A Lacanian Psychosis: 12th February 1976: An encounter between Gérard Primeau & Jacques Lacan

by Julia Evans on February 12, 1976

Title: A Lacanian Psychosis: An encounter between Gérard Primeau and Jacques Lacan in 1976

Translated by Stuart Schneiderman

Available to download here.

Published in:

‘Returning to Freud: Clinical Psychoanalysis in the School of Lacan’, 1980, Stuart Schneiderman (ed), Yale University Press, p19-41. Further details & availability ‘Returning to Freud – Clinical Psychoanalysis in the School of Lacan – Selections’ : 1980 : Stuart Schneiderman (Ed) or here

Reprinted in ‘How Lacan’s ideas are used in Clinical Practice’, 1993. S.S. (ed) Jason Aronson Inc. p19-41

Published in French

Title: Entretien de Jacques Lacan avec M. Gérard Lumeroy

Published: Le discours psychoanalytique, 1992, 7, p55-92

According to Jacques Lacan, in Seminar XXIII, 17th February 1976, pVII 5 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation, www.LacaninIreland.com, : “It so happens that last Friday, at my presentation of something that is generally considered as a case, a case of madness assuredly”. Therefore, this encounter probably took place on Friday 12h February 1976.

Index of this post:

Jacques Lacan’s commentary on this case – Seminar XXIII – 17th February 1976

Quote from Stuart Schneiderman’s notes, 1980

Quote from ‘The Other Lacan’ by Stuart Schneiderman, 1980

Further references at the end

Jacques Lacan’s commentary on this case follows:

Probably Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan : Information here : Probably 17th February 1976, Ch VII, See below for quote

Seminar XXIII : 17th February 1976 : p5 to 8 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : www.LacaninIreland.com : quote

Namely, at the same time if the Symbolic is freed, as I clearly marked formerly, we have a way of repairing that, which is to make what for the first time I defined as the sinthome. Namely, the something that allows the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real, to continue to hold together, even though here no one of them is held by another, thanks to two errors.

I have allowed myself to define as sinthome not what allows the knot, the knot of three, to still make a knot of three but what it preserves in such a position that it seems to be a knot of three. This is what I put forward very gently the last time. And, I re-evoke it for you incidentally, I thought- you can make what you wish of my thinking – I thought that it was the key to what had happened to Joyce. That Joyce has symptom which starts, which starts from the fact that his father was lacking (carent) : radically lacking, he talks of nothing but that.

I centred the matter around the name, the proper name. And I thought that – make what you wish of this thought – and I thought that it was by wanting a name for himself that Joyce compensated for the paternal lack. This at least is what I said. Because I could say no better. I will try to articulate that in a more precise way. But it is clear that the art of Joyce is something so particular, that the term sinthome is indeed what is, what is appropriate to it.

It so happens that last Friday, at my presentation of something that is generally considered as a case, [JE: see A Lacanian Psychosis: 1976: An encounter between Gérard Primeau & Jacques Lacan : Information here] a case of madness assuredly. A case of madness which, which had begun with the sinthome : imposed words (paroles imposées). This at least was how the patient himself articulated this something which is the most sensible of things in the order, in the order of an articulation that I can describe as Lacanian. How can we not all sense that the words on which we depend, are in a way imposed on us? This indeed is why what is called a sick person sometimes goes further than what is called a healthy man. The question is rather one of knowing why a normal man, one described as normal, is not aware that the word is a parasite? That the word is something applied. That the word is a form of cancer with which the human being is afflicted. How is it that there are some who go as far as feeling it?

It is certain that Joyce gives us a little taste of this. I mean that the last time I did not speak about his daughter, Lucia, since he gave his children Italian names, I did not speak about the daughter Lucia with the intention of not getting into, into what one could call gossip. The daughter Lucian is still alive. She is in a nursing home in England. She is what is called, like that, nowadays, a schizophrenic.

