Curated by Alejandra Seeber

From Symptom to Fantasy and Back
Jacques-Alain Miller

Author’s Bio

translated by Ellie Ragland

Lesson 3, November 17, 1982

“Return to Lacan” is what several people in a hurry wanted to proclaim. They wanted to imitate Lacan in his relationship to Freud. That is not at all the slogan under which I imagined I was doing this course. The return to Freud, about which Lacan made his own slogan at the beginning of the ‘50s, responds to a completely different conjecture: first to reaffirm his connection to Freud at the moment when he found himself, he Lacan, outside the International Institution; it was to deny that he was a Freudian dissident; it was from the start to reaffirm his position of a true orthodox Freudianism. Moreover, on this point, one finds the same movement which led him in 1964 to baptize his School “Freudian” at the moment when this movement of rejection which had already appeared in 1953 was repeating itself.

Thus, this slogan of the “return to Freud” and the one that includes the very title of the Parisian School, had a scope that one can only call political in the psychoanalytical field. This return to Freud denounced the practice of formation which only went along with affirming itself in the societies attached to the International: a practice of formation which led to thinking that Freud found himself outclassed by the students along the thread of time and that it would be as useless to read him as it is, after all, useless for a practicing mathematician to read him. I would say that what concerns his practice as a mathematician was to read the authors where a certain symbol emerged, some axiom or some theorem. This is the doctrine that is always valid for the orthodox ones on our side, the side which is for him (if one will admit some genius for the first students and for Freud himself, it is no longer the hour for that) one is now trying to get the hang of what concerns psychoanalysis. At the same time, the field is now marked out and one can visit its former works, perhaps as some kind of ruins, ancient ruins. This means that Lacan has seen this occasion, this movement, begin and that he denounces those reading Fenichel rather than Freud. This temptation has not stopped growing in the very moment, moreover, when the only concepts admitted, finally, remained Freudian, came from Freud. But at the base of Freud’s work Lacan has not made an object of the type of reading he has inaugurated. This would truly be an abuse on our part, and a mimicry of imagining ourselves as having taken place in a return to Lacan in a conjuncture which has nothing comparable in our area. What concerns us is no longer what Lacan has “truly said,” to use the formula. One must attest to the fact that more often one has used the teaching of Lacan as it is collected in the Écrits or the Seminars, as a meat cooler. I mean the place where when one opens the door, one will find enough to sustain some exposes, some lectures, or seminars; one opens and one serves oneself with what one finds, and then one serves it back to the public, which wishes, indeed, to follow it. What concerns us is no longer that Lacan would have always said the same thing. It is basically on this idea that the usage of a meat freezer stands, that at some point one takes Lacan’s teaching, when all is said and done, as if everything were contemporary. That is based on the illusion that I have denounced regarding Lacan, that he knew it already…that he already knew where he was going to end up. Basically, his teaching is completely orientable. Subject Supposed to Know, according to Lacan and, at the bottom, in a simple remark, he contradicts himself—which is evident for an attentive reader—the simple remark in which he contradicts himself could distance us already from this illusion that I am exposing.

I believe, then, that the point of view which we reach, and use Lacan’s teaching here is a point of view, is in accordance with the fact that this teaching is wrought by a difficulty, let us say, even, a contradiction, and why not? It is also constantly worked on by a failure. It is what brings it to this indefinite renewal—weekly, for a long time—which from a certain aspect can resemble a flight forward. I mean, of course, he solves this difficulty, but in making a solution he also takes it up to another level; in this way he recognizes this difficulty as always better, and also revives what Lacan himself called the advance of his teaching. This is, indeed, my point of view here, to consider this advance as a relaunching of a fundamental difficulty which is not Lacan’s difficulty, but which is what I think of as the difficulty of psychoanalysis. What he revives in this way is the same thing as psychoanalysis itself.

In this regard, the conflict which one has made the center of the discussion of Lacan’s teaching, this conflict over the matheme and of what would not be a matheme, from the matheme to the patheme, this conflict appears completely secondary to what is in question here. I believe that to situate this difficulty which launches itself again and again in Lacan’s teaching—and I have no greater ambition than to solve definitively, on the contrary, whether I call this course from the “symptom to the fantasy,” or something else—it is to exploit this difficulty, even to make it worth something in the practice of psychoanalysis.

To take a perspective on this difficulty, it must be understood that to start off from this unconscious structured like a language, and also to follow what has been, for example, the very first moments of Lacan’s seminar, one finds at the base that the unconscious is structured like a language. That has given the idea to Lacanians that the point of view of Dr. Lacan on psychoanalysis was a unitary point of view, unitary and ruled by this axiom. They concluded from it that everything that surged forth in the field of analytic experience must be structured like a language. It is that which nourished the illusion of which I was speaking about the “return to Freud.” Now, if you follow with a little bit of attention these beginnings of Dr. Lacan, you will perceive that, all the same, this unconscious structured like a language realizes essentially the first Freudian discovery, which is effectively that of the unconscious and which witness, I have recalled it already, the three inaugural works that Lacan calls upon regularly in support of this thesis, the three works “The Interpretation of Dreams,” “Psychopathology…,” and “Humor…”.  One sees that many of Lacan’s students have remained strictly at this moment of Lacanian invention, regarding Freud’s discovery. The beginning of Lacan’s teaching is to give value to that, especially starting with the five psychoanalyses of Freud and at the beginning the Rat Man and Dora, before the period when the seminar was registered as official. Starting from there, what were the first questions Lacan asked in his first seminars?

