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To work perchance to love

The Letter, Issue 33, Spring 2005, Pages 72 - 90


Carol Owens

To speak about love, Lacan says, is in itself an enjoyment, a jouis- sense.[1] So we must be enjoying ourselves today! And it is indeed at the level of the enjoyment that I want to focus our attention here on coupled- subjects who - for all that we may accept are - unrelated sexually, nonetheless persist in the direction of an enjoyment which they posit as commensurate with the couple-relationship. What I want to examine in particular are the ways in which the narration of couple-relationships may be said to abduce certain discourses, and in turn, the ways in which subjects take up a position in a discourse in order to provide themselves with a formula by which the sexual relationship may be written, and love, spoken.

But, love is impossible says Lacan, and the sexual relationship drops into the abyss of nonsense.

Zizek however has suggested that within the field of love, the love- object finds itself occupying a pre-given fantasy place, and that the role of this fantasy is to suggest a formula which makes up for the impossibility of love and the non-existent sexual relation.[2] Although as an aside in Seminar XXIII Lacan says that James Joyce and Nora have a sexual relationship, indeed he says 'it is a funny sexual relationship',[3] in Encore he is saying that the $ qua man 'never deals with anything by way of a partner but object a', which is the basis of the Lacanian formula for the fantasy, $ > a. He says: Men, women, and children are but signifiers. A man is nothing but a signifier. A woman seeks out a man qua signifier. A man seeks out a woman qua - that which can only be situated through discourse.4 A man as signifier only comes into play in the sexual relationship 'as castrated', in other words, insofar as he has a relation to phallic puissance. The $ who inscribes him/herself as Woman on the other hand, in the position of the not-all can have a relation to phallic jouissance, but that is not-all, there is more. She can choose between being in the phallic function or not being in it which Lacan describes as having a relation with the signifier of radical otherness (A)-

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