The Réveil (Awakening) from the Rêve (Dream) or th’Esp of a Rev
by Eric Laurent

April 13-17, Buenos Aires, AR

The congresses of the WAP are decisive moments for the realization of a community of work between schools, between psychoanalysts of various languages ​​and with diverse horizons: in a word, for making the School One exist. This School One, in its biennial meetings, tries to answer the question: “What’s new in psychoanalysis?” with regards to certain specific points in the practice of its members. This “What’s new in psychoanalysis?” is at once, each time, a way of effecting a Return to Freud and at the same time of affirming our heresy in relation to Freud. The Lacanian heresy has initiated a radical renewal of Freudian practice and this impetus must always be deepened. Each congress is heretical in a certain way. The last congress, “The Ordinary Psychoses and the Others, Under Transference,” had a theme that explicitly took its distance from the prohibitions set down by Freud on the handling of transference in psychoses, for example in the Outline of Psychoanalysis. Melanie Klein and her students had at first dared to go beyond the prohibition and shown that it was possible to found a psychoanalytic practice with psychotics. Lacan has constructed, on quite other bases, a “return to Freud” which also allows a possible treatment of the psychoses to be developed. During our last congress, we have explored how this approach includes the ordinary psychoses, a new category.

Our next congress is going to revisit something just as crucial as the transference. We are going to ask ourselves “what is new in the interpretation of the dream?”. In the excellent text presented to us by Fabian Naparstek and Silvia Baudini, the crucial question is posed from the outset, from the epigraph itself. Lacan proposes an anti-Freudian approach to the dream. “I have every right, like Freud, to share my dreams with you. Unlike Freud’s dreams, they are not inspired by the desire to sleep, it’s rather the desire to wake up that stirs me.”[1]

It is starting with the lesson of 13 February 1973 of the Seminar Encore that Lacan generalizes the idea that the dream must be approached as an instrument of awakening.[2] This supposes revising what Freud had called the pleasure principle, as limit and tempering of jouissance. That is what the Encore seminar is dedicated to in many ways. To say that the dream is an instrument of awakening also supposes a revision of what we call awakening. Freud took his point of departure from the opposition between sleep and awakening as a natural, quasi-biological opposition. We sleep, we wake up. His practice led him to consider the phenomena of waking up in the dream. It is on this basis that Lacan has subverted the evidence of the limit between waking and sleeping so as to awaken us, his readers, to something else. He has thus produced a series of sometimes contradictory statements, such as: “the unconscious is exactly the hypothesis that one does not dream only when one sleeps”;[3] “they […] awaken, in other words, they go on dreaming”;[4] “I re-enter just like everyone else into this dream that is called reality”;[5] “we never wake up”,[6] “absolute awakening is death.”[7] These statements clearly define an other side of the Freudian approach to the dream, one that is inscribed on the horizon of the “Other Lacan” that Jacques-Alain Miller had drawn out as early as the late ’70s.[8]

Each of these quotations deserves to be commented on for itself, one by one, each in its context. If we state them all at once, in the same signifying chain, we need a certain dialectical flexibility so as to be able to link them up and make them resonate in the right way. “The desire for awakening is a particular desire”; “we wake up so as to go on dreaming”; “we never wake up”; “absolute awakening is death”: the rapprochement is delicate but the set defines a new perspective. This new approach to awakening is consonant with Buddhist awakening. If we say of the Buddha, he who is usually represented as sleeping, that he is “awakened,” it is to say that he is absolutely liberated from desire. He knows that desire is only semblant.[9]

The awakening to which Lacan invites us makes the dream into an instrument of awakening. That is to say that it permits the articulation, in a new way, of desire and what is incompatible with it, jouissance. The dream becomes a new introduction to the opposition desire-jouissance. Jouissance, in this sense, is not the realization of desire. It is what cannot be articulated on the tracks of desire.

