......• The Phallus is a Signifier
.........Ian Parker

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I: Freud

Anna Freud, before she became a great analyst, is in Vienna, at home with her father. The two of them are discussing psychoanalysis, when Anna turns to Freud and says "There is one thing I have always been meaning to ask that I am not sure about: What is the phallus?" Freud says "Well, this is something I could try to explain to you, but perhaps it is best if you come into my office." So, the two of them go into Freud's office. He closes the door, goes to his desk, turns around and unbuttons his trousers, pulls them down and says "Here, this is the phallus." Anna replies "Oh, I see, it's like a penis, only smaller."

There are, of course, many levels to this story. Each level sets up boundaries between insider and outsider, between those who are supposed to know something more about psychoanalysis than those who do not. For Freud, a tendentious joke like this requires that there be a "second person" operating in the joke as the object, the dupe who is dumb enough not to get it. This figure may be explicitly conjured up in the course of the joke or evoked as the necessary but hidden blank, an absence of knowledge. [1]

II: Penis

When Freud ponders psychical consequences of anatomical distinction between the sexes he assumes the actual presence of the penis and then the perception of it (or perception of the absence of it), and then the process of making sense of that perception of something missing. The perceptual judgment is supposed to be faster in the girl, and her perceived bodily lack launches her into the Oedipus complex; the boy will only believe what he has seen (or not seen) later on when the complex is, Freud says, "literally smashed to pieces by the shock of threatened castration." [3] In both cases anatomical distinction is organized around the penis as such, and the penis, for Freud, "owes its extraordinarily high narcissistic cathexis to its organic significance for the propagation of the species." [4]

Lacan takes the well-known Freudian claim that "anatomy is destiny" in a different direction. Rather than taken as given, "anatomy" is treated as a historically-constituted practice of cutting up the body. That process of marking and dividing flesh has consequences for how the body is represented and experienced, just as hysterical conversion operates on how the subject conceives of their body. Stigmata that appear on the palms and feet of the very hysterically Christian faithful, for example, do not correspond to the actual points of the body in crucifixion (in which stakes were driven through the wrists and ankles in order to attach them to the cross) but to symbolic representations of those points.

Shifting focus from the biological organ to that which is narcissistically cathected and charged with signification, from the penis to the "phallus," does not immediately solve the problem of accounting for why it is that the penis is so charged. In this respect Lacan follows Freud, commenting that it is the "turgidity" of the phallus that makes it "the image of the vital flow as it is transmitted in generation," and that it is "the most salient of what can be grasped in sexual intercourse as real." [5] It would seem that a sexual relation of a particular kind - heterosexual intercourse - is still taken as the bodily ground of the signifier that will come to define that sexual relation as impossible. Nevertheless, Lacan's terminological shift does give us an opening onto a conceptualization of the phallus as not necessarily equivalent to a biological organ.

III: Prescription

The impetus of Lacan's reformulation of sexual difference as governed by symbolic laws rather than biological processes began way before his employment of structuralism and attention to the work of the signifier. His article on "family complexes" in the 1930s, for example, makes it clear that he viewed the similarity between "normal components of the family as they are seen in our contemporary western world" and those of "the biological family" as "completely contingent." [6]

However, this also meant that symbolic forms that determine the location and internal shape of the family become all the more important for Lacan: "From the beginning there exist prohibitions and laws", he says; and in this statement we can start to see why structural anthropology will be of use to him later to explore the nature of the symbolic law in which the lack of the mother and her child are constituted. [7] In that perspective women "serve as objects for exchanges ordained by the elementary structures of kinship", and so one of the tasks of psychoanalysis is to map the way bodies and bits of bodies are signified and positioned in relation to one another. That takes us beyond a phenomenological account, which extrapolates categories from lived experience, and beyond a social constructionist account of how the categories we use come to function.

