Showing posts with label lacan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lacan. Show all posts


Philosophy of Psychoanalysis Terminable and Interminable: Dueling with Derrida and Lacan

image source: writer's block
the worse case of writer's block is to sit in front of a typewriter charged with a tabula rasa  must i force, jettison, project, something onto a page? 

i feel that i must write.

let's us say it is a conviction compulsion concentration -- send it by e-mail but i rather write a letter kinda thing -- type it out, resist the virtual void; let's play with the textual machine, the typewriter. maybe it will get us to write more    substance

what happened? did the letter not go through? not every letter is guaranteed to reach its destination.

f u c k

lacan: he structure of a letter is to always contain the possibility of return

derrida: a letter must contain the possibility of always not returning to its proper place

who is right?

it puts me in a bind: how to write a letter about a letter that contains / doesn't contain the possibility of return?

1. i have to write a letter ... or a paper ... or something ... not an e-mail, but a response, a missive, to respond.

2. it is for a class. psychoanalysis and deconstruction (part 2)

3. i took part one last semester.

4. i wrote about la différance

5. isn't once enough?
i do know lacan and derrida parted ways. well, they never were friends in the first place. 

elizabeth roudinesco tells a story in her mammoth history of lacanian psychoanalysis, lacan and co. (p. 418):

Upon his arrival, he was very surprised to learn from René Girard that Lacan had requested a deluxe hotel room for him. Exhausted from jet lag, he set down his bags and heard the old master say: "So, I had to come all the way here to finally meet you!" At dinner the next day, Derrida raised questions close to his heart, about the Cartesian subject, substance, and the signifier. While eating coleslaw, Lacan replied that his subject was the same as the one proposed by his interlocutor as an alternative to the theory of the subject. In itself, the remark was not false, but Lacan hastened to add: "You can't bear the fact that I have already said what you want to say." Derrida responded without missing a beat: "That is not my problem." So Lacan got nowhere. Later that evening, he approached the philosopher, putting a friendly hand on his shoulder: "Ah! Derrida, we have to talk, we have to talk!" But they were never to talk...(8)    A year later, at a dinner in Paris at Jean Piel's home, Lacan took warmly Derrida's hand in his smooth palms and asked what he was working on. Plato, Socrates, the pharmakon, the letter, the concepts of origin, logos, mythos: the philosopher was preparing a text for the journal Tel Quel. Under the talented leadership of Philippe Sollers, this journal had begun to include important topics of the older structuralism together with revisions in the light of "textuality." When Of Grammatology was being published, Derrida had joined the editorial board of the journal Critique. And since the publication of his Ecrits, Lacan has become director of a collection at the publisher Seuil. Once again, he mentioned how strange it was that he had already discussed the same topics as those preoccupying Derrida. One need only ask his students. To avoid a debate, Derrida told the psychoanalyst the following anecdote. One evening, as his son Pierre was falling asleep in the presence of his mother, he asked his father why he was looking at him:    "Because you are handsome."    The child reacted immediately by saying that the compliment made him want to die. A little uneasy, Derrida tried to find out what he meant:    "I don't like myself," the child said.    "Since when?"    "Since I learned to talk."    Marguerite took him in her arms:    "Don't worry. We love you."    At which point Pierre burst out laughing:    "No, it's not true at all. I am a born cheater for life."(9)    Lacan said nothing. Sometime later, Derrida was stupefied to find the anecdote penned by his interlocutor in a lecture given at the French Institute in Naples in December 1967.(10) Lacan told the story like this: "'I am a born cheater for life,' said a four-year old boy while curling up in the arms of his genitrix in the presence of his father, who had just answered 'You are handsome' to his question 'Why are you looking at me?' And the father didn't recognize (even when the child in the interim pretended to have lost all taste for himself the day he learned to speak) the obstacle that he himself was foisting on the Other by playing dead. It's up to the father, who told it to me, to hear me from where I speak or not."    After this second meeting, relations between Derrida and Lacan were never cordial.  