The first question, let us say, has been what doctrine of the treatment to deduce from the unconscious structured like a language? And, especially, what theory of the transference would one deduce from the unconscious structured like a language? It is the object of his Seminar I on the technical writings of Freud, which is published now. There, evidently, he entered  into a certain contingency, I mean the demand which had been made of him by Henry Ey to do a chapter for a medical encyclopedia, which is found inscribed in the Écrits under the title of “Variantes de la cure-type” (“Variations on the Standard Treatment,” Fink’s translation of the Écrits). It is a work asked for by Henry Ey, of whom one can imagine that he was not indifferent regarding Lacan’s choice of theme for the year [Cf., Seminar I).

In Seminar I you have precisely (it is a seminar which should be read on the basis of this Écrit) the materials that Lacan carried along to write this text. At the same time, it is taken from, studied from, some Écrits by Freud which are found in a median position in his works—after which Lacan’s accent was basically put on this inaugural discovery of Freud. In his first seminar, Lacan is concerned with the median part of Freud’s work. In Seminar II, if we orient the chronology of his seminars in relation to a Freudian chronology, Lacan swerves beyond this median part of Freud’s work in so far as the text he relies on this year is “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” It is already a bold step for Lacan to treat the question of the ego in psychoanalysis on the basis of “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” and not on the basis of the ego and the id. As I recalled to you the last time, that consists in stressing that this period of Freud’s reflection is commanded by “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” It is the text that is necessary in order to resituate the second Freudian topic in its place.

That being said, the first treatment of “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” has some completely remarkable traits for what concerns us this year concerning the symptom to the fantasy: Lacan’s interpretation of “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” is made, strictly starting with the signifier. Of course his effort to reinscribe the death drive, a concept barred by both Freudians and Post-Freudians, a concept they consider as not susceptible of integration into Freud’s work, it is, nonetheless, on this concept that the slogan “return to Freud” seems to justify itself all the more. What seemed, rather, to be the very prerogative of the Kleinians, was preserving the death drive. The Freudians themselves were chained to unremitting combat over this concept which was considered as  a truly wild imagining of Freud’s. You know that Jones himself, who wished to be especially faithful to the letter of Freud, lowered his arms before this death drive which appeared completely contradictory to their themes.

Lacan did his best, even beyond that, to realize, to reintroduce the death drive into the concepts of psychoanalysis, but he reintroduces the death drive strictly (go see the texts) starting with the signifying chain. Basically, this aspect has dominated the reading of Lacan and one must say that he has put his own originality there, put himself in this perspective, so that this perspective wins. It is noticeable in the fact that Lacan’s Écrit which is taken up again, which gives form to and pursues the effort to reflect on Seminar II, is the Écrit on “The Purloined Letter.” In spite of the chronology, Lacan placed it at the beginning of the volume of his Écrits.

One finds there  certain contingent elements; I do not know the part that played in his decision. I remember that at the epoch when he was putting together his volume of the Écrits, I communicated to him the idea that perhaps it would be a little hard to begin the volume by following chronology strictly, and that he ought to find a text to put at the beginning that was outside chronology. He asked me what  I thought and I said to him, for reasons that I understand now, “The Purloined Letter.”  He responded to me that it was exactly what he thought. The result is that I am still uncertain about the part I played, since that could basically be a coincidence. Having said that, I mean to temper a bit the exaltation that there is, precisely in the fact of making of this text the key text of Lacan’s work. It is what someone has tried who was one of my philosophy professors, by taking up and analyzing this text of Lacan’s as if it gave the key to all his teaching, thinking perhaps that a more profound reading of Edgar Poe’s story would give a completely essential perspective to the practice of psychoanalysis—which I doubt. It is necessary to give priority to this place. This being said, it is obvious that one read Seminar I with “Variations on the Standard Treatment.” …Seminar I  with the Écrit destined for what?– just as one would read Seminar II with the Écrit on “The Purloined Letter.” Now what is the destiny of this Écrit?

It is especially designated to valorize what Lacan did not hesitate to call the autonomy of the symbolic. He even begins by celebrating the profundity with which the grasp of the symbolic takes over the human being. It is an obviously famous beginning since one knows that people feel difficulties in reading the Écrits, but finally, generally speaking, on p. 11, especially, there are several blank pages before that, in fact on p. 3 of the text, they are still on this page, and it is famous for this reason: this sentence—“One can grasp the symbolic taking over by certain biases of the imaginary that succeed in practicing themselves up to the most intimate part of the human organism.”

That receives a very precise meaning which could be considered  as a sentence for all Lacanian occasions. That says, precisely, that nothing outside the imaginary resists the power of the symbol. That says, especially concerning Freud’s work, that the automatism of repetition all the way through itself is a signifying effect.

If you reread the addition Lacan made to this seminar on “The Purloined Letter,” this introduction where he rejected it in the post-face of this Écrit, that is exactly what he says: “Freud’s automatism of repetition responds, he says, to certain clinical paradoxes”; but that is not an addition. (It is against the post-Freudians who wanted to remove that from the Freudian concept.) It is not just an addition. It is, on the contrary, an essential element; sometimes Freud perceives that the analytic experience is governed in some way—beyond life. Basically, if life is ruled by the pleasure principle, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” effectively opens up onto a beyond life. But what is the beyond life of which it is a question? The beyond life is strictly the signifying chain. The chain by the fact that  it is taken into the signifying dyad, into the signifying pair. And, thus, one has retained the fort-da as the illustration itself of the Freudian text, of this signifying text which responds to what one can call an axiom: that one signifier does not go without another, that the minimum of the signifier is 2, in the Borromean space, in the field of Borromean reflection, the minimum is 3. It is a small short cut that I am giving there, but which enables us to see in what way Lacan found a structure also which exceeds precisely what one obtains starting with the signifier. Starting with the signifier, one finds a minimum of 2, and in this case a signifier all alone is a paradox which does not mean that it cannot be thought; moreover, one is forced into the analytic experience with the position of the phallus as quite precisely a signifier without a pair. But, finally, it takes on its value of paradox exactly because it is thought of as starting with the signifier of which the minimum is 2. This shows the importance of the cut in Lacan’s teaching, starting with the moment where the minimum of 3 rules reflection.

