Alienation and Separation in Seminar XI (Paris) : 1st July 1990 : Éric Laurent

by Julia Evans on July 1, 1990

  1. Availability
  2. Background to the English Speaking Seminar on Seminar XI
  3. An Historical View
  1. Availability

Text of a talk given in Paris on 1st July 1990 as part of the English speaking seminars. The text is published in two parts:

Alienation and Separation (I) : Laurent Éric

P19-28 of ‘Reading Seminar XI:Lacan’s four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis’ (eds) Bruce Fink, Richard Feldstein & Maire Jaanus: 1995: Albany, State Uni of NY Press

Download here


Jacques Lacan

Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts: 1963-1964 : beginning 15th January 1964 : Jacques Lacan : Availability given here : 27th May 1964 : The subject and the Other: Alienation: Chapter 16

The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud : Availability given here

Radiophonie: 9th April & 5th June 1970: Jacques Lacan : Availability given here

Proposition or ‘Proposal of 9th October 1967 
on the psychoanalyst of the School’: Jacques Lacan : Availability given here

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty: A New Sophism : March 1945 : Jacques Lacan : Availability given here

Science and Truth: 1st December 1965 session of Seminar XIII: The Object of Psychoanalysis : Jacques Lacan : Availability given here

Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: Jacques Lacan : Availability given here

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

Alienation and Separation (II) : Laurent Éric

P 29-38 of ‘Reading Seminar XI:Lacan’s four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis’ (eds) Bruce Fink, Richard Feldstein & Maire Jaanus: 1995: Albany, State Uni of NY Press

Available here


Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts: 1963-1964 : beginning 15th January 1964 : Jacques Lacan : Availability given here :17th June 1964: From interpretation to the transference: Chapter 19

Negation: 1925 : Sigmund Freud

Fetishism : 1927 : Sigmund Freud for case of “shine on the nose”

Seminar XVII for the four discourses : See Seminar XVII: Psychoanalysis upside down/The reverse side of psychoanalysis: 1969-1970 : from 26th November 1969: Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar XI : 27th May 1964

Lacan’s comments to a lecture by Michel Foucault on ‘What is an author?’ are not available in English. Foucault’s essay is available on the internet. See Seminar XVI where an entire session is given to discussing this work. Availability of Seminar XVI: From an Other to the other: 1968-1969: begins 13th November 1968: Jacques Lacan is here  : Probably Seminar XVI : 27th November 1968 : Chapter III p6 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation.

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

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

Note on the Child: October 1969: Jacques Lacan Availability given here or Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here

On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis : 1958 : Jacques Lacan : Availability given here

  1. Background to the English Speaking Seminar on Seminar XI

From Bruce Fink’s Preface to ‘Reading Seminar XI:Lacan’s Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis’ (eds) Bruce Fink, Richard Feldstein & Maire Jaanus: 1995: Albany, State Uni of NY Press

(pix) Psychoanalysis is not a science. Not yet, at any rate – not in the sense in which “science” is currently understood. Unlike the “hard” sciences, it is a praxis constituted by certain aims, ends, and desires. Since the demise of alchemy, desire has been excluded from the sciences, despite the historian’s and the biographer’s keen awareness of the importance of the individual scientist’s motives and personality.

Some people have tried to render psychology scientific by asking patients to fill out questionnaires and take standardized tests before, during, and after therapy to provide “objective” criteria for evaluating the psychotherapeutic process. As important as such information about whether or not analysands feel they are being or have been helped may be to Consumer Reports-type publications, they establish nothing about the epistemological status of psychoanalysis itself. Instead they relegate psychoanalysis to the status of public opinion polls.

While any field of study can produce statistical data (whether the effect of advertising on TV viewers, the popularity of presidential candidates, visitors’ reactions to zoo exhibits, etc.), the type of scientificity proper to psychoanalysis derives from the formulation of the psychoanalytic process in generic-i.e., abstract theoretical-terms. Each moment or movement in analytic treatment can be understood in terms of identification, alienation, separation, fantasy, and soon, each of these terms being formulated and developed within psychoanalytic theory.

This kind of formalization – which Lacan takes as far as providing a sort of algebra with which to formulate certain aspects of analytic experience ( S1 and S2 standing for the most elementary matrix of language, $ f or the subject split into conscious and unconscious, a for the cause of desire, and so on), constituting a form of mathematization which is not quantifiable, but provides restrictive “formulas” or formulations which reduce experience to its bare psychoanalytic essentials –allows one to compare the various forms of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, predict their outcomes, and critique their methods.

