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Laytour, Latetour, L'Etourdit

The Letter, Issue 41, Summer 2009, Pages 1 - 17

Laytour, Latetour, L’Etourdit

Cormac Gallagher

This paper introduces L'Etourdit by first examining the places where Lacan taught – St. Anne, ENS, Sorbonne – as important places for him and meriting an introductory tour for non-Parisian readers of the text. They are shown to be given theoretical weight by the role of “place” in the four Discourses and the four Formulae of Sexuation which Lacan had produced in the preceding years, and the author draws on Christian Fierens' Reading L'Etourdit as an invaluable aid to resolving the text's many enigmas.

Keywords: French psychiatry; sexuation; discourse; sense; meaning

Dennis O’Driscoll: Introducing Lowell's Kilkenny reading, you said that “To master the meaning of your art and to master the meaning of the word poet is the poet's task'. Wouldn't many poets prefer not to become too self-conscious about these matters and to discover the answers simply through performing the poetic act itself?

Seamus Heaney: Maybe so, although I still think that those high terms about mastering the meaning of the art and the task were justified.…. Until you have had the experience of genuinely performing the poetic act, you won't have any reason to think about what it means.[1]

The study-day in May 2009 was another stepping stone on our way to mastering the meaning of the word psychoanalyst. As I was preparing to write up the remarks I had made there I came across a brief news items in the International Herald Tribune:

Harvard to Start Unique Endowment

Harvard University is creating an endowed professorship in lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual studies, the first of its kind in the United States and reflecting a rise in gender-related academia nationwide. The School will invite visiting scholars to teach on sexuality and issues related to sexual minorities for one semester each, a Harvard official said Wednesday. (Reuters)

This allows me to omit the initial remarks I had made about the importance of the Lacanian contribution to sexuation. Here from the world's leading university is a validation of the relevance of the work we have been engaged in for the last number of years. First, in a close study and translation of Guy Le Gaufey's critical analysis of the evolution of Jacques Lacan‟s formulae of sexuation[2] and more recently in the exploration of L'Etourdit[3] which after almost 40 years “in purgatory” - the expression was used at the a recent meeting of the Inter-Associatif Européen de Psychanalyse in Brussels - has finally had a redemptive light shone on it by the A to Z reading undertaken by Christian Fierens[4], our guest at the study day. There was something providential about his presence in that it was purely by accident that I happened to attend a two-day conference organised around his book in 2003. Jean-Pierre Le Brun, a friend of Fierens and a close collaborator of Charles Melman, had been instrumental in organising this meeting. Melman was particularly interested in L'Etourdit since, as editor of Scilicet he had tried to dissuade Lacan from publishing it[5] because it was incomprehensible and above all lacked any of the imaginary props that would enable the reader to gain a purchase. He confesses to having spent a year of a seminar on it and had got half-way before moving to other more fecund areas of the Lacanian corpus. Hence his willingness to read Fierens' book and to sponsor two study days on it under the auspices of the Association Lacanienne Internationale.

However, the book still does not seem to have had much impact on Parisian analysts. Even as we walked out of the theatre after Fierens' presentation I overheard someone remark: “We'll need another commentary to explain what he's talking about”. The extract included in this issue shows that it does indeed call for patience and attention but the only commentary it needs is the original text.

The task that Fierens set himself of unpacking this ultra-dense écrit has been a striking success. But it needed all his resources as a psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and philosopher with access to university professors who were among the first to recognise Lacan's genius - Alphonse de Waelhens of Louvain, who had directed his doctoral thesis, lectured every year on The Family[6] - to disentangle the enigmatic knots of L'Etourdit.

Here I will attempt the simpler task of trying to make this text more approachable for the English-speaking reader by introducing the translation of the first part which I have wrestling with with the help of a few colleagues[7] who have been willing to tolerate the years of re-writing, and have pointed out the innumerable inconsistencies that appeared with each successive draft.