Here, the fort-da has the same value, if you wish, of the paradigm that it has at the beginning for Lacan of the Borromean knot. It is the power of the signifying pair. The object within there is valuable, rather, as annulled,  as subservient to the signifier. If one can give it a status of before its being caught up by the symbolic, let us say, a natural status, it does not become “human” since Lacan uses  this adjective on this occasion —“it only  becomes human by the movement which annihilates (it is Lacan’s text itself) its natural property.” In this regard, Lacan uses the expression of the point zero of desire. The expression that he gives himself as imaged, indicates that desire is beyond, that desire in the status that it always had for Lacan as profoundly without an object (which will develop metonymy, the metonymic status that Lacan will invent for it later). Basically, this status of desire is given by the signifying annulations of the object of which the fort-da is obliged to be the paradigm.

If we read that from the point of view we have now, we will perceive that this text has no name, has been considered as banal, has become banal in Lacan’s teaching. That says something very precise about what Lacan is going to have to refute in what follows: that means that the profound status of the object in psychoanalysis is to be a serf of the signifier.

Basically, the object in the fort-da is analyzed as an object that only takes on its value as symbolized. There is no other status of the object than that one. You remark upon it still, even if you read Lacan’s Écrit on “The Agency of the Letter,” there is a sentence which can become completely banal, where Lacan renders his reading of Freud’s “Three Essays On the Theory of Sexuality.” It is a text one can raise to the rank of one of Freud’s great texts in the measure that one makes of it, as we see now, a text consecrated precisely to Freud’s second discovery, that of the object which is not reducible: it is not reducible to the unconscious, that is, not reducible to the structure of the formations of the unconscious. When Lacan talks about it in those years, what does he say about the “Three Essays?” He says, I summarize—“The Three Essays” demonstrate that “every access to the object derive from a dialectic of the return.” When one reads that, I am talking for myself, I read it like that a long time ago without any problem. That certainly makes an illusion to the fact that for Freud the object is a profoundly lost object and, then, that one can accede to the object only by starting with the return of the object and not of its first donation. Even though the word “dialectic” seems to be simply from Lacan’s vocabulary at that epoch, that is not at all the case. It is even the essential word of this sentence that you will find on p. 519 of his Écrits (in “The Agency of the Letter”). It is a word that is completely essential since it consumes precisely the fact that the object is strictly integrated in this signifying logic that Lacan baptized as “dialectical” at the epoch. There is no autonomy, let us talk about it in this regard, there is no autonomy of the logic of the object, there is even less logic of the fantasy, of course. That implies precisely that the only autonomy there is is symbolic autonomy.

What, in this first Lacan, comes to contradict his insistence on a signifying supremacy? Effectively, a function of inertia; but this function is brought back strictly, and as inessential, to the imaginary. It is at the base of Lacan’s schema, the one which is also known now and which you know as opposing two axes, the one which brings the Subject to the Other and the second axis which links the ego to the small other, in an imaginary couple (Écrits, p. 53).

In this way that the Écrits begin, given that the text that has been placed at the beginning begins by the insistence of the signifying chain which is found to be interfered with by the specular relation, the relation to the mirror, the rapport of the two small others that are the ego and the image of the other, but at the base of which the essential thing is to see that, for Lacan, this interference is inessential. It is what is said absolutely and put at the forefront of the Écrits: “We know the importance of imaginary impregnations in the partializations of the symbolic alternative (symbolic alternative of which the fort-da gives us the example) which gives its allure to the signifying chain. But we suggest that (it is the law appropriate law for this chain); the fort-da rules the psychoanalytic determinative. Put another way, if you want, insistence is put on the first plane and inertia is basically not even an effect for the subject.” It is situated as making a couple with insistence. Lacan says “the imaginary factors, despite their inertia, only make a figure there of shadows and reflections.” I will say that that could, however—“insistence” and “inertia”—be something which, on the contrary, travels in a completely unexpected way up to this date in Lacan’s teaching. This inertia is especially the way in which we oppose the function of the fantasy in the insistence of the symptom. At the base, to qualify the imaginary concerns an approximation about which one can say that at the moment when Lacan will get rid of it, that will truly open up the second part of his teaching; when he will recognize in this inertia, not simply the inertia of the imaginary factor, but a completely essential determination.

What one can also note is that from the beginning, even if that only breaks his nose (? Poindre le nez?), the structure of the analytic experience is determined by Alcan as based on an opposition; that there be an axis which is the symbolic one, and that there be another axis which is not at all harmonious with the first, but which, on the contrary, traverses it, interferes with it, which is the so-called imaginary axis. One must already retain that it is a structure with two dimensions. We could reutilize this type of schema when we oppose the fantasy to the symptom, although that would not be articulated, of course, with the same terms at the end of the vectors. We also give value in our way, starting with Lacan, of course, to the opposition of the axis of the symptom and to that of the fantasy.

