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.
This article, part of a broader research agenda on the link between psychoanalysis and Witz, presents a study of the reception of The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious within Freud’s own work. In contrast to the numerous references that can be found in the work of Lacan, the number of references in Freud’s own work to The Joke can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Starting with The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious itself, a closer look is taken at a letter from Freud to Fliess, at a footnote in The Interpretation of Dreams, and finally at a passage within The Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. A comparison of these different passages shows that The Joke not only was generated from a footnote but even as a book always stayed a kind of elaborated footnote in the margin of Freud’s work. It is argued that the reason for this can be found in Freud’s later insight that critique against psychoanalysis in most cases is a kind of resistance that cannot be broken by means of books but only by analysis itself.