email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek
In developing his particular
renewal of psychoanalytic theory, Lacan established a dialogue with some of the
most important thinkers of the Western philosophical and artistic tradition.
The links between Lacanian thought and authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Saint
Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Marx, Sophocles, Racine, Shakespeare,
Joyce and Duras are well known and have been extendedly researched; they are
the well-known Lacanian 'partners'. There is, however, another series of names
which are rarely mentioned or not mentioned at all by Lacan but are crucial for
the understanding of his work. This new volume edited by Slavoj Zizek explores
the links between Lacan and some of these 'silent partners' with the underlying
goal of recuperating Lacan for Marxist theory. The book is divided into two
parts: silent partners in the history of thought, and silent partners among
The volume consists of a collection of sixteen articles authored by
different scholars from Europe, North America and South America. Each author
contributes a chapter with the exception of Slavoj Zizek, who has contributed
three. By Zizek's own admission, the aim of the volume is not 'to enable
readers to approach Lacan in a new way but, rather, to instigate a new wave of Lacanian paranoia: to push readers to
engage in work of their own, and start to discern Lacanian themes everywhere-
from politics to trash culture, from obscure ancient philosophers to Franz
Kafka' (p. 3).
It is often said that Lacanian psychoanalysis in the English-speaking
world has been more influential in the fields of cultural studies, literary
criticism and film than it has in those of clinical psychology or analytical
philosophy. This book proves once more that this is in fact the case. As a
general rule, most of the contributions do not address practical aspects of
psychoanalytic theory. However, as with every general rule, an exception can
always be found. One such exception is Joan Copjec's article entitled 'May '68,
The Emotional Month'. In this article, Copjec examines Lacan's surprising
response to the student revolts of May '68. Such a response can be found in the
seminar delivered by Lacan that very same year: Seminar XVII: The Underside
(or Reverse) of Psychoanalysis. In his seminar, Lacan not only
accused the students of not being radical enough, but also, and more interestingly,
he ended the seminar by abruptly announcing that the final aim of
psychoanalysis is the production of shame. Why invoke shame as the final aim of
analysis in the context of 1968?
Copjec answers this question by analysing Lacan's concept of affect [or jouissance in Lacan's preferred
vocabulary] since after all shame is a form of affect. She does this by
relating Lacan's concept of jouissance
to Freud's concept of anxiety, Sartre's voyeuristic gaze and Levinas's feeling
of 'being riveted' [Levinas being the only of the three authors that can be
called a 'silent' partner].
From Freud, Lacan takes the idea that affect is the discharge, the
movement of thought. When this movement stops and becomes inhibited, affect is
known by the more specific name of anxiety. However, Lacan goes a step further
than Freud because whereas Freud maintains that anxiety, unlike fear, has no
object, Lacan asserts that anxiety is 'not without object'. On the contrary,
anxiety is the experience of an encounter with an object of a different kind: object petit a, as it was famously
called by Lacan. With respect to Sartre, Lacan also goes a step further because
he points out that the gaze that assaults the voyeur from behind is none other
than the voyeur's own, that is, his own surplus-jouissance.
Finally, we can also relate Lacan's concept of affect with Levinas's phrase
'riveted to being'. Levinas's phrase has the implication that being rather than
immediately being our being, is forced, adhered or stuck to our being. Here
again, Lacan advances Levinas's argument because for him, the being to which we
are riveted or stuck is specifically jouissance.
In Seminar XVII, Lacan also claims that anxiety is the 'central
affect' around which every social arrangement is organized. The anxiety that
the encounter with one's own jouissance
produces must admit some form of escape if society is to be possible. It is at
this point that Lacan opposes the Analytic to the University Discourse - a
discourse that Lacan linked with the rise of capitalism. In the
modern-capitalistic world, originary anxiety is transformed into moral anxiety.
Although the modern guilt-laden subject still experiences jouissance, this jouissance,
says Lacan, is a sham.