Thus, awakening is anything that is breach, alteration, damage of the homeostasis of the pleasure principle that guarantees life. Any absolute disturbance of life, in this sense, is death. Absolute awakening is death. Meanwhile, the little, partial awakenings awaken us in as much as they are breaches of the homeostasis. The pleasure principle is also the principle of meaning. Partial awakenings occur when the barrier of meaning is broken through. Can we conceive of the final awakening as a monstration of jouissance in some kind of a short circuit outside meaning? We will have to first go as far as the track of the Lacanian logic of the handling of meaning will take us. We must first make use of it in order to finally do without it. We will have to first decipher the dreams, we will have to traverse the orgies of the interpretation of meaning, to accompany the analysand, authorizing him to unplug all the possible associations to a dream, in order to finally come, in a second time, once meaning has been made use of and used well, to a point outside meaning.

We thus come, at the end of an analysis, as Marie-Hélène Brousse was able to show in the series of end-of-analysis dreams of the Analysts of the School, to the encounter with an outside-meaning in the dream. It is then that the dream becomes an instrument of awakening, when it shows a point where it cannot be said. Something stops not being written. It is not a question of a definitive inscription, as we have already noted for the names of jouissance which are unveiled at the end of analysis. The important thing is the event of emergence of this space outside meaning. It is th’esp of a rev. These signifiers separated from their meaning, these onomatopoeiae, respond to each other. The Kekkek of one joins up with the crac and the boum and the huh of the others. This is not an inscription in stone; rather, it comes to show, it shows. If you pay too much attention to it, it is effaced and no longer shows anything.

This it shows brings it closer to the logic of monstration according to Wittgenstein. Of course, for him, the problem is not jouissance and desire, but language, composed of everything that can be said, of the set of propositions and the world to which it refers. He maintains that language can only show the world. Language, from the point of view of logic, is ultimately a tautology. He happens to tell us that A = A. But what does A mean? It’s the other discourses, ethics, religion, art, that get around to showing it. Let us transpose Wittgenstein’s problem. How, with an instrument structured like a language, will we be able to show jouissance? There, that is our awakening.

We are going to gradually move towards this congress, towards this awakening. We will have to hold ourselves in suspense, for two years, to have the idea that we are advancing towards the opening that leads to the perspectives of Lacan’s last teaching, without forgetting the commentary on Irma’s injection of Seminar II. We have to eat the book sufficiently in order to comprehend what these shifts in perspective imply in the practice of dream interpretation. We have to show ourselves that we know how to make use of what Freud has left us, the Freudian fictions of sexual meaning, and the fiction of the Name-of-the-Father which has to be put to use. And if we measure the difficulty, the gap, the tension between the Freudian practice and the Lacanian practice opened by the last teaching, in any case the one to which Lacan tries to awaken us, then perhaps we may come to the congress even sufficiently ready to make, for a moment, a real community of work of the school One and respond together to the beautiful question which was raised, both in the text of Silvia Baudini as in what Marie-Hélène Brousse brought to us: “What’s new in the practice of dreams, 120 years later?”. The decisive rendezvous will be at the congress. In the meantime, we are going to say everything we can to prepare ourselves for the encounter.

January 2019




Translated from the French by Samya Seth.
Reviewed by Maria Cristina Aguirre


Jacques Lacan, “The Third,” trans. Philip Dravers, The Lacanian Review, no. 7 (Summer 2019): 100-101.
Jacques Lacan, Encore. On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX, 1972-1973,ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (New York/London: Norton, 1998), 56.
Jacques Lacan, le Séminaire, livre XXV, Le moment de conclure, Ornicar?, no.19 (1979): 5.
Jacques Lacan, Encore, op. cit., 56.
Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, Livre XXII, R.S.I., lesson of 11 February 1975, unpublished.
Jacques Lacan, “Improvisation: désir de mort, rêve et réveil,” l’Ane, no. 3 (1974): 3.
Jacques-Alain Miller, “Réveil,” Ornicar?, no. 20/21 (Summer 1980): 49-53.
Frank Rollier has attempted to present the set of these quotations in an article available online, “Puis-je espérer me réveiller un jour?”.