TRACES – ORIENTATION: Maria Cristina Aguirre

"Writing is a trace in which an effect of language can be read"
— Lacan, XX, 121


NLS Congress presents

Maria Cristina Aguirre
Moteriality of the Voice[1]
Finding and Using its Impact on the Body

Alexandre Stevens begins his argument for the NLS 2021 Congress, “Bodily Effects of Language” by saying that “language, speech, discourse have effects on the body” and stating that the effects of language on the body are present throughout Lacan’s teachings, but differently, ranging from the signifying mortification to the effect of jouissance that the signifier has over the body. [2]  
This connection between language, speech, and discourse is the very basis and condition that allow the psychoanalytical work to be conducted. Alexandre Stevens retraces how the connection between body and language, speech and discourse, changes in a diachronic fashion but is always present, until Lacan’s last teaching.
This initial phrase of the argument of the NLS Congress is repeated in the argument of this Knotting Seminar.  The argument places emphasis on the support of the language, the word and the discourse: “They are built with sounds supported by the voice.”  This concerns not only the analysands, but also the psychanalyst, as we intervene with our voice, with sounds, grunts or other sonorous manifestations, to produce an effect on those who come to see us.
In numerous presentations of clinical cases, in the testimonies of the pass, and in our own analysis, both in the analysis we have followed ourselves and the analysis we conduct with our patients, these manifestations of the voice are present.
The argument of this Knotting Seminar places emphasis on a dual aspect of the effect of language, with its support of the voice, on the body: on the one hand, the aspect of jouissance, and on the other, the traumatic aspect: “the words the child deals with rain in a contingent manner, but as a storm of meteorites, on its flesh.” and adds that Lacan clarifies that “it is not the meaning of the words that impacts its flesh… but the jouissance… that is to say, the real of language that accompanies it in its materiality, in its ‘moteriality’.”
We see here this passage of meaning, of the signification, to the real side of language, jouissance, that is to say, the non-sense, sometimes the outside of meaning [hors-sens].
The argument also emphasizes on the aspect of “choice,” “the mystery of a choice.” It seems to me that here we should perhaps make a distinction, between the impact that language has over the parlêtre, the encounter of the subject with the signifiers that, in a contingent manner, have affected his body, but also his life, and the “choice,” that would be on the side of the analyst.
The voice was introduced in psychoanalysis primarily by Lacan. It is Lacan who introduces the voice and the gaze and who adds them to the drive objects isolated by Freud: the oral object and the anal object.
Miller has told us that we owe this to Lacan’s psychiatric training and his work with psychotic patients, where the voice and the gaze assume a very important role, especially in the form of verbal/auditive and visual hallucinations.
Lacan extracts these two objects, gaze and voice, from the psychiatric context and the domain of perception, to give them a different status, as drive objects, but also, as he will develop later, as object a.
Several of our patients speak of voices that they hear, voices that say their names, who call them, or angrier voices that insult them, that curse them, that denigrate them: “you are a loser,” “you are good for nothing,” “you are ugly,” or deadlier, giving them instructions/orders to kill or hurt themselves, or to kill/hurt someone else. In numerous crimes of passion, the subject reports having received orders to commit the crime, from someone, a spirit, a god, a presence.
In his article “Jacques Lacan and the Voice,” [3] Miller examines how Lacan gives to the voice the status of an object. Miller posits that the object voice went unnoticed as long as the dominant perspective was that of the chronological diachrony of object relations, and that it was necessary to change perspective towards a structural articulation. This structural perspective was inaugurated by Lacan by giving the unconscious its status of language structure.
Miller proposes that Lacan places the object from the linguistic structure, moving away from the perspective of object and developmental relation; there is no vocal or scopic stage, as there are oral and anal stages.
The Voice as Object a