The fraudulent nature of this jouissance
comes from the fact that it gives one a false sense that at the core of one's
being there is something possessable as an identity (racial, national,
ethnic).The universalizing tendency of the University Discourse does not end up
forsaking these inherited identities or differences, but welcoming them with
It is against this background that Lacan's call to shame makes any
sense. 'His is a recommendation not for a renewed prudishness but, on the
contrary, for relinquishing our satisfaction with a sham jouissance in
favour of the real thing. The real thing – jouissance
- can never be 'dutified', controlled, regimented; rather, it catches us by
surprise, like a sudden, uncontrollable blush on the cheek' (p. 110).
Copjec's article is interesting not only because it offers an excellent
interpretation of a very difficult Lacanian passage, but also because it
reminds us of the necessity of going back to the 'real thing' and abandoning
the universalizing discourse of identity and difference.
It is important to note that throughout the different chapters of the
book there is one author whose presence is overwhelming: the mentions of Hegel
are second in number only to that of Lacan himself. Even Zizek admits that
Hegel is hardly one of Lacan's silent partners by pointing out that 'in the
index of the Ecrits, Hegel appears
more often than Freud himself!' (p. 1). However, Zizek continues 'Lacan's
almost exclusive Hegelian reference is the Phenomenology
of Spirit in its reading by Alexandre Kojeve (and, to a lesser degree, Jean
Hyppolite)' (p. 2). The idea is that references to Hegel are to other aspects
of his philosophy that have influenced Lacan and remained silent until now.
Thus, Timothy Huson analyses the relation between Lacan's 'logic of the
signifier' and Hegel's Logic, whereas
Adrian Johnston explores the relation between the works of Schelling and Lacan.
In 'The 'Concrete Universal' and What Comedy Can Tell Us About It',
Alenka Zupancic also refers to Hegel, more specifically, to his account of
comedy. The author notes that there is a prevalent postmodern view of comedy in
which comedy 'is the genre that emphasizes our essential humanity, its joys and
limitations. It invites us to recognize and accept the fact that we are finite,
contingent beings' (p. 189). Zupancic lucidly connects this way of
understanding comedy with a philosophical tradition that has been dedicated to
undermining the metaphysics of infinitude and transcendence, establishing
instead a 'metaphysics of finitude' (p. 190) in which finitude appears as our
great contemporary narrative. To this conception of comedy, Zupancic opposes an
alternative conception of Hegelian origin. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel considers comedy to be the most
accomplished spiritual work of art. Comedy appears as the final figure of the
section entitled 'Religion in the form of art' and as any final figure of a
dialectic movement, it constitutes the moment of the concrete universal, that
is, the moment when the universal stops being empty and realizes itself through
the individual. This conception of comedy as the concrete universal, together
with a Lacanian analysis of jouissance
as something that with its always excessive 'surplus' nature introduces 'a
fundamental contradiction in this
finitude itself' (p. 194), allows Zupancic to arrive at what she calls the
'physics of the infinite', which serves as an alternative to the contemporary doxa of human finitude. It is infinite
because the contradiction involved in the human condition is a contradiction
that cannot be qualified as finite (because it is not something with a
necessary and inherent end to it), and it is 'physics' because this necessary
contradiction is always materialized in very finite objects and actions. The
ethical and aesthetical consequences of the physics
of the infinite are a lot more radical than those of both the metaphysics of the infinite and the metaphysics of the finite.
Zizek's contributions are, as always, brilliant and a pleasure to read.
In 'Kate's Choice, or, The Materialism of Henry James', he advances the thesis
that Henry James greatest achievement 'is fully to assert, as the basic
defining feature of modernity, a lack of any transcendent ethical Substance,
while simultaneously avoiding the easy position of ethical relativism' (P.
294). He proves this by an analysis of The
Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl.
