DIVISION REVIEW DIVISION A QUARTERLY PSYCHOANALYTIC FORUM
A QUARTERLY PSYCHOANALYTIC FORUM
BETWEEN TWO DEATHS DENT | Fong
NO.17 FALL 2017
BOOK REVIEWS ART
PAINTING SEX SILVERMAN/MINTER
NO.16 SUMMER 2017
SELTMAN | Gherovici | Steinkoler
MULTITUDES WELCOME SEIDEN | Whitman
THE MISSING SUBJECT
SALVAGE | Bassin
THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR PSYCHOANALYSIS & PHILOSOPHY 11.2016 ANY BODY ANYBODY: THE MATTER OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
PASS THE BODY
ON TRANSLATION REPRESENTING: UCS DEAN
THE THREE ESSAYS
THE LACAN-LAPLANCHE DEBATE
LICHTENSTEIN | BONNEVAL REDUX
THE ENIGMA DE VLEMINCK
LA LA SHOWDOWN RE LAPLANCHE
RE LACAN MILLER Exactitude WEBSTER/ Baby & COELEN Not a Poem GHEROVICI Bath SJÖHOLM Captain Fantasmatic
SAKETOPOULOU Enigma HARRIS La La STABERG Bat Question QUINDEAU Facets of the Other DEAN Refusing Choosing
P H O T O G R A P H Y This Issue
David LICHTENSTEIN, Editor
This is a special issue of DIVISION/ Review, much of it devoted to the November 2016 conference entitled Any Body, Anybody—The Matter of the Unconscious sponsored by the International Society for Psychoanalysis and Philosophy, the New School University in New York, and DIVISION/Review.
The title of the conference played on the multiple meanings both of Body and of Matter and indeed many of the papers sustained that multivalent character. The matter of the unconscious is thus both its theme and its substance. The theme of the unconscious is itself a curious idea. Are there distinct unconscious themes, or
can any forbidden wish be repressed and thereby enter the network of unconscious thought? Or are wishes forbidden only insofar as they touch upon certain themes? Is that where the body comes into play? Is it distinctly bodily thoughts, thoughts that evoke the body of the self and the body of the other, that motivate repression? Is this,
Official publication of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association
CONTENTS BOOK REVIEWS 4
Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism by Benjamin Fong
Cassandra B. Seltman
A Seriously Gay Lacan: The Laughing Analyst Lacan, Psychoanalysis, and Comedy editors: Patricia Gherovici, Manya Steinkoler
Steven David Axelrod, J. Todd Dean, William Fried, William MacGillivray, Marian Margulies, Bettina Mathes, Robin Ridless, Henry Seiden, Manya Steinkoler
Doris K. Silverman
The Sexiness of Marilyn Minter’s Oeuvre and its Relationship to Laplanche’s Theorizing ON POETRY
Henry M. Seiden
“Containing Multitudes”: Walt Whitman CLINIC
The Missing Alma
Ricardo Ainslie, Christina Biedermann, Chris Bonovitz, Steven Botticelli, Ghislaine Boulanger, Muriel Dimen, Patricia Gherovici, Peter Goldberg, Adrienne Harris, Elliott Jurist, Jane Kupersmidt, Paola Mieli, Donald Moss, Ronald Naso, Donna Orange, Robert Prince, Allan Schore, Robert Stolorow, Nina Thomas, Usha Tummala, Jamieson Webster, Lynne Zeavin WEB SITE EDITOR
An Interview of Donna Bassin
BOOK REVIEW EDITOR
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR PSYCHOANALYSIS AND PHILOSOPHY
ANY BODY, ANYBODY: THE MATTER OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
Body of the Drives, Bodies in Politics: Anonymous or Impersonal?
Signed N. O. Body: Writing the Body
The Body in the Procedure of the Pass
Naming Bodies: What Can Research on Feminicide Teach Us About Psychoanalytic Listening
Tim Maul DESIGN BY
Hannah Alderfer, HHA design, NYC
TRANSLATING THE THREE ESSAYS
Re-reading Freud’s Three Essays
Ulrike Kistner “Sucking” Words: Orality in Translation
Philippe Van Haute
Translating Trieb in the First Edition of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: Problems and Perspectives
LACAN-LAPLANCHE DEBATE 2016
DIVISION | REVIEW a quarterly psychoanalytic forum published by the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association, 2615 Amesbury Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27103. Subscription rates: $25.00 per year (four issues). Individual Copies: $7.50. Email requests: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail requests: Editor, Division/Review 80 University Place #5, New York, NY 10003 Letters to the Editor and all Submission Inquiries email the Editor: email@example.com or send to Editor, Division/Review 80 University Place #5, New York, NY 10003
Jon Todd Dean
Representing the Unconscious: Freud, Lacan, and Laplanche
Jens De Vleminck
The Death Instinct: Psychoanalysis’ Enigmatic Signifier? Rereading Laplanche, Rereading Freud
Introduction to the Debate
Structured Like Culture: Laplanche on the Translation of Parental Enigma
The Exactitude of the Signifier
The Bat Question
Not a Poem, nor a Parasite
The La/La Showdown
Patricia Gherovici & Jamieson Webster
Throwing Out the Baby and the Bathwater
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Facets of the Other
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from page 1 the psychosexual realm, the matter of the unconscious? These questions are addressed both implicitly and explicitly in many of the essays in this special issue. For example, consider the three essays by Kistner, Van Haute, and Westerink on the translation of Freud’s Three Essays and the origins of Freud’s idea about the psychosexual. But what is it that could be the matter of the unconscious in the other sense, that is, its substance? Does this question make any sense? Does the mind, whether conscious or unconscious have substance? This was a question Freud first approached in his Project for a Scientific Psychology and thus evokes, for some, ideas about the neurological correlates of mental activity. It is also a question that arose in French psychoanalysis through Lacan’s theory of the signifier as the material element of unconscious content. That theory and Jean Laplanche’s
elaboration and departure from Lacan’s original formulation is the back story for an old debate in French psychoanalysis, a debate to which we returned as part of the 2016 conference at the New School. Scholars and psychoanalysts from several countries and different backgrounds participated in the Lacan-Laplanche debate revisited and the results are printed here in their entirety. Indeed the current interest in Laplanche among English speaking analysts and especially his thinking about sexuality, the unconscious, and the infantile encounter with the others’ discourse is a thread that runs through many of the essays published in this issue, including those by Silverman, Todd Dean, and De Vleminck. The body in its multiple meanings is captured in the idea of anybody since there it means essentially the same thing as a person, while as any body the idea of a corporeal entity is implied that stands apart from the person as the subject of thought and
language. The essays by Alfandary, DavidMenard, McNulty, Marder, Gherovici, and Santos address these questions of a body and its body, extending even to the curious idea of nobody. In its originating documents of 2008, the founders of SIPP stated that
that holds our sharpened attention. This marooned down time is the mildly decadent sweet space between events Frame reserves for being his most productive. Depending on who is behind the lens, every camera is capable of transforming a nobody into a somebody, which Frame accomplishes as part of a larger, but more complex pictorial agenda. Frame’s people share a lean contemporary physical beauty and unstudied sense of self, owning whatever space they are in. They appear members of an oblique but not overly familial community inhabiting interiors of hotel-room minimalism with few reassuring reference points to time or place. Every image’s title requires reading to pinpoint our location on the globe; even if an individual’s style may read as “Eastern Bloc”, we could be anywhere. Frame’s highly original compositional skills are so much a natural state they can go unnoticed. He halts the viewfinder upon a single subject that signals his full attention; a youth reclines on a beach, we know he lies upon sand but it could be snow because nothing else matters but him in perpetuity. Frame’s companions do not always fall on the side of comfort: the series of New Directions book covers Frame produced for Roberto Bolaño’s often brutalist fiction unsettle and border on the delerious.
A floating man is masked in shadow, motor scooters trouble our sleep, that wielded revolver could be real or a “prop.” Both Frame and I were born in 1951 and the early 70’s was a great time to be a cultural sponge; too bad that Warhol was no longer in the “superstar” business, many positions could have been filled. Night life’s permissive spaces and art house cinema provided a romantic alternative universe to the glamour-deprived “white cube” world of galleries and the official avant-garde. Frame’s arresting use of black and white in DETOUR references “beat” photographer Robert Frank while his stark lighting derives from cinema’s silent era films, German Expressionism, Italian neorealism, Nouvelle Vague, underground and early no wave features by Jim Jarmusch and others. While the film still is not the site of discovery for Frame’s art, the stage with its blackouts and revolving sets certainly may be; I have come to regard Allen Frame’s DETOUR collection as shadow theatre for desirous adults. Allen Frame has been awarded the 2017-18 Rome Prize. www.allenframe.net, gittermangallery.com
“The Society seeks to cultivate relations between psychoanalysts who are also philosophers by training or practice, and philosophers who find in the questions initiated by Freud and his successors a source for the renewal of contemporary thought.” The renewal of psychoanalytic thought as an ongoing project of inquiry, never permitting the critical character of that thought to atrophy into an unyielding dogma is the working philosophy of DIVISION/Review as well. This special issue is a testament to that principle. z
On the Photography of Allen Frame Selecting images from DETOUR/ ALLEN FRAME (Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, 2003) involved engaging with a dark, elegant publication that draws a curtain on a world where sign languages of Eros are embedded within a languorous drift of grain. Frame’s CV as a photographer, educator, performer, and film producer could fill this allotted space; most significantly Frame is a surviving member of the 1970’s“Boston School” of artists and photographers whose historicization accelerated from the ongoing AIDS epidemic which so decimated its ranks. Its photographers include revered cultural figures such as David Armstrong, Mark Morrisoe, Jack Pierson, and Nan Goldin. Now mythic, they exemplified a louche but socially determined LGBTQ clique originating in Boston with branches in Provincetown, NYC, London, and Berlin during that fabled age of cheap rents, cheap international flights, and endlessly accommodating friends of friends. A detour redirects one off the expected physical or social route snapping him/ her out of reverie while alerting them to an immediate unknown. Maybe we pull over and roll down the window to get our bearings. If the detour is social, perhaps we settle back to regard this new set of people, our camera at the ready for the person or place
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Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism Loren DENT
The recent shifts in political and cultural landscapes of the United States and Western Europe—including the realization of populist and nationalist discourses withDeath and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism By Benjamin Fong New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 240pp., $60.00, 2016 in government, and heightened xenophobia and racism—have ushered in a renewed interest in the contributions of psychoanalytic theory to the public sphere. Such interest has varied from attempts to diagnose President Trump, to building on existing analytic thoughts on race, class, gender and domination, to interrogating the function of free speech. It is unsurprising, then, that among the returns to massenpsychologie is an effort such as Ben Fong’s Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism, which arrives on the scene to revive the dialogue between psychoanalysis and the Frankfurt School. Such a dialogue aims to interrogate the problem of how citizens come to actively participate in—even desire—their subjection. Fong’s project aims to resuscitate Freud’s underappreciated and ambiguous concept of the drive to mastery, which appears in the Gesammelte Werke as bemächtigungstrieb and bewältigungstrieb. Noting Freud’s tendency to collapse the terms, and finally to conflate them in 1920, Fong suggests clarifying two senses of mastery: 1) “a stability and equanimity that allows us to get through the day” and 2) “excessive and controlling stability that is brought at the expense of others” (Fong, 2016, p.1). It is the former sense of mastery, as a kind of skill or managing in the world with others, that Fong sees as especially promising in the context of a revitalized drive theory. Of particular interest to Fong is Freud’s introduction of the death drive in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920/1955). The model provided by Freud in this work is of life as a contingent, accidental perturbation of the inorganic, and a subsequent tendency to return to such a state of rest—a zero point. In an attempt to master the frustrations and traumas of living, this organism develops a protective shield to receive stimuli in a manageable way, and may repeat experiences in an effort to bind overwhelming excitations. Despite the immanent potential of the death drive, Fong finds Freud’s elaboration ultimately insufficient, citing the familiar complaints of biologism, theoretical
inconsistency, and phylogenic speculation. Instead, Fong turns to Hans Loewald’s developmental theory in an effort to “bind” it to Freud (Fong, 2016, p.42). Loewald’s ontogenic theory, via Fong, surrounds the conflict between union and independence. In navigating the frustrations of reality, the emerging subject wishes to return to a primordial state without boundaries, to rid experience of the tension of separateness, akin to Freud’s death drive (Fong dubs this the tension-within position). A crucial developmental moment for Loewald is internalization of the object, leading necessarily to mourning, but also to a sense of independence and autonomy, with defined ego, id, and reality (Fong dubs this the tension-between position). This separateness and differentiation presents the subject simultaneously with fear of, but also wish for, the original “primordial density” of union with the object. In Fong’s reading of Loewald, the subject is caught between two possible ego deaths: a loss of separateness through union, or the development of a rigid, defensive, lifeless ego, guarding against this union. Fong suggests that it is “between these two deaths” that mastery is found visà-vis Loewald’s concept of the superego. For Loewald, the superego is not merely the agency of prohibition, conscience, and criticism, but also oriented toward the future, of what one can become. Internalization of the superego allows the subject to stage psychically the tension between the ego and reality, thereby mediating the conflict between differentiation and union. Armed with a psychoanalytic theory that defines mastery as negotiating the tension between autonomy and union (read: death drive) with the help of the superego, Fong turns his attention to the work of the Frankfurt School, specifically Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse. He begins with a chapter on the function of the culture industry in late industrial society, developed by Horkheimer and Adorno in their monumental Dialectic of Enlightenment (2002/1944). With Horkheimer and Adorno, Fong sees in the mass production of culture a medium through which capitalism manipulates subjects. However, Fong refuses to follow the temptation of Horkheimer and Adorno to denigrate the gratifications provided by the culture industry as merely transient and false. Instead, psychoanalysis allows one to appreciate the actual psychic enjoyment afforded by mass culture, specifically the partial death drive gratification of “losing oneself ” in television, Internet browsing, 4
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and the seemingly endless possible distractions from the deadening reality, boredom, and physical exhaustion that accompanies contemporary labor. For Fong, the very efficacy of the culture industry is that it actually gratifies the wish for eliminating tension (Loewald’s original union, Freud’s death drive). However, it does so at a psychic cost of weakening “the authority responsible for critical self-reflection” (Fong, 2016, p.100), the superego. Returning to Horkheimer and Adorno’s position, Fong notes the progressive erosion of internalized psychic authority by the strains of adaptation, exhaustion, and temporary gratifications of late capitalism. The internal tension between ego, id, and superego (the tension-within position of separateness and autonomy) is collapsed into a precarious tension between a hardened, defensive ego and the demands of late capitalist reality. How might resistance be thought, should the critique of the culture industry not lean on a fantasized return to a mythical pre-Enlightenment era? Fong provocatively suggests “a practical training in the exercise of a critical capacity that takes over from the old superego the task of limiting the ego” (Fong, 2016, p.104). This appears to involve, for Fong, a deliberate fostering of psychic conflict to restore internal tension and critical capacity, thus “reclaiming the experiential satisfaction of living outside one’s own conceptual projections” (Fong, 2016, p.104). Fong emphasizes that such a revived superego is not merely the internalized paternal authority of Freud, but rather the wish to become of the superego in Loewald. Such a re-invented superego as psychic mastery would seemingly be both limiting and critical of the rigid, narcissistic ego of late capitalism, but also pregnant with possibility and open to the future. In the final chapter, Fong draws on the work of Marcuse to highlight how technical mastery in late capitalism achieves a kind of sublimated omnipotence (Freud’s “prosthetic god”). What is remarkable for Fong about late capitalist subjection is the paradoxical dual offering of, on the one hand, “losing oneself ” in death drive gratifications (vis-à-vis the culture industry), and on the other, omnipotence in the form of technical mastery. Far from arguing that technology is inherently linked to subjection, Fong suggests that we can perhaps reimagine its possibilities, but only after working through the psychic attachment to technical mastery, “coming to a greater consciousness about that determination” (Fong, 2016, p.124).
Fong’s revisiting of the conversation between the first generation of the Frankfurt School and psychoanalysis is a welcome catalyst for reflecting on the contemporary political and cultural moment. Frankfurt School theorists such as Adorno and Marcuse were drawn to Freud to offset a naïve (pseudo)-Marxism that understood domination in terms of the masses being duped by ideology. Fong offers a compelling psychoanalytic retort to any theory that reduces late capitalist subjection to deception by false needs, preferring instead an analysis of actual drive gratifications that sustain modern alienation. However, there is a sense that Fong’s deferral of sexuality in this work is a theoretical cost of his project of mapping of Loewald’s ontogeny of negotiating union and differentiation onto Freud’s presumptive phylogenic dual drive theory. In his conclusion, Fong cops to postponing sexuality and promising an “unwieldy addendum” to the present book, noting that his primary interest for Death and Mastery is a “developmental logic” (Fong, 2016, p.131) of the drives. However, such a kicking of the sexual can down the theoretical road seemingly colludes with a “going astray,” to use Laplanche’s idiom (1999), in the parceling of sexuality, binding, and Eros in Freud’s late drive theory. As Laplanche
has observed (e.g., 2004), the risk of such conflation is a forgetting of the radical implications of infantile sexuality, which is intrinsically fragmented, partial, unbound, and without genital aim. Instead, Laplanche suggests, we should speak of a sexual life drive and a sexual death drive, both exclusively in fantasy life, the former seeking to bind and synthesize (i.e., the genital relation) and the latter seeking unbinding and free flow of libido (i.e., infantile sexuality). In a fiery essay on sexuality and social taboos, Adorno (1951/1974) argues, following Freud’s thesis in Civilization and its Discontents (1930/1961), that contemporary social life is premised on the integration of sexuality in the form of genital relations. However, again observed by Freud, traces of partial, infantile sexuality remain. For Adorno, it is the tension between ideal genital relations and the residual partial drives that bourgeois life cultivates, yet at the expense of both; partial drives are integrated for the purpose of domestication through the tension they create with genital, reproductive sexuality. Hence Freud’s reference to the various “techniques of living” in Discontents, aimed at managing the drives, not to eliminate them, but rather to incorporate them. It is worthwhile to juxtapose this approach to the Fongian-Loewaldian take on mastery, through which the modern subject
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navigates the conflict between the urge to union/primordial density and differentiation/separation with the help of a rejuvenated inner authority to curb the ego (i.e., superego). There is an apparent affinity between Freud’s description of techniques of living that help the subject manage the conflicting demands of drives and culture, and the various technologies of real, yet partial, gratifications of the drive via the culture industry. The most striking difference, however, is that Freud retained, even insisted on, the survival of the super-ego, whereas for Fong, via the Frankfurt School, the realities of late capitalism have eroded that agency, reducing the subject to a near deadened, hyper-adaptive ego, sapped of vitality. However, an undoubtedly central theoretical and clinical question that remains surrounds the function of guilt, which for Freud was imbued with the sexual, staged in a sado-maschosism by the superego far above and beyond mere prohibitions or internalization of the law. Guilt, which continues to be an albatross for many analysands, and its relation to late capitalism is worth exploring. Finally, some comments on temporality and (social) action are pertinent. Fong’s appropriation of Loewald’s future-oriented superego hints at a psychoanalytically-informed political task of resuscitating inner authority, reflection, and observation of
the ways in which late capitalism siphons the drive to alienate subjects from a critical self-mastery. This is reminiscent of the centrality of historicity and timing for Frankfurt School scholars, most notably Adorno and Benjamin. In Walter Benjamin’s messianic time, the promise of emancipatory action emerges in an “arrest of happening” (2003, p.396), rupturing teleological history in a flash where past opens up a space for a future. For Adorno, it is in seizing of a jolt of the impulse, prior to the ego and bound to the body (what he dubs the addendum or additional factor), that something like a true spontaneous act of freedom may emerge. This moment is when that which had been repressed (the partial drives, unbound/infantile sexuality, the object, the non-identical) returns and interrupts the subject in the now (1966/1973). Psychoanalysts are familiar with such moments, which are ripe for marking with interventions; they are the moments of the unconscious opening, and timing is everything. At the same time, the
timing of interventions raises the ethical and political question of whether a sustained, “conscious critical capacity,” as advocated by Fong (p.105), is truly what is mutative in social action, or instead, the more effective opportunities lie in the seizing of a moment when the past opens in the present—like an “internal foreign body” (Laplanche, 1999) in the now. Such a politics would be informed by the nachträglichkeit of the subject (Freud’s deferred action or afterwardness), so crucial to the psychoanalytic act. Fong’s first book will undoubtedly be received by both clinicians and social theorists as an incitement for renewing the enormously productive dialogue between psychoanalysis and critical theory. His masterful revival of the death drive as an essential construct in reflecting on the subjective and social dilemmas of late capitalism is truly unique, particularly in a time of a psychoanalytic pluralism that has reduced drive theory to a distant trope. The psychoanalytic community will benefit greatly
from Fong’s continued development of this project and the challenges it poses to clinical work and politico-social engagement. z REFERENCES Adorno, T. W. (1973). Negative dialectics (E. B. Ashton, Trans.). London, UK: Routledge. (Original work published 1966) Adorno, T. W. (1974). Minima moralia (Edmund Jephcott, Trans.). London, UK: Verso. (Original work published 1951) Benjamin, W. (2003). On the concept of history. In H. Eiland and M. Jennings (Eds.), Walter Benjamin: Selected writings, volume 4, 1938-1940. Cambridge, MA and London, UK: The Bellknap Press of Harvard University Press. Fong, B. (2016). Death and mastery: Psychoanalytic drive theory and the subject of late capitalism. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Freud, S. (1955). Beyond the pleasure principle. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 18, pp.1-64). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1920) Freud, S. (1961). Civilization and its discontents. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 21, pp. 64–148). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1930) Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T. W. (2002). Dialectic of enlightenment (Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, Ed., and Edmund Jephcott, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. (Original work published 1944) Laplanche, J. (1999). Essays on otherness (John Fletcher, Ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
A Seriously Gay Lacan: The Laughing Analyst Psychoanalysis is often accused of being mere repetition of old jargon, Oedipal reductions, and the discursive rules of Freud and Lacan. The session becomes a Lacan, Psychoanalysis, and Comedy Patricia Gherovici and Manya Steinkoler (Eds.) Cambridge,UK: Cambridge University Press, 265pp., $99.99, 2016 repetition of theory, and theory a repetition of the session. In Stein’s 1934 lecture “Portraits and Repetition,” Stein remarks, “Is there repetition or is there insistence. I’m inclined to believe there is no such thing as repetition” (p.288). Something of this question (that characteristically lacks a question mark) resonates in the work of Lacan. Insistence is the point of entry for Lacan in his “Seminar on the Purloined Letter.” Our inquiry has led us to the point of recognizing that the repetition automatism (Wiederholuangszwang) finds its basis in what we have called the insistence of the signifying chain. We have elaborated that notion itself as a correlate of the ex-sistence (or: eccentric place) in which we must necessarily locate the subject of the unconscious if we are to take Freud’s (1966) discovery seriously. Lacan reads Edgar Alan Poe’s story as an illumination of Freud’s repetition compulsion. The insistence here has to do with what is beyond the pleasure principle. If
we return to Stein, that is to say, repetition must bring with it difference. Perhaps this is why we have the old Latin saying, “repetition is the mother of all learning” (and its less precise modern platitude, “practice makes perfect”). A psychoanalysis is contingent on this truth. It is well known that repetition is not just the vehicle for analysis but also for comedy. The mechanisms of displacement and condensation detailed first in Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams appear six years later in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. When we repeat we condense and displace; it is why we both laugh and dream. We all experience the play of suspense and release in the multiples of a joke (a priest, a rabbi, and a monk…). Repetitions in treatment can appear as tragic deadlocks or else farces met with resounding laughter. What makes some repetition comical, some humorless, and some disturbing or enigmatic? This question is probed in a new collection of essays Lacan, Psychoanalysis, and Comedy, edited by Patricia Gherovici and Manya Steinkoler, that reads repetitions diversely across psychoanalysis, literature, and aesthetics. The first half of the collection is geared more toward clinicians, utilizing case studies and drawing heavily from Freud and Lacan in a discussion of laughter itself. The second half of the book appeals 6
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Cassandra B. SELTMAN
to an academic readership, providing a Lacanian analysis of some of the comedy big-hitters from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to Henry James to one of the earliest comedies, the Bible. This new collection evades any dull repetition of clichés in favor of a fresh and invigorating revivification of analysis for strained contemporary times. The essays rather perform the task of aestheticized repetition akin to Stein’s famous “a rose is a rose is a rose.” A repetition with difference, beauty, and freshness. As poet Ann Lauterbach said of Stein, “A rose, after all, is still only a rose, but it smells sweeter when there are three of them.” When a phrase appears in a scene or beat and then reappears in a later scene it is called a callback, and is one of the most common techniques used in comedy and improv. This same callback technique may play a central role in session, when a phrase reappears in a different context from a session days, weeks, months, or even years prior. The callback, as any self-reference, begins to develop a culture and eventually a norm for the space or text. Is it this uncanny return that makes us laugh, the unconscious that tickles us and our patients? Furthermore, what are the implications of the laughter? Are comedy and repetition subversive or complicit? Clinically, analysts Carol Owens and Jamieson Webster struggle in their
chapters with the question of distinguishing between subversive laughter and simply “laughing off.” When does “nervous laughter” act as a defense mechanism to avoid difficult topics, and when is laughter an ingenious way to “outwit” the harsh prohibitions that keep the unconscious concealed? When is repetition simply rumination? Perhaps rumination is a repetition that tries to evade variation and evolution. Owens makes the important point that the superego does not prohibit pleasure, as it is often accused of doing, but “pushes the subject into situations of transgressive enjoyment.” The subject’s response to the coercive imperative to enjoy is an experience of jouissance, and more often than not a feeling of suffering. It may make all the difference whether the laughter is a response to a coercive imperative or an opening of a new space to not enjoy, an ironic irreverence toward enjoyment. Comedy is now more than ever placed front and center on the political stage. In his interview with Bill Maher, ultra-conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos states, “people police comedy because
they cannot control it. There’s nothing a tyrant hates more than the sound of laughter.” I couldn’t help but think of Donald Trump’s outrage at Saturday Night Live’s parody of him. Bill Maher responds, “because when you laugh, you know it’s true.” The implication here is that comedy can be dangerous in its relation to truth and power. One could argue that when you laugh you know something true has been stumbled upon, the referent of the “its” is where the messiness comes in. Maher and Yiannopoulos both laugh during the interview; does this mean they’re in any kind of political agreement? It may mean simply they are tickled by this difference; neither figure is humorless. In Comedy, Jean-Michel Rabaté discusses the deadly consequences that come with a refusal to laugh, as seen in the case of Charlie Hebdo, where the levity of caricature became fatal. On the other hand, Carol Owens strays from jokes, comedy, and capital to the humors themselves, and the idea of humorlessness. Owens details the evacuations of the bulimic and the historical basis of both dry
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and wet humor. In this sense, ;the cure for the bulimic may truly be humor, and the retainment of the humors. Does laughter and repetition have the power to reveal truth? Philosopher Simon Critchley argues that “art’s dirty secret is inauthenticity all the way down, a series of repetitions and enactments; fakes that strip away the illusion of reality in which we live and confront us with the illusory character of reality” (p.236). The epilogue of Gherovici and Steinkoler’s collection, “He who laughs last, laughs last,” is devoted to Critchley’s discussion of repetition in relation to Richard Prince and Prince’s notes on jokes. Critchley is careful to remember that there is always a rem(a)inder in a repetition, a leftover, which Lacan would call a kernel of the real and Critchley attributes to the fact of our own mortality. This remainder is presumed to be indivisible, and therefore more “real”; a remainder insists but cannot be duplicated. Critchley argues that Prince reveals an inauthentic enactment, which begs the question of what an authentic enactment might be. Perhaps what we are confronted with
in good art is simply the futility of our own need to repeat, and this makes us chuckle (e.g., “I laugh so that I don’t cry”). The analytic session, like the comic scenario, often aims to induce a crisis in institutional authority which sets off the development of new relationship to meaning, and an encouragement of disobedience. Geoff Boucher discusses this crisis, using Žižek’s category of the “crisis in symbolic authority” to examine tragicomedy in the form of a Lacanian rereading of Richard Wheeler’s Freudian understanding of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Boucher uses a historical perspective to analyze on a macro level what happens to the cultural formations when the superego runs amok. One could argue on a more clinical level that every psychoanalysis is a tragicomedy happening in the consulting room. At its best, the humor in the repetition induces an existential crisis in one’s belief in an authority, whether it be a father, a mother, a president. Despite this romanticization, comedy may not always be disruptive. Continental philosopher Henri Bergson discusses laughter as a socially regulatory behavior. We laugh at old-fashioned clothes but not fashionable clothes. Bergson argues that laughter belongs always to the group, never to the individual, and reinforces the established sameness of the group. Historically, Greek comedy had everything to do with class, and the audience of a higher class laughing at the lower. It solidifies social membership and reifies the laws of the hierarchy (Bergson, 2009). Both Bergson and Mladen Dolar (2005) believe the mechanical nature of repetition to be the source of its humor. We laugh when a person appears as a thing. In this sense, repetition dehumanizes. A psychoanalysis and a work of comedy deal in the same currencies: repetition and jouissance. In her contribution, psychoanalyst and writer Jamieson Webster discusses the dreamwork in a particular analysis that begs the question of where repetition belongs and how it operates in the game of jouissance. Webster places repetition as a “pivot” between humor and tragedy, her essay itself a pivot in the middle of the collection. She highlights the difference between the repetition of a need and the need for repetition, the former landing one in the imaginary and the latter along the line of the symbolic and the real. One may repeat an impossible demand over and over in the hopes the demand will be granted. However, as in the case of a compulsion, the need can never be satiated as it is the need to repeat itself. Webster and Critchley chant the same thesis, that each repetition brings with it difference. For Freud, this difference may reveal a displacement which has concealed the “original” repressed material.
One may wonder if humor and irony have any subversive power after they have been so thoroughly co-opted into a capitalist system, recouped to sell us Hondas and life insurance. It is easy to demonize capitalism as corrupting the subversive nature of humor, but what if the unconscious was a capitalist from the start? In Gherovici and Steinkoler’s collection, Jean-Michel Rabaté states that Freud’s premise begins with the idea that laughter is produced through good spending, or rather good saving, such as Freud’s famous portmanteau, “famillionarily” (1905/1960, p.161). However, beyond brevity is thrift, and beyond thrift is excess. And here Marx, Lacan, and Freud meet and cross paths. If as Freud says the unconscious is a capitalist, Lacan poses the question of the meaning of the capitalist’s laughter. Rabaté points out the capitalist laughs because he is “both exposing his trick and enacting it.” In doing this, he succeeds because he does it so obviously. The phrase that comes to mind is “hidden in plain sight.” By exhibiting the secret, the secret is kept. The paradox between the verbalized and the enacted dimension sustain a tension without collapse, and in this tension the game of capitalism and jouissance can be surreptitiously played. Although not so surreptitiously. The coincidental publication of Critical Inquiry’s new volume titled “Comedy Has Issues” (Berlant & Ngai, 2017) shows the relevant charge of this issue today. Editors Lauren Berlant and Sianne Ngai include some of the same authors (including Alenka Zupančič and Critchley) to explore the high-intensity stakes of what is or is not “funny.” Is there a distinction between true and false comedy, or otherwise put, subversive and conservative comedy? Where is the unfunniness among the demand for permanent carnival, and why is comedy, more than other forms, so dangerous? Berlant and Ngai understand that comedy has to do with enjoyment. And enjoyment, as a psychoanalyst will tell us, is a very serious thing. Read in conjunction with Gherovici and Steinkoler’s collection, there’s indication that comedy may be an important field for continued investigation for affect theorists, psychoanalysts, and literary theorists alike. In Comedy, Danny Nobus looks closely at the tautology of gaiety, riffing off Lacan’s pronouncement, “je sui gai.” Indeed, the work of all the included authors is infused with gaiety, the love of same for same, as well as a markedly promiscuous relationship to art and culture. Never hands-off or humorless, these thinkers contribute to the larger project of examining the aestheticization of analysis. Webster’s work crosses over with social media and popular culture, Critchley with the ideas of social media as a medium, and 8
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Jean-Michel Rabaté with visual art and poetry. In aesthetic practice, repetition can be a way of finding one’s center of gravity, even in the practice of writing a review, a piece which is by nature tautological. Gherovici and Steinkolor’s collection moves both vertically and horizontally—gliding framework to framework, breaking frame as one does in comedy, and of course, riding jouissance all the way down. The collection builds on itself beautifully, laying down and picking back up threads of thought as they appear on divergent surfaces and contexts. It has a way of exploding comedy into its many parts—the wit, the surplus, the humors, the joke. The wit, the surplus, the humors, the joke. Oh, and the repetition. So after all is said and done, can humor subvert or disturb? Most importantly for clinicians, can it cure? We’ve all heard the platitude, “laughter is the best medicine.” Owens states, “If for Critchley humor is the cure, and for [Jacques-Alain] Miller irony is the best model to conceptualize the psychoanalytic cure, then for Lacan the only cure—strictly speaking—is desire” (p.123). The shadow of the psychoanalytic cure runs through the two most clinical chapters of the collection. The consensus among the authors seems to be a shift in the jouissance in the patient—the opening of an ability to not enjoy. In her discussion of the British TV series ‘allo ‘allo, Mladen Dolar comments on a repeating line in the script (“Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once”). She writes, “And here, I think, is the gist of repetition: its clockwork precision and yet its unpredictability, its surprise; one gets surprised by what is utterly expected” (p.197). This paradoxically surprising expectability can become a point of relief in sessions. This lively new collection points to a way for analysts, following the lessons of Stein and Lacan, to tease out the insistence of the analysand in instances first viewed as static repetition. In this sense, the project of psychoanalysis is not a search for meaning but rather a making of meaning—a meaning that builds with every expected surprise. z REFERENCES Berlant, L., & Ngai, S. (2017). Comedy has issues. Critical Inquiry, 43(2), 233-249. Bergson, H. (2009). Laughter. New York, NY: Atropos. Dolar, Mladen. Comedy and its double. In Robert Pfaller (Ed.), Stop that comedy! On the subtle hegemony of the tragic in our culture. Vienna, Austria: Sonderzahl, 2005. Freud, S. (1953). The interpretation of dreams. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 4, pp. 5071048). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1900) Freud, S. (1960). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious (J. Strachey, Ed. and Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1905) Lacan, J. (2007). Écrits: The first complete edition in English (Bruce Fink, Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton (Original work published 1966) Stein, G. (1998). Portraits and repetition. In Gertrude Stein: Writings 1932-1946 (Catharine R. Stimpson and Harriet Chessman, Eds.). New York, NY: Library of America. (Original work published 1935)
The Sexiness of Marilyn Minter’s Oeuvre and its Relationship to Laplanche’s Theorizing Doris K. SILVERMAN
Marilyn Minter, a gifted painter and photographer, now has a show at the Brooklyn Museum curated by Bill Arning and Elissa Auther and called Pretty/Dirty.1 Her work is unusual. In its raw, primitive way she manages to demonstrate her preoccupation with perverse sexuality. Of course perverse sexuality can be consciously on display, as in Minter’s artistry, however, Laplanche (1970, 1987, 1992, 2011, 2015), whose theory I want to link to Minter’s work, maintained that perversion exists in all of us in the form of our unconscious infantile sexuality. Minter’s overt display captures our more typical unconscious fantasies, that is, fantasies that are usually unavailable or barely discerned. They are felt and express the raw, rudimentary images from our early lives. Her creative achievements allow her to transform her unconscious desires and fears into explicit presentations. It is what Freud and Laplanche have both called sublimations, and what Kris (1952) labeled as
can be derived from therapeutics. This paper is an attempt to capture some of his ideas as represented in the artistic work of a talented painter with a disruptive history. I have chosen to discuss Laplanche’s ideas in relation to Minter’s work for a couple of reasons. First, he underscores the importance of sexuality in its earliest form, namely infantile sexuality. He has brought Freud’s psychosexuality back and I hope it may again become a focal interest for psychoanalysts. Second, early parental seduction, the experience Freud initially presented (Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, 1963), is significant to Laplanche. Minter reflects Laplanche’s views in her paintings. Although she has apparently managed to overcome her earlier maladapted behavior, we see derivatives of her past that are expressed in repeated perverse images which dominate her oeuvre. In her exhibition we are captured by our own excited stimulation as well as revolted by some of her imagery. Her artistic endeavors
John and Paul, Atlanta
regression in the service of the ego. Minter demonstrates artistically what she experiences viscerally and imagistically as she emerged from her troubled, pathological background, which is characterized by considerable trauma in her earlier life and which will be documented later in this paper. She creatively transformed her dysfunctional early life and wove her experiences into works of art. Laplanche offered no clinical examples to demonstrate how his theory is observed or 1. For more information about this exhibition of Marilyn Minter’s work, see the URL www.MarilynMinter.net.
