Anda di halaman 1dari 10

Editorial Event/Horizon London 2011 Event/Anchor Paris, Geneva 2010 The Couch The letter! The litter!

r! And the soother the bitther! Hypermodern Times

Adrian Price

From Repetition to the Drive

n 1964, when Lacans return to Freud was entering a new dimension following the political crisis that resulted in the fiasco of his definitive stripping of the title of didactic analyst at the end of the previous year, it was the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis that were to provide the most solid and fertile base for this new beginning. These concepts are four in number, and they allowed Lacan to introduce a stratified conceptualisation of the psychoanalytic experience. Looking back the following year1 on the twenty lessons that made up this Seminar, Lacan notes the propedeutic strategy previously employed in his Seminar, where each stage of his development was presented only once the audience had been able to measure the well-foundedness of the stage before. However, the combination of a number of factors pushed Lacan to revise the mode of presentation he had developed over the previous decade. These factors are threefold. Firstly, Lacan was speaking before a radically different public a large and conspicuous presence of students from the cole normale superiure, where the Seminar was being held, contrasted sharply with the exclusively psychoanalytic audience Lacan had enjoyed in the fifties. Secondly, the contemporary founding of the cole freudienne de Paris, whose Founding Act was drafted between the penultimate and closing lessons of Seminar XI, punctuates the political and institutional stakes of this fresh start.
1 Lacan, J., Report on Seminar XI, in this issue of Hurly-Burly, pp. 17-19.

From Repetition to the Drive 51

Thirdly, to move from psychoanalysis in intension to psychoanalysis in extension, a shifting perception of the role of modern science in the contemporary world made its presence felt in the Seminar, and the relationship between psychoanalysis and science came to constitute what Lacan identifies as the radical project of the years teaching. In a nutshell, it was out with the Greater Logic of Hegelian dialectic, where thesis and antithesis are resolved in a reductive synthesis, and in with what Lacan calls a duty a duty to clarify, to elucidate the real, a real beyond the dialectical movement facilitated by the structure of the signifier, a real which emerges not logically but abruptly. Lacans aim was, I quote, to restore this real in the field left us by Freud. Thus, the return to Freud in this second period of Lacans teaching contrasts with the return to Freud of the first teaching which had exploited the common ground between structuralism and Hegels Greater Logic.

In this second meeting of our academic year, where you have already tackled the
first layer of stratification that Lacan presents with the unconscious, we proceed to the next stage: the concept of repetition. In what I shall be taking as my object for todays work with you, we are already well on the path that prepares the presentation of the third level: the concept of the drive. Thus the most accurate label to describe our trajectory would be: from repetition to the drive. Lacans path swerves somewhat here, between the first set of lessons from the start of the year, and the second set at least this is how they are divided up in the Book of the Seminar to the extent that one could even suspect a detour. What I want to show today is how this detour is no such thing, and that if the four chapters that make up the second set of lessons are largely indebted to the contemporary publication of Maurice Merleau-Pontys Le visible et linvisible which they do indeed constitute a critical response to never once does Lacan deviate from the path of his enquiry that leads from repetition to the drive.

Lacan begins the sixth lesson by briefly recalling the dream from Chapter VII of
the Traumdeutung which he had analysed in the previous lesson. The dream, Father, dont you see that Im burning, a dream that has given rise to a great deal of commentary, is used by Lacan in a very precise way in Seminar XI. To go quickly, lets say that the dream presents, introduces, shows something of a real that comes charging in, in all its abruptness. Lacan is explicit here: Between what occurs as if by chance, when everybody is asleep the candle that overturns and the sheets that catch fire, the meaningless event, the accident, the piece of bad luck and the element of poignancy, however veiled, in the words Father, cant

52 Event/Horizon London 2011 - Adrian Price

you see Im burning there is the same relation to what we are dealing with in repetition. It is what for us is represented in the term neurosis of destiny or neurosis of failure. What is missed is not adaptation, but tuch, the encounter.2
This allows Lacan to extract a very exact formula of repetition, it can be found on the same page of the English translation: [] it is necessary to ground this repetition first of all in the very split that occurs in the subject in relation to the encounter. Lacans final punctuation of this dream bears on the childs solicitation of his fathers gaze Father, dont you see It is this seeing, introduced in the negative interrogative, that functions as a point of departure for the ensuing conceptual development of repetition.