The content of my article is summarised in the title. “Laytour” explains for the uninitiated the frequent references to Parisian landmarks; “Latetour” provides a chronological setting for this very late écrit in terms of previous writings andseminars; and, finally, “L'Etourdit” offers some suggestions on how the text can be articulated and also picks out a few of the innumerable translation difficulties it poses.


In a survey of the seminar ...ou pire,[8] I referred to Lacan's preoccupation with place in 1971-1972. Places seem to be important to him at this stage. He had begun his teaching in 1953 at the psychiatric hospital of Sainte-Anne; had been ejected and moved to the Ecole Normale in 1964; and finally ended up in Law Faculty near the Pantheon in 1969. In the current year he continues his seminar in the Pantheon. But he rejoices at the fact that he is also able for the first time in almost a decade to return to the hospital where he had begun his own psychiatric training nearly half a century earlier.

In fact it is not Lacan's first return since 1963 since, as he remarks in the first paragraph, Dr Georges Daumézon, Clinical Director of Henri Rousselle had allowed him to continue his case presentations there. What had happened after his “excommunication” from the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1963 was the suspension of his right to hold his seminar at Sainte-Anne, although the link between these two events remains unclear.

So it is with respect to his teaching activities that he refers to a number of places that would have been familiar to his 70's Parisian audience but not to the majority of his 21st century Anglophone readers. Hence a brief tour for those outside the circle of his immediate audience may offer some elements of the imaginary foothold required to help the reader to find his bearings.

“Googling” a map of Paris will show the centrality of Notre Dame as a starting point for any exploration of the city. Heading up rue St. Jacques we come to the Sorbonne which had officially lost its mythical status in the post-1968 reforms as the city's university and had become the Paris-I which Lacan mentions on the first page. It was, as we saw above, at the Law Faculty near the Pantheon that he had found the final place where he would continue to give his seminar until the year before his death.

Freud in his joke book has a tourist ask “Is this the place where Wellington gave his famous speech?”, prompting the reply: “Yes, this is the place but he never gave that speech!”. For Lacan, the importance of the place where he spoke was of more than touristic interest. In the Four Discourses, the very nature of a discourse is defined by whoever occupies the position of the semblance. If it is the S1 we have the master discourse: if S2, the academic and so on. L'Etourdit makes the point:

“…that there is no universal that must not be contained by an existence that denies it. So that the stereotype that every man is mortal is not enunciated from nowhere. The logic that dates it, is only that of a philosophy which feigns this "nullubiquity", this in order to create an alibi for what I name the discourse of the master.

Now it is…from…the place…that I designate as semblance, that a saying takes on its meaning”.[9]

Now the position from which Lacan wants to speak is not that of the Master or the Professor but that of the analysand who takes his audience as his analyst. Speaking to medics in a psychiatric hospital he found it easy to identify with the Doras, the Ratmen, and the Schrebers with whom he and his listeners were familiar in their day-to-day work. They like him could recognize that, as he put it towards the end of …ou pire, we are brothers of our patients. But in Paris-I speaking week after week to a random audience of 700 who knew nothing of psychiatry or psychoanalysis he ran the risk of becoming the maître à penser which in fact he has become for the literary critics, the philosophers and, I have recently learned, for the Scandinavian architects and town planners who make use of his ideas without ever linking them to their origin in his work as an analyst.

Between the ten years at Sainte-Anne and the equally long time at Paris-I Lacan had spent four years at the Ecole Normale Supérieur with a new audience made up of the brightest students of the French hierarchical educational system. His son-in-law Jacques-Alain Miller and many other logicians and mathematicians heard him there for the first time and this new situation brought with it a radical departure from the clinical cases and the concerns with psychiatric nosology that had characterized his teaching in its early years.

Curiously, the ENS on rue Ulm is about halfway between Paris-I and Sainte-Anne and more or less on the direct route we have been taking up St. Jacques. As we continue our way we finally come to the vast complex of Sainte-Anne which has replaced the Salpetrière, where Freud met Charcot, as the home of French psychiatric excellence.

