth operation’ carried out by an analysis results in – an incarnation of ‘I am not what nor where I thought I was’. Sheehan seems to allow for the actual termination of analysis and at the same time its interminability whereby ‘psychoanalysis becomes a way of life – a style of living.’ For the analysand (analyser) – what indeed the psychoanalyst, so-called, only ever remains - the fraught distinction between the notion of a sustained becoming and having insight presents itself here. This connundrum and other questions are raised by this interesting paper.

Something of the same question regarding the end of analysis finds resonance in Marc Darmon’s brief overview of Lacan’s ’76 – ’77 seminar. This contribution to The Letter came of his participation in an Exchange of Work ‘On Topology and Lacan’s Seminar XXIV L’Insu que sait de l’une-bévue s’aile à mourre’ held last May in Dublin between members of L’Association Lacanienne Internationale (ALI) and members of The Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis (ISLP). Darmon engages in a deciphering of the various meanings that the seminar title reveals or indeed conceals.

A few points of note: l’une-bévue, (the a-blunder), Darmon suggests ‘does not possess the defect of being a negative word like ‘the unconscious’” and indicates that the parapraxis, the failure is ‘a successful act from the point of view of the unconscious’. This is familiar terrain. What intrigues is the suggestion that at this time (‘76 – ’77) Lacan was attempting ‘to introduce something that goes beyond the unconscious’ – ‘a new signifier, one that would have no kind of sense..’ Darmon questions if this view had not been put forward by Lacan in ’73 – ’74 in Les non-dupes errent, where ‘it would be possible for us to refuse to love our unconscious, therefore to err (d’errer) certainly, but in so doing, the unconscious could lead us beyond phantasy, “to the pure real’”. An impossibility, one is prompted to say – particularly as we can only ever hug the wall of the real and does not ‘the saying remain forgotten behind what is said in what is heard’ – dixit Fierens (2002; 2012) and Lacan (1972).

Lacan’s return in this seminar to questioning the surface of the torus, his reflections on chance, love la mourre/l’amour and poetry, Darmon further tells us ‘make the study of this seminar a task that is both passionate and promising’.

Michael Plastow is a psychoanalyst in the Freudian School of Melbourne and a child psychiatrist who works in the public service in Melbourne, Australia. This engaging paper The Ages of a Child comes of a lecture and panel discussion that took place in The School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s Univer- sity Hospital, Dublin in June 2015. It in turn introduces some of the themes of his recent book What is a Child? Childhood, Psychoanalysis and Discourse (Karnac 2015).

Plastow takes the question What is a Child? very seriously. Beginning with Oedipus’ deciphering of the riddle of the Sphinx in developmental terms, he reminds us that this categorisation of childhood is age-old. He borrows from the work of Philippe Ariès and Élisabeth Badinter, to inform us that how we relate to children and infants is a cultural construct that has undergone much change over the centuries. The modern view of the cherished child was not the norm in Medieval times when the neglect and disposal of children was, in a sense, tolerated socially. Oedipus himself is an example of the child aban- doned.

Plastow’s thesis is that the prioritising, even glorifying, of the notion of child- hood today ‘has come about through the repression of both infantile sexuality and mortality’ and that the turning away from Freud’s notion of the infantile – the infant’s relation to the enigmas of sex and death – has resulted in an ag- gravation of the notion of the child as ‘a developmental being’. What appears to be at stake in what ultimately becomes a new social norm, is the notion of l’amour en plus on the part of the mother where her love and enjoyment are ‘a surplus to the care of the child’. Margarethe Hilferding, Plastow tells us, had proposed in 1911 that ‘innate maternal love does not exist’.

Our interest in clinical questions requires that we pay attention to an essay on Joyce, hence the inclusion of Daniel Bristow’s Seminars XVII and XVIII with XXIII: On a University Discourse that might not be Joycean. Bristow, a Joyce scholar who gained his PhD from the University of Manchester in 2014 in the Department of English and American Studies, came to Freud and Lacan through Joyce. His essay derives from his forthcoming book Joyce and Lacan: Reading, Writing and Psychoanalysis (Routledge 2016). It is vastly knowledgeable and creative and - be prepared - it actualises a textual inter- weaving that may disconcert.

Bristow proceeds by serving up several entrées in advance of the main course. These rest on the familiar concept of enverity, the most approachable refer- ence for which is the image of the front and back of a sheet of paper, in- extricably united yet separated from each other by the sheet itself. He then refers us to Lacan’s use of sartorial metaphor to explain the writing of the subject, a sinthomic weaving that arranges itself around the real - ‘the real is always a bit, a stump. A stump certainly around which thinking embroiders.’ He suggests a series of resonances and interweavings between the writing of Lacan and Derrida that is very plausible. Quilting and unravelling, basting and knotting, text and tissu, exergue and anchoring point, inside and outside, all have their day, with an eye to examining certain themes in Joyce’s book of the night Finnegans Wake. The father, the name, semblance, thunder and creation, all are brought to life once more against the examination of Joyce’s extraordinary writing method where he ‘breaks up names and perceives in their litter of letters multiverses of signification, from which he rebuilds in the construction of his night language of the Wake. It is this manouvre that puts him on the other side of psychoanalysis; that is, the equivocation of the letter (usually constrained by being logically or logistically situatable) with litter (a more randomisable entity, or collection of entities)’. Bristow makes a case for Joyce taking up a hysterical position through his writing - making ‘hystory’ - and reminds us that Beckett in his summing up of Joyce, tells us ‘his writing is not about something, it is that something itself’. There is much of interest in this essay.

Barbara Taylor’s book The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times is reviewed by Marion Deane who conveys the author’s account of what has been lost following on from the demise of the asylum system of psychiatric care in the UK and its replacement by community based facilities. And it is a personal account in that Taylor, an academic historian was hospitalised on and off over a twenty year period. What may be thought remarkable in the Irish context is that during this time she maintained her psychoanalysis with V. It appears this process was not discouraged by her psychiatrists. Taylor’s experience of continuing in her analysis while receiving psychiatric care - while not unheard of here - should serve as a model to Irish psychiatry for what’s possible in the treatment of those who are mentally unwell over many years. We have a distance to go.

Patricia McCarthy

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