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Felman [1989]. Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture.

All I can do is tell the truth. No, that isn't so- I have missed it. There is no truth that, in passing through awareness, does not lie. But one runs after it all the same.
-Lacan, The Four Fundamental ; Concepts of Psychog.nalysis


“I propose to explore, in the pages that will follow, at once the insights that I have obtained from working with Lacan's text and the way those insights have made a difference in my own relation both to life and to my work.”

‘reading’ and ‘knowing’ Changes the viewer

“Whereas Freud articulated his discovery through a metaphoric use of the conceptual framework of nineteenth-century science (thermodynamics, topology, and such), Lacan has tried to instrumentalize for psychoanalysis some twentieth-century theoretical and scientific findings. Borrowing paradigmatic (metaphoric) models from linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, symbolic logic, cybernetics, modern physics, mathematics (set theory), and topology (knot theory), Lacan attempts to integrate the conceptual import of these models into psychoanalytic theory and to rethink the cognitive revolution of psychoanalysis along the lines of other recent revolutionary theories.”

“Lacan indeed embodies in my view, above all else, a revolutionized interpretive stance and (though he never formulates it systematically) a revolutionary theory of readmg: a theory of reading that opens ·up into a rereading of the world as well as into a rereading of psychoanalysis itself.”

Interpretive stance – revolutionize reading - Triple reference: to literary text, to Freud, to clinical practice – always interpreting “telling paradigm, a metaphorical dramatization”

I don't trust it. At all.

This! (Perhaps) “Psychoanalysts know well from their clinical practice that there are no simple applications of psychoanalytic concepts. In practice (as a therapist or as a reader, a literary critic), one can use theories (as I am here trying to use Lacan and Freud) only as enabling metaphorical devices, not as extrapolated, preconceived items of knowledge. In much the same way that one cannot simply "apply" Freud's concepts to a patient, one cannot apply Freud (or Lacan) to a literary text. The practice of psychoanalysis (as well as the experience of a practical reading) is a process, not a set of doctrines. In the process, one can implicate the doctrines, one can perhaps imply them, not apply them.”

“an attempt to explore some of the key possibilities that Lacan has opened up-for psychoanalysis, for culture, and for reading; an attempt to illuminate a way of reading whose unending struggle to become aware was able, in the process, to become attentive to messages or items of signification that were formerly unusable and, as such, unreadable, inaudible, invisible. This is, in my view, the quintessential service that Lacan has rendered to our culture: to have derived from Freud a way of reading whose unprecedented thrust and achievement is to keep an entire system of signification open, rather than foreclose it, so that the small, unnoticeable messages can grow, by virtue of the fact that the big ones are kept still, open and suspended.”

"What is at stake in analytic discourse is always this-to what is uttered as a signifier [by the patient], you [analysts] give another reading than what it means (S xx. 3 7). In these two quotations that describe the practice of psychoanalysis, "reading" refers to the analyst's activity of interpreting, and the emphasis is on the displacement operated by the interpreting: the analyst is called upon to interpret the excess in the patient’s discourse-what the patient says beyond what he has been melted to say, beyond the current motivation of the situation; and the analytic meaning is then a displacement of (the meaning of the patient's discourse, since it consists in giving what has been pronounced another reading. The analytic reading is thus essentially the reading of a difference that inhabits language, a kind of mapping in the subject's discourse of its points of disagreement with, or difference from, itself.”

Both Analyst and Analysand interpret Freud’s primal sense of reading

“It is my contention that this critical disagreement is itself symptomatic of a poetic effect, and that the critical contradictions to which Poe's poetry has given rise are themselves indirectly significant of the nature of poetry”

“The fact that it so much matters to proclaimthat Poe does not matter is but evidence of the extent to which Poe's poetry is, in effect, a poetry that matters.”

“Krutch, in other words, reduces not just Poe but analysis itself into an ideologically biased and psychologically opinionated caricature, missing totally (as is most often the case with "Freudian" critics) the radicality of Freud's psychoanalytic insights: their self-critical potential, their power to return upon themselves and to unseat the critic from any guaranteed, authoritative stance of truth.”

“The thrust of Lacan's endeavor, with respect to Poe, is thus to point out the way. in which the story's plot, its sequence of events (as, for Freud, the sequence of events in a life-story), is contingent on, overdetermined by, a principle of repetition that governs it and inadvertently structures its dramatic and ironic impact.”