Psychoanalysis works at the gap, at the disjunction between these two accounts, precisely at where they fail to correspond; the impossible relationship between the two accounts itself leads Lacan to oscillate around the point where they could join. At one moment, then, the phallus is the "'pointy extremity'" that "predisposes it to the fantasy of it falling off", and at the next it is a "real organ" invested by way of "the signifier's imaginary function of prohibiting objects." [8]

The intimate relationship between the orders of the symbolic, imaginary and real thus treats what we have come to call "gender" as itself a signifier that operates as an imaginary effect of a real difference, a tangle or knotting of the three orders that is historically constituted. [9] This is not to say that Lacan was any more a feminist than Freud, but his insistence on the contingent and necessary signification of the phallus as penis in the contemporary western world ensures that psychoanalysis describes the contours of patriarchal society without prescribing it for all. [10]

IV: Gold

The difficulty of explaining exactly why it is that the representation of one particular kind of object should come to function as a privileged signifier that is indexed to the real - that functions as real - can be seen in historical materialism.

This is not such a tendentious connection between patriarchy and capitalism, as can be appreciated if we turn for a moment to look at how Marx needed to go beyond "the natural properties of gold, its durability, uniformity and divisibility" [11] to explain why gold has come to operate as that substance which will underpin the value of money. Money as such operates as a tautological signifying system, of course: Recent Hegelian readings of Marx put it like this; money "makes the value dimension coherent by situating commodities in a common relation to a single point of view on them which is yet not among them, having been excluded from them." [12]

In David Mamet's film Heist, mobster Danny De Vito screams down the phone "Of course the money's important, that's why it's called money!"; but while this appeal to money as such appears ridiculous, it does not prevent economic systems trying to find ways of guaranteeing that the money's important. An appeal to the value of gold is one way of settling this question, [13] but gold as such operates as "the shell of a 'social substance' posited in the relation of commodities and money" rather than having some natural value. In a Marxist account, then, "All commodities must exclude one commodity from the relative form in order to serve as unique equivalent. The natural body of gold is equivalent to value as such according to the commodities in relative form." [14]

There is an analogy, perhaps even a homology, between "gold" and the "phallus", and the rationale for an argument that "[j]ust as gold was detached from the body of goods in order to become the only equivalent that decides on their value, the penis would be detached from the body of erotic objects to become the phallus, the standard of value." [15] Even so, most Marxists do not now pay as much attention to the value of gold as Lacanians pay to the phallus. (The Workers Revolutionary Party in the UK was one exception to this, and did obsessively focus on the importance of gold and the gold standard, much in the same way that men are obsessed with the phallus.)

V: Signification

For Lacanians signification is the currency of subjectivity. The signifying material that gives us the stuff out of which we make ourselves is already woven into shapes that will determine what we can make of it. There is a crucial puzzle posed to the human subject when it uses signifiers, a puzzle about what position it might be possible to take up outside the signifiers themselves. The fantasy of an external vantage point, the idea that there might be some kind of metalanguage, runs deep, and there are a number of elements to this fantasy. One element involves the positing of a figure that might stand outside signification, an Other of the Other that pulls the strings.

Another element, which is a sexualized fantasy about the nature of enjoyment that escapes signification and perhaps precedes it, is what we find in Freud's classic image of the father of the primal horde who enjoyed all the women, all the women who are the objects of exchange. For Lacan this was not an anthropological discovery, but Freud's myth, a powerful myth that defines what a man is by the position of ownership (of women) and always already substitutive secondary reduced gratification compared with that first father.

VI: Difference

Speaking within this system of signifiers is eroticized, as is the condition of possibility of speaking itself. When Lacan refers to the phallus as the signifier of signification as such, [16] then, this necessarily entails an analysis of the way that signification is eroticized and suffused with what we imagine the erotic to pertain to, that it must be to do with the relation between men and women. [17] Three aspects are thus knotted together - the function of signification, the eroticized nature of signification, and the organization of this eroticized signification around the problematic of "gender" - and these three aspects cannot be disentangled in reality. They can only be disentangled conceptually, or in psychoanalysis, and then only briefly as a subject speaks and fades within that very eroticized signifying stuff that makes them man or woman. [18]

The "punctuation" of the chain of signifiers in analysis gives the subject space to breathe, but that system of signifiers that appears in a chain in the articulation of a discourse and in the act of speaking is itself already structured. [19] There is a history to the punctuation of written text, and that history presupposes a view of what language is really like. [20]

The insistence that language can be captured and understood, that we can grasp what it is "really like" is peculiarly obsessional, and, we might say, stereotypically masculine. In that sense "...to speak is already a phallic function." [21] Bice Benvenuto puts the implication of the argument like this: "We could say that the unconscious is feminine, that it is the negation, the un, the other, of phallic consciousness." [22] Then, when we return to Freud's cases we can start to locate the position of men and women in relation to the phallus.

