Interpretation in Reverse : 1996 : Jacques-Alain Miller

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1996

Author’s Note : I had initially announced this paper in the programme for the Journées under the title “The Other Side of Interpretation”. [It is not known on which date this text was presented] I presented it in three sentences : “Interpretation is dead. It will not be resuscitated. If a practice is truly contemporary, it is ineluctably post-interpretive although it does not really know it yet”. This oral communication was designed to unsettle the average opinion, to produce surprise. It did do that, and more. Did this amount to success? Perhaps not. Some, turning around, drowned the essence of this communication (on this point, see my first thoughts : “L’oublie de l’interpretation” in La letter mensuelle, no 144, December 1995, p1-2). This text was transcribed by C. Bonningue, I read and made few corrections.

Originally published in La Cause freudienne, 32, 1996

Translated by Véronique Voruz and Bogdan Wolf


– Psychoanalytical Notebooks, 2, 1999, p9-16

– The Later Lacan : An Introduction, ed. V.  Voruz and B. Wolf, Suny Press, New York, 2007, p.6.

– Republished in The Bulletin of the NLS Issue 4, 2008, p69-75

Published at London Society of the New Lacanian School

Available to download here

– A different translation, probably by Russell Grigg, is available at  It is not known from where this translation emanates or if it has ever been published.

References to Jacques Lacan’s & Sigmund Freud’s texts

– page numbers from Russell Grigg’s translation

P1 provides the material of interpretation – as if the signifier ….. & the unconscious – as if another wanting-to-say [vouloir-dire] : possible reference to Some forms of emotional disturbance and their relationship to schizophrenia (‘as if’ case) : 1942 : Helene Deutsch or here.  Jacques Lacan refers to this case in Seminar III : 11th April 1956 p192-193 of Russell Grigg’s translation & Seminar VII : 18th November 1959 : p9 of Dennis Porter’s translation.

P1 Lacan designated as ‘the Other’s desire’ : Seminar XI : 10th June 1964 : p235 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : see Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts: 1963-1964 : beginning 15th January 1964 : Jacques Lacan or here : Quote : This relation is internal. Man’s desire is the desire of the Other.

P1 If Lacan does not include interpretation among the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis : see Seminar XI above. The four fundamental concepts are Transference, Unconscious, Repetition & Drive

P1 Does the equivalence between the unconscious and interpretation not emerge at the end of the Seminar ‘Desire and its Interpretation’, with the paradox that unconscious desire is its interpretation? Is the equivalence unconscious/interpretation not what is restated in the form of the concept of the subject supposed to know? : See Seminar VI: Desire and its interpretation: 1958-1959 : from 12th November 1958 : Jacques Lacan or here  : [JE : The exact quotation has not been found] p324 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : Seminar VI : 24th June 1959 (Chapter 26) : This notation does not designate a relationship of the subject to the object, but the phantasy, a phantasy which sustains this subject as desiring, namely at this point beyond his discourse where it is a question of ……. This notation signifies that in the phantasy the subject is present as subject of the unconscious discourse. The subject is here present in so far as he is represented in the phantasy by the function of cutting which is essentially his own, of cutting in a discourse, and which is not just any discourse, which is a discourse which escapes him: this discourse of the unconscious.

OR Seminar VI : 1st July 1959 : p335 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : We come to the end of this year which I have devoted, with all its risks and perils for me as well as for you, to this question of desire and its interpretation.

You have been able to see in effect that it is on the question of the place of desire in the economy of the analytic experience that I have remained without budging because I think it is from there that there should begin every particular interpretation of any desire whatsoever.

It has not been easy to circumscribe this place. That is why today I would like simply, by way of conclusion, to point out the major terms, the cardinal points with respect to which there is situated something whose importance I have managed, I hope, to make you sense this year: the specificity to be given to this function of desire as such.

P1 subject supposed to know  : Seminar XI : 10th June 1964 : p232 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : here : … As soon as the subject who is supposed to know exists somewhere—I have abbreviated it for you today at the top of the blackboard as S.s.S. (sujet suppose savoir) there is transference.

What does an organization of psychoanalysts mean when it confers certificates of ability, if not that it indicates to whom one may apply to represent this subject who is supposed to know?