Thus, inertia and insistence are a couple, evidently completely different from what Lacan gave as a value in his Seminar II, where it is a question of homeostasis and repetition, a homeostasis supposed to be what aims at the pleasure principle, to which repetition as a function of insistence is opposed. In the repetition it is a question for us of what is valued, as contrary (valued beginning with an ulterior Lacan) to what Lacan says at this date; namely, that insistence is not the essential part of the repetition, but of inertia as well and inertia is not to be linked to an imaginary homeostasis, but  is, on the contrary, there to reverse things, the essential one being what is in question in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.”

One must see that this elementary schematism between signifying insistence and imaginary inertia is not gone beyond in Lacan’s SeminarIII. Besides, when Lacan presents his schema, he has already done his Seminar III and he says that it is “this dialectic of intersubjectivity (implied in this schema) about which we have demonstrated the necessary usage through the three years of our seminar spent at St. Anne (that is to say, since the theory of transference  is in question in Seminar I), up to the structure of paranoia.” It is, let us say, under this authority that Lacan takes up his Seminar III—the structure of paranoia. Now for the whole of these three seminars, he gives us, and after the fact, this valuable opposition of signifying insistence and imaginary inertia. In this regard, if you wish, one understands (that is not a headshake?/coup de tete) why in Seminar IV, taken as the fourth seminar, Lacan has approached “the object relation.” Basically what we have there, I shall say even that one also understands, following this, why the title of his fifth seminar is “Formations of the Unconscious.” I mean that one perceives that it is a question for him of adjusting as closely as possible what arises from the signifying chain which is something quite different from the imaginary in the inertia that shows up in the analytic experience. I would even say, retrospectively, that qualifying inertia as an imaginary factor in the analytic treatment has a completely unfortunate theoretical effect and to which Lacan will only return a long time after. That has the effect of stopping us from giving the least function to primordial masochism. You will perceive that the place which is assigned there to this imaginary inertia is the one which, later, when Lacan will have taken up Freud’s “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” again, is the same place in which it will be necessary for him to inscribe the inertia of jouissance.

Now, let us take up once more the fort-da. Of course, there is a signifying insistence which is almost on the first plane. But what can one say about this object which is woven into the signifying insistence, this little bobbin reel of the child.

If we say that its natural property is annulled, we could transcribe that by saying that its value is before anything else one of exchange and not of usage. Effectively there is a circulation of this reel (in this story) since the reel returns to the child. That means that even if one does not see it, and for a good reason, one part plays with the other, it plays with the maternal other. It is what Freud adds in his text; he is not content with just observing this little child, he brings his game back to the absence of his mother. That does not prevent, precisely to the contrary, that it be with this absence that the child plays: he plays with an Other, especially with a small variation that one could make on this story. Freud did not try, doubtlessly, he held himself at a distance from this experimentation on man, even on the small child. But you can imagine to yourselves what would happen if, in the middle of this game, you took the bobbin and put it in your pocket. I mean, there is something essential there in that the other is completely up to the measure of the child and that, effectively, in this regard, the other is mastered, if one can identify with the bobbin itself, on this occasion; with this other as object.

Then this bobbin has a usage for this subject. That does not mean that it is useful to him, but that it is of a utility to him that is beyond the utilitarian. Basically he has a usage of jouissance with this bobbin. One can only say that. This bobbin permits this subject in this instance to organize his position in the Other, in the breast of the Other. It is obviously a game, but what does one mean when one says that it is a game?

To say that it is a game is to imply that the bobbin is at the disposition of the subject in question, even if he has invented this bobbin reel fort-da as a game. This game is made on the basis of his loss of his mother as primordial object. That is to say that is made on the basis of a certain lack of jouissance. In this place the bobbin game permits the subject to give himself pleasure, to make pleasure in a moment of distress in relation to this jouissance. It suffices for that that one perceive what? That this game of the bobbin, let us say, is a montage, and which is, of course, scanned by the signifier. This game is analogous to a fantasy; it is, without a doubt, a sentence that has a minimum of the sentence which is the signifying opposition. But its essential property is to permit the subject to orient himself in his relation to the Other, and by a rapport to a desire of the Other which is completely characterized by the absence of the mother. This suffices to impose the dimension of desire of the mother which Lacan will take up elsewhere. It is very true that in his too often repeated formula of the paternal metaphor in his text on the psychoses, precisely in its formula when he writes “desire of the mother,” it is at the place first symbolized by the absence of the mother, that is to say that which he calls “elsewhere” is the mother. This appeal to an “elsewhere” suffices to install the phallic mirage as the reason for its absence, a mirage which will only find its consistency, in Lacan’s sense, with the introduction of the Name of the Father.

What does the fort-da present to us? The manner in which the little child arranges himself with the desire of the Other. He arranges himself with the Other’s desire thanks to a small montage about which the derisory “elsewhere” yields nothing to the derisory part of all the fantasies which pass to the act. When Lacan marks the derision of masochistic practice, for example, derision of this montage, it is to put it into a series with what the game of the bobbin is. It is also with an object which is at the disposition of the subject, to succeed in making pleasure where anxiety is sustained by the desire of the Other. At base, this example appears already sufficient to indicate according to what terms Lacan will later use the expression, “at least one foot of the fantasy is in the Other.” Obviously that is not seen in the game; there one finds what Freud introduces in his analysis. He introduces the mother, to be precise. It is this rapport to the mother which is not visible and for a reason; this relation to the mother is essential to what this montage holds.

