I received this email at the beginning of 2020:
Dear Dr Sergio,
Let me introduce myself
I am Matt Wolf, Drama and Literature critic at the Guardian U.K. We are celebrating this month Introducing Lacan: Key Concepts.
May I ask you for an online interview?
I verified that Matt Wolf really is a critic who writes for The Guardian. I associated the request to the fact that a book I wrote, “Conversations with Lacan”, was published by Routledge in the same month. I therefore took the request seriously and replied to the written questions sent to me via email from that address. I was a little surprised by the rather coarse style of writing and a certain naivety of the actual questions, but I’ve become accustomed over the years to the incompetence of some journalists and overlooked the issue. However, more and more questions kept arriving and I couldn’t see the slightest evidence of any publication. Then, by pure chance, I discovered that a friend of mine, Domenico Cosenza, a Milan-based Lacanian psychoanalyst, received the same questions and he was answering them too. This made me suspicious.
Eventually we found an article by The Guardian dating back to 19 February 2012, “The readers’ editor on… an unusual identity thief using a fake Guardian persona” by Chris Elliott (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/19/identity-thief-fake-guardian-persona) warning scholars from all fields against a fake Matt Wolf, who asks questions to specialists around the world in the form of interviews. The topics the questions cover change every time, but the technique is always the same. I don’t know whether between 2012, the year the Guardian article appeared, and 2020 “Matt Wolf” struck again, or whether he remained inactive in the meanwhile.
One wonders what this cyclical exploitation of specialists’ opinions in ever changing fields is actually for. Elliott writes: “It is not proven what the emailer does with the answers – although several academics believe they are probably sold as crib sheets to students who wish to cut and paste the work of these professors and senior lecturers into their essays and pass the work off as their own.”
This reminded me of an activity that I think still exists in the city of my birth, Naples. I knew people whose job was “writing dissertations” in exchange for money. Students incapable of writing pay, sometimes quite handsomely, people whose specialization is writing university theses, and, what’s surprising, on completely different fields of study. Someone I knew wrote paid dissertations on Philosophy, Biology, Chemistry, History, Political Science…
In any case, both Cosenza and I answered the bug questions as if we were answering serious ones by a real journalist. We thought it would be interesting for our audience to read our replies. The questions were fake, but the answers are authentic.
Later, we discovered that many other colleagues have answered to “Matt Wolf”. We publish some of these.
Interview to Domenico Cosenza
Fake Matt Wolf – What generated your interest in psychoanalysis and Lacan in particular?
Real Domenico Cosenza – My interest in psychoanalysis started when I was a student of the Italian Liceo Classico, and my first encounter with the Lacan’s text happened in my first degree in the University of Milan, my city, where I studied philosophy. In this period I wanted to do the university carrier of philosophy, and Lacan was for me in absolute the psychoanalyst that more was synthonised with the most important questions of the philosophic discourse. But my decisive meeting with the psychoanalysis happened at the moment to finish my degree in philosophy, when I lived the crisis of my project and decided to begin my first analysis. I started with an Italian analysand of Lacan, Carlo Viganò, in Milan, and 8 years after I began a second long tranche of analysis in Paris with Jacques-Alain Miller. There, I experimented that a real meeting with the analysis is ever a meeting with one’s own symptom, it’s not only an intellectual experience but an ethical and clinical experience. While I was doing my training in analysis, it became ever clearer for me that the most important force of attraction in Lacan was in the other side of its teaching that I couldn’t appreciate enough before, when I was a student of philosophy: the clinical dimension and its force of orientation in the analytical practice. I found out that all the extraordinary knowledge and interest of Lacan for the other fields – as philosophy, literature, linguistic, anthropology, logic, mathematics, topology,… -wasn’t a form of erudition or a new philosophy, but a way to take some elements in the other field of the knowledge as tools for clarifying the basis of the analytical experience.
Lacan deconstructed the analysand and analyst. Please explain these definitions according to Lacan in more detail
Lacan’s teaching is a constant effort to elucidate the fundamental basis of the psychoanalysis. The analytical session is the theatre of this operation. The word “analysand” is a real invention of Lacan. This invention was necessary in Lacan for distinguishing “analysand” and patient. An analysand isn’t a patient. A patient is someone the has a symptom that produces in himself a pain and asks to a therapist (a medicine, a clinical psychologist,..) to care it. An analysand is someone that recognize to have an implication in the disaise that lives, and that is working in analysis on the enigma of his symptom. Lacan shows clearly that there isn’t any analysis if there istn’t a transformation from the position of the pacient to the position of analysand. This change is named in Lacan “subjective rectification”. When this change is produced, at the same time it’s happened that the analyst has found his position in the analytic discourse: he isn’t a therapeute that know and care a patient, but a force that causes and sustains the analytic work of the analysand. This change isn’t obvious, and it’s possible when in the session we experiment the activation of the analytic transference.
Why does Lacan name the analyst “a subject supposedly knows”?
This definition of the analyst is connected with the Lacan’s theory of the transference,in particular with his most important and famous definition: the transference as subject supposed to know. When we chose an analyst, this choice is ever connected with some singular details that we think to find in the person of the analyst and that aren’t understandable for the reason. It needs an analysis for isolating these details that are written in the unconscious of the analysand. But an essencial condition for chosing an analyst is to suppose to him a knowledge on the enygmating things of the desire. For this reason the analyst is supposed to know. But for Lacan the analyst is only the destinatary of the transference, the condition for putting the transference to work in analysis. In reality the source of the transference is in the unconscious of the analysand.
Lacan, like Freud before him, addressed the transference in a number of different ways through the development of his theoretical work. How Lacan defines transference, countertransference?
Lacan introduces a cut (coupure) in the analytic theory of the transference. He shows that this key-concept of the psychoanalysis is not reductible to the feelings experimentes for the analysand to the person of the analyst. This affective dimension is the imaginary side of the transference, where all is played in a dual and specular relationship. The transference theory as subject supposed to know shows the structural dimension of the analytic transference, where the analyst is only someone who accompanies the analysand to open the door of his unconscious and to enter in this dimension. The real subject supposed to know isn’t the analyst, but the unconscious of the analysand.
The countertransference is for Lacan a symptom of the analyst, a difficulty to maintain his symbolic position in the transference. Countertransference is something that every analyst experiments in his practice, and when it happens the person of the analyst remains trapped and identified in a point of the discourse of the analysand. This event produces in the analysis a stagnation of the work and a block of the analytical processing. For this reason is so important for an analyst his analysis and a regular control of his practice with other analysts.
To Lacan transference has symbolic and imaginary aspects. Please explain.