are distinguished by what they elicit in her viewers (Minter, 2015). Contemporary feminists view gender as socially constructed (Butler, 2006; Dimen, 1991; Goldner, 1991; Harris, 2003); And, in addition, that an accent on an exclusively binary emphasis for female experience loses the multiplicity and fluidity of female selfhood (Diamond, 2003a, 2003b). Nonetheless, Minter has done just that in her focus on characteristic female iconography. In this view she is an essentialist; she appears to be saying, “This is women; women are sex objects. 9
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Their lives are all about sex.” Simultaneously, she illuminates the hierarchical features of male patriarchy when she shows how men envision abjection in women. Furthermore, in her binary declaration she can also be considered as resisting her defined gender space by illustrating, as a woman, iconography that satisfies the male gaze (Butler, 1988). Thus, in a pornographic manner, she exhibits a painting of multiple lipstick mouths licking on a sloppy, gooey erect penis. White paint drips throughout reminding the viewer of ejaculate. In this extreme, outrageous form, male dominance and female objectification and subordination is comedic. Binary thinking still exists among both sexes and it is often harsh and condemning of women. Betty Thomkins (2017, p.86) reported sending out requests on two occasions (2002 and 2013) to both men and women for commentary on words and phrases that characterize women. She found three words most frequently reported both times, “mother, bitch, slut.” The degradation of women by members of both sexes suggests the continuity of heterosexist stereotypes in our patriarchal culture. Minter captures this misogynistic view in her paintings. Yet, the very depiction of women’s fierce passion, presented in gorgeous, elegant coloration, confuses the viewer. It might suggest that Minter is asserting women’s erotic power and it is frightening. Both parts of this idea can be reflected in her provocative displays of body parts of women. Her work reflects the conventions of fashion photography, as well as women’s subjugation via pornographic photography. It captures the inner anxious, tormented, sometimes subjugated experiences of women and addresses their sexuality. She wants to depict the Janus-faced idea of the “smuttiness” of female sexuality as well as its “ravishing beauty” (Wortham, 2017). She can highlight the wrinkles, skin irruptions, and sweatiness on unadorned soiled parts of the female form and the transformations, through much effort, via what she calls “constructions” that conceal blightedness. Women work hard at their sexy magnetism. Further examples of the dual features of her communications reflect both her cruelty and her pleasure. She discusses a baby in a painting (displayed on a video) who is flooded with silver paint on top of his head and face. (Babies are not typically depicted by her. She noted that she never wished to have them.) She comments on this, “He looks like he’s going to die, and then pure joy.” For her it is “ecstasy and pleasure” (Minter, 2011, December 9, Salon 94, Bowery). She
describes her insistence to a studio model that she put pearls into her mouth, but she wants to include so many baubles so that her model “gags” on them (Hoban, 2017). Here, as Laplanche suggests, there is pleasure in pain (Laplanche, 1970, 2011). These two features are within her and in her identification with the model and baby (Freud, 1919/1955). Unlike the perfect illusion of beauty and fashion for women, the typically posed and photo-shopped unblemished faces and bodies, Minter wants to show the underbelly of glamour and fashion. Whereas she is involved with the female body, and especially its enticing eroticism, she illustrates fractionated body parts. She paints parts of faces that reveal the flawed follicles, multiple freckles, messy mascara, the stray hairs, pimples, scars, and stains. The fragmented body parts are outsized and overwhelming. The bulging mouth is filled with teeth or it is a globular, wideopen maw filled with pearls, a huge, violent flailing tongue, voracious and all-consuming, alarming in its cavernous depths. The massive, voyeuristic pleasure of the all-seeing eye she displays instead becomes frightening. As Arning opines, “All body parts when isolated and enlarged to this degree are monstrous” Minter, 2015, p.20). Yet, the large canvas with its many-layered enamel paint is typically a well-executed piece of artistry. She beautified the lascivious fragmented parts of the sexual body amid a wash of lush, vibrant, dazzling color. It is mean, nasty, and dirty and simultaneously enticing and excitingly beautiful. It is Pretty/Dirty. Minter believes that “women didn’t own sexual imagery. They weren’t allowed to have any. They weren’t even allowed to have images of pleasure. Women’s sexuality “frightens people.” (The Lenny Interview, 2016). Even everyday ordinary experiences such as food preparation are made pornographic as she slices, dices, drips, and transforms various succulent food items into a display that signals sexual imagery. She labels this group of paintings “food porn.” Her depiction of female masturbation can elicit foul, nasty subjective feelings as polished fingernails linger on prickly, disordered, flyaway black hairs; or parts of vaginas, strapped, chained, tortured, possessed, and depicted in various masochistic displays. These perverse images both excite and repel the viewer. She fetishizes the feet and toes in a number of her works. A video of a pole dancer shows the fleshy, large feet adorned in bejeweled stiletto heels. They are garishly decorated with various cheap baubles and look shoddy. We see dirty toes and feet on a wet, dripping, soaked canvas. The nails of the dancer are chipped, and nasty and splashes of silver paint ooze and dribble all over the canvas. Yet, it feels sexy. It is an erotic dance that the feet are engaged in. The very slovenly sullied features
of these outrageous toes remind us of dirty sexuality, aspects of eroticism that are rarely mentioned and not produced on canvas. How does her work relate to Laplanche’s theory? In this paper I present some of Laplanche’s relevant ideas. Laplanche, a French theoretician, is an admiring adherent of Freud’s theory, having perused it in an indepth critical exploration; however, he also notes where he thinks Freud went astray. Thus, while he agrees with Freud that infantile sexuality is powerfully important in early development and it is the source of our unconscious sexuality, Laplanche does not believe that infantile sexuality is biological in origin. For Freud, all the mother’s ardent love and ministering arouses the child’s pre-given inborn sexual instinct (Freud, 1910/1957). For Laplanche the child’s unconscious sexuality develops in the infant in relation to the other. The other can be any caregiver who has a dominant place in providing for the infant’s vital needs. We can think of a split in the primary caregiver’s function for the child, the one who is a provider of the child’s self-preservative needs, an attachment figure for the child, and the other who provides ambiguous information about unconscious sexuality and fantasy in the infant. Both are important others for the child providing real and obscure communications to the infant. Laplanche wanted to rescue and further develop the seduction theory of sexuality and to illuminate the role of transmission from any significant caregiving other into the child. He has pursued this theory because he believed Freud should have continued to advance his initial seduction theory rather than abandon it as he wrote about in a letter to Fliess (Masson, September 21, 1987). According to Laplanche, the parent, nurse, or mother, the latter the typical caregiver, during her ministering to her child, is unconsciously transmitting messages to her child. Along with the mother’s genuine communications she offers undecipherable messages coming from her own unconscious sexuality and communicated to her infant. Laplanche calls these enigmatic messages (Laplanche, 1992) because they are compromised, opaque messages in the mother and implanted in her infant. The child she cares for stirs the child within her, and this latter child is besotted by her own implanted infantile sexuality. It is the primacy of her infantile sexual wishes, and, of course, her adult desires, that gets transmitted to the child, and initiates the child own unconscious infantile sexuality. Sexuality here refers to the pre-genital sexual organization, what Freud also referred to as the “component sexual instincts” (Freud, 1905/1953) which make the child into a little pervert. This seductive situation is a primary situation that occurs in all of us and initiates our ubiquitous human, perverse unconscious sexuality and is what we implant 10
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in our offspring. Laplanche called this occurrence our “fundamental anthropological situation”; (earlier he labeled this “the primal situation”, 1987, p.71). Part of this process is the experience of the infant, as a receiver of such bewildering, obscure communications. The child’s on-going curiosity, and wishes to make the ambiguous messages meaningful, works at translation (Laplanche, 1970, 1987, 1992, 1999, 2011). Laplanche suggested that these communications get transmitted to the child mainly through the mother’s non-verbal interactions: her ministrations of care, and nursing, her gestures, facial and body responses, and sometimes through her verbal responses as well. Whereas the inquisitive child works at understanding, not everything gets translated. The mother’s messages are fragmented, derivative, condensed, and compromised. It is the non-translatable aspects, the “residues”, the remainders of these messages that constitute the child’s primal repression—the child’s unconscious. These non-translatable parts, their unconscious fantasies remain like a “thorn” (Scarfone, 2013) in the body of the child and thereby push for increased understanding and meaning making. The enigmatic communications provide a sense of an alien experience within the child. The implantation has a painful effect upon the child because it can feel strange, yet imperative “like a splinter in the skin” (Laplanche, 1999, p.44) and, according to Laplanche, the emphasis on pain is the beginning of masochism for the child. More explicitly, the mother’s “breaking into” the infant with her excessive messages, her intrusiveness and excitations which stir within her and agitate her infant who is open and dependent. This process begins the infant’s experience of “originary masochism” (Laplanche, 1999, p.44-45). Such confused feelings are part of the transmission from without now which are within the child. For Laplanche then sexuality is both endogenous and exogenous. Laplanche’s seduction theory is a major departure from Freud. Although it is a theory of universal perversion, it is not a theory of pathology, unless there is significant pathology existing within the parental couple as in Minter’s case. Furthermore, there is always the emphasis on the other and his/her importance in establishing unconscious sexuality in the infant. Thus, there is a real external other as well as the internal other, that is, the messages from the other that provoke the child from within. When Freud eliminated his seduction theory, initially his stress became one of a biological investment, an increased tendency toward an endogenous emphasis (Freud, 1909/1955, 1915/1957). Minter’s focus in her paintings reflects her zeal and pleasure in the polymorphism of infantile sexuality. Thus, Laplanche would
understand that her repetitive display of messiness and dirtiness in her paintings, especially noteworthy in her dirty toes representations, reflect a regressive anal response suggesting her coprophilic tendencies (Laplanche, 2011, pp.141-142). Minter’s artistic endeavors reflect her early bodily experience with pain and misery and her defensive need to obliterate such anguished feelings. She has indicated that her family has had a profound influence on her productions. Her mother was a sexy model, who was very preoccupied with her appearance. She spent much time before her mirror, wanting to perfect her image and insure her alluring appeal. She had a nervous breakdown and became an alcoholic and drug addict when Minter’s father, a gambler, alcoholic, and womanizer. abandoned her mother. It was a devastating time for Minter. The parents divorced when Minter was eight years old. The mother, now in her decompensation, still thought of herself as a beauty. Minter reported, “She worked on herself all the time but it was always off because she pulled out her hair, so she had to wear wigs, she had acrylic nails, but she didn’t take care of them so fungus would grow underneath them and it was kind of off beauty... It was all fucked up.” (The Lenny Interview, 2016). Minter’s mother’s passionate pursuit of her illusion of beauty has its historical and cultural features but more important it is inscribed in her daughter’s conscious and unconscious preoccupations both in its bodily significance as well as its symbolic meaning (Kristeva, 2014). I surmise that Minter’s mother’s inability to maintain the father as a desiring other probably colored her unconscious eroticism with sado-masochism and melancholia. Sexuality, in Minter’s paintings, does not link her to a whole, loving mother or father; rather, it is to fractionated aspects of the other—her mother’s eroticism suffused with pain, and her tortured and passionate devouring need for the other, were the confused early messages Minter received. To understand these communications, it is important to note, once again, Minter’s sorrow-filled, “abusive” early life (Ghorashi, 1992; Author, 2013; Yablonsky Interview, 2013; Lenny Interview, 2016). (The many commentaries about Minter’s life, mentioned in this paper, have been reported by her in many on-line interviews.) Like her parents, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol, using both as a flight from her misery. She was also jailed in her adolescence for forgery. Yet, she overcame her addictions and managed to focus on artistic work as a creative solution. Some of her paintings of female masturbation mirror her masochistic response to sexuality where pain and suffering permeate her eroticism. In her very flesh she is suffused with pain and passion, what Kristeva (2014) has called, “suffering and endurance.”
Her earliest works were pictures of her mother in various stages of degradation, hollowness, and ruination. Her classmates were shocked that she was displaying her mother in a state of unsightly dissipation, Minter was humiliated. Consciously, she didn’t realize what she had done. Yet, it was still her sexy mother, and she revealed the hidden, scarred, fragmented part of eroticism which she voyeuristically exhibited for others. Minter seemed to be unconsciously communicating, “See how I am preoccupied with the concealed side of sex. My mother lives within me and I am consumed by her sexuality.” One might ask in a Laplanchian manner, “What does this artist’s canvas want from me?” It is the other in both the painter and her audience that is both within and without us. Her mother’s sexuality fused with her own is on display. It is, as well, an enticement of her audience’s voyeuristic impulses. It stimulates our excitement as well as repulses us because of its perversity. It is a confusing communication in which our bodies physically react to this crude, wanton desire. In my own case, I responded viscerally; I felt nauseated with some of these productions. It was an “effraction,” (Laplanche, 1992, p.44) a “piercing,” an intrusive breaking into my typically conscious viewing experience. These paintings are transgressive. At the same time, I couldn’t stop looking. I would get up close to examine the canvas, and then remove myself at some distance because the stimulation seemed overwhelming and confusing. It made me realize that the message was mystifying. Clearly something unconsciously got stirred in me and it needed its own translation; that is, the recognition of the gratification that inheres in feelings and fantasy that are outside of typical socially normative reactions to paintings. Upon reading this paper Elissa Author, the curator, mentioned that viewers tend to remark on their reactions in similar ways and underscoring her agreement with my thesis, she commented, “Minter’s work turns the conventional relationship between the viewer and the object on its head. Instead of the viewer controlling that relationship in the way that one may master the subject of the work intellectually and imagistically, Minter’s work seduces and controls you in the sense that they create involuntarily bodily sensations” (personal communication). Elise (2017) and Levine, Reid, & Scarfone (2013) discuss the relevance of unrepresented and deficits states that can be helped through transformation by symbolization (Elise 2017, p.40). They note the importance of minimizing anxiety through narrative. Minter appears to present an alternative route. Minter’s palette suggests the possibility of an artist tolerating anxiety in her depiction of raw, embodied, possibly unprocessed feelings painted directly onto a canvas. Her work is layered, sometimes 11
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seen through a filter of glass. Do the many layers help distance her from fragmentation? Can the performative act of painting vitalize her and her work? Or is her transformation a function of her communicative ability with her viewer? Her mother’s enigmatic messages to her, for example, are now a stirring, mystifying communication with her audience. Freud, as well as Laplanche, has a unique understanding of artists and their output (Freud, 1910/1957). Both maintained that sublimation is an important vehicle available to artists in dealing with what Laplanche called their “anarchic and destructive impulses” (Laplanche, 2015, p.264). The artist is able to use her intensity, not diminish it, and yet transform it. Through a highly complex discourse, of which I present only a limited part, Laplanche (2015), using the concept of bound and unbound energies connected to the “component instincts” (“sadism and masochism,” p.264), suggests that the artist is able to tame and unify her anxiety in dealing with her cruel, hateful feelings toward her early objects and thereby “mutate” (p.272) her emotional state (to sublimate) when producing art. Further, the enigmatic messages the child received are worked at and retranslated, revivified, during the course of the artist’s life until symbolic transformation takes place. However, Laplanche is not describing an intellectual language of translation (1992). Rather, translation occurs with signs, with images, with visual communication that the other needs to translate (Laplanche’s idea of inter-semiotic communication, Caruth, 2001). They are “affect signals,” such as “an angry gesture, a grimace of disgust” (Laplanche, 1992, p.108). Creatively, Minter, for example, has translated her own violent oral imagery into an aesthetic message for the viewer to translate. It is a form of symbolization for Laplanche, and therefore there is no difference between sublimation and symbolization. Symbolization is part of sublimation occurring through multiple translations of enigmatic messages. What is appealing about Laplanche’s views is that he ascribes complexity to our initial experiences of sexuality which begins in infancy. Seduction occurs in all of us. It is part of normal experience for primary caregivers and the children in their charge. The process of seduction places significance on the other in Laplanche’s views . When hormones stir our adolescent sexuality, the seat is already taken by our infantile sexuality (Laplanche, 2011; Silverman, 2014) and it colors our subsequent sexuality. There is now a mixture of unconscious and semi-conscious erotic fantasy life. Thus, Laplanche widens the considerations of what constitutes our sexual lives. He makes it clear that polymorphous perversion is in our nascent unconscious and dwells in all of us.
We have come a considerable distance from Freud’s Victorian era. Currently sexuality is more fluid, more open to various forms of eroticism. It is especially pronounced in the humanities, the arts and advertisements. Minter’s work, although stirring strong polarizing emotions, allows for an increase in our tolerance of our perversity. For me, as a psychoanalyst, viewing and studying Minter’s oeuvre allows for increased understanding of what Laplanche theorizes. z REFERENCES Artinfo. [BLOUIN ARTINFO]. (2011, December 9). Artinfo talks to Marilyn Minter [video file]. Retrieved from https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmE-ygycjWU Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 247-374. Butler, J. (1998, December). Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory. No. 4, pp. 519-531. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Butler, J. (2006). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. London, England and New York, NY: Routledge. Caruth, C. (2001). An interview with Jean Laplanche. Retrieved from http://pmc.iath.virginia.edu/text-only/issue.101/11.2caruth.net Diamond, L. M. (2003a). What does sexual orientation ori-
ent? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire. Psychological Review, 110, 173-192. Diamond, L. M. (2003b). Was it a phase? Youg women’s relinquishment of lesbian/bisexual identities over a 5-year period. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 352-364. Dimen, M. (1991). Deconstructing difference: Gender, splitting, and transitional space. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 1, 335-352. Freud, S. (1953). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 7, pp. 125172). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1905) Freud, S. (1955). Analysis of a phobia in a five year old boy. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 10, pp. 3-152). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1909) Freud, S. (1955). “A child is being beaten”: A contribution to the study of the origin of sexual perversion. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 17, pp. 175-204). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1919) Freud, S. (1957). Leonardo da Vinci and a mermory of his childhood. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 11, pp. 59-138). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1910) Freud, S. (1957). Instincts and their vicissitudes. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 14, pp. 109-140). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1915) Ghorashi, H. (1992). “I want women to look like they can’t get thrown away”: Marilyn Minter on her retrospective, “Pretty/Dirty”. New York, NY: Artnews. Goldner, V. (1991). Toward a critical relational theory of gender. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 1, 249-272. Hoban, P. (2017). Perfection is the flaw: Phoebe Hoban on Marilyn Minter at Brooklyn Museum and Salon 94. New York, NY: Whitehot Magazine.
“Containing Multitudes”: Walt Whitman As psychoanalysts, we need to be clear about just how bad things can be. Our empathy for those wounded in the human project would be meaningless, mere sentimentality, without such clarity. At the same time, we depend on a hopefulness about the possibility of improvement, about cure, about growth, about development—a hopefulness we want to muster and communicate to those we want to help. Wherever our optimism comes from (maybe it’s characterological, bred in the bone; maybe it reflects early family experience; maybe it reflects deeply held religious conviction….), it requires a capacity to contain sharply contradictory attitudes. Our optimism argues with our painful realism; our excitement about what could be argues with everything we know about how difficult the achievement will be. Interestingly, poets face a version of the same challenge. How to make art in the face of the evidence that the universe is indifferent to art and to all else we value? How to embrace beauty when we know the universe doesn’t care? (Or if it cares, as some good people will insist, it has a subtle and altogether inscrutable way of showing it.) Walt Whitman is a case in point. He could sit with dying and wounded soldiers in the hospitals of the Civil War. And—he could sing like this. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was an interesting fellow. He is regarded by many as the father of Modern American poetry (with Emily Dickinson as the mother). His poetry and his life constitute an entire academic field of scholarship. (Much of this scholarship, including a fascinating archive of his work at Civil War military hospitals, is available online.) And of course he wrote some extraordinary poetry—astonishing in part because new and unheard of for his times. His poetic utterance was direct. His lines were prosy, unrhymed, messy on the page; his was a cri-de-coeur freed from the poetic conventions of the age and of the ages before him. (He has had notable Modern successors: among them Allen Ginsberg, who referred to Whitman as “dear father, gray beard, lonely old courage-teacher….”) Contemporary readers will know that Whitman was unabashedly selfpromoting, “singing,” as he said, as much of himself as of the America he celebrated. He managed to write and publish glowing pseudonymous reviews 12
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Kris, E. (1952). Psychoanalytic explorations in art. New York, NY: International Universities Press. Kristeva, J. (2014). Julia Kristeva comments on the “Maternal Reliance” section in JAPA 62/1. Journal of the American Psychoanalytical Association, 62, 60-64. Laplanche, J. (1970). Life and death in psychoanalysis. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press. Laplanche, J. (1987). New foundations for psychoanalysis. New York, NY: International Psychoanalytic Books. Laplanche, J. (1992). Essays on otherness. London, England and New York, NY: Routledge. Laplanche, J. (2011). Freud and the sexual: Essays 2000-2006. New York, NY: International Psychoanalytical Books. Laplanche, J. (2015). Between seduction and inspiration: Man. New York, NY: The Unconscious in Translation. Levine, H., Reid, G., & Scarfone, D. (Eds.) (2013). Unrepresented states and the construction of meaning. London, England: Karnac Books. Minter, M. (2015). Pretty/Dirty [exhibition]. Houston, TX: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Masson, J. M. (1987, September 21). Freud’s letter to Fliess in The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 18871904. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Scarfone, D. (2013). A brief introduction to the work of Jean Laplanche. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 94, 545-566. Silverman, D. K. (2014). “Freud and the sexual” essay. 20002006 essays by Jean Laplanche Psychoanalytic Books, 2011, Psychoanalytic Psychology, 32, 678-683. The Lenny Interview (2016). Retrieved from http://www. lennyletter.com/culture/interviews/a385/the-lenny-interview-Marilyn-Minter Thomkins, B. (2017, March). The New York Times Style Magazine, 2017, p. 86. Wortham, J. (2017). Marilyn Minter finds art in the female form. The New York Times Magazine, February 19, p. 58.
Henry M. SEIDEN
Miracles Why, who makes much of a miracle? As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water, Or stand under trees in the woods, Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love, Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon, Or animals feeding in the fields, Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright, Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place. To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same, Every foot of the interior swarms with the same. To me the sea is a continual miracle, The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?
of his own books! He revised and re-published and re-sold his own Leaves of Grass (of which “Miracles” is one poem) again and again over the course of his career. His barely disguised ecstatic homosexuality was shocking in the mid-19th century. He was at once disdained and lionized by the literary public. He was both banned in Boston as obscene and celebrated as an authentic American poetic voice. Whitman said famously that he “contained multitudes.” (In “Song of Myself,” he says: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”) He expressed his grief (remember Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed,” his great elegy for Lincoln). In 1865, in the throes of the Civil War (in “Drum Taps”), he expressed his despair: Year that trembled and reel’d beneath me! Your summer wind was warm enough – yet the air I breathed froze me; A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken’d me; Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself; Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled? And sullen hymns of defeat? And (From “The Dresser,” in Drum Taps): I am faithful, I do not give out; The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen, These and more I dress with impassive hand (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame). I sit by the restless all the dark night — some are so young; Some suffer so much ... (Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested, Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.) And too (in Leaves of Grass): Whitman’s poetry is in the public domain.
Let contradictions prevail! Let one thing contradict another! and let one line of my poem contradict another! Let the people sprawl with yearning aimless hands! Let their tongues be broken! Let their eyes be discouraged! Let none descend into their hearts with the fresh lusciousness of love! Indeed, Whitman contained multitudes, multiple self-states we would call them today: fatherly tenderness, homosexual lust, acquisitive ambition, slippery hucksterism, narcissism, loving generosity, joy—and despair. He suffered in his empathy with dying soldiers. But he could write a kind of manic poetry that celebrated his joy at being in the world. I think Whitman’s genius-–and the genius in “Miracles”—lies in the very insistence that the poet himself is at the center of things (an insistence too easily dismissed as mere narcissism). To read “Miracles” carefully is to note that even as he acknowledges the miraculous in the ordinary, Whitman is taking his own mind as his subject! Note the recurring “to me.” The list becomes a kind of chanting meditation on his own mind. And, for all the expressive certainty, his own mind is a source of wonder. (“Who makes much of a miracle?”) The integrating engine is a personal act of consciousness—an experiencing subject standing between the non-being of the universe and the fragile, vulnerable, experiencing human being. And this is a substantial part of his artistic legacy. For poets ever since, the presence, the consciousness, of the poet in all its mystery has always been in large measure the subject of the poem. So for us in our own work. Our practice makes central the recognition that what is vital—and integrating—is our own presence: it is we who can testify to the pain of night but also to the miraculous in the sunrise. I like to think this is a thing that psychoanalysts, always busy as we are studying ourselves, can get good at. And this is how, in doing a day of clinical work, both during and after, we can experience a kind of joy. z
With thanks to Mark Seiden for important help with the selection of the poems and quotations in this essay.
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The missing Alma
It’s been said of Giacometti’s sculptures that they express not so much themselves as the distance between themselves and their viewers. I understand this to mean that they express the perceptual distance that is brought about by desire. Longing for the desired object intensifies our sense of distance from it, and renders that space infinite and impossible to traverse. The same was true of being with my patient Alma. Her presence suggested a distance that seemed impossible to cross. At first I thought that the sense of untraversable distance had to do with her beauty, and more particularly, with the state of “objecthood” that beauty confers. When I first saw her I was reminded of the poet Shelley’s word-pair “mute marble.” I thought at the time that the experience of being with her was akin to an experience with a statue at a museum—the sort of experience one would never describe as “shared” or as an experience of spending time together, even though you certainly do spend time in the same space. An experience very much rooted in the subject/object relation, hindering the emergence of an intersubjective one. Beauty, particularly of Alma’s otherworldly and unyielding kind, often seems to erect around itself a sort of invisible barrier which appears to emanate from the object itself, as though a door is being closed in your face. Aesthetic perfection suggests a completeness upon itself, a self-possession, and a self-sufficiency. Thus, inherent in its allure is a gesture of exclusion—and the sensation of loneliness is never far off. Indeed, coming across beauty, in particular the beauty of the human form, people assume that there is nothing they can add to, or enhance, about it and feel superfluous around it. Moreover, there is a tendency to feel that their engagement with it is liable to spoil or contaminate it, since their gaze is always ineluctably connected to their bodies, and as such is never pure. Indeed, the shelter from the threat of the real of the body that beauty suggests, a shelter of pure being and spirituality, is of course never complete and always fleeting. Alma’s beauty was intellectually stimulating—the kind of beauty that generated ideas and conjectures about beauty itself, and not only in me, her psychoanalyst. People engaging with Alma often addressed her as though addressing an enigma, and often asked her how it felt to be enclosed inside such a stunning exterior. Yet, Alma’s beauty, I have come to realize, was by no means the sole or even main cause of the sense of distance one felt in her presence.
The feeling of palpable distance one experienced in my patient’s presence originated in something else, something completely different, something which seemed very specific to Alma. There was a very tangible yet perplexing sense that Alma was not fully present at wherever she happened to be. This produced a vertiginous experience that you were witnessing her rather than simply being with her. It was as though you were not together in the same time—as though, like a ghost, she was not of the present. Indeed, this had to do with how she seemed to experience and inhabit time. She was entirely and devoutly waiting for some future to materialize. In a constant state of intense anticipation, she was stretched towards the future like a plant locked in a murky space strenuously lengthening itself towards a light source on the other side of a window. So intense was this gesture that it almost seemed to break through the promise-bearing window by sheer force of will. This state, in which the self was completely consumed by future-leaning, inevitably involved a negation of the external shared world, a withdrawal into self, a “contraction” in the words of the philosopher Schelling. It was a state, indeed, not unlike that of a race runner at the starting line, a moment prior to the start of the race. Before leaping out, the runner, in a sense, contracts his “being” in order to be able to extend himself out into space like an arrow. In parallel, Alma’s paintings—she was an extremely dedicated, almost religiously committed abstract painter—seemed to be just like Alma herself, pointing beyond themselves towards a future depicted in the figure of the horizon—that which always, of course, remains stubbornly distant from us. Her paintings depicted the horizons as they could be glimpsed through windows that open into more windows, frames within frames, paintings opening into more paintings. She was mostly quiet during sessions. She sat facing me, as she refused the couch (in a Bartleby style “I prefer not to”). She used to stare directly and intently in my eyes the way only babies or small children stare into adults’ eyes, with this intense and deeply focused anticipation, eyes opening and merging into mine, as though we were almost sharing a gaze. Her gaze seemed suggestive of a world before innocence was lost, a time still unconquered by adult shame, a gaze that perhaps testifies to this primordial blissful world’s share in our constitution. There was something magical in this experience for me, something enchanting, as though I myself became a child under her gaze, and I would let myself follow her 14
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into this dreamy region. It had the sense of immersing myself in a kind of twilight, transitional, pregnant weather. On occasion it even had the power to contest the domination of my own adult shame. Alma’s childhood imagery seemed to remain unusually alive. Immersing herself in painting, she once explained, was like playing by herself on the carpet while her mother was occupied doing something nearby. And indeed this sense of a Winnicottian zone of being alone together with another, was lusciously shared by us during the many moments of mutual reveries. Yet, while I could easily experience and connect with Alma the child, I could not do the same with the adult. The adult, it seemed, was immersed in what was about to come more forcefully and passionately than most people seem to be immersed in their present lives. Gradually, it became clear, therefore, that being with Alma always involved missing a large part of her. Sometimes during her sessions, the curious image of a woman standing in a queue of one emerged in my mind. In its absurdity, and strangeness, this image introduced a sense of foreboding into the sessions whenever it occurred, a sense which was difficult to shake off. Something even more remarkable about Alma was that, for her, inanimate objects were not always, or not completely, distinguished from people. She often formed intense identificatory relations with them, and further, she seemed to bestow her warmth on them in a natural way that was lacking in her relations with people. Her affective immersions, especially with small objects, often unwittingly brought up a smile of pleasure to her face, pleasure which she always seemed to be surprised by. Two winters into our work together she made a very surprising and suggestive remark that seemed to come out of nowhere, but which also in some way seemed to reveal her core. There was a little old lamp in my office that was somewhat skewed. Alma looked at it and said softly, with a sad smile, that the lamp seemed like it was waiting for something. When I asked her what she imagined the lamp was waiting for, she replied that she wasn’t sure, but that it appeared, “it had been through some sort of trauma.” Her linking the experience of trauma and the state of waiting made me wonder about how these two notions were connected in her mind. I recalled that during her first session Alma told me that she came to see me “simply because I’m terribly lonely.” And I have been able to lighten some of this dense, and lifelong burden for her, mainly by accepting the invitation to follow her into the imaginary
region where children play. But I have started to worry about this mutual magical immersion, as the passage of time did not register a change in her ability to be at ease with people and to inhabit and share mundane reality with others, outside my office. Adding to my growing concern was Alma’s rigidity. As though compelled to obey an internal imperative to empty her body out of all that was not absolutely necessary, she ate very minimally, and was gradually turning into a mere suggestion of herself. This seemed to convey some sort of a striving to make a space inside herself for something vital that is about to arrive. In parallel, she spoke about her determination to vacate her paintings of what she called “surplus meaning,” and her life as a whole followed this course in emptying itself of unessential elements, like people, and social interactions. To be sure, both life and art seemed to have taken minimal, bare, condensed, abstract shape, as though she was striving to convert them from prose form to the condensed form of a poem. And while undoubtedly the stripped bare essences depicted in her paintings exuded the radiance of the sublime encountered in the works of painters such as Ad Reinhardt or Barnett Newman, Alma’s ascetic and Spartan self-conduct worried me a great deal. She treated herself like a soldier. Carefully punctuating her days with various rit-
ualized activities, she seemed to be guided by an internal and entirely private aesthetic/ moral compass. Chief among her rituals was an all-weather, never to be missed, walk to the waterfront to watch the sunset. Absorbing into her eyes the last rays of the sun, tracing, seizing the moment of day turning into night, sun falling into water, seemed to have a hypnotic effect on her. Breathing in, through her eyes, her body, something of the sunsets, perhaps their liminality, or their compact contradiction of eternity and change, seemed to suggest that something about the temporal drama enacted by the sunsets, something she could not put it into words, pressed urgently to be expressed. Upon exploring this with her she alluded to the sunsets’ persistence, and remarked tenderly, nodding her head, “They just wouldn’t learn their lesson.” She has created her own ritual out of a naturally occurring one: sunsets in themselves enacting a temporal ritual. Participating in the sunsets’ ritual seemed indeed to allow something frozen very deep inside her to be touched, and to awaken. One bitingly cold and snowy day she recounted a dream. The dream was vague but its location was precise. In fact, it took place at a well-known piazza in the old city of Jaffa, a piazza called ‘the clock-piazza’ after the tower placed at its heart, at top of which a clock was fixed. The single event she could recover was
San Sebastian, Spain 15
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that a siren suddenly pierced the air of the clock-piazza, and its evacuation was ordered. At once it was completely vacated, and Alma recalled standing alone in the evacuated piazza, right near the tower, considering climbing to its top where the clock was. While Alma didn’t express any feelings of anxiety concerning the dream, I felt alarmed by it—in particular, by its ending. Alma’s small and delicate figure against the background of the imposing clock-tower, standing all alone in the evacuated plaza, pondering whether to climb up the tower’s narrow, steep, and winding stairs, filled me with anxiety. It reminded me of the haunting and morbidly fateful tower scenes in the film “Vertigo,” where doomed women mirror and mimic each other’s fate, arrested in painterly or cinematic frame—and I longed to protect her. In its demand that the piazza be vacated, the dream seemed to dramatize Alma’s deeply felt internal imperative, the logic or source of which she could not identify, to evacuate her body, her space, her life, and her paintings. When I asked her why she wanted to climb up the tower, she said she felt compelled to get closer to its clock and then added: “this sounds strange even to me now, but in the dream, it was as though I was scared to miss it when time finally arrives.” “Time? Time for what?” I asked. “I’m not sure”, she replied. I knew at once that I had asked the
wrong question—since she spoke as if she believed that this entity, this particular clock, was the springboard of time, the launch pad of all possible times, and its directions. Then, to my surprise, she proceeded to associate to one of the infamous Baron Munchausen’s dubious and utterly incredible tales. In this tale, after an endless night of exhausting horseback travel through a blinding snowstorm, exhausted, the Baron stopped and tied his horse to what seemed like a branch sticking out of the frozen ground, and at once collapsed into deep sleep nearby. Waking up the next morning, the sun which has melted the frozen snow, revealed, to the baron’s utter amazement, that the branch he had tied his horse to, or what he thought was a branch sticking out of the snow-buried ground, was actually the turret of a tower located in the town’s central piazza, a turret from which his horse was now dangling, high in the bright sunny sky. Almost as surprised as the baron, I puzzled over this funny and incredible tale that she recounted in association to her dream. As I took pleasure in listening to her suddenly effortless, engaging and fluent speech, I pondered the significance of the repeating piazzas themes, piazzas which in various ways were made empty, vacated, frozen, buried, or covered up, while circling around a tower. A flurry of images of the towers, the piazzas, the evacuation, the town erasure under frozen ground, and the sad lamp she has depicted as having been through a trauma, washed over my mind.
As I mused over the horizontal, evacuated, enclosed piazzas disrupted by an unstoppable and indifferently vertical tower-clock, I became certain that something significant must have transpired in this intersection of time and space. Something of which the traumatized lamp that suffering has disfigured articulated an image. Something encoded in the wish to burst the continuum of time. Something the anticipation of which had taken possession of my patient. The siren that pierced the circular plaza seemed to signal this unnamed event’s arrival. Indeed, Alma felt addressed by the siren on which occasion she felt compelled to climb up the tower’s winding stairs. Was the call to vacate the piazza, her body, her paintings’ secret purpose to make space for the arrival of that different time? Was she striving to finally set free the tower-clock’s tiny stubborn hands? I was reminded, then, of her reply to my question about the lesson that the sunsets that could not help but repeat themselves were refusing to learn, she said: “That you can’t both forget things, let them go, and inscribe them onto eternity. That just like the sun you will be following your own footsteps, and just like it, you will fall again and again into water at every day’s end.” We keep ourselves alive, I thought then with Winnicott, we stave off complete collapse, by projecting these eventless events, these past states that are so overwhelming that they simply could not be present, or lived through, or made sense of, or given a meaning—from past to future, in the form
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of constant dread or anticipation; a peculiar frozen state of alertness both animating and deadening at the same time. And I thought that while she painfully and intensely identified with injured mute objects that past suffering has disfigured, such as my lamp, she also located in them an extending of themselves in anticipation, a stretching of themselves towards something yet to come. A hope beyond hope, a time beyond time. Reverberations of this very gesture were encapsulated in Alma’s paintings as stretched inside their frames were windows mirroring and opening to more windows, at once duplicating the arresting, imprisoning action of the frame, yet also significantly suggesting openings into other landscapes, other times, different pasts and futures. In the wake of this session, I sensed, and I was right, that dreaming this dream and sharing it with me in tandem with the tale of the scandalous Baron Munchhausen would now allow us to enter a hitherto foreclosed site. And I believe that whereas once the gazes of an adult and an innocent child met in inevitable devastating confusion, now that I have accepted Alma’s invitation delivered in her gaze to follow her into a region of wordless mutual enchanted entanglement, we have together freed the tower-clock’s hands, which then restored a broken heart’s rhythm. We met there, in the abundance of imagination and pleasure, where a branch sticking out of frozen, buried ground turns into the shape of a horse dangling in the sunny, bright sky. z
An Interview of Donna Bassin When I was presented with the opportunity of interviewing Donna Bassin about her artwork and psychoanalytic thinking I was immediately intrigued, excited and inspired to undertake the project for reasons of personal and professional necessity. About a decade ago I had been in individual supervision with Donna as part of my training at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and found the experience invaluable because she demonstrated a mastery of many different theories. As she aphoristically put it during our meeting, “I see myself situated within the left wing of the post-Freudian group and among the right wing of the relational group,” but she also conducted supervision with a free-ranging latitude. She often referred to art and ideas that she had gleaned from her work as an artist that lent a greater degree of depth and humanism to the experience of being with a patient. Nothing was considered verboten with Donna and she alternated between teaching me about the therapeutic use of the self, and providing an intellectually compelling view of her own thinking on gender, memorialization, and creativity. She was consistently open to many divergent theories without judging them. Moreover, in remaining in contact with Donna after the supervision had come to a close, I was often struck by the way conversations with her had a magical quality of being timeless, of encompassing several varieties of ideas, and a pleasant feeling that we were both happy being perpetual students. In the realm of aesthetics, her thinking treated the arts as shifting, fluid, and brimming with new insights and possibilities. We also had noted a parallel in our professional development. In addition to our passion as practicing psychoanalysts we had pursued our interest in the arts. After we agreed to structure our project as an interview Donna was able to accept my invitation to come to my home in Park Slope. She greeted my various cats and my life partner, and then we relaxed with a glass of Malbec. We explored a variety of different ideas that I was still curious about in both her own writings, and in aspects of the work of other clinicians who had written about creativity. I also asked about her growing body of artwork and film-making which is beginning to make a mark. I began by querying her about aspects of Phyllis Greenacre’s thinking that intrigued me but that I felt that I didn’t completely understand. We discussed her paper “The Childhood of the Artist” (Greenacre, 1957) and other remarkable works on the nature of artistic creativity. Greenacre spoke of the potential artist as possessing unusual sensitivities to sensory stimulation, along with
both a need and an ability to integrate various stimuli, using what she described as an “ease and wealth of symbolization.” I asked Donna more specifically about Greenacre’s observation that the artist had a greater capacity for empathy both for others and for the individual’s own body states, as well an anthropomorphizing capacity that continues into adulthood. Greenacre (1957) developed the concept of “collective alternates” which described the gifted child’s relationship with the primary object, and how the gifted child is motivated by certain sensory stimulation to connect with a greater field of related experiences than would be true for the child of lesser endowment. She related this phenomenon to a greater need for harmonizing the inner object relationships (as the perception of the object reacts and combines with other body sensations) and the world of sensory impingement. (Greenacre, 1957) Donna considered this question from a different point of view than that of the artist per se. She focused more on its connection to the reasons that many people enter the world of psychoanalysis and how this process involves creativity. She shared with me an aspect of her own story and its impact on her decision to become a psychoanalyst. She stated, “In part, I have come to realize that I came to psychoanalysis to animate the dead mother—heal the injured mother—and for me personally, my mother and family. I had a sister who died of cancer when I was ten—and consequently my parents certainly went away emotionally. I started doing artwork at the time, making pretty drawings and putting them on the doors of everyone’s room of my childhood house in an effort to wake everyone out of their frozen grief.” When I asked her how this had impacted on her adult artistic practice, she replied, “After the tragedy of September 11, I created a series of pinhole camera photographs in a vintage dollhouse in my office, in the intervals between my sessions with patients. The series, entitled The Afterlife of Dolls, was featured in a solo show at the Montclair Art Museum, with a catalogue. It emerged from personal and collective trauma and involved witnessing the difficulties of people who had either survived 9/11 or been affected by it through the loss of their loved ones.” She noted, “I was endlessly meeting people who were still in the stage of wanting to resurrect their dead loved ones.” We went on to discuss her series of photographs in which she presented dolls in a variety of contexts: dolls in lounge chairs outside of a seemingly deserted beach house; dolls dressed in clearly contemporary casual 17
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clothing placed in a dark, gloomy Victorian interior; an almost humorous image of one of the dolls on a psychoanalytic couch. The Afterlife of Dolls series is characterized by an ineluctable eeriness. Her photography masterfully captures a liminal space where the dolls seem to exist in a twilight zone between life and death. They emerge simultaneously as odd victims of an unspoken tragedy that has rendered them empty and mute, but they also have a haunting presence in the confines of the photographs that suggest they are the aftereffect of a tragic process of trauma that refuses to be repressed or disappear. Although they are mute, she has rendered them in compositions which allow them to speak wordlessly with the force of their sheer presence. Donna was open about the role of the doll series in her life, and described a time of personal turmoil and reflection which had caused her to feel overwhelmed, and somewhat dissociated. She was also highly aware of the dolls as a continued effort that she had been involved in as a girl to try to find a way of re-animating her parents who had been so emotionally unavailable after the death of her sister. The dolls represent aspects of her lost sister, still haunting the familial environment with the presence of an unresolved mourning. The photographs have a quality that borders on the sinister, of representing the artist stubbornly refusing to repress the trauma of death. In this manner they are like phantasms insisting to the viewer: “I am still here, although I (the artist, the doll, and possibly the viewer) my feelings may have been forced out of awareness, I am still an absent/presence bearing witness to the fact of an existence that has been extinguished, that something terrible has happened and it will not be forgotten.” Donna connected this aspect of the work to her own writings and film-making about memory and memorializing through the creative act. She noted that the war veterans she had come to know through her work on two documentaries, first Leave No Soldier, and recently, The Mourning After, often found that there was no collective space in which to discuss the atrocities and moral injuries of the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the act of memorializing through creation not only served attempts at healing and of connecting with other survivors of war, but also provided a way of harnessing their emotional energies to begin building new worlds out of the ashes of loss. I noted that many of Donna’s theories and interests did seem to look at the idea of art as providing a holding environment and a transitional space in a Winnicottian
integrates many points of view with respect, assessing what aspects of them may be useful for a particular patient or situation. “Years ago Joyce McDougall told me a story: Chaseuget Smirgel noticed that Melanie Klein always wore a particular brooch on the lapel over her breast. And she told Joyce she was sure it was on the good breast.” We both laughed at the joke but also used it as an opportunity to consider more about the role of aggression in creativity and how that might be a force to consider in the search for a maternal holding space. I referenced Alice Maher’s paper “Creativity: A Work in Progress” (1993) which we had sometimes discussed when I was in supervision with Donna. I asked to her to consider the following excerpt from that paper.:
Coney Island.Mermaids.1 photo by Donna Bassin
sense. I asked her about John Gedo, who in his book Portraits of the Artist (1989) had pointed to the status of art as a repository of vital aspects of the self that have been created through the use of drive energies that have not been sublimated, a finding that runs counter to Freud’s assumptions about the relationship between sublimation and art. In Greenacre’s view, the artistic product is an idealized object, tenuously distinguished from the self and therefore akin to an infantile fetish. A fetish, in this connection, refers to an object the young child endows with magical significance and uses to ward off anxiety; such fetishes are referable to a developmental level at which Winnicott’s “transitional objects” have normally been relinquished (Winnicott, 1953/1958). Donna listened to my inquiries and quotes from these theorists, and then began a series of rich associations to her early writings in which she described her own thinking as not relating directly to the concept of fetishism, bur rather as a quest for a non-phallic feminine. She observed, “I did a lot of reading of Irrigary, Kristeva, and Cixous—in search of the non-phallic feminine. I found through these writers the ability to conceptualize a maternal holding space that was in the service of facilitating women’s discovering their own experience in their own bodies—metaphorically—because one of the issues implicit in Freud’s thinking, although it’s not as fully developed there as it could be, is that we are all dealing with a non-concrete, non-essentialist body.