Trying to find l'hôpital Henri-Rouselle within its walls is however a vain enterprise. There remains only a plaque on the main building, dedicated not to Jacques Lacan but to the Dr. Georges Daumézon he pays homage to in the first paragraph, honouring him as having headed up the now vanished hôpital in the 1960s and 70s.

Lacan's case-presentations as he points out went beyond the usual psychiatric model and like his seminars took place on a weekly basis well into the 1970s. Though intended principally for psychiatric students they also drew the non-medics who were interested in seeing the clinical applications of what they were hearing at Paris-I. The “beyond” element consisted in his privileging what the patient was saying rather than the usual medical practice of using him to illustrate one or other psychiatric condition.

I recall an occasion when a man spoke of hoping to buy a “quatre-zero- cinq” which everyone in the room, except Lacan, immediately understood to be a Peugeot 405. Unlike the rest of us he was puzzled by the phrase and encouraged the patient to elaborate on what such a bizarre expression might mean, thus leading him, almost by accident, into hitherto unexplored areas of his story.

The second paragraph of the text refers explicitly to Sainte-Anne. But here, as his listeners would have known, he is referring chapel of Sainte- Anne where from November 1971 to June 1972 he gave six lectures now translated as “The Knowledge of the Psychoanalyst”.[10] Again one will search in vain for any sign that these lectures took place there but the building does remain having been converted into a laundry to meet the more immediate needs of patients. A genuine return to basics. From religious illusion through psychoanalytic esoterics to the bedrock of clean linen. Or to parody Victor Frankl: “You can live with any treatment as long as you have a clean pair of pajamas!”.

Still on the first page of L'Etourdit we leave Paris for Milan where on 12 May 1972 Lacan wrote for the first time the two sentences that are his point of departure. It was on his return that he first wrote on the board, at the seminar of 14 June 1972, what I translated some years ago as:

“That one says

- as a fact -

- remains forgotten behind what is said -

- in what is understood”

followed by the comment……..

“naturally this statement which is assertive in its form as universal is connected with the modal in terms of what it is uttering about existence”.

He goes on to explain that he was enticed away from further analysis of these sentences by an intervention from theaudience. This was a 15-20 page input by F. Recanati on three texts by C.S. Peirce. Lacan in fact insists at the time that Recanati's paper could be summed up by the two sentences that he had just written. They are on the board again on 21 June, accompanied this time by the formula for the analytic discourse and the remark:

“This statement is assertive by its form;

belongs to the modal in terms of the existence (existance) that it emits [sic]”.

The 50th birthday celebrations to which Lacan refers on the first line of the text must then have occurred between the seminar of 21 June and 14 July which Lacan gives as the date at which L'Etourdit was completed.

Hopefully at this stage the English-speaking reader will have a clearer image of Sainte-Anne, Henri Rouselle, the chapel, Paris-I and Milan as the geographical reference-points which Lacan thought it worth his while to provide us with as we begin our reading.


L'Etourdit is Lacan‟s last great Écrit, a final tour d'horizon in both senses of the word. It is a survey of all his work to date and a look forward to what is still beyond the horizon. There are still eight more seminars to go, including Encore, the best known part of his works in English - so badly edited in French and translated into English that I felt a duty tore-English it on the basis of pirate editions - and the seminar on Joyce which is of inevitable interest to the worldwide Joycean industry. There is also the question and answer Telévision at Christmas 1973, but as regards the long meticulous constructions which punctuated his career from the 1930‟s on, this is the end of the road. It has been compared as a linguistic tour-de-force to rival Finnegans Wake. But although reading L'Etourdit does not require an acquaintance with the etymology and myths of many Indo-European languages, it does require a thorough knowledge of Lacan's work from its beginnings as well as a familiarity with the way in which his ongoing dialogue with Freud has evolved.

“It is well known that for ten years I had taken the trouble to make a French garden of these tracks Freud was able to stick to in his design, the first, even though it could always be spotted how twisted they were by whoever wanted to get to the bottom of what supplies for the sexual relationship.