The nature of this consideration is, it seems to me, to wake up a little the idea that one can create oneself by the child’s game and by the beneficent effects that one expects from it, which would end up as a paradise of children’s games; so to speak, this would be a transitional space, for example. Winnicott’s consideration on this point is sympathetic, his trying to determine a space between the ego and the non ego; this conception is very Sartrian. It is why Monsieur Pontalis accords so much interest to Winnicott. Evidently, he has the idea of a mixed fix between the en-soi and the pour-soi, a space sufficiently supple where there is enough lack so that creativity would be possible: a mixed space of some sort. What seems to me to be a flaw in this consideration is that one cannot consider the playful as such, one cannot make an absolute of the game. An absolute is what one cannot detach from the Other, the game. Even the child who seems to play all alone, he plays, indeed, with the Other; even when it is in the absence of the other, let us say the real instance is there; then one perceives, of course, that the presence of the Other of the signifier is necessary to him, but it suffices that it come from that place insofar as it is very well symbolized by the absence of the other.

What this small child, whose future one knows, demonstrates, I mean a small child who has succeeded in having a certain sufficiency in relation to the anxiety sustained by the mother’s absence, is that he has achieved a remarkable sufficiency. I mean he has succeeded in this, he shows us the way in which he dominates (let us see this term, why not, since it is at his disposition), he dominates his distress whose conceptual importance for Freud you know in the following parts of his work. This game is exactly what permits him, when his mother has left and he can do nothing about it, I mean that in this situation he is dependent (in the sense that effectively he is a kind of marionette) thanks to this game he makes of himself, and it is the definition that Lacan gives to the fantasy, the director who permits him to annihilate, to obliterate the fact, if it be only that of the marionette of the signifier. For those who have this definition of Lacan’s in their ears which is found in “The Direction of the Treatment,” the fantasy signifies that “language permits the subject to consider himself as the machinist, so to speak, the director of the whole imaginary capture of which he will be nothing other than the living marionette.” Let us leave to one side this imaginary capture about which I have already let it be heard that that moves. Close to this word, it is obvious that the game is precisely what permits this subject to consider himself (the game of the bobbin) as the machinist, namely, the director of which he is only the living marionette. One has the witness of this in the text of Freud himself that it is a question there for the subject of surmounting a certain letting fall of oneself. One has the witness of that in a note that Freud links to a subsequent observation: “One day the child’s mother had left for several hours, and on her return, the child welcomed her with the words ‘baby-roo.’” Which was incomprehensible at the beginning, but it turns out that nevertheless during this long period of solitude, the child had found a method to make himself disappear. He had discovered his reflection, his image in a mirror, a big mirror, which did not even touch the ground, in such a fashion that by lying on the ground, he could make his image in the mirror disappear. One finds another reference to this story; Strachey signals it in his Interpretation of Dreams.

In this regard, we have a montage which permits the subject to surmount his own disappearance, his own fall in relation to the Other. That shows us that what one expects in fact from the therapeutic game, is definitively that one expects the fantasy itself to be therapeutic.

Here the question of the psychotic fantasy is opened up, obviously, in a short circuit, and one wonders about the place where one ought to situate it. It is not something, for fundamental reasons, that one puts on the first plane and it is true that one does not necessarily find oneself in fantamatization… It would, however, not be impossible to situate the psychotic fantasy, and one could do it particularly by taking Schreber’s writings as a guide. That starts by the fantasy: I mean an emergence that one can qualify as fantasmatic connotes his entrance into psychosis, the “it would be beautiful to be a woman in the act of undergoing intercourse.” You know that this idea came to him the evening of the day when he took up his functions at the Senate of the President of the Leipzig court.

“How beautiful it would be…” is indisputably a fantasy which has the same value of being a precursor to what we will find at the end of his observation, namely the real perspective that he has definitively undergone this intercourse with God. When that emerges as an idea, he says at some point that it had been surprising for him, that he had not maintained that idea before and that it appeared to him as very surprising for a future with the title of President of an appeal court at Leipzig. Thus, he had not completely lost his moral sense in the place of this fantasy. We know that fantasies do not make one lose one’s moral sense, I mean a connotation of shame over a fantasy is not at all an argument against this characterization. One can say that this fantasy gives him pleasure, at least there is this note implied by the “beautiful”: if we follow Kant on this idea that the beautiful gives pleasure. The problem lies in what follows, which he will feel in the suffering of jouissance, which completely overflows this frame. I mean that afterwards it is, on the contrary, an invasion of jouissance. We are seeing an invasion of jouissance. If one considers it as the realization of a fantasy, it does not become bountiful in this sense.

There, as well, one perceives that the fantasy as such, and it is coherent I must say with the same approach made by Freud to this question, and it is precisely what Lacan said in the Sadian paradigm—that the fantasy is essentially a tempering of jouissance. It is a limit brought to jouissance. That is precisely what Lacan says when he suggests that, given that desire is supported in the fantasy by certain limits, limits which Lacan called in other places that which protects “the thing,” the neighborhood of “the thing” insofar as it is distinct from the object. The term “neighborhood of the thing” is used by Lacan in his text on Kant. It is a very pretty term since that makes allusion, on the one hand, to the manner in which one called the lady in courtly love the beautiful neighbor (it is one of the terms of appeal of the lady); on the other hand, this neighborhood has a topological accent. Passing beyond certain limits in the neighborhood of the thing, the fantasy is precisely a failure. Lacan’s thesis regarding this is not an exaltation of the fantasy. Of course we try to approach a certain beyond the symptom in what we call fantasy. We consider even that this beyond the symptom, that is, this beyond the therapeutic, is necessary to situate the analytic experience and clinically that means the fantasy. Let us note that Lacan’s “didactic” problem is based on the fantasy and not on the symptom. It is on this remark which makes good sense that I have started in the past.