Transference is a process that exists in the human life, in the relationships between people, but in the analytical situation happens a specific transference, an artificial transference said Freud, where the analysand feels particular passions for the person of the analyst. Freud said also that transference is a form of love, an artificial love necessary for the analytical work. Transference is in the same time Ubertragung, deplacement, and Freud found out it in the mechanisms of the dream before to find it in the work with his hysteric patient Dora. In the analytic relationship the analysand put in the person of the analyst something that concerns his/her unconscious relationship with the Other. Lacan clarified this structure of the analytic transference, distinguishing the imaginary dimension and the symbolic dimension. In the imaginary dimension are concentreted all the nuances of the passions that the pacient experiments for the figure of the analyst in a specular and dual relationship, that oscillates between love and hate. In the symbolic dimension of the transference we find the axe of the analytic process, where the analysand can finds out the unconscious coordinates that guide his passions to the analyst, as a substitute that embodies its other fundamental in analysis. The imaginary dimension is focused on the dual and specular relationship between patient and analyst; the symbolic dimension introduces a third cardinal element: the relationship between the analysand and his unconscious. The unconscious of the analysand is the ground, the spring, the subjectum supposed to know of the analytic transference for Lacan.
How sexuality affects the mental states of people according to Lacan?
We can say that the unconscious same is sexual in its ruth, in Freud et Lacan. In Lacan’s advanced teaching the unconscious isn’t reductible only to the language and to the signifier chain, as he tought before in his classic teaching in the ’53 in the formula “the unconscious is structured as a language”. The unconscious is drive, it’s a specific libidinal economy, it’s a way of jouissance. Psychoanalalysis shows that sexuality is an enygmatic and singular dimension for the human being, irreductible to its biologic explanation that’s universal. His analysis shows to the analysand his singular way of satisfaction in the field of the sexual desire. But in particular the analysis conduces the analysand to discover that ‘the sexual relationship doesn’t exist’. This famous sentence of Lacan means that it’s impossible to do One with the Other, to be the same thing and to have the same experience of jouissance with our partner – illusion that it’s the myth of the love in our tradition from Platon, and necessary mirage in every falling in love.
We can see ambiguity and paradox are fittingly used as narrative tropes in modern literature to examine the complexities of the psyche. Please explain.
Ambiguity and paradox are in the structure of the unconscious, in its logic of fonctioning. For this reason, at the same time, before Freud and after Lacan recognized that literature has the capacity to anticipate in artistic and intuitive form the psychoanalytic discoveries on the functioning of the human being. Freud saw Sofocle’s Oedipus for elaborating his Oedipus complex, and Shakespeare and Dostoevsky (and may other writers) gave him very important ideeas for elaborating key-points of psychoanalytic clinic. At the same time, for Lacan it was essential to read Edgar Allan Poe before and James Joyce after to clarify the structure of the unconscious. For this reason we shoudn’t think the relationship between psychoanalysis and literature in a psychologistic perspective. The essencial isn’t to isolate in the texte the psychology of the autor. It’s much more interesting to show in the texte of an artist the emergency of a new creation in its production than to reduce his work to his psychology. In this meaning it’s more the literature that teaches to paychoanalysis than the other way round. More in general, there’s an important affinity between the practice of literature and the analytical practice: both are, as said very well Jacques-Alain Miller, “an effort of poetry”, a radical work of enunciation where is implicated the singularity of the writer and of the analysand.
To Lacan, both the analysand and the analyst are sick and need to be cured. Please explain.
I don’t know if “sick” is the best way for expressing Lacan’s idea on this point. It’s sure that for Lacan the analyst isn’t an ideal figure of therapist but he is the product of his analysis, he was before an analysand that worked or his symptomatic dimension that limited his life. It’s a fundamental rule of analysis: for analyzing someone, it needs to have been before analysed for another analyst.
More in general, the condition of the human being is marked for the language, he is in the grip of language, and psychoanalysis works specifically on the symptomatic effects of the language in the body of the speaking being. Lacan arrived, in his last teaching, to define the language as a parasite in the body of the speaking being. In this perspective, he said that “everyone is crazy” in a certain way.
Interview with Sergio Benvenuto
Fake Matt Wolf – What generated your interest in psychoanalysis and Freud and Lacan in particular?
Real Sergio Benvenuto – My interest in psychoanalysis – as usually happens with young people – started during my adolescence, and not just because it deals heavily with sex. I started to read Freud as a teen, because psychoanalysis essentially questions the consistency and the specificity of each subject, and this in fact is the problem of any teenager, boy or girl: “Who actually am I?” When you follow an adult in analysis, at a certain point the teenager comes out, with all the turmoil and the uncertainty about sexual identity. I would say that practising analysis is a way of remaining in the world of adolescence.
I met Lacan for the simple reason that in 1967 I decided to study psychology in Paris, emigrating from my native city, Naples. At the time Lacan was already famous in France. The publication of his Ecrits in 1966 was welcomed as a major cultural event. This is why I attended his Seminars. At that time I’d already decided to become an analyst, but my interests were very broad. I was proud to call myself “a structuralist”. Later Anglo-Americans invented the term “post-structuralism”, which French intellectuals never use. It means that I attended the seminars of almost all the “structuralist” stars of the time in Paris: Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Jacques Derrida, and others. Structuralism, both in France and in Italy, was perceived as the intellectual avant-garde of the time. The protagonist of Italian structuralism was Umberto Eco, that is before he became a bestselling novelist.
In those years Paris was no longer the sanctuary of artistic avant-garde, that role had already shifted to New York, but for us Paris was the capital of philosophical, theoretical, psychoanalytic, literary and cinema avant-gardes. All cultured young people intensely enjoyed the “nouvelle vague” in French cinema, especially Jean-Luc Godard. In fact, they were exciting years to live in Paris. I was a poor student, but strangely I felt I was living a sort of life of luxury. For a young man like me, interested in philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary criticism and cinema, I felt what might have been felt by a painter living in Paris during the first 30 years of the 20th century. We had the feeling that a revolution – not only a political one, but also an intellectual one – was in progress, and that being in Paris meant that you were at the right place at the right time.
My generation wished to change the world, politically of course, but also intellectually and artistically. It was an illusion, which fed our enthusiasm. We wished to change things radically, even the way people lived, human lifestyles. For people like me, psychoanalysis was not just another medical therapy, but an important tool to change ourselves, i.e. to change the world. From this perspective, Lacan appeared to us as a sort of Picasso of psychoanalysis. We considered his Ecrits something like Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon painted in 1908. I suppose that at that time some people said to themselves “From now on, it will be impossible to paint like in the past!” We thought that from Lacan onwards, it would be impossible to psychoanalyze in the same fashion as was done before him. In our view, psychoanalysis was an avant-garde discipline, and Lacan was the avant-garde of this avant-garde.
Lacan deconstructed the analysand and analyst. Please explain these definitions according to Lacan in more detail.
The idea of “deconstruction” did not come from Lacan, but from Derrida. It is true that Lacan imposed the word “analysand” rather than the usual “patient”, because for Lacan the person who analyses is not the analyst, but the patient. In fact, even though he started his career as a psychiatrist and rose to fame through his MD dissertation on paranoiacs, Lacan tried to effect a complete separation of psychoanalysis from psychiatric medicine. This is why he never talked about “treatment” but about “cure” – they are the same words also in French. Many analysts think that analysis is a kind of psychotherapy, Lacan tried to show that analysis is not at all a psychotherapy, but what he called a special “social bond” or “discourse”.