It was still necessary that the distinction of the symbolic the imaginary and the real should come to light: this so that the identification to the man moiety and to the woman moiety, where as I have just called to mind the business of the ego dominates, should not be confused with their relationship.

It is enough for the business of the ego like the business of the phallus where you were kind enough to follow me just now, to be articulated in language to become the business of the subject and to no longer fall under the jurisdiction of the imaginary. Just fancy that since the year '56 all of this could have been taken as acquired, if there had been some consent about the analytic discourse” (14, 458).

So we are expected to have thoroughly read “The Family”, published in L‟Encyclopédie française in 1938, in which Lacan, as Freud‟s life came to a close, laid out as carefully as Louis XIV's gardener at Versailles the Cartesian co-ordinates within which he had attempted to lay out the findings of psychoanalysis; then to have followed the subversion of the imaginary dominance of the mirror phase by a Saussurian symbolic and the mysterious real of the o-object; and finally to have read the recent seminars detailing the progress from the primacy of the phallus to that of the phallic function.

In this daunting panorama spanning forty years of work there is one specific date that Lacan comes back to again andagain and which shows the centrality of psychosis in his thinking. This is 11 April 1956. He picks it out in …ou pire as a seminar that it would “amuse (him) to re-publish” and refers to it here again in his discussion of the two first formulae of sexuation:

“…what the analytic discourse concerns is the subject, which, as effect of meaning, is response to the real. This I articulated, from 11 April 1956, having recovered a text from a quotation about the non-semanticsignifier, this for people who might have taken an interest in it for feeling themselves called by it to a function of waste product (déjet)” (15, 459).

To limit ourselves to the minimum that a first reading requires, the Four Discourses and the Formulae of Sexuation, which had been produced in the recent seminars, must be studied.

Starting with the first session of the seminar l'Envers de la psychanalyse at Paris-I, Lacan had written out a set of formulae which seem, at least in part, to have been stimulated by the revolutionary ambitions of the Maoists of 1968. As I have described elsewhere[11] it was to the angry students at Vincennes that he explained that a revolution would beprecisely that - a re- turn to the status quo ante of dominance by a Master discourse. From the beginning of L'Etourdit we are reminded specifically of the psychoanalytic discourse which “touches on the real by encountering it as impossible”.

The loci, the places: semblance, Other, product and truth and the modal relations between them of impossibility, contingency, possibility and necessity are part of the basic vocabulary that any prospective reader must learn. A primevalue of Christian Fierens‟ commentary is that he situates the logical use made of these categories and lightens the vast amount of work that would otherwise be necessary by clarifying their relation to philosophy, mathematics and psychoanalysis.

Let me simply repeat here the crucial role of the Semblance in defining the particularity of a discourse:

“Now it is…from the place…that I designate as semblance, that a saying takes on its meaning”. Thus the master signifier S1 at the place of the semblance defines a master discourse: the academic (university) discourse results from the presence of S2 there; the hysterical discourse from the fact that it is the divided subject S/ who originates it and finally the analytic discourse from the willingness of someone to take on the place of the rejected o-object”.

The second minimal requirement is an intimate familiarity with the Formulae of Sexuation. In a recent issue of the The Letter recording the study day on Guy Le Gaufey‟s article on these formulae, we read in an addendum omitted from his book on Lacan's Pastout:

“The text you have just read takes up again, from the seminars, the elements that Lacan gathered together in his ultra-cryptic écrit published in No. 4 of his review Scilicet under the title of L'Etourdit. This is to say the reader is invited to read and re-read these extremely dense lines with the tone of a last will and testament”.

And he goes on to warn the reader about the proofing of the published French texts:

“But where? Today two publications are offered in the French tongue…the original in Scilicet, faulty at least in quantifiers since, instead of ∀x and ∃x, we find, for some mentions of the formulae, A and E, which makes readingit awkward; or the more recent, published in 2000 by Seuil under the general title of Autres écrits”.[12]

This latter is even less reliable and adds more mistakes to those already found in Scilicet.