That does not mean that the fantasy is the final word of what is in question, on the contrary, since the experience Lacan calls the pass requires traversing it, namely, in a certain beyond the fantasy.

Why a beyond the fantasy? That completes “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” The fantasy brings jouissance to the pleasure principle and that is why Freud introduces it by the day dream, leading to masturbation: a montage, starting with the signifier, doubtlessly, which permits the subject to withdraw some pleasure regarding a point which profoundly exceeds it. It is what we will see when we take up “the child is being beaten.” In itself the fantasy is what mops up jouissance, and not in just any way, but dabs at an exacerbation of this jouissance.

This pass, there is at least someone that Lacan attests has made it, at least made a traversal of the fantasy he says that Sade gave us. He did not present this fantasy in his work, of course. Basically, in his work he comments on his fantasy, he puts it on the stage, he multiplies it, and at the same time he gives us a schema. “It is in his life,” Lacan said, “that Sade passed beyond his fantasy”; he adds “that is what permits him to give us a reading of his fantasy in his work,” which is coherent with his idea that Sade, definitively, was not the dupe of his fantasy. He was not the dupe of his fantasy and he tried very little to literally realize his fantasy. We do not mean, then, that he dedicated himself to realizing his fantasy. On the contrary his life obeys a comparable structure, but he himself is in another place than his fantasy. It is all the more remarkable that in his life, he is in no way at all an executioner. He is in the place of the victim. Sade has some partisans, who are not the sadists, but some sadists: there are some sadists, some people who dedicate themselves to Sade’s work, to writing about his life, who reunite to honor the memory of the Marquis de Sade. It is clear that they are embarrassed since they present him to us as a great humanist; in any case, they show that they are reserving their aggressivity for Robespierre, Saint-Just, finally for all terrifying people. They consider that regarding them, Sade was a lamb. One always has a little discomfort because they do not succeed in making Sade be considered as a great humanist, great defender of the Rights of Man, that he is, however: they do not succeed because basically one is caught in this between two, of his position in fantasy and his position in life. It is a logical guide that Lacan offered these Sadists. Finally, one must say, they have their ears closed. He offered them an orientation of structure which would have permitted them to arrange somewhat their relationships with Sade himself.

One finds again this mopping up of the fantasy at the exit of Schreber’s itinerary. This reconstitution of the fantasy, at base, I would say, finds what Freud’s little nephew [with the Fort! Da! of the bobbin reel] attained at the beginning, I mean a certain putting into place of his letting something fall, since the “let it fall” is a term that Schreber uses in his Memoirs, and that Lacan took to a truly essential place in structure. Schreber, he concludes, did this by what Lacan called in his first epoch “a restoration of imaginary structure.” But we know now that in what Lacan calls imaginary, if we can read it as is appropriate, one must practice a little change on the term of imaginary.

“A restoration of the imaginary structure” is characterized by what? It is characterized—it is what Freud stressed and Lacan after him—by a transexualist practice: Schreber decorated as a woman admires himself in the mirror, stating, and we agree with his opinion, that nothing distinguishes him from a beautiful woman when he admires himself. A transexualist practice, and at the same time he develops in his body an air of feminine voluptuousness.

What is this voluptuousness? This voluptuousness about which one knows that at certain moments it engulfs all of Schreber like a powerful wave is precisely what we can give as this formula: what he calls feminine voluptuousness. It is jouissance as brought to pleasure, even though he has felt it in the entire course of his history as suffering. A jouissance that also attains itself in the mirror, starting with the feeling in his body that one can call “narcissistic jouissance.” It is the term that Lacan uses, “the narcissistic jouissance of Schreber,” but that we have to take to an essential function starting with the following part of Lacan’s teaching, that is, that the stabilization of the delirious metaphor which characterizes his exit (the exit where we are, finally not where we remain in regard to Schreber’s text) from his problem. It is also characterized by a stabilization of the fantasy, I mean precisely by a mopping up of this jouissance about which he is witness to us. In the course of his history, it engulfed him entirely. The second element where I would restore this imaginary structure is this perspective of divine copulation where the “how beautiful it would be to be a woman in the act of undergoing intercourse” gives birth to a perspective of sustaining intercourse with God insofar as he is the only woman in the world. It is indisputably a fantasy. I believe that on the page where it is a question of that, the word Lacan pronounces is “Schreber’s fantasy” (p. 570). He characterizes the Schreberian fantasy by the absence of mediation which is to say (it is what Freud had already noted) that it is only by a movement as asymptomatic as this unique feminine creature and by divinity that they will find themselves co-joined. In this regard the mediation has a flaw: there are no other mediations except the infinite right which gives an asymptomatic rapport. In this regard, the absence of mediation is owed to the absence of an Other which would pacify the relationship. But one can say that, as such, it attests to this absence of mediation in the measure—let us take a short cut—where any fantasy attests to the fact that there is no sexual rapport and that it is at the place of this “there is no sexual rapport” that the fantasy emerges. We have the schema itself that Lacan proposes to us as the structure of the subject at the term of the psychotic instance. We can consider this schema as that of the fantasy that comes to the place where “there is no sexual rapport.” Basically, it is the story of a “let it fall” where the subject, this time, returns to the “there” (Da!) and this “there” of his presence, his Dasein, metamorphosizes him into a woman. It is certain that we can oppose Lacan’s schema R in the same manner as we oppose the structure of the fort-da on the condition that we situate the inertia of the jouissance in relation to the signifying proceedings, that we oppose the schema of the fort-da to this terminal schema of Lacan’s where there is not simply signifying stability, but also fantasmatic stability.

