Keynote and special topics presentations
Racism and the Courtly Lady: From the Crusades to the Gentility of Lynchers
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.
Devereux's Blackfoot and Lacan's Parrot
My comparison between two films documenting actual cures with two maverick psychoanalysts that push the boundaries of traditional psychoanalysis, Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, a 2013 French film by Arnaud Desplechin, and Adieu Lacan, a 2022 film by Richard Ledes, shows how classical psychoanalytic concepts can open up to absorb radically different cultural modes: Blackfoot myth, AfroBrazilian legend, and Arabic narratives. Both movies portrait successful cures and adapt books: Devereux's Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (1951) and Betty Millan's novel Lacan's Parrot (1998), a play, Goodbye, Doctor (2008), and Why Lacan (2021).
Both analysands are marginalized by their origins: Jimmy, an Indigenous American and traumatized US Army veteran treated for inexplicable and debilitating headaches by the French Hungarian George Devereux who has been called upon by a psychoanalytic colleague at a veterans' hospital in Topeka, Kansas, because of his ethnographic expertise with first nations people, and Seriema, a Brazilian woman from Lebanese origins who has come to Paris to work with Lacan on maternity and abandonment issues.
Both cures seem to follow a relatively classical Freudian Oedipal script, and start from dream analysis: Jimmy needs to assume his role as father and Seriema needs to abandon the wish to carry her father's child that was causing the miscarriages materializing the prohibition. In the end, I will suggest what can be gained from the convergence of two apparently different discourses, Devereux's ethnopsychiatric approach and Lacan's clinical practice at its best.
Shifting Structures: Lacanian Work with Young Children
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.
On Generalized Foreclosure
In his Lacanian Orientation course, Ce qui fait insigne (1986-87), and in his DEA Seminar, La clinique différentielle des psychoses (1987-88), Jacques-Alain Miller formulated the concept of "generalized foreclosure," distinguishing it from the restricted meaning of foreclosure operative in Jacques Lacan's formalization of "the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father in the locus of the Other" as the essential condition of psychosis.
Following the trajectory of Lacan's teaching from "On a Question Preliminary" to Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome, this talk will explore the concept of generalized foreclosure as developed by Miller and commentators after him, while elucidating its implications for and uses in the clinic: (1) the symptom as an effect of and as response to the real of foreclosure; (2) the formulae of sexuation as modes of relating to the consequences of foreclosure (sexual non-rapport) by way of the logic of the exception and of the not-all; (3) suppletion (suppléance) as the means of addressing and treating foreclosure (unknotting) in the Borromean clinic.
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
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.
Masturbation Fantasies Redux
Redux, bring back, also means, turning to its latin root reduce, to restore, until the 17th century when it could also mean to diminish. Psychoanalytic mythology surrounding masturbation fantasies indicates a mode of work that is a bringing back to its place, a restoration of, but also a diminishment, reduction of the fantasy, while fantasy itself participates in this logic of reversals, inversions, revisions, repetitions, and axiomatic reductions. What is the ideal meeting point of the work of fantasy and psychoanalytic work? Looking again at Freud's 1919 paper, "A Child is Being Beaten," and some of Lacan's commentary on it, comparing this paper with Freud's Mass Psychology text (1921), as well as, turning to some clinical examples, historical specimens, and anonymously collected masturbation fantasies, I will bring back the importance of these scenes for the clinic and for an understanding of infantile anxieties in group psychology.
'You have nothing to lose': Pascal, Lacan, and the Risks of Desire
Abstract: Pascal, especially as the author of the Pensées and the famous wager therein, is a recurring point of reference for Lacan. By Lacan's own admission, he has a pronounced passion for the writings of the Jansenists. But, why do Pascal and his co-religionists at the abbey of Port-Royal-des-Champs fascinate Lacan? What does he see in them and, in particular, in Pascal? The combination of Lacan's enthusiasm for Jansenism with the opacity and obscurity of his various commentaries on Pascal might lead some readers to take Lacan's Pascalian meditations as further evidence of an alleged covert religiosity on his part (given also Lacan's Catholic background, his early Jesuit education, his closeness to his Benedictine monk brother Marc-François, his frequent references to the likes of Augustine, and so on). However, I will argue on this occasion that, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Lacan's recasting of Pascal's wager, rather than signaling a lingering Catholicism within Lacanianism, actually reveals the profundity and intensity of Lacan's virulent atheism. Indeed, through unpacking Lacan's psychoanalytic interpretations of Pascal and his wager, I seek herein to articulate an atheism radicalized on the basis of a Lacanian advancement of certain atheistic theses contained in the works of Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, and Freud.
'Yes! Nothing IS Sacred! Toward a Lacanian Theory of Religion'
For all his myriad references to religious figures, concepts, and traditions, Lacan never put forward any overarching theory of religion of his own, indeed he disparaged the whole idea of a general theory of religion. This talk, taken from a forthcoming book, risks filling that gap, linking the sense of the sacred with the Lacanian concept of das Ding, the anxiety-producing, unknown dimension of the fellow human being. This notion of an uncognizable excess, originally encountered in the figure of the mother, is a key part of what led Lacan to break with Freud's formulation of the Oedipus complex and to venture a distinctive conception of unconscious dynamics centered on the paradoxes of jouissance. Leaning on this account, the sacred becomes recognizable as an echo of the unanswerable question of the Other-Thing.
The bulk of the analysis unfolds interpretations of Greek polytheism, Judaism, and Christianity. Those interpretations correspond to three cardinal Lacanian quotations:
"The gods are a mode by which the real is revealed."
"The symbolic is the basis of what was made into God."
"There is one true religion and that is the Christian religion."
Just as religions posit a relation to the unknown, they also defend against the anxiety aroused by the void of the Thing. Those symptomatic defenses typically become the most readily recognizable features that separate one religious tradition from others.
The Plumbing of Political Economy: Marxism and Psychoanalysis Down the Toilet
In this intervention, I begin by arguing in favor of interpreting Freud as a spontaneous dialectical materialist, particularly apropos the perennial philosophical mind-body problem. In this, I follow in the footsteps both of certain classical Freudo-Marxists (such as Reich, Fenichel, and Marcuse) as well as, more recently, of Lacan, Althusser, and those one might dub "Lacano-Marxists" (such as Žižek). And, not only do I focus on the Freudian metapsychological concept of drive (Trieb) as pivotal to a psychoanalytic depiction of mind vis-à-vis body-I also zero-in on the anal drive in particular as a Cartesian-style metaphorical pineal gland knotting together soma and psyche. Moreover, as I go on to show, a Lacanian revisiting of Freud's musings about anal erotism and anal character traits enables a theory of mind/psyche taking these musings into account to proffer not only a dialectical materialist model of subjectivity, but also a historical materialist one too in which like-mindedness is shaped and mediated by the socio-economic dimensions foregrounded by the Marxist critique of political economy. I aim here to make progress on two fronts: first, within Marxism itself, facilitating further reconsideration of the infrastructure-superstructure distinction on the basis of what psychoanalysis suggests apropos the mind-body rapport; and, second, between Marxism and psychoanalysis, utilizing a Lacano-Marxist re-conception of the anal drive to advance the radical leftist criticism of capitalism.