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The Third Generation of Desire.

The Letter, Issue 1, Summer 1994, Pages 117 - 135


William J. Richardson

Claudel! Why Paul Claudel? In a seminar entitled Transference[1], where Lacan introduces his long extrapolation on Claudel, the issue ought to be, after all, transference. I am referring, of course, to his Seminar VIII (1960-61) that goes by that single-word title. The long meditation on Plato's Symposium with which the Seminar begins already seems far­ fetched enough until one realizes that Lacan is using Plato's famous dialogue on love as a means of discussing love in psychoanalysis, i.e., transference love. In these terms, the analysis of Alcibiade's relationship to Socrates as a transferential one that Socrates handles in model fashion is both pertinent and illuminating. But Claudel? What can he tell us about psychoanalytic transference?

Yet Lacan devotes four sessions of the seiminar to a discussion of not one but three of Paul Claudel's plays, the famous Trilogy that includes L'Otage (The Hostage[2] [1911]), Le Pain dur (Stale Bread[3] [1918]) and Le Pere humilié (The Humiliated Father[4] [1919]). What relevance all this may have for the problem of transference and what gain there might be for us in struggling with it - these are the questions I wish to address here. The business is complex, and to keep matters manageable, I propose: to trace in as uncluttered a manner as possible the storyline that runs through the three plays; to discern Lacan's reading of them as distinct from Claudel's own; and to conclude by pointing out certain issues concerning desire that emerge from the discussion and remain for us to deal with.

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