To clarify, these writers postulate the idea of femininity as beyond a relation to the absence or presence of the phallus, but, instead, involving a host of more complex psychological valences including holding, soothing, symbolization, and the transcendence of the body as a biological determinant of behavior. The body is neither primary nor a non-determinant, and the transformation of body in relation to other should not be seen as suggesting artificial social constructs such as that men are naturally assertive, and women naturally nurturing. Rather, they engaged in a more direct exploration of how we are all a multiplicity of qualities with access to a variety of different types of psychological agency that abolish the simple binary of masculine/feminine. And so I discovered these French theorists and found resonance with much of their thinking. I wanted to find a way to conceptualize both for myself as well as my patients, a transitional holding space which I feel that the vets have created—and an attempt to forgive and work through the loss of the mother country—and my appreciation of becoming a member of their community, mostly men, but they have created a very maternal holding space and I feel I try to provide this in the office with my traumatized patients. And I think what I need to do is to process this—and also balance myself.” I was curious to see if the world of French post-structuralism could be linked back to Freud and to Donna more directly, and was curious as I have always found Donna to be a non-linear thinker who 18
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But if the loved person does not physically or emotionally return, the “transitional” aspect cannot be preserved. In such a case the object can take on a fetishistic quality and become increasingly used for self-stimulation, while in life the child may regress by becoming withdrawn and depressed, losing interest in outside activities and other people. This child can be enraged and can fantasize about ripping mother apart and destroying her, but the fantasy is frightening. The conflict is intense and other solutions must be found – often in the sadomasochistic realm. In extreme cases, the use of fantasy might be relinquished altogether, with tension discharge replacing thought.” (Maher, 1993) Donna immediately picked up on this material, and felt that aggression was certainly not to be diminished in her own thinking. She referred to the work of the Cuban-born artist, Ana Mendieta, whose tragic separation from her parents and early violent displacement from her home in Cuba resulted in dramatic conceptual performance art pieces in which Mendieta would trace contours of her body in the ground. She would then pour gasoline on the contour, setting it on fire, literally creating “scorched earth.” Donna noted that there is the creative act, the memorialization, and also the creation of a container with the performance that provides a largely safe space in which the rage is discharged and transformed. She remarked that Mendieta had taken rage and perhaps other intense emotions to an extreme that was literally explosive but that it would be simplistic, as is body essentialism, to see this as purely destructive because it was in fact a symbolic representation in which tension discharge had not replaced thought, but had been used to create a highly provocative work of art. She said, “If we consider Klein’s bearing on this, there’s so much significance in creativity because it is not only about destruction (although some
artists like this may lean more in the direction of destructive aggression—consider Pasolini, or Quentin Tarantino) but what is often missed is the significance and transformative power of destruction leading to reparation. I noticed in the veterans’ efforts to take the military oath, ‘Leave no soldier behind’, to their civilian life, that they were trying to restore a sense of goodness and care after perhaps acts of violence and destruction during their military service. Many veterans returned from war experiencing themselves not as victims but as perpetrators, and many suffered from a tremendous degree of moral injury. And the VA system is often unable to grasp that beyond the general PTSD symptomatology the veterans are suffering from, that they have an additional quandary that victims of other types of trauma don’t usually have, which is this: Many signed up because they believed they were doing something constructive and useful and wound up feeling that wasn’t the case and often they had done things that were horrible and unthinkable—and how can they possibly find a way to make amends for doing this? My second documentary The Mourning After follows Combat Paper, New Jersey, a community within the emerging veterans’ art movement. The veterans transform their military uniforms into paper, by ripping them, pulping the fibers, and pressing them into paper. The paper, referred to as ‘combat paper’, holds within its fibers, as did the uniform, the blood, the tears, the dirt of wartime destruction. The military experience, in all of its aspects, is accepted and claimed as history
but then repurposed and transformed into something new, a blank surface that, through writing or image-making, offers the possibility of the veterans’ reclaiming their stories of wartime experience and/or a new present. Participants slowly move from being bystanders of their own traumatic history to witnesses, and in addition, invite others to come and see what their experiences were.” We then considered ideas from earlier theorists on creativity and I asked Donna if she would share her thoughts about Eissler’s paper, “Genius, Psychopathology and Creativity” (1967) in which he posited special psychological constellations in creative individuals, particularly, a tendency to undergo repeated developmental crises that transform the genius over and over again throughout the life cycle. Eissler believed that the impending death of a genius may release capacities that permit the creation of works of supreme significance. Another aspect of Eissler’s reflections on the psychopathology of genius is the occurrence of personal crises that superficially resemble the illnesses of ordinary people but leave great artists unscathed or even enriched for their task. I also asked Donna about her own idea of restlessness in art, her observations about artists who seem to find a particular level of comfort with their work and repeat it incessantly, as opposed to those whose careers are characterized by more fluidity, experimentation, and a greater growth arc. She noted, “Picasso talks about the endless chase, and I’m very aware of this in my own
Namibia.As From a Great Altitude, Life As a Sort of Landscape.Huts.5 photo by Donna Bassin 19
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work. I’m always chasing the next image. But it doesn’t become frantic for me, it becomes more of a quest. I believe in and have come to trust working in the uncertainties, flickers of something not yet really known. I’m looking for something in my work and I don’t know what it is. I think it would be an overstatement to feel that for myself or any artist this is necessarily linked to repetitive developmental crises. It is often more a question of seeing any given conflict as not being resolved definitively, but as a part of an ever-shifting fluid matrix in which new conflicts can be absorbed, and welcomed, because they can become more of a form of stimulation rather than a stalemate or a repetition compulsion that is merely destructive.” She then was able to discuss more vividly how this informed her own techniques in the studio. “Occasionally, I use white oil pastels to mark over an existing photograph or destroy or break free from the fixed image, and find a new image through this erasure. I might further elaborate from this and draw out an emergent form, an extension and elaboration of a tree, for example, that arises in this erasure, pulling it outside the original frame of the existing photograph. “I want to explore what else there might be in the photograph that was invisible or not in the frame, when I shot it. Basically, I use the image as an origin and this allows me to find something else, something new. The work is very much ‘meta’ in that it’s a process about discovering. There’s the thrill of the discovery of something new in the context of what
already exists, or the excitement of a new aliveness because you didn’t know this particular truth existed. So, when I take a photograph I don’t feel I necessarily have to destroy it, but rather to find out what it is and what is beyond it. If the work is meaningful, there’s always a curiosity about how the process of discovering process can dig deeper, push further, elucidate more intensity so the photograph isn’t simply a rendering of a ‘thing’ but reflects a quest or journey that’s implicit in what was first seen.” I remarked that I could genuinely feel the immense impact of the process she was describing, in the works I had seen at her exhibitions. These were the photographic equivalents of a Conrad short story, which made most other writers’ fiction appear to be excessive, and not able to distill the dramatic crux of what they intended into a dense, compressed, and lucid form. Donna manages to condense so much intensity into these small gems of images captured at the precise moment. Shortly before our meeting I had received the latest version of her website in preparation for our talk and it allowed me to view newer work and variations on other groupings of her art for the first time. I was particularly struck by a series of photographs taken at Coney Island which seemed to be the reverse of the Dolls series: heavily made up people of indeterminate gender, some of them possibly transgendered or transvestites, captured against the garish carnivalesque backdrop of Coney Island. This contrasted with a new series called Namibia: As from a great altitude, life as a sort of landscape, which comprises an exquisite series of black and white photographs capturing carefully structured arrangements of indigenous tribes rendered against a vast landscape. As the series progresses, the camera points towards the deserts of Namibia seen from a great height and rendered as delicate abstractions which create a sophisticated interplay a visual symphony in tonalities in gray. The latter are reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ use of rhythm and light in a landscape to induce a trance. We again returned to the idea of gender essentialism, and whether there was the potential for the paternal role in a creative space. I posed the question: “What is the imaginary act of becoming or empathizing with a different gender?” Donna considered this and then said, “It’s like Elizabeth L Mayer’s paper published in 1985, ‘Everybody Must Be Just Like Me,’ where she talks about a projection of oneself into the other. There’s a subtle form of concrete defense that’s present that says: ‘If you don’t have a vagina (like me) then you’re closed off,’ as opposed to considering that there are an infinite number of possibilities that exist in the registration of the differences between people, not just in their genitals, but in so many forms of how
they experience the world. What I recall about her work is that the fantasy of using our own bodies to imagine our way into the other bodies is a crucial way of deflecting away from the concept of early essentialism. This is one of the things that I refuted in classical theory, because when I was first in training there was the classical position of penis envy as a bedrock thought in the psychoanalytic world. We have moved to a psychology which is more opened up to symbolization. There is no need to engage in the early mechanism of genital disavowal. So a man isn’t closed off simply because there are real anatomical differences, but the registration of psychological difference may be exciting as well as traumatizing, and it may stimulate not envy, but awe. As Greenacre (1957) has noted, there are a variety of other psychological states consisting of awe, and psychological tumescence, as well as deflation, that don’t result in this simplistic fantasy that everyone must be like me in order to preserve psychic equilibrium. “When I wrote about women’s inner space, and that was many years ago (Bassin, 1981), I wanted to consider and explore women’s bodily-based representations as they might appear in their creative products and process as a counterpoint to the then prevailing alternatives of a phallic-based femininity or an essentialist female body. I don’t privilege female bodies at all. Perhaps a phallus in one’s imagery is about the emergence or the bringing into creation of something new out of a ground, that is, to let something emerge and be open and be willing to release control over the process of that emergence. I think these constructs are just that, constructs but useful if enlisted imaginatively, and symbolically, and fluid enough to be reshaped into something else that is vast and intense and certainly transcends the body.” I recalled fondly my years of supervision with Donna and how she would become excited by an idea, and how natural it was for her to talk about it, dissect it, and then open up more questions about it. She went on: “Christopher Bollas, whose work I love, wrote a lot about the idea of a ‘transformational object’ (Bollas, 1978). To the degree that the transformational object is a fetishized version, if I fantasize that I obtain that object I will achieve an intensification of excitement and self experience. And I think what you’re reacting to in the newer work is the sense that nothing is off limits and that anything could be used in the creative act– clothing, a new relationship, a landscape, realities as diverse as Coney Island and Namibia. According to Bollas the question is: what are the processes that allow for transformation and change? Mourning is a change process that happens in treatment. The class that I teach at the NYU post-doctoral program is about mourning as transformation and the potential 20
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creative edge of the mourning stage. Some people have great difficulty allowing themselves to grieve and in doing so miss creative and restorative opportunities. “Doris Salcedo, a Colombian artist whose work I admire, recreates the lived subjective experience of traumatic loss and unresolved grief. She isn’t interested in remembrance nor memorializing but rather in arousing in the bystander what it feels like to be experiencing and negotiating traumatic loss. Salcedo’s work functions as a mediator between the survivors and the audience in order to engage the audience as witness to the inner world of the traumatized self. For her series, Atrabiliarios (1992), an installation of the shoes of women who disappeared during Colombia’s decades long political violence, Salcedo interviewed families of civilians killed by drug lords and right- wing paramilitary squads. Subsequently she placed worn out shoes, singular or in pairs, in a niche encased in a wall and covered with roughly hewed semitransparent animal skins which were than surgically stitched to the niche. Salcedo’s skill is creating artwork in which the world isn’t in focus. The once familiar percept is now seen as strange, as the translucent membrane disorients the viewer’s experience of the shoes and renders them out of reach. “One of the veteran artists, Fred, featured in The Mourning After initially photographed ordinary street scenes of his hometown. Eventually, and in an attempt capture and share his past wartime experience, he began to insert Humvees and potential snipers into these ordinary street scenes.” Donna continued, “Fred is now sharing what he sees and he wants us, his audience, to see what he sees and understand that his world is so changed from combat. His past experience is now overlaid on our reality. We see normal streets but he sees potential danger and warfare. He emerged from his multiple tours in Iraq, worried about being ambushed—a child carrying a backpack could be a child carrying a bomb. What he did with his photographs makes you feel that this is the way your world could be. But there’s that old saying, the artist has engaged in creating a work of art, and has not merely engaged in daydreaming, and I think that’s relevant to the work of psychoanalysis as well.” I asked her if she could elucidate the difference, as she understood it, between a fetish and a transformational object. She continued, “What was our everyday experience was manifested as a traumatizing zone for him, and thus we created an invitation to an audience to understand what he feels like and build a greater empathic bridge. On another level is it about becoming a witness to something that’s unspeakable? Or does the relationship between witness and artist, and witness
and traumatized other, turn a product into a transformational experience as opposed to a fetish? If we consider a fetish as substitute for a more complex experience, I think art transcends this if it can attain a profound level, and not all art can. But ideally creation is not at all different from psychoanalysis because both processes involve a dialogue that engages abstraction as well as a bridge into allowing another to know what we’re experiencing.” I asked Donna if she could expand on how her continuing and deepening art practice was impacting on her work as a psychoanalyst. “My art has helped me to manage difficult psychic states. There is liberation for me in my art-making space where I am released from the caretaker functions of what I do in the clinical setting. It is a space where I can metabolize the pain and suffering I feel I take in when I work with my patients. “I have, as all of us do, intense patients in my practice and if I didn’t have the opportunities I have in my art-making to make visible and to contain or transform what they engender in me, I don’t know that I could responsibly work with some of the very traumatized patients I see. For many years, I would often cry after a long practice day as a way to release some of the pain I absorbed all day long. Now, instead of crying, I have the studio. “As an artist I’m interested in the transformation of a form. As a psychoanalyst in the traditional sense you might say you are supporting/guiding the deconstruction of a so-called neurotic closed form that the patient interprets as a fixed reality, an illusion which is masquerading as truth, to get to something deeper, reconstruct, and/or perhaps to transform in a new and perhaps more useful construction. When I was in my early thirties I would occasionally listen to free jazz which, at the time, created some anxiety along with pleasure. The musicians would riff off the melody, venturing out of bounds, and then, when they returned to some familiar rhythm, the audience would go ‘Ahhhhh.’ I think we all felt as if the music had returned to some safe ground after enjoying the scary pleasure of being dislodged. I could remember, as a child, of being thrown up in the air and feeling a moment of fear and uncertainty, like I was going to fragment—and then I was caught. And the roller coaster is like that; it’s a feeling of explosion but then you’re back on the ground again, and it’s the relief of getting back to the motherland when you’re in the midst of the exciting loss of self—the super excitement when things break apart. I had parents who did catch me; some people obviously don’t. That kind of trauma can close down how much freedom of experimentation you’re willing to have or also render some people blind to the dangers of certain kinds of experiments.
“Hiroshi Sugimoto, the photographer, set up his camera in movie theaters, leaving the aperture open for the entire length of a feature length film. The flickering changes in image were not recorded but rather only a bright white screen. The flickering of subtlety captured by the camera is like evenly hovering attention. At first it seems easy, but there are so many moments in life, in art, and in analysis, in which ideas or associations pass so quickly it’s impossible to engage all of them, and you have to seize carefully the moment which contains the most potential. We become aware of the need to pay attention not only to content, but to the flickering itself, not merely to the words but to the melody. “And so, like a photographer finding the moment that is critical to seize upon, as analysts there’s an analogous internal process of trying to comprehend so much data that our patients present in myriad ways, not just through free associations but through body language and other enactments like lateness.” Her thinking reminded me of Bion’s concept of “the selected fact,” an aspect of the ground that becomes figure, unbidden. “If the flickering represents a kind of screen or a ground and suddenly something emerges from that ground, unbidden, how should we allow what emerges to surprise us and engage us? “There’s a full feature length film waiting to unfold in each of these potential areas of inquiry, but this requires a tremendous openness to what is unknown and what will be discovered as it shakes preconceptions. So being an artist is not unlike exercising free floating analytic attention. It sounds easy, but there are so many ways each situation evolves and you are constantly making a decision to focus on something, realizing that you are sacrificing something else, at least for that moment. But what’s great about both mediums is that you do have a long time to see how all of the links may work out later. I’ve grown more comfortable with that over time.” I realized as I listened to Donna that there was much more to say, and that the ideas were potentially the material for a much larger format, like a book, because there were so many intriguing ideas that resonated with me deeply. And like a session that needed to draw to a close, there was a finitude to how much material we could cover for the scope of this article. The practical considerations of the afternoon were also present. She had an engagement to meet her son later on in a different part of Brooklyn. But as we were beginning to gather things together, I couldn’t resist asking her about psychoanalytic technique specifically. She said, “I practice tolerating whatever comes up in my studio—and it’s a bit redundant to say that you have to have that as a foundation for technique in psychoanalysis. 21
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There’s a limit to what can be allowed to happen in the psychoanalytic situation, but you have to tolerate a lot of listening and be patient. My ability to understand what my patients go through might be compromised. In art I try to regulate, contain, or turn into stories entities that seem that they are disintegrative or make you want to fall apart. Am I off the mark sometimes? Yes. It’s kind of like Loewald, who provides models for creative disintegration as well an ascent to higher levels of differentiation. You can move to a higher level of differentiation and can also tolerate the unknown and darker thoughts that are impinging on you so as to facilitate representation. Artists have tools that make more visible. Henry Cartier- Bresson captures the decisive moment but Minor White suggests ‘Wait for the image to find you.’ A good photograph is not just about what it is but about something else, the image of an object that lurks in shadow at the perimeter of the frame that indicates a whole other world that cannot be included; analysis is the same, as the analysand relates the dream in a secondary revision, inevitably the analyst and analysand are both aware of how much is left out, partly because it may not be essential, but also because it may belong to a complex psychological constellation that will not be grasped within the limits of any given analysis or any given lifetime. If we had more time we could go further into how this relates to Bion—but in a general sense I would say that overall creativity represents a form of working through what he called negative K, and there’s much more to be said about that.” The time was up and we had to say goodbye. As I reflected on meeting with Donna and writing the article I was left with the sensation of becoming a student again, in a university of the world where ideas seemed larger, possibilities seemed greater, and the epistemophilic impulse to know suddenly co-existed with a tranquility of tolerating many different ideas in a complex web of thought. I was left with a strong curiosity to see more of Donna’s work and how her restless and penetrating intelligence will continue to evolve. If you are interested check out our web sites www.donnabassin.com and www.davidsalvage.net. z REFERENCES Bollas, C. (1978). The aesthetic moment and the search for transformation. The Annual of Psychoanalysis, 6, 365-394. Eissler, K. R. (1967). Psychopathology and creativity. American Imago, 24(1-2), 35-81. Gedo, J. (1989). Portraits of the artist: Psychoanalysis of creativity and its vicissitudes. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press. Greenacre, P. (1957). The childhood of the artist: Libidinal phase development and giftedness. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 12(1), 47-72. Maher, A. (1993). Creativity: A work in progress. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 62, 239-262. Salcedo, D. (1992). Atrabiliarios [installation]. Winnicott, D. W. (1958). Transitional objects and transitional phenomena: A study of the first not-me possession. In Through paediatrics to psychoanalysis, pp. 229-242. New York, NY: Basic Books. (Original work published 1953).
ANY BODY ANYBODY: THE MATTER OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
It is generally assumed that the body of the hysteric speaks and its language can be interpreted through explicable causes and enunciable statements. I’d like to question the validity and pertinence of the conception and related metaphor of the speaking body in Freud’s works. Although the symptoms of hysterics were duly interpreted by Freud as early as his Studies on Hysteria (1895/2010), he never seemed to consider them as fully comprehensible. While some somatic yet inorganic manifestations led him to discover the unconscious by revealing their traumatic origin, it would be an overstatement to assert that Freud ever acknowledged them as thoroughly translatable. Remarkably, Freud seems to feel more at ease and at home with the language of obsessional neuroses. In his Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis (1909/2010), when analyzing the Rat Man, he asserts that the language of obsessional neurosis “does not involve the leap from a mental process to a somatic innervation— hysterical conversion—which can never be fully comprehensible to us” (p.2128). In his later Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis delivered in 1916, Freud contrasts obsessional neurosis with hysteria: “obsessional neurosis, in which the puzzling leap from the mental to the physical plays no part, has… become more perspicuous and familiar to us than hysteria, and we have learnt that it displays certain extreme characteristics of the nature of neurosis far more glaringly” (1916/2010, p.3339). This brings us back to the process of hysterical conversion, prompting us to interrogate Freud’s side comment and elucidate the meaning of what he calls the “leap from the mental to the physical” (1916/2010, p.3339). If the language of obsessional neurosis is deemed to be “a dialect in which we ought to be able to find our way about more easily, since it is more nearly related to the forms of expression adopted by our conscious thought than is the language of hysteria” (1909/2010. p.2128), the reason why the process of somatic innervation is “never …fully comprehensible to us” (p.2128) remains to be seen. Freud seems to consider bodily manifestations as symptoms that pose some theoretical difficulty. Why should the body language of the hysteric be construed as specific and partly incomprehensible? In order to address this question, let us first go back to Freud’s conversion theory. The term conversion was first used in order to describe the case of Emmy von N. and defined as “the transformation of psychical excitation into chronic somatic symptoms” (1895/2010, p.79).
If we take a closer look at the cause of Emmy’s uncontrolled movements of the tongue, it is worth noticing that Freud explains them in terms of “the putting into effect of antithetic ideas” (p.83). The motor manifestation results from a psychical conflict whereby an idea puts itself into effect and takes the shape of a bodily expression; the body speaks in so far as an idea literally takes over. According to Freud’s incipient conception of the symptom, the body speaks insofar as the subject is unable to do so. While pondering on the case of Miss Lucy R., Freud generalizes that conversion results from an intentional repression. The somatic innervation stems from an excitation, amounting to a defense mechanism. The somatic experience is further described in anthropomorphic terms according to which “[t]he repressed idea takes its revenge …by becoming pathogenic” (1895/2010, p.102). Freud accounts for conversion symptoms where an excitation is converted into a somatic innervation in terms of economic gain: “the advantage of this is that the incompatible idea is repressed from the ego’s consciousness” (p.108). He further interprets them as an escape from the field of consciousness, resulting from what he calls a lack of “moral courage” (p.108). When characterizing conversion symptoms after Freud, Laplanche and Pontalis insist on their value of expression: “they express through the body repressed representations” (Laplanche, 1967/2010, p.104). In Freud’s early conception of the hysteric’s symptom, the somatic manifestation results from a conflict, but is not meaningful in or of itself. In discussing Dora’s throat symptoms (1905/2010), Freud further remarked on the “difficulty” of such a symptom production and asserted that a single symptom can correspond to several meanings simultaneously. In Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, Freud defines the symptom as “a sign of, and a substitute for, an instinctual satisfaction which has remained in abeyance; it is the consequence of the process of repression” (1926/2010, p.4252), but immediately admits that the enigma of the leap still remained to be elucidated. In the theoretical conclusions drawn from Studies on Hysteria, Breuer discusses in the third chapter the ideogenic nature of hysterical phenomena, in which he and Freud differ from Moebius, who considers all pathological phenomena as having been caused by ideas to be hysterical. What this ideogenic debate entails is the question of the somatic translatability of the unconscious; whether the body is ideally affected in the symptom and whether it is affected 22
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by an ideal, abstract cause. Although limited in scope, Freud’s ideogenic conception of hysterical symptoms foregrounds the idealistic nature of unconscious mechanisms and of the unconscious itself. Freud’s unconscious is by no means organically based or localizable. The famous 1915 article titled “The Unconscious” clearly states that the justification of the concept that can only be phenomenally inferred cannot rely on any anatomical or neurological evidence. Having moved away from the theory and practice of neurological anatomy to the field of psychoanalysis, Freud is reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of any kind of organic location for the unconscious. The validity of his hypothesis cannot depend on any form of somatic evidence. The word that Freud uses to describe and perform this operation is hiatus, a word that echoes the “leap” to name the disjunction between the mental process and its somatic translation in the case of conversion symptoms. Freud’s psychical topography clearly serves to fill the lack of reference to anatomy. The “regions of the mental apparatus” (1905/2010, p.1493) are construed as practically without reference to the body. In his 1915 article, Freud goes so far as to conceive of the mental apparatus as belonging to a body without organs—to take up a Deleuzian concept, “regions in the mental apparatus, wherever they may be situated in the body” (1915/2010, p.2998)—as he sees them belong to a body whose anatomy is no longer organ-based, refashioning the clinically admitted image of the body. It may be argued that what Freud objects to is not so much the body as such, the soma per se, but its clinical and organ-based representation. However, knowing who Freud was, intellectually and clinically, his deliberately nonorganic conception not only of the unfathomable unconscious but of the mental apparatus at large gives us a sense of what it must have taken him to wrench himself free of his medical past in order to strip psychoanalysis from an organic, histological, if not bodily basis. What Freud denies is not the existence of a neurological functionality, but the possibility to derive mental processes, conscious or unconscious, from an organic functionality, to translate histological and chemical neurological connections to mental phenomena. In Freud’s view, the mental apparatus does not coincide with the brain, however powerful the brain can prove to be. The unconscious is without a site. The difficulty to account for the leap or hiatus between the psychic and somatic lies
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in the description of the nature of the connection. If Freud is willing to acknowledge an intimate connection that differentiates psychiatric case studies from psychoanalytic ones, the extent to which the body is involved in the connection remains unclear and difficult to grasp. Freud does not resort to, let alone promote, the category of body language. The hysterical symptom undoubtedly constitutes a meaningful manifestation of the unconscious, yet the translatability of its causes into actual body language is highly problematic. To that extent, he proves certainly less Lacanian than Lacan, who deciphers the symptom as pure signifying, and less prone than Lacan to read the symptom as language, along the signifying chain. Freud’s distrust of metaphors and metaphorical abuses probably also led him not to really engage with the conception of
In one of Lacan’s apologues, in The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis (session of February 16, 1955), he recalls the clinical instance of a writer’s cramp. Lacan found that the man’s symptom was related to the Islamic law, which states that thieves should have their hands cut off for their misdeed. It so happened that the he writer’s father had been accused of theft when he was a child and the patient spent his childhood unable to understand why thieves should have their hands cut off. Insofar as he could not make sense of such a law, he ended up suffering from a cramp in his hand, an experience akin to that of a hand that would have been cut off. Lacan contends that the principle of retaliation here that applied to the hand struck him as incomprehensible and hence elicited his incapacity to
Freud’s attention to language and what he calls in the Traumdeutung—the “Holy Writ” of the unconscious (1900/2010, p.949)—applies to dreams and not to symptoms. The symptoms’ message, if there is one, does not fall under the category of the “heiligen Text.” The symptom, be it of conversion or not, does not read as text, and does not contain, unlike Lacan’s conception of it, a persistent message that must be respected in its signifying materiality. If symptoms are ciphered or encrypted as Freud’s clinic shows in Studies in Hysteria, their message is certainly less linguistic and textual. It is no surprise that to Lacan, the hysteric is regarded less under the purview of the symptom than that of discourse as early as 1969 in Seminar XVII (The Other Side of Psychoanalysis). For Lacan, according to the symptom(s), the hysteric seems to
use his own hand. In this same 1954–1955 seminar, Lacan further argues that Freud’s analysis of dreams and symptoms “puts into play the structure of language in general, more precisely the relation of man to language” (session of April 22 1954). He equates dreams with symptoms and puts them on an equal footing vis-à-vis language. As we understand, Freud never meant to promote these symptoms to a paradigmatic level.
question the essence of language in its relationship to truth (and its sister jouissance). However, in his lecture titled “On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena” (1912/2010), in the wake of Breuer’s analysis of Anna O., Freud contends that there is no such thing as “a ‘symbolic’ relation between the determining cause and the hysterical symptom” (p.294). So what exactly does Freud mean by symbolization? The term and notion of
Cecilia, Dan and Frank
a bodily translation of the unconscious and limit the scope of linguistically based symptom. Body language to that extent sounds like an irrelevant metaphor. In his reluctance vis-à-vis conversion mechanisms, Freud also seems less inclined to psychosomatics than we might think. His reticence to consider conversion as the paradigm of symptom formation also prompts us to reassess and revise our understanding of the relationships between body and the unconscious.
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symbolization only appears to be addressed in Freud’s fourth case study of Elisabeth von R. Trying to make a case for such an unconscious process, Freud brings two more cases to the fore, those of Fräulein Rosalia H. and Frau Cäcilie. The former is a 23-year-old singer who complains that her voice would get out of control on certain occasions and experiences a feeling of choking and constriction in her throat. Freud reports and analyzes what he calls “a minor hysterical attack” that briefly and suddenly appears during the cure, a symptom whose interest lies in the fact that it exemplifies the symbolic process on a small scale. During treatment, Rosalia H. complained of a “pricking sensation in the tips of her fingers” (1895/2010, p.156), which she began experiencing the day before, resulting in a “twitching movement with her fingers” (p.156) every few hours. Through hypnosis, the patient is able to recall a scene from her childhood where her “bad uncle,” suffering from rheumatism, had asked her to massage his back; a massage she did not dare to refuse; a massage during which he tried to sexually assault her. At this point, Freud explains the conversion mechanism: “The sensations in her fingers might be explained in this case by a suppressed impulse to punish him” (1895/2010, p.156). The patient further remembers a previous scene where she was sitting at the piano, having been invited by her uncle to play for him. When her aunt suddenly appeared at the door, she slammed the lid of the piano and ran away with what Freud identifies as “a feeling of violent resentment at the unjust suspicion to which she was subjected” (p.156). The patient’s fingers are involved on both occasions, the former reenacting the traumatic potential of the latter. Freud accounts for the symptom by saying The movement of her fingers which I saw her make while she was reproducing this scene was one of twitching something away, in the way in which one literally and figuratively brushes something aside—tossing away a piece of paper or rejects a suggestion. (p.156) In the symptom, the body gives shape “literally and figuratively,” and it appears in form, more so than in voice, to the subject’s defensive response to the attack she is facing. Freud is careful to distinguish between what he calls “the motives and mechanisms” of hysteria (1895/2010, p.158) and the determination of the hysterical symptom when addressing Fraulein Elisabeth von R.’s somatic manifestation when he asks, “Why was it that the patient’s mental pain came to be represented in the legs rather than
elsewhere?” (p.158). We cannot reformulate Freud without distorting his thought when replacing the notion of representation by that of translation. To represent is not to translate. The determination of the symptom, its trajectory and choice of body localization, are construed by Freud as the “mnemic symbol of her painful psychical excitations” (p.158). More than anything else, the symptom stems from a symbolic logic. It represents the original mental pain by relocating it according to a mnemonic inference. According to this unconscious mechanism, the patient/subject keeps tracks of his or her mental pain through the symptom manifestation whose cause remains inaccessible. Freud has repeatedly remarked that what accounts for the leap between the psychic and somatic is the suppression of the connection which would lead to the rediscovery of the origin of the excitation. In Studies on Hysteria, Freud asserts his conversion theory at the very same time as he limits the scope and universality of the hysterical symptom, considering that it takes a cluster of connections and factors for the symptom to appear. The hysteric will use all means available to express his or her concealed memory, therefore either creating or increasing a functional disorder. Freud comes to the conclusion that in many cases, conversion uses already existing somatic paths. Fraulein Elisabeth von R. had suffered from a pain of rheumatic origin. Freud distinguishes between conversion on the basis of what he calls “simultaneity,” when an associative link already exists which does not demand a specific hysterical disposition, and conversion by “symbolization,” which he understands to call for a higher degree of hysterical modification. In order to illustrate the first category, we must go back to Fraulein Elisabeth von R.’s case study. Freud assumes that the symptom is likely to have been organic in the first place and suggests that she must have felt the pain at times. For what concerns conversion by symbolization, Freud brings out the case of Frau Cäcilie M. who, among other discontinuous symptoms, suffered from violent facial neuralgia. Under hypnosis, Freud’s patient was able to unearth a conversation with her husband and a statement of his which she took as an insult. “Suddenly,” Freud writes, “she put her hand to her cheek, gave a loud cry of pain and said: ‘It was like a slap in the face.’ With this her pain and her attack [which had lasted for fifteen years] were both at an end” (1895/2010, p.161). In this case, and in this case only, language seems to be interfering in the formation of the symptom. However, we should not rush to conclude that the affect associated with the expression “a slap in the face” has been converted into the actual symptom. Throughout 24
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Studies on Hysteria, Freud teaches us not to jump to conclusions regarding conversion theory, but to consider how to precisely connect the phrase to the somatic manifestation. He writes “There is no doubt that what had happened had been a symbolization. She had felt as though she had actually been given a slap on the face” (p.161). In saying this, Freud does not mean to suggest that his patient borrowed her symptom from the proverbial expression, but, quite the opposite, that the patient felt a pain akin to that of being slapped on the face, this very feeling which turns out to be the physical origin of the metaphorical use. It is worth noticing that Freud regards the symptom here as stemming not from the proverb, nor from any linguistic twist or turn, but from a physical, somatic root. To that extent, hysteria deconstructs metaphorical uses and gives access to the somatic basis of linguistic body-related expressions. Dead language is brought back to originary affect while meaning is literally revitalized in the process of conversion. In deconstructing the conversion symptom, Freud seems to favor the idea of the reinforcement of an existing pain rather than the creation of a new somatic path. He makes it clear by the end of the fourth case study that if nothing undoubtedly exists in examples of hysterical symptoms, they are less frequent than we expect them to be. He further adds that this process is to be encountered more with pains than with common forms of hysterical somatic disorders. The connection between the somatic symptom and its determining cause can, but doesn’t always, follow a linguistic path for Freud; the exception does not make the rule. To conclude, Freud appears not as prone as one would think to decode symptoms in terms of “verbal expression” (1895/2010, p.162). He implicitly does not regard the symptom genesis as comparable to the dream work, which will be later laid out in Die Traumdeutung. If the dream calls for interpretation, the symptom can at best be decoded and tracked backward to its origin. In Freud’s conversion theory, he proves not to read the body linguistically, but rather semiotically or symbolically. Freud’s conversion symptom is no text and should not be regarded nor clinically considered as such. z REFERENCES Freud, S. (2010). Complete works (Ivan Smith, Ed.). Available at https://www.valas.fr/IMG/pdf/Freud_Complete_ Works.pdf (Original works published in different years) Lacan, J. (1988). The seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II: The ego in Freud’s theory and in the technique of psychoanalysis 1954-1955 (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed. and Sylvana Tomaselli, Trans.). London, UK: Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1978). Lacan, J. (2008). The seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book XVII: The other side of psychoanalysis (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed. and Russell Grigg, Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1991) Laplanche, J., & Pontalis, J.-B. (2009). Vocabulaire de la psychoanalyse. Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France. (Original work published 1967).