We will further elaborate these remarks in the next section, but here the point I want to make is that, even though L'Etourdit takes the elaboration of the formulae to a further stage, reading Le Gaufey's article is a quasi- indispensable preparation to make sense of it

The crucial moment in the writing of the formulae is in The Knowledge of the Psychoanalyst - delivered, as we have earlier noted, in the chapel, now laundry, of Sainte-Anne. On 3 March 1972 Lacan produced them in their final form. This is the culmination of his attempt to write the sexual non-relationship which had begun a year before, even though it had been hinted at in earlier seminars.

“Here” (writes Le Gaufey) “I am not going to carry out the scrupulous textual tracking that would lead us from a first (and very risky) “there is no sexual act” (since The Logic of Phantasy) to “there is no sexual relationship” which is runs throughout Of a Discourse that might not be a Semblance and ou pire. I will content myself with marking some key moments in this progress that will culminate in the formulae called “of sexuation” because they try to write what is involved in the sexual non-relationship. The business begins with Of a Discourse that might not be a Semblance, particularly in the session of 17 February 1971”.

In L'Etourdit Lacan writes the first two of these formulae in the sub-section described by Christian Fierens as “From Freud to the phallic function” where he takes up again his logical thesis that there is no universal that is not denied by an existence. It is worthwhile trying to follow his difficult prose:

“It is simply of the order of complement that I contribute above to every position of the universal as such that it would be necessary at a point of the discourse that an existence, as they say: opposes the phallic function, so that to pose it may be "possible", which is the little by which it can lay claim to existence.

It is indeed in this logic that there can be summarised everything (tout) involved in the Oedipus complex.

All of it can be maintained by being developed around what I advance about the logical correlation of two formulae which are inscribed mathematically ∀𝑥. Φ𝑥 and ∃𝑥. Φ𝑥 ...” (14, 458).

In this way there is introduced the left hand deixis, the “masculine” formulae, and Lacan goes on to discuss their prejudice: the bias they introduce to Freud's understanding of psychosis and the way in which they contribute to racism.

Then after a long discussion of the debate on feminine sexuality which in the 1930s had opposed Jones, Horney and Deutsch to Freud and which he had treated at length in The Formations of the Unconscious (1956-1957), he presents the right hand, feminine, deixis of the formulae:

This leads on to his considerations on the logic of the not-all and the Heteros which is the high point of the first turn. Antigone, the age-old ancient model for every speaking being who refuses to be nor-male takes the place of the Sphinx and threatens to tear apart whoever cannot answer her riddle. “I want a man who knows - how to make love” is one of Lacan‟s latest formulations for the desire of the hysteric. Thus using his lifelong preoccupation with the desire of women, he makes his reply to the perplexity attributed to Freud: “What does a woman want?”.


By way of concluding these introductory remarks, I will add a few more points aimed at facilitating the reading of L'Etourdit.

Once again I pay tribute to Christian Fierens for his work in demonstrat- ing that even this most opaque of Lacan's texts can fulfill his desire “to be read” and that the effort involved is worthwhile at every level of the practical or theoretical activity of the analyst. While the programme for the study days held in Paris in 2003 emphasised that his was just one reading among many - and also misleadingly claims that L'Etourdit is the written version of Encore before the event - Charles Melman, while not agreeing with every point, would say on the day itself that it is a demonstration of “mastery” of the subject that up to the present is unrivalled. “The model of what could be demanded of our colleagues”.[13]

The dense block of convoluted prose can be given some initial articulations by using the chapter and section headings that Fierens has used in his Lecture. The punctuation of the four chapter headings:

  1. The relationship of meaning to sense;

  2. Freud's saying;

  3. There is no sexual relationship; and

  4. The phallic function and the formulae of sexuation

gives a clear notion of the topics Lacan is tackling and the order in which he approaches them. The sub-headings are also helpful in marking distinct steps in the progress of the argument.

