schema L (schÈma L) The various 'schemata' that begin to appear in
Lacan's work in the 1950s are all attempts to formalise by means of diagrams
certain aspects of psychoanalytic theory. The schemata all consist of a number
of points connected by a number of vectors. Each point in a schema is
designated by one of the symbols of Lacanian ALGEBRA, while the vectors
show the structural relations between these symbols. The schemata can be seen
as Lacan's first incursion into the field of TOPOI OGY.
The first schema to appear in Lacan's work is also the schema which he
makes the most use of. This schema is designated 'L' because it resembles the
upper-case Greek lambda (see Figure 14, taken from Ec, 53). Lacan first
introduces the schema in 1955 (S2, 243), and it occupies a central place in
his work for the next few years.
Two years later, Lacan replaces this version of the schema with a newer,
"simplified form' (Figure 15, taken from Ec, 548; see E, 193).
Although schema L allows many possible readings, the main point of the
schema is to demonstrate that the Symbolic relation (between the Other and the
subject) is always blocked to a certain extent by the Imaginary axis (between
the ego and the SPECULAR IMAGE). Because it has to pass through the Imaginary
"wall of language', the discourse of the Other reaches the subject in an
interrupted and inverted form (see COMMUNICATION). The schema thus illus-
fundamental to Lacan's conception of psychoanalysis. This is of practical
importance in the treatment, since the analyst must usually intervene in the
position of the analyst in the treatment:
If one wants to position the analyst within this schema of the subject's
speech, one can say that he is somewhere in A. At least he should be. If
he enters into the coupling of the resistance, which is just what he is taught
not to do, then he speaks from a' and he will see himself in the subject.
By positioning different elements in the four empty loci of the schema,
schema L can be used to analyse various sets of relations encountered in
psychoanalytic treatment. For example Lacan uses it to analyse the relations
between Dora and the other people in her story (S4, 142-3; see Freud, 1905e),
and also to analyse the relations between the various people in the case of the
young homosexual Woman (S4, 124-33: see Freud, 1920a).
In addition to providing a map of intersubjective relations, schema L also
represents intrasubjective structure (insofar as the one can be distinguished
from the other). Thus it illustrates the decentering of the subject, since the
subject is not to be located only at the point marked S, but over the whole
schema; 'he is stretched over the four corners of the schema' (E, 194).
In addition to schema L there are several other schemata that appear in
Lacan's work (schema R - see E, 197; schema I - see E, 212; the two schemata
of Sade - see Ec, 774 and Ec, 778). All of these schemata are transformations
of the basic quaternary of schema L, on which they are based. However, unlike
schema L, which serves as a constant point of reference for Lacan in the period
1954-7, each of these schemata only appears once in Lacan's work. By the
time the last of these schemata (the schemata of Sade) appear, in 1962, the
schemata have already ceased to play an important part in Lacan's discourse,
although it can be argued that they lay the groundwork for Lacan's more
rigorous topological work in the 1970s.