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Body of the Drives, Bodies in Politics: Anonymous or Impersonal? Monique DAVID-MENARD
I. Paradoxes of the Sexuated Unconscious. Where is Materiality Situated? Is there a fear of materiality within the field of psychoanalysis? The response to this question does not distinguish among doctrines. We are familiar with the critique of the Freudian energetic theory by Lacan who preferred to speak of the drive “circuit” and of the drive as a montage in a surrealist collage. Freud (1939/1964) invokes volcanoes; Lacan interprets the Drang, the drive’s constant thrust, as the outline of a circuit that turns around the object and returns to the body, rendering this source erogenous by the constant return of the circuit. “Constancy of thrust” refers to the relative stability of the circuit. It is again a question of a materiality, but a materiality of surface. Lacan also says that a human subject is constituted by the life of her drives that aim at satisfaction. He adds only that the whole question is to know how this goal is realized; there are some satisfactions that are more costly than others. When we insist like Freud does on a supposed dualism of the components of the drive, a representative aspect and a “quantum of affect,” we do not escape the aporia of the psychic and the somatic. When we insist like Lacan does on the fact that what links the one to the other is the lack internal to the signifying chain (in which “a signifier is what represents a subject to another signifier”), with the lack internal to the series of drives, we believe ourselves to have explained how the body articulates itself with language, whereas we haven’t explained anything at all: it is not because the two heterogeneous series each carry a void that their heterogeneity dissolves! Lacan, moreover, often finishes by speaking about the “enigmatic affinity” of human sexuality, biology and desire with the order of the signifiers. Why change it all if only to finish on the impotence of thought? When we try to define the materiality of the unconscious by the body alone, or by drives independent of the act of the transference, the advantage is to highlight the paradox of the impersonality of the drive and the body. Yet, there is another way to approach the materiality of the sexual, in the relation between transference and repetition. When Freud speaks in 1932 of the theory of drives as “our mythology”, he immediately adds that in the clinic we do not leave the terrain of the drives (1935/1964). And in the same way Lacan manages sometimes to describe the
materiality of the unconscious when he shows that the object that causes desire is at work as much as in what screws up the sexual relation, as in that around which the transferential repetition turns. It seems to me that it is in the seminar on La logique du fantasme (1966-67), unfortunately still unpublished, that this is best explained. This seminar comes three years after Seminar XI (1964/1978), which also treats the materiality in the act of repetition and the circuit of the drives. But in 1967 it is clearer: the object is at stake in the “sexual non-relation” and in what repetition makes appear in transference. The object is not simply indifferent, replaceable by anything. The object is that which transference highlights in the very act of treatment: treatment is an act that appeals to an object excluded from the signifying chain by the way in which the patient repeats what she cannot say by borrowing materials from the space of the analyst and of the analysis. These materials do not seem to be any more important than the day’s residues, yet only this has the capacity to provoke the unconscious formation of a dream. Only this traces a singular configuration to what repeats itself both inside and outside of treatment. This object, constitutive of the singularity of a subject and yet in excess with respect to all that she can say about herself, is also at stake in the inadequacy of the sexual act. As we can see, it is no longer the body in isolation that lets us define the materiality of the unconscious, but it is the whole operation or act that psychoanalysis consists in: we are constituted by the few objects that cause our desire and that are necessarily material since they only become distinct by the act of a repetition in the “acting out” of treatment, and also in the always singular failure of the sexual act. Inadequacy puts the subject in front of what she hoped to find in an encounter. Otherwise, there is no access to it and what causes her desire remains unconscious. II. The Political Unconscious and the Overdetermination of Agency How do bodies intervene in politics? I would like to examine the response to this question posed by Judith Butler’s in her latest work, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015). The question there is: must we pose a continuity between sexual drives, affects, and the reality of a political act? In the chapter “Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street,” Judith Butler analyzes what drives a protest in the street, 25
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when actors ordinarily excluded from political expression, such as trans folks, lay claim to their rights. They put into play the vulnerability of their bodies in a public place. Conceptually, Butler is in dialogue with Arendt by insisting on the bodies assembled publicly in the streets: Arendt claimed that there is something political in public assemblies when citizens use speech to determine collectively the good of the city. And even if she questioned the exclusions on which this discursive model of democracy is founded, she maintains that politics begins with deliberation and discursive conflicts. Butler critiques—this is the first point— the idea that bodies belong to a “private” sphere and she shows rightly that political protests are the deployment of the precarity of bodies, a precarity that is also a resource of relations, created by the presenting of bodies in collective action. Second point of her critique: collective action is here thought less of as an object preceding assembly than as an occasion to create equality amongst the groups and individuals united. This performativity concerns first of all public space. The materiality of the places where protests happen is at once the condition of the possibility of assembly and the production of collective action itself. This space, which is at once the condition of political action and the creation of collective action, becomes political (including the virtual and mediatized dimensions of space). It puts bodies in play, including their elementary biological activities, and does this by way of the mediation of virtual media. Bodies themselves become political. This allows her to redefine what Arendt called the “space of appearance.” Appearance doesn’t happen without a doing. Third point: in the chapter “Gender Politics and the Right to Appear,” Butler clarifies how a political sociality is created in the assemblies in the street that unites heterogeneous groups. Bodies are not united only in order to defend a common cause that would pre-exist their coming together. The precarity of the bodies that take the risk to protest collectively is performative: it creates an egalitarian sociality. Sociality means here that each group “goes beyond” its own claims. This “beyond” does not exist outside of the space created: because trans folks protest in Ankara or in London and Berkeley with lipstick feminists and human rights activists, Muslims with secular activists, a political line is affirmed against not only police brutality, but against military brutalities, highlighting
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precisely the exclusionary character, including for sexual minorities, of nationalisms. Is the enacting of bodies assembled in the streets enough to give a political dimension to that event? In a discussion with Butler, I would advance this: the event has a political significance thanks to a historical factor that remains in the shadows, but which gives to what is created by and between the actors the weight of an explicit victory over nationalism (even if provisional, as we now know). The social exclusion of transgender people is overdetermined by the history of nationalism in Turkey. And it is because the protest in Ankara links contingently these two factors that it acquired a political significance. It is not only a question of a dispossession pertaining to the ontological “ec-static” capacity of bodies, nor to simply the putting together of heterogeneous
fought Kurds, religion is the mark of something more than nationalism. Isn’t this also what gives political significance to the transgender protest? The mix of transgender people with human rights activists, Muslim women in the street, lipstick feminists and secular people makes the exclusionary violence of nationalism appear with more political force (and with more danger) in Ankara than in Berkeley or in London. It is not only that equality is produced between heterogeneous groups and that excluded groups are less invisible than they are ordinarily, it is that the very heterogeneity with which the common is constructed renders visible the division that Turkish nationalism usually affirms. It is the unthought or the unconscious part of nationalism in Turkey that is rendered, if not conscious, at least apparent in public space.
Self-portrait, Mexico City
groups. Take again the example of the protests against transgender violence in Ankara in 2010. Judith Butler notes that what makes this protest go beyond being a mere assembly of individuals is the establishment of a link between lesbians, trans people, human rights activists. There is more in the last example: the “beyond” created through the event is the fact that the exclusionary violence of nationalism appears in person in a public space. Now, what Butler does not say is that Turkey has a very particular history of nationalism. For this very reason, the political nature of assembly is overdetermined: Mustapha Kemal Atatürk secularized the country in a revolutionary way that was both nationalist and authoritarian. The current president Erdogan has made Muslim religion a national treasure. In Turkey, a Muslim country that is no Arab, which successively chased out Christians and Jews, exterminated Armenians, and
The diverse groups, by their very coming together, render perceptible, without it being predictable, that to which their union is opposed. Is it not this un-mastered factor, unknown or unconscious, that makes the event politically significant? A fundamental ontology of precarity (from which Butler distances herself, in contrast to Agamben) risks misrecognizing this overdetermination that characterizes political action. Bodies engaged in a protest become political by the space that they create and by the equality in interdependence that they render real. But in order for this to be produced, doesn’t there also have to be a factor that agency does not master, a historical factor that the protest is in the process of transforming without knowing it? If bodies go beyond themselves in such a public demonstration, this is not only because the body would be by itself an ontological/political instrument of going beyond oneself, but rather because 26
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there is politics and history thanks to the overdetermination of the agency of the actors. This might be heard as a commentary on the Hegelian-Marxist aphorism: men make their own history, but they don’t know the history they make. However, this asubjective condition, impersonal, is not the foundation that the efficacy of protests rests upon. There is no “final instance” whether economic or ontological. I’ve deliberately used the word overdetermination; recall that in 1962 Althusser (1977) borrowed this term from Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams in order to designate the fact that what makes a political action decisive is always a factor apparently heterogeneous to the “principal contradiction.” The Bolshevik revolution took place in Russia and not in Germany where everybody had expected it. Why and how? Precisely because the contradiction between capital and labor was at once less present and more active as a result of heterogeneous factors to this supposed principal contradiction. The working class was a very weak sector in an underdeveloped Russia. Nevertheless, the working class that existed was “modern” and the class antagonism that existed there was particularly marked. What’s more, the war of the great nations had made it so that workers encountered peasants, these latter having made up the majority of the Russian army. It is always an exception to the rule, to what is expected, Althusser said, that makes something move in history. It is a contingent factor in the sense that it is exterior to what it is going to transform in a decisive way. The question in both examples is then: is this unknown or unconscious factor material? The response here is negative. Since the materiality of assembled bodies, which is indeed a condition of political action, is a factor disjoined from the particularities of nationalism in Turkey. In politics, as in the vicissitudes of drives, the unconscious takes hold in acts. And an act puts into play space and materiality. The materiality of the protest escapes the traditional political opposition of the particular and the universal. This is what appears to me to be so important in the meeting of the claims of heterogeneous rights and the materiality of shared acts from everyday life. The materiality of these acts highlights the fact that the common, which is produced politically, does not aim to represent a totality or unity representative of all social relations. We have the impression that in political philosophy, we either have a materially determined content of the common, or we have a unity that totalizes social relations but which then has the status of a normative ideal about which we always ask ourselves how this unity becomes real
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without being able to give a response to this question. Judith Butler would agree that the production of the common is not a normative ideal: performativity is a production of space and bodies as political that transforms what they were as simple condition of action. But Butler does not require that the common that is produced take on a unified form such as the State. On the contrary: in order for a public assembly to have a political efficacy, it has to be produced on the margin of a determinate exclusion. Conclusions To the deconstruction of materiality, I will willingly oppose, even if I know it’s also a question of a discursive strategy, an attempt to think how social and political relations produce a décalage between
sexuality and the common. Seen from the side of analysis, this process appears as a leap of unconscious sexuality into what culture offers to it. This is moreover what Freud called the “work of culture.” Now it is precisely because the materiality at work in social relations is out of joint [décalée] with respect to the materiality of the drives that cultural objects function as a pretext for “sublimation.” Seen from the side of treatment, the term of sublimation is a bit vague; seen from the side of social relations and even from the unification of the social by the political, this is called the “work of culture.” The work of culture is not limited to cultivating an articulation between affective life and the absence of a common foundation; it succeeds sometimes by setting off unconscious sexuality in
Signed N. O. Body: Writing the Body This paper contains a selection of passages from Transgender Psychoanalysis: A Lacanian Perspective on Sexual Difference (Routledge, 2017). Somebody, who had chosen the pen name of N. O. Body, wrote a beautiful, moving memoir originally published in 1907 under the title Memoirs of a Man’s Maiden Years (1907/2006). Since the pseudonym “N. O. Body” can be read alternatively as “No Body” or “Nobody,” the choice will be left to you. The title referred to Theodor Herzl’s then-famous utopian novel, Old New Land, which was published five years earlier. If his pen-name called up the desperate character who was shown ready to throw away his life on an experiment in the 1902 novel, the real N. O. Body published his memoirs because he felt his life had been an “experiment.” The consequences were so dire that he reached a point when he wanted to end his own life. N. O. Body’s memoir opens with the revelatory statement: “This book tells a true story. … I was born a boy, raised as a girl.” Indeed, N. O. Body was born in 1885, assigned a female identity, and raised as a girl. During her childhood, she nevertheless engaged in what was considered stereotypical male behavior. Her adolescence was dark and tortuous as her body developed in a masculine manner and she developed a strong attraction for women. After two decades of feeling at odds in her body, passionately in love with a married woman and contemplating suicide, a doctor suggested “a minor operation,” declaring: “You are as much a man as I am!” That statement gave
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REFERENCES Althusser, L. (1977). Pour Marx. Paris, France: Maspero. (Original work published 1965) Butler, J. (2015). Notes toward a performative theory of assembly. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Freud, S. (1964). Moses and monotheism: Three essays. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 22, pp. 7-140). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1939) Freud, S. (1964). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis and other works. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 22, pp. 1-267). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1932) Lacan, J. (1967). Seminar XIV, the logic of fantasy [1966/1967]: Unofficial transcript of Lacan’s seminars, available online at: http://ecole-lacanienne.net/bibliolacan/stenotypies-version-j-l-et-non-j-l/ Lacan, J. (1978). The seminar of Jacques Lacan: The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed. and Alan Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1964)
N. O. Body courage and hope. Moreover, the doctor added that for that kind of transformation, “the authorities could not deny permission” (Body, 1907/2006, p.99). The memoir’s author was born twice: first as a baby girl named Nora, and then again as a 22-year-old man called Norbert. N. O. Body was in fact Karl M. Bauer, a person who would today be called intersex. Bauer was born as Martha in 1884 and died as Karl in Israel in 1956. His flat gravestone in the Kiryat-Shaul cemetery of Tel Aviv carries the date of his death but no date for his birth (Body, 1907/2006, p.136). The memoir was an immediate success and went through at least six reprints. It inspired two silent films and even a satire, confirming the popularity of the work (p.134). Soon after his sex change, Bauer got married in October 10, 1907. His friends published a marriage announcement, including that he succeeded in persuading the Minister of the Interior to agree to change his personal registration to male. N. O. Body became just Body, a truly embodied body—not just by the intervention of a scalpel and the rectification of his civil status, but also by the re-knotting of his subjectivity through writing. It is often assumed that transsexuals and intersex people are marginal, exceptional beings whose experiences cannot be shared by most of us. My contention is that their foundational uncertainties about gender are universal. Hirschfeld published many cases of what was then called “hermaphroditism,” as proof of the existence of a congenital bisexuality, and imagined that bisexuality 27
something other than itself. This is also very important in order to situate what the psychoanalytic act can do. z
would lead to a “third sex” he saw rooted in nature as an interior androgyny that made the body both male and female, and thus neither fully male or female. In his epilogue to N. O. Body’s memoir, Hirschfeld makes an interesting political statement that echoes our contemporary discussions and touches on a freedom defined as the right to choose one’s gender, predicated on the respect for individual differences and the pursuit of beauty. In 1907, Hirschfeld also made a claim that remains close to Caitlyn Jenner’s declaration about her transition when she came out in a TV interview. In 2015, Jenner talked about having a “female brain,” which gained her praise for her courage and dismay among certain feminists. According to Hirschfeld’s logic, “[t]he sex of a person lies more in his mind than in his body” (Body, 1907/2006, p.110); gender appears coupled to the body— not between the legs, but higher up between the ears. Perhaps it is under the logic of being “born this way,” as Lady Gaga reminds us, that gender identity gets disembodied and denaturalized to be then reembodied and denaturalized. Lady Gaga’s famous song “Born This Way” interests me not because I would be one of her fans, but because I want to explore what J. Jack Halberstam has called “Gaga Feminism,” a feminism favoring gender and sexual fluidity. Halberstam describes Lady Gaga’s fashionista feminism as one that “hints at emerging formulations of a gender politics” (2012, p.xiii). While most gender transitions happen, as Stoller says (quoting Winnicott), to give expression to the subject’s “true self,” Gaga
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is placed at the opposite end of authenticity, celebrating the unreal, the unstable, and the artificial (Stoller, 1975, p.2). She is such a “phony” that Halberstam refers to Gaga’s feminism as a “pheminism” (2012, p.xii). Indeed, Gaga has incarnated a new form of political engagement deriving from the unstable category of “woman.” Representing more than her persona, Gaga deploys artificiality with such relentlessness that this makes her an artist. In her shows, Lady Gaga burns the usual divides imposed by gender norms. Under the call sign “fashion is my freedom,” she once showed up in drag as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone, and always surprises people with her gender theatrics. Gaga challenges gender norms in her song “Born This Way.” In the lyrics, we hear: “Don’t be a drag just be a queen.” This phrase, repeated three times, implicitly contains the expression “drag queen.” Art is the way to become a real queen, and it is just a matter of time until we are all “superstars.” Gaga, whose birth name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, started calling herself Lady Gaga after meeting a drag queen called Lady Starlight. Lady Starlight told her that she was doing much more than making music, she was creating art (Halberstam, 2012, p.139). The lyrics of “Born This Way” proclaim the foundational American doxa: a good dose of individualism will save you, it is enough to be proud of one’s identity to make it in America, we are all equal in our rights, and so on. This message is inclusive: let us “be brave” and accept difference as embodied by discriminated minorities: “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen / Whether you’re broke or evergreen / You’re black, white, beige, chola descent / You’re Lebanese, you’re orient / Whether life’s disabilities / Left you outcast, bullied, or teased / Rejoice and love yourself today / ’Cause baby you were born this way.” Let us add that Gaga’s song twists the essentialist formula of “born this way” and actually makes it say the reverse. Gaga pretended to impose a biological determinism, but only in order to accept a difference based on a paradigm of free choice. “Born this way” can then mean that I was born with a girl’s brain in a male body, which is a contrarian essentialism. What is revealed by Gaga’s song can be better understood within the logic of the sinthome, provided we give another meaning to the idea of being “born.” A sinthome is a plastic renaissance of a subject, a new birth in which art can grant a solution only when confronting its contradictions. Only art can allow someone to become the queen or the king of his or her new autobiography. The argument of an anatomical destiny proposed by Lady Gaga in “Born This Way” presents a reality in which race or sexual orientation are seen as a “natural” attribute, which is at
the same time a forced choice. What choice are we talking about when the internal sense of gender appears to contradict the body perceived as an envelope that does not fit with the contents? To further explore this issue, I will now provide a second example. This Damned Body: A Living Archive of Transformation (http:// thisdamnedbody.com/) is an intimate online document of Swift Shuker’s transition from a male body to an androgynous one. I was interested in the fact that for Shuker, the process became an art form. This is why on September 3, 2016, I went to Philadelphia’s Fringe Arts annual festival hoping to see a live performance, since Shuker is the co-artistic director of the [redacted] Theater Company, an innovative and daring theatre collective based in Philadelphia. Upon my arrival at the festival’s main venue, I was told that This Damned Body Is Carved Out of Meat was not going to be presented on stage, but it would be live online as part of Digital Fringe, a platform for digital art in Fringe Arts’ annual festival. Paradoxically, this story of the flesh was presented only virtually. This video is part of a two-year performance series about “the difficulties, pleasure, and ugliness of living in a body,” referring to an impasse, to enjoyment, and to aesthetics (This Damned Body Week 1, Year One: https://vimeo.com/113248908). On the screen, we see a person who we might assume is biologically male, with long dark blond hair on one side, a shaved head on the other, pearls and hoops in the ears, nails painted in bright red, writing words on their face with a black marker. We then see alternating images of Shuker lying naked in bed and images of Shuker getting a tattoo on their back. The tattoo is elaborate: a tree with a rope tied to it, and holding onto the rope, suspended in mid-air, a naked person. The video then cuts back to the scene of the writing on the body. This includes frontal nudity of the penis, with writing that says, “I AM FINE WITH IT.” (Several additional videos in the This Damned Body series are available at https://vimeo.com/redactedtheater). The story juxtaposes this with the preceding account of a suicide attempt. We hear Shuker crying, “I know I don’t want to die. If I am gonna live I have to hang that life onto something” (Week 1, Year One). We now see rapid images of Shuker painting lines on their body with red lipstick superimposed with images of the tattoo in progress. The lines of lipstick get smeared, as if erasing the marks. Under the intense shadow of red color spreading all over the skin, the writing on the body becomes less legible, but still discernible. Shuker smiles to the camera in a disquieting manner. Let us note that what is most remarkable in this work is that Shuker’s bodily transformation is not so much about gender as it is a 28
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reconciliation with life: “By medicine and by art and by sacrifice, I will make myself a body with an aesthetic, a gender, and a voice that I can live with. Because I do not wish to die” (http://thisdamnedbody.com/about. html, emphasis in original). This project perfectly illustrates the function of art as a lifesaver. I want to explore how art helps inscribe the body, “the incredibly strong material halfway between plastic and flesh,” as Shuker mentions in a daily diary in regard to a dream, which sends us back to something I have discussed elsewhere as “plasticity” (http:// thisdamnedbody.com/archive/, March 31, 2016). This will lead me to argue that writing plays a crucial role in embodiment by making a body become something else that is beyond plastic (as malleable and beautiful, imaginary and symbolic) and flesh (the impossible real of organs without a body.) What I have learned in my clinic is that “trans patients” clearly manifest that there is a new writing on their body, in consequence of which an observation of the body can yield a productive understanding of art as such. Indeed, the transgender experience brings the challenge of assuming a different or transformed body. As many argue, this is similar to the experience of becoming a work of art. Thus, an art similar to that of actual artists is to be found in transsexual artificiality. On occasion, such art is tantamount to a sinthome, which means that it occupies a structural function analogous to the role Lacan ascribed to writing, particularly that of James Joyce, who, Lacan argued, was able to use art as a supplement, as an artifice. For Joyce, art played a central role, and his writings may have saved him from the psychosis that engulfed his daughter; he once blurted out that only a transparent sheet of paper separated Ulysses from madness (Derrida, 1976/1978, p.36). Lacan’s year-long seminar of 1975 to 1976 focused on Joyce, offering an extensive exploration of artistic activity. When Lacan turned his attention to Joyce’s writings, he developed a new theory of artistic creation from Joyce’s unique though not unusual situation, and found a new meaning for the term symptom that he rewrote as “sinthome.” This word, apparently an invention, is the ancient spelling of symptom in French; it is moreover pronounced identically to the contemporary word for symptom. This subtle difference, inaudible in speech but patent in orthography, is a deliberate gesture hinting at the importance of the dimension of writing. Lacan no longer thought of the symptom simply as something to decode, but as the trace of the unique way someone can come to be and enjoy one’s unconscious. The symptom as sinthome is an invention that allows someone to live by providing an organization of jouissance. For Lacan, the aim of the cure was no longer
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to remove the patient’s symptoms, but to let the patient identify with their unique sinthome in order to enjoy it. Lacan’s theory of the sinthome applied above all to the singularities of Joyce’s art, but could be generalized. Lacan’s idea was that Joyce’s writing was a corrective device to repair a fault. According to Lacan, Joyce’s enigmatic writing in Finnegans Wake would undermine or undo language by creating a verbal stream of polyglot polysemy, saturated with multiplying meanings, a cosmos of indeterminacies; this revolutionary practice became his sinthome. Lacan then adds that Joyce wanted to make a name for himself and produced a new ego through artifice. This turned into his signature, the mark of his singularity as an artist. Joyce’s art compensated for a defect in its author’s subjective structure and saved him from insanity. The sinthome-art granted him access to a new know-how that repaired a fault in the psyche; this produced a supplement that held together the registers of the Real, the Symbolic, and the Imaginary in such a way that could re-knot the subject. However, what is the logic behind Caitlyn Jenner’s idea that a person can develop a gender as if it were an “aspect” of the personalities, a trait that was up to the hidden and dormant somewhere in the brain? Her body was masculine but her soul and her brain had always been feminine. Are we here to discuss Freud’s thesis about the destiny (Schicksal) or vicissitude of sex? I cannot help but note the contradiction observed by Elinor Burkett that when Lawrence H. Summers—then president of Harvard University—declared that men outperform women in math and science because of sex differences in the brain, it created an uproar, and he was harshly attacked for his sexist essentialism. Yet when the idea of a sexed brain was put forward by Caitlyn Jenner to explain how she knew she was transgender, saying “My brain is much more female than it is male,” she was praised for her bravery and progressiveness (2015). Freud avoided the trap of having to choose between anatomy as a “destiny” or gender as a social convention. As we have seen, for psychoanalysis, sexual difference is neither sex nor gender because gender needs to be embodied and sex needs to be symbolized. This does not mean that gender is imaginary and that sex is symbolic. In the 1915 text “Trieb und Triebschicksale,” Freud separates sexuality from the destiny of genitality, from the destiny of gender, and even from the destiny of reproduction (Freud, 1915/1957). The drive can be satisfied in one’s own body or in the body of another person. When the drive is satisfied in somebody’s body, this introduces a problem because if the drive is satisfied in the body of someone else, this exacerbates subjective division.
As we know, Freud had further elaborated on the sexual drive as not determined by gender. Above all, Freud’s “drive” only has one object and aim: satisfaction, a satisfaction that even when obtained, is never complete. The drive, a tireless power, unlike other biological functions, knows no rhythm and carries along a non-representable sexuality in the unconscious (Lacan, 1964/1978, p.165). The drive is neither a biological force nor a purely cultural construction. At the same time, the drive demarcates a bodily zone from which it originates as a cause; it is placed in a liminal location, between the organic and the inorganic. Unlike the instinct, the drive is not functional; it will not work for the subject’s benefit. It may even work against the subject’s welfare; the drive might be destructive. (Lacan 1986/1992, p.239). Lacan connects the drive with death, “the drive, the partial drive, is profoundly a death drive and represents in itself the portion of death in the sexed living being” (Lacan, 1964/1978, p.205). Death is the motor of sexual life. The drive’s trajectory is skewed, its sequence features no end point other than death itself. The cross of the frontier between the sexes is often lived as traversing a mortal threshold, a passage from an impending doom toward a renaissance; what is at stake is precisely crossing an ultimate frontier. The drama of many analysands identified as transgender is often predicated around existential issues, for beyond the gender trouble—it is often a matter of life and death. To conclude, I want to refer to an often quoted 1971 remark by Lacan that transsexuals “confuse the organ with the signifier,” and argue that the penis (an organ) is confused with the phallus (an instrument) (Lacan, 1971). The phallus is a signifying tool, operative only as an effect of language. This is a common error that in some cases can lead to the surgical removal of physical attributes like the breasts or the penis. Those instances might derive from an inability to use metaphors for those organs and castration is no longer symbolic but real, literalized in a removal of an actual bodily organ. Lacan seems to imply that the transsexual demand for the surgical removal of attributes like the breasts or the penis might derive from an inability to use metaphors for those organs. A transsexual would literalize the old Freudian mechanism of castration. As a result, Lacanian psychoanalysts in France, led by Catherine Millot, started a tradition of pathologizing transgender manifestations. One example of this seems to be at play for the protagonist of the film The Danish Girl (2015). In the movie, just before the character Lili Elbe is about to undergo a sex change surgery never attempted before, she responds to warnings about the dangers involved by telling the surgeon she wants to let go of her 29
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penis. She imagines that the removal of this organ will make her whole body go. Here, an “organ” becomes the organon, an instrument, a means of reasoning, a system of logic. Lacan’s innovations from 1971 reopen the question of femininity as neither sex nor gender because difference is seen from the pole of jouissance. Whereas for Freud there is only one libido, Lacan proposed a division based on two modes of being, masculine and feminine, that correspond to two forms of jouissance: phallic and Other. In this model of sexual division, we encounter two positions: the phallic one (“man”), who is limited by the father exempted from castration; and the unlimited jouissance of a woman who is “not all” subjected to the phallic constraints. Femininity is where the Other jouissance comes into being. “Man” and “woman” are therefore signifiers of imprecise meaning and stand for sexed positions relative to a phallic premise. In his 1966 reply to philosophy students, Lacan says: “It is not to one’s consciousness that one is condemned but to one’s body.” As we have seen, writing a memoir, N. O. Body can become somebody. As for Swift Shuker, we see how a “damned body carved out of meat” could overcome its “damnation.” Then the condemnation, the fatal error, the lethal flaw, the loss, can be repaired with the sinthome-art as a supplement. Finally, the damned body carved out of meat goes from being a deadly enclosure to embodied flesh, and life is livable. z REFERENCES Body, N.O. (2006). Memoirs of a man’s maiden years (Deborah Simon, Trans.). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. (Original work published 1907) Derrida, J. (1978). Cogito and the history of madness. In Alan Bass (Trans.), Writing and difference (pp. 31-63). London, England: Routledge. (Original work published 1967) Freud, S. (1957). Instincts and their vicissitudes. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 14, pp. 109-140). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1915) Germanotta, S. J. A. (2011). Born this way. On Born this way [CD]. Santa Monica, CA: Interscope Records. Gherovici, P. (2017). Transgender psychoanalysis: A Lacanian perspective on sexual difference. London, England and New York, NY: Routledge. Halberstam, J. J. (2012). Gaga feminism: Sex, gender, and the end of normal. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Jenner, C. (2015, April 24). Bruce Jenner: ‘I’m a woman.’ Interview by D. Sawyer. 20/20. [Television broadcast]. New York, NY: ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/bruce-jenner-im-woman/ story?id=30570350 Lacan, J. (1966). Réponses à des étudiants en philosophie sur l’objet de la psychanalyse, (February 9 1966) in Cahiers pour l’analyse Volume 3 (May-June 1966, pp. 5-13). Paris, France: Sur l’objet de la psychanalyse. Lacan, J. (1971, December 8). Le séminaire XIX ... ou pire. le savoir du psychanalyste. Unpublished papers, http://gaogoa.free.fr/Seminaires_HTML/19-OP/OP08121971.htm Lacan, J. (1978). The seminar of Jacques Lacan: The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed. and Alan Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1964) Lacan, J. (1992). The seminar of Jacques Lacan, book VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis, 1959-1960 (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed. and Dennis Porter, Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1986) Stoller, R. (1975). Sex and gender, volume II: The transsexual experiment. London, England: Hogarth Press.
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The “Taboo of Virginity” (1918/1957c) is one of Freud’s strangest texts. It is conceptually at odds with much of the rest of his theory; its argument is convoluted; its form is a hodgepodge mixture of sources from anthropology, social psychology, comparative religion, dreams culled from clinical vignettes, and literature; its metapsychological claims are often astonishing, paradoxical, and at times even in direct contradiction with many essential points of his own previously established theoretical axioms. “The Taboo of Virginity” is officially classified as the third installment in the series on psychosexual life that goes by the name Contributions to the Psychology of Love. But this third essay is dramatically different from the first two in several important respects. Whereas in the first two essays Freud makes some general claims about the psychology of love by showing how unconscious Oedipal conflicts determine
restrictions, here takes on a new quasi-ontological psychosexual function and meaning. Frigidity is the name for the symptom in female sexuality for which the underlying cause is “penis-envy.” In this essay, penis envy assumes, arguably for the first time in Freud’s writings, a pivotal role in resolving his difficulties in assimilating female sexuality into the Oedipal narrative that is essential to the larger metapsychology. Moreover, unlike the first two essays in the collection, which take the psychology of the individual man as their object of study, in “The Taboo of Virginity” the virgin occupies a liminal space between individual and group psychology: she connects the sexual dynamic within the family to the realms of the religious, the social, and the political. The virgin symbolically belongs to the community at large rather than to any one man: she is both feared and desired by the social world that lays claim to her. As
embodiment of social, political, and religious value in more modern societies. Once deflowered and wed, however, the former virgin turns into a coldly resentful and frigid wife who is alienated and disappointed by her marriage. She refuses femininity, sexuality, and, consumed by rage and resentment, rejects her husband and threatens to take psychosexual revenge on him for the damage that has apparently been done to her. In what follows, I would like to sketch out—albeit in a necessarily gestural and provisional fashion—some of the consequences and contradictions that are raised in and by this very weird little text. My inquiry is motivated by some apparently basic questions, such as: why does the virgin provoke so much fear and dread, and what causes her unstoppable rage? Why does the act of deflowering the virgin often require multiple acts performed by priests, father-surrogates, old women, and/or sacred objects
Freud will take pains to document, it apparently takes a village—assisted by ordained actors as well as prosthetic and technological supplements—to deflower a virgin. The untouched virgin is depicted variously as an extra-human figure endowed with awesomely dangerous power in ancient and so-called primitive cultures, and as the very
such as the wooden lingam, and why does the modern former virgin feel compelled to marry twice? Why does Freud relegate masculine terror of the virgin to an archaic primitive past, whereas he locates murderous feminine desire for revenge in the present? As I will suggest throughout, Freud’s ultimate explanation—that the ex-virgin’s
Nina and Helena, Sweden
some seemingly inappropriate erotic object choices made by men, the third essay, “The Taboo of Virginity,” ends up being about a kind of general structure that leads to a catastrophic failure of both love and sexuality in women. Frigidity in women, which Freud mentions in passing in the second essay as an epiphenomenal effect of cultural
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murderous rage issues from a colossal narcissistic wound caused by penis envy and reactivated by the loss of her maidenhead— functions within this text as a kind of deus ex machina, an unsatisfactory stopgap that both marks and masks some of the most intractable questions and problems within psychoanalysis. Finally, by way of signaling some of the idiosyncrasies in this little essay, I would like to point out from the start that given the importance of the enduring power of early fixations on primordial love objects for his argument, it is more than a little bit strange that the word mother never appears in this text. Why is the mother occulted? What are the effects of this omission? What other figure or figures take her place and why? The absence of any mention of the mother in “The Taboo of Virginity” is all the more startling given that fixation on the mother is central to the two earlier essays in Contributions to the Psychology of Love. In “A Special Type of Object Choice Made by Men” (1910/1957a), Freud examines cases of men who can only fall in love with either married women or with loose women, and identifies a particularly intractable “fixation on the mother” as the cause of these seemingly unsuitable object choices: In our type … the libido has dwelt so long on its attachment to the mother for so long, even after the onset of puberty, that the maternal characteristics remain stamped upon the love-objects that are chosen later and all these turn into easily recognizable mother surrogates. The comparison with the way in which the skull of a new-born child is shaped comes irresistibly to one’s mind: after a protracted labor it always bears the form of a cast of the maternal pelvis. (1910/1957a, p.169) The mother is imprinted on the male child’s desire like an indelible branding from the event of birth that forms and deforms his subsequent sexual life. A note from the standard edition tells us that in earlier versions of the essay, the imprinting is described as a deformation of the skull (Schädeldeformation), rather than a formation (Schädelformation). The implication of this analogy that operates like a bodily literalization of the concept of fixation, as it were, is that the sexual destiny of man is a relic that retains ties to his mother and reaches as far back as the event of his own birth. At the end of the essay, Freud returns to the mother and the event of birth by proposing that men experience their own birth—and hence their own lives—as a debt to the mother that needs to be repaid and acquitted:
His mother gave him a life—his own life—and in exchange he gives her another life, that of a child which has the greatest resemblance to himself. … All of his instincts, those of tenderness, gratitude, lustfulness, defiance and independence, find satisfaction in the single wish to be his own father. Even the element of danger has not been lost in the change in meaning; for the act of birth itself is the danger from which he was saved by his mother’s efforts. Birth is both the first of all dangers to life and the prototype of all the later ones that cause us to feel anxiety, and the experience of birth has probably left behind in all of us the expression of affect which we call anxiety. (1910/1957a, p.173). Although, as we know, Freud will later rethink the problem of anxiety, this early description of the son’s “gratitude” to his mother for having saved him from the primordial danger of birth culminates in a seemingly successful economic exchange between mother and son that ostensibly neutralizes the anxiety at its origin and solidifies the Oedipal foundation of the familial structure. The mother gives the son the gift of life, and by assuming the place of his father, he can make a new baby who will be a replica of himself and, in so doing, he repays his parents for the unbearable gift of life that he has received from them. Freud’s suggestion that the son successfully acquits his debt to his mother by giving her a baby when he becomes a father provides an interesting counterpoint to his related claim, made on several occasions but most dramatically in this line from the essay “Femininity”: that “a mother is only brought unlimited satisfaction by her relation to a son; this is altogether the most perfect, the most free from ambivalence of all human relationships” (Freud, 1933/1964, p.133). We will return to this perfect relationship later. Likewise, in “On the Universal Tendency Towards Debasement in Love” (1912/1957b), the second essay in Contributions to the Psychology of Love, Freud expands his discussion of the vicissitudes of repressed incestuous desire for the mother to explain why some men can only love women they don’t desire and only desire women they cannot love. In the middle of a discussion about why some men are “psychically impotent”—that is, able to perform sexually only with certain women—Freud interrupts his discussion of men and briefly turns his attention to the sexual life of women. “Women,” he says, “show little need to degrade the sexual object”. He goes on to explain that the absence of degradation is related to the absence of sexual overestimation. And, invoking the 31
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long period of sexual abstinence imposed upon girls and young women, he gives a purely cultural explanation for why some women have a tendency to become “frigid.” But their long holding back from sexuality and the lingering of their sensuality in fantasy has another important consequence for them. They are subsequently often unable to undo the connection between sensual activity and the prohibition, and prove to be psychically impotent, that is frigid, when such activity is at last allowed to them. (1912/1957b, p.186). As I suggested earlier, this contingent, culturally determined frigidity in women is very different from the dramatic refusal of sexuality that Freud discusses in “The Taboo of Virginity.” More importantly, perhaps, the invocation of frigidity in the “Tendency Towards Debasement” essay is linked both to male impotence and the limits of sexual satisfaction for both sexes more generally. Let us recall that it is in this essay that Freud asserts, in a gesture that anticipates subsequent Lacanian formulations, that “however strange it may sound, we must reckon with the possibility that something in the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavourable to the realization of complete satisfaction” (1912/1957b, pp.188–189). He then goes on to explain that because of incest taboos and repression, “the final object of the sexual instinct is never any longer the original object but only a surrogate for it.” But although Freud here presents the need to accept the unsatisfying “ersatz” surrogate love object as a universal necessary condition for entering into any sexual relation, in “The Taboo of Virginity” essay, he seems to argue that the virgin is the single exception to that general rule. The virgin accepts no substitutes. But given that all women were once virgins, this general exception to the universal rule has repercussions both for female sexuality and for Freud’s understanding of sexuality more generally. Paradoxically, however, according to Freud, it is precisely because the virgin accepts no substitutes that her virginity must only be taken from her by substitutes. Appealing to psychoanalysis to explain the taboo of virginity, Freud affirms that extreme measures taken by primitive men to make sure that the virgin is introduced to sexual intercourse by a series of sacred surrogates rather than by her future husband are indeed signs of the existence of a very real danger posed by the virgin—even if that danger is psychic rather than physical. Surrogates, he argues, must perform the first sexual act so that the husband is not punished for being merely a poor and unacceptable surrogate himself. He writes:
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The husband is almost always so to speak only a substitute, never the right man; it is another man—in typical cases the father—who has first claim to a woman’s love, the husband at most takes second place. It depends on how intense this fixation is and on how obstinately it is maintained whether the substitute is rejected as unsatisfying. Frigidity is thus among the genetic determinants of neuroses. (1918/1957c, p.203) While it is not at all surprising that Freud argues that the husband is a substitute for the father, it is very surprising that he argues that the father is the girl’s first love object. In most, if not all, of his other texts about female sexuality, Freud will almost always argue that excessive attachment to the father is a direct extension of excessive attachment to the mother. In the late essay “Female Sexuality,” for example, he explains: [T]hat where the woman’s attachment to her father was particularly intense, analysis showed that it had been preceded by a phase of exclusive attachment to her mother which had been equally intense and passionate. Except for the change of her love-object, the second phase had scarcely added any new feature to her erotic life. (1931/1961, p.225) Thus according to Freud’s own theory, the father is not, in fact, the girl’s first love object, but rather is himself a substitute for a more primal, archaic attachment to the mother. But here, unlike all of the other cases where Freud discusses how a girl gives up her attachment to her mother because of disappointment, rage, and resentment that her mother didn’t give her a penis, by omitting the mother from the story altogether, and by inserting the virgin’s sexual development into a larger context of group psychology, Freud ends up refiguring the virgin’s fixation on her father as the site of desire, envy, and identification with an archaic primal phallus. Let us pause to observe that when writing about the dread of female sexuality in “The Taboo of Virginity,” Freud uses the expression “the narcissism of minor differences” that he normally reserves for his descriptions of the homosocial aggressions that underwrite political and social life. In this instance, he uncharacteristically associates the structures of sexual difference with the formation of social and political structures. He writes: It would be tempting to pursue this idea and to derive from this ‘narcissism of minor differences’ the hostility which
in every human relation we see fighting successfully against feelings of fellowship and overpowering the commandment that all men should love one another. Psychoanalysis believes that it has discovered a large part of what underlies the narcissistic rejection of women by men, which is so much mixed up with despising them, in drawing attention to the castration complex and its influence on the opinion in which women are held. (1918/1957c, p.199) It is also worth recalling that in the Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, where Freud also famously invokes the “narcissism of minor differences” (1921/1953), he sets up a vertiginous relay between object love and identification and ultimately argues that the origin of the ideal of social justice is envy. Let me begin to conclude by indicating where this analysis might go further. Within Freud’s system, both the mother and the virgin are exempt from the general laws of sexual love. The mother is exempt because her love for her male son is supposedly uncontaminated by hatred and aggression. The virgin is exempt because her rage—and her desire for vengeance—is so extreme that she cannot love. Curiously, however, these two outer poles of the Freudian system communicate with one another in ways that open up the entire metapsychological system founded upon the Oedipus to critique and scrutiny. Freud creates both of these two positions outside of the bounds of psychosexual love in response to his own failure to produce a female counterpart to the ostensibly universal schema of the Oedipus complex. More specifically, both the mother and the virgin reflect Freud’s attempts to cover over his failure to construct a feminine counterpart to the Oedipus complex via the concept of penis envy. As we know, for Freud, penis envy is the royal road to the feminine Oedipal narrative. Without penis envy, Freud cannot explain any aspect of female sexual development; without it, there is no path forward to the Oedipus complex. The mother overcomes penis envy whereas the virgin succumbs to penis envy. Constituted as the two impossible poles of female sexuality, they throw the whole system that they border into question rather than stabilizing it. The limit positions of mother and virgin open up onto a much larger set of unresolved questions regarding how female sexuality unsettles relations among the psychic, the sexual, the social and political realms. From a structural standpoint, within metapsychological organization, the mother and the virgin are polar opposites 32
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and inverted images of one another. Both occupy zones at the very extremes of the general rules governing sexual life that dictate that love is always an ambivalent, complicated compromise formation; love emerges out of hatred and aggression and never frees itself from the conflicts from which it is born. The mother’s love for her son is presented as the ultimate, and indeed the only, successful psychic resolution of the feminine Oedipal complex in “femininity.” The birth of a male child compensates the woman for the requirement that she must renounce her wish for a penis, relinquish her active (masculine) ambitions, her clitoral pleasure, and accept her passive sexual and psychic position. But if the mother’s love is completely void of ambivalence, in contrast, the frigid virgin (and the race of unhappy wives who were once virgins) incarnates the most violent, most aggressive, and unambivalent expression of hatred in human relations. The virgin’s frigidity is the sign of disappointment, rage, and resentment. She embodies the failure of the sexual relation, the refusal of femininity, and she seeks revenge. Both mother and virgin define the place of sexuality from its outer limits. In substituting nonsexual gratification derived from her love for her male son, the mother abdicates sexuality in favor of a pseudo-sublimated feminine position within the family, whereas the virgin inhabits either a realm beyond human relations or within its subaltern familial spaces. The mother is ostensibly freed from the drama of sexuality because she has moved beyond it; the virgin is exiled from sexuality because in her frigidity, she either renounces sexuality in favor of despotic sovereign power or lays claim to an excessive desire that refuses all objects. From this perspective, the penis envy that Freud claims to discover in the frigid virgin is a very particular kind of penis envy. The virgin is frigid not because she is castrated and powerless, but because she is not. The virgin in ancient cults is treated as threatening because she incarnates a phallic position more successfully (if one can use that word) than any man could. She frightens men not because she is woman (and therefore castrated), but because she is not. Her frigidity (through which she rigidifies herself into a cold, priapic stone) is a narcissistic and phallic retreat not merely from a presumed state of femininity (which is impossible for anyone except the mother of the male son), but from the ability to tolerate the wounded state that is required for any sexual relation to the other. Thus, although it can easily be shown that the feminine position (full acceptance of castration) is impossible for anyone of either gender, the underlying anxiety in
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“The Taboo of Virginity” is that the most purely narcissistically invested masculine position (phallic inviolability) is arguably more accessible to biological women than it is to biological men even though such a position is basically unlivable, or can only be lived as a mode of illness. This position is the unbearable revenge and recompense for the price of patriarchy. Freud ends “The Taboo of Virginity” with a strange retelling of Hebbel’s already odd rendition of the story of Judith and Holofernes. The widowed but still virgin Judith, queen of the Jews, saves her people by seducing Holofernes and then beheading him. Freud quotes her as saying, “my
beauty is like deadly nightshade … enjoyment of it brings madness and death.” According to Freud, this patriotic political triumph, in which an entire people is saved from a despotic dictator, is motivated by rage about sexual frustration and penis envy. But my claim is that the “beauty” of the virgin is linked to phallic power. Judith is only one of the series of political virgins whose beauty stems from a relation to the sacred or the sovereign. Their acts rise above the law of the city: Antigone, Joan of Arc, and Elizabeth I all renounce sexuality in the name of the superhuman powers that issue from the supplemental phallic maidenhead. z
The Body in the Procedure of the Pass Like a black hole—which cannot be perceived directly, but is known only by the way it warps space-time—the Lacanian object is an object we know solely by its material effects. In his seminar on “The Analytic Act,” Lacan suggests that the subject’s act is not something the analyst can know, interpret, or anticipate, but something by which he is “struck” both psychically and in his body, where it leaves its traces or impressions. What “strikes” the analyst in the act— as distinct from the “acting out” that often characterizes the analysand’s way of relating to the analyst, for example as an object of love or aggression—is what Lacan calls the object (a), the “object-cause of desire” that acts in and through the subject. Lacan introduced the procedure of the pass in 1967. In the pass, the analysand testifies to her own experience and attempts to transmit something of her relation to the object that causes desire, and thus castration. The testimony of the pass is delivered by the subject herself, and thus by the very body with which that testimony is concerned. The pass involves the passant, the candidate who addresses his request to the school, and two passeurs, or witnesses, to whom the passant speaks about his analysis. They are in turn responsible for transmitting that testimony to a jury of analysts, who meet as a cartel and formulate a response of either a nomination of the analyst to the school or no nomination. The pass is not primarily concerned with what the passant has managed to say about her analysis, but with something that
exceeds the signifier, and that therefore passes through the body. This real object, transmitted by an act of the unconscious, is object a. It is not an object of conscious observation or recording, but instead something that is at once transmitted by a body and received by a body, depositing itself in the bodies of the two passeurs without their knowledge. If there is anything “scientific” about the pass at all, it is that it is not so far removed from the classic standard of falsifiability; the same object must be transmitted by both passeurs. I recently served as a passeur in such a procedure. While attentively listening to the first of four hours of testimony, I felt increasingly irritated by the feeling that the analysis was not complete. After a gap of six months my memory of those four hours of testimony was foggy at best and I admitted to feeling disappointed. While giving my testimony, there were several occasions on which I leaned forward in my chair and put my head in my hands, which was a stance that felt very foreign to me, yet that I was compelled to adopt. A few days after giving my testimony, I spoke with the other passeur. He told me that in the days leading up to his meeting with the cartel, he had been afflicted with extreme dizziness and disorientation. Only as he was walking into the room to give his testimony did it occur to him that this head trouble must be precisely the object that he was carrying. As he was talking, I suddenly remembered that I too had had a terrible headache that evening: not before giving the testimony, as he had, but immediately afterward. 33
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REFERENCES Freud, S. (1953). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard Edition (Vol. 18, pp.67-144). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1921) Freud, S. (1957a). A special type of object choice made by men. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 11, pp.162-172). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1910) Freud, S. (1957b). On the universal tendency towards debasement in love. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 11, pp.179-190). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1912) Freud, S. (1957c). The taboo of virginity. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 11, pp.177-190). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1918) Freud, S. (1961). Female Sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard Edition (Vol. 21, pp.225-243). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1931) Freud, S. (1964). Femininity. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Standard Edition (Vol. 22, pp.112-135). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published in 1933)
Somatic symptoms had not played a major role in the life of this subject, but she had described at one point an unsettling psychic experience. I had touched on this experience briefly during my testimony, describing it as a moment of disorientation and loss of identity. I now remembered that the passant had related this experience to the head, by means of a formulation peculiar to her. She had also spoken about a certain personality trait, figuratively related to the head, which she always viewed as a trait to be carefully controlled and managed, that she had hoped eventually to be cured of. It was this disturbing trait, in fact, that had led her to undertake analysis in the first place. In recent years, however, she testified to having “made her peace” with this trait, and accepting the way it acted in her—even if she couldn’t exactly be thrilled about it. It now seemed plausible to me that the impatience and irritation with which I listened to the passant’s testimony had to do precisely with the feeling that there was something she was not managing to say, something for which there was no signifier yet.1 Inasmuch as this head trouble conveys the oppressive feeling of being confronted with something that is insufficiently ordered or articulated, it might be understood as a resistance to the signifier’s inadequacy to name or evoke what is at stake in the subject’s experience. From another perspective, though, it can actually be considered 1. Dizziness, disorientation, and headaches might therefore be understood as symptoms that are linked to the experience of waiting for a signifier that might make up for this failure.