This having been said, I do not think (I shall rethink it), but for the moment I do not think that there would be a place for a plane of the psychotic fantasy, I mean that I think that this has its place precisely at the initial and terminal points of the process and I do not have the feeling that this would be a great help in the consideration of the process, if you wish. Now I see the gain that one would achieve in Lacan’s teaching starting with a construction like the one that opposes the symptom and the fantasy (this word “the fantasy” lost on p. 570 that obviously I have read numerous times and without paying the least attention to it and which, in the problematic of this year can, on the contrary, appear completely remarkable…).

This introduction, this rapid rereading of the fort-da, shows us how everything that banalizes what makes up the extraordinary writing of the fantasy by Lacan–$ & a–indicates quite precisely in Lacan’s schemas the imaginary pertinence of the texts.

It is remarkable because basically, up to this writing, in the whole part of the reflection which precedes it, and exactly at the level where he constructs this schematism that has remained famous, what is there about the fantasy in Lacan? for Lacan? Basically, has he made anything out of the fantasy?

First, one must pick up that he reduces it to a fantasmatization. In the text itself where he introduces this schema, he does not go beyond that, despite all the fantasmatization given play by analytic experience. Said otherwise, the term of fantasmatization is just characterized, rather, as an imaginative “activity,” stressing the imaginary efflorescence revealed by the wanderings of the subject in the analytic experience. It is there, I believe, that one finds all the fantamatization. He gives this fantasmatization, always situated on this a’—a axis which will become later i (a) . m, he gives it as completely included in the relation to the other, the specular relation; even beyond being included, it is subordinated to the specular relation. Put another way, he gives us at the moment when he introduces this autonomy of the signifier as reduction of the fantasy as being only a fantasmatization subordinated to the phenomena that come from the mirror stage.

I will say, moreover, that it gives this extraordinary optimism to Lacan’s text of that epoch. There is an optimism founded theoretically on a psychoanalytic optimism based on symbolic autonomy; I would say—on  belief (one is almost afraid to say this word, even for the first Lacan), an almost naive belief in the powers of the word (parole) to deliver the word (mot) the subject will recognize and will see there how to recognize his desire.

From then on we can say something very simple about the fantasy at the beginning of Lacan’s teaching; it is that fantasies are strictly correlative for him with the imaginary. They are, then, always reducible, definitively, to this a—a’. It is still the conception he has when he is concerned with Schreber. Basically, he has this conception which means that even if he puts jouissance into play in the matter, he only puts it into play as narcissistic, that is to say, situated on this axis. All his work, basically, and it is there that we will pick up his thread again, all Lacan’s work  during his time of liberating jouissance concerns this axis a—a’. Besides, it carried with it, the imaginary terms where he situated it.

Everything that is remarkable about Lacan’s writing leaves us with the fantasy. That inscribes the fantasy, not as an ego fantasy, but as a fantasy of the subject. And the fantasy concerns the subject as subject of the signifier. It is a great novelty, that is not clearly evident at all, and we must follow in our experience what can justify it.

Obviously the subject is inscribed in the nothing as no more than a writing in the fantasy. You will distinguish that it is the difference from this subject which figures in this schema. It is in order that Lacan  become able to relate the fantasy to the subject that it has first been necessary that the subject be barred. The fantasy,  at base,  is not articulable to the subject of the recognition of desire. The fantasy is not utterable to the subject of the word, because the subject of the word, in this sense, is a full subject, a subject which accomplishes itself integrally in nomination:  It is a subject who is satisfied with finding his name. That is the paradigm that Lacan had taken, the “you are my wife” that I say to the other to be heard by the Other to say what I am. There one has quite precisely the function of mediation: by the intermediary of the Other, the name that I am returns to me. When Lacan says that Schreber’s fantasy, in its final form, attests to an absence of mediation, this means precisely that an absence of mediation attests to  this absence of a return coming from the Other since in this regard, he remains well separated from it; there is no recognition there, in the Schreberian fantasy. At the basis of the subject of the word (parole), not the subject of language, the subject of the word (parole) as recognition is harmonious with nomination.

It is only starting from the moment when one puts forth the recognition of desire as a contradiction in terms (it is what I explained last year, I showed you the precise moment when Lacan makes this discovery, at least in the Ecrits, the moment when he himself can no longer attest to it, can no longer write  it—the recognition of desire; that is to say it is when all the Hegelian residues fall away), it is only at this moment when a hole is installed in the heart of the subject himself, that it becomes possible to install the imaginary in this heart of the function of the subject. Lacan’s  writing attests to that.

It is surely a paradox since what is the effect of discovering that the subject of the signifier is a barred subject? That has especially the effect of rendering us sensitive to everything which, from the subject of desire, only makes us glide into the signifier (it is what I called the distracted aspect of the psychoanalysis of which one has the witness in the three inaugural works of Freud). It is precisely because in barring the subject, Lacan accentuates the gliding of the subject in the signifying chain that the accent finds itself borne in a completely new fashion on inertia, the new inertia which finds its writing there and which is that of the fantasy. Fantasmatic inertia whose paradox, I repeat it, fantasmatic inertia whose paradox is all the more accentuated in that Lacan now operates with an emptied subject, with the subject emptied of the signifying chain.

