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“What is the difference between the sinthome and the symptom? The sinthome designates precisely that which in the symptom is resistant to the unconscious, that which in the symptom does not represent the subject, that which in the symptom does not lend itself to any meaning-effect that would yield a revelation. There are meaning-effects galore, they are practically automatic, and this is where representation is effaced in such a way that one can give this value to what Lacan calls, in his Seminar Le sinthome, “Joyce’s art”. “Art” is the label he gives to the nether side of psychoanalysis, a nether side that is not the discourse of the master, a nether side that is the artist’s savoir-faire. Art is the label he gives to a further nether side of psychoanalysis, besides that of the discourse of the master.”

This is what Lacan first encounters in Joyce: his use of the riddle. And he situates psychoanalysis as “the answer to a riddle”.  Analysis, interpretation, makes us believe that the riddle has an answer. This is why, as the most gifted ones realise, it is an answer that, as Lacan says, is “especially dumb”. Already, it is especially dumb to offer itself as an answer. One responds to the riddle of the conjunction between the symbolic and the real by offering the conjunction of the symbolic and the imaginary, which means that one responds to enigma with meaning.”

“… on “Joyce’s Trail”, he meets the “Imposed Words” by taking the example of the patient from his presentation who suffered from these “imposed words”, these echoes of words, such as Joyce turned into an art, demonstrating a savoir-faire. This means that Joyce knew how to simulate this, to make himself an “artificer” of the symptom, “a man of savoir-faire, [...] an artist. This is the figure, if there is one, that emerges from the Seminar Le sinthome: the figure of the artist. Does this figure belong to the clinic?”

“Freud dealt with hysterics in their different modalities. The hysteric is the contrary of the artist. Hysteric subjects lend themselves to the analyst building a language that is offered to decipherment. It is in this respect that these kinds of subjects – I said “in their different modalities” so as to include obsessionals and other variants of neurosis – allow for the supposition of the unconscious. […] Neurotics expect to be liberated from their symptom, precisely because they don’t manage to turn it into a sinthome.”

“Analysis resorts to meaning. In order to absorb the enigma of the relationship between the symbolic and the real it bases itself upon the relationship between the symbolic and the imaginary. This means that it resorts to meaning in order to face up to this enigmatic jouissance. In so doing, it merely echoes the dominance of the Name-of-the-Father, at the same time as affording a sideways glace at the fact that one may “do without” the Name-of-the-Father, on the condition that one refers to these three names: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real […] the ultimate nominations which we take as our points of reference in the analytic operation.”



Jacques-Alain Miller, Spare Parts

in Psychoanalytical Notebooks 27, Transl. Adrian Price

 (L’orientation lacanienne III, 7, Pièces détachées.

Originally published in La Cause freudienne, Issue 61, pp. 131-53)


Extract by Florencia F.C. Shanahan



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