Sem. X, Chp. XIV: Woman, Truer and More Real


A web of lies and holes in the Real.

And everything she wrote to him, she says, was truly, I quote her, a web of lies. Stitch by stitch, I created a character, what I wanted to be in his eyes, which I in no way was. I’m afraid it was a purely fictional enterprise, which I pursued most doggedly, enveloping myself she says, in a kind of cocoon. She adds, very gently – You know, he had a tough time getting over it. — Sem. X, Chp. XV

Lucia Tower’s essay on Countertransference



On mustard pots:

“A mustard pot possesses as essence in our practical life the fact that it presents itself as an empty mustard pot.” — Jacques Lacan, Sem. VII

 A situationist’s encounter with Lacan’s mustard, 1968.

Lacan launched into a disquisition about mustard pots, or to be precise, the mustard pot, l’pot d’moutard’. His delivery was irregular, forceful, oracular. The first sentences that I managed to jot down despite my postprandial stupor are the following:

This pot, I called it a mustard pot in order to remark that far from necessarily containing any, it is precisely because it is empty that it takes on its value as a mustard pot. Namely that it is because the word “mustard” is written on it, while “mustard” means here “must tardy be” [moult me tarde], for indeed this pot will have to tarry before it reaches its eternal life as pot, a life that begins only when this pot has a hole. Because it is in this form that throughout the ages we find it in excavation sites when we search tombs for something that will bear witness to us about the state of a civilization.

This sounded deep, Dadaist, and hilarious, and yet no one laughed or even smiled. Here I was, facing an aging performance artist (Lacan was sixty-seven then) whose very garb had something of the cabaret comedian’s outfit, with a dandiacal Mao costume, a strange shirt, and the most tortured elocution one could imagine, broken by sighs, wheezes, and sniggers, at times slowing down to a meditative halt, at times speeding up to culminate in a punning one-liner. Curiously, he was being listened to in utmost silence by an audience intent on not missing one word. I had forgotten my own yogurt pot, embarrassingly half-full or half-empty in my hand: it had turned into an urn. I vaguely knew the popular etymology of the word moutarde, which was supposed to derive from que moult me tarde (attributed to one of the Dukes of Burgundy, as I would verify a few years later when I started teaching in Dijon, a first academic post no doubt programmed by these ominous sentences), but did not know that Lacan came from a dynasty of vinegar makers and that one of their specialties was fine mustard. In the seminar, I had just witnessed a typical series of virtuoso associations taking off from mustard pots to engage with funerary vessels as they characterize entire civilizations. Lacan obliquely quoted Heidegger’s meditation on jugs allegorizing the work of art, then climaxed with the Danaids and compared Pan’s musical flutes to empty barrels, all this in a few breathtaking sentences. His words circled around in freewheeling thematic glides rendered more startling by a very particular enunciation: it systematically elided mute e’s (e muets) and thus, in an accent that sounded old-fashioned but full of stage-Parisian gouaille, endowed with new echoes homely phrases such as l’pot d’moutard’. Much later, I found out that Lacan had punned not only on mustard and vinegar but also on the broader conceptual category of “condiment,” a word he would always use with the demonstrative ce, thus uttering “ce condiment,” a phrase which could be heard as ce qu’on dit ment: what one says is lying, we only say lies. Lies and truth passed through the hole in the mustard pot, thanks no doubt to the obscene echo of con (“cunt”). By way of the mustard pot, I had been introduced to the devious logic of the signifier.

Don Juan

Jacques-Alain Miller on Lacan’s interoperation of Don Juan, from Introduction to Reading Jacques Lacan’s Seminar on Anxiety, LI26

Two paradigmatic phantasms can be distinguished here: the one on the male side, the other on the female side. These are striking remarks by Lacan, but they are in the logic of this construct that I am patiently reordering. The phantasm on the male side, to say it quickly, is female masochism, masochism imputed to the woman, and, on the female side the phantasm is that of Don Juan, of the male Don Juan. These two phantasms, even in diverse circumstances, correspond to one another.

That female masochism is a masculine phantasm means that the effect of phallus-organ is translated through the phantasm of a woman who would be object, a permanent object which would play at being the object of male jouissance, without limits, without the limits which are, correctly, cruelly marked by ___. In opposition, Lacan gives Don Juan as emblem of the female phantasm. Thus, on the masculine side, it is a woman who would play at being this object which can repair the ___ which affects him; and on the female side, the image of a man who would never lack anything. Don Juan is the negative of ___, an image in which ___ is effaced. One can recognize there, says Lacan, a pure female image: a Don Juan is the subject who never lacks anything.


From Lacan’s Seminar X, Chp. XIV 

But if you have the thread I’m about to give you, it will seem much clearer. Don Juan is a woman’s dream.

Sometimes it takes a man who would still be his same old self, as woman can in a certain way pride herself on being in relation to man. Don Juan is a man who would lack nothing. This is perfectly tangible in the term I’m going to have to come back to in connection with the general structure of masochism. This almost sounds like some jape, but Don Juan’s relation to the image of the father qua un-castrated is a pure feminine image. This relation is perfectly legible in what you can uncover in Rank’s labyrinthine twists and turns. If we manage to link him back to a certain state of myth and rite, Don Juan would represent, so he tells us, and there his intuition guides him, he who in times now passed was capable of putting a bit of soul into things without losing his soul. The notorious practice of the Jus primae noctis, just like the practice, a mythical one as you know, of the deflowering priest on the Prima nodes, are purportedly founded on this. But Don Juan is a fine story, which functions and produces its effect for those who are not acquainted with all these acts of kindness. Certainly they are not absent from Mozart’s song, to be found more on the side of Le nozze di Figaro than Don Giovanni.

The palpable trace of what I’m putting forward concerning Don Juan is that for him man’s complex relation to his object is effaced, but at the price of accepting his radical imposture. Don Juan’s prestige is linked to his acceptance of this imposture. He is always in the stead of someone else. He is, if I may, the absolute object.

Notice that it’s not said that he inspires desire in the least. Though he slips into women’s beds, no one knows how he got there. One might even say that he doesn’t have any desire either. He stands in relation to something with respect to which he fulfils a certain function. You may call this something the odor difemmina and that takes us a long way. But desire plays such a paltry role in the affair that, when the odor difemmina does pass by, he is quite capable of failing to notice that it’s Donna Elvira – to wit, the one he’s had it up to here with – who’s just crossed the stage.

It really needs to be said that he is not an anxiety-provoking character for women. When it happens that a woman really feels she is the object at the centre of a desire, well, believe me, that’s when she really takes flight.

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One thought on “Sem. X, Chp. XIV: Woman, Truer and More Real”

  1. set up the mirrors to see a mechanical Other and you’re half way to being able to drive a muscle car.

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