With respect to the first novel, Zizek contends that the novel can be read from
the perspective of the three main characters, Milly, Densher and Kate. He then
argues, contrary to some of the most accepted interpretations, that the only
act with an ethical dimension is Kate's act. Kate is the ethical hero of the
novel because in her final act she refuses to live the lie and chooses to lose
both Densher and the money. The Golden
Bowl, in contrast, ends 'in a great moral crash' since none of the main
four characters that constitute the intertwined couples, Maggie/Amerigo and
Charlotte/Adam, is capable of committing a final ethical act.
One of the many chapters that
also deals with literature is Mladen Dolar's 'Kafka's Voices'. Although Lacan
never mentions Kafka in his published work, in his Seminar IX: Identification, he mentions Kafka's short story 'The
Burrow' while introducing his topological theory. However, Dolar shows that the
connection between both authors is more far-reaching. The author starts by
reminding us of a debate in the interpretation of Kafka. We have on the one
hand those who interpret Kafka's universe as the universe of the transcendence
of the law. Against this interpretation, Deleuze and Guattari have shown that
in Kafka, the law is pure immanence. Although Dolar accepts that the second
reading is 'far more useful', he still thinks that it 'does not quite cover
what is at stake in Kafka' (p. 313).
The problem with this reading is that it eludes a paradox: the paradox
of an emergence of a transcendence at the very heart of the immanence.
Dolar's thesis is that Kafka is
generally misperceived as the depressing author of total closure without any
possible exit, which is precisely why the solution of pure immanence does not
offer a good answer to the problem of interpreting Kafka. Instead, Dolar thinks
that in Kafka's corpus there is a possible moment of exit. He examines three
strategies which offer an exit and that 'are all connected with the instance of
the voice - precisely as a point of paradox' (p. 316). The three stories
analysed by Dolar where the voice offers a possibility of exit are 'The Silence
of the Sirens' (1917), 'Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk' (1924) and
'Investigations of a Dog' (1922). Since Kafka is without doubt one of the great
literary voices of the XX century and it is true that he remains quite 'silent'
in Lacan's work, Dolar's contribution is original and refreshing.
Other silent partners also discussed in the section dedicated to
'thought' are: A. Badiou on the Pre-Socratics; M. Bozovic on Diderot; S. Ons on
Nietzsche; and B. Bosteels on A. Badiou. In the section dedicated to art: R.
Pfaller on the comic and the uncanny; S. Zizek on Richard Wagner; S. Jottkandt
on Turgenev; L. Chiesa on Artaud; and F. Jameson on Lacan and the Dialectic.
This is a very diverse and eclectic volume. The book will appeal to the
reader of literary theory, film and cultural studies and perhaps also to the
social theorist and the philosopher interested in the continental tradition.
Adrian Johnston, in his review of Sarah Kay's Zizek: A Critical Introduction published in this website, notes
that 'When Zizek declares that he employs, for instance, popular culture as a subservient
vehicle for the deployment of speculative theoretical philosophy - the
"Many" of Zizek's examples ultimately serves the "One" of a
project aiming at the "reactualization"(as Zizek himself puts it) of
Kantian and German idealist thought through the mediation of Freudian --
Lacanian psychoanalytic metapsychology -- he is quite serious'. Given Zizek's
project of reactualizing German idealism through Lacanian theory, one should
not be surprised at the major presence of Hegel in this book. However, this
book will not appeal to two types of reader: the psychoanalyst interested in
clinic and practice and the philosopher interested in the analytical tradition.
Since analytical philosophy is very important in the English-speaking world, it
is sad that the field of psychoanalytic studies in English has not engaged in a
dialogue with this tradition. From the point of view of analytical philosophy,
it would be interesting to investigate, to give but two examples, the
implications of the psychoanalytic concept of drive for philosophical notions
of human freedom or the role of jouissance
on motivation and action. Unfortunately, this book does not offer an answer to
these questions and others, and thus it does not engage in a much-needed
dialogue between these two important traditions of the English-speaking world.
© 2006 Paula Satne Jones
Paula Satne Jones, PhD candidate, Centre for
Philosophy, University of Manchester.