Curated by Alejandra Seeber

Introduction to Encore
Francois Regnault

Guy Ben-Ari

Guy Ben-Ari

Being part of a cartel (a group of 4 with a Plus-One) intending to study The Seminar XX,Encore, I asked the other four members of it which interpretation they would give to the title Encore. These are their answers:

— Because it’s never that, it’s always called encore.

Jouissance without end, without limit.

— Unceasing jouissance.

— The necessary.

— The yell of jouissance.

1. The Seminar XX, which Jacques Lacan called Encore, was delivered between December 12, 1972 and June 26, 1975. It takes place at a turning point in French politics after the events of May 68, and in the teaching of Jacques Lacan.

The events of May 68 had resulted in Seminar XVII, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (whose cover shows Daniel Cohn-Bendit facing a member of the CRS, the French mobile police forces), an upside down resumption of the Freudian project, which also resorts to another “reverse,” like the one invented by Balzac in The Seamy Side of Historythat digs another hollow space in the heart of the city; the other side would be what psychoanalysis tries to keep away from, making a detour to a better address, for example, the discourse of the Master. Indeed Lacan sets up his theory of the four discourses, which are four different forms of arrangements between the subject and the Other, more exactly between the subject, its signifiers and knowledge, on the one hand, and the rest that results from this same arrangement, called surplus-jouir (plus-de-jouir). We run here into a reference made to profit, the “bonus” which according to Marx results from the capitalist mode of production. Therefore we find ourselves in a political dimension that belongs to the unconscious and which authorizes the expression: “The unconscious is politics.” Social ties (there is two for socializing) between these instances, which Lacan calls “discourse.”

2. In Encore (whose cover shows Bernini’s The Ecstasy of Saint Theresaas it stands in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome) the puzzle of the discourses recurs again and again, but the issue unfolds in the dimension that rules Lacan’s teaching at least since Seminar XVI D’un Autre à l’autreFrom an Other to the other—(just before 1968!) until its very end, until it becomes almost the dominant category, that is jouissance. (Jouissance posited as an absolute, see Chapter XIII of the Seminar XVI).

Thus this is no wonder that jouissance (of which one must not forget the legal origin, fruit and tenure) is introduced early in its opposition to the functional: “Jouissance is what is useless.” The superego, the concept of Freud’s second topography to which he gave a repressive meaning (Kant’s Moral Law), Lacan did not consider it less brutal, but he also deems it obscene, and changes its orientation by enjoining it Jouis! (Yes, I mean the Law, I heard, j’ouis, her voice, and she becomes my desire). And soon taking up residence in the field of sexuality, this approach brings about the following statements: a) “The jouissance of the Other, of the Other’s body that symbolizes it, is not a sign of love.” b) “Ultimately, one person’s body is just a part of the Other’s body.” c) Finally,“…it is the Other who jouit.”[1]

Then, “there is a hole there and that hole is called the Other.”[2]Later on Lacan will declare that “the Other doesn’t exist.”

3. From then on a relationship between jouissance and sexuality is articulated (according to a topology that will be developed later on in the seminar), a relationship which cannot be reduced to the male and female orgasms, but one that will meet the obstacle of choice set up by psychoanalysis, namely that “there is no sexual relationship” and that will be resolved by way of love, made up for its absence. “What makes up the sexual relationship is, quite precisely, love.”[3]

4. The Seminar XX performs as a theory on jouissance in its complex relationship with love, where Freud’s emphasis on narcissism remains evident, and where the opposition between desire and love’s demand, which dominated the so-called “classical” Lacanian theory (we propose here a rather flexible periodization), is being displaced to a more central articulation and perhaps to a more consistent involvement with the deepening of the clinic: the opposition between phallic jouissance, and that other jouissance, the one Lacan named “supplementary jouissance.”[4] It will allow Lacan (in Chapter VI of the Seminar “God and Woman(barred) Jouissance”) to assign to the mystical a point of fall (or) of real. As a result, the reputed mystical delusions are just “mere business of fucking.”

If phallic jouissance can encapsulate as a whole and in its more persistent meanings a whole range of psychoanalytic issues such as orgasm pleasure, the pleasure principle, sexual satisfaction, sexual fetishism, perversion, etc., it has now to contend with this other dimension of itself, one that is often considered enigmatic, an other jouissance, one called the other jouissance.