Now, it is quite certain, as everyone knows, that no psychoanalyst can claim to represent, in however slight a way, a corpus of absolute knowledge.

P1 It is lure … : A possible further reference to Seminar XI – see above for details. There are 9 references to lure in the index. From Seminar XI : 4th March 1964 : p100 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : In the case of travesty, a certain sexual finality is intended. Nature shows us that this sexual aim is produced by all kinds of effects that are essentially disguise, masquerade. A level is constituted here quite distinct from the sexual aim itself; which is found to play an essential role in it, and which must not be distinguished too hastily as being that of deception. The function of the lure, in this instance, is something else, something before which we should suspend judgement before we have properly measured its effects.

P2 as Freud discovered with what he named “the day’s residues”? : There are many references to day’s residues in   The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud  : See here : Footnote 2 [1914] of VII Psychology of the Dream-Processes, part D The Function of Dreams, p579-580 of SE V : A little reflection will convince u, however, that this ‘secondary’ function of dreams has no claim to be considered as a part of the subject of dream interpretation. Thinking ahead, forming intentions, framing attempted solutions which may perhaps be realized later in waking life, all these, and many other similar things, are products of the unconscious and preconscious activity of the mind; they may persist in the state of sleep as the ‘day’s residues’ and combine with an unconscious wish (see SEV p550) in forming a dream.

P2 if the unconscious desire was not [in?] its deepest phase a desire to be interpreted – Lacan says so – a desire to make sense

Quote from : The Lacanian Concept of Cut in Light of Lacan’s Interactions with Maud Mannoni by Laure Razon, Olivier Putois, and Alain Vanier : see here

The question then becomes, in order for the infant to become a subject properly speaking, to know what he represents for the Other, what the Other ≪ wants from him ≫ (Seminar X)—that is, what is the meaning of this S1 which designates him? Since a single signifier, as such, has no meaning, S1 can only acquire one by becoming part of a series of other signifiers coming from the Other (Lacan calls S2 the ensemble of these additional signifiers). In other words, alienation does not suffice to constitute the subject because, far from enabling the infant to gain access to a knowledge of what he is, it instead opens him to a never-ending series of equivalences between S1 and S2. It is this series of equivalences that enables the explorations of infantile curiosity ( Seminar XI, part 3), and more generally accounts for the effects of metaphor and metonymy through which formations of the unconscious can be interpreted..

Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan    See  here

Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts: 1963-1964 : beginning 15th January 1964 : Jacques Lacan  See here


– Seminar X : 12th December 1962 : See  here  :  pV 39 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : …where undoubtedly, the dimension of the Other remained dominant. Namely the demand of the Other, the jouissance of the Other and, in a quite modal form which remained moreover at the state of a question mark, the desire of the Other in so far as it is this desire which corresponds to our interrogation, I mean that of the analyst, of the analyst in so far as he intervenes as term.

– Seminar XI : Part 3 is probably the section ‘The field of the Other & back to the transference’ : from p203 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : See here

The following is a commentary of the first two chapters of Part 3 :

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

– Seminar XI : 12th February 1964 : p63 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : See here  : You will see that this sketch that I have given you today of the function of the tuché will be essential for us in rectifying what is the duty of the analyst in the interpretation of the transference.

– Seminar XI : 27th May 1964 : p211 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : See here : Let us illustrate this with what we are dealing with here, namely, the being of the subject, that which is there beneath the meaning. If we choose being, the subject disappears, it eludes us, it falls into non-meaning. If we choose meaning, the meaning survives only deprived of that part of non-meaning that is, strictly speaking, that which constitutes in the realization of the subject, the unconscious. In other words, it is of the nature of this meaning, as it emerges in the field of the Other, to be in a large part of its field, eclipsed by the disappearance of being, induced by the very function of the signifier.