Another way to illuminate the text, even though it is not for the fainthearted, is to investigate the thirty or so references Lacan makes to his own and Freud's work as well as to that of Cantor, Frege, Russell, Fernel, etc. The general effect of these references is to make us realise that our incomprehension of Lacan is often due to an incomprehension of, for example, Platonic dialogues or contemporary mathematics. From this point of view the analogy to Finnegans Wake may not be too wide of the mark. Reading L'Etourdit properly demands long years ofeffort. “Know!” Lacan says to his readers, stressing once again the degree of literary and scientific culture that is indispensable for the working analyst. In this he is taking up Freud's refrain in the Question of Lay Analysis where he emphasises that their medical training alone does not equip doctors to understand the range of historical, religious, philosophical and contemporary cultural references that permeate the discourse of the patient.

Now to the difficulties of the translation and the choices it involved. The Hebrew translator of Shakespeare may, as President Peres joked, have introduced the oeuvre as “translated and improved” but here the saying “traduttore-traditore” still holds good.

Much has been made of Lacan‟s neologisms, and indeed the text is full of them. But my greatest difficulty in translation came from two very ordinary French words: “dire” and “dit”. Dire means to say. But what happens when dire, as in almost every case in this text, is a noun rather than a verb: “un dire”. If we translate this as “a saying” most readers will agree with the Concise Oxford Dictionary and conclude that we mean “a sententious remark, maxim, adage, etc.”, as in the paragraph above. So if we translate “Le dire de Freud” as “Freud‟s saying”, the question might be “To which of his many sayings about what do you refer?”.

In the second paragraph Lacan talks about “mon dire” at Sainte-Anne. To avoid the everyday meaning of “saying” Ifirst tried to translate this as “the fact of my saying” or “my act of saying” in order to get across the performative aspect of “mon dire”. It was only as we read the text aloud that we realized how deliberately poetic Lacan‟s use of language is - Melman calls it “lalangue” - and decided to appeal to the poetic sensibility of the reader:

“Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue”

writes Hopkins in The Wreck of the Deutschland.

“Poetry…survives in the valley of its saying”

writes Auden in his In Memory of W.B. Yeats, a line that Heaney has quoted as illustrating his own view of poetic writing. So rather than “my act of saying”, “Freud's act of saying”, “the mathematical act of saying” and so on, I have gone with the simple “saying”.

“Dit”, which is often contrasted with “dire” in the text, is easier and can be satisfactorily translated as “what is said”. The “saying” and “what is said” sounds less abrupt - to me in any case - than “the saying” and “the said”. The neologisms pose a different problem. The frequently used “dit- mension” obviously appeals to “dimension” and “dit”, the dimension of what is said, but it would be pedantic to point this out and for the moment I have left it in French. For other reasons I was also going to leave “homme- volte” untranslated until I recently found that “volte”, despite its similarity to the electrical “volt”, refers in French and English to the circular thread of a horse during an exercise of dressage. So now Lacan‟s argument against the assimilation of psychoanalysis to psychology becomes clearer:

“The trouble is that the psychologist, since he can only support his sector by theology wants the psychical to be normal, and as a result he elaborates what would suppress it.

Especially the Innenwelt and the Umwelt, when he would do better to pay attention to the volte-man (homme-volte) who makes up the labyrinth from which man does not get out” (11, 455).

Which leads him on to the primacy of analytic repetition over the psych- ological stimulus-response couple. Other neologisms are often translated by corresponding English neologisms for example “allmanity” will not be found in an English dictionary but then neither will “touthommie” be found in Robert.

Even though it makes the text heavier I have often given the original French in brackets when its richness is not caught by the translation: thus “One looks on at the marvel” scarcely catches the poetic “On veille à la merveille” and“misdeal” omits the allusion to maleness in “maldonne”, etc.

