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The Reverse Of Psychoanalysis - How Far?

The Letter, Issue 24, Spring 2002, Pages 111 - 126


THE REVERSE OF PSYCHOANALYSIS - HOW FAR? A COMMENTARY ON DISCOURSE, KNOWLEDGE AND ENJOYMENT*

Patricia McCarthy


Introduction

In this brief article, my questions - to paraphrase Lacan - are preliminary to any possible theory of discourse! In that sense, I'm departing from the usual meaning given in English to l'Envers de la Psychanalyse, The Reverse of Psychoanalysis, Lacan's seminar of 1969-70. I am taking 'reverse' in its sense as a verb. To reverse is to return to where you've come from, to pick up something that you have left behind or to get a better look at something you've passed by too quickly. It's in that spirit that I'm reversing here. In fact I'm reversing to take a better look at discourse, knowledge and enjoyment, terms that are the main concerns of this seminar. The seminar itself which deals with the four discourses, the master's discourse, the university discourse, the hysteric's discourse and the analytic discourse is often quoted as representing the essence of a Lacanian teaching that goes beyond Freud. My effort here is to understand that position and judge its validity for myself. Also by way of introduction, I should explain that, for my part, working on this seminar is part of a continuing engagement with Lacan's seminars which has spanned the past thirteen years, where as a member of the Monday Night reading group here in St Camillus, we manage to seriously read one seminar a year. So my reading of Lacan's seminars began with The Formations of the Unconscious in 1988. Thirteen seminars later, it's hard to discern this current seminar as more exceptional than another, except to observe that following as it does d'Un Autre a l'autre, it appears less demanding than its predecessor - if only in the sense that it runs to 13 sessions rather than twenty-five sessions, the previous year. In fact I consider that the groundwork was done the previous year with the current seminar building on that. In addition I consider that this seminar can be seductive if taken on its own, in much the same way as the four discourses can, in a sense, stand alone, becoming things in themselves, becoming part of a Lacanian 'metalanguage .

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