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XXXVIII JOURNÉES D’ÉTUDES DE L’ECF / XXXVIII STUDY DAYS OF THE ECF
Jacques-Alain Miller – A New Concept For the 38th Study Days
The École de la Cause freudienne will be using for the first time a new concept for its Study Days in November, the thirty-eighth. This is something new, and it is an experiment. This means that the result, whether it turns out to be a success or failure, cannot be predicted. There is risk, there is no routine. Therefore, at the very least, there is no risk of boredom.
However, this is not a spurious or fickle try-out, it is an attempt that has been thought through, and one which links up several new elements.
First element: surprise
The School used to give itself over each year to a vast and multiform campaign for the ‘preparation of the Study Days’. Across the board, in Paris and the provinces, hives of enthusiastic and methodical activity could be heard buzzing. Countless bees would set off to collect their nectar from a thousand different flowers to bring it back to the community under the impulse of a single, vigilant leadership. Meetings referred to as ‘preparatory’ would plough away on the theme in all directions, digging deep furrows in the problematic. A battery of publications accompanied this grand effort of learning and training. A committee called ‘scientific’ would supervise, gauge and rectify the productions in advance. When the Study Days came, everyone was familiar with the theme, and was able to follow the papers with full knowledge of the facts. And so the Study Days were for nigh on thirty years a powerful factor in the unification of the School, its members, its affiliates, and its public; a vehicle, as we say, focussing the teaching; and a happy moment to catch up with each other: ‘You, me, us, together, and long life to us all!’ The School would verify each year that it looked like itself. One element alone was lacking, had been sacrificed: surprise. But in view of the benefits the enterprise offered, that didn’t seem to be anything much.
Well, the time has come to realise that this ‘nothing much’ is worth as much as all the rest. No, it’s not about putting down the honourable past that the ECF owes a great deal to, but, on the contrary, it’s about building on what has been acquired in order to restore to the Study Days the character of an event. Our Study Days have until now been the logical conclusion, the quilting point, of a long ordered and continuous development. What if from now on they were to become a moment of rupture, a fertile time for a sudden unpredictable production, the collision of impulsive words that take not just the public unawares but the speakers themselves? Wouldn’t this be closer to what psychoanalytic method implements in its quest for truth?
Of course, something shall be lost in the operation, but that’s how it is, you can never win on all counts. And when you’ve been winning on one for a long time, the profit margin tends to come down, and then comes the time when it cancels itself out, and you have to speculate on another. At least, this is the wager.
Second element: one structure, and one alone
Back in the day, at the start of the School in 1981, the Study Days unfolded from beginning to end before the School in its entirety: there were no ‘plenary sessions’, no ‘multiple rooms’. At the fourth Study Days which I co-directed, I set up the module we still use for the plenary sessions: one hour, one president, two papers of twenty minutes, the last third for discussion. A little while later, we had to make up our minds to introduce multiple rooms: the School had grown larger, its members desired to speak in front of their colleagues, it was not possible to have discussions in the plenary session, so unity was sacrificed to number. But it might be remarked that no module was ever established for these multiple rooms: the length, presidencies, discussants, number of papers, everything was always left to circumstance.
What’s more, as the Study Days invariably took place at the Palais des Congrès, and the Salle Bleue was hired for two days, when the time came for the simultaneous sessions, the Salle Bleue was used as one of them, even though it outstripped the others in terms of size. The result was that there was regularly a joyous disorder in the multiple rooms, often crammed full of different papers, and sometimes deserted by the public, occasioning a certain disappointment, quickly soaked up by the lively affectio societatis proper to the associations of the Freudian Field, and which singles them out among the psychoanalytic groups.
Finally, the last regular malfunctioning is that the audience at the plenary sessions became so large that it quickly overflowed the Salle Bleue, which has fewer than nine hundred seats. The first time, a television room was hastily tacked on, and then this became regular, then a second room was added, which became just as regular, and all this to accommodate an audience that has gone up to, and over, one thousand five hundred.