So, on the one hand, for example, according to Benvenuto, "Dora's illness was the effect of her compliance, even identification and complicity with the world of her father, and her disagreement with the place it assigned to her. With her aphonia she was on strike for the recognition of the difference which would give her the right to speak." [23] And, on the other hand, she continues, "We could say that if the phallus threatens men with losing their penis, it threatens the woman with losing her "feminine" soul." [24]

VII: Fathers

Now we are at the entrance to heaven, at the pearly gates where Saint Peter is welcoming the newcomers. It is a long, seemingly interminable, job. One day Jesus appears and tells Peter that he can have a rest, that he will stand in for him, so Peter goes inside and Jesus stands there in the swirling mist at the gates. Shortly afterwards an old man comes towards him, towards the gates of heaven, and appeals to Jesus, saying "I am looking for my son." "Well", says Jesus, "a lot of people pass through here, but tell me about him and we will see what we can do." "Ok", says the old man, "One of the strange things about my son is that he was not born as other men were born, of a woman and a man." "That is unusual", says Jesus, a little surprised. "And there is another thing", says the old man; "He has a hole in each of wrists here and here, and holes there and there in his ankles." Jesus leans forward to see the man better, and peering through the mist says "Father?" The old man moves closer, gazing more intently, and says "Pinocchio?"

Religious imagery and stories for children share features that key us into underlying assumptions about the nature of human reproduction, about, to borrow a phrase from Lacan, "the image of the vital flow as it is transmitted in generation." Christianity provides the frame for this joke and also, simultaneously, the affective stuff of the story of Pinocchio as the representation of the relationship between a father and his little phallus-child (a wooden boy whose nose grows longer when he fails to tell the truth). [25]

For men there is an intimate relationship between castration and debt that is solved, at the level of the imaginary, by the notion that there is actually something that will compensate them for their loss; it is when it is conceived as some thing that it is the phallus.

The prize might be a child, but first there is an impossible relation between men and women to be negotiated, and the man imagines that he will possess this phallus, and have it as a signifier of his masculinity when he has a woman. However, a woman is not only a symbolic function but a speaking subject, and so her position is characterized by performance (an activity that is now celebrated by some feminists and queer theorists re-producing and unraveling Lacan from within), an appearance that can only imperfectly correspond to what the man imagines he possesses; when she appears to the man as what he thinks he desires it will only, then, be as masked, veiled, in her womanliness as masquerade. [26]

In the case of Geppetto-who in the joke mistakes Jesus, the son of God, for his own Pinocchio- it would be possible to find in his desire for paternity the symbolic equation boy=phallus. This equation, however, runs against an argument in the psychoanalytic literature that Lacan then picks up and reworks; that is, the argument that there is a symbolic equation in perversion of girl=phallus. [27]

VIII: Equations

Otto Fenichel reports (in a 1949 paper) the case of a transvestite who "combined his own femininity with a naive narcissistic love for his own penis, which as a child he had called pet names; indeed the girl's name which he wanted to have as a girl bore a striking resemblance to the pet name for his penis." [28] This fantasy is complemented, Fenichel argues, by the finding that "girls, in their unconscious fantasies, frequently identify themselves with a penis." [29] What is of interest here is not so much whether this is actually the case for every woman (or even whether one can extrapolate from this particular case to every transvestite). Rather, there are two things we can note from Fenichel's circuitous journey in his paper from cases of transvestism to female fantasy to popular culture and so to representations of men and women.

The first is the phenomenon of "clowning"; Fenichel reports the case (in a way that might well have appealed to Lacan) of "a patient with a distinct predilection for clowning, for grotesque humor of the American kind" and this leads him to general comments about "a type of child who invariably seeks to entertain his playmates or adults by jokes of the most varied kind, and who continually plays the clown, the Punchinello." [30] The second thing about Fenichel's paper (which also leads us to Lacan), is the fantasy of a girl-child that may then be extrapolated to children in general. Here we do perhaps need some analysis of the nature of the "child" as a feminized condition, and then the nature of the "development" of the child as a masculine endeavor, an analysis that is elaborated in some of the critical work on ideologies of child development. [31]