A critique of methods, however, requires a well-developed theory of the aims of analysis. Physics and chemistry can do without aims. Game theory- the “conjectural science” with which Lacan most closely associates psychoanalysis – begins with an aim, but a rather simplistic, unchanging one: winning. Psychoanalysis is a practice, and as such requires a praxis whereby aims and theory constantly interact. This is what Lacan provides, and it is quite rare in the history of psychoanalysis : a sustained attempt to examine ever further the aims of analysis on the basis of advances in theory and to develop ever further theorization on the basis of revised views of analysis’ aim

The aims of psychoanalysis have faded into the background – they are considered too obvious and well known to warrant discussion. To most analysts, psychoanalysis seeks to alleviate the patient’s symptoms and readapt him or her to social reality. Yet neither Freud nor Lacan ever adopts or
endorses any such aims. Psychoanalysis’ aims have, to Lacan’s mind, more to do with psychoanalytic theory itself and the patient’s predicament. If the
analysand sustains that s/he never gets what s/he wants because s/he always does something to sabotage things, the knots in his or her desire need to be undone. If that doesn’t lead to satisfaction, perhaps that implies something about the nature of desire itself – namely, that desire has no object, pursuing instead its own maintenance and furtherance: more desire, ever greater desire. Yet in fantasy, the analysand is fixated on a specific object which arouses his or her desire. How is that fixation to be transformed? What is
the analyst to aim at with regards to that object which causes the analysand’s desire: Putting a new object in its place(is it even substitutable?), i.e., maintaining the basic structure of that fantasy while displacing its object, leaving intact the fixation? Changing the subject-object relationship altogether – i.e., reconfiguring the fantasy? What does transforming or “traversing” fantasy -putting the subject in the place of the object-lead to? A desiring subject. And isn’t that state of pure desirousness what is required of the analyst in order to avoid the identification trap whereby the analysand identifies with the analyst and tries to become like him or her?

By formulating fantasy as a relationship (<>) between the subject ($) and that object (a) which causes his or her desire ($ <> a), Lacan is able to indicate how the analyst can elude the role of the all-knowing, judgmental Other, repository of all social values, and come to play the role of object a instead, thereby orchestrating a change in the subject’s fantasy. By defining the three orders of the symbolic, imaginary, and real, Lacan is able to discern three possible corresponding positions of the analyst in the analytic relationship – Other, other, or object a – and indicate the kinds of dangers the first two involve by analyzing case histories in the literature where such positions have clearly been adopted. This conceptual advance in turn clarifies the analyst’s aim, and allows him or her to better manoeuver into the position of object a – desirousness.

In Lacan’s work, theory informs analysis’ aims and practice and vice-versa. Analysis is not pragmatic in its aims, if pragmatism means compliance with social, economic, and political norms and realities. It is a praxis of jouissance, and jouissance is anything but practical. It ignores the needs of capital, health insurance companies, socialized healthcare, public order, and “mature adult relationships.” The techniques psychoanalysts must use to deal with it wreak havoc on the principle that time is money and on accepted notions of “professional conduct.” While therapists in our society are expected to interact with their patients in ways which are clearly for their own good (always understood in terms of what is socially acceptable at a particular historical moment), analysts act instead for their analysands’ Eros.

3. [An Historical View]

In 1963, a great deal of pressure was put on Lacan to change his practice or stop training analysts if hewanted to remain part of the French psychoanalytic institute, the Société française de psychanalyse, of which he had been a member for many years. He refused, and Seminar XI is a product of that refusal. It marks a turning point in Lacan’s life and in his teaching as well. While presenting many continuities with the work that had gone before, Seminar XI also represents a break: a break from Freud, which is by no means anti-Freudian in thrust – from the reliance on one of Freud’s articles or books as the crux of each and every seminar, and from such great dependence on Freud’s conceptualizations, Lacan allowing himself ever greater theoretical latitude thereafter – and a break from the association Freud had formed, the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). In 1964 Lacan founded his own school, the École freudienne de Paris (EFP), initiating his search for new institutional forms and procedures. His concern with the teaching or “transmission” and “transmissibility” of psychoanalysis came to the fore, resulting, for example, in ever greater formalization and in a procedure for evaluating analytic transmission known as the “pass.”

From pxi:

Each of the speakers whose papers are collected in this volume presents this turning point in Lacan’s work in his or her own way emphasizing theoretical and/or clinical aspects of Lacan’s “break” from Freud, and from
 the “early Lacan” as well. …

Page references to Seminar Xl always correspond to Alan Sheridan’s 1978 English translation published by Norton. “Écrits 1966″ refers to the French edition published by Seuil in Paris, while “Écrits” alone refers to Alan Sheridan’s 1977 English translation published by Norton.

From pxv

It should be noted that, while many of the papers (including “Position of the Unconscious” by Lacan) presented here refer to the “subject” as he or him, not she or her, this is largely a byproduct of the translation process: in French, the noun “subject” is masculine, and thus all references back to it require masculine pronouns and possessive pronouns. (This is no doubt also in part due to older English-language conventions – it should be kept in mind that few of the lecturers learned English fewer than twenty years ago!) While we have not changed these references in every case, it should be understood that references to the subject (unless a particular subject is being discussed) always imply a subject of either sex.

See ‘Position of the Unconscious’, here, for further comments from this Preface.


For other texts by Éric Laurent see here