At the level of analytic technique, his most important innovation was variable-time sessions. Analytic sessions are usually based on astronomical time; 40 or 45 minutes of the watch. Lacan thought that the unconscious has its specific time, which does not coincide with astronomical time. This is why Lacanian analysts reserve the right to cut a session short when they think the analysand has touched something unconscious.
At the same time, he tried to completely separate psychoanalysis from psychology, especially from academic psychology: psychoanalysis as rather a theory of subjectivity, not of the psyche. This does not mean that Lacan despised psychology, as some Lacanians think. In fact, he had great admiration for the Russian school of psychology (Vygotsky, Leontjev) because of its stress on language. He did not like Piaget, for example, but he was very interested in game theory, in the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, in Chomsky. He was not against the “human sciences” (which is the French name for psychology and the social sciences), but he distinguished the “good” human sciences from the “bad ones”. He always preferred a “structural” approach in the human sciences, that is an approach that would put language at the core of humanity.
What’s the difference between subject and psyche? Grasping this difference is the essential condition for entering the Lacanian Wonderland. We can say that the psyche is an object of knowledge – for psychological knowledge, neuro-scientific knowledge, today we say cognitive sciences. The subject is rather the adolescent who asks himself or herself, “Who am I?” The subject cannot be an object of knowledge because that would be my alienation, what we know ourselves to be is not what we are. When we believe that we know ourselves, what we in fact know is a mirror image of ourselves. Lacan began his analytic career talking about a “mirror stage” in childhood. A subject is “barred”, Lacan says, that is, it is not an object we can describe, but something that shows itself. Only later did I understand that in philosophy Wittgenstein had said something similar, in his Philosophical Investigations, where he talks about “the private”: my private, my subjectivity, is something that expresses itself but cannot know itself. The cognitive sciences can be great, but they lack this dimension of subjectivity.
Lacan, like Freud before him, addressed the transference in a number of different ways through the development of his theoretical work. How Lacan defines transference, countertransference and how both Lacan and Freud differ in their definitions of both terms?
Often people ask me “How does Lacan differ from Freud?” But in fact Lacan never stressed his differences from Freud. Significantly, he proclaimed, in the 1950s and 1960s, a “Return to Freud”, in contrast with American Ego-psychology (which was actually German too). Lacan thought that he was the analyst who was most faithful to Freud, even if in fact he re-interpreted the entire Freudian system according to his own key, which is essentially “the unconscious is structured as a language”. Lacan’s oeuvre marks not a correction of Freud’s legacy, but a re-interpretation après-coup, as one says in French, an afterwards, of Freud. This is true also for transference. In his seminar on “The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis”, Lacan lists transference as one of these Fab Four, with the unconscious, the drive (not instinct!) and repetition. Is there a difference with the Freudian concept? We should place Lacan in the general historical movement of psychoanalysis.
After Freud, there has been a general shift by analysts of the second and third generation towards the “other”. This trend includes the so-called object-relations theory, where the “object” is in fact the other, primarily the mother. Some have spoken of psychoanalysis as a “two-person psychology”. In this frame Kleinians focused on counter-transference, on the fact that it’s not only the analysands who have a transference towards the analyst, but the analysts have their own transference too, as a response to the analysand’s. In mainstream psychoanalysis today the most fashionable trend is “relationism”, which re-formulates most of the classical Freudian concepts as “relational concepts”. But already in Winnicott the child-mother link becomes essential in order to understand the process of a separation from a dyadic being.
I think that this general shift in psychoanalysis is better expressed by Jean Laplanche, who was initially a pupil of Lacan’s and later became his opponent. Laplanche created a sort of slogan: “the primacy of the other in psychoanalysis”. This means that our individual unconscious is always the response that we find to something that the other (mainly the adults) wish from us and for us. Our unconscious is the effect of a sort of seduction (of which the adult is generally unaware, but that in certain cases becomes explicit) of us by the adult. The unconscious would then be our interpretation of what the other desires of us. Can we say that Lacan follows this general warping toward the primacy of the other, or not at all? I would say that in a certain sense Lacan radicalizes this curvature, in another sense not at all.
For example, Lacan does not use the concept of counter-transference, because according to him transference is not just the feelings the analysand has towards the analyst, but is a general process that includes both analyst and analysand. Counter-transference implies the idea that first the analysand has some feelings (love, admiration, hatred, contempt, etc.) in relation to the analyst and then the analyst responds with her/his own feelings, and a loop process starts. But for Lacanians analysts are not just reactive psyches, they are bound in the transference themselves. I remember a Kleinian analyst who was falling in love with an analysand and said “This is my countertransference, because my analysand is very seductive.” The cause was his analysand’s desire for seduction, not the fact that he was attracted to her as a man.
In his seminar on Transference, Lacan develops a long-running commentary on Plato’s Symposium, where the topic is Eros, desire (and not love in general). Lacan thinks that the relationship which bound Socrates to his young, beautiful and brilliant pupil Alcibiades was a transference relationship. Which is to say, in a certain sense, Socrates called philosophy something that was already a sort of psychoanalysis. Socrates was a pederast, which means that he wasn’t at all indifferent to Alcibiades’ beauty, but to the young man’s great surprise (and chagrin), Socrates refuses sex with him. Even if Socrates elsewhere (in Alcibiades I) declares himself to be in love with Alcibiades, but his desire is not just desire for sex. He wishes some thing other from Alcibiades. But in any case Socrates is taken in by the transference, because Alcibiades says that Socrates attracts teenagers – we would say today – with something he has inside himself, an agalma, which was a sort of Greek ‘Russian doll’, in which a radiant image of a god was hidden inside the ugly doll of a satyr. Socrates was ugly in fact, but inside he had something divine and bright. Lacan says that the analyst binds the analysand through this agalma, a sort of seducing, captivating object, but the analyst contains this seducing object because she desires something special. What? The desire to analyse. The analysand is seduced by the analyst’s desire to analyse. The analyst does not just react through his unconscious to the patient’s passions (according to the countertransference model), but is herself a desiring subject. Transference is the interweaving of desires.
I would say that, like Socrates, the analyst is ugly, even if she’s a beautiful woman, in the sense that the analyst is quite a banal person, with no special charisma, but she functions as an analyst when she’s able to raise this special agalma, the desire to analyse. And I am often struck how certain analysts, despite having quite poor theoretical equipment, can function very well as analysts, because they instinctively possess this capacity to create a transference bond with their analysands.
Bion, a post-Kleinian analyst, said that the analyst should abandon any memory and desire with analysands. I am sure Lacan wouldn’t have agreed. First, because Lacan thinks that desire is the essence of human beings (as Spinoza said), and abandoning desire would mean to abandon humanity. But also because the analyst captures her analysand, like Socrates with Alcibiades, by her desire. Desire of something other than love and hatred, other than ignorance, something other which triggers analysis.
