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Seminar I

From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
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1953 - 1954 Les écrits techniques de Freud
Freud's Papers on Technique



The first seminar, open to the public, takes place at Sainte-Anne Hospital just after the creation of the S.F.P (Société Française de Psychanalyse). Lacan cuts in the study of Freud by dint of his theory on the imaginary, the symbolic and the real. The focal point of the discussion is the direction of the cure. Participants are allowed to make presentations, comments and objections. Through the case histories of Freud, Klein, Kris and Balint, the debate elucidates on the convergence of psychoanalysis, philosophy, theology, linguistics and game theory. In keeping with this heterogeneous approach, Lacan will further appeal to the science of optics to systematize his analyses of the specular relation. After his schema of the inverted bouquet the mirror stage becomes part of the topography of the Imaginary. As to the méconnaissance that characterizes the ego, it is associated with Verneinung (dénégation): "...everyday speech runs against failure of recognition, méconnaissance, which is the source of Verneinung." He closes the seminar pondering on the role of the analyst: "...if the subject commits himself to searching after truth as such, it is because he places himself in the dimension of ignorance, what analysts call readiness to the transference. The analyst's ignorance is also worth of consideration. He doesn't have to guide the subject to knowledge, but on to the paths by which access to this knowledge is gained. Psychoanalysis is a dialectics, an art of conversation."

In a spoken intervention (Appendix), Jean Hyppolite comments on Freud's Verneinung and suggests its translation as dénégation instead of négation. The question here deals with how the return of the repressed operates. According to Freud the repressed is intellectually accepted by the subject, since it is named, and at the same time is negated because the subject refuses to recognize it as his, refuses to recognize him in it. Dénégation includes an assertion whose status is difficult to define. The frontier between neurosis and psychosis is drawn here, between repression, Verdrägung, and repudiation, Verwerfung, a term that Lacan will replace by withdrawal, and finally by "foreclosure" (forclusion), the former being related to neurosis, the latter to psychosis.

When answering Hyppolite in La Psychanalyse that same year, Lacan establishes two poles of analytic experience: the imaginary ego and the symbolic speech. Lacan gives precedence to the Symbolic over the Imaginary. The subject who must come to be is "the subject of the unconscious" and "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other." In analysis, he says, "the subject first talks about himself without talking to you, then he talks to you without talking about himself. When he is able to talk to you about himself, the analysis is over."

To this reshaping of the Imaginary by the Symbolic, he opposes the intersection of the Symbolic and the Real without mediation of the Imaginary, which would be the characteristic of psychosis.

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