But the matter was recalled to me during my last case presentation, by the fact that the case that I was presenting had undergone a deterioration. After having had the feeling, a feeling that I consider, for my part, as sensible, the feeling that words were imposed on him, things deteriorated. He had the feeling, not simply that words were imposed on him, but that he was affected by what he himself called telepathy. Which was not what is usually meant by this word, namely, being made aware of things that happen to others, but that on the contrary everyone was aware of what he was formulating himself, in his own heart. Namely, his most intimate reflections, and quite especially the reflections which came to him in the margin of these famous imposed words. For he heard something : ‘dirty political assassination’ (sale assassinat politique). Which he made equivalent to ‘dirty political assistantship’ (sale assistanat politique). One can clearly see here that the signifier is reduced to what it is, to equivocation, to a torsion of the voice. But to ‘dirty assassination’ or to ‘dirty assistantship’ described as political, he said something to himself, in reply. Namely, something which began with a but, and which was his reflection on the subject. And what really terrified him, was the thought that in addition, the reflection he was making, in addition to what he considered as these words that were imposed on him, was also known by the others. He was then, as he expressed it, a telepathic broadcaster. In other words, he no longer had any secrets. And this very thing, it was this that made him to attempt to end it all; life having become for him by this fact, by this fact of no longer having any secrets, by no longer having anything in reserve, led him to make what is called a suicide attempt. Which was moreover the reason why he was there and why I in short had to be concerned with him.

What pushed me today to speak to you about the daughter Lucia, is very exactly the fact, I was really careful about it the last time, in order not to get involved in gossip, is that Joyce, Joyce fiercely defended his daughter, his daughter the schizophrenic, what is called a schizophrenic, from being taken over by doctors. Joyce only articulated a single thing, which was that his daughter was a telepath. I mean that, in the letters that he wrote about her, he formulated that she is much more intelligent than anybody else, that she informs him, miraculously is the word to be understood, about everything that is happening to a certain number of people, that for her these people have no secrets.

Is there not here something striking? Not at all that I think that Lucia was effectively a telepath, that she knew what was happening to people about whom she did not have, about whom she did not have any more information than anyone else. But that Joyce for his part attributes this virtue from a certain number os signs, of declarations that he, he understood in a certain way. This is really something where I see that in order to defend, as one might say, his daughter, he attributes to her something, an extension of what I will momentarily call his own symptom. Namely – it is difficult in his case not to evoke, not to evoke my own patient and how this had begun with him – namely, that with respect to the word, one cannot say that something was not imposed on Joyce. I mean that in the more or less continuous progress that his art constituted, namely, this word, the word that had been written, to break it to dislocate it, to ensure that at the end what seems in reading him to be a continual progress – from the effort that he made in his first critical essays, then subsequently, in the ‘Portrait of the Artist’, and finally in ‘Ulysses’ and ending up with ‘Finnegans Wake’ – it is difficult not to see that a certain relationship to the word is more and more imposed on him. Imposed to the point that he finishes by, by dissolving language itself, as Philippe Sollers has very well noted, I told you that at the beginning of the year, to impose on language itself a sort of breaking, of decomposition which means that there is no longer any phonological identity.

No doubt there is here a reflection at the level of writing. I mean that it is through the intermediary of writing that the word is decomposed in imposing itself. In imposing itself as such. Namely, in a distortion as regards which there remains an ambiguity as to whether it is a matter of liberating oneself from the parasite, from the wordy parasite of which I spoke earlier, or on the contrary something which allows itself to be invaded by the properties of the word that are essentially of the phonemic order, by the polyphony of the word.

In any case the fact that Joyce articulates in connection with Lucia, in order to defend, that she is a telepath, seems to me – by reason of this patient whose case I was considering last time when I made what is called my presentation at Ste Anne – seems to me certainly indicative. Indicative of something as regards to which I will say that Joyce, that Joyce bears witness at this very point [Refers to Fig. VII-6 which has not been reproduced] which is the point that I designated as being that of the paternal lack. What I would like to mark, is that what I am calling, what I designated, what I am supporting by the sinthome which is marked here by a ring, by a ring of string, which is supposed, by me, to be produced at the very place where, let us say, there is an error in the layout of the knot.

