Report on the Knotting Seminar in Athens

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Knotting Seminar in Athens

21st September 2013





by Thanos Xafenias


The annual Knotting Seminar of the NLS in Athens, organised by the Hellenic Society, took place at an overcrowded amphitheater of the Gennimatas General Hospital, with the presence of Dominique Holvoet, President of the NLS. The title of the Seminar was that of the next Congress of the NLS: “What cannot be said; desire, fantasy, real.”


During his inaugural speech, entitled “The hard core of the object’s function in desire”, Dominique Holvoet followed J.A.Miller’s intervention in Athens, focusing on the last part of the 6th Seminar, on the “dialectics of desire”. He reminded us that the big secret of psychoanalysis is that “the Other is without Other”.[i]Until 1958-59, The Name-of-the-Father had appeared to be “the Other of the Other”.The success of the symbolic order and its laws[ii]concealed the revelation of the “secret.” The repression of this intolerable truth is the very object of psychoanalysis.

The Freudian Thing, being irreducible to the Order of the Father, leads to an unceasing talking, which is the proof of its genuineness[iii]. There is an irreducible core, which is that of desire. The symbolic order must be read as a defense against that which cannot be said. Starting from Seminar VI, Lacan meticulously begins the deconstruction of the symbolic order, entering in such a way into the ineffable zone of the Real.

At the beginning of an analysis, the subject is searching its representation, the truth of its desire, its own Name-of-the-Father. But later on, the subject aims at the encounter with itself, “the subject aims at the encounter with what it wants”[iv]. The subject must search its truth in the Other, but there, it will find the absence of the signifier, as “there is no signifier which can guarantee the specific sequence of whichever manifestation of the signifier”. [v]This is the meaning of the thesis that there is not an Other of the Other.

What makes this mechanism of internal reference indispensable is what he will later call the object-cause of desire. It is something which comes before, propelling the desire. In terms of the 6thSeminar we could say that the fantasy is what guides the subject. The existence of this mechanism will lead Lacan to find another way of interpretation, which will not be based only on the symbolic field; this is what he will call the function of cutting.

Logically, the locus of the absent signifier, this signifier that the Other does not have in his possession, is not in the nature of the symbolic. It is a place where something is missing, Lacan is calling this part a “sacrificed piece”; it is a piece of the organism of vital force. Lacan remarks that as parlêtres we are subjugated to meet our fate in its meeting with this incommunicableness object.

The 6th Seminar explores the field where the Other does not respond, the “field of fantasy”, the bond between the symbolic and the imaginary. The absence of a response from the Other immerses the subject into a deep desperation, a feeling of abandonment which can reach the point of panic. It is a point of rupture with the symbolic, where the subject cannot say something about itself. This is when it seeks refuge to the imaginary, the imaginary of fantasy, the subject defence itself with its Ego. But this is not sufficient. If there was a transgression of fantasy, a phrase that Lacan had only mentioned once, it would have produced a renouncement of Being, an existential emptiness, a cynical remainder which leads to itinerancy or quackery.

Lacan moves the fantasy from the imaginary locus and places it to the Real. The cornerstone of the 6th Seminar is the unconscious subject-object relation, in the experience of fantasy’s desire. The invention of Lacan is that the value of the subject is not imaginary anymore but real. The object is not under the dominance of the symbolic order. On the other hand, the object cannot be absorbed into the imaginary either. Lacan points out that the fundamental fantasy connects the subject with a real object, a connection which is made at the time of the panic.

The Seminar allows us to distinguish “imaginary phantasmagorias”, the Ego’s poses, from the “fundamental fantasy”, which is not accessible as such. The fantasy for which we will be talking during this year in the context of the NLS remains unconscious; we do not have a direct experience of this dimension. It is not an element that can be conceived through the symbolic or the imaginary. The issue for the parlêtre is to manage to grasp something which is neither symbolic nor imaginary. It is about a make-up of this certain experience of this dimension.

