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Issue 62: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 62, Summer 2016, Pages iv - xi


We open issue 62 of The Letter with The Sense of the Psychoanalytic Discourse the fifth chapter of Christian Fierens’ The Psychoanalytic Discourse. A Second Reading of L’Etourdit (2012) translated by Cormac Gallagher in 2014.[1] To whet your appetite I will highlight some themes in this next-to-final chapter.

We are immediately brought up short by the very first sentence ‘Each discourse brings into play a social bond without which it would not be a discourse.’ What then of the nature of the social bond in the psychoanalytic discourse or the social group where persons committed to psychoanalysis come together for a common purpose? ‘Psychoanalysis and the question of the unconscious give no place to persons as such’, so that any grouping is founded on an ‘irreducible difference’ between the subject of the unconscious and the person.’ Acknowledgement of this irreducible difference does not render the situation of the psychoanalytic group - or any other type of group for that mat- ter, husband and wife, family, teacher and pupil, analyst and analyser – hopeless. Rather, the very impossibility or the structural instability that governs any group becomes the means ‘to make work all the better the impossibility of the sexual relationship and the subject-effect which determines any group formation.’ Work, that we in ISLP at the very least, surely mustn’t shirk.

What of the analyst in the group setting who might want to assume a role? Caution is advised as he or she can only ‘lodge (one)self in the waste product of effacement’, in the place of semblance of the o-object, a place that ‘can only provoke aversion as opposed to the positive place accorded to the person named in a classical group’. Is the lot of the analyst then solitude or solidarity? It would appear that neither nor both suffice. For Fierens ‘It is being ready to let go of the comfort of the classical group which situates us in the lability or effacement of the psychoanalytic discourse and its renewal. A new saying, a re-saying’

He goes on to remind us of Lacan’s optimism that the psychoanalytic discourse will conquer – an optimism based not on the social but ‘on the impos- sible in the structure itself. For it is the impossible in all its forms that sustains the discourse from which there is created the new social bond.’

As we’ve spoken about aversion or hate, a word then on love. Love cannot be insured or assured. ‘ want to insure it, to force it, is always already incest. The incest of the father or mother who force their daughter or son to love them’ More importantly for us in the context of analysis, ‘incest is always there, when it is a matter of forcing the the possible saying ... to become a said’. ‘Tell me you love me’ becomes ‘the insurance of the most radical hate in general’. For the psychoanalytic group to rely on an insured love, the incest of the saying and the said, is to keep silent about what is at stake.

And what of the work of analysis being sustained only by what ‘one expects from a psychoanalyst’ and not by the role he or she assumes? In the face of this precious state of expectation – what allows the transference surely - can come only the ‘incongruity of any possible role’ for the analyst.

And finally, the ‘thread of the psychoanalytic discourse does not leave any directions on how to construct some standard, to find a stabilised social bond’. To not be surprised by such a statement is surely a good place for us to start.

There is much of interest in Flavia Goian’s fine paper A Commentary on the Twelfth Session of Lacan’s XXIVth Seminar I’Insu que sait de l’une bévue s’aille à mourre. Goian gives emphasis to several themes introduced by Lacan in this his final session for the academic year ‘76 – ‘77, themes that are not necessarily new in themselves but which are given a sparkle by Lacan, adefinitional twist that illuminates them anew.

Julia Kristeva was present in the audience for this session, perhaps prompting Lacan’s incursion into linguistics – once again? – but on this occasion stating unequivocally that given the fact of the unconscious, there can be no linguis- tics other then linguisterie. He himself had passed by way of linguistics but hadn’t remained there. His return to examining Jeremy Bentham’s calculusof pleasure and pain and his theory of fictions is extremely well developed by Goian. We, in Ireland, have a historical and tangential connection with this English philosopher, often citing the correspondence in the early 1800s between him and Daniel O’Connell, civil rights campaigner and champion of Catholic Emancipation. The founder of Utilitarianism, Bentham’s think- ing appears extremely prescient for psychoanalysis, so much so that to have anticipated the fictitious as a languaged thing – the symbolic in Lacan’s terms - is remarkable. Fictitious entities rest on ‘a sort of verbal reality’, or as Goian puts it ‘Reality is, therefore linked to meaning and not the property of things themselves’.

Metatongue, metalanguage – with repression we skid away from an embryo of metalanguage which we can never then approach except via a metatongue, itself only ever a translation or one of a series of metatongues.

Goian reminds us of Lacan’s embarrassment that there is no memoir (mé- moire) of a psychoanalysis. But what of the memory (also mémoire in French) as repetition compulsion that shapes our lives –the only mémoire of impor- tance and the one that surely concerns psychoanalysis? And finally we are introduced to how the ‘poetic’ works in analysis – where the analyst, by his interpretation ‘saws through sense’ to produce a hole effect or to make senseabsent..

Shirley Sharon-Zisser, a psychoanalyst practising in Israel and Associate Professor of English at Tel Aviv University, brings immense learning to a com- plex and highly technical paper Calliope’s Sc(D)ream. Feminine Jouissance in Aristotle’s Works on Language. Delivered originally in lecture form in November 2015 at a two-day conference entitled Lacan with Philosophy that was held at Tel Aviv University, it is here accompanied by a paper entitled Lacan and Philosophy from Itzhak Benyamini who was a respondent on that occasion.