5. So there, psychoanalysis feels embarrassed with this other jouissance, and the following statement reveals the discomfort: “Were there another jouissance than phallic jouissance, it shouldn’t be/could never fail to be that one.” From there on the paradox is established: in fact there is no other than phallic jouissance (such as orgasm, detumescence, the primacy of the phallus, etc.) “except the one concerning which woman doesn’t breathe a word.” Psychoanalysis therefore assumes here that woman is capable of an unverifiable jouissance, other (other than the one Charles de Brosses, a libertine from the eighteenth century, boasted to recognize in the traits of Bernini’s Saint Theresa). It is then necessary to Lacan to resort to a Stoic logic according to which truth is deduced from the false: “Suppose that there is another (true!)—but there isn’t (false!).” The doubt remains, after all, and it weighs heavily: the male is intrigued and ponders over the notion that woman is not, is never whole, or encore that The woman (as a whole) does not exist. “There is a jouissance that is hers (the woman), that belongs to that ‘she’ that doesn’t exist and doesn’t signify anything.”[5] Hence the idea that we are dealing with “a jouissance that is in the realm of the infinite.”[6]  And “Why not interpret one face of the Other, the God face, as based on feminine jouissance?”[7]

6. Of course, the signifier is still in effect, because the thesis that “the unconscious is structured like a language” [8] (thus articulated by the signifying chains) stays fundamental. Actually, the signifier receives additional developments. From the outset, it is accurately related to jouissance: “the signifier is situated at the level of substance jouissante,” “the signifier is the material cause of jouissance.”[9] Without it there is no way to deal with jouissance, which is not physiological or biological. And without it, no way to address the réalité.[10] 

A gap is widening at the same time between signifier and signified: “the signified is not what you hear. What you hear is the signifier. The signified is the effect of the signifier.”[11] Thus the letter is the effect of discourse, which means it works only according to arrangements previously defined.

However, the écrit differs from the signifier in a more marked way than at the time of “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud.”[12] So there is a retrospective justification, from there on, of the common usage of letters by Lacan to indicate a cryptic term as the objet a, a locus, as that of the big Other (A), or the phallus, to differentiate the organ as far as its function is concerned, and this signifies—already an acquired thesis—“the signifier of jouissance.”

Accordingly the letter was the localized structure of the signifier (the model of the characters of the printing industry at its beginnings): the signifier as a written symbol occupies a place which Lacan forces to be place of Other one (A). “To allow for the explanation of the (analytic) discourse, I put forward the use of a certain number of letters. First of all, a, which I call objet, but which, nevertheless, is but a letter. Then A, that I make function in that aspect of the proposition that takes only the form of a written formula, and that is produced by mathematical logic. I designate thereby that which is first of all a locus, a place. I called it ‘the locus of the Other’.”[13]  The constellation—signifier, letter, written symbol—becomes then more complex according to the necessity to take into account the vagaries of jouissance.

Guy Ben-Ari-Hidden Observer-courtesy Scaramouche NY

Guy Ben-Ari

Guy Ben-Ari

Eristic dialogue with Aristotle’s logic, from the point of view of the dichotomy between particular and universal propositions: in Lacan’s formulas of sexuation, which define the “roles” of the man and woman, it is what makes exception, the obstacle to universality as well as to particularity, which is taken into account, and not what would make the particular to be satisfied in being the particularity of universal propositions.

Dialogue with the modal logic, which deals with necessity and contingency, but where Lacan introduces the function of what is written (l’écrit) as well as that of temporality (“to stop not being written, doesn’t stop being written,” etc) which reorganize the functions of necessity, of contingency, of the impossible and the possible, so that the real, which has been defined by Lacan as the impossible (as in the real of the clinic, “the impossible to endure”) in turn becomes an obstacle to necessity, instead of supporting it.  In the end, or better said first of all, the sexual rapport as impossible rules modal logic. “The ‘doesn’t stop not being written’ is the impossible, as I define it on the basis of the fact that it cannot in any case ‘being written’, and it is with this that I characterize the sexual relationship—the sexual relationship doesn’t stop not being written.”[14]

Thus for the Logic. For the Ethics, the reader of Encore will have to resort to the Nicomachean Ethics (which aim at the Good, and is subsequently followed by Christian beatitude), because, on numerous issues, Lacan implicitly and expressly converses with this Ethics of the Good, in order to substitute them for his Ethic of the Well-Spoken, l’éthique du Bien-dire. [15]

All this reveals that the Seminar is certainly one of the richest and one of the densest of the series; it also demands that we work on its particulars as well as on its method. This is a Seminar that a reductive scholasticism, which results in univocal propositions, would not succeed in explicate the meaning, and that equally deductive axioms would fail to elucidate its modus operandi. The fact that one of its chapters is titled “On the Baroque” (again Bernini!) should persuade us to look into its different mixed topics having recourse to metaphors and allegories: jouissance, love, sexual rapport—phallic jouissance, the Other jouissance—the formulas of sexuation (the man, woman)—an intimidating and almost constant dialogue with Aristotle, his logic and his ethics—a new relationship with mysticism and the mystics at variance with clinical nosology—in short, twists, convolutions, knots.

