Pascal, a Jansenist, said the authentic image of God is speech. It seems that the author of “The Function and Field of Speech and of Language in Psychoanalysis” is inscribed in this iconoclastic tradition. One can imagine that this fits with psychoanalysis inasmuch as, in the classic disposition of the analytic cure, one no longer sees the analyst as the God of the Jews. Hearing seems to have prevalence in the analytic practice as do writing and commentary on writing.
“Imaginary” is a disparaging word in our field and when one mentions the imaginary in debates it is to flee, to escape. The classic Lacan—there is a classic Lacan—is characterized by the affirmation that the imaginary is dominated by the symbolic. We can imagine that the text that opens the Écrits, “Seminar on The Purloined Letter,” is dedicated to illustrating the pre-eminence of the symbolic, its primordial and determining function for the subject. Naturally, from the first page, Lacan recognizes the importance of imaginary impregnations, but he associates the imaginary with inertia. In comparison to the power of the signifier, to the dynamism of the displacement of the symbols, imaginary factors appear as nothing more than shadows and reflections, and Edgar Allan Poe’s text is chosen as an illustration of the fact that the subject is determined by the route of a signifier. In such a way that Lacan first recalls just how essential it is in analytic theory not to confuse the symbolic and the imaginary. Essential in order to arrange the phenomena that are produced in experience and in clinical practice. That the symbolic is master; the imaginary, slave, is designed as a relationship that seems to be inscribed in the discourse of the master in which the symbolic is the master and the imaginary, the slave.
La Cause freudienne 69, Paris, 2008. Opening conference of the Third Annual Sessions "Images et regards," September 1994. Published in Images et regards, ed. EOL. Edited by Silvia Geller.