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Issue 7: Editorial

The Letter, Issue 7, Summer 1996, Pages i - iii


Psychoanalytic theory, and in particular the innovations which the Lacanian corpus has leant to that body of work, has been taken up by a multitude of other disciplines in their attempts to better describe the dynamics inherent to their respective fields of enquiry. Although the progeny of this copulation of psychoanalysis with other disciplines has been variously assessed and not always in a favourable light, the least that can be said is that the meeting of the one with the other always produces something more, the new (whole being greater than the sum of its parts. This issue of our journal bears witness to some of the many rendezvous which psychoanalysis has kept with these other fields and, at the same time, attests to the impossibility of any cosy rapport of the one with the other.

It is this thread of impossibility which winds its way through the present issue, beginning with Paul Verhaeghe's article. He addresses the double impossibility inherent in the combination of two professions, that is, the impossibility of combining in any unproblematic way the teaching and the practice of psychoanalysis. Taken singly each presents with its own hopeless kernel, but the conjunction of the teacher's position of mastery in respect of knowledge with the analytical position, in which 'the analyst is the actual incarnation of the buffoon', poses an impossibility of a higher order.

Aisling Campbell's paper reflects on whether, where psychoanalysis is concerned, it is ever possible to be a representative. As she tells us, this question was occasioned following her participation in a radio broadcast after which 'the disjunction between our speech and its desired effects' made itself heard in an unusual way.

While some things are truly, that is structurally, impossible, others are only apparently so. In the course of Filip Geerardyn and Julien Quackelbeen's interview with Mark Solms, the latter appears as someone who arrived at the door of psychoanalysis via an unusual and circuitous route and who, despite the many obstructions which fate laid at the threshold, never ceased to be intrigued by what might lie on the other side. Now a practising psychoanalyst, his origins in the field of neuropsychology have led him to the point where he is currently the editor of both the English and German editions of the complete neuroscientific works of Freud which, he tells us, are due for publication in 1999. For anyone who has an interest in the passage of the signifier as it meanders along a route directed by a mélange of fate and coincidence, Mark Solm's account of how he came to be the editor of that collection, as well as his account of how he came to psychoanalysis, makes compelling reading. The reader might also be interested to know a little about the background of the man who is also the executive editor of the forthcoming revised edition of The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud!

Following on this interview, in which neuroscience meets psychoanalysis, are two articles in which psychoanalysis meets literature. Nessa Breen's paper addresses the autobiographical work of Roland Barthes as testifying to the impossibility which confronts one (or should that be 'two?) as a consequence of the divided nature of the human subject. 'How', she asks, 'does a subject who is aware of himself or herself as pluralised ... attain any kind of truth or self-realisation in autobiography?', a question which is equally pertinent to psychoanalysis which invites one' to tell 'one's' story.

Olga Cox explores this 'fiction of the self aptly by means of a study of the inaugural gesture, the 'I say', which underpins any possibility of narrative. Underlining the fictional character of such a gesture, she highlights the necessity of the reduplication of this moment for the construction of any possibility of a following moment, that is, for the unfolding of a temporal dimension, which in itself is the prerequisite to the possibility of any story, be it the one told on the couch, in the autobiography or in the work of literature. Showing how it is that this temporal dimension can be equated with that 'included lack subtending subjectivity', she shows how it is that the lack of this lack leaves room only for the crippling immediacy of anxiety.

Anxiety finds a treatment (if not a cure) in this issue via the work of Alan Rowan. In a paper based on work that he presented initially at last year's APPI congress, he traces the various approaches that there have been to the subject of emotion and, particularly, anxiety. The paper aims to trace the trajectory taken by the various proponents of psychological theories and to show up the inconsistencies or inadequacies on which these flounder, contrasting these with the psychoanalytic approach, principally that developed by Lacan in Seminar X.

In conclusion we arrive back on the terrain of impossibility with an article by Sean Homer. Exploring the consequences for both when psychoanalysis meets with political theory in the field of ideology, he adds a positive twist to Zizek's Lacanian analysis of ideologies. If psychoanalysis has been successful in showing that civilisation bears an inherent discontent, that for structural reasons the ideal society is an impossibility, then perhaps it can also 'facilitate a slightly different conception of ideology', one according to which ideologies work because of the pleasure they yield. Here 'ideology' is not a synonym for 'false reality' but is, rather, the necessary fiction which underpins (social) reality itself.

And if Utopia can never be realised then one can always continue to think the impossible!

Helena Texier


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