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Core Colloquy: "Freud in the 21st Century: Psychoanalysis and/or Psychology"

To say the least. Lacan always tended to believe that Derrida was "conspiring" against him, or was stealing his ideas. But even that did not prevent Lacan from being suspicious of him. A year later, the colloquium mentioned earlier took place at the Cluny abbey, where, under the aegis of the journal La Nouvelle Critique, representatives from the principal avant-garde literary reviews were present.

Questions for Freud : the secret history of psychoanalysis

As a result of this colloquium Derrida, in a long interview published by the review Promesse 11 , expressed himself publicly concerning Lacan's texts. Notably, he criticized the adhesion to a telos of the full word identified with the truth, as well as the massive recourse to Hegelian concepts and an overly heavy reliance on the authority of Saussure.

Six months after this interview, during a lecture at Johns Hopkins, Jacques Derrida again took on the work of Lacan, this time focusing on the "Seminar on the Purloined Letter. Derrida notes that Lacan uses literature to illustrate the truth of his doctrine, that is, a truth outside of the literary text and, in so doing, he engages in applied psychoanalysis, although he had always condemned this practice.

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Bonaparte was the first to note that the letter stolen by the Minister was slipped into a card-rack which hung dangling "from a little brass knob just beneath the middle of the mantel-piece. For Lacan--Derrida says--the princess resembles the Minister in Poe's story: she was the French legatee of Freudian authority, and thus she distorted his teachings and concealed his letter, whereas Lacan considers himself the representative of the true or "orthodox doctrine.

The master might consider himself the sole keeper of the "good" Freudian truth, but his writings could not be safeguarded from deforming alterations. At the end of the short story, the chevalier Auguste Dupin tells the narrator how he played an evil trick on the Minister. The chevalier thus signs his act, adding his mark to his "dessein. Derrida notices that two out of the three times Lacan uses the word, he writes "destiny" [destin] rather than "plan" [dessein].

It is probably only a misprint: in the first version published in the journal La Psychanalyse, there is one dessein and one destin. This error then passed into the Ecrits. In his argument that Lacan "forces dessein into destin two out of the three times," Derrida relies on the preface to the pocketbook edition of the Ecrits, in which the author refers to the purloined letter and speaks of "such a disastrous destiny [destin]," thus effecting a change that cannot be seen as a misprint. Derrida deduces that Lacan transforms Poe's short story in order to attribute to it a truth that is, in fact, external to it: that a letter always reaches its destination.

In other words, he demonstrates that within the very writing of Lacan a fictional operation is carried out by which the author refers the indivisibility of the letter to himself, that is, to the "whole" or the "one" of his doctrine. One sees here how the procedure of deconstruction works.

Derrida reveals rifts and displacements within the text itself, and, above all, accents the essential point of Lacan's thought that would become decisive for the continuation of Lacan's own story, and concerns the destiny of the totality of he seminar: is it a question of a "whole", a "not-whole," an inheritance, a letter that has already reached its destination, a "fleeting" word, or an integral transmission?

In , Derrida's article was not commented on by any Lacanians. In the same year, it was the reference point for a discussion concerning psychoanalysis and literature at Yale University. In this period then, Derrida participated in the history of psychoanalysis no longer as a simple reader of Freud or Lacan, but with a critical position that demonstrated the impasses of a certain way of thinking.

He played the role of the great deconstructer in his critique of Lacanian dogmatism, although has demonstrated this dogmatism with reference to a not dogmatic text of Lacan "The Seminar on the Purloined Letter" ; this does not mean that in there was no blossoming of a Lacanian dogmatism. I have discussed this dogmatism more fully in another work. Although a somewhat odd leader, since he had neither troops nor a school in the institutional sense of the term.

In fact, his role in philosophy as the great deconstructer of structuralism and thus of the Lacanian reading of Freud led him to occupy a political position as midwife of dissidence, around , when a generalized explosion occurred in all the French psychoanalytic groups Lacanian and non-Lacanian.


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This explosion was provoked by he events of May , which induced large protest movements within a psychoanalytic community either frozen in rigid bureaucracy as was the case of the IPA or permeated by dogmatism in the case of EFP By becoming a midwife of dissidence, Derrida introduced his theses about deconstruction into the psychoanalytic politics. He criticized the notion of a whole not in order to offer another whole to oppose it, but to activate the margins, the borders, the unspoken, or even the unspeakable. He proposed, in short, a sort of culturalism of minorities women, the insane, the excluded, dissidents in opposition to a universalism that had become "totalitarian.