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What the return to Freud constitutes is a. sort of analytic dialogue between Lacan and Freud. Freud is returned to as the Other, who returns to Lacan his own message in a reversed, displaced form.

‘The Other is, therefore, the locus in which is constituted the I who speaks together with the one who hears, that which is said by the one being already the reply ... But in return this locus also extends as far into the subject as the laws of speech, that is to say, well beyond the discourse that takes its catch-words from the ego. (E 431, N 141; trn)

All these indications cross-check, overlap one another and these over lappings assure us, in our turn, that we are rejoining Freud-without being able to know for sure whether it is from this source in Freud that our Ariadne's thread has come to us, because, of course, we had read it before formulating our theory of the signifier, but without always understanding it, at the moment. It is no doubt through the particular necessities of our expertise that we have set at the heart of the structure of the unconscious the causal gap, but the fact that we now find an enigmatic, unexplained indication of it in Freud's text is for us a sign that we are progressing in the way of his certainty. For the subject of certainty is divided here. (S xr.46-47, N 46; tm)

This passage illustrates the way in which the return to Freud is not a one-way path to an already constituted truth, but a two-way return that is itself constitutive of truth. This means that truth is correlative with the discrepancy that conditions and necessitates the return. The subject of certainty is radically divided. The dynamic structure is irreducible, irreducibly untotalizable” (55).

Psychoanalysis as Praxis, Method, Theory

Glynos and Stavrakis [2001]. Postures and Impostures: On Lacan’s Style and Use of Mathematical Science.

“People do not expect to understand quantum mechanics and are happy to concede ignorance. On the other hand, when we inquire into human nature, psychic processes, identities and emotions, and the workings of the mind, we expect the corresponding models and discourse to be easily understood (685).”

“This vulnerability is only exacerbated if a Lacanian seminar or essay has been recommended as reading material by a friend or professor whom we respect. It is a vulnerability that can very quickly turn to frustration, intimidation, and even anger (686).”

“Our argument is largely restricted to showing why S&B fail to make a case against Lacan not only on the basis of generally accepted standards of intellectual integrity but also on the basis of standards of their own choosing (687).”

“S&B set aim at two disctinct targets: (1) Intellectuals who, they allege, abuse scientific and mathematical concepts…. Either such concepts are invoked “without the slightest justification” (ix) as to the matter under discussion or else they are thrown about in order to lend authority to their statements (vis-à-vis their predominantly nonscientific audience) without “any regard for its relevance or even its meaning” (ix–x); and (2) the epistemic relativism of “postmodern science,” the idea that “modern science is nothing more than a ‘myth’, a ‘narration’ or a ‘social construction’ among many others” (x) (687).”

Zizek says, “What . . . is the nature of the difference between the narrativist postmodernism and Lacan? Perhaps the best way to approach it is via the gap which separates the modern universe of science from traditional knowledge: for Lacan, modern science is not just another local narrative grounded in its specific pragmatic conditions, since it does relate to the (mathematical) Real beneath the symbolic universe. (1997, 159)”

“In fact, it turns out that Lacan (1969–70) took an extremely critical view of pedagogically styled discourse, always cautioning his audience to resist understanding too quickly. This does not mean that Lacan believed the obviously absurd view that pedagogy has no place in our society; only that he deliberately declined to adopt it himself in the delivery of his seminars and writings.”

“… in understanding the patient’s discourse analysts understand only what they are already familiar with.”

“According to Lacan, mathematics finds itself occupying a privileged locus at the limits of language. In this view, mathematics is essentially meaningless: “The mathematical formalization of signifiers runs counter to meaning. . . . In our times, philosophers of mathematics say ‘it means nothing’ concerning mathematics, even when they are mathematicians themselves, like Russell” (1975, 93). This, after all, is why identical squiggles on a piece of paper may acquire vastly different meanings depending on the domain of their application (and therefore interpretation)” (697).

“S&B admit quite openly, for instance, that “[i]t goes without saying that we are not competent to judge the non-scientific aspects of these authors’ work” (6). But it is precisely because this admission strikes the reader as “obvious” and unproblematic that we ought to apply some pressure at this exact point. For, surely, such disarming admissions cannot justify substituting dismissal for hard work. Indeed, it is the disarming nature of the claim that should raise alarm bells” (699).

“that physicists are driven to address specific issues that arise in their particular area of study: the physicist’s use of mathematics is guided by his or her intuition, an intuition based on his or her familiarity with the particular issues and evidence at stake” (700).