Fenichel, for example, draws attention to "The fantasy of being given over femininely to a person great and powerful, at the same time to be united with him so indissolubly as to be a very part of him, together with the idea that one is moreover the most important part without which the mighty one would be powerless." [32] He then goes on to note that this fantasy is to be found in "a particular type of religious devotee." [33]

What this draws attention to, then, is the other side of the equation in the relationship between Jesus and Geppetto, the uncanny point at which their desire to complete each other is complementary, which perhaps is the point of the joke. If Pinocchio is the phallus for Geppetto, that which will really make him a real man at the moment that Pinocchio becomes a real boy, so Jesus wants to be the phallus of his father, the most important part of the father without which he, the father, would be powerless; he will succeed in being that when he is what his father desires. (His father here is God, not Joseph, who, like Geppetto, was a mere carpenter.) However, Lacan notes that the symbolic order positions not the father but the mother as the first almighty one with a desire for something that the child attempts to be. That something is the phallus.

IX: Psychosis

Lacan's comments on Fenichel are in the context of a discussion of the Schreber case. Schreber writes that "God entered into exclusive nerve-contact with me, and I thus became the sole human being on whom His interest centers..." [34] (That is, Schreber is united with the almighty and a most important part of the almighty.) Lacan is concerned here with the way that the "elementary structures of kinship" - that is, symbolic matter - are "sometimes perpetuated in the imaginary." [35] And, Lacan argues, "what is simultaneously transmitted in the symbolic order is the phallus." [36]

The symbolic equation that Fenichel outlines in his 1949 paper is thus taken up and reworked by Lacan so that it would seem that for every child there is an attempt to identify with what the mother wants, what is lacking in the mother, what she herself desires as something beyond her. There are thus "imaginary paths by which the child's desire manages to identify with the mother's want-to-be", but this "want" is itself constituted by the symbolic law. [37]

There are four points to note here. First, "the equation Girl = Phallus" for Lacan is a symbolic equation which is structured by the "elementary structures of kinship." Second, this is how it is for Lacan as a theorist who knows that the phallus is something valuable, not necessarily a "Girl" at all, which is "transmitted in the symbolic order." Third, this is how it is for the neurotic (the closest one gets to being "normal"), except that we all misunderstand what this equation is, confusing it with our own "imaginary paths" that we take toward making sense of it as we "identify with the mother's want-to-be." However, fourth, the psychotic has not located themselves in the symbolic order; they have foreclosed this symbolic "reality." [38]

There is another prevalent reading of this passage which would qualify that description of the child's identification with the mother's "want-to-be" as one that pertains only to the psychotic, and which then re-forges an already culturally potent representation between femininity and "madness." [39]
[40] and she goes on to note that "[a]t the imaginary level there is misogyny, the hatred of women." [41] Instead, she argues, we could perhaps offer a more general formulation that says, for example, 'being the leader that the masses lack' or 'being the Christ that humanity lacks'; that is, 'being the [x]... that lacks to ...[something or other].' [42] What is still universal, however, for Brousse, is "the '(not being) able to be the phallus that the mother lacks'." [43]

X: History

From deep within the Lacanian tradition, then, there is opening up a space for the historical location of clinical phenomena, and so also of the phallus. And even if Lacanians are not the most ardent feminists, there is also space for a connection with the feminist arguments that the phallus is a function of particular kinds of social arrangement in which women are objects of exchange and men imagine themselves to be the centre of the world. [44]

Lacan comments in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis that "At the end of one of his final papers, 'Analysis Terminable and Interminable', Freud tells us that in the end the aspiration of the patient collapses into an ineradicable nostalgia for the fact that there is no way he can be the phallus, and that since he cannot be it, he can only have it in the condition of the Penisneid (penis envy) in a woman or of castration in a man." [45] "This is why", Lacan says, "the analyst can't provide happiness: "Not only doesn't he have that Sovereign Good that is asked of him, but he also knows there isn't any. To have carried an analysis through to its end is no more or less than to have encountered that limit in which the problematic of desire is raised." [46] There is a hippy van near our house with moral injunctions posted over it, including one bumper sticker which reads "The best things in life aren't things;" would that it were so easy to dispel the phallus as an organizing principle, an anchoring point, a thing that men and women in this culture are driven to have or to be.

