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Metalanguage, Formal Structures, And The Dissolution Of Transference

The Letter, Issue 17, Autumn 1999, Pages 21 - 37


Jason Glynos


This essay attempts precise the meaning and significance of Lacan's claim that 'there is no metalanguage', and to link this to issues of mathematical formalisation and the end of analysis. My investigation will be conducted against the implicit background of another of his well- known claims: 'the unconscious is structured like a language.' I will approach this task, however, from the opposite direction. The question then becomes: In what sense can we say that Lacan thinks that there is a metalanguage? In answering this question I will present some evidence in support of the (hypo)thesis that Lacan does hold onto a conception of metalanguage - a quasi-transcendental conception - but that this is, paradigmatically, mathematics qua non-glottic writing. This line of inquiry generates at least two insights which I will highlight in the final part of the essay. First, I argue that it suggests a productive way of reading the upper left hand side of the graph of desire, as found in his text The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious.[1] More specifically, I argue that we can conceive the relation signifier<?>jouissance in terms of a notion that can be called formalised delimitation, a process offormalisation-to-the-limits. Secondly, and finally, I suggest that this notion of formalisation-to-the-limits carries with it implications for how we view the end of analysis, whether conceived in terms of 'crossing the fantasy', the passe, or the dissolution of transference love.

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