This whole organisation plan has clearly needed to be rethought for a long time now, but the change of posts on the School’s board, and the change of posts for the organisers of the Study Days which was even more frequent, coupled with the necessity of reserving the rooms at least a year in advance, meant that the organisation would stay unchanged over time – a quarter of a century. And then, let’s admit that this didn’t bother anyone: the time that passed had made these very malfunctionings somewhat august, and the slight unease that might nonetheless make itself felt, the vague feeling of a certain discomfort, all of that was part of the atmosphere, the Stimmung of these Study Days, which we liked to find just as they had always been at the start of each new academic year.
As director of the thirty-eighth Study Days, I didn’t envisage using this exact same plan, which has long been obsolete. The board headed by F.-H. Freda ratified the reconfiguration I presented last November; the treasurer, D. Miller, was able to secure the cancellation of the long-standing booking from the Palais des Congrès administration; and, at the cost of a date change, this administration freed up the rooms that will allow for the implementation of the new system.
Here are its three main components:
One module, and one alone: the same module will hold for all the papers, whether they take place in simultaneous or plenary sessions. Namely, as I have said: one hour, one president, two papers, one discussion; and no discussants: the president is the one who will present the two papers, who will comment on them afterwards, and who, in the simultaneous sessions, will launch the discussion – in the plenary session, dialogue with the speakers. This same hour-long slot will be used, in the same way, throughout the programme, independently of the place that will ultimately be assigned to one paper or another: there will be a slicing up of the temporal and spatial coordinates, which will allow the rooms to find an identity of their own, their own virtually tautological identity:
A plenary room that is actually plenary: if there really are to be plenary sessions, then the room needs to accommodate everyone. No more Salle Bleue. Let’s hire a room capable of seating at least one thousand five hundred people;
Multiple rooms that are actually multiple: i.e., as numerous as possible, and of comparable size. So, once again, no Salle Bleue.
Fortunately, the Palais des Congrès has been able to satisfy, at no extra cost, these new requirements. No less than eight multiple rooms will be functioning simultaneously. As for the plenary room, this will be the Grand Auditorium on the ground floor, which had already hosted the last, and large, Encounter of the Freudian Field to be held in Paris, before this series was split in two, to give rise to the Latin American Encounters and PIPOL.
The multiple rooms will be hired for one whole day, and likewise for the Auditorium. So, instead of Saturday and Sunday including both plenary and simultaneous sessions, for the thirty-eighth Study Days, things will be cut in two: on Saturday, The Day of Eight Rooms, on Sunday, The Auditorium Day.
The planned times being 10am-1pm, and 3-6pm, you can see the enormous capacity for absorption and production furnished by this machine: 108 papers, and 54 presidents, constituting 54 formally matching sequences. We ought to have the likes of Charles Fourier around to celebrate fittingly this impeccable, invariable, truly alveolus order, which prevails through its conformity to the ECF’s ‘buzzing hive’ spirit.
But what really needs to be seen is that, as we know from the functioning of analysis itself, from the matheme of the analytic discourse, the tight mesh of a structure is precisely the condition of any surprise.
Element 3: now I have to speak to you about the theme – which you are acquainted with, How One Becomes an Analyst at the Start of the 21st Century. How is this How to be grasped? How is something that might make for an event to be shaped from all this? As it’s getting late, and I’ve already gone on for much longer than I intended when I began, I’ll leave that for tomorrow, or the 3rd. After which, I will be expecting to receive contributions, which I shall gladly post in this new Study Days Journal. It will be coming out a-periodically up until Saturday 7 November. Contributions on what? On the notorious How, of course, conceived of in an extensive way: nothing of psychoanalysis is foreign to us, and nothing of this 21st century thing, given in the title.
Published in the Journal des journées, No. 1.
Translated from the French by Adrian Price
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