Coming back to the general psychoanalytic trend towards the primacy of the other, Lacan in fact said that “the unconscious is the discourse of the Other”, “the desire of human beings is the desire of the Other”, etc. But, in contrast to Laplanche, he writes Other with a capital O. This distinctive orthography is capital. Because the Other is not another person, it is we would say our neighbour, firstly our nurse. “The Other does not exist”, Lacan says, because it is a position, not a specific neighbour. The Other is just like the line of the horizon, for example, which does not exist. This subtle difference separates Lacan from any kind of “relationism”. The mother, the nurse, is so important, according to Lacan because she occupies the place of the Other in relation to the child. If the mother fails to occupy this position, the mother-child relation risks being what others call a “symbiotic relation”, in which subjectivity fails to emerge. Others see the analyst as a sort of new mother for the analysand, but Lacan would say that both a mother and an analyst can produce subjectivity, if they are able to occupy the position of the Other, with a big O. If relationships are dual ones, when there is no third party in the game (the Other), all psychic catastrophes are possible. We are well acquainted with the dangers of single mothers living with only one child, especially if this child is a girl. Often (not always!) it can engender a psychotic couple, folie à deux. One says: “The paternal figure is important for the development of a child”. What’s important is for the Other – a symbolic instance, according to Lacan – to separate both the mother and the child from their tango. And if the analyst is able to occupy the place of the Other, she can help her subject finally separate from his enmeshment with his family figures, from what Lacan calls his phantasm.
How does sexuality affect the mental states of people according to Lacan? (Please in some detail)
After Freud, less and less analysts stressed the role of sexuality, which more and more became “affects”, “emotions”, “(mutual) feelings”. Sexual drives became more and more variations of the affective part of the psyche. Psychoanalysis is more and more perceived as a “cure of affects” in a general sense. It is true that Freud never clearly defined what was “sexual” from his point of view; everything can be ‘sexual’ in a Freudian perspective. Lacan, “returning to Freud”, wished to remain faithful to this primacy of sexuality, even if he himself softened the rough, non-refined, stubborn focus on sexuality in Freud. He transcended the Freudian sexual key into something more linguistic, more symbolic. This is why he insisted on the phallus, which is not just the penis, but a signifier. According to Lacan, being male or female is not just a matter of anatomy – even modern psychiatry, for example in DSM-5, says that a gender is “assumed”, in a certain sense chosen – but a matter of symbolic exchange concerning the phallus. This is why a male can be psychically a woman and a female can be psychically a man. According to Lacan, we are all potentially transgender, “gender dysphoric”.
This centrality of the phallus – and also of its lack, which is castration – irritated many feminists, but in the end Lacan became a master for many scholars of Women’s Studies. I would say that Lacan became one of the maîtres-à-penser of feminist philosophy (like Judith Butler, for example). Because in fact Lacan said something impressive, thought-provoking, about women, even if his statements seem weird to a tough rational mind. All Lacanian discourse is always on the edge of paradox and even non-sense, like in Max Ernst’s paintings, for example, or Oscar Wilde’s aphorisms. In Ernst, you never know exactly what you are seeing, whether something is a figure or something abstract. You need a sort of intellectual sixth sense to understand (and enjoy) Lacan. For example, his famous statement, “loving is giving something one does not have to somebody who does not want it”. To a very rational mind this is nonsense, but it says an awful lot to many people who have actually fallen in love.
So, Lacan said “the Woman does not exist”, only women – a plurality – exist. What does this mean? In fact many well-read women loved this slogan, which met their questions about “what is a woman?” We can interpret this in many ways, like we could interpret the oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece or the Cumaean Sybil in many ways. I know that many Lacanians think Lacan’s thought can be systematized in a consistent theory you can pack into a manual and hand to university students. Many Lacanians published excellent manuals, but most betray what is essential in Lacan: his style of thinking. And to grasp his thinking you need a certain intellectual ear, like having a special ear for music. In order to enjoy Lacan, you need an equivalent of the absolute or perfect pitch in music. Some readers will never understand Lacan, not because they are stupid, by no means. Often they can be rather intelligent, too much so in fact. This is true also about the way Lacan thinks about sexuality.
Lacan is very Freudian in the sense that, beyond any symbolic setting of our psyche, human beings are essentially beings of desire and enjoyment. Even a neurotic or psychotic symptom, or a perverse fantasy, are ways a subject finds to enjoy himself. The position of genres in relation to desire and enjoyment (jouissance) varies, but it is always a matter of desire and enjoyment. The point is that women’s enjoyment is more complicated, I would say more baroque (in contrast masculine sexuality is quite dull, rough, except in sexual perverts). Because a woman has access to phallic enjoyment (i.e., she’s not frigid) but also to the enjoyment of the Other, which is something quite complicated. In some ecstatic experiences – especially those of certain mystical women – the subject is drenched by the enjoyment of the Other.
By his strange logic, Lacan can help us better understand the illogical way we live our sex lives.
We can see ambiguity and paradox are fittingly used as narrative tropes in modern literature to examine the complexities of the psyche. Please explain.
Your question raises problems which go even beyond Lacan’s approach and beyond psychoanalysis.
I think the fact that Lacan actually ended his career with his XXIIIrd Seminar on James Joyce is very significant. He opened his Ecrits with a seminar on Poe’s The Purloined Letter. I would say that ideally he opened and ended his discourse with two English language authors, a fact which refutes the cliché of a “very French Lacan” hostile especially to American culture. He identified with Joyce, in the sense that he thought he did with psychoanalysis a little of what Joyce did with literature: exploiting to the maximum the possibilities of the signifier. Is Lacan’s oeuvre a sort of psychoanalytic Finnegans Wake?
Lacan would in a way say the opposite of what you said: that the human psyche is so complex because of the ambiguity and paradox of language. It is no coincidence that Lacan stressed the importance of a book by Freud which mainstream analysts generally consider a minor Freudian divertissement: The Joke and its Relation with the Unconscious. Here Freud shows that the unconscious is not only the realm of the repressed, of the thoughts refused by the Ego, in short a threat for our mental consistency, but also and above all a source of creativity: jokes, humours, puns and of course literature, art. Thanks to the unconscious, we are able to produce art and literature. Lacan would say that a certain kind of modern literature has made clear an ambiguity and paradoxicality which is always present in poetry, novels and plays, even the most ancient ones. Great literature has always described human beings as strange, irrational, unpredictable, “complex”, as you say. Consider the literary heroes Lacan evoked in his seminars: Sophocles’ Antigone, Plautus’ Amphitryon, Hamlet, the characters of the Marquis de Sade, the adolescents in Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, Duras’ Lol von Stein, Joyce’s protagonists. Aren’t they all more or less nuts, “ambiguous” as you say, all driven by unconscious urges? In classical literature the unconscious appears inside the heroes, in modern literature the unconscious spreads out into the language and the plots of the stories themselves.