When Lacan places the voice as object a, this object does not belong to the sound register. In this sense, opinions regarding the voice are numerous, starting with the sound as different from meaning, of signification, or as all the modalities of intonations. The same phrase, the same words, the same sentence, can have different meanings depending on the intonation given to them. They can assume the meaning of a command, a reproach, a call, a request, a love message, and so forth.
What Lacan proposes with voice as object a, is a function, the function of the voice as a-phone.
We know the importance that silence can take in an analysis session. A long time ago I saw a patient at the Centre médico-psycho-pédagogique where I worked.  It was a young teenager, of whom we could say today that she was suffering from a sexual identity crisis. She behaved like a boy, had short hair, she dressed as a boy and had masculine bodily gestures. Her mother had brought her for consultation because she was bothered from having to accompany her daughter to the stores, as the girl only wanted to go to the boys section. I only saw her for one year; she would sit in front of me and not say a word during the whole session. I tried everything, without success. I asked myself, why is she coming to see me? And then I thought that, if she didn’t want to come, there is no way she could be forced to come. So, I tolerated her silence all that year. Towards the end of the school year, before the break for the summer holidays, the mother told me that her daughter had successfully completed the end-of-year exams and that she was getting along very well with her classmates, and that she had even been chosen president of her class.
Miller underlines that objects a are linked to the subject of the signifier only on condition of being devoid of all substantiality, that is to say, on condition that they are centered by a vacuum, that of castration. Each object is specific of a certain matter, but it is specific of this matter by emptying it. The object a has a logical function, it has a logical consistence that finds its incarnation in what comes off the body under the different forms of waste.
Miller says that the criterium to assign the letter a to certain objects is that they must be a small thing that can be detached from the body.
Miller proposes that the voice should be considered as a third term between the function of the word and the domain of language. The function of the word being that it is what gives meaning, it knots the signified and the signifier. This knotting needs a third term, the voice. According to Miller, in a first approach we can define the voice as what, in the signifier, does not participate in the effect of signification.
The voice, as object a, is what in the signifier does not contribute to the effect of signification. The voice is a residue. The Lacanian voice is not the word, it has nothing to do with speaking. The voice is a function of the signifier, of the signifier chain as such, not only as spoken and heard, but also as written and heard.
Lacan’s perspective is that there are several voices in every signifier chain. The voice appears in the dimension of the object, when it’s the voice of the Other, the voice comes from the Other. The voice is precisely that which cannot be said.
It’s by these means that we can address what Lacan proposes in his last teaching, on the subject of the moteriality.
The voice, in Lacan’s teaching, does not have a unique meaning; it can assume different functions, status, according to different moments, not only in Lacan’s teachings, but of different clinical moments in a treatment.
The voice inhabits the language and persecutes it. There is a persecuting aspect of the voice.
Lacan’s thesis, according to Miller, is that we speak, chat, sing to shut up what deserves to be called the voice as object a.
Having a Body

Starting in Seminar XXIII, The Sinthome, Lacan places emphasis on the fact of having a body, and not of being a body.
The fact of having a body gives rise to a whole series of phenomena and events.
As Jacques-Alain Miller shows in his Lacanian orientation class, and especially in the courses consecrated to Lacanian Biology, [4] Lacan, in his last teachings, will emphasize the question of satisfaction.
Alexandre Stevens isolates it well in his argument for the NLS 2021 Congress:  “This led him to move from the concept of language to that of lalangue, that is to say, to propose that the signifier as such works not for the meaning but for the satisfaction. This goes in the sense of posing an equivalence between meaning and satisfaction.”
We see in Lacan’s teaching, as both Miller and Stevens underline, two definitions of the symptom: on the one hand, the symptom as advent of meaning, and on the other hand, the symptom as grasped by the jouissance and therefore a bodily event.
The symptom as an advent of meaning is the classical symptom with effects of truth, and therefore subject to interpretation.
The symptom, as a bodily event, is jouissance, it affects the body and is “pure reiteration of the One of jouissance that Lacan calls the sinthome.” [5]
Thus considered, the sinthome is less about trying to interpret it, of finding the meanings and producing effects of truth, than of touching the jouissance, the real, and the repetition, through sound, homophones and of making a sound resound.
 Anne Lisy[6] argues, in the introduction to a conversation with the AS, that, in interpretation, starting from Lacan’s last teaching, it’s less about producing effects of truth, ad infinitum, nourishing the meaning, than of touching the jouissance mode of each person. There are words that hit and ring the bell of jouissance, as Jacques-Alain Miller says. [7]
In the same introduction, Miquel Bassols speaks of parasite speech, which infest the body of a jouissance impossible to say. Something does not ring in the jouissance. The bell that does not ring in the empty space of the jouissance framed by the fantasy. The clapper of the bell of jouissance is object a. this clapper stays silent if it’s not acted upon by a signifier that breaks the frame of the fantasy. And Bassols adds that this only happens, maybe.  at the end of analysis.
This idea of the parasite language, says Miller, [8] can be found in Lacan’s last teaching. Lacan will renounce even the concept of language, or he will try to go beyond this concept to designate what he calls the lalangue, which is different from the language in that it obeys no laws. Thus, language is conceived as a superstructure of laws that capture the lalangue as without law. The interpretation concerns the object a of the fantasy, the jouissance as forbidden and said between the lines.
Rapport of Body and Language