“Lacan’s aphorism that “the unconscious is structured like a language” summarizes a huge swath of his teaching, not only is a conceptual link to topology established, its link to psychoanalysis is also readily identifiable. In other words, the study of structure— especially in the context of linguistics—is indispensable, according to Lacan, in any attempt to grasp the workings of the unconscious, and therefore to comprehend the discipline of psychoanalysis” (702).

“Such an intervention was important because the debate taps into a widespread sentiment characteristic of the current Zeitgeist, entailing a kind of reactionary backlash against psychoanalysis and poststructuralism in general. This backlash is epitomised by a kind of pathological reaction against the likes of Lacan. By pathological here we mean simply symptomatic from the perspective of a polity that imagines it is governed by principles of reasonableness and pluralism…. The poor citizen who inhabits such a “polity of reasonableness” cannot but be horrified, struggling to offer what can only appear as an impotent response… Deconstructive commonsense suggests that its popularity comes not so much from the content between its covers as it does from the cultural and academic context in which it appears. We close with a Lacanian hypothesis, suggesting that its success is buoyed up by a satisfaction or enjoyment (jouissance) that has at least two sources: (1) the fun poked at French intellectuals who are difficult to understand; and (2) the fun poked at those who poke fun at French intellectuals” (703-4).

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Intellectual Impostures!
I went back and read Alan Sokal’s original sneaky/ subversive piece, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” and found the part where he quotes Lacan:

“At about the same time, in the social and psychological sciences Jacques Lacan pointed out the key role played by differential topology:

This diagram [the Möbius strip] can be considered the basis of a sort of essential inscription at the origin, in the knot which constitutes the subject. This goes much further than you may think at first, because you can search for the sort of surface able to receive such inscriptions. You can perhaps see that the sphere, that old symbol for totality, is unsuitable. A torus, a Klein bottle, a cross-cut surface, are able to receive such a cut. And this diversity is very important as it explains many things about the structure of mental disease. If one can symbolize the subject by this fundamental cut, in the same way one can show that a cut on a torus corresponds to the neurotic subject, and on a cross-cut surface to another sort of mental disease.’

… In mathematical terms, Lacan is here pointing out that the first homology group62 of the sphere is trivial, while those of the other surfaces are profound; and this homology is linked with the connectedness or disconnectedness of the surface after one or more cuts.63 Furthermore, as Lacan suspected, there is an intimate connection between the external structure of the physical world and its inner psychological representation qua knot theory.

Analogous topological structures arise in quantum gravity, but inasmuch as the manifolds involved are multidimensional rather than two-dimensional, higher homology groups play a role as well. These multidimensional manifolds are no longer amenable to visualization in conventional three-dimensional Cartesian space: for example, the projective space {Real in 5 plans}, which arises from the ordinary 3-sphere by identification of antipodes, would require a Euclidean embedding space of dimension at least 5. Nevertheless, the higher homology groups can be perceived, at least approximately, via a suitable multidimensional (nonlinear) logic.”

This is incomprehensible as well -however- I think (?) I can comfortably say that Sokal missed the point. Oh wait! I just did the very thing Glynos and Stavrakis warned against. Damn. It.

Zizek [1991] Looking Awry

“… convenient material to explain not only the vague outlines of the Lacanian theoretical edifice but sometimes also the finer details missed by the predominantly academic reception of Lacan: the breaks in his teaching, the gap separating him from the field of poststructuralist "deconstructionism," and so on. This way of "looking awry" at Lacan makes it possible to discern features that usually escape a "straightforward" academic look. On the other hand, it is clear that Lacanian theory serves as an excuse for indulging in the idiotic enjoyment of popular culture.”

“Phallocentric Obscurantist” (lolz)

“What is at stake in the endeavor to "look awry" at theoretical motifs is not just a kind of contrived attempt to "illustrate" high theory, to make it "easily accessible,'' and thus to spare us the effort of effective thinking. The point is rather that such an exemplification, such a mise-en-scène of theoretical motifs renders visible aspects that would otherwise remain unnoticed.”

“The fundamental point of psychoanalysis is that desire is not something given in advance, but something that has to be constructed—and it is precisely the role of fantasy to give the coordinates of the subject's desire, to specify its object, to locate the position the subject assumes in it. It is only through fantasy that the subject is constituted as desiring: through fantasy, we learn how to desire.”