It so happened, though Lacan makes a point of not attributing it to sheer


serendipity, that Merleau-Pontys Le visible et linvisible was published at just the moment Lacan was embarking on his eleventh Seminar. Lacans friend had died suddenly and quite unexpectedly in 1961, leaving behind an unpublished manuscript, largely fragmentary, which was subsequently assorted, arranged and established into a cohesive form by Claude Lefort. Lacan praises the latters work both here in the Seminar and in the 1965 Report. Lacan goes to great lengths to extract all the consequences from this text, treating the work of his late friend with a certain generosity in as much as at several moments he sees it as being on the brink of transmitting something that is never quite specified as such. Merleau-Pontys oeuvre, such as it was curtailed by his early death, stands as a collection of observations and intuitions that concur in challenging and overhauling the dominant philosophical conceptualisation of perceptual experience, taking the visual field as the archetypal domain of human perception. Calling the text that appears under the title Le visible et linvisible a fullyfledged subversion would be too grandiose. The book essentially presents barely more than an introduction to what was clearly projected to be a much more extensive study. This is how we can understand Lacans comment that the work is both an end and a beginning. It marks the last chapter of Merleau-Pontys oeuvre while opening onto a new step forward in phenomenological philosophy. Lacans use of Merleau-Ponty is highly singular no doubt due to a series of factors, the bond of their friendship, the definitive interruption of Merleau-Pontys thought, Lacans new audience, and so on allowing Lacan to complete, to compliment Merleau-Pontys thought, while furnishing it with structural features that we can quite rightly suppose to be utterly foreign to Merleau-Pontys
2 Lacan, J., The Seminar Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, transl. by A. Sheridan, Penguin, 1994, p. 69.

From Repetition to the Drive 53

philosophy. Lacan is examining here the structure of an elaborated intuition. He whole-heartedly takes on board a great number of examples, references and arguments to be found on the pages of Le visible et linvisible. But, as Lacan underlines at the bottom of page 72 of the English translation, Merleau-Ponty remains essentially within the confines of an imaginary register of imposed forms, whilst Lacan reads the experience of the scopic field as an eminently symbolic one. The point around which Lacan concentrates the opposition between MerleauPontys phenomenology and his own teaching, is what emerges in the former as a reflexive, synthetic reference, namely, a consciousness that sees itself seeing itself. What precisely forbids us this reference in our psychoanalytic perspective on the scopic drive when Freud had already given an enduring image of the oral drive with a mouth kissing itself? One way of reading these four chapters on the gaze-object this is the path Im proposing is to scrutinise how Lacan picks apart this reflexive consciousness and proposes an alternative model that starts off from the same basic structure. As Lacan shows at the end of lesson VI, this conceptual question has consequences at the clinical level: [] the level of reciprocity between the gaze and the gazed at is, for the subject, more open than any other to alibi. That is why we should try to avoid, by our interventions in the session, allowing the subject to establish himself on this level. On the contrary, we should cut him off from this point of ultimate gaze, which is illusory. What jars in the seeing oneself seeing oneself is the point at which consciousness is inserted. Merleau-Ponty does not argue for a gaze that looks at itself, which might ultimately be closer to Lacans object gaze, but a subject of consciousness who performs the act of seeing and reaches a perception that grounds him through its reflexive movement. Lets draw up, here at the outset, the figure that Lacan will introduce at the start of the eighth lesson. We are justified in doing so in that its elements already feature in the previous lessons, and Lacan had clearly already devised the two figures since he refers to them on page 82.

Object

Image

Geometral point

54 Event/Horizon London 2011 - Adrian Price

Lacan uses the model of anamorphosis, which is essentially a localised, restricted field determined by a strict application of geometral optics, to show how it illustrates a relation to an image, to the extent that it is linked to a surface, with a certain point that we shall call the geometral point.3 What is novel and radical in anamorphosis is that it applies a very simple and reductive conception of vision, and, through that application, sets it in tension with itself by introducing contradictory geometral spaces. The anamorphic skull in Holbeins Ambassadors only creates its radical effect in as much as the space inhabited by the ambassadors and their array of worldly objects has been constructed according to an equally rigorous optics that posits a geometral point in the approximate position the viewer takes up when he surveys the canvas, given its size and dimensions, and above all the convention of supposing the plane of the image to coincide with the material surface of the painting. Lacan calls this space geometral. For Merleau-Ponty it would be a space of dimensions, of dimensionality. Lacan insists above all on the emphasis on line in this optics, where light itself is conceived of as a thread, a straight line running between perceiver and perceived. The shift from perspectival space to geometral space should be read within this context. It is in this regard that geometral space is perfectly communicable to someone deprived of vision, to Diderots blind man for instance. Moreover, we might note that anamorphosis never really enjoyed a great success amongst the sixteenth and seventeenth century painters. The construction of the anamorphic image entails a calculation that is largely at odds with the way a painter approaches space. Holbeins Ambassadors is in many respects an exceptional painting, not least in that it invites the spectator to view the anamorphically constructed object as being coherent with the overall perspectival space: it casts a shadow on the tiled floor, etc. This first figure represents a space that is a subjective space. The image is constituted at the geometral point at which the subject is located. Lets trace an S here, to represent the subject, though not yet the barred subject we meet in psychoanalysis.

