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Revis(it)ing Repetition

The Letter, Issue 58, Spring 2015, Pages 79 - 84


Monica Errity

This paper seeks to uncover what lies behind Lacan’s conceptualisation of repetition as a ‘missed encounter with the real’ which he introduces in his 1964 seminar on the foundations of psychoanalysis. Through re-examining what Freud says about repetition in Beyond the Pleasure Principle it aims to give some foundation and grounding to what, on first reading, may appear enigmatic and elusive.

Keywords: repetition compulsion; pleasure principle; trauma; binding; death drive

In The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis Lacan makes the following statement about repetition; ‘What is repeated is always something that occurs... if by chance.’ [2] He then goes on to define chance as, ‘the real as occurs... as encounter - the encounter in so far as it may be missed, in so far as it is essentially the missed encounter.’[3]

Taken in isolation these words appear enigmatic and bewildering leaving us wondering how they are to be understood. Fortunately, Lacan doesn’t leave us completely in the dark. His frequent references to Freud suggest that before we can begin to understand what he, Lacan, is saying about repetition, we need to revisit Freud and revise, go over again (wiederholen) what he has said on the subject.

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