Psychoses of passion : 1921 : Gaétan Gatian de Clérambault

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1921

Originally published in:

Les psychoses passionelles, pp. 323-7 of Oeuvre Psychiatrique, vol.1. Paris: 1921-1924 : Presses Universitaires de France, republished 1942

Translation into English of p323-327

Psychoses of passion : 1921 : Gaétan Gatian de Clérambault

Available here

p182 – 187 of  The Clinical Roots of the Schizophrenia Concept : 28th November 1986 : John Cutting & Michael Shepherd (Editors & Authors) :

Information here

 

Quoted from ‘The Clinical Roots of the Schizophrenia Concept’ p182 :

Gaétan Gatian de Clérambault

(1872-1934)

de Clérambault was born in Bourges, in Central France. As a student he was attracted by artistic design, then law and finally medicine and psychiatry. His first senior psychiatric position was in a hospital for the criminally insane in Paris and he remained there for 30 years, eventually becoming its director. His two best-known contributions to psychiatric thought are his concept of mental automatism, an organic model of how certain mental functions could be split off from others; and erotomania, the false belief that one is loved, part of a wider concept of the psychoses derived from his notion of the passions.

The present extract traces his ideas on the nature of such passion-based psychoses and presents his views on erotomania, a condition which has been much discussed since’

Quoted by Jacques Lacan (in date order) :

Jacques Lacan’s case of Aimée:1932,

‘The Case of Aimée, or Self-punitive Paranoia’: Jacques Lacan: 1932 : Information and availability here

From ‘Presentation on Psychical Causality’ 28th September 1946 (Bonneval) : Jacques Lacan :

published in Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan : Information and availability here

Time-line: This presentation was given on September 28, 1946, at the psychiatric conference held in Bonneval. It was published in [Evolution Psychiatrique Xll, I (1947): p123-65, and in] a volume entitled Le Problème de Ia psychogenèse des

Névroses et des psychoses (“The Problem of the Psychogenesis of the Neuroses and Psychoses”), by Lucien Bonnafé, Henri Ey, SvenFollin, Jacques Lacan, and Julien Rouart (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1950), p23-54

Quote from Presentation of Psychical Causality : p124 English Écrits & p152 French Écrits : Translated by Bruce Fink :

Organicism is being enriched with conceptions that range from mechanistic to dynamistic and Gestaltist ones. The conception that Ey borrows from Jackson certainly lends itself to this enriching, to which his own discussion of it has contributed – showing that Ey’s conception does not exceed the limits I have just defined. This is what, from my point of view, makes the difference between his position and that of my master, Clérambault, or of Guiraud negligible – and I should note that the position adopted by the latter two authors has proven to be of the least negligible psychiatric value, and we shall see in what sense further on.

Quote from Presentation of Psychical Causality : p137-138 English Écrits, pp167-168 French Écrits : Translated by Bruce Fink :

This is why, in an anthropology that takes the register of culture in man to include, as is fitting, the register of nature, one could concretely define psychology as the domain of nonsense [l’insensé], in other words, of everything that forms a knot in discourse – as is clearly indicated by the “words” of passion.

Let us follow this path in order to study the signification of madness, as we are certainly invited to by the original forms that language takes on in it: all the verbal allusions, cabalistic relationships, homonymic play, and puns that captivated the likes of Guiraud [P. Guiraud, “Les formes verbales de l’interprétation délirante,” Annales médico-psychologiques LXXIX, 5 (1921) : 395-412]. And, I might add, by the singular accent whose resonance we must know how to hear a word so as to detect a delusion; the transfiguration of a term in an ineffable intention; the fixation [figement] of an idea in a semanteme (which tends to degenerate into a sign here specifically); the lexical hybrids; the verbal cancer constituted by neologisms; the bogging down of syntax; the duplicity of enunciation; but also the coherence that amounts to a logic, the characteristic, running from the unity of a style to repetitive terms, that marks each form of delusion – the madman communicates with us through all of this, whether in speech or writing.

It is here that the structures of the madman’s knowledge must reveal themselves to us. And it is odd, though probably not coincidental, that it was mechanists like Clérambault and Guiraud who outlined them best. As false as the theory in which these authors included them may be, it made them remarkably attuned to an essential phenomenon of such structures: the kind of “anatomy” that manifests itself in them. Clérambault’s constant reference in his analysis to what he calls, with a slightly Disfoirus-like term, “the idiogenic,” is nothing but a search for the limits of signification. Employing a method involving nothing but comprehension, he paradoxially manages to display the magnificent range of structures that runs the gamut from the so-called “postulates” of the delusions of passion to the so-called basal phenomena of mental automatism.

This is why I think that he has done more than anyone else to support the hypothesis of the psychogenesis of madness; in any case, you will see what I mean by this shortly.

Clérambault was my only master in the observation of patients, after the very subtle and delectable Trénel, whom I made the mistake of abandoning too soon in order to seek a position in the consecrated spheres of professorial ignorance.

I claim to have followed his method in the analysis of the case of paranoic psychosis discussed in my thesis; I demonstrated the psychogenic structure of the case and designated its clinical entity with the more or less valid term of “self-punishing paranoia.”