The second figure turns the first on its head.


Point of light screen Picture

3 Ibid., p. 86.

From Repetition to the Drive 55

The second figure shows Lacans re-structuring of Merleau-Pontys phenomenological scopic field. Where in the first figure, light was essentially reducible to the line of light, to the straight line that orders the visual field in geometral optics, here in the second figure light is not a line but a point. Furthermore, it is a point of pure opacity. For the subject, the point of light emerges from beyond a screen. It glares at the subject, but the subject cannot achieve any level of acquaintance with this light, contrary to the line of light where even the blind man can fully grasp its functioning. What counts for Merleau-Ponty, and this is what Lacan is sensitive to in his phenomenology, is that the subject is looked at by the world. Where the first figure shows an active to look (), the second shows a passive to be looked at (). If the first figure can be understood as a space saturated by active subjectivity at least by the subjects wanting-to-see this second figure shows a space saturated by alterity. Where the first grounded the subject of representation, the second gives rise to what Lacan will call in his thirteenth seminar, a subject in representation.4 With regard to the second model, Lacan develops in some detail, on one hand, using the examples of mimicry, the phenomenological notion of a world that puts the subject in the picture, and on the other, a localisation of this focal point from which the subject is looked at. It is this second movement, the more subtle and nuanced, which diverges from Merleau-Pontys already highly subtle and nuanced account. Lacan seeks to go beyond the phenomenological notion of world to ground the locus of the Other. In this respect, Lacans earlier text written just after Merleau-Pontys death includes a very daring though slightly strained attempt to found the locus of the Other based on one of the visual experiments Merleau-Ponty relates. Jacques-Alain Miller gives a thorough reading of this attempt in his lesson on The Logic of the Perceived in issue 6 of the Psychoanalytical Notebooks. Here in Seminar XI, the status of the Other is less sure. Well write it up here as a capital A, but with the proviso that, just as the subject in the first figure is not the psychoanalytic subject, this Other still lends itself to being understood as a phenomenological Other. This indeed is what prompts Jacques-Alain Millers question at the end of the last of the four chapters on the gaze, feeling that Lacans elucidation of the Other does not sit easily with Merleau-Pontys world such as it is presented as something preobjective, savage, and primordial.5 Lacan underlines Merleau-Pontys term the flesh of the world as a fitting designation of something that remains ultimately quite sketchy in his phenomenology.

4 Lacan, J., Lesson of 25 May 1966 in Le sminaire XIII, Lobjet de la psychanalyse (1965-6), unpublished. 5 Lacan, J., The Seminar Book XI, op. cit., p. 119.

56 Event/Horizon London 2011 - Adrian Price

his is where we need to return to Lacans development on repetition and the missed encounter. The structure Lacan is building in his conceptualisation is constructed around a hole. It is constructed around a point at which the experience of the Other entails a profoundly non-assimilable focal point. The locus of the Other makes itself felt, in as much as the subject receives its message, but this message is a radical dont you see A dont you see that turns round into a dont see you. This leads us to the third figure, which Lacan introduces in the ninth lesson.

The gaze

image screen

The subject of representation

For Lacan, the Other that emerges in the encounter with the gaze-object is fundamentally a blind, non-seeing Other. It is a barred Other, an Other that exists as a structural reference which puts the subject in the picture, but which the subject can acquire no familiarity with. In place of the ultimate gaze of the complete Other, which would permit a reflexive seeing oneself seeing oneself, Lacan inscribes a missed encounter. The oft-cited example Lacan provides is drawn from his own experience as a young man, rubbing shoulders with a gang of fishermen he reckoned he could slot into for the time of one summer. The taunting Petit-Jean, spying a sardine can on the horizon, initially appealing to Lacans sense of mastery with his you see that, subverts this seeing by reminding Lacan that whilst he had shown up with his youthful illusions, as real for him as the perception of the can on waves, he himself was a blot on the landscape in their trying existence staying afloat the time and tide that waits for no man. The point of light that gleams at the young Lacan does not indeed see him, but it looks at him, gazes at him, none the less. This anecdote of the young Lacan at sea, all at sea, pictures a moment of non-encounter. At the same time as the bar falls on the Other it doesnt see you the bar falls on the subject. This situation clearly entailed a certain shame for Lacan. When Petit-Jeans rib draws back the curtain on the young Lacans idealism, far from creating a conjuncture or ideal vantage point from which the subject can see himself seeing himself, it exposes a point of division, above all it uncovers the pure effort of getting oneself, or making oneself seen. This effort of getting oneself seen emerges with so much more clarity given that the being seen, being seen by an Other who would legitimize or assent to