Theoretical elaboration of the phallus as a signifier in psychoanalysis is powerful for men, and women: Lacan maps "the imaginary paths by which the child's desire manages to identify with the mother's want-to-be," and he opens the way to an analysis which addresses the position of those inducted into "the symbolic law in which this want is constituted." [47]

We could say that the end of analysis entails incompleteness and an acceptance of castration. This is not the end of history, but a crucial link with feminist analyses of heteropatriarchy and Marxist analyses of capitalism, analyses in which we can really understand better the history that has formed us as beings that imagine that they must revolve around the phallus. We can then accept the role of the phallus as a historically-structured symbolic function. We come to know, as Anna Freud did in the little vignette that opened this paper, that it is smaller than we first thought, and neither women nor men can actually have it at all.


[1] "Generally speaking a tendentious joke calls for three people: in addition to the one who makes the joke, there must be a second who is taken as the object of the hostile or sexual aggressiveness, and a third in whom the joke's aim of producing pleasure is fulfilled." Freud, S. (1905) "Jokes and their relation to the unconscious", in S.E. VIII, pp. 1-258. London: The Hogarth Press.
[2] The relationship between the one who makes the joke and the third person can be conceptualized as a discursive position "which depends upon and creates their object's exclusion"; joking then accomplishes a "de-grading" of the second person from a position of power that also "always objectifies the Law which is degraded in being successfully defied, but also reinstated when its transgression is marked as such." Purdie, S. (1993) Comedy: The Mastery of Discourse, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf. (p. 5).

[3] Freud, S. (1925) "Some psychical consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes", in S.E. XIX, pp. 248-258. London: The Hogarth Press. The little girl "makes her judgement and her decision in a flash. She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it." In contrast, "when a little boy first catches sight of a girl's genital region, he begins by showing irresolution and lack of interest; he sees nothing or disavows what he has seen... It is not until later, when some threat of castration has obtained a hold upon him, that the observation becomes important to him..."

[4] Ibid p. 257.

[5] Lacan, J. (2002) "The signification of the phallus", in J. Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (translated by Bruce Fink). New York: Norton, p. 277).

[6] "This identity is in fact nothing more than a numerical equality." Lacan, J. (1938) "La Famille" in Encyclopédie française, 8.

[7] Ibid, For an examination of the way Lacan's text on the family complexes anticipates structuralist conceptions see Miller, J.-A. (2005) A critical reading of 'Family Complexes" by Jacques Lacan

[8] Lacan, J. (2002) "The subversion of the subject", in J. Lacan, Écrits:A Selection (translated by Bruce Fink). New York: Norton, p. 307.

[9] In current arrangements which circulate around "gender", "gender assignment" "is already the signifier of the Other to which one gives one's consent or not", and the notion of "gender identity" is "more or less equivalent to the genderisation of the mirror stage", which "corresponding to the appropriate sex becomes a new conflict-free sphere." Klein, R. (2003) "The birth of gender", 11, pp. 51-60.

[10] Cf.: "However it may have been used, psychoanalysis is not a recommendation for a patriarchal society, but an analysis of one. If we are interested in understanding and challenging the oppression of women, we cannot afford to neglect it." Mitchell, J. (1974) Psychoanalysis and Feminism. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

[11] Foley, D. (1991) "Money", in T. Bottomore (ed.) A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (second edition). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. The claim that Marx saw gold as "particularly suited to function as a measure of pure exchange value" by virtue of its natural properties sits uneasily alongside Marx's own scorn for such naturalistic accounts. Marx comments "Gold is now money with reference to all other commodities only because it was previously, with reference to them, a simple commodity. Like all other commodities, it was also capable of serving as an equivalent, either as simple equivalent in isolated exchanges, or as particular equivalent by the side of others. Gradually it began to serve, within varying limits, as universal equivalent." Marx, K. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol I. London: Everyman.

[12] Arthur, C. J. (2005) "The concept of money", Radical Philosophy, 134, pp. 31-40.

[13] Apartheid South Africa used to pride itself on the fact that that the value of the Rand was directly guaranteed by gold, something that draws attention to the way that the problematic of race is implicated in axes of sex and class in the organization of the world and the conditions for subjectivity under capitalism.

