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The Vas Difference. On Traversing the First Loop of L’Etourdit...

The Letter, Issue 41, Summer 2009, Pages  79 - 95


The Vas Difference On Traversing the First Loop of L’Etourdit...

Patricia McCarthy


This article suggests that in L'Etourdit, the neologism “Vas” has a resonance for Lacan which returns us to the vase of the optical schema. By means of a drawing, an attempt is made to drape this vase with the logical accoutrements of the phallic function and the four formulae. As an example of “ab-sens”, working with “Vas” allows us take seriously Lacan‟s urging to locate the sphere of action of the analytic discourse.

Keywords: Vas; optical schema; logic of the signifier; analytic discourse; ab-sens; phallic function

This paper expands on my presentation at the study day of one of the cartels of The Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis, ISLP. Held on May 9th 2009, the study day came of our attempt in the preceding academic session to traverse - not read, not make sense of, literally traverse in the sense of traversing very difficult terrain - the first half of Lacan's L'Etourdit. This text of Lacan's with its purposeful neologistic style, a text which according to Melman has “no imaginative grounding” has been likened to Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Trying to produce a paper out of it? Well, it's like wrestling with a giant octopus[1] where once one tentacle of thought has been subdued another comes to wrap itself round you! Approach with extreme caution and with a guide for company. The guide I would recommend has to be Christian Fierens' Lecture de L'Etourdit in much the same way John Bishop's Joyce's Book of the Dark might be considered the guide to Finnegans Wake. And yes, Fierens guided us also at our study day as, of course did the other contributors, Tom Dalzell, Cormac Gallagher, Tony Hughes and fellow members of ISLP.

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