Report on the Knottings Seminar of the NLS in Bruges - February 2014
by Joost Demuynck
Despina Andropoulou, represented the Executive Committee of the NLS, to inaugurate this new edition of the ‘Knottings’ Seminar. Before she started her precious lecture, she asked some more attention for the digital cartels in the School. These are a fast and easy possibility to get in touch with colleagues from other groups and to work on the theme of the NLS. Often, the cases presented in these cartels are the basis for interventions at the NLS congress.
“Fiction and structure of Hamlet’s desire”.
The fictional character of what is said and its function
Despina Andropoulou returns to Lacan’s Seminar La relation d’objet in which Lacan puts that truth has a fictional structure. This means that every expression of truth involves a structural necessity that is of the same nature as fiction. Both for the child as for the adult, myths on the one side deal with the semblant of what doesn’t exist, with what marks a hole in the existence, and on the other side with the sexuation of the subject.
Still, no myth solves the problem of what it means to be a father. In L’envers de la psychanalyse, Lacan will articulate the Freudian questions to the real. Something that cannot be said remains and therefore it is said in a mythical way. The mythical truth of a subject approaches what we call a fiction. Despina refers to J.-A. Miller: ‘The fiction in analysis, is an act based on speech’ (1). But in ‘Function and field of speech and language’ Lacan suggests to rearrange past contingencies by giving them a sense of future necessities. This rearrangement offers, following Miller, a continuity, a sense, an intention, a wanting-to-say. This transformation of a coincidence in a necessity is in psychoanalysis also called ‘rationalizing’.
Lacan characterizes the Oedipus complex as a rationalization, as a myth. He distinguishes it from the castration complex, forming the structural knot of the subject.
The choice of Hamlet
The play of Hamlet is the tragedy of desire in its relation to the desire of the Other. It’s his encounter with death. The piece is not without effect on the spectator because it questions the relation to our own desire. On the one hand there is an equivalent structure to the oedipal and second there is an empty place in which the spectator can place its own ignorance. Hamlet is the personification of the unconscious, in this way that Hamlet is the discourse of the Other. The hero appears as someone who doesn’t know what he wants, who has lost his way to desire. This framework is displayed to regain himself.
An equivalent structure to the oedipal doesn’t want to say that it is an oedipal tragedy, a tragedy of fate, but a work upon the problem of desire. Man has to situate and find his desire in an action that can only be completed in so far as he is a mortal being. It is precisely by following the meanders of the action that one participates to the drama of the hero. Lacan clarifies the difference with Oedipus in stating that castration lacks. This achieves in a slow process during the piece.
To be able to comprehend the act, one must not search what doesn’t work at the side of the father, but in his relation to the object. The relation that supports desire is the fundamental fantasy.
A difference that Lacan, following Despina, often mentions is that the father of Oedipus has been killed by his ignorant son, committed by fate. Hamlet on the other side knows his father was killed, he knows even by who and how. The drama of Hamlet is that he knows about the crime of existence and that he can ask himself whether ‘to be or not to be’. The betrayal of love doesn’t get an answer. There is a lack in the Other, or in other words a fraction bar.
And here begin the experiences of Hamlet. To accomplish his tasks, to kill his uncle and murderer of his father, Despina says, Hamlet has to change his sexual position, so that he could act as a subject. This change includes the loss of the object.
The desire of Hamlet and what malfunctions
Why does Hamlet hesitate to kill his uncle Claudius? Lacan gives two reasons: Hamlet remains tied down to the desire of his mother and secondly, Hamlet is always dependent of the time of the other.
The pivot of the drama of Hamlet is the desire of the mother, that is not regulated by the phallus. But Hamlet doesn’t succeed in resisting the desire of his mother, to follow his own desire and to act in accordance with it.
Hamlet makes his act dependent of the time of others. His hour of truth, Lacan says, is the hour of the funeral of Ophelia. Initially she was the sublime object upon which he found his support, after which she became the bearer of children and in this way bearer of all sins, as Hamlet’s mother. Lacan explains this as the destruction of the object that is recuperated in the narcissistic frame of the subject. In other words, it’s about the i(a) instead of the object a in the fundamental fantasy. The instinctual voraciousness of the mother makes her a subject of jouissance, emanating from the direct satisfaction of a need. This makes Hamlet a neglected object of desire, as Lacan will put forward in his tenth Seminar.
The hour of others and the postponement of action
The loss of Ophelia is necessary for Hamlet to rouse. As far as Ophelia becomes an impossible object, she becomes Hamlet’s object of passion again, permitting him to resume his desire. ‘This is I, Hamlet the Dane’, he says at her grave. There he is, a divided subject before his object a. It is only in this way that he can mourn the death of his father.
There is still a last step necessary. Hamlet identifies with the signifier ‘foil’, the deadly phallus. The murder of the phallus, signifier of the power that Claudius incarnates, only becomes possible at the moment Hamlet is killed. Resigning to narcissism allows the accomplishment of the act.
In this period of his Seminar, Lacan thinks of castration as the focus of analysis and of the fundamental fantasy as its product.
Related to this, the “analyst” becomes a new name for the destiny of the drive.
Finally, the fiction, the mythical truth of the neurotic becomes a tool for the subject to find his fundamental fantasy. The tragedy of Hamlet, a tragedy of desire, shows the encounter with the lack of the Other, and impels the subject to act in one way or another; wanting to know the ‘why’ and ‘how’ something doesn’t work is an ethical choice that can imply the start of an analysis.
In the discussion the place of Ophelia as imaginary phallus and as object was further examined. Despina stressed again how the object of Hamlet and i(a), the image of the body, was integrated, and that for this reason Hamlet couldn’t pass over to the act. He remains prisoner of the desire of the Other, in this case his mother. Another remark in the discussion was that the father of Hamlet showed no sin. He is a too ideal father. Something in the transmission is lacking, his father has taken his wife as an object of love and not as an object of desire. He lacks a certain perversion. Despina stressed that the sin of the father remains enigmatic.
This presentation was followed by three clinical cases.
(1) Miller J.-A., Choses de finesse, lesson of 14.01.2009, unpublished.
Translated by Abe Geldhof