Some biologists today think that language was invented by humans not essentially for communication, for carrying information about the world, but that it was first invented for fun, for playing with sounds and words, as we see in toddlers. Only later, language was exapted, that is, was tinkered in order to be used as a communication tool. The unconscious is made of this primal, I would say ludic, language. And in fact Lacan in his seminars and writings extremely enjoys playing with words, with etymologies, riddles and conundrums. This is a reason why he’s not taken seriously by very staid analysts. Another paradox: reading Lacan is very hard work because his way of thinking is very complex, but at the same time it is funny, because of his sense of humour, his hyper-sensitivity to the richness of language. This is why he’s considered by many to be, more than an important psychoanalyst, but also a great writer.
To Lacan, both the analysand and the analyst are sick and need to be cured. Please explain.
I am sorry, but Lacan never said that both analysand and analyst are sick, for the very simple reason that “sick”, talking about suffering subjects, was not part of Lacan’s vocabulary. In a certain sense, because we have an unconscious, we are all potentially “sick”, in the sense that we can bear, at a certain point, a neurotic symptom. According to Lacan there are essentially three subjective structures: neurosis, psychosis and perversions. But you can have a psychotic structure, and never become a nut – this was the case of Joyce, according to Lacan. Joyce cured himself through writing, he found in his writing the “ring” he lacked. And perverts don’t consider themselves sick, because they extremely enjoy their perverse acts or fantasies.
But Lacan thinks that Freud broke with psychiatric discourse, because for mainstream psychiatry – today represented by DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – symptoms are signs of a “disorder” (the politically correct rechristening of ‘disease’), instead for an analyst symptoms express a way found by a subject to enjoy. Symptoms tell the truth about a subject, they are not just traces of an illness. This is because Lacan said, laughing, “love your symptom like yourself”. Of course, if a symptom creates inhibition and anxiety it has to be analysed in order to tune up a subject with his way of enjoying. Psychoanalysis is basically not anti-psychiatric, but non-psychiatric.
What is true, and shared even by analysts of other schools, is that analysts continue their own analysis through analysing others. The unconscious is a bottomless well, fortunately, in the sense that you can never drain the unconscious. Because the unconscious is not considered, as many post-Freudians considered it, only the repressed side of the human being, but also a source of creativity and enjoyment, as I already mentioned.
What does Lacan mean by “subjective rectification”?
He adds: “…in relation to the Real”. It means that Lacan does not believe that analysis can change the psychic structure of a subject, but it can manage his/her drives in order to deal with the Real in a better way. As he says sometimes, analysis is a “patchwork”, a sort of prosthesis which helps to tolerate an essential rift in the human being. He does not think that analysis changes a personality, but analysis makes it possible for a subject to face its Real.
One of the four of the fundamental concepts of Lacan is the discourse of analyst. Please summarize it briefly.
Lacan describes the “Discourse of the Analyst” as one of the Four Discourses he articulates in structural terms, by permutation of the same elements. The other three: Discourse of the Master, of University, of Hysterics. He calls these four Discourses also “social bonds”. This means that an analyst is something very distinct from a teacher, a master and a neurotic.
What does Lacan mean by “there is no sexual relationship” and “the woman does not exist”?
In fact, some Lacanian statements sound cryptic, like the responses of ancient oracles. What he did mean was that in the unconscious there is no signifier for “sexual relationship”. Freud said (in Lacanian terms) that there is no signifier for death (unconsciously we all think we’re immortal), Lacan added that there is no signifier for sexual relationship. But these words sound like abstractions. What does it actually mean that unconsciously we don’t believe in sexual relationship?
I can explain what I understand by this. Consider the shame we feel showing our genitals, or with a display of our sexual acts. In the Bible, Adam and Eve become ashamed of their genitals immediately after the original sin, that is, when they become human. According to Lacan, this shame is linked to the fact that humans have language (are some animals ashamed of their genitals? In any case, they are not ashamed to show themselves in sexual acts). Why this shame? In fact coitus is the most natural, pleasurable and customary act in our lives. In no culture are people ashamed to show themselves eating, for example. This is not rational, this means that it has unconscious reasons. We conceive of coitus, the sexual relationship, as something transgressive! Even after 20 years of marriage, we can enjoy sex if we conceive it as a transgression. If it is not, we have no wish to have sex. It may sound absurd, but what makes it so exciting for men to court women is the fact that, unconsciously, men are convinced that “women are not made for sex”. In nature it is the opposite, males and females seem made for having sex. But Homo sapiens is a very strange animal: it needs “lust”, which is one of the seven deadly sins. Men can have erections and women can have arousals if they believe, deep down, that coitus is a transgression, because it is not inscribed as something “holy”, i.e. as a major signifier.
You can object that sometimes people have orgies, where sexual intercourse is displayed in public. But orgies are so funny because they are a transgression of a transgression (that of hiding sexual intercourse), in any case a transgression.
“The Woman [with a capital W] does not exist” is another Lacanian provocation. Only women exist, they don’t constitute an essence. When he was alive many feminists protested. But significantly “feminism” is called exactly that and not “womanism”, because there is the unconscious conviction that the Woman does not exist. “Feminism” relates to the animal difference between females and males, not to the “woman”, which cannot be reduced to being female.
But why do so many women say (I am not a woman) that they are very impressed by what Lacan says about womanhood? Lacan was a better analyst of women, and he said that generally women are better analysts than men. You have to understand his statement with a third ear, with the unconscious ear. Lacanians say that in the unconscious there is not a signifier for “Woman”. Freud spoke about a “phallic stage” which is the same for boys and girls. “Phallus” is a signifier, not “woman”, nor “man”. According to Lacan, a man defines his manhood in relation to castration: he’s always afraid of losing his penis. Also in his professional and social life, he’s afraid of being castrated. According to Lacan, the unconscious wish of men is to have sex with ALL women, like Don Juan; the unconscious wish of women is to find the Ideal Man, a perfect man (who does not exist). But they look for an Ideal Man because they want to understand what it means, for them, to be a woman, and not just a female.
Freud called women who cannot understand what being a woman means hysterics, because they think that the Woman exists. In psychoanalysis only having or not having the phallus, being or having the phallus, exist. But how can a woman be defined just in relation to the phallus? Nobody can believe that being a woman means to be a castrated man! This is why being a woman is so problematic for many women.
Does all this make sense? For many it doesn’t at all. Psychoanalysis in general, not only the Lacanian version, does not make sense to many. But Lacan expresses in his theory his practice of the unconscious, he strives to find the right words to describe his analytic experience with men and women. Like you, as a critic, strive to find the right words to express something which cannot be expressed in words, the aesthetical experience. Through strange statements Lacan tried to utter the weird poetry of the unconscious.
Identification with the analysand?