P2 …Freud says when he inscribes the dream as discourse in the register of the primary process, as wish fulfilment. :  See The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud  : See here : Chapter VII THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE DREAM PROCESS, Part (C) Wish-Fulfilment : SE V

p2-3 : And Lacan deciphers it for us by saying that jouissance lies in ciphering : From The Mirror Stage as a Formative Structuring of the ‘I’ : 17th July 1949 (Zurich) : Jacques Lacan : See here or /lacan

In the recourse of subject to subject that we preserver, psychoanalysis may accompany the patient to the ecstatic limit of the “Thou art that.” in which is revealed to him the cipher of his mortal destiny, but it is not in our mere power as practitioners to bring him to that point where the real journey beings.

P3 Jouissance, sens joui [enjoyed sense] – the homophony Lacan Lacan surprises us with in his [text] Television is the very principle of the program inaugurated, if not by “Function and Field of Speech and Language,” at least by his deciphering in “The Agency of the Letter.” This program is to reduce libido to the being of sense.

– See Television: 31st January 1974 : Jacques Lacan   or here  :  Note : It has not been possible to find Lacan’s usage of this exact term.

Two references to Television follow and this quote from  No Subject – – Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis : Increasingly, in his works of the 1970s, Lacan points to the fact that language, in addition to having a signifier effect, also has an effect of jouissance. In Television, he equivocates between jouissancejouis-sens (enjoyment in sense) and the jouissance effect, the enjoyment of one’s own unconscious, even if it is through pain (Lacan, 1990). The unconscious is emphasized as enjoyment playing through substitution, with jouissance located in the jargon itself. Jouissance thus refers to the specific way in which each subject enjoys his/her unconscious.

From Television: 31st January 1974 : Jacques Lacan

P22-23 of Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, and Annette Michelson’s translation in October 40, 1987 : Now, what Freud articulates as primary process in the un­ conscious-and this is me speaking here, but you can look it up and you’d see it-isn’t something to be numerically expressed [se chiffre], but to be deciphered [se dichiffre]. I mean: jouissance itself. In which case it doesn’t result in energy, and can’t be registered as such.

p28-29 of Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, and Annette Michelson’s translation published in October 40, 1987 : Who, upon reading chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, and 13, 14 of this Seminar XI, does not sense the advantage of not translating Trieb by instinct, of keeping close to this drive by calling it drift, of dismantling and then reassembling its oddity, stick­ing, all the while to Freud?
If you follow along with me there, won’t you feel the dif­ference between energy – which is a constant that can be marked each time in relation to the One, on the basis of which what is experimental in science is constructed – and the Drang or drive of the drive which, jouissance of course, only derives its perma­nence from the rims – I went so far as to give them their math­ematical form – of the body? A permance?? that consists solely in the quadruple agency by which each drive is sustained through coexistence with three others. It is only as power that four opens onto the disunion that must be warded off, for those whom sex is not sufficient to render partners.

– See The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan  or here

– See The Agency (Insistence or Instance) of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud (Sorbonne, Paris) : 9th May 1957 : Jacques Lacan or here

P3 I have already punctuated the main moments of this elaboration; there are five :   Probably Jacques-Alain Miller, “Paradigms of Jouissance,” Lacanian Ink 17, 18th September 2000 : In French,part of Course L’expérience du réal dans la cure analytique, 1998-1999  and the session of 17th March 1999 given in Paris. Spring 1999 : Copy available from Julia Evans

P3 This is not what Lacan calls “the way to a true awakening for the subject.”  : probably Seminar XI : 12th February 1964 : See here : p60 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : The place of the real, which stretches from the trauma to the phantasy—in so far as the phantasy is never anything more than the screen that conceals something quite primary, some- thing determinant in the function of repetition—this is what we must now examine. This, indeed, is what, for us, explains both the ambiguity of the function of awakening and of the function of the real in this awakening. The real may be represented by the accident, the noise, the small element of reality, which is evidence that we are not dreaming. But, on the other hand, this reality is not so small, for what wakes us is the other reality hidden behind the lack of that which takes the place of representation—this, says Freud is the Trieb.
But be careful! We have not yet said what this Trieb is —and if, for lack of representation, it is not there, what is this Trieb? We may have to consider it as being only Trieb to come.
How can we fall to see that awakening works in two directions—and that the awakening that re-situates us in a constituted and represented reality carries out two tasks? The real has to be sought beyond the dream—in what the dream has enveloped, hidden from us, behind the lack of representation of which there is only one representative. This is the real that governs our activities more than any other and it is psychoanalysis that designates it for us.