To say the least!


i am set with the task of writing about derrida's deconstruction of the Other in Lacan's purloined letter. i am sure to include the debacle recounted above.

the thesis of my rant is: Something like a Lacanian Other suppresses differance.

then i will do a close reading of derrida deconstructing lacan: the facteur and all that and the psychoanalysis that supposedly finds itself! how convenient.
in another essay, derrida wrote, called "for the love of lacan," he talks about the chance factor psychoanalysis leaves out. was it by chance that derrida met lacan several times?

but, i am not so sure how it all relates. or how it matters. who cares, i say? leave it to chance. i can agree to that. when i go to analysis, to a psychoanalyst, i free associate, i try to leave it to chance, but it seems no matter how "free" i am, there is a determinism -- call it psychological determinism -- setting in a mold what i say. or is it like alan bass said somewhere that the problem with analysis is free association is like translating without a good dictionary!

i need a good dictionary to figure this out. i feel so useless, as if i am left to figure out, to resolve a duel, between two great philosophers of psychoanalysis.

what would freud think? wo es war?

i read barbara jonson's critique of derrida on lacan. she says lacan and derrida are saying the same things but just quibbling over individual differences.

she also says it is difficult to write about three texts, the poe "purloined letter" text, the lacan "seminar" text, and the derrida "facteur" text. i should just copy and paste all three texts, lump them into one word processing document and turn that in as my paper.

but i shan't. or i won't.

the other won't let me.

neither one. the big "O" bastard and his little other mother fucker.

i think after i write this paper i am going to abandon lacan to derrida and derrida to lacan : forever.

i mean, i like this stuff; it is just difficult to hammer out something to say. so i am exorcising demons by writing this post.


The Function of the Other in Lacan

In this post, learn about Lacan's analysis of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Purloined Letter".
Jacques Lacan, French Psychoanalyst, and Theorist
According to Jacques Lacan (2006), “the subject’s unconscious is the Other’s discourse” (p. 16). Lacan’s correlative thesis is “the unconscious is structured like a language” (1998, p.2).
Lacan sees in Edgar Poe’s short story “The Purloined Letter” (1844) a privileged illustration of the Other’s discourse in relation to the unconscious and the structure of a letter to always contain the possibility of return. In the Poe detective story the interrelationship between the primary characters: the Queen, the King, the Minister D., and Dupin (a French version of Sherlock Holmes) are each in turn inhabited by a letter and its undisclosed contents, seen first as a compromising piece of evidence against the Queen, and then, as becomes evident in Lacan’s reading, a metaphor for the function of the Other modulated by the presence and absence of the letter and the way in which the Other, which does not “exist,” inhabits and is inhabited by the subject. The plot of the Poe story is thus: the compromising letter is displayed in full sight when the King enters the royal boudoir, “the primal scene.” Hoping to avert the King’s eye from the incriminating letter, the Queen places the letter face down so as not to attract undue notice. The Minister D., at that moment, walks in and is able to discern the Queen’s deception because of his “lynx eye.” Producing an identical looking letter from his breast pocket, the Minister concocts a discourse with the King while at the same time nonchalantly placing the facsimile letter on the bureau. The Queen can do nothing. When the conversation between Minister D. and the King is terminated, the Minister picks up the Queen’s letter and leaves the room. The Queen is dispossessed of the letter by the crafty Minister. By possessing the letter, the Minister is in hold of power over the Queen. The Queen promises a sum of money to the person who can retrieve the letter and return it to her. The detective Dupin orchestrates a plot to retrieve the letter from Minister D. Once he determines the location of the letter -- between the jambs of the fireplace -- he craftily replaces it with a facsimile and is able to restore the letter to its proper place and reap a reward.
The Other functions in what Lacan terms the symbolic order. Lacan’s “Seminar on the Purloined Letter” is part of his larger reading of Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle. In this book Freud speculates on the existence of an inextricably charged compulsion in each human being to repeat past, original trauma (Widerholungszwang). Lacan claims repetition compulsion is to be understood as a structure of repetition based on the insistence of something like a letter in a long signifying chain. The letter is a material signifier in the Poe story. According to Lacan’s developmental model of human subjectivity articulated in his “Mirror Stage” essay (1942), the self, upon leaving dyadic union with the Mother is captured into a “symbolic dimension” which hitherto “binds and orients” it (Lacan 28). Schooled in the thought of Alexander Kojève’s reading of Hegel, Lacan’s theory of intersubjectivity is based upon a theory of alterity that is spelled out by the equation “the I is the Other.” Rimbaud, the boy poet, put it nicely, "Je est autre." In other words, there is no subjectivity without intersubjectivity. I cannot name myself as an “I” in the symbolic order without an embedded relationship to something outside myself which defines me. The birth of the subject arises out of an imaginary misrecognition which in turn is sublimated under the domain of the symbolic order, so that it is “the symbolic order which is constitutive for the subject” (Lacan 29).
The subject is divided between a mirror image of its self, what Lacan calls the imaginary, the topos of images, dreams, and libidinal desires, and the symbolic order, the purview of language, the law, thought, and desire for an Other. The subject is thus barred from access to a signified, written out in the formula S/s, and is circumscribed under the auspices of the signifier. The realm of the imaginary is related to the symbolic but there is a bar wedged between the gestalt of the spectral image and the name of the father, the law, of the symbolic order. What constitutes the self is an intractable search to locate the lost wholeness of the Other. In this way, Lacan rewrites Freud’s observation that the little child realizes his mother (the m/Other) does not have the phallus. Upon realizing that the mother does not, in fact, have the phallus, the child cognizes that the phallus must be lost and goes in search of it in order to restore it to its proper place. We have here the Lacanian explanation of symbolic desire built upon Freud’s idea of the Oedipal Complex as well as the repetition compulsion. The search for the mother’s phallus is forbidden by the Father/Law. The law intrudes in the form of the symbolic father who cuts a decisive “no” into the child’s forbidden desire.
Lacan, J., & Fink, B. (2006). Ecrits: The first complete edition  
in English. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

