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Schreber in L’Etourdit

The Letter, Issue 41, Summer 2009, Pages  115 - 127

Schreber in L’Etourdit

Tom Dalzell

This article examines Lacan's interpreting Schreber in terms of the “not all” of the formulae of sexuation. It demonstrates how a substitution of the exception and the masculine universal for the missing Name-of-the-Father and phallic signifier in “Schema I” sheds light on Schreber's “push-to-the- woman” and absence of phallic sense, but it also argues that Lacan did not equate the questioning of the exception in femininity with its foreclosure in psychosis.

Keywords: Schreber; L'Etourdit; foreclosure; exception; phallic sense


Having spent a year speaking about Schreber in his third seminar (1955- 1956) and developed his thinking there in “D'une question préliminaire” (1958), Lacan returns to Schreber in his enigmatic 1973 text, L'Etourdit.[1] He had already been speaking about there being “no sexual relationship” (“il n‟y a pas de rapport sexuel”) in “D'un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant” (1971), “...Ou pire” (1971-1972) and “Le savoir du psych- analyste” (1971-1972).[2] There he was seeking to move beyond binary biblical and philosophical conceptions of the relationship between men and women and - by means of logic - beginning to explain their lack of complementarity in terms of their different relations to the phallic function. While there might have been an “all men” who were subject to castration or the phallic function, there was no “all women”, since, on the feminine side, the phallic function was valid for “not all” of x. L'Etourdit takes Lacan's thinking on this “not-all” further.

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This issue of The Letter concentrates on Lacan's L'Etourdit from 1972, published in Scilicet in 1973. While Charles Melman had originally...


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