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as a transmission of the object. This is how I am inclined to read my own gesture of holding my head in my hands while giving testimony: evidence that something more has been deposited in my head than I am able to say, something that weighs me down in a way that words alone are unable to prop up or sustain. What was unable to find its signifier passed through the letters of the body, taking up residence in my head. The undesirable trait that the passant had linked to the head was clearly a debilitating symptom in her life. Nevertheless, it also gives expression to something more fundamental that the passant is no longer inclined to apologize for, that she no longer sees as a trait she should “work on” or try to “manage.” This uncontrollable “storm in the head” is obviously tied to who the passant is as a subject. She is aware that this object is acting within her, but she no longer fears that action or tries to make it stop. In fact, she is now certain that it is inseparable from the efficacy of her work, her ability to work with patients as a clinician. Unlike the symptom, the object a is “untreatable,” meaning “intractable, inflexible, uncompromising” in French. It is this untreatable object Lucie Cantin has in mind when she suggests that the conclusion of the analytic experience articulates the passant to what constitutes his or her “signature in the social link,” the mark of the subject in its refusal of all concessions (2014). Two further examples of the procedure of the pass worth exploring are Freud’s dream of “Irma’s injection” (1900/1998) and Moses and Monotheism (1939/1967). The first example shows that this “untreatable” object is what acts in the analyst, and that there can be no psychoanalysis without it; the second concerns the transmission and its after effects in the story of Moses, or the “signature” by which we recognize the subject in the social link. The Dirty Syringe, or Freud’s Act It is often said that the dream of Irma’s injection is one concerning the origins of psychoanalysis itself. But in what sense? Here I would like to propose that the analysis of this dream can be considered as Freud’s “pass,” his transmission of his own object. The dream interrogates a failed act or ethical equivocation on Freud’s part, which is related to the treatment of his hysterical patient, Irma. Freud, irked by his colleague Otto’s insinuation that the treatment might have failed, stays up late preparing a writeup of the case history “in order to justify himself.” He then has a dream in which he says to Irma, “If you still get pains, it’s really only your fault,” and she replies, “If you only knew what pains I’ve got now in my throat and stomach and abdomen—it’s choking me” (Freud, 1900/1998, p.139). The question
driving the production of Freud’s dream is whether or not he is responsible for the persistence of the patient’s symptoms. If it is a hysterical symptom, then why hasn’t it been treated by the interpretation? The first part of the dream is concerned with Freud’s vexation at the fact that Irma has not yet accepted his “solution,” and his attempts to get the hysteric to “open her mouth properly” to tell him what he needs to know.2 The dream dates to July 1895, when Freud and Breuer published their Studies on Hysteria, in which Freud claims that the symptom was caused by an unspoken “secret,” something the patient didn’t want to say or could not face up to. The flip side of this attitude is a belief in the treatment of the symptom by knowledge or interpretation, and therefore by the signifier, which is what Freud later refers to as “wild psychoanalysis” (Freud, 1910/1954). While Freud was writing this dream analysis, he had already decided his earlier view was not correct, but at the time he had the dream, he believed it was. The assumption that the hysteric is to blame for the persistence of her symptoms is thus the “failed act” that gave rise to the dream, which pinpoints this countertransference. Freud’s impatience with Irma, like my irritation with the passant’s testimony, attests to an overconfidence in the signifier to yield a knowledge about the subject. What follows is the famous “navel” of the Irma dream, which confronts Freud with an unspeakable real that the signifier is unable to represent. When Irma “opens her mouth properly,” Freud sees a “big white patch” and “extensive whitish grey scabs” that appear to be modeled on the turbinal bones of the nose (Freud, 1900/1998, pp.139-140). These scabs lead Freud to associations that are not concerned with Irma’s symptoms, but with his own severe nasal symptoms, resulting from his use of cocaine. These symptoms are thus projected onto the patient’s throat, as a defiant limit to the words that would establish the symptom’s causality. The second part of the dream shows Freud turning to medical colleagues for guidance, as if unsure whether he ought to approach the case as a doctor or as a psychoanalyst. His hesitation is understandable, as some of his patients’ symptoms have been misdiagnosed by doctors ignorant of hysteria. At the same time, Freud recognized that some patients’ symptoms were hysterical, 2. The first chain of associations concerns three women who are linked by their resistance to treatment by Freud: Irma, a friend of Irma’s who is also a hysteric, and Freud’s own wife. Questioning a composite image that condenses Irma with a female friend, Freud decides that he would have liked to exchange Irma for her friend, of whose intelligence he had a higher opinion: “For Irma seemed to me foolish because she had not accepted my solution [Lösung]. Her friend would have been wiser, that is to say she would have yielded sooner. She would then have opened her mouth properly, and have told me more than Irma” (1900/1998, p.143). 34
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yet decided not to apply psychoanalytic treatment. Both evoke the futile hope of the medical doctor that it might be possible to “eliminate the toxin” after all and treat hysteria as if it were a disease. Like other doctors, he was “taken in by hysteria” (1900/1998, p.147) and misdiagnosed his own hysterical patient.3 Freud was thus faced by the failure of medical knowledge with respect to the real at work in the symptom. The dream narrative ends with the evocation of an unclean syringe, charged with having caused an infection in the patient. Freud professes that unlike some of his more careless colleagues, he always makes sure that his syringe is clean; as a result, he has never caused a single infiltration. His associations have already undercut this claim, however, by pointing to numerous occasions on which Freud himself had either killed his patients with injections or induced potentially deadly toxic states, in part by sharing his own passion for cocaine. On one hand, Freud harmed or killed those patients when he was acting as a doctor, and not as a psychoanalyst. In these instances, we can say that the patient’s brush with death was due to the limitations of medical knowledge, rather than to the failings of psychoanalysis. But on the other hand, Freud as a psychoanalyst was confronting his patients with death by upholding the work of the symptom and allowing for the treatment to confront his patients with death at its very core. Freud reproached Irma for not accepting his “solution,” and told her that if she still got pains, it was her fault (1900/1998, p.141). The German word translated as “solution,” Lösung, has two possible meanings, just as it does in English: the solution to a problem, and the solution one injects. It thus relates to the failed act that gave rise to the dream, Freud’s refusal of what was at work in the hysteric’s symptom, whose persistence he attributed to a lack of ethics on the part of the patient. With the image of the unclean syringe, the dream seems to be offering a forceful indictment of this countertransference on Freud’s part, his attempt to force or inject a solution rather than allowing the analysis to run its course. At the same time, however, I believe the dirty syringe can be understood as a figure of the true act, the act that makes him Freud, and thus the very act at stake in the procedure of the pass. In professing that his “syringe was always clean,” Freud seems to be disclaiming his own act, and with it his role in triggering the patient’s symptoms (1900/1998, p.151). For 3. “This part of the dream was expressing derision at physicians who are ignorant of hysteria. And, as though to confirm this, a further idea crossed my mind: ‘Does Dr. M. realize that the symptoms in his patient [Irma’s friend] … have a hysterical basis? Has he spotted this hysteria? Or has he been taken in by it?” Dr. M., he concludes, “was just as little in agreement with my ‘solution’ as Irma herself ” (1900/1998, p. 148).
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the doctor, the “dirty syringe” is a failure and a breach of scientific protocol; for the psychoanalyst, it is a necessity. The psychoanalyst must infect: he must provoke symptoms in the patient’s body, reactivating a real that she will have a hard time managing. If the doctors in the dream wonder how to eliminate the toxin, the answer of psychoanalysis is that the toxin cannot be eliminated, because it is inseparable from the subject. If the medical doctors
explores in Moses and Monotheism during Moses’ experience with the “burning bush.” This encounter with the real is inscribed on his body in the form of a “glow” that emanates from his face. Moses is famously depicted in the Bible as “slow of speech,” which is generally interpreted to mean that he stammers.4 I read this to mean that the subject of the act is not a subject of discourse, someone who makes an argument
Aaron, but acts through his body, which is charged with actually carrying out the actions attributed to Moses. Aaron transmits something of the act of Moses, the part that becomes the basis of the legendary history. He founds the priesthood, which transmits the symbolic dimension of his legacy; the part that manages to find its signifier. Aaron is the one who is “eloquent of speech,” but perhaps a little too eloquent.
or articulates a position; his power is not a rhetorical power. That is the role of the “priests,” the professional interpreters and the builders of party platforms. Strikingly, then, there is no direct communication between Moses and those who will ultimately be “stamped” by his act, the Israelites, who are the ultimate depositories of his transmission. Instead, his speech is relayed by an intermediary, his brother Aaron, in a very pass-like transmission. Moses does not merely speak through
While he transmits something of Moses’s act, we might also understand him as blocking or refusing a part of what Moses transmitted in this very act of translation. It is surely not a coincidence that Aaron himself forges the golden calf at the demand of the Israelites, while Moses is still on the mountain. Aaron’s founding of the priesthood could be related to the institutional history of psychoanalysis, which is always at risk of becoming nothing more than a “priesthood” or a church, one that receives the “laws” of Freud’s transmission but not the object that drives him. In the same way, the monotheist doctrine is preserved by the Israelite priests as a program, a set of principles, that remained more or less intact. What is not transmitted by that tradition is the role of Moses himself, the subject of the act. Where, then, do we find the traces of that transmission? Freud claims to recognize the traits of the subject, the “man Moses,” in the anger and irascibility attributed to him. His point
Paulita and Frank
are concerned with the possibility of treating or relieving the symptom, the psychoanalyst is concerned with the untreatable. I should link this “infection” to what happens in the pass, as well: the passant deposited something in our heads, injected her object into us, and left us to deal with the consequences. Willy Apollon (2006) says that “in the symptom, the unconscious is struggling against something that is good for the individual … Because the unconscious wants to go further; it wants to go beyond the pleasure principle.” The analyst is the ally of the symptom; he isn’t trying to relieve or control it, but to support the quest of the unconscious. The Act and Its Traces in Human History: Freud’s Moses Lacan claims that the act is not something we can know or interpret, but something that we are “struck” by, which leaves its impressions in the body. This idea of transmission is precisely what Freud
4. Compare Freud’s observation in Moses and Monotheism: “Another trait imputed to him deserves our special interest. Moses was said to have been ‘slow of speech’—that is to say, he must have had a speech impediment or inhibition—so that he had to call on Aaron (who is called his brother) for assistance in his supposed discussions with Pharaoh. This again may be historical truth and would serve as a welcome addition to the endeavour to make the picture of this great man live. It may, however, have another and more important significance. The report may, in a slightly distorted way, recall the fact that Moses spoke another language and was not able to communicate with his Semitic Neo-Egyptians without the help of an interpreter—at least not at the beginning of their intercourse” (1939/1967, pp.37–38). 35
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be interesting to consider whether Paul really is the passeur in whose body, more than in his testimony, Freud finds the traces of the act or object of Moses—not in its symbolic dimension (Aaron) or even in its repudiation (the Hebrews’ reversion to polytheism, Christian anti-Semitism), but in its extra-legal, “real” dimension. For Freud, Paul is important because he raises the repression surrounding the primal murder, which was repeated on Moses. How should we understand this? Recall that the Voice that waylays Paul on the road to
Paul, as passeur, transmits something very different than Aaron. Slavoj Žižek distinguishes the priest or priestess from the saint on the ground, stating that the former has a purely symbolic function and the latter has a real function (1989, p.130). Importantly, that real function engages the body itself: the saint receives a wound, a stigmata. This might precisely be the blindness of Paul—which is his wound, his letter that transmits something of the real that passes through the testimony of Moses. If so, it might suggest that Paul is blinded not by
It is interesting that Moses’ anger leads him to smash the tablets of the law, whose commandments are said to have been written by God himself. For Freud, the smashing of the tablets of the law must be understood symbolically, “he has broken the law.” If anger and irascibility convey the inevitable violence of the act, its way of forcing something that is without precedent into the world, then the illegality of the act is a way of depicting this: the true actor is always a lawbreaker. In Freud’s reading, this criminalization of the act is what leads the Israelites to eventually repeat the primal murder on Moses himself. The object of Moses’ transmission can be identified only by the traces it leaves in the bodies of those it “stamps,” traces that Freud ultimately locates in the apostle Paul. It would
Damascus is credited with the words, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Up to this time, Saul the Jew has been a zealous enforcer of the Jewish law, which he applies mercilessly to the members of the Jesus-cult. After this experience he will no longer “persecute” Jesus with the Jewish law and the threat of repression, but will instead declare his fidelity to this real in the form of a truth that is “beyond” the law. Paul reintroduces an essential part of the dimension of the real. He, too, encounters his god “in the real,” in the form of the Voice that interpolates him on the road to Damascus, in a kind of repetition of Moses’ own experience. There is something of the burning bush in this encounter, not because it results in “blinding” and loss, but however temporary, in this case,6 it results in the imaginary.
what he sees on the road to Damascus (he sees nothing, but hears a voice), but by what Moses sees: the blinding fire of the burning bush, and thus the insistence of a real for which there is no name. z
5. Probably they did not find it easy to separate the image of the man Moses from that of his God, and their instinct was right in this, since Moses might very well have incorporated into the character of his God some of his own traits, such as his irascibility and implacability” (Freud, 1939/1967, pp.140–141).
6. In other words, it’s essential for Freud’s reading that Paul ultimately betrays this insight, insofar as his recognition of the repressed is entirely unconscious: it comes to consciousness only in the form of its repression, the doctrine of salvation.
here is not just that anger is a human trait— one that shows Moses to be a man, and not a myth—but that anger is what I’m calling the “object” of Moses: what compels him to initiate the Exodus and to found a new religion, but more fundamentally what drives him as a subject.5 Anger and irascibility are not merely character traits or capacities, therefore, but the signature of the subject. Subsequent generations will attribute these traits to God himself, ascribing them to this Other whose acts transform the world.
Mita, Eric, and Paulita, London
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REFERENCES Apollon, W. (2006). “The untreatable” (Steven Miller, Trans.). Umbr(a): Incurable 1, 23-39. Blanchot, M. (1995). Thanks (be given) to Jacques Derrida. In Michael Holland (Ed.), The Blanchot reader (pp. 317323). Oxford, England: Blackwell. Cantin, L. (2014). The conclusive pass at the Freudian School of Quebec. Unpublished. Freud, S. (1954). “Wild” psycho-analysis. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 11, pp. 221-227). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1910) Freud, S. (1967). Moses and monotheism (Katherine Jones, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books. (Original work published 1939) Freud, S. (1998). The interpretation of dreams (James Strachey, Ed. and Trans.). New York, NY: Harper Collins. (Original work published 1900) Lacan, J. (1992). The seminar of Jacques Lacan, book VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis, 1959-1960 (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed. and Dennis Porter, Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1986) Žižek, S. (1989). The sublime object of ideology. London, England: Verso.
ANY BODY ANYBODY: THE MATTER OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
Naming Bodies: What Can Research on Feminicide Teach Us About Psychoanalytic Listening? Beatriz SANTOS
With this title, “Naming Bodies,” I intend to use the notion of feminicide to question how psychoanalysts listen to events that seem to bear the mark of structural forms of violence. By examining what is at stake in the construction of a new category, feminicide, that differs from homicide, I aim to understand if such an effort to attribute a name to a specific modality of violence could be useful for psychoanalytical research and practice. As an analyst, should one consider that there are variations on the degrees of vulnerability experienced by subjects, variations that don’t refer exclusively to the vicissitudes of their own existence? How does one listen to narratives of misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, on the couch? This paper aspires to bring new elements for this discussion. The term femicide was first used in 1976 by activist Diana Russell in the first International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, held in Brussels. This was a gathering of women from all over the world (2,000 women from 40 countries) to testify about crimes committed against women—the word crime being used to refer to any and all forms of patriarchal and sexist oppression of women. During this meeting, Diana Russell spoke of femicide and defined it as “a hate killing of females perpetrated by males,” stating that from the burning of witches in the past, to the more recent widespread custom of female infanticide in many societies, to the killing of women for so-called honor, we realize that femicide has been going on a long time. (Russell, 1976, p.101) As examples of femicide, Russell mentions the stoning to death of females; murders of females for so-called honor; rape murders; murders of women and girls by their husbands, boyfriends, and dates, for having an affair, or for being rebellious, or for any number of other excuses; wife-killing by immolation because of too little dowry; deaths as a result of genital mutilations; of female sex slavery, of female trafficking, of prostitution; death by the hands of misogynist strangers, acquaintances, or serial killers, etc. According to Russell, all of these crimes are to be seen as part of a continuum of violence committed against women. And they happen for the very reason that the victims are women. The key component defining them is gender. As a psychoanalyst interested in “what gender studies do to psychoanalysis,” as
French psychoanalyst Laurie Laufer puts it (Laufer & Linhares, 2010), I am inspired by this theorical object, femicide (or feminicide, as it is used in Latin America and in France), and by how it turns gender into a visible and audible dimension of the life of a subject that cannot be ignored. To be able to understand the killing of women in Ciudad Juarez, the shooting of 14 female students in the École Polytéchnique in Montreal in 1989, or the appallingly high number of women killed in Brazil (44,000 in the last decade alone), for example, one must refer to the specificity of the motivation behind these crimes. That is: that these people are women being killed because they are women. These are gender-motivated crimes, they cannot be understood if gender is not taken into account. And why should such a specification be made? Why should one engage in separating such crimes from “regular” violence? As Rosa-Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano put it, naming such crimes as feminicide is a consequence of placing women’s subjectivity and experience of violence at the center of an analysis: Feminist analysis is a lens for representing violence from the perspective of gender, and in this regard ‘gender’ is an element not of explanation but, rather, of interpretation that provides an angle (rather than a model) for understanding the power dynamics and relations of gender, sex, race, and class underlying violence. (Fregoso & Bejarano, 2010, p.9) In other words, when acts of violence are seen as just that, as violence, the structural aspect of the power dynamics at play is overseen. Beyond individual narratives that could account for a specific reason why a specific woman suffered an act of violence, feminist analysis intends to account for the fact that these acts are produced in a society where gender inequalities are produced and maintained. Consequently, they also bear the mark of gender inequality—a mark that should be interpreted as such. This would mean not making light of the fact that there is a “hierarchical division between public and private forms of violence” (Fregoso & Bejarano, 2010, p.9) that burdens women differently than men, and that participates in a “naturalization” of violence against women since there is a devaluation of what takes place in the private sphere—viewed as the realm of reproduction, of family and of child rear37
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ing, as opposed to the public sphere that concerns production, governance, and politics. By taking into account this hierarchical division, feminist analysts have been able to develop and promote policies that reach spaces traditionally kept apart from the public eye, such as the family unit. It is known that husbands and partners are often the perpetrators of violence against women, which creates an interesting paradox where “home,” supposed to be a woman’s “rightful place,” turns out to be where they are most at risk. Consequently, it could be argued that this structural violence at work in the lives of women that we meet as victims of crimes is also at work in the lives of our patients. This is, after all, what structural means, that it goes beyond individual experiences. So how are such experiences listened to in the analytical setting? Should a cure make room for occurrences that are perceived as trans-individual events, such as the ones related to violence against women? This question reflects the problem of how social norms occupy the spaces of the psychoanalytical cure. As I see it, this is the main contribution that gender studies have brought to psychoanalysis: an invitation to take into account forms of discrimination, segregation, and different levels of violence that shouldn’t be interpreted solely as vicissitudes of one’s existence. This is what gender does to psychoanalysis: it encourages us to situate our use of categories in a historical context, to think of them as related to the subjectivité d’une époque, as Lacan would put it, when advising that: whoever cannot meet at its horizon the subjectivity of his time should give it up. For how could he who knows nothing of the dialectic that engages him in a symbolic movement with so many lives possibly make his being the axis of those lives? (Lacan, 1966, p.264) By referring to gender as an analytical tool, we indicate our interest in thinking about whether social norms, just as biology, can work as the rock against which subjectivities crash. Freud described l’effet de roc produced by our biological materiality. Gender studies asks that we examine the specificity of the effects of the social rock that mark out how we walk through life. By doing so, they could transform psychoanalytical listening in a very specific way: they could allow for what some French patients have been calling “safe analysts.” For the past
ANY BODY ANYBODY: THE MATTER OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
five years, a French message board that gathers information on gender studies in France has been publishing ads of people looking for psychoanalysts. Among announcements of symposia, book launches, call for papers, one can read messages such as “I am looking for a safe psychoanalyst for a friend who
behind this listing is that there is a section of the population that reports being discriminated against by psychoanalysts, sometimes while they are in treatment. This population could then benefit from a political gesture coming from psychoanalysts, that they present themselves as taking a political stand and
viting us to reflect on the political implications of our practice. The acknowledgment of the reiterated acts of physical and symbolical violence narrated by vulnerable patients has worked as a starting point for fruitful analysis. It has allowed for subjects who have kept away from therapy and
recognize the oppressive dimension of society. In other words, that these “safe” psychoanalysts would deliberately commit to avoid interpretations that could be perceived as homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc. This means that patients are made aware that “hurtful representations, prejudice and the general lack of information present in the general population will be acknowledged by the practitioners,” and that what is experienced as the “reality of prejudice” won’t be denied by the analyst—they share the belief that there is such a thing as institutional violence, and that there are negative experiences derived from the very way society is organized. Although this idea of a reality that could be listened to as such—that is, as a “factual reality” common to every subject who is a victim of violence—may seem opposed to Freud’s theories on the matter, I would argue that it finds its value in in-
psychoanalysis to bring to our offices their dissenting voices (as described by Joanna Ryan in an article about psychoanalysis and homophobia, 2001, p.308). In doing so, it contributes to the dialogue between psychoanalysis and other fields, such as gender studies, at the same time that it reinvigorates our practice. z
Jonas and Paulita, Edinburgh
has been sexually assaulted when she was younger. Could I get a name around Paris?” Or “Could anyone refer me to a lesbian shrink working in the north of the city?” As a psychoanalyst who has participated in discussions of such message boards, I wonder if I would be considered safe, or gay-friendly, or feminist. Does the fact that I have taken part in protests against homophobia in France when the law allowing same-sex marriage was approved say anything about my technical abilities as an analyst? Could I be considered safe? According to the definition proposed by a website that lists names of professionals considered safe (http://psysafeinclusifs.wixsite.com/ psysafe), a safe shrink is a professional who is able to work with people whose identities and orientations are seen as marginalized. This includes the LGBTQI population, sex workers, and everyone who suffers from specific systemic discrimination. The idea
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REFERENCES Fregoso, R.-L., & Bejarano, C. (Eds). (2010). Terrorizing women: Feminicide in the Americas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Lacan, J. (1966). Fonction et champ de la parole et du langage en psychanalyse. In Écrits (pp.197-268). Paris, France: Seuil. Laufer, L. & Linhares, A. (2010). Avant-propos. Ce que le genre fait à la psychanalyse. In Champ psy, 58, pp.5–8. Russell, D. & Van de Ven, N. (Eds.). (1976). Crimes against women: Proceedings of the international tribunal. LesFemmes Publishing. Available at http://womenation.org/ wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Crimes_Against_Women_Tribunal.pdf Ryan, J. (2001). Can psychoanalysis understand homophobia? In T. Dean & C. Lane (Eds.), Homosexuality and psychoanalysis (pp.307–321). Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press.
ANY BODY ANYBODY: TRANSLATING THE THREE ESSAYS
Re-reading Freud’s Three Essays Before we start with the discussion of some of the major problems and decisions in the translation of the first edition of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and the discussion of the theoretical ideas we developed, I would first like to say something about our project and the context in which it is situated. I will then shortly highlight some of the issues relevant in our reading oft he text. After that Philippe Van Haute and Ulrike Kistner will present our thoughts on two prominent issues in the translation project, namely that of the translation of Geschlechtstrieb and Sexualtrieb and the translation of Lutschen and Wonnesaugen. Philippe and I started this project of re-reading the Three Essays about three years ago. At that moment there already was a prehistory that led to the project. Philippe had already extensively worked on Freud’s early theories of hysteria and sexuality, on the non-Oedipal character of Freud’s early theories, and on the Freudian method as a pathoanalysis of human existence. I had already worked on Freud, notably on his theories on the sense of guilt and on his writings on religion as a cultural phenomenon in which this sense of guilt is a predominant factor. Our cooperation has its roots in the Freud Research Group, which is actually a kind of informal work group and subdivision of the ISPP, of which we are both members, and which has set itself as a task to closely read and discuss Freud’s texts in the original German language. This is where our project took off, that is, a re-reading of the first version of the Three Essays “from scratch.” That is to say, a reading of the first version from 1905—a version that has only 80 pages, much less pages than the final version from 1924 in which Freud had inserted new theoretical material that according to himself was merely additions completing the theory, but in fact contained new theoretical material that fundamentally disrupted the original ideas and perspectives. The common reading of the Three Essays thus includes the passages on the sexual development, on the infantile sexual researches and theories, on narcissism, on ambivalence, on the biphasic object choice, and on the drive and libido theory—as if these passages were already present in Freud’s thought in 1905…. Of course, one could argue that from Strachey’s translation of the 1924 version we can reconstruct the first version, since all changes and additions are marked, but the fact is that nobody does this. The fact that the first edition was never translated in
English is significant here: scholars usually took the 1924 authorized edition as their starting point. So, why is this—we think—an important project? Or better, how does this project contribute to our understanding of Freudian theory and its development in general, and the theory on sexuality in particular? Firstly, the project is about contextualisation of the Three Essays—contextualization in the historical and systematical sense of the word. As regards the historical aspect, there is the fact that Freud’s text connects to a body of psychiatric and sexological literature from the late 19th century—connects both in terms of its thematics and in terms of its concepts. We should not forget here that Freud until 1905 basically used a conceptual framework that stems from neurology. In the Three Essays he for the first time adopts the conceptual framework from psychiatry and sexology, notably from eminent authors such as Richard von KrafftEbing and Albert Moll. That means that in the first version of the Three Essays we find Freud’s first definition of the drive—a definition deleted from the later versions. As regards the more systematic context, the 1905 Three Essays can be seen as Freud’s last major text on hysteria, and is for that reason closely related to the Dora case published also in 1905, and all the previous writings on hysteria. Our reading amongst others shows that there is much continuity here, also with regards to the issue of seduction. According to the popular reading, Freud would have abandoned his seduction theory in 1897 and from then on moved towards an Oedipal theory. Our reading of the Three Essays shows that in fact the text is still in continuity with earlier ideas on the role of seduction, claiming that seduction is widespread and an important factor in hysteria, but is not a necessary condition in the aetiology of hysteria. Secondly, the project aims at thinking through the philosophical implications of Freud’s theory of sexuality. The most important issue here concerns Freud’s distinction between what we call two regimes of sexuality. On the one hand, there is infantile sexuality, which is polymorphous, perverse, and without object. On the other hand, there is pubertal and adult sexuality, which is normally organized according to cultural norms and put in the service of procreation. Notably, the conception of infantile sexuality is articulated by Freud in sharp contrast to his predecessors, who had made no principal distinction between a sexual drive and an instinct for procreation that is both natural and functional. 39
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It is this conception of normal and natural organization of human sexuality that made it possible for them to define the perversions as abnormal and unnatural, hence pathological, sexual activities. In the Three Essays, Freud radically deconstructs this model by thinking through infantile sexuality—something that was hardly possible in the writings of his predecessors since they linked sexuality to the development of the sexual organs in puberty. But Freud’s views on infantile sexuality are more than just a criticism of previous theories. They also have a strong critical potential in contemporary debates in and outside psychoanalysis. For, if infantile sexuality is without object, and when sexuality is not aimed at a specific activity or identity, this means that infantile sexuality cannot be thought of in Oedipal terms—not only because an Oedipal perspective would always imply a sexual object, but also because the Oedipal model is essentially heteronormative. The idea that infantile sexuality might not be without object is only first introduced in the case of Little Hans from 1909, and it is no coincidence that this triggers Freud’s first explorations of the Oedipus complex as complex (in 1910). In other words, the 1905 version of Three Essays is a non-Oedipal theory of sexuality. Of course, we should add here that this 1905 theory also has a major disadvantage, namely the fact that Freud has difficulties in explaining the transition from infantile into pubertal sexuality. Also, as in the case of sadistic and voyeuristic components of the infantile sexuality, it is difficult to maintain that infantile sexuality is completely without object. In short, things are complicated and nuanced, but one thing is clear: the popular opinion of Freud discovering the Oedipus complex in his self-analysis in 1898-1899, and from then on thinking within Oedipal schemata, is wrong. Our reading of Freud thus connects to positions that question heteronormativity. The issue of normativity is also important in another respect, and this concerns Freud’s methodology. Whereas in the later versions of the text Freud will introduce a developmental approach in order to explain the transition from infantile to adult sexuality, in the 1905 version another approach can be found—a approach we call the pathoanalytical approach. This indicates the idea that the human sexuality can best—and maybe only—be studied from the perspective of the psychopathologies, more concretely in this case, from the perspective of hysteria and the perverse building blocks of hysteria. z
ANY BODY ANYBODY: TRANSLATING THE THREE ESSAYS
“Sucking” Words: Orality in Translation In the second of the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Freud turns his attention to the early period of infancy. As this becomes one of his claims to theoretical innovation, it is not surprising that this would present us with some problems in following, in the translation of the first edition (1905), the emergence of differentiated concepts from onomatopoeic verbs signifying primal activities. Even at “the beginning,” the focus falls on a specific kind of pleasure: the infant’s activity of sucking at the mother’s breast directed to “sensual sucking”: “It was the child’s first and most vital activity, the sucking at the mother’s breast, or what substitutes for it, that must have previously familiarized it with this pleasure [of sensual sucking]” (Freud, 1905/1977, p.37). Even at “the beginning,” Freud’s reader is taken straight to the central issue: the question of infantile sexuality in the field of the psychic that was the bone of contention among sexologists, pediatricians, educationists, and emerging psychoanalysts around 1900 and beyond. Freud proceeds to differentiate a specific kind of pleasure of the infant: “The need for repeating the sexual satisfaction now becomes detached from the need for taking in food” (1905/1977, p.37). The infant’s pleasure is nonfunctional, autoerotic, and polymorphous. The observations of Budapest pediatrician Sámuel Lindner come to Freud’s aid in specifying “The Manifestations of Infantile Sexuality”: Sensual sucking (Ludeln oder Lutschen), which appears in early infancy (schon beim Säugling), and may be continued into the early years of adulthood, or even persist throughout life, consists in rhythmically repeated sucking (saugend) contact with the mouth (the lips), in which the purpose of food intake is excluded. A part of the lip itself, the tongue, or any other random part of the skin within reach— even the big toe—may be taken as the object upon which the sucking is carried out. In this connection, a drive for clutching may appear, manifesting itself in a simultaneous rhythmic tugging at the ear lobes or in catching hold of some part of another person (of the ear, mostly) for the same purpose. Blissful sucking (Wonnesaugen) absorbs all attention, making the child either fall asleep or experience a motor reaction in a kind of orgasm. It is not infrequently combined with rubbing some sensitive part of the body such as the breast or the external genitals. In this way, many children move from sensual sucking to masturbation. (Freud 1905/1977, p.36)
Figure 1: Lindner’s sensual suckers (Lindner, 1879, p.74)
From Lindner, Freud takes up those verbs that designate the pleasurable activities of the child in which he sees “manifestations of infantile sexuality”: z sucking (saugen) z sensual sucking (lutschen) z blissful sucking (wonnesaugen) Added to this little lexicon is the Austrian synonym of lutschen for sensual sucking: z ludeln (sensual sucking) Ludeln oder lutschen (sensual sucking), unrelated to food intake, was named as such by Lindner as early as 1879, and then by Fliess in 1897.1 Freud observes that it “may be continued into the early years of adulthood, or even persist throughout life” (1905/1977, p.36). In that sense, it has found its entry into/an entry in the lexicon of Viennese sex workers. Oswald Wiener gives us a taste of it in his “Contributions Toward an Edoeology of the Viennese Jargon” (Beiträge 1. Fliess here remarks on spontaneous infantile sexuality at erogenous zones not directly and less than vitally related to food intake: [T]he sucking movements that small children make with their lips and tongue on periodic days … , the socalled “Ludeln”, as well as thumb-sucking, must be considered as an equivalent of masturbation. Such activity likewise brings on anxiety, sometimes combined with neurasthenia, just as does true masturbation. It comes on impulsively and is, on this account, so difficult to wean children from. … The role which the word “sweet” [sü] later plays in the language of love has its initial physiological root here. With lips and tongue the child first tastes lactose [Milchzucker] at his mother’s breast, and they provide him with his earliest experience of satisfaction. “Sweet” [sü] is related to the French sucer (to suck) and to Zucker, sugar, sugere. (Fliess, 1897, p.185n.) Sucking on a sweet is the activity most aptly designated in German as lutschen. 40
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zur Ädöologie des Wienerischen). In the column titled “Irrumatio und Cunnilingus,” sensual sucking appears in onomatopoeically embellished Viennese slang, reserved for what Wiener calls “perverse intercourse between adults,” in the verbs dsudsln and zuzeln (Mutzenbacher, 1906/1991, p.183). What is interesting in this respect is also the connection drawn by Freud, in his Three Essays, between the perversions featuring in the first essay, and infantile sexuality of the second essay, which has given Freud’s Three Essays much of their fulcrum. Within the series of the terms in the thesaurus on sucking, simply sucking (Saugen) is the only one that has a determinate function, namely that of taking in (liquid) food. To the extent that sucking is perceived to exceed this function, it is tendentially referred, along with all other autoerotic pleasures of the child, by authors writing before Freud, and by child carers “in the nursery,” to the genital drive (Geschlechtstrieb).2 Freud innovatively reformulates Geschlechtstrieb in terms of infantile sexuality, irrupting prematurely and inappropriately in childhood, previously understood to be asexual. This is what would explain the predominantly negative valuation of the role of sensual sucking (lutschen or ludeln) by pediatricians and sexologists writing before (and variously after) Freud. Understood as premature or inappropriate irruption of genitally organized sexuality, it incurred prohibition, proscription, “withdrawal” or “dishabituation/disabuse.” Sensual sucking—that is, sucking not related to food intake—was being pathologised, attested to by numerous handbooks on and guides to childrearing, as in, for instance, the book entitled Die Masturbation (1899) by Hermann Rohleder, quoted by Freud (1905/1977, p.82 n.18): [S]ensual sucking can create favourable conditions for masturbation. … Since sensual sucking is a habit not easily given up, every mother should repeal any attempt at sensual sucking on the part of the infant. At all times, the hand of the infant is to be removed from the point of sensual sucking—if need be by force. For sucking in its numerous variants, the English language only has one term: sucking. For the nonfunctional heightened pleasures of blissful sucking (wonnesaugen), the English language has no words. Sucking a sweet, or a dummy/pacifier, can 2. In the third edition of Three Essays (1915), Freud underlines the distinction that marks his heterological understanding of the sexuality of children in relation to that of adults, by pointing to “the confusion between ‘sexual’ and ‘genital’” (Freud, 1905/1953, p.180).
