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Jacques Lacan's Return to Freud: The Real, the Symbolic, and the Imaginary

Philippe Julien
Translated by Devra Beck Simiu
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 238
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    Jacques Lacan's Return to Freud
    Book Description:

    Among the numerous introductions to Lacan published to date in English, Philippe Julien's work is certainly outstanding. Beyond its conceptual clarity the book constitutes an excellent guide to Lacanian psychoanalytic practice.--Andr Patsalides, Psychoanalyst and President, Lacanian School of PsychoanalysisFrom 1953 to 1980, Jacques Lacan sought to accomplish a return to Freud beyond post- Freudianism. He defined this return as a new convenant with the meaning to the Freudian discovery. Each year through his teaching, he brought about this return. What was at stake in this renewal?Philippe Julien, who joined Lacan's Ecole Freudienne de Paris in 1968, attempts to answer this question. Situtated in the period after-Lacan, Julien shows that Lacan's return to Freud was neither a closing of the Freudian text by responding to questions left unanswered nor a reopening of the text by giving endless new interpretations. Neither dogmatic nor hermeneutic, Lacan's return to Frued was the return of an inevitable discordance between our experience of the unconscious and any attempt to give an account of it. For the unconscious, by its very nature, disappears at the same moment as it is discovered. It is in this sense that the author can claim that Lacan's return to Freud will have been Freudian.Constantly challenging the reader to submit to the rigors of Lacan's sinuous thinking, this penetrating work goes far beyond being a mere introduction. Rendered into elegant English by the American translator, who added numerous footnotes and scholarly references to the French original, this study brings Lacanian scholarship among English readers to a new level of sophistication.Neither dogmatic nor hermeneutic, Lacan's return to Freud was the return of an inevitable discordance between our experience of the unconscious and any attempt to give an account of it. For the unconscious, by its very nature, disappears at the same moment as it is discovered. It is in this sense that the author can claim that Lacan's return to Freud was Freudian.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4323-2
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    ThePsychoanalytic Crosscurrentsseries presents selected books and monographs that reveal the growing intellectual ferment within and across the boundaries of psychoanalysis.

    Freud’s theories and grand-scale speculative leaps have been found wanting, if not disturbing, from the very beginning and have led to a succession of derisive attacks, shifts in emphasis, revisions, modifications, and extensions. Despite the chronic and, at times, fierce debate that has characterized psychoanalysis, not only as a movement but also as a science, Freud’s genius and transformational impact on the twentieth century have never been seriously questioned. Recent psychoanalytic thought has been subjected to dramatic reassessments...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Summing up his teaching career about a year before his death, Lacan one day confessed: “I have been traumatized by misunderstanding. I can’t abide it, so I wear myself out clearing it up. And what happens—I just nourish it” (June 10,1980).

    In a number of ways, Lacan actually fostered misunderstanding. As a clinician, he was passionately interested in paranoia—at the risk of letting us believe that a touch of madness is preferable to a dreary neurosis. In his rereading of the Freudian texts, he deciphered the enigmas—at the risk of letting us believe that everything is in...

  6. I. The Shadow of Freud

    • 1 The Pain of Being Two
      (pp. 15-27)

      What was the nature of Lacan’s first encounter with the Freudian text? It began in 1932, with his doctoral thesis in medicine,Paranoid Psychosis and Its Relation to Personality.¹ The thesis inaugurated a period that was to end on July 8, 1953, with Lacan’s invention of three terms: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real. On that day, Lacan finally used the term “imaginary” to designate what he had been reading in Freud for twenty years.

      In this first encounter with Freud (1932–1953), Lacan was not yet a Freudian but a Lacanian. Like his contemporaries who sought to introduce...

    • 2 My Dearest Counterpart, My Mirror
      (pp. 28-35)

      On August 3, 1936, Jacques Lacan, a young psychoanalyst, was attending the Fourteenth Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Marienbad. On that day, he delivered an oral presentation titled “The Looking-Glass Phase.”