[14] Arthur, 2005, p. 33. It is perhaps because this Marxist account is explicitly Hegelian that the positing of presuppositions - gold as the basis of value for money - chimes so well with Lacan's reading of Freud, of the phallus as the basis of sexual difference, a reading that is also riddled with Hegelian categories.

[15] And, in this argument from J.J.-Roux's (1973) Freud, Marx, Economie et Symbolique (Paris: Seuil), "...the father would become the general equivalent of subjects and the logos the general equivalent of linguistic exchanges."

[16] "For the phallus is a signifier...it is the signifier that is destined to designate meaning effects as a whole", Lacan, J. (2002) "The signification of the phallus", in J. Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (translated by Bruce Fink). New York: Norton.

[17] One way of conceptualizing this is to focus on the role of "thirdness" in the move from Imaginary to Symbolic, and so reframe the "Oedipal resolution" of the problematic of presence or absence of the penis (that inaugurates, for girls, or concludes, for boys, the castration complex); then it is possible to see this relation to signification as one "whose outcome is 'symbolic castration', structuring the subject as pluralistically related (no longer in a dual relation with the mother), as sexed (no longer being the phallus but rather having a penis or having a vagina), and as capable of finding and combining substitute objects of desire (rather than claiming the wholeness of totalized desire and not desiring at all)." Muller, J. (1996) Beyond the Psychoanalytic Dyad: Developmental Semiotics in Freud, Peirce and Lacan, London: Routledge.

[18] "So, we have the definition of man - as subject, as desire caused by objet a and as phallic jouissance. And woman? We can say that it is the same but with something more. It is Lacan's reformulation of the Freudian thesis - that is to say - this writing of feminine phallicism. There is the phallicism of the one - to have the phallus. This is what Freud first perceived - having the phallus in the metonymic way. It is always possible for everyone - for every speaking being, even for the feminine one. The way the woman is able to have the phallus - metonymically - is developed by Freud: she can have the phallus as a child, as money, and so on. And she can have it as the organ of the man and even as the man himself." Soler, C. (1994) "Some remarks on the Love Letter", Journal of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, 4, pp. 5-24.

[19] This is why, as Maud Mannoni puts it, "as any analysis proceeds, the 'key signifiers' (death, phallus, Name of the Father, etc.) appear." Mannoni, M. (1973) The Child, his "Illness, and the Others, Harmondsworth: Penguin. There is an example in Mannoni's case of a six year old with diagnosis of schizophrenia: "Carole's mirror-play seemed to indicate that she was looking for an unmutilated image of herself. When she found herself again in the mirror, it was in effect to signify herself in a phallic signifier (tongue, nose, or braids)." (Ibid p. 150). "In the field of communication, her speech was at first a private language, a play with words meant for herself alone. Next, when Carole first attempted to address the Other, her throat tightened and made all dialogue impossible. By touching on the signifiers 'father', 'death', 'phallus' in the child's treatment, a question was brought to light which had originally arisen in the mother; it was therefore as a function of what was going on in the mother that the child sought to orient herself and got trapped." (Ibid). "In the course of treatment, interpretations turned fundamentally on the phallic signifier, on death, and on the present-absent play. We then saw the appearance of signs through which the child was trying to ask herself what the Other required of her" (Ibid p. 151).

[20]Parkes, M. B. (1992) Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West London: Scolar Press.

[21] Benvenuto, B. (1994) Concerning the Rites of Psychoanalysis, Or the Villa of Mysteries, Cambridge: Polity Press.

[22] Ibid

[23] Ibid

[24] Ibid

[25] Christianity is an example in this case, but this example is not accidental since it is the dominant symbolic resource for the organization of subjectivity in the world in which psychoanalysis appeared.

[26] Riviere, J. (1929) "Womanliness as a masquerade." Reprinted in V. Burgin, J. Donald and C. Kaplan (eds) (1986) Formations of Fantasy, pp. 35-44. London: Methuen.

[27] For an elaboration of the argument that fetishism is organized around the paternal phallus, see Adams, P. (1996) The Emptiness of the Image: Psychoanalysis and Sexual Differences London: Routledge.

[28] Fenichel, O. (1949) "The symbolic equation: Girl = Phallus", Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 20, (3), pp. 303-324.

[29] Ibid p. 305.

[30] Ibid p. 314.