The subject gets caught in the cut, the point at which it does not exist, it does not know what it is, the last module of symbolic, according to Lacan. This object, with which the subject is connected, is a real object as far as it has been detached from the living body. Lacan brings all these elements to the surface at the end of his Seminar. This is where he begins from to construct what he will later call the object-a[vi]. These objects of the fantasy are “surplus” jouissance; they appear away from normality. They are not inscribed in a maturity process of desire. This particular idea of the maturity of desire is related to the idea of the possible existence of an ideal object. In the end, this was the dream, the phallus in the place of an ideal object. “The real shows up as something which resists to the demand (…)that form of the Real which is named inevitable appears in the fact that, the Real comes back always at the same place”.[vii]

During our work this year, we have to pinpoint what returns always to the same place. This inevitable recurrence, this insistence, traces the field of desire. This field is not a harmonious one; this is the desire’s perversion. Desire can only be spoken “between the lines”. None of the subject’s demands can exhaust this desire. We are in front of “the hard core of the object’s function in desire”.


In the clinical part of the seminar, Anne Béraud, member of the NLS (Montreal), presented the first clinical case, entitled “The vertigo of the ineffability.”

It concerned a young hysteric woman who, throughout her analysis, manages to construct knowledge, deciphering her puberty symptoms and identifications.

Consequently, an interpretation allows her to change her subjective position, get rid of some bodily symptoms and become a mother. From that moment, she will be confronted by the jouissance which is at stake in her scenarios and dreams. Anxiety and jouissance are mixed and are bringing forward the vertigo as ineffability.

During the narration of her story we could witness the interpretation based on equivocation of certain signifiers and the emergence of a particular signifier which is representing the feeling of vertigo. The signifier “falling” –in her mother tongue- boils down the path of her analysis, this felling of vertigo.


The second clinical case came from Jacqueline Nanchen, member of the NLS and the ASREEP-NLS. Her paper was entitled “the logic of a case in the context of the clinic of sinthome”. A middle-aged man, who tends to produce bodily symptoms since his childhood, had his second severe crisis in his life. The first one appeared when he had to choose between what he called life and what he called death, using love as defense against the chasm that death opens.

For the moment, under similar circumstances, on a similar occasion of a choice which has to be made, he is trapped between the obscure demand of his wife and the explicit claim of a potential lover. A signifier has emerged –the basis of his bodily symptoms recurrence- constituting a unique characteristic of his entire life. His jouissance can be compressed to this particular signifier, which can be found in a great variety, involving his body and ethics. As a servant of his mind function he calculates ceaselessly. At the same time, the same function is very useful for him when he practices his dangerous hobby. What is at stake is his very life.


Finally, Despina Karagianni, member of the NLS and of the Hellenic Society, presented the third clinical case, under the title «nobody does it like Mother». A young woman is looking to be directed in her life, while the dimension of subjective lack is absent. During her destabilization, separation and loss themes that causing great distress and anxiety are dominant.

Without concerns about her family history, she breaks down when she loses her daily schedule. Her destabilizations take place every time she is confronted with an Other in lack. As a result, she resorts to specialists to be instructed how to live her life. With her husband’s help, she can tolerate herself. Her husband is valuable and indispensable due to the fact that he can bear her like her mother would have done.

A signifier she has invented to nominate the intrusive jouissance helps her to keep her life in order. In such a way, a certain stabilization is achieved. In addition, a holophrase brings consolidate meaning. This particular signifier of her jouissance, despite tyrannical, is very essential. The point is to become viable as her unique characteristic.


The Hellenic Society would like to thank all the participants to this seminar, particularly the three speakers, and above all the President of the NLS DominiqueHolvoet, whose introduction will orient our work for the upcoming NLS Congress in Gent.




[i] [nls-messager] 806.en/ XIIth NLS Congress: Jacques-Alain Miller’s presentation in Athens; “The Other without Other”

[ii]Ibid., p.6

[iii]Lacan, J., Le Séminaire,Livre VI, Le désir et son interprétation,Paris, Édition de la Martinière, Le Champ freudien, 2013, p.424.

[iv]Ibid., p.349

[v]Ibid., p.441

[vi]Ibid., p.469

[vii]Ibid., p.565

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