« Bush Administration "Aggressively" Expanding Domestic Spying | Main | Absolute Executive »

January 16, 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


"an attribute of psychosis (and Lacan acknowledges this) is excessive writing and documenting, compelled as it were, by some kind of desire for recognition."



Jodi, I've been struggling with this as well: "My dilemma is the obvious one: the later Lacan would disagree with argument laid out here regarding the foreclosure of the father function. But what, then, is central to psychosis for the later Lacan? It's pretty amazing how little jouissance appears in the text. But, it isn't clear to me how it work for a psychotic. Or, maybe I should say, descriptively the only thing I can come up with is the same as the feminine formulae of sexuation, and that isn't very satisfying." For the later Lacan there's a sort of generalized foreclosure where everything becomes a symptom, so how are we to understand the specificity of psychosis itself in later Lacan? I don't think this entails that the psychotic can be treated as equivalent to the feminine graphs of sexuation, as castration/name-of-the-father is still operative on the feminine side, it's just that feminine sexuality doesn't posit an exception to the phallic function (an uncastrated subject) like the masculine side. Reinhard, I think, does a fairly good job outlining this in his essay in the anthology on the neighbor... Though I think his essay is a bit overly ambitious.

I make the claim that psychosis isn't a social link in responding to a comment by Ken Rufo in my "Philosophy and Rhetoric" post. Here the relevant thing to focus on in Seminar 3 would be Lacan's discussion of the psychotic woman who hears one of the hospital staff refer to her as "sow", giving her her own message directly rather than in inverted form. That is, the psychotic encounters others at the level of imaginary mirroring, and lacks that doubt constitutive of intersubjective relation, i.e., the opacity of the Other. Along these lines Lacan claims that the psychotic, unlike the neurotic, is "certain" and encounters no question of the desire of the Other. Thus, in his/her writing, the psychotic is more inhabited by language like a thing, than hystericized by language. The psychotic can't even really be referred to as a subject insofar as he isn't split by language-- For instance, in the clinic you don't interpret a psychotic's unconscious formations as it could generate a psychotic break by precipitating an encounter with where the name-of-the-father ought to be. Instead clinical practice consists in actually developing and elaborating the delusion, as this generates a minimal consistency and relief from jouissance, allowing the psychotic to return to a somewhat bearable relation. This can be seen in the manner in which Schreber's condition improved as he wrote his memoirs. I seem to remember a few good articles on these themes online. If I remember where they are I'll shoot them your way.


This is the article I had in mind:


It's very elusive, but contains some nice signposts and markers as to the later teaching and the generalized foreclosure of the NoF.


Sinthome--thanks so much. I'll check out the link. I'm glad you steered me away from the feminine formulae. I had been thinking a lot about certainty. I was worried, though, about taking on some aspects of the discussion without the fundamental one regarding foreclosure. I almost wondered whether doubt is foreclosed, but I don't think so, it seems more like it is simply disavowed (I know no one else hears these voices, nevertheless...).


Interestingly, I've come across a few (non-Lacanian) studies that indicate that hearing voices is surprisingly common and therefore can't be used as a hard and fast indicator of psychosis. As you put it, I suppose it has to do with how one relates to the voices. This is delightful from a Lacanian perspective as it is another variation on the thesis that the various psychic structures shouldn't be sorted on the basis of content of the symptom (repetitive hand washing/obsession, frigidity/hysteria, etc), but with respect to their intersubjective structuration.


Dear Jodi,

maybe these selected passages from Dragan Vukotic's book BETWEEN QUOTATION MARKS contribute something to the subject (I do not have time to translate the entire chapter so I have singled out those passages that relate to your post):

In their withdrawal from reality, neurotic persons find and produce an imaginary substitute on the principle of similarity between the substitute and the denotation of the person or object. A psychotic is unable to produce such a substitute.

Balint stresses that such people have a pronounced need for harmony. This is contrasted with the description of schizophrenic mothers, who demand impossible things from their children as a condition of love. Such mothers only see the ''external shell'' of their children and do not understand their psychology at all.

On the other hand, this description fails to acknowledge that the schizophrenic depends on his surroundings much more than a ''neurotic'' or ''normal'' person. A superficial glance reveals that he is withdrawn and lack of any contact. (Balint)

This opens the following question: can we assume that the psychotic lives in the Real, understood as something not-yet-symbolized? Perhaps the inability to transform immediate experience in a sign is what makes these people so unbearably dependent on internal and external reality that continuously changes. They must always strive to ''stop'' this continually changing image of the world, hence their need for ''harmony''.

(...) Freud states the example of a girl who complained MY EYES ARE NOT WELL, THEY ARE TURNED AROUND. She explains these words by complaining against her lover - she doesn't understand him, he looks different every time, he is a hypocrite, he turned her eyes around, now her eyes are turned around, they do not belong to her anymore, she sees the world with different eyes.

This girl took the word AUGENVERDREHER literally - ''he who turns the eyes around'' - not understanding it in its metaphoric meaning of a ''cheater''.


Sur la 'pratique de bavardage':

"It is ironic that Lacan’s supposedly subversive science should have at its core a perfect, almost masochistic submission to the very repressive orthodoxy which has flayed and whipped the body of Western empistemology for centuries.

It is also remarkable that a number of influential commentators have discussed Lacan’s style without even noting that the most distinctive feature of what has frequently been presented as a rhetoric of liberation is nothing other than its authoritarianism. Perhaps because of the depth of his own insecurity and his own anxiety about his intellectual worth, Lacan wields learning like a scourge, as though in an attempt to dominate those he seeks to enlighten. To readers nervous about their own powers of intellect his habit of referring to arcane, idiosyncratic or personal theories as though they were familiar orthodoxies will almost certainly intensify feelings of intellectual insecurity. Lacan’s prose is thus liable to conquer its reader by its sheer power to overawe and intimidate. The intimidatory power of his formulations is heightened by the sheer obscurity of his prose. His writings convey the impression of an unremitting miserliness with meaning, as though any meaning conveyed to the reader would be a precious substance lost to the writer.

There can be little doubt that the fear of not being at a sufficiently high intellectual level, of having missed something which ‘everyone important sees to feel is so crucial’ has played a very large role in Lacan’s success. Lacan himself – apparently quite deliberately – played upon this fear. When he appeared in a two-part television special in France in 1974, he began the programme by announcing that ‘most of his audience were surely idiots, and that he was surely in error in trying to make them understand.’ Such intellectual bullying is characteristic of Lacan’s style. In his seminars, highly intelligent people were persuaded to listen attentively to propositions which were for the most part obscure, incomprehensible and entirely without explanatory value. Some of the intellectually more confident members of Lacan’s audience objected to just this fact..."


The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo