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Fetishes — Fetish

Telacan: Tiananmen

Unconscious Transmission: The Generation "Gap"

The Ethics of Hysteria & of Psychoanalysis

3 Poems

René Ricard

Interview with
Silvia Kolbowski

Interview with
Jonathan Lasker



The Ethics of Hysteria & of Psychoanalysis


Vicente Palomera




What the hysterical subject intensifies and overtly manifests is this lack of a certainty, the lack of an identifying signifier. Hysteria shows up through a void of identification which the subject transforms into a question presented to anyone who is in the place of master of knowledge S2 :

Hysteria is a discourse, and like every discourse it implies two partners. In the hysterical discourse Lacan isolates one of the partners as the divided subject , the other as the master signifier, or the master who embodies it S1 . So you have first, occupying the place of agent the subject addressing a demand to the Other — the Master — commanding the Master. The agent is what we call a place of power. In the analytical discourse,

power is in the object commanding a certain task to the subject.
The first time Lacan writes about his four discourses, he defines hysteria as the divided subject, that is to say as the unconscious in exercise: L'inconscient en exercice qui met le maître au pied du mur de produire un savoir.1 (The unconscious in action challenging the master to produce knowledge). What is important here is the identification of hysteria with the divided subject. But, on the other hand, Lacan says clearly enough that the hysteric is also a mastering subject, because he/she is in the place of the agent.
Although you may easily illustrate this with any case of hysteria, I'd rather choose one which is certainly well known to you. Everyone knows the popular conception of Florence Nightingale, the self-sacrificing woman, the maiden who throw aside the pleasures of a life of ease to help the afflicted, the "Lady of the Lamp, " as she was nicknamed, consecrating with her goodness the dying soldier's couch. I have taken Lytton Strachey's picture of Florence Nightingale, because one suddenly recognizes the portrait of a hysteric.
2 He describes a hysteric, in so far as Florence's position before men consisted in putting them to work, right till her death.



* Lecture at the CFAR, London, June 8, 1988. back to top
1. Jacques-Alain Miller, unpublished Seminar, 1979. back up
2. Lacan, "Radiophonie," Silicet 2/3, Paris: Seuil, 1970. back up

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