That is a theoretical step, a step that one must make even now because…: I cannot explain it otherwise than by a misrecognition of the advances of Lacan, by the discretion in which  analysts value the place of their approach to the fantasy. It is necessary that there be there something which would be especially difficult, something which has a part both in the clinic and in the theory. There one perceives that to reconstitute this theoretical apparatus, as well, is in the nature of modifying the direction of the treatment.

This passage, this point is completely essential for us to come to an understanding of how Lacan could start with the autonomy of the symbolic, of its supremacy, to arrive 20 years later at considering the symbolic as strictly equivalent to the two other functions: to consider the symbolic as homogeneous with the real and the imaginary. Basically we are holding up the two ends for the blow of a chain of teaching which goes from the schema of the purloined letter—supremacy of the symbolic—to the schema of the Borromean where the symbolic does not appear in any position of so-called autonomic supremacy. It appears, on the contrary, as strictly equivalent, in the topological treatment, strictly equivalent to the two other dimensions.

Starting from this autonomy of the symbolic, Lacan comes to the inertia of the real, beyond even the inertia of the fantasy; the inertia of the real and to its big question: How does one leave the symbolic; can one touch the real? It happens, if I can say it, as a question to which there has been a response, since this text of “The Purloined Letter,” to which everything in its path will appear to it. To see it succeeded by transforming what was a response for it, to transform it into a question, I would say it is what is the most difficult for each person. For that reason I do not conceive of this course at all as a return to Lacan, but as a grinding of our Lacanian koinè; an effort to fight against the banalization of what Lacan conquered at each moment, I mean against the very banality of his thought.

Obviously this trajectory has more or less modified the effort  that Lacan put forth to talk about psychoanalysis. With the autonomy of the symbolic, one can say that his stress is very constantly an optimistic one. But, beginning with interpretation, one has the feeling that everything is possible in the analytic experience, including the assumption of castration and of death, and that its stress, in so far as this inertia takes a position more and more essential in his teaching, certainly, is the pessimistic accent that is carried over. It is, evidently, not the matter of his tones there, but I do not believe either that it is simply a question for Lacan of affects, nor a question of age. Nothing serves better as an index of this transformation than his position on the death drive. In the beginning it seemed to him that it was important to attest to the supremacy of the signifier over the object. To reread Freud, then (since at that moment he reread Freud several times and even Freud’s texts, as we reread several times Lacan’s texts, finding some things there), rereading “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” there will no longer be the supremacy of the signifier over the object as it will seem to him to attest, but, on the contrary, to the stress carried back to jouissance; and a connection will be made, then, with the following Freudian texts, “a child is being beaten” and “primordial masochism.” Besides, suddenly there is something there that I must make you perceive; it is that this $, this barred subject of the signifier, when Lacan introduced it in his seminar, he did not introduce it based on considerations on the signifying chain. He introduced it starting with the fantasy of “a child is being beaten.” The nature of that is to demonstrate to us that in what follows there is a connection to be established between original repression and the fundamental fantasy.

It is a point (I will keep it for the next time) which appears to me more certain for making the reading we have made of “a child is being beaten” move a little. To go to the end of what I evoked regarding Schreber (to the end provisionally), why not admit that for him this fantasy, to take up Lacan’s terms, is what he holds in the place of the Father’s Name? I mean that that places itself as a supplement to the lack in the Other. Besides, it is like that that the fantasy emerges for Schreber. At the moment when his psychosis broke out, the preceding fantasy emerges to the point where the Other fails in his call to it. The same for the subject, the one that we have in analysis, any meeting with a lack in the Other incites the fantasy. I will say  for sure that each time the subject encounters the structural lack in the Other, there is an impossibility beyond that of the good faith of bringing onto some plateau and Other of the Other; but  I will say that even each time a fundamental identification is touched, the subject has recourse to the fantasy. I would perhaps have brought to that one or two examples, but I do not want to abuse it… Each time that a masculine identification is touched, one sees quite precisely this fantasy emerge (that happens especially for two girls, I mean the one who is second in regard to a first, who has often borne the parents’ hope for a boy), a fantasy by which this subject tries to find once again his position in the Other. Each time that a master signifier is detached from this starting complex (that can be visible), the subject finds once more, puts in order again, his position in the Other, this time by means of the fantasy. It is a solution that one can call imaginary, evidently, in the fashion in which it enunciates itself; that can also be good if you lack a way to give an interpretation. That also presentifies the lack in the Other. An interpretation is a delicate question when it obviously comes  to fill up the hole in the Other. It is indeed that which creates the responsibility of giving an interpretation. When one gives an interpretation, if one interprets starting from the position of the Subject Supposed to Know, evidently one closes off the production of what I give there as the fantasy. One closes it and, then, I would say that one must know how to interpret starting with the lack in the Other, and not starting with the position of the Subject Supposed to Know. One way to do it, and it is the unrefined method, is to interpret by asking questions. It is the coarse way because one must know how to interpret, if I may say, positively, but this kind of interpretation is a question for the subject. Without that, if interpreting with a question creates an enigma, that is only an interpretation of an interpretation.

It is precious, then, to preserve this position called a lack in the Other, in the position of analyst, precisely so that something from the subject in its barred status may emerge. That is, not to emerge with the title of supposed, it emerges with the name of asking the question on what am I?  What do I have? This is the same question, moreover, as what do I enjoy, if I dare to say it. What do I enjoy? And just as well, what is at the bottom of all this is the manner in which all interpretation ought to be welcomed, all that I hear (j’ouâs)?


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