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Related Topics
LacanReview - Lacan
Topologically Speaking
by Ellie Ragland and Dragan Milovanovic (Editors)
Other Press, 2004
Review by Petar Jevremovic
May 6th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 18)

Reading Lacan is far away from being easy and without any serious problems. His highly personal style is hermetic, often surrealistic. The logic of his thinking is rather idiosyncratic, lucid and original, but not easy to follow. 

One of the most important characteristics of Lacan's way of doing and thinking psychoanalysis was something that we could really name as the authentic speculatively of his thought. Or, speaking in another words, there were no easy (no self-evident) solutions for him. During his famous seminars he had articulated something that today we could call his own style of reading and understanding Freud himself and psychoanalysis in general. Historically speaking, he was one of the most controversial figures in all history of the psychoanalysis. Doctrinally speaking, he was one of the most productive authors. During last decade his influence had spread all over the world. His opus is no more just one of most bizarre and most autistic representatives of French (surrealistic and post-surrealistic) style.

A great many of Lacan's theories and conceptions, his ideas and his interpretations, for us today are problematic (or even unacceptable), but, off course, there is also (I believe) something that is still firm, valid, and potentially fruitful.  There are many, maybe too many, possible ways to Lacan. But, if we really want to be honest with him, first of all we must seriously think and re-think (as much as it is possible) all of epistemological and heuristic extensions of classical psychoanalytic doctrine that he had made. Just think of his starting the dialogue between psychoanalysis and philosophy, linguistic, literature and even with the special kind of nonmetric (highly speculative) geometry -- topology.


Thanks to Ellie Ragland and Dragan Milovanovic we have now a collection of texts that are concerned with various problems of Lacanian (or generally psychoanalytic) topology. In the last 10 years many books and articles have appeared, applying the teaching and theories of Jacques Lacan to literature, philosophy, clinical studies, gender studies, discourse theory, social sciences, even theology. No book-length manuscript, however, has yet been published in English devoted to applying Lacan's topological speculations.

There has been occasional articles, and some references in books regarding his topological ideas, but no systematic no systematic explanation of Lacan's move from classical psychoanalytic theory to topology. Lacan: Topologically Speaking is (as far as I know) the firs systematic book in English devoted to this central part of Lacan's teaching. It consists of 16 illustrative and well balanced texts. They can be of great use for psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists... The main importance of this book, I believe, lays in its (nondogmatic) courage to see things from rather different (methodological and doctrinaire) perspectives. To think  and to re-think Lacan's topological conceptions and speculations. The authors collected here are world renowned Lacanian theorists such as Jacques-Alain Miller, Jeanne Lafont, Jean-Paul Gilson, Pierre Skriabine, Juan-David Nasio, Jean-Michel Vappereau, Luke Thurston, Veronique Voruz, David Metzger, Bruce Arrigo, Philip Dravers, Zak Watson...


Lacanian topology has much to do with  the use of spatial figures and their manipulation, as well as their distortions, to indicate the complexities caused by the functioning of paradoxes in human mental life. This aspect of his work runs throughout his entire official teaching.  The relation of subject to discourse is one of such example. Beyond his discourse theory, Lacan's topology demonstrates that there is another meaning system that is not grammatical, but that operates logically and cohesively within the grammatical confines of regular language. Lacan called this the system of jouissance. Lacan's topology provides a logic beyond the positivism of symbolic logic in the analysis of subject. In another words, Lacan's engagement  with modern logic and mathematics took him  beyond the impasses of the positivistic psychoanalysis.

Topological theory is often called qualitative mathematics. It deals with how the different shapes can be stretched, pulled, twisted, bent, deformed, ad distorted in  space without, at the same time, changing their intristic nature. It is a study of continuous properties of the subject within the context of object relations.  Topology is a part of mathematics, which formalizes places and shifts without measurement, but for psychoanalysis it is a writing of structure. Topology continues  the project of psychoanalytic structuralism and post-structuralism. Topology, as Lacan uses it, allows us to formalize a rigorous theory of psychic apparatus, without any way or anywhere fixing an objective "way" for the human subject. What is important in psychoanalysis is that there is no material objectivity in the psychic apparatus. What is important is to define the link that exists for any element, between the whole and its parts, even if there are different elements; or how they are separated from each other. There are many "wholes" possible. The elements of any possible structure have no quality and meaning by themselves, but only through connections and relations between them.

The main intention of a Lacanian topology is to think the human subject as a topological (no-Euclid) structure. The border between the inside and the outside is subverted. Every subject becomes himself thanks to his identifications with the other. It is impossible to understand these identifications (and all other inter and intrapersonal relations) within the framework of the Euclidean discourse. In Lacan's words, we need something different. We need topology. The psychoanalytic topology.


© 2005 Petar Jevremovic


Petar Jevremovic: Clinical psychologist and practicing psychotherapist, author of two books (Psychoanalysis and Ontology, Lacan and Psychoanalysis), translator of Aristotle and Maximus the Confessor, editor of the Serbian editions of selected works of Heintz Kohut, Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein, author of various texts that are concerned with psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature and theology. He lives in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.


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