Lacan’s écrits revisited: on writing as object of desire

This essay is intended as a scholarly contribution to the construction of a detailed biography of Lacan’s 1966 Écrits, which is conceived here as a living entity whose influence continues to radiate around the world, within as well as outside psychoanalytic circles. Documenting and re-evaluating the historical circumstances presiding over the book’s gestation, birth and coming of age, the essay first argues that, despite the multiplicity inscribed in its title, Lacan’s volume constitutes an integrated unity rather than a mere collection of disparate papers written over a period of thirty-odd years, albeit a unity that is fundamentally incomplete. Subsequent to this, it is proposed that Lacan’s choice of title (Écrits, writings) occasioned the crystallisation of his own theory of the letter, writing and (knowledge) transmission. Even though this theory was already contained in statu nascendi in two of the papers collected in Écrits, it was only through a process of deferred action that Lacan came to appreciate its significance. Aligning writing with the object a, as cause of desire, Lacan’s theory both underpinned his opposition to Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of logocentrism (and his concurrent promotion of writing as a primordial trace), and informed his own protracted consideration of the transmission of psychoanalytic knowledge during the 1970s via a series of (mathematical and topological) writings.

Dancing as Delila

This paper starts by addressing a number of common interpretations of love. Initially we recognise a conceptualisation of love as a ‘compatibility degree’, interspersed with an idyllic and rational set of ideas where the other is searched for as a duplicate of the self. We contradict this mindset by formulating an alternative that is primarily backed up by elements of the Graphe, where the emphasis is put on the interplay between lack and desire. In our effort we create space for an idea of love where tragedy can be reintroduced and hereby demonstrate facets like difference, subversion and incalculability. The theory is subsequently given a vivid and human illustration because different myths and a parable lend themselves excellently towards this task. The figurehead of the interplay between lack and desire is to be found in the parable of Samson.

The joke of psychoanalysis

Lacan’s notion of “objet a” designates the paradox of an object which gives body to a surplus over all determinate objects, an object which gives body to a lack constitutive of desire. What happens with this object at the end of the psychoanalytic treatment? The text proposes a parallel between the final moment of the treatment and the final reversal in telling a joke: in both cases, the sudden shift of perspective enacts what Lacan called the fall of the object, its change from a fascinating mystery to an excremental remainder.

Writings around Das Ding

In this article das Ding is characterized as the structural a priori condition for memory and, more broadly, for the subject in its desire. First, the fundamentally conflicting nature of the psychical apparatus as outlined by Freud in his Project for a scientific psychology (1950a[1895]) is examined. The elaboration of the opposition between the primary processes or the pleasure principle on the one hand and the secondary processes or the reality principle on the other is of crucial importance. The ambiguity that characterizes this opposition is related to the Freudian notion of das Ding as the residue of the process of judgement through which a subject tries to grasp the outside world and the Nebenmensch. Das Ding, as the primordial outside of the subject, is then characterized, with Lacan, as the centre around which the subjective world of the unconscious is organised but from which it is nevertheless excluded. Finally, the implications of this theory for the desiring subject on the one hand and for an articulation of the ethics of psychoanalysis on the other are addressed.

To make a Name: The Hero and the Search for the Extimate Kernel

Discussing the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesj, a tale of the quest for immortal¬ity, and digressing from time to time towards the epics of Homer, the author searches for the essence of the literary hero. The psychoanalytic reading offered here does not aim to uncover some underlying truth about the author or his characters, but rather to elucidate the functioning of the text in relation to the reader. This functioning turns out to be multi¬layered. At first the epic offers its reader the possibility of imaginary identification. But it does not stop there: archaic heroism invariably turns out to be connected with the theme of death. Death, in epical context, represents the ultimate lack no hero can overcome. Faced with the inevitable failure of the hero, the reader also cannot escape from con¬fronting this lack. The positive note of the epic resides in the fact that it shows how this lack can be the foundation of the journey the hero undertakes, the story that develops around him, the subjectivity he symbolizes.