Yves Vanderveken[9] tells us that a social link is a way whereby a speaking being tries to insert itself and knot its living body to the signifier -the instrument of language- as language is of the Other. But this knotting is never accomplished, and so it is always symptomatic.
It’s the domain of the encounter of the living body, of the signifier and of the rapport with the resulting jouissance. A body is only constituted by the election and extraction of an object, at the same time out-of-body, but also of the body, as inseparable from it by its endless repasting.
These are the objects marked by signifiers of the Other that, in their function, by the repetitive charge of jouissance that they condense, draw up a singular drive circuit. That is, for each one of us there is one singular mode of jouissance, according to the contingence of the encounter with speech and the objects a that have touched our existence.
Miquel Bassols[10] emphasizes that it’s James Joyce’s writing experience that showed Lacan that there are no actual language troubles, but that language itself is the trouble, trouble from which we can, in the best of cases, make a sinthome, a way of jouissance singular of the subject.
Language and signifier equivocation introduce an abyss in the real, a dimension of the speaking being that makes it also a subject of jouissance, a jouissance as irreducible as language itself. Psychoanalysis shows that it is impossible to heal this trouble (of language) in the living being. It’s an abyss introduced in the real by language, by the speaking being.
Thus, we see how the perspective changes, from the trouble of language as a symptomatic manifestation and sign of a particular disorder in some, towards a condition that is common to all speaking beings.
In Seminar XXIII “The Sinthome,” Lacan[11] asks the question of whether a normal man, considered normal, does not realize that speech is a parasite, that speech is a veneer, that speech is a form of cancer that afflicts the human being. Later in the same chapter Lacan speaks of writing: “Itis through the intermediary of writing that speech is decomposed by imposing itself as such. This occurs through a warping, and it is ambiguous as to whether this warping lets him free himself from the parasite of speech…or whether it leaves him on the contrary open to invasion from the essentially phonemic properties of speech, from the polyphony of speech.” [12]

Éric Laurent refers to the different forcings in language, which imply for example homophony that an orthographic forcing allows to reveal. “These different forcings allow to create the lalangue that each one speaks to inhabit in a living fashion. It implies a particular rapport of the signifier with the moteriality of the letter. This is yet another way to address the particular poetry of the unconscious and the status of poem that traverses it.” [13]
Lacan[14] uses the word “moteriality” in his 1975 conference in Geneva, on the symptom: “It’s how language has been spoken and also heard by such and such in its particularity, that something will reappear later in a dream, in all sorts of stumbles, in all sorts of ways to say things…. the grip of the unconscious resides in this moterialism – what I want to say is that others have not found other ways to explain what I have just called the symptom.”
Marie-José Asnoun[15] examines the question of hearing and language. Language is already there when the subject emerges in the world, when the subject is born as an organism. She argues that this thesis allows us to consider the voice as a signifier chain. The voice in the Lacanian sense is not the subject of the perception. The act of hearing is not passive.  The  subject decides what he wants to hear, the choice is partial but real.
The paradoxes concern the discourse of the Other and the perception of the subject of its own discourse. From the moment that the Other speaks, the subject falls under the charm, the enchantment, the suggestion, as all discourses of the Other imply a suggestion that shakes the freedom of the listener.
When the subject listens, this has the effect of placing the subject in a position of fundamental defense against the discourse of the Other. It’s in this sense that we can “hear” the idea of words that hit, that ram the body and cause bodily events.
Bodily Events

