2022 Lacan: Clinic & Culture

October 14-16, 2022


- Sheldon George
- Patricia Gherovici
- Kristen Hennessy
- Azeen Khan
- Dany Nobus
- Annie Rogers
- Stijn Vanheule
- Jamieson Webster

Organized by the Duquesne University Department of Psychology

The Lacan: Clinic & Culture Conference will focus on the relevance of Lacanian psychoanalysis to contemporary clinical work and culture. Questions of psychosis, trauma, the body, and clinical technique are critical sites of dialogue in clinical work. Today, race, politics, sexuality, and institutionalized mental health treatment are at the forefront of cultural issues. Such topics influence each other in the intersection of the cultural field and clinical practice.

Hosting some of the world's foremost experts on Lacanian psychoanalysis, the conference will explore the applicability of Lacanian thought and practice in today's clinic, culture, and their intersection. To highlight the field's accessibility and relevance, a series of educational seminars and workshops re-visiting, critiquing, and applying key concepts will also be offered.


Racism and the Courtly Lady: From the Crusades to the Gentility of Lynchers
Sheldon George

In his Ethics seminar, Jacques Lacan famously ties the figure of the Lady in courtly love to a cultural process of sublimation that defines societal manners and sensibilities for centuries to come. But Lacan ignores that the courtly lover, the knight who pursues the Lady through endless tasks and insurmountable challenges aimed at proving his love, was often a soldier of the Crusades, which pitted Christians against the darker peoples of the Middle East. This talk will trace the historical emergence of race as a category of difference developed in the Crusades while also tying the Lady to the culture of manners and gentility that emerged in the antebellum American south. The Lady will be read as the key figure facilitating a sublimation of libidinal drives that find their expression through culturally accepted atrocities of racism. Focusing finally on the practices of lynching black men that plagued especially the postbellum south, the talk will tie the charred body of the black lynch-victim to efforts to manifest for white postbellum subjects the Thing of the Real that the courtly lover and the racist lyncher equally pursue through sublimation of the (white) Lady.

Shifting Structures: Lacanian Work with Young Children
Kristen Hennessy

This talk will focus on analytic work with children young enough to change structure. Clinical examples of young children with neurotic, perverse, and psychotic structures will be presented. Clinical material will work to explore the notion that each young child deserves to be issued an invitation into the symbolic, whether or not the child ultimately chooses to accept the invitation. Ethical issues regarding access to psychoanalysis will also be discussed.

Lacan's Dora: Surrealism, Saint-Mandé, and the Salvation of Spirituality
Dany Nobus

My overall aim in this lecture is to reconstruct the clinical history of Dora Maar (Henriette Théodora Markovitch), the tormented countenance behind Pablo Picasso's famous ‘Femme en pleurs' and the mercurial artist's transitional lover between Marie-Thérèse Walter and Françoise Gilot, who was an accomplished surrealist photographer and painter in her own right. Drawing on a wide range of previously unexplored archival source materials, I shall examine Maar's mental turmoil from the peculiar circumstances leading up to her hospitalisation at the private psychiatric clinic of Jeanne d'Arc de Saint-Mandé on 15 May 1945 to the final months of her psychoanalytic treatment with Jacques Lacan in 1952, and her subsequent life of secluded, religious asceticism. This will allow me to retrace the fault lines between specific artistic practices, spiritual devotion, and the work of psychoanalysis, yet it will also shed new light on the nature of Lacan's ‘early' clinical approach, during the years after World War II and before the first split in the French psychoanalytic community. In this respect, I shall argue that Lacan's encounter with Dora Maar and the various clinical challenges she presented him with crucially informed Lacan's reinterpretation of Freud's famous case-study of Dora. Whereas this reinterpretation is generally confined to Lacan's 1952 essay ‘Presentation on Transference', it was first articulated by Lacan in 1950-'51 at a yearlong private seminar at his home, which was notably attended by Michel Foucault, whose notes offer an exclusive glimpse into the confluence of two Dora's-Ida Bauer and Henriette Markovitch.

Incanbescent Alquadets: Errant Language Poetics
Annie G Rogers

In this presentation I explore a poetics of errant language (straying, wandering, erring) in three forms: as a sinthome in structure of psychosis; as an invention of splicing signifiers at the end of an analysis; and as an artful accident of the unconscious in my own writing. I will foreground errancies by psychotic subjects as forms of invention via enigma in two distinctive sinthomes: James Joyce through the literary riddle, and John Devlin's art in "Nova Cantabrigiensis." I will also explicate a process of language errancy in neurosis at the end of analysis, of proliferating slips and enigmatic phrases spliced as nonsense by an analysand to invent a new use of his symptom. Finally, I will turn to a mistake I made in letterpress printing and what it generated in art and in writing as a space beyond psychosis and outside the clinic. My purpose is to show how psychoanalysis opens a poetics of errant language and moves toward an ethics of the human in those errancies.

The Father, the Wager, and the Question of Psychosis
Stijn Vanheule

In my talk I will reflect on how, in his later teaching, Lacan challenged his concept of the Name-of-the-Father. I will also examine what this changing conceptualization implies for the Lacanian approach to psychosis. It is evident, in Seminar XVI, where Lacan discusses the wager from Blaise Pascal's Pensées, how he starts changing his view on the function of the father in mental life. Positioning oneself towards a Name-of-the-Father becomes now a negotiable act; an act of faith that builds on logical reasoning, and not on blind trust. The strength of this new conceptualization is that it helps us in highlighting several key points in the psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis. It helps us understand, for example how, at the level of transference, distrust or indifference towards the Other need not be the final verdict. Fortunate encounters entail the possibility of creating times, contexts and relationships in which - often despite some reticence - faith in the act of relying on the Other is possible. Henceforth this is an important goal in clinical work: creating encounters to explore if, and how, the act of invoking the Other counters psychotic intrusion.