ANY BODY ANYBODY: TRANSLATING THE THREE ESSAYS
be described with only that word: sucking. This presents a significant limitation on conceptualizing infantile sexuality: a sphere of infantile sexuality fundamental for psychoanalytic theory, that of the oral-tactile, remains linguistically un(der)determined. This unnameability is reflected, albeit misleadingly so, in an annotation to the translation of the 1924 edition of Drei Abhandlungen undertaken by James Strachey, in the Pelican/Penguin Edition (Freud, 1905/1953). Strachey here explains lutschen by referring to its prohibition, or rather, the pernicious consequences of transgressing this prohibition. In other words, contrary to Freud, he explains the infantile-sexual lutschen from the point of view of the adult externally imposing sanctions inimical to the child. More specifically, Strachey invokes the story of the thumbsucker, “Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher”, in psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann’s classic children’s book Struwwelpeter (drawn 1844, published 1845) (subtitled Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder mit 15 schön kolorierten Tafeln für Kinder von 3–6 Jahren: “Funny stories and amusing illustrations in 15 beautifully coloured tables for children aged three to six years”; Freud, 1905/1953, pp.95–96 n.1). A witty contemporary advert by the firm Hoffmann’s Stärkefabriken (Hoffmann’s Starch Factories, obviously posing playfully alongside its more famous namesake) responds to thumbsucker Konrad’s misery with its own moral tale: “Daumenlutschen macht nicht satt” (thumbsucking does not satiate), and promises a remedy (Fig.4). Unbeknownst to its imagineers, this advert would seem to illustrate precisely Freud’s point: “The need for repeating the sexual satisfaction now becomes detached from the need for taking in food” (Freud, 1905/1977, p.37).
Figure 2: Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506), Presentation [of Christ] at the Temple (c. 1455)
Figure 3b: Heinrich Hoffmann, “The Story of the Thumbsucker” (1845) (cont.)
Figure 3a: Heinrich Hoffmann, “The Story of the Thumbsucker” (1845)
Figure 4: “Daumenlutschen macht nicht satt” (thumbsucking does not satiate), package insert of Hoffmann’s Stärkefabriken (source: https:// de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:114111-HSFDaumenlutscher.jpg)
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Freud clearly distinguishes the drives: the drive for nourishment, and the sexual drive. Sucking, sensual sucking, and blissful sucking—lutschen, ludeln, and wonnesaugen—are differentiated from “functional” sucking. This distinction cannot be made as rigorously in English. Wonnesaugen is translated by Jonathan Gillis as “pleasure-sucking” (1996), and by James Strachey as “sensual sucking,” equated by him with thumbsucking. In searching for an English equivalent term for lutschen und ludeln, we followed Strachey’s choice of “sensual sucking.” In the case of wonnesaugen, emphasizing the nonfunctional autoeroticism of infantile sexuality, however, we decided to instate the term “blissful sucking” (Sauerteig, 2012), which also indicates the sense of the absorption of attention and orgasmic tendency peculiar to wonnesaugen (Freud, 1905/1977, p.36). This resonates with the English phrase “blissful obliviousness.” Obliviousness, in turn, resonates with infantile amnesia, the peculiar forgetting of early childhood pleasures, premised on active polymorphous infantile sexuality (Freud, 1905/1977, pp.32–33, 43), of which we only have displaced and most likely repressed memories. z REFERENCES Fliess, W. (1897). Die Beziehungen zwischen Nase und weiblichen Geschlechtsorganen: In ihrer biologischen Bedeutung dargestellt. Leipzig, Germany: Deuticke. Freud, S. (1905). Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Leipzig, Germany: Deuticke. Freud, S. (1953). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 7, pp. 135-243). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1905) Freud, S. (1977). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Trans.) & A. Richards (Ed.), On Sexuality, Pelican Freud Library Vol. 7 (pp. 33-169). Harmondsworth, England: Pelican. (Original work published 1905). Freud, S. (2006). Trois essais sur la théorie de la sexualité. Oeuvres Complètes VI, 59-182. (Original work published 1905) Freud, S. (2016). Three essays on the theory of sexuality: The 1905 edition (U. Kistner, P. Van Haute, & H. Westerink, Eds.). London, England: Verso. (Original work published 1905) Gillis, J. (1996). Bad habits and pernicious results: Thumb sucking and the descipline of late-nineteenth-century paediatrics. Medical History, 40, 55-73. Lindner, S. (1879). Das Saugen an den Fingern, Lippen etc. bei den Kindern (Ludeln). Eine Studie. Jahrbuch für Kinderheilkunde und physische Erziehung, 14, 68. Mutzenbacher, J. (1991). Die Lebensgeschichte einer wieberischen Dirne, von ihr selbst erzählt. Reinbek, Germany: Rowohlt. (Original work published 1906) Rohleder, H. (1899). Die Masturbation. Eine Monographie für Ärzte und Pädagogen. Berlin, Germany: Fischers medicin. Sauerteig, L. (2012). Loss of innocence: Albert Moll, Sigmund Freud and the invention of childhood sexuality around 1900. Medical History, 56(2), 156-183. Strachey, J. in the Pelican/Penguin Edition (Vol. 7, On Sexuality, 1977, 1986)
ANY BODY ANYBODY: TRANSLATING THE THREE ESSAYS
Translating Trieb in the First Edition of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: Problems and Perspective Philippe VAN HAUTE
Introduction When discussing Strachey’s translation of Freud (Freud, 1905/1953) the first problem that pops up is almost inevitably his translation of the German Trieb by “instinct.” Instincts, as the standard objection goes, have a predetermined object that is given to them by nature to accomplish their biological function, whereas this wouldn’t be the case with Triebe that don’t have such a pre-given object. Since Freud fundamentally questions the idea of (human) sexuality as a biological function that aims at reproduction, Strachey should have translated Trieb in the contexts where it refers to sexuality, for example, as “drive” in order to clearly mark this difference. With regard to self-preservation, Instinkt would have been a possible translation. Indeed, there is or seems to be (things could indeed be much more complicated then we think) a much more intrinsic link between self-preservation and its object than between (human) sexuality and its object. Furthermore this would imply that Trieb/drive is typically human. Indeed, animal sexuality is in this line of thought quite often—rightly or wrongly—considered an exclusively reproductive function. But are things really that simple? In the way I just formulated the problem, it has a very a “Lacanian” sound: Lacan stresses over and over again the nonbiological character of the drive (pulsion/dérive) and of desire that, in humans, would be an effect of language. Lacan—as well as Laplanche— stresses the passage in which Freud claims that the Trieb has no natural object (this passage is virtually the conclusion of Freud’s analysis of homosexuality/inversion) and concludes from this that Trieb is not instinct (that does have a natural object) and hence should be translated differently: pulsion/ dérive (Lacan, 1966, pp.851–854). All of this implies that the decision not to translate Trieb as instinct is made on the basis of a specific reading of Freud’s text and, as I will argue, of a problematic privileging of specific passages. To further discuss this question I will turn to the first edition of the Three Essays, and I will comment on some key decisions that Ulrike Kistner, Herman Westerink, and I made in discussing the first English translation of this text (Freud, 1905/2016). In doing so I will concentrate on a major distinction Freud makes in the Three Essays that passed unnoticed (or even rendered invisible) in most translations. I will argue, more concretely, that the 1905 edition of the Three Essays is not so much centered
around the distinction between Instinkt and Trieb, but rather around the distinction between Geschlechtstrieb and Sexualtrieb. This distinction is completely lost in the Standard Edition and in the older French translations.1 Strachey translates them both as “sexual instinct.” This second distinction resembles the one between Instinkt and Trieb, but it is not identical to it. It should further be read in relation to the term Geschlechtsleben that is linked to it.
Geschlechtstrieb vs. Sexualtrieb Before debating this translation/interpretation, let me first make a quick remark on Freud’s use of the terms Trieb and Instinkt in the Three Essays. First of all, in Freud’s days the German Trieb wasn’t opposed to what we today call instinct. Freud uses Trieb for both human beings and animals and he doesn’t restrict it to sexuality. Quite the contrary, as early as the opening sentences of his text he speaks of a Trieb nach Nährungsaufnahme and he further mentions the Geschlechtstrieb that humans and animals have in common. Furthermore, the word Instinkt doesn’t occur in the text, or rather it is only used once as an adjective (Freud, 1905, p.23; 1905/1953, p.164; 1905/2016, p.25). Hence we can safely assume that the Trieb/Instinkt distinction as such was not really an issue that explicitly interested Freud very much, or that it had much weight in the articulation of his theory. But let us now turn to the distinction between Geschlechtstrieb and Sexualtrieb. This distinction can best be explained by referring to the semantic contexts in which the terms involved are used. Indeed, Freud tends to systematically use Geschlechtstrieb in semantic contexts in which he is talking about the “poetic fable” that claims sexuality is an instinct absent in childhood and that aims at reproduction (Freud, 1905, p.2; 1905/1953, p.136; 1905/2016, p.2). Freud also uses the term more generally with regard to adult object-related and genitalized sexuality so that it also covers inversion or homosexuality. Sexualtrieb, on the contrary, is mainly used with regards to nonreproductive forms of sexuality in which the genital zone doesn’t 1. The only translation I am aware of that takes the distinction we are discussing here into account is the new French edition that was realised under the direction of Jean Laplanche. Geschlechtstrieb is translated as pulsion sexuée, and sexualtrieb as pulsion sexuelle (Freud, 1905/2006). Laplanche’s argumentation with regard to this distinction is in a certain way quite close to ours: Geschlechtstrieb/pulsion sexuée refers to adult sexuality and sexualtrieb/pulsion sexuelle refers to infantile sexuality (Laplanche, 2007, pp.7– 25). However, Laplanche thematizes this distinction in a way that is fundamentally different from ours. Discussing this difference in detail would lead us too far astray. 42
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play a leading role (in particular the perversions) or that are in principle autoerotic or objektlos (Freud, 1905, p.72; 1905/1953, p.233; 1905/2016, p.82).2 The latter characterizes infantile sexuality that for the same reason is non-phantasmatical and can be described in purely physiological terms: search for nonfunctional bodily pleasures. In this sense Geschlechtstrieb and Sexualtrieb refer to two clearly defined and opposing sexual regimes. The opposition between these two regimes informs the structure of Freud’s 1905 text. The exclusive emphasis in the passage on the variability of object of the drive that I mentioned in the introduction tends to obscure this opposition. Indeed, this passage is further linked to other passages that were added in 1915, after the publication of Triebe und Triebschicksale (“Instincts and their vicissitudes”), according to which the drive is directed from the outset to the object as such. As a result, the emphasis shifts from an opposition between a (non-objectal) Sexualtrieb and an (object-related) Geschlechtstrieb as two different sexual regimes to a distinction between Instinkt (adequate object: animals) and drive (variable object: humans). These two distinctions are clearly linked, but they are not identical. Most importantly, the shift in emphasis that I just mentioned hides the philosophical problematic/potential of the distinction between Sexualtrieb and Geschlechtstrieb once and for all from view. Translating Sexualtrieb and Geschlechtstrieb So if it is crucial not to obscure the distinction between Sexualtrieb and Geschlechtstrieb in the translation, how can we translate these terms? Since Freud never uses Instinkt in the Three Essays although it does (and did) exist in German, it is reasonable not to use “instinct” as a translation for Trieb. “Drive” seems to be the better option, also because it keeps the link with the body and bodily existence. As far as Geschlecht is concerned, it is worth noting as a kind of preliminary remark that the sex-gender distinction that we are so familiar with doesn’t play a role in Freud’s text. This distinction was only introduced in the 1950s 2. In the first pages of the original edition of the Three Essays, Freud consistently writes Geschlechtstrieb. In these pages Freud shows how homosexuality (inversion) undermines the “poetic fable” we already discussed. In the remaining part of the first chapter Geslechtstrieb is hardly used. Freud there discusses the sexual aberrations with regard to the aim of the (sexual) drive (perversions) in which the genital zone doesn’t play a determining role. In the chapter on infantile, autoerotic (objektlos) sexuality, Geslechtstrieb is only mentioned four times, whereas Sexualtrieb is used ten times. These two words are used elsewhere in the text in the semantic contexts that I indicated.
ANY BODY ANYBODY: TRANSLATING THE THREE ESSAYS
and 1960s. In the word Geschlecht, then, the sex-gender distinction doesn’t play a role yet. Also there is no equivalent word for Geschlecht in English. In light of what I said earlier— Geschlechtstrieb refers to object-centered genital sexuality—“genital drive” seems the better option (rather than “coïtal drive,” even if that had also been an option in English, but it excludes inverts in the context of which Freud also speaks of Geschlechtstrieb). Sexualtrieb, then, can obviously be translated as “sexual drive.” We decided to translate Geschlechtsleben that also refers to human sexuality as such as “sex life” (“sex life” expresses quite well the generic meaning of Geschlechtsleben). We used “sex life” and not “sexual life” in these instances—although the latter would have been possible too—in order to safeguard the opposition between Geschlechtstrieb and Sexualtrieb that we consider fundamental to the understanding of the text. “Genital drive” can appear questionable in places where Freud uses Geschlechtstrieb” as a pars pro toto. “Sex drive” would have been an option in these cases, but that would have required that we translate the same German word (Geschlechtstrieb) by two different English terms depending on the context. That is not impossible, but it wouldn’t have been very elegant from the perspective of the translation. Beyond that—and more importantly— we thought that changing the translation of
Geschlechtstrieb depending on the context in which it occurs risked blurring the structural distinction between two regimes of sexuality— adult and infantile—that determines in many ways this first edition of the Three Essays. It is clear that the absence of a direct English equivalent for Geschlecht obliges us to look for a compromise. Since the context in most cases leaves no doubt of the generic use of Geschlechtstrieb—for instance, where Freud writes that the Sexualtrieb is its first moment or phase—we think that it isn’t too problematic to consistently translate Geschlechtstrieb as “genital drive.” Conclusion: Translating Freud, Interpreting Freud A further reason why we decided to consistently translate Geschlechtstrieb with the same word is that we wanted to avoid the translation being too “interpretative.” One of the problems with Strachey’s translation is precisely that: it tends to introduce connotations that are not really in Freud—for instance, where he translates psychisch as “mental”—or by stressing through his translation one particular line of thought that even when it is present in Freud’s text, doesn’t have the exclusive character that it risks getting in translation. A good example of this problem is Strachey’s translation of Partialtrieb as “component instinct.” I already discussed the translation of
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Trieb as “instinct.” The translation of “partial” as “component” stresses the idea of possible completeness, or of a possible integration: the component is an element of a larger whole— that is not so present in “partial.” It is true that the idea of a progressive integration of the different Partialtriebe into one whole (or under the dominance of the genital zone, and what does this mean then?) is present in Freud, and it is also true that he sometimes presents this idea as the ultimate goal of human development. But this is definitely not the only line of thought in Freud’s text. Since we can easily translate partial as “partial,” there is no reason to emphasize one particular concept—completeness—at the expense of other tendencies, and more particularly at the expense of the richness of Freud’s text. z REFERENCES Freud, S. (1905). Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Leipzig, Germany: Deuticke. Freud, S. (1953). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 7, pp.125-245). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1905) Freud, S. (2006). Trois essais sur la théorie de la sexualité. Oeuvres Complètes VI, 59–182. (Original work published 1905) Freud, S. (2016). Three essays on the theory of sexuality: The 1905 edition (P. Van Haute, & H. Westerink, Eds; U. Kistner, Transl.). London, England: Verso. (Original work published 1905) Lacan, J. (1966). Ecrits. Paris, France: Seuil. Laplanche, J. (2007). Pulsion et instinct. In Sexual. La sexualité élargie au sens freudien (2000–2006) (7-25). Paris, France: PUF (Quadrige).
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Representing the Unconscious: Freud, Lacan, and Laplanche Jon Todd DEAN
In the last few years I have become very interested in the question of how we represent the unconscious, by which I mean how we talk about the primary focus of psychoanalysis. My interest in this area arose out of several factors, but they all have in common one goal: to be able to address what, specifically, constitutes the interest of psychoanalysis. This is a problem because, on the one hand, the unconscious is obviously something that can never be known. At the same time, however, there is a great deal of theoretical ambiguity that gets used to fill in this gap in our knowledge. If I may take one rather old example, consider how the Oedipus complex has been used in the past as defining a certain normative bedrock of the healthy human subject: the male child hates his father and wants to sleep with his mother, represses this fact, and sometimes has symptoms that prevent him developing to maturity—symptoms like homosexuality. The whole notion of a true north of maturity for the child—that he should marry a woman, get a good, responsible job, and have kids, once he has worked through his unconscious conflicts—is not supported by the evidence of what goes on in the unconscious. This is not a big surprise anymore, I think, but that does not mean that there aren’t other surprises in store. I was struck about a year ago, though, by another example of what seemed to me confusion about what constitutes the unconscious. It was in the context of a discussion of Arendt’s concept of “banality of evil” (Arendt, 1963/2006) in which I heard several analysts make the argument that the people who murdered Jews during the Holocaust or Native Americans in the 19th century, among myriad other examples, simply had not been analyzed yet. This concerned me, as I often find myself concerned now when analysts talk about, for example, the presidency of Donald Trump. There seems to be an assumption of what needs to happen to put the world to rights, and, it goes without saying, psychoanalysts know what that something is. How does such an attitude fit with the uncertainty of the unconscious? A final, and more immediately relevant example for me, is the question of how cultural context influences the way analysis is practiced. I have seen many supervisees frustrated because they are told that race and class are not relevant concerns for doing analytic therapy; at the same time, however, I have been concerned that a focus on being sensitive to such issues can become an issue in itself: how do we resolve this
problem? Equally important is the appearance of new and different types of symptomatology in the context of social changes within a culture or between different cultures. Given this situation, what is specifically psychoanalytic? What does it mean to work with the unconscious? In what follows, I hope to look at a few of the ways in which Freud, Lacan, and Laplanche have addressed this issue. My intention here is to see how thinking about this question allows us both to focus in our work and to “stray,” to use a concept of Laplanche’s,1 as we consider the ways in which analysts represent psychic reality in their work. I did want to mention, before moving on to the actual research, that at about the time I started writing this paper I also began reading a short book by the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, Agua Viva. The relevance of this text is that in it, Lispector is trying to do something similar to what I am trying to do, though from a completely different angle. Her editor is referenced as saying of it that the book’s “consistency … belongs to the realm of dreams, in which ideas and images connect with a logic that may not be immediately apparent but is nonetheless real” (2012, p.xiv). It is an amazing book, and one that I think would never have been thought of prior to Freud, because it is an attempt to compose a work of literary art unmediated by reflection, rather as Freud advised the dreamer to think about his dream. “Whoever can stop reasoning— which is terribly difficult—let them come along with me,” she writes (Lispector, 2012, p.43). This seemed an appropriate epigraph for what is to follow. Freud tells us early in The Interpretation of Dreams that the first purpose of the dream is to help the dreamer stay asleep (1900/1953, pp.123ff.). Right or wrong, I never gave this much thought—it is an innocuous enough claim, just one of the many facts one learns early in analytic training. I liked telling students about a dream I had that fits this claim: Buddy the beagle was scratching his ear with his back foot, something I had seen probably every day I was in the house with him. However, as the dream went on, Buddy began scratching at an impossible rate. I eventually woke up, only to realize that the house was trembling 1. Laplanche describes “going-astray” (fourvoiement) as a necessary element in thinking about the unconscious. In going astray, the student knows what he is trying to do—in my case here, to achieve some clarity regarding the nature of psychic reality—but inevitably gets lost and has to figure out what to do to move ahead. For Laplanche, this is an necessary part of this work (1993/2015, p.xii). 44
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at exactly the rate at which Buddy was scratching: I had been sleeping through my first earthquake. And there you have it: a dream that (unsuccessfully) tries to keep the dreamer asleep. Now let’s move on to more important matters. More recently, though, I have come to appreciate that Freud’s claim about the primary purpose of the dream is more than a truism. Lacan perhaps makes the point most succinctly in the third session of his seminar on desire and its interpretation when he notes that desire is the foundation of the dream. “It is not simple to know what desire is when it is the motor of the dream. At the very least, you know that it is double,” he begins. “Primarily, this desire aims from the start to maintain the state of sleep … that is to say, the state in which, for the subject, reality is suspended.” He goes on, “Secondarily, this desire is a desire for death. It is that independently (d’autre part), and at the same time it is completely compatible [with the first aim], since it is often by the intermediary of the latter desire that the first is satisfied, the desire for death being that in which the Wunsch is satisfied” (2013, p.60). Satisfying the subject’s wish to remain asleep is not a simple matter—Freud’s claim is not a meaningless truism. Lacan goes on to talk about the nature of the subject of the dream: what or who is it? And what is the subject of the dream doing, staying asleep? To stay with my first earthquake dream: it seems to me that an argument could be made that to be fighting to stay asleep is not the most useful thing a person could be doing during an earthquake. It would be more worthwhile to jump out of bed as soon as one was aware something was going wrong and start moving people out of the house before it collapses—that’s what a dreamer with a mature ego would do, one might suppose. Lacan, building on Freud’s statement that the purpose of the dream is to allow the dreamer to stay asleep, is making a radical claim about this seemingly innocuous statement: the realistic concern of homeowner and paterfamilias Todd Dean in the face of a potentially devastating earthquake is completely irrelevant to the sleeping subject, who aims to put off dealing with that problem as long as possible, regardless of the consequences. All of which is just to say that the wish to remain asleep has much bigger implications than at first meet the eye. Starting with the Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895/1966), Freud emphasizes
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the radical otherness of the unconscious as a going concern. For our purposes, there is no need to review the project in detail, only to note this: psyche does not follow any kind of reasonable argument to arrive at what we think we know. It is not logic, but association of different experiences, often completely unrelated except for some almost random link, that determines how psyche views reality. Reason appears only secondarily and, more importantly, defensively. Of course, Freud did not choose to publish the Project, and completely dropped the neurological schema he developed there in his subsequent work, but there is much that was first developed there that remained throughout his work. Certainly, Lacan found this a very fruitful text, and extracted from it the concept of “the thing” and Nachträglichkeit. I would argue that central to Freud’s work from this time on is the realization that reason is not so central to mind. Thus, he makes the point in On Narcissism that one does not have to be psychotic to give up one’s “relation to reality” (1914/1957, p.74)—neurotics do that, too; the only difference is that they do not give up their investments in other people. Near the end of his life, Freud jotted down some notes that were published posthumously. The penultimate note, dated 22 August 1938, reads in full: Space may be the projection of the extension of the psychical apparatus. No other derivation is probable. Instead of Kant’s a priori determinants of our psychical apparatus. Psyche is extended; knows nothing about it. (1938/1964b, p.300)
In other words, as he was arguing in the Project, Freud is here again saying that knowledge, logic, and reason are essentially secondary elements of mental life. This is the most radical discovery of psychoanalysis, I would argue, and one to which Freud returned again and again. When I ask how we represent psychic reality in our writing, I am really asking, how do we represent this? But the fact is that this is, at best, only half the story of how Freud represented psychic reality in his work. At the same time as he is insisting that the unconscious is completely outside the realm of rational thought, Freud was always moving away from this view of the unconscious as illogical and capricious, usually very close to the place at which he is documenting things like the primacy of the desire for sleep or the universality of a loss of reality testing. I would suggest that an example of this is the most famous Freudian concept to appear in the Interpretation of Dreams: the Oedipus complex. Laplanche has pointed out that while the Oedipus complex is treated by Freud (among others) as the central tenet of psychoanalytic theory, it really amounts to little more than a footnote in the Interpretation of Dreams, while the entire text deals with the Wunsch. In raising a question about how we represent psychic reality, the relative importance of the Oedipus complex versus the Wunsch is a sort of locus classicus: it is the first (published) place where a psychoanalytic observation— that dreams always express wishes—gets tied up in a theoretical formulation that at least seems to have great explanatory power. A very real problem with the theory of dream interpretation without Oedipus is that the Wunsch
does not exist in a space without context: rather, it arises out of a lack of satisfaction. Where does the Wunsch come from? Oedipus is an attempt to answer that question. There are other issues, as well, not addressed in Interpretation of Dreams—for example, is the Wunsch a part of the psychotic subject? In other words, it is not hard to argue that it was inevitable that there would be a place for some kind of structuring of the Wunsch, based simply on clinical observation. I believe the Oedipus is problematic to the extent that it took the focus away from the specificity of what is happening in the dream to an overarching theory of what happens in dreams and in the unconscious in general. I would bring this back to the whole question of what constitutes the focus of the analyst’s attention: is it the validation of a theory, or the investigation of what the dreamer presents in its uniqueness? The explanatory value of the Oedipus is real, or at the very least something that helps address the questions that arise out of analytic experience—but at the same time it is a theory we have to rise above, as it were. Theorizing about such things, however, is inevitable—we have no choice, doing this work, but to “stray.” In the session of his seminar referenced earlier, Lacan (2013) addresses this question: why do the specific elements of the dream matter? In the text, he is discussing the dream of the dead father presented by Freud in his Formulation on the Two Forms of Psychic Functioning (1911/1958). The dream is reported by Freud thus: A man who had once nursed his father through a long and painful mortal illness, told me that in the months following his father’s death he had repeatedly dreamt that his father was alive once more and that he was talking to him in his usual way. But he felt it exceedingly painful that his father had really died, only without knowing it. (p.225) For Lacan, what matters in the dream is that there is something that is not said, as Freud points out in his interpretation. Lacan observes that given the associations the dreamer has to the dream material, these words not said are not deeply hidden—their content is manifest in the conscious material of the dreamer/analysand: the son/dreamer did wish for his father to die, because his suffering was great and would not end any other way than by his death. Similarly, he did not want his father to know that he was dead, because otherwise the son would have to acknowledge his guilt for wanting him to die, even though, as presented, the wish that he die was motivated entirely by humanitarian aims, we might say. As Lacan reads it, the repressed elements are specific to the dream, rather than being general truths about the
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Oedipus complex. Here, what is repressed in the dream is something the dreamer has already said: that he wished his father would die. What proves this wish is unacceptable is the fact that this material has been repressed in the narration of the dream. Lacan makes the point that there really is a wish on the part of the dreamer to see his father again; he really did hope that he would die, because his illness was so hopeless and painful; and, he really did have an Oedipal wish. Part of what Lacan is pointing to here is a problem with the overarching conceptualization of the Oedipus complex: to simply say that this is an Oedipal dream is to pass over what actually happens in the dream and its secondary revision. If I may, to say simply that the dream is Oedipal is rather like saying that my dream about Buddy and the earthquake is evidence of what Freud calls the first duty of dreams: in both cases, we are finding what we were looking for. There is no mystery, no going astray—and that is bad for the work. Lacan talks about the dream in some more detail in the session, but his main focus is the distinction he makes between “wishful thinking” (referenced in English) and “desirous thinking” (pensée désireuse or désirante, 2013, p.72). The latter terms are, per his reading, ways of describing the realistic expectations of the dreamer—the things that can’t be repressed. But, he says, what is repressed is really the Vorstellungrepräsentanz, the representation of the idea. To be such, the repressed material must be something that has not been thought before, and is, therefore, without meaning—a notion that at least seems truly paradoxical. But this is what I mean by exploring the vagaries of the unconscious—this is a kind of “going-astray.” A new meaning arises from the repressed material of the dream. This is true for the dream of Freud’s patient in this brief essay; it is true for my dream in the face of an earthquake. It is, at least according to Lacan, here, how dreams contribute to the process of analysis. Lacan goes on in this session of his seminar to describe the dream as a metaphor. As such, it brings in a new meaning, one that is enigmatic, but which cannot be ignored: the dream does not prove what we already know—that there is a repressed Oedipal rivalry at play here; rather, it introduces something new. Implicit in this is the warning that if all we get out of a dream is what we expected to find, then there’s a problem. Again, Lacan acknowledges that there is much that is unclear in the dream, evoking the very “unsayability” of “the truth of the heart” (2013, p.75). That said, I almost didn’t read the third session of this seminar when I did, because in the first session of the seminar, Lacan returned to a topic he returns to again and again
and again—how the phallus is the only signifier of lack. If you have read much Lacan, you know that this topic is covered over and over again in his seminars, especially—but not exclusively—in the fourth and fifth ones. I found myself wondering why it was so important to do this once again. Of course, there has been a persistent feminist critique of Lacan’s phallocentrism. For me, at this point, I was bothered for a different reason: even if Lacan’s argument is true, what difference is it going to make for how I practice analysis, and why does he have to go over it so often? The discussion of this issue is very brief in seminar VI, but appears in a place where it is entirely unnecessary. Whatever value there is in the concept, it did not appear to me to be of any value on p.49 of this particular text (2013). I believe the phallus-as-signifier-of-lack became for Lacan something like what Oedipus became for Freud and especially the early post-Freudians: a way of understanding what is going on in the unconscious in large and fairly abstract terms. By appealing to this argument, Lacan is able to remove psychoanalysis entirely from the realm of the physical sciences and present it in coherent theoretical terms, thus avoiding much of the mess that Freud himself was caught up in regarding the relation of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic in the unconscious. It is not that the idea of signifying lack is not useful, merely that there seems to me no compelling reason to keep returning to this one argument, that the phallus is the only signifier of lack. It is also unclear to me why we have to go over this topic again and again, even if it is the only signifier of lack: what is served by going over this argument again and again over several years of his seminar? Laplanche has written at some length about the implications of our approaches to theorizing. In his paper “Biologism and Biology” (1993/2015, p.113-130), he addresses the concept of theory as a kind of “ideology and myth” (p.123). This is far from being an exhaustive summary of his work on how we represent the unconscious, but it does speak to the risks our theories inevitably create when we try to do that work. For Laplanche, our theories are not simply a schematic, generalized way of representing what we see happening in individuals; rather, they are best seen as myths that serve to bind our anxieties. He presents as examples of this the concepts of totemism and the Oedipus complex, but he focuses most specifically here on Freud’s theory of castration anxiety, “the romance of a primal theory” (p.126). Laplanche’s claim is that Freud’s referring to castration anxiety as the “underlying bedrock” of psychoanalytic theory, as he does in “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” (1937/1946a). Laplanche asks, then: what is the purpose of constructions 46
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such as these? His answer: these theories bind together what is enigmatic and therefore anxiety-producing: “There exist, in short, certain ‘theories,’ false theories… that situate humans relative to the world of living things…. Totemism, the castration myth, the myth of the primal beast within us, far from being sources of anxiety, are thus instruments for attempting to master it” (p.127). Certainly, to refer to my earlier example of the theoretical argument that the first purpose of the dream is to help the sleeper stay asleep: it is more tolerable, because more reasonable, than the thought that the dreamer would wish to die rather than get out of bed during an earthquake. The more important point about overarching theories is that, by offering explanations, they get in the way of exactly the kind of close attention to the workings of a specific unconscious activity about which Freud, Lacan, and Laplanche are most concerned in their theoretical work. In fact, in recent years I have found that teaching the Big Theories of both Freud and Lacan is a less compelling way of engaging clinicians in learning analytic concepts than a detailed focus on specifics, such as the discussion of the dream of the dead father both Freud and Lacan present. These are some of my thoughts on how we can explore the question of the unconscious and of the specificity of psychoanalysis, and, in particular, how my reading of Freud, Lacan, and Laplanche has contributed to my own going astray. It is a great challenge, one we can never be sure we have figured out; rather, we can probably mostly be sure we don’t have it figured out. But if we are to be analysts, we don’t have any choice, I think, but to do precisely this. z REFERENCES Arendt, H. (2006). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil. New York, NY: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1963) Freud, S. (1953). The interpretation of dreams. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 4). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1900) Freud, S. (1957). On narcissism: An introduction. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 14, pp. 69-102). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1914) Freud, S. (1958). Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 12, pp. 218-226). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1911) Freud, S. (1964a). Analysis terminable and interminable. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 23, pp. 209-254). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1937) Freud, S. (1964b). Findings, ideas, problems. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 23, pp. 299-301). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1938) Freud, S. (1966). Project for a scientific psychology. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 1, pp. 293-397). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1895) Lacan, J. (2013). Le séminaire livre VI: Le désir et son interpretation. Paris, France: Éditions de la Martinière. Laplanche, J. (2015). The temptation of biology: Freud’s theories of sexuality. New York, NY: Unconscious in Translation. (Original work published 1993). Lispector, C. (2012). Agua viva. New York, NY: New Directions.