Sharon-Zisser’s academic work focuses on the links between rhetorical theory and psychoanalysis. In this paper she introduces us to three of Aristotle’s key works on language Rhetoric, Sophistical Refutations and Poetics. And if I were to further pin down its focus on language – we are introduced to the domain not only of logic but of grammar. In its sweep it interweaves select facets of the three works mentioned above with Freud’s theorisation from the 1920s on castration and the difference between the sexes, along with key references of Lacan’s to Aristotle’s work as these impinge on his theory of sexuation during that most fertile period from ‘71 to ‘73. ‘If as Lacan claims (...) Aristotle’s logic “the first great formal logic is essentially linked to the idea Aristotle had of a woman” and hence implicitly, of sexuation upon the relation to jouissance that that involves, his works on language ... are no less so’. In particular, Sharon-Zisser perhaps startlingly, makes the case for an equivalence in how Aristotle treats the difference between simile and meta- phor and his views on the difference between the sexes.

One definition of rhetoric is that it is ‘language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.’ Its use in advertising coincides with this commonplace understanding of the term. Aristotle refuted such a definition. What we would consider central to rhetoric’s persuasive effect, the character of the orator and the affect he elicits, Aristotle considered superfluous. While Sharon-Zisser tells us that it is with a poetical character that Aristotle introduces his work on rhetoric, his innovation for rhetoric was to foreground the enthymeme, ‘the rhetorical antistrophe or responding song to the syllogism in logic’ which as speech that is ‘stripped bare’ psilos logos effected ‘the one affect ultimately at stake..’ pistis or conviction.’ Metaphor and enthymeme are marked by ‘a logic of subtraction, of loss, of castration in speech.’ Hinting at absence and lack, to better understand the logic and grammar of these rhetorical forms has to be important for psychoanalysis and its interpretive function.

And what of the Calliopeic scream in the paper’s title? I will permit the reader to judge its value for the author’s thesis which, at its simplest, is that psychoanalysis can learn from Aristotle’s work on language, which has more going for it than pure reason, as supported by his famous principle of non-contra- diction. For Sharon-Zisser, ‘between scream and signifier, the Calliopeic is allowed a dwelling in Aristotle’s work on language under the sign of psilos, subtraction, castration, (disturbing) the principle of non-contradiction’. And while this disturbance ‘is never allowed to develop into the awakening to the real’ we are informed that Aristotle cleared ‘a place from the very outset for the poetic that in his texts on language is linked with what is foreign or ecstatic to standard language and associated with the Callopeic as feminine sound without sense.’ There is much to ponder in this interesting work.

Itzhak Benyamini teaches at the University of Haifa and at Bezalel in Jerusalem. Here we reproduce a brief paper of his which packs a punch. Less a detailed response to the foregoing, its message is more a lamentation at the cost and struggle to the academic, aware of ‘psychoanalysis’s alternative form of formalised-knowledge’, who has to ‘attempt to insert (this) into the pretense of a reasoned formulation of the world’s Imaginary states and its Real sur- pluses, a pretense that the university discourse urges us to be fascinated by.’

Benyamini further pronounces on how Reason once needed the supportive concept of the Soul. His simile of the soul as the Sancho Panza to Reason’s Don Quixote - ‘Reason’s miserable squire’ - who has too much ‘belly’ (panza the Spanish for belly) for Reason to stomach, is particularly effective. But the demise of the Soul in the face of the advance of the subject of Science is perhaps not as inevitable as the author seems to assert, as surely the psycho- analytic discourse has a bearing on the soul? And to remind ourselves again, the psychoanalytic discourse will conquer (cf Christian Fierens Chapter 5 The Sense of the Psychoanalytic Discourse in this issue), a conquest, according to Fierens, based not on the social but ‘on the impossible in the structure itself.’

Our final contributor, Will Greenshields, author of An Approach to Lacan’s XXVIth Seminar: Topology and Time received his doctorate on Lacan and topology from the University of Sussex. The approach that Greenshields takes is to firstly put the title Topology and Time into context. A pun on Heidegger’s Being and Time, Lacan’s effort in to this scant and final seminar was to try to better link topology to practice by means of the novelty of the ‘generalised’ borromean. We’ve made mention of topology but what of time? Greenshields reminds us of Lacan’s opening words to the seminar ‘There is a correspon- dence between topology and practice. This correspondence consists in time (les temps). Topology resists, it is in that that the correspondence exists’. Apropos of time, we are then returned to a lesser appreciated aspect of Moebian topology which can demonstrate how the single edge of the strip when producing an interior eight, rather than buckling itself in a single circuit like a belt, ‘misses its point of origin and makes an additional loop around a hole’. The twist of the figure of eight, ‘unlocalisable and undentifiable’ ‘impossible to integrate yet integral’, in its very movement has an undoubted temporal aspect to it. Further, ‘while the twist does not is not non-existent: it instead ex-sists’.

While he readily concedes that this work is an approach only where an end point is not reached, Greenshields’ grasp of his subject in this interesting paper is beyond doubt. While we are already familiar with many topological concepts, particularly through the work of Tony Hughes, many of us continue to struggle with its clinical relevance. However, how the current author treats the differences between models, demonstrations and monstrations, the ‘new Imaginary’, the downside of a static borromean knot versus the ‘dynamic’ moebius strip, its all-or-nothing nature when one ring is cut compared with the necessity that it not unravel... is highly illuminating and worthwhile. In 1977, a year or so before this seminar, Lacan is still telling us that he is ‘still at the stage of interrogating psychoanalysis about the way in which it functions. What ensures that it holds up, that it constitutes a practice that is sometimes effective?’ This paper by Greenshields further kindles an appreciation of what the working of topology meant to Lacan, providing him with a frontier where the ‘knot offers ... a silent monstration of ex-sistence (as opposed to a model or “idea of the Real”)’. Effectively bypassing the ‘bad tool’ that it appears mere speaking had become for him in trying to explicate the psychoanalytic discourse, he was surely engaged with relaunching the saying until the end...

Patricia McCarthy


[1] The full text of Fierens’ book is also available at iv

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