It is difficult for us not to see that the slip is what, in part, the notion of the unconscious is grounded on. That the witticism should also be so, is not, it is to be paid to the same account as I might say. For, after all, it is not unthinkable that the witticism should result from a slip. This at least is how Freud himself articulates it, namely, that it is a short circuit; that, as he puts forward, it is an economy with a pleasure, a satisfaction in view. That it should be at the place where the knot fails, where there is a sort of slip of the knot itself, is something that we should clearly retain, that I for my part, as I showed here, happen to fail on occasion. This indeed is what, in a way, confirms that a knot can fail. A knot can fail, just as much as the Unconscious is there to show us that it is starting from, that it is starting from its own consistency, that of the Unconscious, that there are a whole lot of failures.

Quote from Stuart Schneiderman’s notes on ‘Aimée’

Further details ‘Returning to Freud – Clinical Psychoanalysis in the School of Lacan – Selections’ : 1980 : Stuart Schneiderman (Ed) or here (p19)

Quote from, Stuart Schneiderman, the translator’s note (p19): The text that follows is a translation of the unedited transcript of an interview conducted by Jacques Lacan with a hospitalised psychiatric patient before a group of psychiatrists and analysts. The names have, of course, been altered, but in changing them Jacques-Alain Miller was careful to maintain the resonances that the original names had for the patient.

Translating such a text poses special problems. The transcript retains the particularities of a spoken discourse. I have rendered these in equivalent English forms. Also, the patient has a rather special way of using the French language, especially as concerns verb tenses and neologisms. In almost all cases I have retained the verb tense used by the patient, even where, for example, his use of the pluperfect or imperfect seems awkward in English. For the neologisms, wherever possible I have used an English neologism and have included the French term in parentheses. In short, I have translated good French into good English and broken and erroneous French into less than perfect English. At present, the original French transcript is unpublished. (1980) End quote.

Quote from ‘The Other Lacan’ by Stuart Schneiderman, 1980

Availability The Other Lacan: 1980: Stuart Schneiderman or here

p9 of  ‘Returning to Freud – Clinical Psychoanalysis in the School of Lacan – Selections’ : 1980 : Stuart Schneiderman (Ed) : Information and availailability here

Lacan has often said that his teaching has only one purpose: to train Psychoanalysts. The procedures for training analysts have always been subject to intense debate. Instead of arguing the questions raised by Lacan’s training methods, I have chosen to present evidence of the results. The informed reader will judge the effectiveness of Lacan’s teaching by evaluating the work of his students. We can pose the relevant question as follows: has Lacan developed a theory that is transmissible to others, or are the positive effects of his own therapeutic work merely the result of the force of his personality?

It goes almost without saying that an American reader picking up a copy of the English translation of Lacan’s Écrits will not see the practical application of what appear to be rather abstract theoretical considerations. This reader may well be willing to see Lacan as a thinker, a master of hermeneutics, or even a self-indulgent metaphysician.

In Paris, of course, Lacan’s presence as a practicing analyst has made it difficult for readers to think of him merely as a philosopher, a moment in intellectual history. Since most Americans have not had the advantage of seeing Lacan in practice, I requested that he contribute to this volume the transcript of a patient interview. Since Lacan responded favorably to this request, the reader is provided with a unique opportunity to study in depth the technique that has developed from Lacan’s clinical and theoretical experience. I say “unique” because no transcript of an interview by Lacan has ever been published before anywhere.

 Further texts:

Jacques Lacan : here

Stuart Schneiderman : here

Ordinary Psychosis : here

Case studies from life – historical figures : here

Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan : Information here

‘Returning to Freud – Clinical Psychoanalysis in the School of Lacan – Selections’ : 1980 : Stuart Schneiderman (Ed) or here