      He then left the Congress before it concluded in order to take in the games of the Eleventh Olympiad, held in Berlin from the first to the sixteenth of August. He visited the Nazi fair, that typically Nazi ceremonial that, for the first time in history, turned the games into an immense publicity stunt. With his invention of the mirror stage, Lacan had exposed the very source...

    • 3 Paranoic Knowledge
      (pp. 36-42)

      In his 1932 thesis on Aimée, Lacan linked the ego to narcissism: the ego is purely narcissistic. In 1936, with the mirror stage, he linked the ego to the image of one’s own body: the ego is purely imaginary. Finally, in the postwar period (from 1946 on), he devised the term “paranoic knowledge” to indicatethe paranoic structure of the ego. Borrowing the term “paranoia” from psychiatry, he turned it into a specific qualifier for the ego and saw there the fundamental structure of madness.

      These three stages constitute a single period (1932 to 1953), during the course of which...

  7. II. A Return to Freud

    • 4 The Lacanian Thing
      (pp. 45-54)

      Before 1953, Lacan was not yet a commentator on Freud. Rather, he would pick and choose from within the Freudian text, forging and severing connections. Thus he linked “The Ego and the Id” (1923) to “On Narcissism: An Introduction” (1914) while disengaging theIch(ego) from the function perception-consciousness. He appealed to the need for such selection, explaining that it was a question of “considering as obsolete whatever in fact is, in the work of an unequaled master.”¹ In 1946, then, Lacan resembled other analysts. Each wished to contribute his or her stone to the analytical edifice,choosingpart of...

    • 5 Exhaustion in the Symbolic
      (pp. 55-64)

      Certainly Freud had good reason for introducing the second topography, which is what drew Lacan to the Freudian text in the first place. But what about the unconscious? How did the introduction of the unconscious determine the practice of analysis? For therein lies a difficulty unique to psychoanalysis, the more so as the unconscious does not plainly reveal itself. Now we will see how Lacan, going back to thefirsttopography, linked the unconscious to the symbolic. At first he proceeded pedagogically, with aformaldistinction of the two sorts of relation present in any human exchange. He did this...

    • 6 The Making of a Case of Acting-Out
      (pp. 65-74)

      This epigraph, from Seminar XXII, condenses a late point of view. Dating from 1975, the final period of Lacan’s teaching, it represents his ultimate position on the imaginary: it, not the symbolic, is the place where every truth is enunciated. However, in the fifties, Lacan was far from having arrived at this new topographical perspective. Isn’t it the case that this new perspective presupposes another imaginary?

      Before measuring the gap between them, we must again emphasize what is presented in Schema L. As we showed in the preceding chapter, the subject speaks from the place of the Other—locus of...

  8. III. The Transference

    • 7 A Change of Place
      (pp. 77-82)

      In each period of Lacan’s teaching he took a different approach to the transference, each approach displaying some of its constitutive elements. The different approaches were not actually opposed to each other; rather, they comprised separate elements of the reply to a new question addressed to Freud. Their only point in common was purely negative: a refusal to be satisfied with a crude, overly simplistic definition of the transference as the sum of positive and negative feelings experienced by the analysand for the analyst. Certainly these feelings are not to be denied, but they are effects of the transference, not...

    • 8 An Ethical Question
      (pp. 83-91)

      Lacan’s 1960–1961 seminar on the transference¹ marked a turning point. In it, he broke with his two preceding approaches in saying that the transference comes not from the analysand but from the analyst—more precisely, from the desire-of-the-analyst, of which it is the effect. But before he could say this, he needed to establish the meaning of desire; hence the preceding year (1959–1960), he presented a seminar on the ethics of psychoanalysis.² Only ethics can clarify the nature of the transference; it serves as itsintroduction, insofar as the Freudian enterprise is, properly speaking, neither religious nor philosophical,...

    • 9 A Metaphor of Love
      (pp. 92-102)

      As we have seen, the ethics of psychoanalysis is the ethics of desire. It is exemplified in the figure of Antigone: the glow of visible desire(himeros enarges)on the humanGestalt, a dazzling radiance that is the effect of beauty. Linked to this ethics is an aesthetics ofbien-dire, of really-telling this visibility.