One should then read Encore step by step, without expecting the progression to be linear nor its movement straight. One must hold several threads together (the twisted columns of Bernini!), and sort out theses which cannot be neither successive nor even unequivocal. At all times one needs to discern the kernel.

However, one can also choose a topic (for instance jouissance, the difference of sexes, the écrit, the correlation with Aristotle, etc), and in every theme, to become especially attached to what is relevant. On the whole, to follow Lacan’s narrative thread. What is left then of that which Lacan and Aristotle have in common? Certainly the idea of an ongoing research, where the stakes need to be reconstructed at every step, if one doesn’t want to transform this connection into a booklet of results.

It follows that Encore thoroughly indicates: “Reader, encore an effort to be Lacanian.”


Signifier: the term originated in Ferdinand de Saussure, the linguist (based on a tradition that stems from the Stoics and Saint Augustine). The elements of a given language, as far as they are just different the ones from the others. (For instance French distinguishes between rivière and fleuve, English has only “river.” The rest follows in order!). Next one should detect the terms indicating the signifier, the letter, reading, the écrit, etc.

Phallus: not the penis but the real organ as it can come to be missed, what is imaginary (“they are going to cut it to you”), and therefore, what symbolically makes the signifier of jouissance, the phallus that is not missing, and in this way is exempted from the difference between the sexes. Also, the means by which a woman makes use of phallic jouissance.

Sexual relationship: what would write the rapport between man and woman according to sex. One would write that x R y (x being the man, y woman, R the rapport), this shows some scorn for the fact that woman enters in this relationship only quoad matrem, “as mother,” as substantiated by clinical analysis. As a reminder, clinical analysis constantly senses that this relationship “does not “work,” (no need of statistical valuation here: any clinical case makes exception, and becomes a law). As a result human beings fuck, they even manage to reproduce but, of course, there is something else due to a misunderstanding, to a failure of jouissance. As Lacan states, “It is the speaking body insofar as it can only manage to reproduce thanks to a misunderstanding regarding its jouissance. It only reproduces thanks to a missing (ratage) what it wants to say, for what it wants to say is its effective jouissance. And it is by missing that jouissance that it reproduces—in other words—by fucking.”[16]

Discourse: a specific positioning between four specific proceedings where are located the subject, the signifier that rules them, knowledge which gets on the way of the signifier, jouissance which ensues from it, restraint to the surplus-jouir (plus-de-jouir) (unlike pleasure, jouissancedoes not exclude suffering, as attested by perversions, sadism, masochism, voyeurism, exhibitionism).

In the formulas of sexuation [17] we detect the unknown x (the man or woman according to the formula), the universal (V) and existential (E) quantifiers, the trait—above the terms that state negation, finally F (Phi) of the phallic function. Hence the four discourses, named by Lacan: of the Master, of the Hysteric, of the University, of the Analyst.[18]

Jouissance: in Seminar XVI, D’un Autre à l’autre, From an Other to the other, Lacan compares jouissance to “the insatiable cask of the Danaids.”[19]

*Last but not least, I would like to express my gratitude to my colleagues in the Cartel, namely, Gudrun Scherer, Sarah Abitbol, Damien Guyonnet, Stylianos Kontakiotis, with whom I endeavor the arduous traversing of this Encore.

[1] Lacan J., Encore, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX, 1972-1973, New York: W.W. Norton, 1998, p.23.
[2] Ibid, p. 113.
[3] Ibid, p. 44.
[4] Ibid, p. 72.
[5] Ibid, p. 74.
[6] Ibid, p. 103.
[7] Ibid, p. 77.
[8] Ibid, p. 138.
[9] Ibid, pp. 23 & 24.
[10] Ibid, p. 55.
[11] Ibid, p. 32.
[12] Lacan J., “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud,” Ecrits, New York: W.W. Norton, 2002.
[13] Lacan J., Encore, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX, 1972-1973, op. cit., p.27.
[14] Ibid, p. 55, 94, 144.
[15] Lacan J., Television, New York: W.W. Norton, 1990, p. 41 and Autres ecrits, Paris: Seuil, 2001, p. 541.
[16] Lacan J., Encore, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX, 1972-1973, op. cit., p. 120.
[17] Ibid, p. 78.
[18] Ibid, p. 16.
[19] Lacan J., Le Seminaire, livre XVI, D’un Autre a l’autre, Paris: Seuil, 2006, pp. 15 and 335.


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