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.

The mental landscape of trauma

Referring to the evolution of the psychoanalytic conception of trauma the author considers, based on clinical fragments, three questions with which we are confronted in the clinic of trauma. The first fragment about a trauma of incest, which was initially dealt with within the family in a sensitive and appropriate manner, raises the question of the impact of speech on trauma where it concerns laypeople. It can be argued that the consequences of this kind of speech can be equally as disastrous as those of stubborn silence or a prohibition to speak. Using a second fragment attention is drawn to the role of the phantasma. A third fragment illustrates the trans-generational transmission of a trauma. Some considerations concerning the traumatic neuroses and the trauma of birth conclude this paper.

The Clinic of Shame and Transmission: The Act of Writing as Support of Transference

In clinical experience with trauma as a result of political violence, shame reveals both the intimate and social intrusion of the individual subjected to the omnipotence of another and the attempt to fend off this intrusion. In this way, between veiling and unveiling, shame questions the psychoanalyst in the form of a silent cry, as a complaint without words. Interweaving clinical fragments and references to the work of cinematographers, this text explores the complexity of the affect of shame in the cure with adult and adolescent survivors of war massacres as well as the effects of political violence at the level of transference. Writing appears as the locus of transmission of the impossible and opens up the way to the field of speech.