To resume again...

The Desire of Lacan

Femininity between Goodness and Act

A Case of Borgian Psychosis

Lacan's Purloined Linguistics

The Body's Organs and Cindy Sherman's Face

Comme des Garçons

Stepping into History

Interview with
Philip-Lorca diCorcia


The Desire of Lacan
and his complex relation to Freud


Jaques-Alain Miller
translated by Jorge Jauregui

There is a story on Freud that Lacan used to tell. It is a well known one though Lacan is often bypassed as its author. Jung allegedly reported it to Lacan; it deals with what Freud remarked to Jung on occasion of both of them arriving to the United States.

If Lacan never met with Freud he nevertheless got acquainted with Jung. You find the anecdote in The Freudian Thing...1: "Thus Freud's words to Jung-I have it from Jung's own mouth-when, on an invitation from Clark University, they arrived in New York harbor and caught their first glimpse of the famous statue illuminating the universe, 'They don't realize we're bringing them the plague,' are attributed to him as confirmation of a hubris whose antiphrasis and gloom do not extinguish their troubled brightness. To catch their author in its trap, Nemesis had only to take him at his word. We could be justified in fearing that Nemesis has added a first-class return ticket."

Here Lacan is interpreting Freud's word, a joke, when he says: "...they don't realize we're bringing them the plague." He tells us exactly why it's a joke. Normally we welcome the analyst as a therapist provided he/she brings along a method to cure-the psychoanalyst as a new curing method. Contrariwise, Freud's Witz posits the analyst as the one who hands over the disease, not the cure. Thus Lacan highlights the antiphrasis in the casual reference to disease instead of alluding to the cure, to its somberness, as if Jung and Freud were two fundamentalist terrorists sneaking into the United States. Again, the gloomy character of the Freudian Witz is emphasized in the way of a mandate, of light supposed to illuminate the world, if only because uttered in front of the Statue of Liberty. Freud precedes the diffusion of freedom's universal light and his unquiet Witz the dissemination relative to the disease.

This is what Lacan calls the disturbing, sinister shine in Freud's sentence, acting as if the guidelines came from his words. On the other hand, Lacan alludes to the United States as the carrier of the disease that will affect psychoanalysis. He says that Freud, who somehow believed in conquering the might of the great nation, got himself trapped in his own boldness by means of his joke.

Lacan's references are utterly precise: he uses words like hubris and Nemesis drawn from Greek tragedy and applied to the tragic hero. Like Freud, the mythical hero goes beyond the customary and by breaking the rules falls prey to hubris when he confidently defies the New World. The hubris and Nemesis strike back: the real victim of the challenge thrown at the Statue of Liberty and to all that it represents in the modern world is psychoanalysis itself, Freud's creature.



1. Lacan, Jacques, "The Freudian thing or the meaning of the return to Freud in psychoanalysis," in Écrits: A Selection, NY: Norton, 1977, p.116.

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