28 de outubro de 2010

Reading the Unconscious


When Lacan--in the first phase of his teaching--describes the unconscious as "structured like a language," the notion of Reading the Unconscious makes sense rather quickly. Indeed, we might say that Reading the Unconscious is a very simple way to describe interpretation itself. But, Lacan, even at this moment in his teaching, in the "Agency of the Letter," describes that this act of Reading is not so simple, not one oriented on the level of the signified, on a reading of the text oriented to meaning, but rather on a reading of the unconscious oriented to the signifier, to the letter itself, which may be opaque to meaning, the bar between the signifier and the signified barring access, as it were, to meaning.

With the middle phase of Lacan's teaching, things get even more complicated. The challenge to the act of reading is not merely to be found at the level of the symbolic order. With the introduction of the object a, Lacan, in Seminar X, describes a symbolic order that is not able to fully symbolize the subject. There is a failure to this process of symbolization, which he articulates with the body, and the object a exists as a residue, a reminder of that failure. The very next year, in Seminar XI, Lacan redefines the unconscious not on the basis of it as structured like a language, but on two planes, that of the alienation of the subject in the signifier through which he is represented in the Other, and, also, that of separation, where what is at stake is the object a as representation of the jouissance of the encounter of the subject with the Other. We might say, then, that the act of reading may be reformulated on two levels, that of the master signifier, and that of the object a, the latter providing the ultimate horizon for the interpretive act. (Did not Freud too undertake a similar trajectory: from the classic emphasis on meaning and a structured unconscious in The Interpretation of Dreams to an attempt to articulate something about the point where meaning and the pleasure primciple fails, with his elaboration of the death drive in Beyond the Pleasure Principle?)

With the final Lacan, the unconscious is reworked so much that we might even discard the concept. With the concept of 'lalangue' in Seminar XX, the notion of a barrier between the symbolic and the real is gone, and jouissance is no longer isolated in a fragment, but diffuses language and meaning itself, redefined at this moment as 'enjoying-meaning.' And, then, there is the case of James Joyce (Seminar XXIII), whose very singular subjectivity is described on the basis of the way that he 'un-subscribes' to his unconscious.

We find this path of Lacan's often traced in the psychoanalytic experience today--psychoanalyses which will begin with explorations of meaning and fascinations with the very formations of the unconscious, which present in a most classic manner, and then, with time, move more to circulate, if the analysis continues to its end, around difficult points, things impossible to speak about. The focus shifts from what Jacques-Alain Miller has termed the transferential unconscious to the real unconscious.

What are the consequences of this for the very act of Reading the Unconscious? How do we read something that is impossible to say? Last year, at the Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis, we addressed this question in part with the ways in which we use the concept of the semblant. We might also here learn from the Testimonies of the Pass, from those subjects who have taken their psychoanalysis to this very end.

These are the themes we wish to explore for our next Clinical Study Days, what it is to read the unconscious, even if it is to read a text that is not written.

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