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The Death Instinct: Psychoanalysis’ Enigmatic Signifier? Rereading Laplanche, Rereading Freud Jens DE VLEMINCK
Introduction From Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920/1955b) onward, Freud would remain faithful to a concept which already had a long conceptual history before it was developed into a full-fledged concept of Freudian metapsychology, that is, the death instinct (De Vleminck, 2016). None of Freud’s concepts ever provoked such controversy, with analysts arguing for (e.g., Melanie Klein) or against (e.g., D. W. Winnicott) the death instinct’s added value for psychoanalytic theory and practice, resulting in “remain” and “leave” camps—with a rhetoric similar to the recent Brexit campaigns in the United Kingdom. A similar kind of polarization with regard to the death instinct was at stake between Jacques Lacan and Jean Laplanche. In his landmark paper “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious” (originally published in 1960), Lacan provokingly argues that “to evade the death instinct in his [Freud’s] doctrine is not to know his doctrine at all” (1966/2006, p.679). In what follows, I will neither discuss nor defend a Lacanian perspective on the death instinct. Instead, I will try to argue against Jean Laplanche’s critique of Freud’s death instinct. In line with Laplanche, however, I will argue for an alternative “critical” reading of Freud, equally aiming at “putting Freud to work,” as Laplanche likes to call it. Scrutinizing Laplanche’s critique of Freud’s death instinct through a very peculiar Freudian lens, I want to “problematize” Freud’s death instinct from a different methodological perspective, that is, by re-contextualizing it in the research matrix of melancholia. Present constraints mean that I can only really hint at the argument here, but I shall try to do so in two brief steps: (1) a summary and critique of Laplanche’s reading of Freud, and (2) an alternative reading of Freud, trying to making sense of the death instinct. (1) Laplanche Reads Freud: “Chucking Out” the Death Instinct? It has to be noted that the issue of the death instinct was not Laplanche’s main point of interest. This can be illustrated by the fact that in secondary literature on Laplanche the death instinct is scarcely mentioned. Dominique Scarfone’s impressive introduction to Laplanche, for example, barely devotes four pages to the subject (2015, pp.32–35). Although the death instinct was not his main preoccupation, a closer look at Laplanche’s work reveals
that, nevertheless, the theme runs like a read thread throughout his work. Moreover, it seems as if Laplanche is involved in a continuous struggle with the concept. From the monumental The Language of Psychoanalysis onward, which points at the death instinct as “one of the most controversial of psycho-analytic concepts” (Laplanche & Pontalis, 1967/2004, p.97) until his presumably last text, the 2010 preface to the French edition of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Laplanche is trying to come to grips with the death instinct as some sort of “error” (1997/1999c, p.49) or “enigmatic signifier,” qualified as a “so-called concept” that might better be “chucked out” (jeté, 2006, p.118). The Language of Psychoanalysis is still ambiguous about the status of “this speculative hypothesis” “postulated” by Freud (1967/2004, p.97). “[E]ven though it is possible to recognize the death instinct as a new guise for a basic and constant sine qua non of Freudian thought,” Laplanche and Pontalis argue, “it must be emphasized that its introduction does embody a new conceptual departure” (p.103). Besides explicitly addressing the death instinct for the first time, The Language of Psychoanalysis is equally informative for Laplanche’s expanding on the Freudian concept of leaning-on (étayage; Anlehnung). In a certain sense, the further elaboration and centralization of leaning-on is the primary stake of Life and Death in Psychoanalysis (1970), where it functions as the delineating notion between what Laplanche calls the “vital order” (the biological) and the (emergence of the) so-called drive-related “sexual order” (the psychical). The corresponding disqualification of the biological register, which can be witnessed here already, is recalibrated later on when Laplanche rethinks what he calls Freud’s “specific seduction theory” into a “general theory of seduction,” examining the origin of (un)consciousness (the psychic) and sexuality in the “implantation of enigmatic messages from the other.” In Problématiques III (Lectures 1975–77), the “general theory of seduction” is radicalized as the revelation of “the truth of the notion of leaning-on” (1980, p.69). Against the backdrop of what is called “the essentially traumatic nature of human sexuality,” Laplanche’s Life and Death in Psychoanalysis moves throughout the Freudian corpus, pointing at narcissism as one of Freud’s most important discoveries. For Laplanche, “the nodal point of ‘narcissism’” implies “an apparently unforeseeable mutation of metapsychology: that brought 47
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about by the ‘death drive’” (1970, p.84). He argues that the implications of the conflation and unification of the “drive”-related sexual libido on the one hand, and the narcissistic libido on the other hand, “compelled” Freud—in terms of exigency (exigence; Zwang)—to oppose the death instinct to Eros, identifying the latter as “the bound and binding form of sexuality, brought to light by the discovery of narcissism” (p.123). Hence, according to Laplanche, Freud’s introduction of the death instinct cannot be considered a new discovery. In fact, it only implies a rediscovery and reintroduction of the demonic aspect of the sexual, that is, something not totalizing in sexuality that was obscured by the great turning point of narcissism. Laplanche uses the word compulsion to point at “the structural necessity” for Freud “to reaffirm … a kind of antilife of sexuality, frenic enjoyment [jouissance], the negative”—pointing at “aggression, destruction, sadomasochism, hatred, etc.” (p.107), and “the repetition compulsion” (p.124). For Laplanche, the death instinct is a genuine paradox: “not an element in conflict, but a conflict itself substantialized, an internal principle of strife and disunion” (p.122). Despite his confession that “the genealogy of the final instinctual dualism” is considered a “riddle we … are beginning to decipher,” Laplanche already paves a way out of the deadlock by arguing that “the death drive does not possess its own energy. Its energy is libido. Or, better put, the death drive is the very soul, the constitutive principle, of libidinal circulation” (p.124). Reconsidering the issue of the death instinct in Problématiques IV (Lectures 1978–79), it is redefined by Laplanche as “a deepening of sexuality in its most radical aspect” (1981/1999a, p.188). “Here, then, is the extreme form of the thesis,” he argues, “the death drive has been misunderstood, repressed, until its discovery” (p.189). For the first time, Laplanche is explicitly talking about the “sexual death drives,” raising the rhetorical question: “But how can we define the sexual death drive?” (p.222). The obvious answer is the title of his 1984 lecture: “The death instinct in the general theory of the sexual drive.” Laplanche considers both the life and death instincts “on the basis of a common libidinal energy” (1986, p.24; my translation), qualifying them as “the banners … of forces whose only field of activity is the human psyche, or more precisely, its sexual psyche” (1991/1999b, p.213). At the same time, he clearly denounces both Kleinian and Lacanian interpretations of the
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death instinct, amongst others. “The death drive offers, nowadays,” Laplanche argues, “a screen of immunity to whoever wishes to develop in psychoanalysis any ‘romantic’, ‘pessimist’ and eventually Heideggerian conceptions” (p.213). Laplanche’s critique of the death instinct no doubt finds its most radical expression in his 1997 paper “The So-called ‘Death Drive’: A Sexual Drive.” The death instinct “can only be correctly situated at a specific moment in the drama of the Freudian discovery,” he argues. “Outside of that context, it becomes an empty formula” (1997/1999c, p.49). Consequently, he raises the following question: Once the true opposition has been established, that between the bound and unbound forms of libido at work in psychical conflict, can we not attempt to formulate things in a renewed metapsychology; and thus, in the colloquial expression, quite simply “chuck out” [jeter] the death drive? (pp.49–50)
sexual drive—however, is fully dependent on the general theory of seduction, including its focus on the realm of sexuality as intrinsically traumatic. By giving a pivotal role to both Freud’s notion of leaning-on and the asymmetry between child and adult sexuality, two crucial elements for Freud in 1905, Laplanche in fact re-problematizes the entire Freudian corpus through the lens of psychoanalysis’ foundational texts, namely, The Interpretation of Dreams and Three Essays. Since, in these texts, hysteria explicitly functions as Freud’s research matrix, it follows that Laplanche “problematizes” the entire Freudian corpus at the backdrop of this hysterical research matrix (including the hysterogenic/erotogenic/ libidinal body, the component instincts, sexuality as intrinsically fragmented, etc.) (De Vleminck, 2017). Laplanche’s spiral-model of theory development, which goes together with his argument that the death instinct is no discovery but a rediscovery, implies that Freud’s early texts (on hysteria) continue to be the touchstone of his later work. It leads no doubt that Laplanche’s critical reading of Freud is a productive reading, opening up new and refreshing perspectives. Nevertheless, the question can be raised whether the central role and explanatory potential of the generalized theory of seduction does not equally contribute to obscuring the stake of concepts that do not fit in, such as the death instinct. Whereas Laplanche’s reading adequately argues for the significance of On Narcissism, one could argue that it fails to take into account the text’s ultimate
Contrary to this most radical reaction, however, Laplanche proposes the death instinct’s reinterpretation in terms of an “internal otherness.” He maintains that: “In this sense, the so-called death drive is in effect that ‘pure culture’ of otherness that we detect in the deepest layers of the unconscious.” In this way, he concludes that “in the grandiose of life and death drives, there is nothing mysterious or metaphysical. In question are two principles, of binding and unbinding, whose opposition is at work on the inside of the psychic apparatus” (p.52). Laplanche’s conception of the sexual death drive as the principle of unbinding is associated with his conception of trauma and, thus, with his general theory of seduction. In his final contribution, an introduction to Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Laplanche considers Freud’s introduction of the death instinct as “inscribed in an attempted conceptualization that would draw metapsychology in the direction of a theory of trauma in which psychic conflict would be mainly between forces of binding and forces of unbinding” (2010/2015, p.126). Looking back at Laplanche’s continuous struggle with the death instinct, it seems as if he never stopped considering the death instinct’s “forced introduction” as being “seductive and traumatic” (1970, p.107). His interpretation and critique of the Achilles, Frank, and Linda, New York death instinct—claiming it to be a 48
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consequences. For the introduction of narcissism in fact opens up a totally new spectrum of psychoneuroses: the narcissistic psychoneuroses—contrary to the familiar “transference neuroses,” such as hysteria and obsessional neurosis. In what follows, I want to highlight that in the wake of On Narcissism, Mourning and Melancholia was published. From that moment, melancholia is not only considered the prototypical example of narcissistic psychoneuroses, it equally started to function as Freud’s subsequent research matrix after hysteria and obsessional neurosis (De Vleminck, 2013). The hypothesis I want to put forward, against Laplanche, is that at the time Freud was introducing the death instinct, he was dealing with a very particular psychoneurotic research matrix, that is, the matrix of melancholia. Additionally, I want to highlight the remarkable fact that Freud, when discussing the peculiar instinctual character of the death instinct, explicitly refers to the clinical picture of epilepsy—equally indicated by Hungarian analysts like Sándor Ferenczi and Lipót Szondi, among others (De Vleminck, 2008). (2) Freud Contra Laplanche: The Matrix of Melancholia and the Reference to Epilepsy One cannot help but agree with Laplanche that Beyond the Pleasure Principle “remains the most fascinating and baffling text of the entire Freudian corpus” (1970, p.106). Most generally, the reader is seduced by Freud’s (in)famous examples at
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the beginning of the text: the dream life of “traumatic neurosis,” “children’s play,” and “repetition compulsion” (Freud, 1920/1955b, pp.12–23). Despite their importance, however, what was at stake for Freud cannot be merely evoked by them. For where Freud genuinely discusses the death instinct—that is, in the last part of the book—he immediately connects it to the issues of sadism and hatred, and, hence, to the general theme of aggressiveness. Moreover, in all of Freud’s following texts, the death instinct is exclusively dealt with in relation to aggressiveness. Correspondingly, I would like to argue in favor of the thesis that, for Freud, aggressiveness is the realm par excellence where manifestations of the death instinct can be discerned—without thereby claiming that all manifestations of the death instinct should be exclusively reduced to aggression. Since the death instinct does not particularly contribute to a clear differentiation within the register of external manifestations of aggressiveness, the question should be raised: What specific kind of aggression did Freud have in mind when he was introducing the death instinct, and how can it benefit from applying a concept like the death instinct? An indication of an answer to this question can be found in The Ego and the Id (1923/1961a), which is no doubt Freud’s most important study on melancholia besides Mourning and Melancholia. Although autoaggressive manifestations, including suicidal inclinations, are equally amongst the clinical features of obsessional neurosis, their most extreme examples can be found in melancholia. Accordingly, Freud is convinced that in melancholia, the death instinct is revealed in its purest possible form. He seems extremely fascinated by the excessive, disproportionate, and merciless character of the instinctual discharge displayed in the pathological condition. The death instinct, which manifests itself in the autoaggression of the superego against the ego, is canvassed by Freud as the expression of force which, as such, is neither interested in life nor caring for life at all. This line of thought can be revealed in a magnified way in the human possibility of suicide. In the context of melancholia, suicide is revealed as having a universally human significance. In The Ego and the Id, Freud famously stated: “What is now holding sway in the super-ego is, as it were, a pure culture of the death instinct, and in fact it often enough succeeds in driving the ego into death” (1923/1961a, p.53). What is so enigmatic about the problem of suicide, according to Freud, is the idea that man carries the possibility of auto-destruction within himself. By the pathological case of melancholia is revealed to what extent the superego can
become “a kind of gathering place for the death instincts” (p.54). Among the clinical examples discussed by Freud figure the extreme feeling of guilt, “moral masochism,” and the “negative therapeutic reaction.” In each of these cases, Freud encounters expressions of an instinctual force, disrupting any kind of creativity and operating beyond pleasure and unpleasure. Apart from the fact that, for Freud, the expression of the death instinct always implies a certain degree of sexualization, he seems particularly fascinated by the death instinct’s monotonous, nonfunctional, and persisting character, which is contrasted with the plasticity and creativity of Eros. Although Eros is considered the obligatory counterpart of the death instinct, only capable of expressing itself due to instinctual fusion, Freud frequently refers to the clinical picture of epilepsy when reconsidering the possibility of the “defused” death instinct (De Vleminck, 2010). In The Ego and the Id, he claims “that the epileptic fit is a product and an indication of an instinctual defusion” (1923/1961a, p.41). A similar suggestion can be found in The Uncanny (1919/1955a), published at the time he was conceiving Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Freud’s fascination for the automatic or mechanical character “beyond” instinctual life, associated with the demonic character of the uncanny, reminds him of “the uncanny effect of epileptic fits” (1919/1955a, p.226). In Dostoevsky and Parricide (1928/1961b), Freud equally argues that beyond the uncanny epileptic discharge “we have a glimpse of the identity of the underlying mechanism of instinctual discharge” (1928/1961b, p.180). Apart from the seizure-like expressions of epilepsy, the death instinct can also be connected to epileptic viscosity, referring to manifestations of what Freud calls “psychical inertia,” implying that “all the mental processes, relationships and distributions of force are unchangeable, fixed, and rigid” (1937/1964, p.242). In turn, this inertia can be associated with melancholia, expressing the unbearable heaviness of being, resembling a dead weight or a persistent force of habit, which in extreme circumstances can lead to death. Death is not the goal, but certainly it can be the effect, as the riddle of suicide reveals to Freud. Conclusion I want to conclude by pointing to the fact that, contrary to Laplanche, I have been arguing for an alternative understanding of the death instinct, reconsidering it from the research perspective of melancholia. In contrast to Laplanche, for whom the death instinct remains an enigmatic signifier, I want to argue for a reading of Freud that takes into account different research perspectives related to the 49
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subsequent psychoneurotic models that were guiding Freud’s thinking. In the case of the death instinct, we have to take into account the research matrix of melancholia. Instead of presupposing a certain continuity in Freud’s metapsychological thinking, in the form of a spiral, I want to think about the discontinuity of the different psychopathological models that were informative for Freud at different moments in time. Instead of a grand unifying theory, Laplanche’s “general theory of seduction,” I want to argue for a kaleidoscopic patho-analytic theory based on the idea that, in a magnified way, different pathologies reveal different aspects of “what is human all too human.” z REFERENCES De Vleminck, J. (2008). Tragic choices: Fate, Oedipus, and beyond. In A. Cools, T. Crombez, R. Slegers, & J. Taels (Eds.), The locus of tragedy (pp.197–213). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. De Vleminck, J. (2010). Oedipus and Cain: Brothers in arms. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 19 (3), 172–184. De Vleminck, J. (2013). De schaduw van Kaïn: Freuds klinische antropologie van de agressiviteit [The shadow of Cain: Freud’s clinical anthropology of aggression]. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press. De Vleminck, J. (2016). Repenser la pulsion de mort chez Freud. L’Évolution Psychiatrique, 81 (4), 723–741. De Vleminck, J. (2017). Freud reads Krafft-Ebing: The case of sadism and masochism. In P. Van Haute & H. Westerink (Eds.), Deconstructing normativity? Re-reading Freud’s 1905 Three Essays (pp.64–86). London, England: Routledge. Freud, S. (1955a). The uncanny. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 17, pp.217–256). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1919) Freud, S. (1955b). Beyond the pleasure principle. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 18, pp.1–64). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1920) Freud, S. (1961a). The ego and the id. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 19, pp.1–66). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1923) Freud, S. (1961b). Dostoevsky and parricide. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 21, pp.173– 196). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1928) Freud, S. (1964). Analysis terminable and interminable. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 23, pp.209–253). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1937) Lacan, J. (2006). Écrits. (B. Fink, H. Fink, & R. Grigg, Trans.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original edition published 1966) Laplanche, J. (1970). Life and death in psychoanalysis. (J. Mehlman, Trans.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Laplanche, J. (1980). Problématiques III: La sublimation. Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France. Laplanche, J. (1986). La pulsion de mort dans la théorie de la pulison sexuelle. In A. Green, et al., La pulsion de mort (pp.11–26). Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France. Laplanche, J. (1999a). The unconscious and the id: A volume of Laplanche’s problématiques. (L. Thurston & L. Watson, Trans.). London, England: Rebus Press. (Original work published 1981) Laplanche, J. (1999b). Masochism and the general theory of seduction. In J. Fletcher (Ed.)., Essays on otherness (pp.197–213). London, England: Routledge. (Original work published 1991) Laplanche, J. (1999c). The so-called “death drive”: A sexual drive. In R. Wheatherill (Ed.), The death drive: New life for a dead subject? (pp.41–59). London, England: Rebus Press. (Original work published 1997) Laplanche, J. (2006). Problématiques VII: Le fourvoiement biologisant de la sexualité chez Freud suivi de Biologisme et biologie. Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France. Laplanche, J. (2015). Preface to beyond the pleasure principle. In D. Scarfone, Laplanche (D. Bonnigal-Katz, Trans.) (pp.119–128). New York, NY: Unconscious in Translation. (Original work published 2010) Laplanche, J. & Pontalis, J.-B. (2004). The language of psychoanalysis (D. Nicholson-Smith, Trans.). London, England: Karnac. (Original work published 1967) Scarfone, D. (2015). Laplanche. (D. Bonnigal-Katz, Trans.). New York, NY: Unconscious in Translation.
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Introduction to the Debate In 1960 the psychiatrist Henri Ey hosted an interdisciplinary conference at the psychiatric hospital in Bonneval in Northern France. The theme for that conference was The Unconscious. Among the philosophers present were Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur, Jean Hyppolite and among the psychoanalysts, Andre Green, Rene Diatkine, and Serge Lebovici. Jacques Lacan was there but didn’t present. Two of his students did. Jean Laplanche and Serge Leclaire presented a paper for which they wrote alternate chapters. The paper focused on the idea that the linguistic signifier may be taken as the fundamental element of the unconscious: Freud’s Vorstellungrepresentanz Des Triebes. Or what we might call in English: the drive representation’s representative.
The paper was published in French in 1966 and in English in 1972 making it one of the earliest widely available texts from the Lacanian school. However, the paper contained a disagreement between its two authors on the fundamental character of the unconscious signifier. For Leclaire, following Lacan, the unconscious signifier was necessarily a linguistic element, existing and operating due to language. For Laplanche it had a status outside of language. The debate was thus formed: Is language the condition for the unconscious as Lacan would have it? Or the reverse: Is the unconscious a condition for language as Laplanche argued? Fifty years on, we have the benefit of considerable elaboration of theory
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and practice in returning to this debate. However the matter has never been settled. The fundamental semiotic character of the unconscious representative is still in question. That is the reason for today’s debate. It is time to settle this question. What is at stake is our theory of the subject, the ground on which the unconscious rests, and the basis for our clinical interventions. The subtitle of our conference this week is The Matter of the Unconscious. The enduring questions for this morning’s debate are whether this matter exists apart from its representatives and whether those representatives are the consequence of linguistic structure. z
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Structured Like Culture: Laplanche on the Translation of Parental Enigma Avgi SAKETOPOULOU
In his 1915 essay “On the Unconscious”, Freud, among other things, was working to articulate the structural relationship between the systems conscious, preconscious, and unconscious, and to delineate the mechanisms through which one system became porous to the other with respect to content. It was in that paper that he first distinguished between thing-presentations, which he described as unmediated, visually encoded cathexes of memory traces, and word-presentations, which he understood as linking the very sound wave of a word to the cathexis of a memory trace, that is, to a thing-presentation. Thing-presentations are, therefore, a matter of the system unconscious whereas word-presentations concern the system preconscious-conscious: “[t]he conscious presentation comprises the presentation of the thing plus the presentation of the word belonging to it, while the unconscious presentation is the presentation of the thing alone” (1915/1957, p.201). Freud’s central preoccupation with accounting for how material travels from one psychic register to another led him to wonder about what process an unconscious trace must undergo as it migrates to the territory of consciousness. His primary question was as follows: when an unconscious inscription becomes conscious, does the material that was originally outside consciousness endure a change of state (what came to be known as the functional hypothesis) or does it achieve a second inscription (which has come to be referred to as the topographical hypothesis) upon reaching its destination? The implication of the topographical explication is that a second inscription would imply that the same psychic event is now inscribed twice: once in its original iteration as thing-presentation, as well as a newly installed one which pairs it with a word so that it may live in conscious life. Lacan approached this question by insisting on the durable presence of the original unconscious inscription. Though the original trace is never at the subject’s linguistic disposal, its very inscription psychically follows the grammar of language. Consider, for example, a hysterical symptom of a hand paralysis that cannot be accounted for by organic factors. The paralytic symptom, Lacan would point out, follows not the musculature and innervation of the body but its linguistic delimitation. As such, the hand paralyses at the wrist (where the word hand ends and the word arm begins), rather than in accordance to the particular muscle and neuronal pathways that govern its operation.
While Laplanche followed Freud in the notion that the unconscious is made up of cathected memory traces (thing-representations) he differed from Lacan in that he did not see the unconscious as following in its constitution the ordinance of language but saw it, rather, as structure-less. Laplanche insisted on a drive, the state of which is pure and not constituted through signifiers but which, rather, arises out of the infant’s failure to translate and affix signification (in the form of fantasy) onto parental enigma. By the time a subject finds herself in the territory of signifiers, the drive is manifesting as already fixated, running through the mesh of the system preconscious/conscious. Repression, thus, allows the subject to be anchored in the symbolic order rather than toil under the aegis of the drive, whose nature is peripatetic, unwieldy, and promiscuous as to object. Therefore for Laplanche the unconscious, rather than structured like language is, in fact, the enabling condition for language. The subject’s move from primary to secondary process is the work of binding (of psychic energy, of drive representatives, and of meaning) to confer a certain kind of stability. For Laplanche the language of the unconscious is a circulation of thing-presentations in a way that is comparable, as he writes in his 1960 essay coauthored with Leclaire, only to the vertiginous layer of language that is used by poets. Every encounter with the unconscious that can be apperceived is always already refracted through the preconscious. Consciousness, as Matte-Blanco has written, just “does not have enough dimensions to contain [the unconscious]: in a similar way one cannot pour water into a jug in a painting because this jug has only two dimensions and to receive the water it would need three” (1980, p.45). The unconscious thus reaches us in forms that are always already mediated and structured and it has the appearance of linguistic form because, to develop escape velocity and make it into the preconscious, it has to already have been compressed into recognizable (or bits of recognizable) form. As Laplanche further developed his ideas regarding the Fundamental Anthropological Situation and the universality of the parent’s enigmatic seduction (1987), he came to see the classical view of repression as less significant, though he never entirely abandoned it. Repression as the aggregate of inscriptions that have lost their links to signifiers became less central in his thinking. The unconscious that came to interest him was less a storehouse of preexisting, 51
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albeit disguised, meanings (Scarfone, 1997/2015). His new proposition was that through the attachment relationship between infant and caretaker, the former is not only the recipient of acts of care that meet survival and instinctual needs but is also and inevitably exposed to the parent’s sexual unconscious. The parent’s unconscious unremittingly compromises her communications to her infant, introducing a perturbation on the level of the psyche-soma. The asymmetrical relationship between caretaker and infant exposes the infant to the parent’s own strangeness to herself, introducing messages the infant will inevitably be unable to translate. To translate here does not refer to an act of decoding, but more of generating meaning or a fantasy to explicate to oneself the parent’s enigma. Laplanche described this perturbation as “a thorn in the flesh of the ego” (1987, p.129); it provokes an irritation that implants itself in the subject. The child is impelled to make sense of this irritant through translating the enigmatic message; that which cannot be translated sediments and, through primal repression, forms the subject’s sexual unconscious. The unconscious thereby constituted is thus not comprised of content and of signifiers but is of a different order ontologically speaking. The ego gets formed from the very attempt to cope with the strangeness of the other by translating enigma. The success of this process is not contingent on the accuracy of the interpretation of the parent’s enigmatic message, since, we should remember, it is unconscious to the parent. How do we translate enigma then? To do so, Laplanche argues, we borrow existing cultural forms, from the mytho-historical and that which is transmitted through the family and culture. So anything that can be fished out of the unconscious to be brought into analytic discourse is always already nominated by existing cultural forms and through what is socially and culturally intelligible. Laplanche spoke about gender as a product of culture nominated in the effort to cull the untameability of the infantile sexual. I propose that other concepts too that culture uses (and abuses) to order the world—like sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, and so on—are all mediums taken up in the effort to translate the sexual unconscious. This helps explain perhaps why so many of these concepts feel hard to pin down, why they resist language and tend to crumble and betray their unstable foundations when examined closely.
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From that angle we might think of the Oedipal crisis as trying to bind, bring order to, and tidy up the sexual. The classical resolution of the Oedipus complex and the subject’s finding her appropriate gendered position in the heterosexual matrix used to be thought of as a developmental achievement, but we are now coming to see it more and more as the scar tissue left behind by “solutions” that coil too tightly around cultural notions of the good life (Ahmed, 2010; Dimen, 2001; Goldner, 2003) and of normativity. These cultural spells as Guralnik calls them, give language and the appearance of linguistic structure to psychic material, but it is important to remember that they precede the subject. As
found objects that the unconscious employs to forge its translations of parental enigma they become threaded through the manifestations of the unconscious. So while they appear to reflect the structure of the unconscious as Lacan might have it, I see them from a Laplancheian perspective more as revealing to us how heavily and persistently they lend form to the instinct to translation. z REFERENCES Ahmed, S. (2010). The promise of happiness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Dimen, M. (2001). Perversion is us? Eight notes. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 11, 825-860. Freud, S. (1957). On the unconscious. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 14, pp.159-215).
The Exactitude of the Signifier Let us begin with the signifier, since this is the form in which La- and La- both presume that the unconscious constitutes a specific form of knowledge. The signifier—there it is, all alone. How strange that, after Lacan and Laplanche, we speak of the signifier, as if there were only one. To a certain extent, we might recall, the signifier is a synonym for language. The signifier or language, the same thing. So that, in the case of the La/La showdown— ours, and before ours their own, which dates back to 1959—the signifier is shorthand for the dispute (which, from our vantage point today, might seem as arbitrary as the strife between two children on the train, in Lacan’s famous illustration, forever opposed over the proper name for their current stop): whether the unconscious is the condition of language (Laplanche), or whether language is the condition of the unconscious (Lacan). In fact, however, the signifier is not just a synonym for language, another word for the same thing; more specifically, it is a metonym—it is an inherently contingent fragment that comes to figure the whole, much as a random card on a table arrayed with cards comes to stand by sheer association for all of the other cards. For Lacan, I recall, metonymy is the name for the horizontal axis of signification, the unstoppable association movement from signifier to signifier, the horizon without horizon of desire. But it is also the operation whereby the term signifier itself is constituted as a replacement or displacement of the word language. Indeed, although neither Saussure nor Lacan explicitly say so, metonymy is the basis for the formalization of
language as the object of a science; it is the rhetorical figure at the basis of structural linguistics. By the same token, the rhetorical figure does not just function to clarify and illustrate the structure of language—as if, once we were done with the signifier, we could just go back to talking about language or act as though we were talking about nothing other than language all along. Readers of Lacan and Laplanche, in different ways, know that this is not true. Once the language is understood in terms of the metonymy of the signifier, there is no going back. When the operation of metonymy substitutes the random constituent for the whole structure, it takes this constituent in isolation, sets it permanently aside, and considers it first, making it, from now on, the necessary point of entry into the question of language—such that this question becomes strangely subordinate or deferred. If I were a Laplanchian, I would say herein lies the enigma of the signifier. The isolation of the signifier with respect to the whole of language harkens back to role of the signifier in the genesis of language and even the genesis of the unconscious itself; it evokes the primordial moment at which the signifier was not yet part of language, when, as Laplanche often writes, it is “designified” or “destructured” as an unreceivable message, metaphor without metonymy, that transpires within the unequal and asymmetrical relationship between mother and infant, big person and small person. But since I am a Lacanian, or since I am the specific Lacanian that I happen to be—I don’t think it’s cheating to bring my 52
London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1915) Goldner, V. (2003). Ironic gender/authentic sex. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 4, 113-139. Laplanche, J. (1987). New foundations for psychoanalysis. New York, NY: Blackwell. Laplanche, J. (1999). Essays on otherness (J. Fletcher, Trans.). London, England: Routledge. Laplanche, J. (2011). Freud and the sexual (J. Fletcher, J. House, and N. Ray, Trans.). London, England: The Unconscious in Translation. Laplanche, J., & Leclaire, S. (1960). The unconscious: A psychoanalytic study. In Laplanche, J. (1999). The unconscious and the id: A volume of Laplanche’s problematiques (L. Thurston and L. Watson, Trans.). London, England: Rebus Press. Matte-Blanco, I. (1980). The unconscious as infinite sets. London, England: Karnac. Scarfone, D. (2014). The Three Essays and the meaning of the infantile sexual in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 83(2), 327-344. Scarfone, D. (2015). Laplanche (D. Bonnigal-Katz, Trans.). New York, NY: The Unconscious in Translation. (Original work published 1997)
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own cards to the table in this showdown—I will say that this metonymical isolation of the signifier functions to underscore the exactitude of the signifier. Now, exactitude is the name for a certain concept of truth—for example, that which is bound up with the project of exact science—and it usually evokes the ongoing but ever elusive project to arrive at the most complete and most incontrovertible knowledge of external reality. Lacanian psychoanalysis is predicated upon a vigilant critique of this notion of scientific truth; not in order to settle for a notion of truth that would be inexact (although Lacan does often approve of James Strachey’s intriguing essay on the role of “inexact” interpretation in psychoanalysis), but rather to uphold an exactitude—and, for that matter, a science— that cannot be reduced to the inherently capitalist endeavor to master nature in order to exploit its most infinitesimal particles. Indeed, the exactitude of the signifier lies in the signifying process itself; that is, in the fact that the signifier is not a tool whereby the human being subjugates the world but rather becomes a
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subject by taking place within a chain of signifiers that are both traditional and never not surprising. A psychoanalyst should find assurance in the obvious fact that man is, prior to his birth and beyond his death, caught up in the symbolic chain, a chain that founded his lineage before his history was embroidered upon it. He must work at the idea that it is in his very being … that man is in fact considered to be a whole, but like a pawn, in the play of the signifier, and this is so even before its rules are transmitted to him, insofar as he ends up discovering them … No prehistory allows us to efface the cut brought about by the heteronomy of the symbolic. (Lacan 1956/1966, p.468)
Colloquially, when we speak of the “exact word,” this does not necessarily refer to the right word or the best word—the exact word could easily be the worst word (as Beckett might say, any other would do as ill); but it is the one and only word, irreversible and intractable, a word whose import and signification are not determined in advance by a dictionary but retroactively through the action of signifying chain. The exactitude of the signifier—for instance, the signifier “rat” in the case of the Rat Man, which is both a word and a mere sequence of letters—is inseparable from the contingency of the chain. It is, as Freud writes in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, an “unwished-for exactitude” (1920/1955, p.18). This is the exactitude for which the analyst waits when he listens to the analysand and that, thanks
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to the position of the analyst (whom Lacan likens to a scribe), the analysand expects to discover in the process of speaking. At the hyperbolic limit, it designates the capacity of language to evoke or give a place to a singular object that it cannot name. And finally it is what makes science indistinguishable from a game, or perhaps a showdown, which the Lacanian must win in advance because the very framework exemplifies the truth of his position. z REFERENCES Freud, S. (1955). Beyond the pleasure principle. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 18, pp.1– 64). London, England: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1920) Lacan, J. (1966). The Situation of Psychoanalysis and the Training of the Analyst. In Ecrits (pp.459-491). Paris: du Seuil. (Original work published 1956)
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The Bat Question
To begin with there’s this “bat question,” as Jacques Lacan poses it in a subtitle from 1955—and returns to in 1964—followed by the imperative: “Examine it in the light of day.” So what has been kept in the dark, and only against the background of Lacan’s “excommunication” brought to light, is thus the question: “what is psycho-analysis?” (Lacan, 1988, p.3). Now, this is a moment of uncertain groundings, of uncertain foundations, propelled not only by the notion of the importance of examining praxis but raising the unsettling question itself: what makes me qualified to talk about the fundamentals of psychoanalysis? Lacan’s answer at that point—an answer that reestablishes the return to Freud’s discovery of a field relating desire to language, that is the domain of the unconsciousness—that answer points out the necessity of taking into consideration the desire of the psychoanalyst, not only in the sense that it is the presence of the analyst that calls forth the unconsciousness, but that it was through Freud’s own desire that he in the hysteric saw the relation between desire and language. Following this, then, our question for bats distinguishes praxis by putting in play an encounter that is not only potentially open, but also potentially dangerous. As Lacan reminds us, this is also part of a legacy, this original sin: something in Freud remained unanalyzed. So, to me, it is decisive that when Jean Laplanche again poses this question for bats—stating, “If we cannot let in at least some daylight, anything goes,” referring to the concurrent drift between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis—he does so in dealing with what he calls “framework and rules” (Laplanche, 1989, p.154f ). Handling this question for bats becomes an insistence on the need for containment. Let us say that Laplanche is maintaining the legacy of a certain Dracula by acknowledging a danger: the possible danger of seduction. Perhaps this project, therefore, of formulating “new foundations” for psychoanalysis springs from an awareness of the need for certain frameworks and rules, recognizing praxis as undoubtedly “establish[ing] something”—that is, something occurring on “the order of sexuality, love and hate” (Laplanche, 1989, p.156). And so? Well here comes the analytic refusal in play, that is to say the famous analytic neutrality; the refusal, as Laplanche puts it, “to work at the level of adaption, to give advice, or to discuss means and ends” (p.156). This is what calls forth something, understood as a possible threat, that simultaneously “sheds new
light” on what could be considered fundamentals (p.157). So the potential openness and potential danger that calls for “framework and rules” as it were, this, as Lacan has it, ever “avoided encounter” (Lacan, 1988, p.128), establishes in Laplanche’s understanding of praxis—and this is my conclusion—a site for primal seduction. In other words, when the presence of the analyst produces a stumbling on something that could be perceived as derivate of the unconsciousness, it isn’t in an experiencing of lack. Laplanche instead formulates a general theory that is putting in play the relation between desire and language in a sense that points out a method able to contain a potentially dangerous encounter. This allows for a concept of transference that can not only “shed new light” on the ever missed opportunity, but that
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establishes a relationship to the enigma as a “source of new energy, which propels the cure” (Laplanche, 1989, p.158). If the presence of the analyst calls forth an encounter with an unconscious residue it is in the form of an enigmatic signifier, spelled out as: what does he/she want from me? For the analysand, then, this must be a return, a Wiederkehr of sort, that is not only a Heimkehr but also something unheimlich that, given regular sessions and a constant environment, will be guiding threads in an analysis. z REFERENCES Lacan, Jacques. (1988). The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis: The seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton. Laplanche, Jean. (1989). New foundations for psychoanalysis. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell.
ANY BODY ANYBODY: LACAN-LAPLANCHE DEBATE 2016
Not a Poem, nor a Parasite (Read at the “La-La Show Down”, November 13, 2016, NYC) This is a homage to the New York School of Poetry, particularly to Joe Brainard’s “classic,” I Remember. And to the newly discovered—newly discovered by me—Bernadette Meyer. It is called “In the Tub.” But that title lacks imagination. So it could be called, “In the Bathtub.” More imagination there. Is it a poem? I cannot remember. Once in the tub, I cannot remember much. So maybe it’s, “Things I Cannot Do While Sitting in the Bathtub.” Like remembering. I cannot remember what the exact title is. I fell asleep at some point. Falling asleep is one thing you can do in the bath tub. “Reasons for Falling Asleep in a Bathtub.” Maybe that’s the title? I cannot remember.
I am probably already dreaming. I can dream up three reasons for falling asleep in the bath tub. Anxiety; blacking out; excessive inhibition. All probably caused by a threat of aggression. It could get bloody; most accidents happen in the bathroom anyway. Most murders, too. Am I going to assassinate Donald Trump or not? No that’s not the question, that’s just day residuesomething I remember from the dinner on Thursday night. The unchained aggression that could make me pass out is different. I could be seduced—and that, on the surface, not so enigmatically so—I could be seduced into simplicity, by simplicity, into just making fun of the tub paradigm. Readers of Laplanche know this image. The tub paradigm is a visual model that pretends, as any visual model does, to be outside of what one is in, while imagining it. Taking the bath and having it. By seeing it; watching it by being taken by myself as other. Strictly a phantasm. That, of course, is not an argument in itself, for or against anything or anyone. Any model—and I am convinced by the enigmatic seductiveness of models—is some sort of reduction or condensation of a phantasm. But you still have to write it. Or read it. Or hear it. Plantsch- Pop Art Moment. Is the image of the baquet of this great translator just the translation into an image of the sound he would have made in Freud’s language if jumping into a pool or enormous tub for this matter? I’ve been told it’s different from the silly jokes that have been made on his name in French. This is a thing you can do in a bathtub. Plantschen, with or without animals. Yet there’s this other thing you cannot do in a bathtub, at least not well—writing. But how did I get there? I cannot remember. I must be dreaming in the tub. How did I even end up on this team? I don’t want to win; I never wanted to win any debate. So I hand over the victory to you Laplanchians. Because in any case, the bathtub figure laplanche that haunted my dreams in the bath tub— as far as I remember—did things to the no less flimsy lacan figure that the latter could never have 55
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done to the former. He won; he is still winning. Perhaps I’m even bathing in the unmeasured amount of Pommard the former kept promising the latter and never sent him—so I was told. Why do I have to sit in any empty promise? I am slipping again—slipping more into it? Slipping into slipping? Into the kind of slip on the dictionary of philosophy Lalande, into which Lacan slipped when lashing out at Laplanche and inventing as it were, lalangue and thus transcending into the earnest belief of a transcendence of transference into muddy waters of punning parapraxis as para-meta-trans-psychoanalytic clinic thought? I wish I had said at the debate. But I don’t like debates. Did I already say that? I cannot remember. I fell asleep. Maybe boredom; maybe fear of boyish nerdiness. How many reasons for dreaming or sleeping did I promise to name? I don’t remember. The unconscious as condition of language. No, language as the condition of the unconscious. How nerdy is that!? Or am I just lazy? Just cynical? Just want to take a bath? I wish I could sing. I know, people sing in the shower. But I slipped in the bathroom. Fell into the tub. Now I must do the lala-thing in here. How did I even end up in it? How am I marked by it? Am I marked by it? Does this mark indicate how high the liquid rises? I wish I could get out of this markedness of language; it sticks on me like some slimy residue of a filthy liquid. I wish I could take a bath to cleanse myself of this mark… thing...how do I name it? Does it mark us (MARCUS) or is it just me? Can we please avoid that gluey question and happily bathe, shower, sing, and think that we can get out of this viscous business with a nice meta perspective? A meta-meta-phor-for what? Other voices, all of a sudden. I must be drowning in discourse now. Signifiers are not words; structure is not language; the symbolic is not a language system; mathems are not part of logic; Lacan’s topological objects are not part of mathematics; the sinthomical knots are not objects of knot theory; the modalities encore are not logical modalities; formalization is not formalization. But a tub is a tub is a tub. The tub is the image of the metaphor; it’s the metaphor of the image of the tub; it’s the tub of the metaphor of the image. It goes around in circles, in spirals rather; it’s the downward vertex of the water draining from the tub. It is getting cold now. I’m waking up. I’m sitting naked in the empty tub. No more seduction. So, please my friends from team Laplanche, let the water back in so I can feel warm again. z
ANY BODY ANYBODY: LACAN-LAPLANCHE DEBATE 2016
This contribution to the “La/La Showdown” was composed on the day after the US presidential election. It may be worth the reader’s knowing that what follows was written under conditions of political trauma. Will this be a debate in which both sides declare victory the moment it’s over? What would it mean to “win” a psychoanalytic debate? You can win an intellectual debate or a political debate (even if you can’t win the election), but I’m less sure that it is possible, or even desirable, to win a psychoanalytic debate. The nature of psychoanalytic exchange remains foreign to the discursive structure of debate, with its position-taking, its repression of competing viewpoints, its zero-sum commitment to vanquishing the other. When intersubjective exchange takes on the coloring of debate, psychoanalysis vanishes. In the seemingly interminable run-up to the recent presidential election—a period that is starting to look positively prelapsarian by comparison to the political situation in which we find ourselves—voters who fell into the category of the “undecided” were regarded with disbelief, even contempt. Given what has been made public about Donald Trump, you still can’t decide? The election gave the undecided a bad name. Nevertheless, here I must declare myself undecided in this debate. When Elissa Marder wrote to ask if I’d be willing to serve on Team Laplanche, I replied that I’d be happy to serve on either team, to swing either way. (As my father often said, I used to be undecided, but now I’m not so sure.) Elsewhere I have elaborated a psychoanalytic defense of intellectual promiscuity as a positive virtue.1 The position I’m articulating here may not serve the interests of Team Laplanche, but it represents my sense of what psychoanalysis is and what it can do. The claim I wish to make concerns the specificity of psychoanalysis as a mode of thinking, rather than the specificity of any individual thinker. My reluctance to choose sides in this debate stems partly from the sense that I’m being asked to defend one party in a doctrinal dispute. The somewhat technical nature of the dispute feels especially distant in the wake of the election, as we’ve witnessed a largely unanticipated triumph of ignorance—a result of the galvanizing jouissance of hatred on a newly national scale. Psychoanalytic theory may help us understand what happened, but it cannot change the political result or its consequences. Here we confront a limit of what psychoanalysis can do. After the fateful choice of the election—after the triumph of ignorance—choosing between Lacan and 1. See Dean (2009), chapter 4. The psychoanalytic defense of intellectual promiscuity draws on multiple sources, including Phillips (1996).
