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The Pére-Visions of Dubliners

The Letter, Issue 5, Autumn 1995, Pages 68 - 90


Helen Sheehan

Lacan tells us in The Formations of the Unconscious (1957-58) that Freud, in his search for the Symbolic Origin and the Real Origin of the primitive chain in the history of the subject, finds these origins in his fundamental work A Child Is Being Beaten.[1]

Freud has shown that contrary to the general consensus, not that the price we must pay for life is death, but that in fact the reward for death is life. In more accurate Freudian terminology, there is at the beginning of all life fusion/liaison of the libidinal instincts, the life instincts with the death instincts, and that the evolution of the subject involves, at certain stages, the isolation of the death drive.

A Child Is Being Beaten is a testament to the decisive struggle engaged in by any future subject whatsoever. Lacan shows how Freud has isolated three crucial moments in the construction of the phantasy and how it is in fact this construction which is the determining point for a future speaking subject. The importance of this phantasy lies in the following five principal areas:

1. It underlines the permutations of the signifier.

2. It shows the consistency of the Imaginary.

3. It helps to explain the enigma of the desire of the mother.

4. It imposes (or fails to do so) the father as author of the law.

5. Finally it brings into play this crucial moment of passage when the Real of genitality becomes Symbolic.

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