----, & Sheridan, A. (1998). The four fundamental concepts of
psychoanalysis: the seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI. New  
York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Muller, J. P., & Richardson, W. J. (1988). The Purloined Poe: Lacan, 
Derrida & psychoanalytic reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.


Notes on "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire"

Walter Benjamin on Marcel Proust on the Madeleine
I remember Walter Benjamin's writings on Marcel Proust's madeleine, the moment, in Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time, when an avatar of Proust bites into the pastry, memories of his childhood flood into his brain, what Proust calls a memoire involuntaire; but, I never noticed before this statement Benjamin (writing about Proust) makes about the search for an object related to a lost memory:
"As for that object, it depends entirely on chance whether we come upon it before we die or whether we never encounter it" (Benjamin Illuminations 158).
Lacan's Objet Petit A
This comment reminds me of Lacan's objet petit a.

It's Lacan's psychological concept for the lost object. The object of desire responsible for obsession and deranged fantasy. It is that object of desire that drives the desirer mad in search of it.

The object of desire, in the symbol of the madeleine, is a marker for that object that we may chance upon, involuntarily, or may never have at all. I think about myself, here, and my desires. If there is a "madeleine" for me, I may taste it, or I may not; the memoire involuntaire is totally necessitated by chance; I happen upon the object, the memory comes flooding in like an impressionistic painting. But, I may never come upon this memory, locked forever in some lost object of desire.

Is the Job of the Poet to Hearken Back to Lost Memories?
If it is the poet's job to unlock these memories, then I applaud the poet. If it is a poet who can open up a madeleine of lost memories, let's laud him with a crown of laurel.

I am sure there is a poem hidden in a taste yet to be eaten.

Am I hedonistic to wish for such a bite?

Proust entrances his reader with the opportunity to invoke memories through the senses. It is the poet who puts these sense impressions into language. Cognitive science confirms Proust's intimation that the senses (e.g., smell and taste) trigger a memory. Proust is right.

Proust Via Benjamin Via Lacan Are Onto Something
The memory Proust, and I think Benjamin is onto something, is alluding to is not a factual memory stuck at a particular moment in time. The memory is much broader than a recollection. Baudelaire (via Benjamin) uses the term shock - an expression meant to suggest a memory linked to trauma. The shock is a sense impression outside of some romantic notion of memory, and instead of a memory of the crowd.

I put away silly notions of private memory. The artist does not pull from something deep inside of him to produce art. It is not a private string of emotions the artist must articulate so others can understand. The memory the artist exposes is already there, involuntary.

Works Cited: 

Benjamin, Walter. Eiland, Howard, et al. Gesammelte Schriften. United Kingdom, Belknap Press, 1996.

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. United States, Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.