But if the philosophical deconstruction was to give birth to a political discourse, a specific historical context was also necessary, a context not present within the Lacanian community, but on its "margins". This development occurred because Derrida's thought encountered that of a philosopher and psychoanalyst, who initiated a reading of Freud that had nothing to do with Lacan's.

The two shared an interest in Husserlian philosophy, literature, and a certain critical assessment of structuralism, but were also united by their marginal position with respect to the dominant philosophical discourse, and an almost identical syntax. Both conceived a reading of texts from the point of view of the production of a signifier viewed as exploded, polymorphous, and composed of equivocation and ambiguities. While Derrida took on the structuralist renewal and the work of Lacan, Abraham elaborated a distinctive reading of the Freudian discovery formulated in terms of a few key concepts: transphenomenology, the symbol, anasemy, incorporation, the peel, the pit, and the ghost.

Beginning with the notions of traumatism, borrowed from Ferenczi, and introjection, Abraham deduced a typology of original symbols that he called a transphenomenology. He reactualized from a language perspective what Ferenczi isolates from a biological one. Traumatism is pre-verbal, and the scene of this traumatism is "encrypted" as a symbolic signification which psychoanalysis must "decipher" without reducing it to a simple meaning.

It must therefore undertake a traversing of appearances in order to reach the "antisemanticism" of the unconscious pit. In , in an article on The Language of Psychoanalysis 17 , Abraham clarified his thought By wrenching words from their usual meaning, Freud was engaged in a return to the source of a de-nomination. According to Abraham, this exegetic enterprise should be read as the production of an "anasemic" discourse in which meaning disappears in the course of being reduced to the pit of its contradictions and lacunae. In this perspective, no renewal of Freudianism is possible, because any recasting confronts the ascension towards original anasemy from which the discovery of the unconscious proceeds.

In The Wolf Man's Magic Word [Le verbier de l' homme aux loups] 19 , Abraham and his partner Maria Torok defined the idea of anasemy more precisely by adding a new topography to the Freudian corpus.

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This agency must battle on two fronts: with the external world and with the internal drives. But the topography of the subject also contains the crypt, which functions within the divided ego like the eruption of a false unconscious filled with ghosts, fossilized words, the living dead, and foreign bodies.

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The introduction of this new topography allowed Abraham and Torok to engage in a fabulous exercise of cryptonymy with regard to the case of the Wolf Man. This story is unique in the annals of psychoanalytic literature, since Pankejeff is the only one of Freud's five famous patients to have written his memoirs and discussed his analysis after the fact. In this sense he fully assumed the role that the Freudian saga had attributed to him.

His story is so fascinating that it has always been discussed with passion in psychoanalytic literature. But Abraham and Torok were the first in France to study Wolf Man's complete story: from Freud's couch to Muriel Gardiner's record of her continuous contact with him over thirty years. They highlight the inherent polyglottism in the patient's itinerary: Russian as his native language, German as the language of treatment, and English as the language of the nursemaid who raised the patient, to which they add a fourth language, French, which allows for the translation of the labyrinthine communications between the three preceding languages.

By means of this fourth language, they construct the crypt of the Wolf-Man through a return to anasemy: the crypt is buried in the divided ego and encoded like a network of signifiers intertwined with each other in a series of delirious incorporations. The semi-posthumous character of the work adds a kind of strangeness to the theory of the crypt, as if the book had exhumed a secret mythology of the psychoanalytic community, and of which the Wolf-Man had been the living symbol and the first ghost. Derrida's foreword heightens yet further the mystery, since it was written with a syntax almost identical to that of the text it comments: a fifth language in osmosis with the others.

The work was extraordinarily successful, particularly among certain Lacanians fascinated by this baroque crypt so close and yet so far from their daily verbarium. Lacan himself was astonished. He felt attacked, as if others were entering a territory that he had appropriated for himself, and therefore proceeded to misinterpret the thought of the authors of the book and the foreword. In his seminar he discussed the work, but, forgetting that Abraham had died a year earlier, suggested that Derrida should be in analysis with the two authors since he brings them together.