P4 The elementary phenomena is a particularly pure demonstration of the presence of the signifier all alone, in suffrance : Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan : See here :

P14 of Russell Grigg’s translation : Seminar III : 16th November 1955 : However, in the normal subject, speaking to oneself with one’s ego can never be made fully explicit. One’s relationship to the ego is fundamentally ambiguous, one’s assumption of the ego always revocable. In the psychotic subject on the other hand certain elementary phenomena, and in particular hallucinations, which are their most characteristic form, show us the subject completely identified either with his ego, with which he speaks, or with the ego assumed entirely along instrumental lines. It’s he who speaks of him, the subject, the S, in the two equivocal senses of the term, the initial S and the German Es. This is what presents itself in the phenomenon of verbal hallucination. The moment the hallucination appears in the real, that is, accompanied by the sense of reality, which is the elementary phenomenon’s basic feature, the subject literally speaks with his ego, and it’s as if a third party, his lining, were speaking and commenting on his activity.

P26 of Russell Grigg’s translation : Seminar III : 23rd November 1955 : What is important isn’t that the elementary phenomenon should be an initial nucleus, a parasitic point as de Clerambault used to say, inside the personality, around which the subject supposedly constructs something, a fibrous reaction destined to envelop and enclose it in a cyst, and at the same time to integrate it, that is to explain it, as is often said. A delusion isn’t deduced. It reproduces its same constitutive force. It, too, is an elementary phenomenon. This means that here the notion of element is to be taken in no other way than as structure, differentiated structure, irreducible to any- thing other than itself.

P74 of Russell Grigg’s translation : Seminar III : 11th January 1956 : This constitutes what is called, whether rightly, or wrongly, the elementary phenomenon or, as a more developed phenomenon, delusional belief.

P4 It has a perfectly good name: the delusion of interpretation. This is the way of all interpretation : interpretation has the structure of delusion, :  Probably of relevance : p22 of Russell Grigg’s translation : Seminar III : 23rd November 1955 : Take elementary interpretation. To be sure, this comprises an element of meaning, but it’s a repetitive one, it proceeds by reiteration. Sometimes the subject does elaborate on this element, but what is certain is that it will remain, at least for a while, being constantly repeated with the one interrogative sign that is always involved, without any answer, any attempt to integrate it into a dialogue, ever being made. The phenomenon is closed to all dialectical composition.

Take what is known as passional psychosis, which seems so much closer to what is called normal. If in this case the prevalence of litigiousness is stressed, it’s because the subject can’t come to terms with a certain loss or injury and because his entire life appears to be centred around compensation for the injury suffered and the claim it entails. Litigation moves into the foreground so much that sometimes it seems completely to dominate his interest in what is at stake. Here also the dialectic comes to a halt, centered of course in a totally different way from the preceding case.

I pointed out to you last time what the phenomenon of interpretation hinges on – it’s linked to the relation between the ego and the other, inasmuch as analytic theory defines the ego as always being relative

P4 this is why Freud does not hesitate to put the delusion of Schreber and the theory of the libido on the same plane, without any stratification : See Seminar III : 23rd November 1955 : p16-28 of Russell Grigg’s translation : Available Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan or here

& p78, SEXII of Sigmund Freud Psychoanalytic notes on an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia (Dementia Paranoides) (President Schreber) : 1910 (published 1911c) : See here  & here : Since I neither fear the criticism of others nor shrink from criticizing myself, I have no motive for avoiding the mention of a similarity which may possibly damage our libido theory in the estimation of many of my readers. Schreber’s ‘rays of God’, which are made up of a condensation of the sun’s rays, of nerve-fibres, and of spermatozoa [p. 22], are in reality nothing else than a concrete representation and projection outwards of libidinal cathexes; and they thus lend his delusions a striking conformity with our theory.

As quoted

– in An Encounter with a Statue : 26th October 2019 : Yaron Gilat  : See here


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Julia Evans    

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London


Further posts

Groups & cartels here

Some Lacanian history here

Lacanian Transmission here

Of the clinic here

By Jacques-Alain Miller  here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

Or by Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here