REPORT ON THE PARIS-USA LACANIAN SEMINAR
by Albert Herter
“In the final analysis I consider the contemporary era to be a kind of interregnum for the poet, who has nothing to do with it: it is too fallen or too full of preparatory effervescence for him to do anything but keep working, with mystery, so that later, or never, and from time to time sending the living his calling card- some stanza or sonnet- so as not to be stoned by them, if they new he suspected that they didn’t exist.”
The seminar cost 90 euros, lasted two days from 9:00 am to 11:00pm and consisted of twenty-four papers, one film, and two keynote speakers. I attended the seminar as an analysand, which the woman next to me said was very unusual. I was curious to put faces to the names, flesh behind the words. I wanted to see how analysts handle a microphone, the logistics of ordinary order which can be so difficult for those accustomed to the thin air of high altitudes. I wanted to see the fabric of their vestments. In fact it all went smoothly and cordially.
The Congress had been held a few days before and we talked about how there was no English translation and why not.
The topic of the seminar was “Entering Analysis”. Papers were to be first person accounts of the beginning of analysis.
The room was lit by skylight, a diffuse grey light, like the wandering attention of an analyst, rigorously soft-focused.
My memories of the papers remain amorphous despite my effort to recollect details. The rhythm of the presentations and terms lulled me into a mild stupor.
There were several reoccurring themes. The debate on the validity of “phone analysis”. There were references to how an analysts gesture of the hand, tapping of the fingers, or movement through the room had proved meaningful. It was also pointed out that phone analysis, due to the prevalence of cell phones, no longer dictated any set space.
Eric Laurent’s presentation recalled to mind Lacan’s description of Freud’s handling of concepts as that of a man who holds a hammer which fits comfortably in his hand and says “This is how I hold it for best effect. You may need to hold it some other way.”
Laurent spoke of the nonsensical past which could not have been otherwise, and the future of contingency, when, quoting the Porgie and Bess song, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” It could be as it ought to be.
There was some talk of humor and one individual remarked “When there is the phallus there can be a lot of fun!” As soon as the phallus is there it’s a comedy.
I wondered if there was a phallus in the American Lacanian movement.
Miller’s talk began at eleven pm. I remembered the only video I could find of him speaking (on YouTube- Rally of the Impossible Professions) where he prefaces his talk by saying he prefers to speak to a tired audience, because their defenses are down and they don’t ask so many questions. He was introduced and someone said it’s not every day you get to speak to Jacques-Alain Miller. I think Miller opened the palms of his hands to this audience of English speakers as if to say “What do you have to offer? What can you contribute?” And he was initially met with silence so he began his account of his free association on the topic of “Entering Analysis” with a recital of the Miranda Rights. He contrasted these lines with what might be a Freudian Warning.
He also spoke of a Freudian bubble one enters, where one is alone together with an analyst. His use of the word “bubble”, it’s silliness, contrasted with the incantation of terms which had preceded it.
I thought afterwards that the Miranda Rights produce silence in a subject, since one is innocent until proven guilty, therefore one’s words will really only be used against oneself. The subject retains a lawyer, a representitive to filter one’s words. Perhaps a pessimistic view. In analysis is one already guilty? Lacan advances a proposition in “experimental form”, at the end of “The Ethics of Psychoanalysis”, which he formulates as a paradox-
“In the last analysis what a subject really feels guilty about when he manifests guilt at bottom always has to do with- whether or not it is admissable for a director of conscience- the extent to which he has given ground relative to his desire.”
“Doing things in the name of the good and even more in the name of the good of the other, is something that is far from protecting us not only from guilt but also from all kinds of inner catastrophes. To be precise, it doesn’t protect us from neurosis and its consequences.”
So we are certainly all guilty in this sense.
I tried to give Miller one of Roger Penrose’s books in French but he said he already had it.
Leaving the seminar I realized I’d spent all but some centimes on journals and did not have enough money to take the metro so I headed south down the hill from Pigalle towards the Seine. Paris being so geographically small I usually just orient myself by NSEW coordinates. So I walked south, passing the church of the Trinity on my right. I walked vigorously for about twenty minutes and finally ended up with the church of the Trinity on my left.
Two weeks later I sat on my father’s terasse, baking. I looked down at the flesh pink tiles and saw a potato bug on its back, flailing its legs. I used the tip of my index finger to help it right itself, but in the process accidentally broke one of its hind legs. The bug began to walk in a two inch diameter wide circle, dragging a wet limp leg behind him. After he’d made a couple circuits I slipped a wet leaf beneath his course and deposited him (he’s become sexed) gently in the shade of the flower boxes, to trace his circles in the darkness, out of sight.
Some odd notes from the speakers:
St. Paul- The true Christian has to be anything to any man.
Love is suicide.
Passion is death.
Pleasure is always linked to a beyond pleasure, the background fabric of unpleasure.
Several of the journals I bought address “the healthcare
debate”. The requirement of quantifiable results, of checked boxes, presents a problem for Lacanians, perhaps even a prohibitive problem. Analysis has been described as a fundamentally antisocial activity. How would any regulatory institution process a truth that can only ever be half said? I had a friend from the seminar over for a drink and posed a question that had been on my mind for awhile. “Do Lacanians have any interest in brains?” He began shaking his head emphatically. He said “Miller’s position, and I believe it’s a mistake, is that even to open the door to that issue would be to risk a defeat. ‘This is our territory, let’s keep it.” I have more faith, in Miller I
Penrose describes the following in Shadows of the Mind-
According to an idea by Yakir Aharonov and Lev Vaidman (1990) quantum reality is described by two state vectors, one of which propagates forwards in time from the last occurrence of the state-vector reduction (a measurement- magnifying quantum events to the classical level), in the normal way, and the other propagates backwards in time, from the next occurrence of the state vector reduction in the future. This second state vector behaves ‘teleologically’ in the sense that it is governed by what is going to happen to it in the future, rather than what happened to it in the past.
All drawings by Albert Herter, 2011.