Laplanche feels impertinent. Yet my reluctance to choose sides—in fact, my commitment to choosing not choosing—stems also from decades of experience finding both Lacan and Laplanche tremendously generative for my thinking and writing.2 They each provide various tools to think with—for intellectual as well as clinical work—and I would not want to be without either of these toolkits. Here I have in mind Foucault’s description of concepts as tools, with one implication being that the more tools you have at your disposal, the better. Why jettison as unworkable one set of implements when, in the face of contingency, you can never predict the future contours of the task? The necessity of leaving room for the unpredictable in our work represents a constant challenge for psychoanalysis. It may be heterodox to say so, but we do not need either Lacan or Laplanche to be “right”; what we need is for their work to continue to be useful, evocative, and, indeed, inspiring for us today, in our various contexts, national and professional. The danger of victory in a debate of this kind is that it may exacerbate the unfortunate human propensity for following a single leader or master. The unconscious ironizes mastery. Rather than a master whose teachings we faithfully follow and disseminate, we would be better off embracing methodological pluralism. A single, doctrinally correct leader is appropriate for a church, not for the world of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis—whether in the clinic or the university—is a practice, not a belief system or a doctrine. When it degenerates into orthodoxy or system, the vital work of psychoanalytic thinking grinds to a halt. Theoretical correctness spells the death of thought. It is in keeping with the groundless ground of the unconscious to claim that every concept and position must be subject to revision. I wish to conclude these remarks by offering one final point. In his introductory framing of this debate, David Lichtenstein suggested that the notion of the enigmatic signifier may be a way of describing how the unsymbolizable real functions within language. I regard that as a very helpful way to put it. The term enigmatic signifier was coined by Lacan but developed into a concept by Laplanche; we might say that the “enigmatic signifier” belongs to neither of them.3 I have found the 2. I take the phrase “choosing not choosing”—along with the idea that refusing choosing is itself a valid choice— from Sharon Cameron’s philosophical account of Emily Dickinson’s use of variants in her unpublished poetic fascicles. See Cameron (1993). 3. See the following sentence from Lacan: “Between the enigmatic signifier [le signifiant énigmatique] of the sexual trauma and the term that is substituted for it in an actual signifying chain there passes the spark that fixes in a symptom the signification inaccessible to the conscious subject in which that symptom may be resolved—a symptom being a metaphor in which flesh or function is taken as a signifying element” (Lacan, 1977, p.166). 56
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notion of an irreducible enigma especially useful in my own research, not least because it works to resist the hermeneutic frenzy that I associate with certain Lacanian traditions, particularly that of Slavoj Žižek and his epigones. The ease with which some psychoanalysts appear able to interpret anything and everything in their own terms makes some versions of Lacanianism seem like a paranoid system with no outside. Hence, the significance of what, in her lecture yesterday, Tracy McNulty emphasized as the uninterpretable, the untreatable, the intractable (McNulty, 2016). Leaving space for the uninterpretable as an indispensable element helps to differentiate psychoanalysis from those hermeneutic practices that would treat it either as simply a blockage to be overcome or as a regrettable failure of hermeneutic technique. By soliciting interpretation even as it refuses any finality of meaning, the enigmatic signifier undermines psychic determinism. Thus, if forced to choose sides in this debate, I come down on the side of the uninterpretable enigma. The psychoanalytic choice is for equivocation. z REFERENCES Cameron, S. (1993). Choosing not choosing: Dickinson’s fascicles. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Dean, T. (2009). Unlimited intimacy: Reflections on the subculture of barebacking. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Lacan, J. (1977). The agency of the letter in the unconscious, or reason since Freud. In Alan Sheridan (Trans.), Écrits: A selection. New York, NY: Norton. McNulty, T. (2016, November). The body in the procedure of the pass. Plenary lecture at the Ninth Annual Meeting of the International Society for Psychoanalysis & Philosophy, The New School, New York, NY. Phillips, A. (1996). On flirtation: Psychoanalytic essays on the uncommitted life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Tina and Jonas, Berlin
ANY BODY ANYBODY: LACAN-LAPLANCHE DEBATE 2016
Captain Fantasmatic In the most Lacanian film of 2016, Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortensen, a single father raises his four children in the forest, outside of the demeaning burdens of everyday idiocy. They become elite athletes and geniuses, thanks to their isolation and his endeavors—“We are philosopher kings”— they holler as they hunt, read, and do university level mathematics. A Rousseauan fantasy no doubt, but what this film does above all is to demonstrate the fictionality of the paternal signifier. The father has erected an order of his own. For instance, this family does not celebrate Christmas; they celebrate Noam Chomsky day. I think that Lacan would have been totally in favor of this negotiability of the paternal signifier, but not, perhaps, with Chomsky as the replacement. In the seminar Le Sinthome (1975–6), Lacan tells of his meeting with Chomsky in America, who tells him that language has its origins in the body. What this means is that Chomsky is dealing with evolutionary theories of language. If there is anything that Chomsky the linguist does not understand, it is the irreducible nature of the signifier, Lacan says. The signifier, he says, tears out a hole in the real. And it is precisely this tearing which is at stake in the Lacanian theory of the signifier at this point in Lacan’s development. It is a tearing that does something not only to the status of the paternal signifier, which becomes hollowed out and fragile, but also to the body.
The aspect of foreignness which is torn out through the signifier can perhaps be translated as corporeality, as flesh, as drives, and so on. But there is no evolutionary drama taking place from the real to the signifier; the signifier is a drama of creation ex nihilo, through what he calls the Borromean knot between the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. Perhaps it is Laplanche whom Lacan is really complaining about as he tells of his meeting with Chomsky—both come across as a kind of Captain Fantasmatic from a Lacanian perspective. As we look at Laplanche, there is a lot to support an evolutionary theory which is implied also in Chomsky. “Within the ego, it is no longer the tension of life but the stable form of the living that is transposed” (Laplanche, 1976, p.125). Lacan is wrong to make the ego a result of the merely “reality function,” Laplanche says, and he is annoyed with the defensive or “ideological” alibi lurking behind the ideal of adaptation. After all, Laplanche continues, “life has to be lived” and a human being can supplement a love of life that is occasionally deficient only by a love of the ego or of the ideal agencies which are, in turn, derived from it (1976, p.125). But what is ideology if not this unwitting appeal to life as immanence? Certainly such a conception is unwittingly ideological. The notion of the subject as a signifier representing a subject for another signifier speaks of something other than and excessive “life,” or a “human being.”1 Let me compare, to illustrate this, the idea of writing in Lacan and Laplanche with reference to this topic. In the seminar Le Sinthome, Lacan performs his reading of James Joyce, who consistently points to the power of the fictionality of the signifier, but also to its enigma: its tearing out the hole in the real. Joyce is the most enigmatic of writers, because he is also the one who seems to derive the most pleasure from his writing. His writings revolve around an enigma which cannot be equated with an embodied ego. The enigma is to be found, rather, in the power of literary language itself. In Joyce the enigma is pleasure. The subject of writing is subjectivating itself through a symbolic order deriving from the ambiguous name of the writer: James, Stephen, Joyce, Daedalus, Nora, Molly— Joyce writes at the limits of psychosis without crossing the line. At this border, it is possible to work within a kind of pleasurable 1. This notion is found all over in Lacan’s writings, for instance in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, (1977, p.157). 57
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enjoyment which is not phallic but linguistic. To Lacan, the pleasure of writing points to the primacy of the signifying chain over the body of life. To Laplanche, in contrast, it is Hölderlin who proposes the enigma of the signifier. He quotes from Hölderlin’s “Mnemosyne”: A sign, we are, without meaning, without pain we are and have nearby lost our language in foreign lands (Laplanche, 1961/2007, p.6) Here the signifier is an absolute that cannot be contoured. In fact, in Laplanche’s interpretation of Hölderlin the name of the father is taken to be absolute in a more radical way than in Lacan. In Hölderlin’s case, the name of the Father passes through a delirious relation with Friedrich Schiller that repeats the symbiotic relation Hölderlin has with his mother. Schiller introduces a paternal signifier that Hölderlin disavows—such Verwerfung means a denegation not only of a paternal name, but also of the writing it represents. And so Hölderlin falls into psychosis and silence. But is this not only too literal? A personal history construed through a mythological interpretation of a paternal signifier? Lacan looks at the writing. Laplanche looks at the biography, the life. The idea of the paternal signifier as an absolute that produces foreclosure, rather than pleasure, as in Lacan’s Joyce, produces an image of writing that has nothing to do with its sounding, rhythm, or potential enjoyment, only with a metaphysical idea of its meaning as somehow transcendent. Perhaps this is the price to be paid when the enigma of the body comes forth through the primacy of sexuality and aggression, rather than the pleasure of the ambiguity of language. z REFERENCES Lacan, J. (1977). The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis (A. Sheridan, Trans., and J.-A. Miller, Ed.). London, England: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. Lacan, J. (1975-76). Le sinthome: The seminar of Jacques Lacan, XXIII (J-A Miller, Ed., Ornicar 6-11, L. Thurston, Trans.) www.lacanonline.com. Laplanche, J. (1976). Life and death in psychoanalysis (J. Mehlman, Trans.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Laplanche, J. (2007). Hölderlin and the question of the father (L. Carson, Trans.). Victoria: ELS Editions. (Original work published 1961)
ANY BODY ANYBODY: LACAN-LAPLANCHE DEBATE 2016
The La/La Showdown This phrase captured my imagination when it was uttered by Ali Shames-Dawson, a graduate student studying clinical psychology at the New School, who had been working at the Sandor Ferenczi center. The center was hosting a talk by the Lacanian Gerard Pommier on the subject of patriarchy. Discussants David Lichtenstein and Muriel Dimen, alternately urbane and combative, created sparks that may have ignited something in Shames-Dawson. Certainly when she said La/La showdown—playfully drawing attention to the conflictual relationship between the psychoanalytic contributions of Jacques Lacan and Jean Laplanche—I was thrilled and determined to make something of it. So we persevered and brought this creature into the world at the 2016 SIPPS conference in New York. My only regret, retrospectively, is that we did not make more of the delicious soundtrack Ali, fellow student Scott Mimnaugh, and others put together. Soundtrack, you say. What is this? Battle of the Bands? Celebrity Apprentice? Psychoanalytic Super Bowl? Yes and no. The event and its planning were serious fun. I wanted (Nachträglichkeit in the making) to go back to the early 1960s (hence the soundtrack) and revisit the quarrel Lacan was having with Laplanche and Pontalis over the question of language and the unconscious. In addition to my general interest in Laplanche, I have always been particularly impressed by his early work, which contributed to a view of the unconscious that is now more visible through the work of the field theorists (Ferro and Civitarese, Lombardi) and through primarily French-driven work on levels of representation and registration interwoven with what is usually contained in the term symbolic. I am reminded of the work of the Botellas, Aulagnier, Scarfone, Reed and Levine, and from a more generally psychological theory, the work of Ignacio Matte Blanco. In the English-speaking world, this interest in primitive states, unmentalized experience, and the layering of representation is most visible in the work of Alvarez, Mitrani, McGleuthlin, Grossmark, and others. Among this mélange of theorists, one can also hear the presence of Bion. This broadbased new focus on unconscious phenomena stresses both the presence and infusion of otherness as well as the multiple possible forms of representation. Since we are now in a period in which many new and fresh English translations of Laplanche have been appearing, it seemed an apt time to revisit this quarrel and see how it might transpire, if we added in a few more rounds in 2016, about a half century later.
Ideas, concepts, and clinical strategies arise in particular historical and cultural moments and it is always interesting to consider what is transformed, and what is transformable. I am reminded here of a concept from Deleuze, the notion of theory or concept as nomadic. Deleuze thought of migrating or nomadic texts and concepts as “demonic” as opposed to orderly in nature, a concept that has always appealed to me. The nomadic concept carries a potential for an anarchic presence, a decentering that is nonetheless productive. What if we were to approach this showdown with an idea that texts and concepts transmit energy, rather than representing codification or debts to “stakeholders”? I borrow that term from a discussion on texts, movement, and translation recently published by Eyal Rozmarin (2017). What does a revival or an initiation in Laplanchian thought, now migrating into English-speaking psychoanalysis, change about the way we think? For me, this arrival comes just in time to engage with relational psychoanalytic ideas, with notions of intersubjectivity, of attachment theory and theories of development. Along with Rozmarin, I (Harris, 2016) have been interested in linking Laplanche and Ferenczi along a continuum of traumatic seduction. Sexuality is always excessive, traumatic; this is “normal” (Saketopoulou, Stein, Dimen, and others). Enigmatic messages across a spectrum of intensity and difficulty arrive to infuse the infant. There is a double founding (Aulagnier, Chetrit Vivane) of sexuality, from the other, emergent and responsive. We have left the customary vision of the individual and drive-driven theorizing without abandoning the intensity and excess of excitement, sexuality, shame, and subjectivity contained in traditional psychoanalysis. Most brilliantly, I would argue, Laplanche sees this process of translation as a foundation of subjectivity, of unconsciousness, and of language. But we are in an internal/external world where the usual categories of primary and secondary process are intermingled and fluidly in play. In regards to language, here is where, in my view, the Laplanchians sweep ahead of the Lacanians. Tito, Florence 58
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Laplanche’s work takes us beyond the linguistic world of Chomsky, beyond structure and grammar, and into the world of speech acts, speech pragmatics, the semantic theories of Lakoff and Johnson; a world of metaphor, of the presymbolic, the sense impression, the pictogram, the vocal but nonverbal. I am reminded of Spielrein’s work on speech and development. For her, the most salient aspect of language is the fact that it is made in the mouth. Lips, teeth, tongue, orality, and various pleasures and pains associated with the mouth and its target, the breast, are all nested in the inner layers of language. In a way that evokes Bion and others, Laplanchian psychoanalysis situates us all in the radical opacity of knowing, in uncertainty. Uncertainty and lack may have a more complex interaction than I am suggesting here. Perhaps uncertainty is a place where the La/La showdown might turn to peace talks. Détente. Returning to that scene at the New School in November 2016, each side concluded believing itself victorious. Interestingly, the audience voted not for a team but for a person, Marcus Coelen (technically a representative of Team Lacan), who wrote a beautiful poem that enacted the very process we were to be discussing. The poem was set in a bathtub in which the poet imagined himself. It was a Laplanchian bathtub out of which rose steam, sounds, play, excitement, enigmatic messages, invitations. It is here that we find a view of the unconscious as interwoven with structure and chaos, with fluidity and specificity, and it is here that I rest my case. z REFERENCES Harris, A. (2016). Winnicott and gender madness. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 32(3), 359-375. Rozmarin, E. (2017).
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Throwing Out the Baby and the Bathwater Introduction: Blah-Bath Is the unconscious the condition of language? Or is language the condition of the unconscious? How can we win a debate with such a lame formulation—“language is the condition of the unconscious”? It sounds like utter nonsense. To begin, we will turn back to what it is to listen as psychoanalysts. The difference between Laplanche and Lacan must, above all, be clinical, meaning it concerns a question of technique at the deepest level. In Laplanche, there is a sense of the unconscious as already there, as structured by the enigmatic relation with the Other, whereas, for Lacan, the unconscious is something that the analyst and analysand bring into being. One is past, traumatic transmission, one future invention, a future evoked in the present through language and repetition. Laplanche’s question about the enigmatic seduction by the (m)other is there—one can hear it at the most critical moments, in particular as one gleans a patient’s account of their history. Lacan, however, asks us to do something with it in particular, and this concerns the direction of the treatment and the cure. One might ask, what is Laplanche’s idea of the cure? Laplanche speaks about analysis as the tub, the container of all containers, where the patient meets the provocation of the analyst as enigmatic Other. This thesis is perhaps Freudian to the extent that all this, everything in a patient’s history, eventually exhausts itself in simply finding its locale—in the bathtub—all interpretations being equal in so far as they remain tied to this point of enigma. But we cannot simply throw out the baby and the bathwater, which is why the action of the signifier and the symptom, in the bathwaters of jouissance, is the force of the cure in Lacan. Why Lacan? The Clinical Examples Case 1: What’s in a word? A long-time analysand walked into session and I had the strange spontaneous thought—She’s pregnant! Wrestling with this internal outburst, I tuned in as she began to speak about a dream where a woman, a businesswoman, was giving her a choice between two pills. One that would make my patient pregnant with the businesswoman’s child (she needed the patient’s body as a host because hers had been used up from work), and the other pill, which she said wasn’t clear what, if anything, it would do (it was part of a trial). There is nothing mystical about my strange thought, it is an enigmatic transmission of a sort, but what I realized retrospectively is that she had worn a particularly unusual dress that
Patricia GHEROVICI and Jamieson WEBSTER
resembled maternity clothing and had held her body in a way a pregnant woman might. All this! But the work, still, is on the level of the signifier. Trial was the word which in the course of the session reversed itself, from the trial that she puts herself on—the judgment, reminiscent of her relationship with her mother—battled out against a question of career. She spoke about the certainty of the effect of the impregnating pill, but it wouldn’t be her child. The other pill was different, part of a trial, uncertain. Maybe the child would be hers, if there was one. Trial suddenly took on a different meeting. She thought about how difficult it is to try anything on. How impatient she can be. How ashamed being part of a trial, as in trying, makes her feel. A few sessions later, a second signifier emerged: suit. Law suit, suit as in business attire, and then the question of what suits you—how does the other know what suits her? She’s played a longtime game with her mother and sister, pretending that they know, that she can guess at what they want, and also being disappointed that they don’t know what she wants, and perhaps even what they want. But what about what she can know? The question of know-how gained through analysis was spoken about quite movingly. Lacan, in another ridiculous, non-winning statement, said that the signifier represents the subject for another signifier, this obscurantist definition of the subject that Lacan mutters like an idiot. What is he even talking about? But when you see this in the action of analysis, trial to suit, nothing could better say how we believe the subject emerges in an analysis in the space between words. This is an action beyond (or maybe against) the scene of the enigma of maternal desire (absolutely there: the impregnating mother, parasitic on my patient, this feared and longed-for certain transmission). The signifier, however, is something else. It works by sliding: suit breaks off from trial metonymically, trial is a metaphor for suit. This gap established by marking the two signifiers in the analysis works as a cut, a force of separation, structuring the scene of the unconscious. Case 2: What’s in a name? Jay, a trans man, came to analysis describing himself as a mild addict. The word addict gave him a place in the world with other addicts—it was his master signifier. Jay’s girlfriend, a cis woman, fought with him a lot. Jay was gaining weight. Everything was oral—all food and screaming. The nickname Jay had adopted for his girlfriend then opened a way out of the cycle of repetitions. Jay would affectionately call his girlfriend Marty “Ma.” He had 59
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a slip of the tongue; trying to say “Ma,” he stuttered and said “Ma … Ma.” I repeated back to him: “Mama?” He seemed annoyed: “Not, Ma … not Mama.” Jay appeared utterly confused. We ended the session there. At the next session, Jay acknowledged that the fights provided an exhilarating sensation similar to that of his drunken high; this excitement related to the continuous disappointment he had experienced with his father, the parent who was “Not Mama.” His absences made him feel that nothing existed beyond his mother’s love. “Nothing” became an object he searched for in his alcohol and drug-induced highs. Later, Jay noticed that while his nickname for Marty was “Ma,” hers for Jay was “Dumpling.” Jay stopped himself mid-sentence and repeated: “Dump.” “Dump?” I asked. He replied: “Yes, this is what Ma is doing, treating me like shit.” Jay broke up with Marty soon after. This reckoning with the oral and anal object led the treatment to a final move that I would call a sinthomatic construction, by granting Jay a new name. Finally, I was now able to learn about Jay’s body, the pains and puzzles of his transition. He experienced a voice, a reproach against his body, which necessitated the transition, but something still ailed him. In a sinthomatic resolution, Jay sold his business, paid off a loan to his mother, and started a new career selling vinyl records, which proved quite successful. The voice still addressed him, but now the register of sound and acoustic materiality prevailed differently: “Not everyone listens to the music I like, but those who like it, love it. I care about this, in ways I could not imagine before.” He wanted to leave a mark, to make a singular contribution using his know-how—a signature. The new business brought him closer to his father who until then had been absent. The father had been a DJ for a while. This made Jay understand that the name he chose was a way of rewriting his father’s most treasured activity. In his new business persona, he was known as “J.J.” He even named the new company “J-Music” with the caption “the Joys of J-Music.” He went from being called Jessica at birth to renaming himself Jay, and then to being known in the music business as J.J. We turn to the cure, because perhaps here, with Lacan’s last formulations, we have an important difference between Lacan and Laplanche that cannot be mediated. Is the cure a cure by sinthome? Or is it the adaptation of the provoked trauma? For us, psychoanalytic work uses a deliberate practice of equivocation and verbal punning, as well as the cutting and punctuation of a session, so as to undo the set of fixed and univocal meanings initially presented by the analysand.
ANY BODY ANYBODY: LACAN-LAPLANCHE DEBATE 2016
Above all, it interferes with the analysand’s jouissance. Like a pun, the cut of the scansion reorganizes letters and sends the analysand toward an enigma whose resolution is not found in historical reconstruction, but in the invention of new signifiers. The symptom is no longer a deciphering of a hidden meaning, but rather the creation of something new. This is an idea that we find extremely helpful in clinical work with the most varied analysands. The letter is inscribed, allowing the enigmatic signifier to imprint itself, not so much as scar or a stigmata of trauma, but rather as a mark akin to a signature, a style, a new way of living—impossible without work on and with the signifier. Theoretical Differences? So we have established the clinical difference. But what about the supposed theoretical differences between Lacan and Laplanche? Read the following and ask: Is it Lacan or Laplanche? Attempting to answer the question of all questions—What is psychoanalysis?—in 1972, this analyst states: Psychoanalysis “is the mapping out of what is understood as obscure, of what is obscured in understanding because of a signifier which marked a point of the body.” A point of the body, not a point on the body—an important distinction because even while the point is marked as a clash between word and flesh, it is of the body, meaning it is already body. The word has its own materiality and it is this which remains obscure in any understanding, the challenge to knowledge and the entry point into the field of the sexual. Analysis reproduces this point, this moment where flesh divides the flesh in order to attest to what is most obscure in life. Everyone, this analyst says, oddly enough, agrees on this; and in this re-production, the analyst is in the same position as the parent who produced the trauma, the parent whose work is to organize the body of their children with their own, always calling upon their sexual life and sexual history. This, he says with great assurance, is what we call transference. The analyst has to re-awaken this mark of the body; though not, it must be said, in order to adapt this disorder to the order of the day, nor to make reparations to the souls who we believe were the cause of its pain, the root of suffering, but rather in the name of spreading this disorder, converting a piece of reality into it. “The difference” from the get-go, the analyst says, “is that the psychoanalyst, from his position reproduces the neurosis and the traumatic parent for his part produces it innocently.” The analyst reproduces, causes to repeat, this point, this event on the body. This is the place where something takes root in us, constellating our enjoyment and pain,
organizing the surface of the body around a moment out of joint. “It must give you the shivers, what I am saying!” the analyst chides his reader. “It is from the fantasy of the psychoanalyst, namely, from what is most opaque, most closed, most autistic in his word, that there comes the shock by which the word is unfrozen in the analysand.” The analyst calls this process a “corporeal deduction” from which something of the analyst is to be made, something the analyst must not mistake for anything metaphorical. It is not that the analyst is like one’s mother, or one’s mother’s breast, or breast milk—the analyst is these things, of course, made into them by the patient, in order to finally not be them. This opens up a space. The ultimate concreteness—the analyst as a breast, is also the most original form of identification—I am the object. The baby experiences the breast as an extension of their body and not as part of the mother. “It is a matter of knowing what exists,” of what is real. In weaning, the breast is a part object that falls from the infant’s body and that loss and separation allows the child to become her own. This is what psychoanalysis stages as an encounter, a separation that creates the object insofar as it is lost. As Freud says to Fliess in a letter from 1899, “What happened in earliest childhood?” and the answer is, “Nothing, but the germ of a sexual impulse existed” (Freud, 1986, p.338). The ambiguity holds in German: nothing but the germ of a sexual impulse; nothing, but also the germ of a sexual impulse. Sex, from the Latin secare, meaning “to cut off.” Nothing to cut off but sex as an impulse toward division. Of course the quote was Lacan’s (Lacan, 1971, p.10, 6.19.68). Lacan is saying that the enigma has always existed in his theory of signifier. One might even wonder, outside of psychosis, if there is any signifier that is not enigmatic? Lacan was the one who elaborated on what the English language makes explicit—that the Other can be equated with the (m)other, as it emerges in the primordial contact between child and parent through sexuality and the signifiers of desire. The mother is the holder of the treasure trove of all signifiers, of all enigma. Has the debate between Lacan and Laplanche simply covered over this dimension of their similarity, or even their differences, small and invested with narcissism, differences that are not theoretical, but perhaps political? People love to hate Lacan, to see him as a bastard. Indeed, he was one. But who was left behind, left homeless, if not Lacan who was banished and excommunicated by Laplanche in a deal brokered with the IPA? Lacan can be found some ten years later speaking about Laplanche longingly: I would have stayed with you, it is you who left me when I would have stayed, when I 60
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would have continued to try to teach you, speak with you, you who seems to be the hardest of hearing. So Laplanche wins. It was always his strategy. Lacan would become the first analyst who called himself a Freudian and was exiled from the international body of psychoanalysis. With so much of Laplanche’s work having taken root in discourse with Lacan, whom he so easily dismisses in his writing, is there not a repetition of violence manifest every time a Laplanchian declares their refusal of Lacan? Nothing here seems enigmatic to us. It is simply a question of the deployment of power, the least enigmatic and most tragic of significations. z REFERENCES Freud, S. (1986). The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason (Ed.). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Lacan, J. (1971) Unpublished Translation of Seminar “The knowledge of the psychoanalyst.” In Jacques Lacan in Ireland Seminars. http://www.lacaninireland.com/web/ wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Book-19a-The-Knowledgeof-the-Psychoanalyst-1971-1972.pdf, accessed 18 June 2017.
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Facets of the Other
I would like to focus on the constitution of the unconscious in the primal scene of seduction. For both Laplanche and Lacan, the primacy of the other is central to their thinking. However, they differ greatly in how they conceptualize the notion of the other. For Lacan the other is an abstract category where he distinguishes between the “big Other” (A) and the little other (italicized a). The big Other (A) holds the position of radical alterity, which belongs to the symbolic order. While it is possible for it to be held by different persons, Lacan primarily equates it with the order of language. The little other (a) is inscribed in the imaginary order: as imaginary mirror-reflection it is an illusory other. Lacan asserts that an awareness of this distinction is fundamental to analytic practice: The analyst must be “thoroughly imbued” with the difference between A and a (Écrits, 140), so that s/he can situate himself in the place of Other, and not the other (Écrits, 454). (Dylan, 2006, p.135)
While Laplanche followed Lacan with regard to the great importance of the Other, he fundamentally changed the meaning of the other. In general, I would say that Laplanche turns Lacan upside down, in a way that is similar to Marx’s interpretation of Hegel. He brings him down to earth. We may compare Lacan’s thinking to the philosophy of German Idealism, especially Hegel, from whom he adopted crucial concepts, such as “intersubjectivity” and “the Other.” To fully understand Laplanche’s theory, it may be helpful to know that he was a winegrower. He was raised in a chateau in Burgundy and was not simply a French intellectual living in Paris. His notion of the other is much more “earthy”; it is a materialistic category not an idealistic one. In his “General Seduction Theory” (Laplanche, 2011), Laplanche conceives of the Other as a real person, an adult in relationship with an infant, who has a central function in the constitution of the infant’s unconscious and the sexual at its core. For Laplanche the “primal seduction” is the fundamental anthropological situation in
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which the infant is confronted by the world of the adult, and specifically with his or her unconscious desires: However, the adult world is not an objective world which the child has to discover and learn about in the same way that it learns to walk or to manipulate objects. It is characterized by the existence of messages (linguistic or semiological messages, meaning pre-linguistic or paralinguistic), which ask the child questions it cannot yet understand. The child has to make sense of them and give an answer. (Laplanche, 1987, p.124). Taking care of the baby—breastfeeding, bathing, or changing diapers—is inevitably compromised by the unconscious sexual desires of the caregivers. In the encounter with the adult world the infant is being confronted with “enigmatic messages.” These messages are enigmatic, in one sense, because they can be only very inadequately processed or translated owing to the infant’s still underdeveloped capacities to respond somatically, cognitively, or affectively. The infant has to translate the messages, but inevitably fails. The confrontation with these “enigmatic messages” of the adult is inscribed in the still-developing structures of the infant and forms the core of the child’s unconscious. Whereas Lacan situates verbal language at the foundation of the unconscious, for Laplanche the unconscious originates from a failure of translation. It consists precisely in whatever “falls out of language,” whatever cannot be grasped by language. For Laplanche, the constitution of the unconscious is formed for every person individually; there is no abstract, over-individual, transcultural unconscious as in Lacan’s theory. The confrontation with the unconscious desires of the adult is inscribed directly in the body and forms the sexual body. Sexuality therefore does not arise from an endogenous, biological program, but is constituted in a social relationship between the infant and the caregiver. Laplanche (1993/2015a) develops a notion of the sexual drive as a fantasy that is being embodied but not biologically determined. He is looking thoroughly at how “fantasies can invest, divert, and indeed ‘shore up’ the functioning of that biology which human ethology [i.e., attachment theory, I.Q.] is now beginning to describe more accurately” (1993/2015a, p.4). Laplanche is not convinced by the Freudian “theory of leaning-on” (1999, p.131) to explain the genesis of the drive. He thus developed the
“translation model” (1999, p.95) and the general seduction theory. What does this imply for clinical practice? The analytic situation is conceived of as an enactment of the seduction scene. In the analytic encounter the primal seduction is essentially brought back into play and evokes the transference relationship between analysand and analyst. The analyst seduces the patient with the offer of analysis. That means the analyst is not big A, not part of the symbolic order, but he or she embodies the register of the sexual. In the analytic cure the analysand is confronted with enigmatic messages and tries to make sense of them, to “translate” them. That is what we understand as transference.
Laplanche (1999/2015b) conceptualizes a “hollowed-out transference,” which is structurally analogous to the primal seduction scene; it leaves the space for the individually specific ways of dealing with (or trying to translate) the enigmatic messages. My task as an analyst is to join the enactment and to try to put it into words, to make it accessible to the analysand and enable him or her to do better translations. By this way “filledin transferences” develop and thus the possibility of change arises. “Afterwardsness” (après-coup, Nachträglichkeit) plays a decisive role in this process of translation, detranslation, and retranslation during the analytic cure (Laplanche, 1999/2015b). z
REFERENCES Dylan, E. (2006). An introductory dictionary of Lacanian psychoanalysis. London, England: Routledge. Lacan, J. (2007). Écrits: The first complete edition in English. New York, NY: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1966) Laplanche, J. (1987). New foundations for psychoanalysis. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell. Laplanche, J. (1999). Essays on otherness. London, England: Routledge. Laplanche, J. (2011). Freud and the sexual. New York, NY: International Psychoanalytic Books. Laplanche, J. (2015a). The temptation of biology: Freud’s theories of sexuality. New York, NY: Unconscious in Translation. (Original work published 1993) Laplanche, J. (2015b). Between seduction and inspiration: Man. New York, NY: Unconscious in Translation. (Original work published 1999)
Philippe Van Haute studied philosophy in Leuven, Strasbourg and Paris. He is currently professor of philosophical anthropology and chair of the department of Theoretical Philosophy at the Radboud University, and extra-ordinary professor at the University of Pretoria. He is also a practicing psychoanalyst. He was president of the Belgian School of Psychoanalysis between 2006 and 2009. He co-founded (together with, among others, Paola Marrati and Fabio Ciaramelli) the Symposium for Phenomenology that meets every year in Perugia. He chairs the Center for Philosophical Anthropology and psychoanalysis (www.psycho-analyse.be) and the Freud Research Group.
The New School and supervises at City University’s doctoral program in clinical psychology, New York. She has written for Apology, Cabinet, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Playboy, and The New York Times, as well as for many psychoanalytic publications. She is currently working on The Cambridge Introduction to Jacques Lacan, and a new book, Conversion Disorder.
Eleanore and Anna, Goeteborg, Sweden
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS cont. Doris Silverman is a faculty member and supervisor at the NYU Postdoctoral Program for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and a training, supervising, and teaching analyst at IPTAR, New York. Cecilia Sjöholm holds a doctorate in philosophy from Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands and is a professor of aesthetics at Södertörn University. She is author of Kristeva and the Political , London: Routledge, 2005. Jakob Staberg is Associate Professor of Aesthetics, Södertörn University. He is a member of the Swedish Psychoanalytical Association [IPA] and author of Sjukdomens Estetik [Aesthetics of Disease] (2009), Stockholm: Aiolos.
Jamieson Webster is a psychoanalyst in New York where she works with children, adolescents, and adults. A graduate of IPTAR, she teaches at 62
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Herman Westerink is Senior Lecturer at the Center for Contemporary European Philosophy and at the Titus Brandsma Institute, Radboud University, Nijmegen. His research is focused on philosophical anthropology, psychoanalysis, and the psychology of religion and spirituality in cultural historical perspective. He is editor of the book series “Sigmund Freuds Werke: Wiener Interdisziplinäre Kommentare.”
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NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS Isabelle Alfandary is Professor of American Literature at the Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle (Paris-3), France, where she teaches American literature, poetry, American philosophy, and critical theory. As Directrice de Programme at the Collège International de Philosophie (CipH), her seminars deal with the intersection of philosophy and psychoanalysis. Her book on Derrida and Lacan and the question of writing is forthcoming. Donna Bassin is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, author, and fine art photographer. Her clinical work with rescue workers at Ground Zero and families following 9/11 led her to consult with communities of veterans regarding their understanding of mourning the traumatic losses of war. As a participant-observer and documentarian to these communities she has come to understand the importance of the communalization of trauma. Marcus Coelen teaches literature and literary theory. Faculty, Columbia University, Psychoanalytic Study Program, his academic research focuses on modern French thought and the intersection of literature, philosophy and psychoanalysis. He is currently preparing, together with Jamieson Webster, The Cambridge Introduction to Jacques Lacan. He is in private practice in New York and Berlin. Monique David-Ménard is currently a Professor at the Graduate School “Research in Psychoanalysis” at the University Paris-Diderot (Paris 7) and a psychoanalyst in Paris. She is an associate member of the Society of Freudian Psychoanalysis (SPF). A member of the International Network of Women Philosophers of UNESCO, she was also philosophy teacher for the preparatory classes at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. She is a co-founder of the SIPP - ISPP.
Jens De Vleminck is BOF Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Philosophy & Moral Sciences, Ghent University. He is a member of the Belgian School for Psychoanalysis (EBP-BSP), the Center for Psychoanalysis and Philosophical Anthropology (RU Nijmegen - KU Leuven), the Center for Critical Philosophy (Ghent University), and the Freud Research Group (ISPP-SIPP). Among other books he is author of Repenser la pulsion de mort chez Freud’. L’Evolution Psychiatrique (forthcoming). Patricia Gherovici, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and analytic supervisor. She is co-founder and director of the Philadelphia Lacan Group and Associate Faculty, Psychoanalytic Studies Minor, University of Pennsylvania (PSYS), Honorary Member at IPTAR, the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York City, and Member at Apres-Coup Psychoanalytic Association New York. Her new book Transgender Psychoanalysis: A Lacanian Perspective on Sexual Difference is forthcoming by Routledge in June 2017. Adrienne Harris, Ph.D., is faculty and supervisor at NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis; faculty and a supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC). She has been an associate editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues since its inception and is a contributing editor of DIVISION/Review. Her book Gender as Soft Assembly was published in 2005. Ulrike Kistner is professor at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She has published Commissioning and Contesting Post-Apartheid’s Human Rights (2003) and numerous articles on political, aesthetic, and psychoanalytic theory.
Tim Dean is Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The author or editor of six books on psychoanalysis and sexuality, he is currently completing two new books: Sex, Literature, and Psychoanalysis (Cambridge University Press) and What Is Psychoanalytic Thinking? (University of Chicago Press).
Elissa Marder is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Emory University where she is also affiliated with the Departments of Philosophy and Women’s Studies. She is a founding member of the Emory Psychoanalytic Studies Program and served as its Director from 20012006. She has been named an International Fellow at the London Graduate School and Professor of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fe, Switzerland.
Loren Dent is a psychologist practicing in New York City. He received his doctorate and master’s degrees from the New School for Social Research, and his bachelors in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas. In addition to teaching at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Loren’s clinical work has included private practice, hospitals, community clinics, and college counseling settings.
Tracy McNulty, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Her research interests include 20th-century French literature and comparative modernism, psychoanalytic theory (especially Freud and Lacan), contemporary French philosophy, and political theory. Currently she is preparing a new book, tentatively entitled Libertine Mathematics: Perversions of the Linguistic Turn. 64
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Ilka Quindeau is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Applied Sciences, Frankfurt, and Adjunct Professor at the Goethe University Frankfurt. She is president of the Sigmund Freud Foundation in Germany and also runs her own practice. She is author of Seduction and Desire: The Psychoanalytic Theory of Sexuality Since Freud (2013). Avgi Saketopoulou, Psy.D., is a psychoanalyst based in New York City and a graduate of the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. On the editorial boards of Studies in Gender and Sexuality and Psychoanalytic Dialogues, she has published several articles on gender, class, race, sexuality, and consent. David Salvage practices psychiatry and psychotherapy in Brooklyn and Tribeca, NY. He is a member of The International Psychoanalytic Association and The American Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine and has been Board Certified by the American Academy of Psychiatry as well as the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry. Beatriz Santos is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Centre d’Etudes du Vivant (Paris Diderot). After receiving her PhD from the Université Paris Diderot (Paris 7), she spent a year as a post-doc at the Institut des Humanités de Paris/CEV, where she had a grant from the Institut Emilie du Chatêlet. She is currently working on a project centered on the issue of homophobia. Orna Shachar is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Manhattan, New York City. She has a background in philosophy and aesthetics and co-leads a group of contemporary artists exploring issues at the intersection of creativity, sexuality, and destruction. Henry Seiden is a psychologist, psychoanalyst, and poet. He is in private practice in Forest Hills, New York and is author of The Motive for Metaphor: Brief Essays on Poetry and Psychoanalysis (2015). Cassandra B. Seltman is a writer, psychotherapist, and psychoanalytic fellow at New York University. She completed an externship at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Her publications include a poetry collection, Palimpsest: Down (Inpatient Press, 2014). Recent work can be found in The LA Review of Books, Flash Art International, Zeta, and Logos Berlin. continued to page 62