According to Lacan, no identification with the analysand, if you want to be a good analyst. According to other analysts, the aim of the cure is to push the patient to identifying with the ego of the analyst, but not for Lacan. For Lacan the analyst is by no means an object of idealization (as a political or religious leader has to be) but an object which pushes an analysand to analyse. Lacan thinks that deep down all analysands feel contempt for their analysts, but this despicable object gives subjects the opportunity to rectify their position in relation to the real.
According to Kleinians, aggression is what is meant by Freud as “death drive”. But according to Freud aggression is still a vital impulse; it is not death yet. Aggression is a useful quality, as everybody knows; in one’s profession one often needs to be “aggressive”.
But Lacan dealt with aggression in paranoiacs, especially in persecution paranoia. According to him, the aggressive persecutor is a mirror image of the subject himself, just like in Poe’s “William Wilson”. Aggression is often aggression not against oneself, but against the alienated image of oneself. As a Chinese proverb says, “if you don’t know your enemy, you don’t know yourself”.
Interview with Lorenzo Chiesa
1. What generated your interest in Lacan?
As a philosophy undergraduate student in the mid-late 1990s I was vaguely aware of Lacan. The name circulated but more fashionable thinkers (especially Derrida, Foucault, and Deleuze) eclipsed it. I got really hooked on him while reading and researching the poet Antonin Artaud. Allegedly, as a young psychiatrist, Lacan examined Artaud after he was interned in an asylum and concluded that he would have never written a single word again. Instead Artaud proceeded to produce some of the best philosophical poetry of the twentieth century. This blatant misdiagnosis intrigued me. I launched into Lacan’s work with passion, and perhaps a secret intention to further disprove him. I soon discovered an incredibly original theory of the subject at a time when, it is important to recall it, triumphant postmodernism cynically declared the death of the subject, the end of history, and the impossibility of any actual political change. From that moment on, I never stopped thinking philosophically through, with, and beyond Lacan. A decade later, my entrance into psychoanalysis renewed my interest. Dissatisfied with academia, I wanted to become an analyst. That never happened but the concrete experience of undergoing Lacanian treatment made me appreciate the empirical basis of psychoanalysis, without which the theory has little significance. What happens in the consulting room is indeed very weird, especially in terms of your desire to know! My only advice to young philosophers interested in Lacan would be “Go and see what the practice is about!”, assuming it is practiced well.
2. Why is Lacan regarded by many critics as the most important psychologist since Freud?
I agree with these critics. I believe Lacan is the most important psychoanalyst since Freud because he managed to rejuvenate or update psychoanalysis while remaining Freudian. In the 1960s, Foucault already intuited that the peculiarity of psychoanalytic discourse entails that a serious return to Freud modifies psychoanalysis itself. At bottom, Lacan’s major innovation, both clinical and theoretical, was to dispel the romantic, idealistic, and even animistic idea – still partly present in Freud – that the unconscious is a hidden container of naughty/dirty wishes, ultimately dependent on a free-floating libido or force-of-life, which civilisation needs to repress. Instead, for Lacan, the unconscious fundamentally amounts to the language we do not consciously control. As subjects we are first and foremost the media of the social that surrounds us. Our parents give us a name and have expectations about our future before we are born. In everyday communication we always say more or less than what we intend to say. Even our partners regularly misunderstand us. Think of the unconscious as a gigantic tape-recorder. It not only records everything every single Homo sapiens has ever said or thought but also continuously records over what it has recorded. There is no backup-copy of any given stage in this process. The tape-recorder does not tape itself. So there is actually no tape either and for the same reason the unconscious is all out in the open! The wager of Lacanian psychoanalysis is that one can rewind the virtual tape a bit, but not without recording over it again. Sexuality preserves an important role in this context yet only insofar as it marks something that does not really work, not a barely controlled abundance of instincts. Against the current predominance of allegedly hedonistic ideology, Lacan’s basic point is that language goes together with an impasse in sexuality. That is our species-specific trait. We are sexually fucked-up animals. And that is why we talk and think about sex much more often than we have sex.
3. How does Lacan define transference and countertransference?
This is a question a practicing analyst would be better equipped to answer. Theoretically, it is a very difficult question. In a tentative manner, we could define transference as the creation of love in the artificial setting of the psychoanalytic cabinet (Lacan says something along these lines somewhere in Seminar VIII, I think). But, on closer inspection, things actually get far more complex! On the one hand, “real” love relations, even the most successful, are always artificial, in the sense that love remains fundamentally narcissistic if not (mentally) masturbatory. On the other hand, the artificial setting of psychoanalysis goes together with an “event-like” dimension that is otherwise rare in the subject’s everyday life. Anecdotally, out of my experience as an analysand, I would say one definitely develops a transference precisely when one believes one has no transference and even doubts its very existence. Along the same lines, I am tempted to claim that countertransference is making the analysand believe he does have a transference.
“Matt Wolf” Affair
During the evening of February 2, 2020, as I was laboring over a text, I receive an email directed to my private psychoanalytic practice account with the following missive:
Dear Dr. Fernando,
Let me introduce myself
I am Matt Wolf, Drama and literature critic at the Guardian U.K. We are celebrating this month Introducing Lacan: Key Conecpts.
May I ask you for an online interview?
I would be grateful if you accept my invitation.
Thanks in advance.
Already suspicious of the grammar, the lack of grace and formal style, on the part of no less an entity than the Drama and Literature Critic at the Guardian, I respond:
Greetings Mr. Wolf:
Yes, I would be interested in this.
“Matt Wolf” responds swiftly with the following:
Hi Fernando (if I may),
Thanks for accepting my invitation. Here is the first set of questions
1- What generated your interest in psychoanalysis and Lacan in particular?
2- Why does Lacan name the analyst “a subject supposedly knows”?
Please feel free to comment. We will edit all your comments.
Thanks in advance..
Again, I am witness to an appalling lack of grace and formality. Perhaps it is my baroque, South American expectations, but I would hope for more finesse from a Brit. A doubt is born, and I look up this “Matt Wolf” on the Guardian UK website, only to find the article by Chris Elliot that Sergio Benvenuto mentions in his introduction to this assemblage of ripostes.
I consider what “he” is asking for. While I could give him a detailed answer that might seemingly work for a publication (as if we needed yet another introductory exposition on what Lacan was referring to with his idea of “a subject supposed to know”!), as an analyst, I assume he is asking for something else, a demonstration, let’s say. So, I oblige, with the following response:
The answer is 47
Why this reply? In the moment I was reaching for something. In the now classic, comic science fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from a supercomputer named Deep Thought, that was specifically built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7.5 million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. The computer also points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the question was.
At the end of the last novel in the same series, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, one of the characters, Arthur Dent, attempts to discover The Ultimate Question by pulling random letters from a bag, but only gets the sentence “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”
“Six by nine. Forty two.”
“That’s it. That’s all there is.”
“I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe.”
I won’t bore you with an insipid commentary on the lack-in-being hinted at by this last phrase. I think we get it.
