CUTS – Alexandre Stevens – Towards the NLS Congress 2020

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We Interpret the Dream and the Dream Interprets the Real

Alexandre Stevens

Freud interprets the dream of the dead child that is burning as a double satisfaction: “His sleep, like the child’s life, was prolonged by one moment by the dream.”[1]
Lacan’s interpretation of it in Seminar XI is different. What awakens – the reality of what is happening in the adjacent room and the glow of the overturned candle, or this real that arises in the dream, the voice which murmurs this terrible sentence, “Father, don’t you see that I am burning?” Two realities are present here: on the one hand there is the strange reality of the overturned candle that happens “as if by chance”,
[2] and on the other there is the reality of the message.
In this message, we can certainly grasp the “the weight of the sins of the father”
[3] – a reference to Hamlet. This is how we can interpret the dream. But the dream itself interprets a real. There is more reality in this message, Lacan tells us, than in what is happening in the room next door.[4] More reality – that is to say, something that overflows all reality and cannot be absorbed – a real, therefore.
“This sentence is itself a firebrand — of itself it brings fire where it falls — and one cannot see what is burning, for the flames blind us to the fact that the fire bears […] on the real.”
[5] The flame that awakens the father lets the dreamer sleep once he is awake, if he does not grasp the real that the dream interprets. Lacan’s desire of awakening is about this real and not about an awakening that can let one sleep.
Going back to this dream in Seminar XVI, D’un Autre à l’autre, Lacan specifies, “What guides us is certainly not what does this mean?, nor is it what does saying this mean?, but rather what, by saying, does it want?
[6] What matters to us is not the meaning of the dream nor the hidden will of the dreamer, but rather what the dream wants in the saying [le dire] that carries it. This is the ethics of psychoanalysis: to make emerge what the unconscious wants.
This is how we can say that the dream interprets the real.


1 Freud, Sigmund, The Interpretation of Dreams, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. V, tr. J. Strachey, Vintage, London, 2001, p. 571.

2 Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, tr. A. Sheridan, W. W. Norton & Co., New York/London, 1998, p. 69.

3 Ibid., p. 34.

4 Cf. ibid., p. 58.

5 Ibid., p. 59.

6 [“ce qui nous guide, ce n’est certes pas qu’est-ce que cela veut dire ?, et non plus qu’est-ce qu’il veut pour dire cela ?, mais qu’est-ce que, à dire, ça veut ?”], Lacan, Jacques, Le Séminaire, livre XVI, D’un autre à l’Autre, Seuil, Paris, 2006, p. 198.

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