      For the chorus that sets and hears Antigone, this is not without consequence. By really-telling what they receive from her, they produce an effectonthe audience. There is, in other words, a transmission, and this was the starting point for Lacan’s discussion of the transference...

  9. IV. Toward the Real

    • 10 A Cartesian Approach
      (pp. 105-117)

      On that day, Lacan presented the first lesson of the seminar he had planned for the academic year 1963–1964. The tide of the seminar was “Les Noms-du-Père” (“The Names-of-the-Father”). It would be Lacan’s last encounter with his audience at Sainte-Anne. He was interrupting his teaching, certain prominent members of the Société française de psychanalyse (SFP) having just implemented a request by the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) to strike his name from the list of training analysts and teachers.

      The lesson contained both a response to the IPA and an announcement of the new direction his teaching would take, beginning...

    • 11 A Literal Operation
      (pp. 118-139)

      Truth has an effect on knowledge(savoir). What is this effect? Isn’t it that truth, throughspeakingand nothing else, forever leads us by the nose? Therefore, the only way to deal with truth is toknowhow it proceeds, so that analysis may find its end in this knowledge(savoir). Picasso said: “I do not seek, I find.” It must be the same for the analysand.

      But how? On whatpath?It will not be the path of truth alone, which does nothing but speak. The only path is the path of writing, in other words, whatever of the...

    • 12 The Drive at Stake
      (pp. 140-150)

      In the course of a conversation with Robert Mallet, Jean Paulhan recounted this story from his childhood:

      My grandfather was a terrible tease. He had come up with a game—really a kind of bad joke—that irritated me no end. We would be passing in front of a toy store and he would say to me, for example:

      “Look at that beautiful puppet theater. If you would like me to give it to you, I would give it to you.”

      “Yes, I want it, grandfather.”

      “Listen, it’s not a matter of what you want. Besides, a child never says...

  10. V. Another Imaginary

    • 13 A Hole in the Imaginary
      (pp. 153-164)

      If there is failure to cover the symbolic lack with a real lack (i.e., if this is not accomplished by means of suicide), then psychoanalysis will seek to accomplish it by grasping the imaginary through the body image. How?

      The imaginary was what Lacan first read in Freud, first in the narcissistic investment of the object, then in the specular image, whose constitution in the mirror stage he invented. Advancing along a path that specified immersion and “transfusion of the body’s libido towards the object,”¹ he added: “But even though part of it remains preserved from this immersion, concentrating within...

    • 14 Imagination of a Triple Hole
      (pp. 165-171)

      The introduction, in the preceding chapter, of the idea of the hole in the imaginary will now permit us to answer a number of questions posed but left hanging: how are the symbolic and the real to be linked? How is the symbolic lack to be covered by the real lack? What are we to create out of the failed encounter that is the real? How can the real be an accomplice of theTriebin the pulsional order?

      Psychoanalysis offers this possibility: production of atruehole by adding the hole in the imaginary (-ϕin Lacan’s notation) to...

    • 15 An Imaginary with Consistency
      (pp. 172-184)

      Imagination of a triple hole—this is what Lacan glimpsed in February 1972. He returned to it on May 15, 1973, at the end of his seminarEncore.¹ From then on, in each of the seminars that followed (1973–1980), he was dedicated to it, presenting it in the transition from a topology of surfaces and border zones (rims) to one of knots: a knot that creates a hole by knotting three holes into one.

      But to get from 1953 to this point required a long evolution. Faced with the confusion of terms in analytic literature, Lacan worked, in the...

  11. Conclusion: The Psychoanalyst Applied to the Mirror
    (pp. 185-194)

    From start to finish, Lacan’s teaching was a debate with the imaginary. Linked first to the narcissism of the ego, the imaginary as such was next subjugated to the primacy of the symbolic, to reemerge in different form when Lacan finally tackled the relationship of the symbolic to the real.

    As we shall see, each of these three moments in Lacan’s teaching involved a certain analytic practice, and this practice in turn determined the analyst’s place. The analyst’s place? Indeed, for what each moment is really about is a place to be occupied and maintained.

    1. Before 1953. In 1936, Lacan...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 195-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-221)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 222-223)