[31] Burman, E. (1994) Deconstructing Developmental Psychology, London: Routledge.

[32]Fenichel, op. cit. p. 320.

[33] Ibid

[34] "the highly important question arises, whether His capacity to see and hear is confined to my person and to what happens around me." (Schreber, D. P. (2000) Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, New York: New York Review Books. [original published 1903] (p. 281); "hardly a single limb or organ in my body escaped being temporarily damaged by miracles" (Schreber, op/ cit., p.141).

[35] Lacan, J. (2002) "On a question prior to any possible treatment of psychosis", in J. Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (translated by Bruce Fink), pp. 531-214. New York: Norton.
[36] Ibid

[37] Lacan, J. (2002) "On a question prior to any possible treatment of psychosis", in J. Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (translated by Bruce Fink), pp. 531-214. New York: Norton.

[38] When Fink qualifies this as réel, he is drawing attention to it as being the kind of "reality" which is suffused with fantasy, as opposed to the order of the Real), and so they are stuck in the "imaginary paths."

[39] See, for example, Chesler, P. (1973) Women and Madness, London: Allen Lane; Ussher, J. (1991) Women's Madness: Misogyny or Mental Illness? Hemel Hempsted: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

[40] Brousse, M.-H. (2003) "The push-to-the-woman: A universal in psychosis?", Psychoanalytical Notebooks, 11, pp. 79-98.

[41] Brousse, p. 91. She is quite definite that "The push-to-the-woman is not to be observed as a phenomenon." "In psychosis (specifically schizophrenia) "life and its jouissance are uncontrolled", "for it to have a locus it would have to have a place, and to have a place requires a signifier. The feeling of life is not lacking in psychosis in general. There is a feeling of raw life which is there but which isn't articulated to any symbolic system and therefore signifying mortification does not take a place. The mortification happens through the intermediary of the signifier of life, from which the sexual organ itself also takes its place" (Ibid p. 92). From Lacan on Schreber, he is 'incapable' 'of being the phallus that the mother lacks' 'he is left with the solution of being the woman that men lack' (Ibid). So, "We can envisage that, in all cases of psychosis, there is a universal '(not being) able to be the phallus that the mother lacks' linked to the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father. But not in every case will we find as a solution 'being the woman that men lack.'

[42] Ibid

[43] Ibid

[44] One might think of the penis as anchor point of the power of men as a corresponding to the point in history in which the king really imagined that he was a king - that is, aristocracy - and the shift to the phallus as a symbolic anchoring point as the reconfiguration of this power as that which corresponds to the bourgeoisie. Lacan drew attention to the "decline of the paternal imago", and this observation now bears fruit in the Millerian school concern with "contemporary symptoms." Goux (op. cit.) thinks that such a symbolic mode can be reversed or can reverse itself; women, then, would have a position as full subjects in society. There is then even room for fruitful dialogue with Judith Butler; "The law requires conformity to its own notion of "nature" and gains its legitimacy through the binary and asymmetrical naturalization of bodies in which the Phallus, though clearly not identical with the penis, nevertheless deploys the penis as its naturalized instrument and sign." Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge. (p. 135); "Freud enumerates a set of analogies and substitutions that rhetorically affirm the fundamental transferability of that property" Butler, J. (1993) Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex, London: Routledge. (p. 62).

[45] Lacan, J. (1992) The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII (translated with notes by Dennis Porter). London: Routledge, (published in French 1986), p. 299. Compare Freud: "We often have the impression that with the wish for a penis and the masculine protest we have penetrated through all the psychological strata and have reached bedrock, and that thus our activities are at an end. This is probably true, since, for the psychical field, the biological field does in fact play the part of the underlying bedrock. The repudiation of femininity can be nothing else than a biological fact, a part of the great riddle of sex. It would be hard to say whether and when we have succeeded in mastering this factor in an analytic treatment. We can only console ourselves with the certainty that we have given the person analysed every possible encouragement to re-examine and alter his attitude to it." Freud, S. (1937) "Analysis terminable and interminable", in S.E. XXIII, pp. 216-253. London: The Hogarth Press.

[46] Lacan, 1992, op. cit. p.300.

[47] Lacan, J. (2002) "On a question prior to any possible treatment of psychosis", in J. Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (translated by Bruce Fink), pp. 531-214, New York: Norton.


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