However, I didn’t write 42 to our friend “Matt Wolf”. I replied with 47. I was off by 5. Why? That part I keep for myself.
As for “Matt Wolf”, needless to say, I never heard from “him” again. I just hope he got what he was asking for.
April 24, 2020
Interview with Victor Mazin
One day in January 2020 I got a letter from a certain Matt Wolf. I felt that something was wrong, from the way it was written. I had questions: is this man who wrote me really a journalist? From The Guardian? A Literary critic? In the end I decided, perhaps it was my Soviet lack of trust in people making me suspicious. Perhaps this man really was a journalist, but with some kind of a Russian professional negligence. I decided to give spontaneous answers to the email without spending much time.
Fake Matt Wolf – What generated your interest in psychoanalysis and Lacan in particular?
Real Victor Mazin – My interest in psychoanalysis… In the end of the 1970s I was a young man deeply immersed in two domains (and I’m still in them) – music (from Black Sabbath to Throbbing Gristle and Stockhausen) & literature (Freud, Nietzsche, Kafka… everything which was not allowed, but not prohibited in the Soviet Union). In the end of the 1970s I had (and still have) a dear friend from London, Michael Molnar, who was bringing me Freud Penguin volumes; also I was reading Freud in Russian published in the beginning of XX c. In 1979 an incredible symposium took place in Tbilisi called “The Unconsciousness”. Four huge volumes were published on this occasion (recently I wrote a small book about this event in Russian). With the help of some friends I got a hold of these four volumes with the papers from the symposium. It just so happened that most of the participants in this symposium were Lacanians, including S. Leclaire, E. Roudinesco, C. Clement, R. Major and many others. Since the time of reading the texts in these four volumes my interest in Lacan increased. It is important to say that it wasn’t only French analysts talking about Lacan; two Russian papers were dedicated to his analysis, too. One paper on Lacan was written by a Moscow philosopher Natalia Avtonomova. In 1990 Derrida came to Moscow for the first time, and I met not only him, but also Avtonomova, with whom I continue to remain friends up to today. In the beginning of 1990s I was interested not only in psychoanalysis but also in psychiatry, and on several occasions I visited psychiatric hospitals in Crimea. Thanks to a friend, Viktor Samokhvalov, who was a head of the Crimean Psychiatric hospital Nr. 1, I was allowed to talk to doctors and patients. Once when I was working in the hospital for a month, I became especially interested in depression, and I was reading an American book about different approaches to depression. As far as I remember there were 12 different ways to understand depression, and among them I was fond of just one, the psychoanalytic approach. In the end of the 1990s, I was invited to teach psychoanalysis at the Psychoanalytic Institute in St. Petersburg (I work there up to today).
Fake Matt Wolf – Lacan deconstructed the analysand and analyst. Please explain these definitions according to Lacan in more detail.
Real Victor Mazin – I don’t know who said that Lacan “deconstructed the analysand and analyst”. Deconstruction is Derrida, not Lacan. Deconstruction is partly based on Freud, one could even speak about deconstructive psychoanalysis (for example in some respects I’m influenced quite a bit by a massive reading of Derrida along with Lacan, and my PhD thesis was on Freud and Derrida), but still I cannot support the idea of the deconstruction of the analysand and analyst. First because it brings us back to the idea of so-called two-bodies psychology as Lacan called it. Second, the positions of the analysand and analyst are not symmetrical, not binary, one is in the position of the subject supposed to know, of non-human partner, and the other one is in the hysterical position, the position of questioning. The transference relations between them are based also on the formula “les rapport sexuelle n’exister pas”. Deconstruction, on the other hand, might refer to the primacy of the very relations: the artificial transferencial relations, as Freud called them, in analysis create the positions of the analyst and analysand. At some more general level one could say about the deconstruction of the subject in criticizing two-body psychology, as far as the significant Freudian thesis is: there is no subject without an Other.
Fake Matt Wolf – The analyst, Freud says, must “recognize this counter-transference in himself and overcome it.” Jung, on the other hand, sees counter-transference as an inevitable component of the analytic process. What do you think?
Real Victor Mazin – Psychoanalytic praxis for me first of all is the praxis of ethical relations (based on the impossibility); we could call these relations transference, and as a practicing analyst I don’t see any room for the notion of counter-transference. If we consider humans as autonomous individuals, if to speak in terms of two-body psychology, then, yes, there are two oppositional vectors, but not in psychoanalysis.
Fake Matt Wolf – Lacan, like Freud before him, addressed the transference in a number of different ways through the development of his theoretical work. How Lacan defines transference, countertransference?
Real Victor Mazin – Hopefully I don’t see definitions in psychoanalysis, they belong to the university science. Lacan clears up the question of transference by reading Plato’s Symposium, where the discussion is on love. The idea of transference is strictly connected in Lacan with the idea of knowledge, and this knowledge belongs to an Other. The central notion for love-transference which Lacan derives from Plato is agalma. And according to Lacan, transference works as a desire to know (a truth about oneself). Agalma would be the name of analysand’s object-cause of desire alienated in an Other. The analytic process goes on due to this agalma which is topologically supposed to be in the analyst. The Lacanian name for the analyst therefore is a subject supposed to know.
Fake Matt Wolf – How did Freud define transference? and what is meant by positive and negative transference?
Real Victor Mazin – In Studies on Hysteria Freud describes (not defines) the phenomenon of transference as falsche Verknüpfung, a wrong association; that is love addressed to one person goes to another one. At first he considered transference to be a hindrance in analysis, but soon it became the principal instrument. Transference in Freud might be understood also in a topological sense: it gives the analysand this or that place (topos) in analysis. It is clear in the case of Dora, the case especially dedicated to the transference: the place of the analyst is prescribed by the analysand. In the case of Dora Freud was sure a priori that his place was a male one inherited by him both from Herr K., and Dora’s Father. But it so happened that he was in this set of transferencial relations with her governess, that is in this particular case he was literally a subject supposed to know, a subject who keeps the knowledge of sexuality. Transference, for Freud, is an artificial love. Of course, this love raises the issue of so-called real love – is it artificial, too, or not?
They say that positive transference is love, and negative transference is its other side, that is hate. For me these terms are rather senseless, in sofar as in analysis it is important which object causes love (hate) but not its + or – binarity. Transference is first of all about knowledge, it is love for knowledge but not the question of being positive or negative. These notions one could hardly inscribe in Freudian affect theory which is quantitative and not qualitative. More than that, transference for me – and in this respect I follow Felix Guattari – is always already multiple and fragmented, and by means of this approach one could hardly speak about positivity or negativity. And one more thing an analysand might tell you that she/he hates you and in five seconds that she/he loves you. One could say analysis is about lovehate but not about affective bipolarity.
Fake Matt Wolf – Why does Lacan name the analyst “a subject supposedly knows”?
