The Dream with the Unicorn – Pôor(d)j’e-li : 30th October 1960 (Bonneval Hospital) [published 1966/68] : Serge Leclaire

by Julia Evans on October 30, 1960


Originally presented to the Bonneval Colloquium on ‘The Freudian Unconscious’, 30th October to 2nd November 1960, alongside The Position of the Unconscious (Bonneval Hospital): 31st October 1960: Jacques Lacan : See here

Chapter 5 (P70 – 87) of ‘Psychoanalyzing: On the Order of the Unconscious and the Practice of the Letter’ : Stanford University Press : 1998 : Translated by Peggy Kamuf

Available here


1) p95-130 & p170-177 of Jean Laplanche & Serge Leclaire : L’Inconscient, une étude psychanalytique : in L’Inconscient (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer : 1966)

2) Psychanalyser : Un essai sur l’ordre de l’inconscient et la pratique de la lettre : Éditions du Seuil : 1968

References to Sigmund Freud

P70 “royal road to the unconscious” : from The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud : Availability given here  : end of Section VII The Psychology of the Dream-Processes, Part (E) The Primary and Secondary Processes – Repression : Original quote , added in 1909 is : The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.

P72 : “upon complete analysis, every dream reveals itself to be the fulfilment of a wish” Freud : from The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud : end of Section II The Method of Interpreting Dreams : An analysis of a Specimen Dream : Original quote ‘When the work of interpretation has been completed, we perceive that a dream is the fulfilment of a wish.’

P79 : “’We may recall here the manner in which Freud, in his analysis of the Wolf Man’s nightmare, sums up his investigation after a first stage of the analysis. He enumerates the sensitive elements in such a way that, were this a strictly graphic representation, they would be set apart with bold-faced letters (the sequence is, moreover, italicized in the text): “A real occurrence – dating from a very early period- looking – immobility – sexual problems- castration – his father – something terrible” (SE17: 34; GW12: 6o ;PFL Vol 9 p265) : from ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The ‘Wolf Man’)’, Part IV The Dream and the Primal Scene : 1914 [published 1918] : Sigmund Freud

References by Jacques Lacan

1)  The Position of the Unconscious (Bonneval Hospital): 31st October 1960: Jacques Lacan : Availability given here

(Note Jacques Lacan’s interventions into the Bonneval Conference were rewritten in early 1964) Quote: The fact the people have objected to Serge Leclaire’s claim that the unicorn sequence is unconscious, by pointing out that Leclaire himself is conscious of it, means that they do not see that the unconscious only has meaning in the Other’s field; still less do they see the consequence thereof: that it is not the effect of meaning that is operative in interpretation, but rather the articulation in the symptom of signifiers (without any meaning at all) that have gotten caught up in it. [Lacan’s footnote: Abbreviated version of my answer to an ineffective objection.]

2)  Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts: 1963-1964 : beginning 15th January 1964 : Jacques Lacan : Availability given here : session 27th May 1964 – The Subject and the Other, Alienation – Chapter 16 (p212) :

Quote : Interpretation is directed not so much at the meaning as towards reducing the non-meaning of the signifiers, so that we may rediscover the determinants of the subject’s entire behaviour. I would ask you to refer to what my pupil Leclaire contributed, at the Congrès de Bonneval, by way of an application of my theses. You will see in his contribution that he isolated the sequence of the unicorn, not, as was thought in the discussion, in its significatory dependence, but precisely in its irreducible and senseless character qua chain of signifiers.

3)  Seminar XI : 17th June 1964 :From Interpretation to the Transference– Chapter 19 (p250) : Quote : The fact that I have said that the effect of interpretation is to isolate in the subject a kernel, a kern, to use Freud’s own term, of non-sense, does not mean that interpretation is in itself nonsense.

Interpretation is a signification that is not just any signification. It comes here in the place of the s and reverses the relation by which the signifier has the effect, in language, of the signified. It has the effect of bringing out an irreducible signifier. One must interpret at the level of the s, which is not open to all [Diagram omitted] meanings, which cannot be just anything, which is a signification, though no doubt only an approximate one. What is there is rich and complex, when it is a question of the unconscious of the subject, and intended to bring out irreducible, non-sensical – composed of non-meanings – signifying elements. In this same article, Leclaire’s work illustrates particularly well the crossing of significant interpretation towards signifying non-sense, when he proposes, on the subject of his obsessional neurotic patient, the Poordjeli formula, which links the two syllables of the word licorne (unicorn), thus enabling him to introduce into his sequence a whole chain in which his desire is animated. Indeed, you will see in what he will publish later that things go much further still.

Interpretation is not open to all meanings. It is not just any interpretation. It is a significant interpretation, one that must not be missed. This does not mean that it is not this signification that is essential to the advent of the subject. What is essential is that he should see, beyond this signification, to what signifier – to what irreducible, traumatic, non-meaning – he is, as a subject, subjected.

For further commentary on this dream, see Alienation and Separation in Seminar XI (Paris) : 1st July 1990 : Éric Laurent : Available here