We come at last to the title L'Etourdit. As will be seen from the Lecture, it too is a neologism - but only when it is written. In spoken French it is pronounced in exactly the same way as the commonly used l'étourdi, without the “t”, which means someone thoughtless, inattentive, distracted, etc. It is the title of a play by Molière, translated as The Blunderer, and it even made its way briefly into English according to a remark by David Hume in 1763, during his stay at the British embassy in Paris: “By this étourderie, to give it the lightest name, you were capable of making a quarrel between me and that irascible little man”.

To discover what Lacan meant by it is another story and the only help I can give at present - we too have only got halfway - is to hear it as les- tours-dits, literally: “the-turns-said”. In the seminar on Identification he had imaged the way that the symbolic turns around the real, the o-object, by the way wires wind around the outside tube of a torus. As they complete their circuit they also complete a circuit around the centre of the torus.

But these endlessly repeated saids forget the saying that underlies them. Those pseudo-Freudians who are so hung-up on what the Master said miss out on his saying. They are the étourdis, the blunderers, inattentive to his focus on the saying of his patients where alone the truth can be half- glimpsed in their fleeting slips of the tongue or in the condensed and displaced fragments of the dreams they recount.

Lacan's own preferred road to the unconscious is the Witz that Freud revealed as having the power to get beyond our defenses and to directly release our repressed desires. The unconscious is never going to be a tourist attraction - no sooner has it opened to produce one of its formations than it closes tightly again. The truth cannot be said. It can only be surprised, glimpsed in a flash, elliptically half-said.

While castigating the neo-Freudians of the IPA he is also confessing that his own written work has been turning, circling, around this obscure object of desire, and accepting that writing, no matter how closely it strives to adhere to lalangue, is incapable of circumscribing it. In that he too is condemned to being an étourdi.

In the paragraph in quotation marks at the end of the first turn, the Sphynx declares herself satisfied with what he hasdone so far but urges him to press on to solve the new riddle posed by Antigone. Lacan, who in these years often mentions his advanced age, is still buoyed up by the hope that as he reaches the evening of his life, he will, like Tiresias, be able to divine the mystery of the relationship of each speaking being, no matter what identity they assume, to the Otherness of sex.

And our own étourderie? This undoubtedly is the fundamental barrier to taking up our position as analysts. Overcoming it is, as Freud and Lacan never ceased to insist, an ethical question. Perhaps Auden described it best as deriving from “our dishonest mood of denial” against which we must continually strive if we are to accompany those who entrust themselves to our care to the threshold of their own moral choices.


[1] Dennis O‟Driscoll, Stepping Stones, Interviews with Seamus Heaney (London, Faber & Faber, 2008), pp. 218-219.

[2] G. Le Gaufey, “An Introduction to a Critical Reading of Lacan‟s Formulae of Sexuation”, The Letter. Irish Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis 39 (2008) pp. 11-18.

[3] J. Lacan, “L‟Etourdit”, Scilicet 4 (1973) pp. 5-52.

[4] C. Fierens, Lecture de L‟Etourdit. Lacan 1972, Paris: L‟Harmattan, 2002.

[5] See his article in this issue.

[6] J. Lacan, “La Famille”, Encyclopédie française, Paris, Larousse, 1938. Unpublished trans. C. Gallagher.

[7] See the articles by Patricia McCarthy, Tony Hughes and Tom Dalzell below.

[8] C. Gallagher, “Where was Jacques Lacan in 1971-1972? …ou pire and The Knowledge of the Psychoanalyst”, The Letter 30 (2004) pp. 1-19.

[9] J. Lacan, “L‟Etourdit”, Scilicet p. 7; Autres écrits, p. 451; The Letter. Irish Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis 41 (2009) p. 36.

[10] Unpublished trans. C. Gallagher.

[11] C. Gallagher, “The New Tyranny of Knowledge: Seminar XVII (1969-70)”, The Letter. Lacanian Perspectives on Psychoanalysis 24 (2002) pp. 1-22.

[12] G. Le Gaufey, “Towards a Critical Reading of the Formulae of Sexuation”, The Letter. Irish Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis 39 (2008) pp. 19-69.

[13] See his article in this issue.

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