Real Victor Mazin – The engine of psychoanalysis as praxis is the (hysterical) search for knowledge/truth about her/himself, and a psychoanalyst is someone who is supposed to know about the human psyche, its conditions, its problems, etc. The transference according to Lacan is based on this passionate search for knowledge/truth. At the same time the psychoanalyst if she or he should know something then she/he should know that she or he knows nothing. This is fundamental insofar as far as every subject in psychoanalysis is singular. Thus, an analysand thinks that a psychoanalyst has knowledge about her/him. The analyst in its turn knows that she/he knows nothing. If we dialectically combine these two vectors we have “a subject supposed to know”.
Fake Matt Wolf – To Lacan, both the analysand and the analyst are sick and need to be cured. Please explain.
Real Victor Mazin – Such notions as sickness, health, cure belong to the medical, university discourse; for me they have nothing to do with psychoanalytic discourse. One of the most interesting and sarcastic articles on this subject Lacan wrote in 1955, “Variations of the typical therapy”. In this article he demonstrates that the worst desire for the psychoanalyst would be the desire to cure. There is no need to cure someone, whether an analyst or an analysand. As Freud explains in the Schreber case, the paranoiac delirium is already an effort of the psyche to cope with psychotic disintegration.
Fake Matt Wolf – What is the name of the psychoanalytic term called when the analyst is having the same disease of his analysand (patient) after his treatment is over and why this happens? what do you think of Kleinian perspective maybe this process is a manifestation of the projective identification?
Real Victor Mazin – I have never heard about such a phenomenon. Disease? You mean something like cancer? Infection? Plague? I don’t know… Yes, I believe it might be some sort of an identification with a trait like a signifier, a symptom… but disease…
Fake Matt Wolf – What does Lacan mean by “subjective rectification”?
Real Victor Mazin – As far as I remember this phrase is connected to the dialectical turn in analysis, particularly of Dora and Freud, when Freud, after listening to Dora’s complaints about the unjust world around her, asks her a question about her complicity in this world, about her involvement and influence on the situation. For me it is already close to quantum mechanics in a sense that the (world) picture you see cannot be clear without your involvement. Subjective rectification of the picture is always already needed.
Fake Matt Wolf – One of the four of the fundamental concepts of Lacan is the discourse of analyst. Please summarize it briefly.
Real Victor Mazin – In Seminar XVII Lacan has formulated a theory of four discourses, that is of four possible relations between subjects in language. To my mind we could speak about two pairs: master & university discourses; hysteric & psychoanalytic discourses. Psychoanalysis has been born in the hysteric’s discourse historically, and it is dependent on it. The discourse of the analyst is an ethical one, in which the analyst takes the place of an object as object-cause of desire, takes place of a non-human partner, a partner who listens but doesn’ take the place of a master who knows what the analysand (hysteric) should do with her/his life.
Fake Matt Wolf – Let me give us an example regarding the previous question: Can you please read the synopsis below of McPherson’s play Shinning City.
How can you find the end of the play? I mean now the therapist has the same problem of the analysand. What Lacanian terms suit the end of the play? Or how can you see the play from a Lacanian perspective? The play is set in Ian’s office located in a “salubrious area in Dublin. It revolves around two main characters: Ian; “a man in his forties” having “struggled with many personal fears in his life”, is a newly practicing therapist who has recently left the priesthood, and John; a man in his fifties having “an air of confusion . . . because he has yet to accept that the world is not as orderly and predictable as he thought”. John, a widowed patient whose “wife passed away a few months ago” who “died in horrible circumstances”, is working as a representative for a catering supplier. The remaining three characters are: Laurence, a male prostitute who “has a dirty bandage on his right hand”, and who sleeps with Ian in the latter’s office. Neasa; Ian’s girlfriend in her thirties, is “rooted in a harder, less forgiving reality”, and Mari, the ghost of John’s wife who keeps coming to see him after she has died in a car crash.
Shining tells the story of Ian waiting in his office for his first patient, John. John informs him about his own desperate condition related to the death of his wife whose ghost appears to him continuously. As the play progresses, we become aware that John and Mari were not on speaking terms and always argued over menial things, later it is suggested that this may because they were unable to have children, resulting in John becoming “aggressive, insulting, and violent towards Mari”, leading him (John) to start a sexual relationship with Vivien, a beautiful woman. Ian himself has a girlfriend, Neasa, who cares for the couple’s baby while living in Ian brother’s home. Neasa claims this is where she could not “find anyone to speak to” leading her to sleep with another man, leaving Ian feeling desperate. We also know that Ian had a homosexual relationship in his office with Laurence, a homeless man. At the play’s conclusion, John no longer feels haunted by his wife’s ghost and brings Ian a gift for helping him overcome his trouble or to haul John from the lowest depths of depression. Ian is also about to quit his job and to move to Limerick and leave Dublin because he does not feel settled there. As John leaves Ian’s office, Ian sees Mari’s ghost “behind the door looking at him; just as John described her; she wears her red coat, which is filthy, her hair is wet. She looks beaten up. She looks terrifying”.
Real Victor Mazin – Dear Matt, I’ve read the synopsis, and I don’t know what to say. I believe it is a wonderful play, but to analyse the synopsis… What to say if a therapist sees a ghost of a woman described by his patient? A hysterical identification? A projective identification? Schizophrenia? Whatever I say it would be my fantasy. I have no idea what Lacan would say about an analyst seeing in hallucinations the ghost of a woman who was part of the stories told by a patient. The only thing I would say is that for the analyst it is better not to hallucinate/visualize stories about the patients. It’s weird. The specter of the dead woman comes to the therapist from the real but this real is not his. Perhaps it is a question (or suggestion) for David Lynch not for Lacan.
Fake Matt Wolf – One more question. What does Lacan mean by “there is no sexual relationship” and the “woman does not exist”?
Real Victor Mazin – Well, these two questions demand a detailed and long explanation. Usually, I would need several hours to clear them up. I’ll try to clarify the first phrase a bit. First of all, “there is no sexual relations” is a basic clinical formula, that is the psychoanalytic discourse is possible due to the impossibility of sexual relations, even in a very simple sense: either analysis or sex, no mixture of the two practices. The impossibility of sexual relations refers to their real aspect. Sexual relations between humans are impossible in some natural, animal way; they are impossible as far as humans are speaking beings. One could say, there are no sexual relations, inso far as there are let’s say two humans, and every human as a speaking being has its own fantasy, a sexual fantasy, or love formula. Two speaking beings cannot have sex in a strict – biological sense – because of the impossibility of direct relations, relations which aren’t mediated by phantasy, with an other speaking being. No direct relations, ‘cos they are intermediated with different love formulas.
Fake Matt Wolff – Two more question. 1- What does Freud mean by stating “If someone’s need for love is not entirely satisfied by reality [the external world to which they have contributed a portion of their erotic impulses] he is bound to approach every new person whom he meets with libidinal anticipatory ideas.” 2- Sex can be liberating, pleasurable but also dark and destructive”. Could you explain this in Lacan’s view about sex.
Thanks in anticipation.
Real Victor Mazin – [Silence].
1 June, 2020