From Repetition to the Drive 57

ones aspirations, falls by the wayside.6 The accent falls less on the seen, the aim of the drive, than on the getting oneself, the thrust of the drive, which brings us back to Lacans opening comment that the eye is merely the metaphor of [] the seers shoot something prior to his eye.7 Sheridan uses shoot to translate pousse, which resonates with la pousse, the thrust of the drive. In Lacans example, this thrust emerges not with a realisation of the aim, but when the drive finds its goal, and he finds himself looked at, in a certain sense looked at by the drives thrust. In the drive, the subject vacillates with the position of object a, he makes himself object, and this is how the gaze glimpsed beyond the screen becomes equivalent to the stain he is in the picture.

Why then repetition? To clarify this question of repetition, I would like to end by
examining the following paragraph from Patricia Bosquins Pass testimony, presented at the WAP Congress earlier this year: [] when her pain was at its height, the lasting memory of a family scene came to her. She was then aged five. The family were going up the slopes of Vesuvius in a chair-lift. Father and mother were each accompanying one of her younger brothers. She was on a seat alone over the void. The anxious father nevertheless watched over her, he held her by the thread of his gaze. She singles out this moment, the stake of a ravaging repetition in her love bond. Anxious in turn, she was pushed into confirming, at the risk of snapping it, that the thread was holding between her and her partner. In her request for love she was sending a silent prayer to the Other: Father, dont let me go. She was making the fire erupt from the extinct crater. She spotted this gaze of the fathers that she was hanging from, but also his voice that she was calling for. She was sustaining herself with the gaze and the voice, taught threads she was clutching onto over the void. As a young woman it was this excessively burning gaze and explosive voice of the father that she had distanced herself from. The analyst punctuated the session exclaiming: You are your fathers lost object! On the conjugal stage, she was commemorating this loss. She was turning herself into the Others lost object.8
6 We have read the second figure as anticipating the third, i.e., a being looked at that comes in place of any being seen. However, the second figure could also be read in terms of a being seen by the world, where no assimilation of a barred Other would be accommodated. This would account for the experience of the sono sempre vista of the patient in Seminar X. 7 Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XI, op. cit., p. 72. 8 Bosquin, P., An a-moureuse transl. by A. Price, in Hurly-Burly, Issue 4, p. 29.

58 Event/Horizon London 2011 - Adrian Price

We can take this paragraph as an exemplary demonstration of the concept of repetition articulated with the gaze-object. We find the effort on the side of the subject to reinstate a mastery of the scopic field in the thread of the line of sight that links her to the Other. In this poignant testimony the subjects effort of looking so as to be seen is reduced to a silent prayer. But the encounter is ultimately not the encounter with the Others seeing gaze, but the encounter where she is looked at by a non-seeing Other. This non-seeing Other is figured not by the father, but by the incongruous and abrupt emergence of fire erupting from the extinct crater of Vesuvius. The volcano looks back at the subject, in the same way that the sardine can looks back at the young Lacan, or the gleaming pillars of the Acropolis look back at Freud atop the Acropolis. The point of light puts the subject in the picture. Notice too how the analysts interpretation punctuates not the ultimate gaze of a complete Other, but an Other who is marked by a loss. The Other has lost its object, which the subject then applies herself to embodying. Perhaps the most remarkable and instructive point of this passage, further to the fire that erupts from the volcano, is the subjective implication of: I was making the fire erupt The volcano itself is extinct, and thus the point of light that emerges from the crater is a pure subjective invention. In contrast to the fathers burning gaze that the subject has learnt to extract herself from, it is the thrust of the subjects drive that emerges in the field of the Other. The abrupt encounter with the thrust of the drive is structurally equivalent to the repeated non-encounter with the complete Other.

From Repetition to the Drive 59

60