A few idiots in the audience exploded in laughter. Lacan's comment increased the book's sales but it was withdrawn from publication in the Lacanian journal Ornicar, where Lacan once again presented himself as the owner of public ideas: "One thing surprises me even more than the diffusion What surprises me even more is that the man called Jacques Derrida wrote a fervent and enthusiastic preface to the book Despite the fact that I started things in this direction, I do not, I must say, find either the book or the preface to be of a very high tone.

As delirium, it goes a long way. And I am frightened to think that I am more or less responsible for having opened the locks. This, in turn, produces an ambiguity as to who is doing the talking. So Abraham was posthumously accused of being delusional by Lacan, but while alive he was similarly accused by members of SPP to which he belonged, and whose Educational Commission had refused him the title of adherent member.

Following conflicts of extreme virulence, which were partially related to the Abraham affair, a dissident movement Confrontation s initially in the plural, then in the singular was created within the SPP. But Confrontation rapidly became a forum for Lacan's colleagues who had been separated by scission and who, in , were suffocating in their respective split-off associations. Confrontation was thus neither a group, nor an association or a school, but an open forum where representatives of various "Freudianisms" could speak of their dramas, conflicts, and work without worry scissions.

There they became acquainted with their past and learned not to consider as "traitors" the generations who had previously left the master. Feeling the new breeze, they discovered the saga of the golden age, Atlantis arisen from the bureaucratic sands and the heroes of the past were relieved of the rags of official history. My project to revive this past took shape in Confrontation. For the members of the SPP, the itinerary was the same: they too learned to stop misjudging their Lacanian neighbor. There, through the encounter between SPP dissidents and the thesis of deconstruction, a true Derridian school of psychoanalysis was created in France, as if the path opened up ten years earlier by Of Grammatology could be continued in a space conformed to its doctrine of margins, borders, contours, and dissemination.

The creation of this movement did not take place in the abstract realm of theory alone, but in affective relations, whereby individuals of skin and bone met and wove bonds of friendship. Evidence of this is the symposium that, from to , assembled participants in the experience of Confrontation.


It is impossible to forget that strange two-voiced monologue in which a philosopher exchanged imaginary letters between France and America, by means of an interposed go-between, and in the ever more secret language of that famous "Seminar on the Purloined Letter" that was at the origin of his love for a master of the word named Lacan! As concerns the messenger, many of us still remember how magnificently he played his role. Eery experience in Confrontation turned into an infinite exploration of the constantly recurring and unfinished saga of the purloined letter in quest of an addressee.

It is in the language of the purloined letter that he double deconstruction of Lacan's dogmatism and IPA bureaucracy was slowly effectuated there, a deconstruction which led to the current decomposition of the French psychoanalytic movement. Lacan was not mistaken when he raged against his forum, and neither was Jacques-Alain Miller when he thanked Major for his participation in the collapse of the Freudian School of Paris EFP.

The language of the purloined letter served on several occasions to retell the secret history of the psychoanalytic movement With this language Major, after the death of Abraham, wrote a coded text, "La lettre sous le manteau" 23 , which recounts the principal conflict within the SPP, borrowing the styles of Poe, the Wolf Man, Lacan's seminar, and "The Purveyor of Truth. The emissary Charles Melman , following a homophony with his name, is put in the role of a mailman [facteur], who does not acknowledge Lacan's slip about dessein and destin in the seminar, but considers it a a simple misprint.

The emissary is accused of being a mailman, a purveyor, etc And Derrida concludes by discussing an American rumor according to which he, Derrida, had become the analyst of Rudolph Loewenstein. Thus, after having been sent by Lacan to Abraham's couch, rumor puts him in a curious armchair: that of the analyst of Lacan's analyst, a legendary "architrace" of the French psychoanalytic movement.

Seen from America, the structuralism of the sixties had foundered into delirium. Seen from France, it had become the disastrous destiny of a Lacanianism reduced to wordplay and a secret language. It is no coincidence that I conceived the idea to write the history in that forum of dissidence and madness, where, in the language of the purloined letter, the history of the end of French Freudianism and of the slow decomposition of its institutions, a history that was still secret at the time, began to be expressed.

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