Quote from: Presentation on Psychical Causality : p141-142 English Écrits, p173-174 French Écrits, : Translated by Bruce Fink :

More familiar to us and, also, more amusing in my book, is Molière’s Alcerte [from The Misanthrope] …. It all stems from the fact that Alceste’s “beautiful soul” exerts a fascination on the highbrow literati that the latter, “steeped in classics,” cannot resist. Does Molière thus approve of Philinte’s high society indulgence? “That’s just not possible!” some cry, while others must acknowledge, in the disabused strains of wisdom, that it surely must be the case at the rate things are going.

I believe that the question does not concern Philinte’s wisdom, and the solution would perhaps shock these gentlemen, for the fact that Alceste is mad and that Molière demonstrates that he is – precisely insofar as Alceste, in his beautiful soul, does not recognise that he himself contributes to the havoc he revolts against.

I specify that he is mad, not because he loves a woman who is flirtatious and betrays him – which is something the learned analysts I mentioned earlier would no doubt attribute to his failure to adapt to life – but because he is caught, under Love’s banner, by the very feeling that directs this art of mirages at which the beautiful Célimène excels: namely, the narcissism of the idle rich that defines the psychological structure of “high society” [“monde”] in all eras, which is doubled here by the other narcissism that is especially manifest in certain eras in the collective idealisation of the feeling of being in love.

Célimène, at the mirror’s focal point, and her admirers, forming a radiating circumference around her, indulge in the play of these passions [feux]. Alceste does too, no less than the others, for if he does not tolerate its lies, it is simply because his narcissism is more demanding. Of coure, he expresses it to himself in the form of the law of the heart:

I’d have them be sincere, and never part

With any word that isn’t from the heart.

Yes but when his heart speaks, it makes some strange exclamations. For example, when Philinte asks him, “You think then that she loves you?,” Alceste replies, “Heavens, yes! I wouldn’t love her did I not think so.”

I suspect Clérambault would have recognised this reply as having more to do with a delusion of passion than with love.

Seminar III : Session of 16th November 1955:

p5-6 of Russell Grigg’s translation :

Ch I, Introduction to the question of the psychoses: Sub-headings: Schizophrenia and Paranoia, M. de Clérambault, The Mirages of Understanding, From ‘Verneinung’ to ‘Verwerfung’, Psychosis and Psychoanalysis

Availability of Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan given here

Seminar III : 23rd November 1955:

p18 of Russell Grigg’s translation : Ch II The Meaning of Delusion : Sub-headings: Critique of Kraepelin, Dialectical Inertia, Séglas and Psychomotor Hallucination, Président Schreber

Seminar III : 6th June 1956 :

p 269 of Russell Grigg’s translation : Ch XXI – The Quilting Point

Seminar III : 27th June 1956 :

p307 of Russel Grigg’s translation : Ch XXIV – “Thou art”

Quote from ‘On My Antecedents’ : 1966 : Jacques Lacan :

P55-56 English Écrits : p65-66 French Écrits : Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan : Information and availability here : Translated by Bruce Fink :

It stems from the work of Gatian de Clérambault, my only master in psychiatry.

His notion of “mental automatism,” with its metaphorical, mechanistic ideology, which is assuredly open to criticism, seems to me, in its attempt to come to grips with the [patient’s] subjective text, closer to what can be constructed on the basis of a structural analysis than any other clinical approach in French psychiatry.

I was sensitive to the hint of a promise that I perceived in it due to the contrast between it and the decline that could be seen in a semiology that was ever more bogged down in assumptions related to rationality.

Clérambault was very familiar with the French tradition, but it was Kraepelin, whose clinical genius was of a higher caliber, who trained him.

Oddly enough, but necessarily, I believe, I was thereby led to Freud.

For faithfulness to the symptom’s formal envelope, which is the true clinical trace for which I acquired a taste, led me to the limit at which it swings back in creative effects. In the case included in my dissertation (the case of Aimée), there were literary effects – of high enough quality to have been collected, under the (reverent) heading of involuntary poetry, by Éluard.

The function of ideals presented itself to me here in a series of reduplications that led me to the notion of a structure, which was more instructive than the account the clinicians in Toulouse would have provided, for they would have lowered its price by situation it in the register of passion.

Moreover, the sort of gust effect that, in my subject, blew down the screen known as a delusion as soon as her hand touched, in a serious act of aggression, one of the images in her theater – who was doubly fictitious for her since she was also a star in reality – redoubled the conjugation of her poetic space with a gulf-like scansion.

This brought me closer to the stage machinery of acting out [passage à l’acte] and, if only by confining myself to the all-purpose word “self-punishment” that Berlin-style criminology offered me through the mouthpieces of Alexander and Staub, I was led to Freud.

The way in which a knowledge [connaissance] is specified on the basis of its stereotypy, and also of its discharges, providing evidence of another function, [seemed to me to] lead to an enrichment which no academicism, even that of the avat-garde, could have turned away.

Perhaps it will be understood that by crossing the doorstep of psychoanalysis, I immediately recognized in its practice knowledge-related biases that are far more interesting, since they are those that must be eliminated in its fundamental listening.

Further texts:

Preface and Introduction (The Clinical Roots of the Schizophrenia Concept): 28th November 1986: John Cutting & Michael Shepherd or here

From Gaétan Gatian de Clérambault : here

By Jacques Lacan : here

By John Cutting here

By Michael Shepherd here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Case studies here

Of the clinic here

Lacanian History here

On Ordinary Psychosis : here