Psychoanalysis and the Place of "Jouissance"

Critical Inquiry 13 (2):349-370 (1987)
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Abstract

Psychoanalysis has, in the very nature of its object, an interest in and difficulty with the concept of place as well as an interest in and difficulty with the logic of place, topology. The Unconscious can thus seem to give rise to a certain prospect of mathesis or formalization; and such formalization, achieved, would offer a ground for the psychoanalytic claim to scientific knowledge relatively independent of empirical questions and approaching the condition of mathematics. This might then seem to have been Lacan’s wager in organizing the researches of his école around works of theoretical elaboration rather than clinical study; certainly some such notion must underlie Miller’s claim to be “axiomatic.”1In this paper I want to explore some of Lacan’s formalizations as they are unfolded in the seminar Encore. 2 I will in effect be looking at the place of place or places in psychoanalysis—in particular, I will be looking at the place of jouissance in Lacan’s psychoanalysis and at the places of what Lacan punningly calls jouis-sens. The joint problematic here might be called one of “enjoymeant,” combining the logic of pleasure with the pleasure of logic. For Lacan, questions of jouissance, however punned, are questions of unity and selfhood, so in examining the reciprocal play of pleasure and sense I will be examining how Lacanian psychoanalysis secures itself in place. This last topic touches implicitly in Encore on questions of legacy and inheritance, so in the end I will also have something to say about the limits Lacan’s formalizations would impose on our enjoyment of Freud. I should note in advance that Encore, Lacan’s seminar of 1972-73, is an extraordinarily compact and involuted text, even by his standards, and of a corresponding richness, weaving sustained meditations on such figures as Georges Bataille, Roman Jakobson, Kierkegaard, and Aquinas with “mathemystical” digressions on sexuality, discourse, Borromean knots, and the like. The reading offered here is perforce schematic. 1. By and large the evidences of the Lacanian clinic are closed to us in consequence of Lacan’s insistence on theoretical elaboration. But it should not go unremarked that much of the work of Lacan’s school seems to have focused on areas traditionally recalcitrant to psychoanalytic treatment—alcoholism, retardation, and psychosis—and that such an emphasis is responsive to traditional empirically minded critiques of the limits of psychoanalysis.2. It should perhaps be noted in this context that the project of a genuinely public presentation of Lacan’s seminars seems to have been abandoned in favor of the more circumscribed circulation of texts through the Lacanian journal Ornicar? Stephen Melville is assistant professor of English at Syracuse University. He is the author of Philosophy Beside Itself: On Deconstruction and Modernism and is currently completing a series of essays on postmodern art and criticism

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