What is what Miller[16] calls a “bodily event”? It is linked to the idea of the symptom. He tells us that, from the fact of having a body, we also have symptoms…to have symptoms, you must have a body. This body is a body where things happen …these unforeseen things are the events that leave distorting, dysfunctional traces in the body.
The expression “bodily event” is a condensation, it is always events of discourse that have left traces on the body. These traces upset the body. They cause symptoms…but only if the subject is capable of reading these traces, of deciphering them.
In an analysis, therefore, the goal is to find the events of which these symptoms are the  trace. There is an effect of symptom, effect of jouissance, effect of the subject and traces. The parlêtre is the union of the subject and the substance, of the signifier and the body. The traces of affect are what Freud calls the trauma. According to Lacan, the trauma is the incidence of the language on one’s body. The Lacanian event in the sense of trauma, which leaves traces on everyone, is the non-sexual rapport, it leaves a trace in everyone, says Miller, not as a subject but as a speaking being. It leaves traces on the body.
The incorporated knowledge means that knowledge passes onto the body and affects the body.
I would like to highlight the distinction between bodily phenomena and bodily events. Anne Lysy[17] underscores that the syntagm “bodily phenomena” refers to a wide variety of phenomena, to everything that happens to the body, such as the symptoms of hysterical conversions, psychotic, psychosomatic phenomena, the strange pains and all sorts of bizarre stuff. It is certainly something that happens to the body, but are they that which we call bodily events? Supporting her theory on Miller, she proposes that the symptom bodily event comes under the register of the undecipherable jouissance. The bodily event, she says, is situated at the level of Freudian fixation, where the trauma fixes the drive to a point that will be the foundation of the repression. She proposes the hypothesis that analysis produces a real that is singular to each individual. The testimonies of the pass transmit these opaques navel points in the fabric of the stories, which are like indications of what escapes from the story …these words can only circumscribe the impact, they just trace the rim.
Anna Aromi[18] develops the idea that writing is useful to give order to life, to make it livable. Writing is to make do with the unbearable, it’s a bodily event. She tells us that the end of analysis allowed her to appropriate a writing linked to the voice, to authorize herself to have a writing-sinthome, a writing without an Other. The pass is crossed as a never-ending littoral because it borders the real, and she concludes by saying that it is not certain that she will be able to write “I write,” but rather, “something is written,” “something to which I lend my body.”
In his article “Dream or Real,” [19] Jacques-Alain Miller posits that the unconscious for Lacan is a structure, that is, a knowledge in the real.
Eric Laurent[20] stresses that the trace of jouissance is of the sort of extasy, of absence, of a modality of the hole. It will be around these holes that the tours and detours of language encircle the trauma of jouissance, depending on hanging to a writing …it will be on the body that the conjunction of language and of object a will be written, the marks of l’alangue, with the consequences on the treatment of jouissance, that Lacanian biology explores.
In “Lituraterre,” Lacan[21] says that the letter draws the edge of the hole in knowledge, between the center and the absence, between knowledge and jouissance, there is a littoral. On the subject of writing, he argues that writing is, in the real, the ravine of the signified. “It’s the letter as such that supports the signifier. The subject is divided as everywhere in the language, but one of its registers can be satisfied from the reference to writing and the Other of the word.”
To conclude, a few extracts from the testimony of the pass of Véronique Mariage, [22] where the voice is at the center of the question. “The encounters with her analyst were limited to listening to his teaching, then to attending the sessions…To listen to his voice and hear him go silent. To hear his voice fall into silence. The perfect session would have been one that would be spent in silence, an encounter of pure presence, body to body.”
She tells us that this could have continued like that forever, but two events altered this: “She glimpsed then the two faces of her rapport to the voice that, all of a sudden, became disjointed: the voice that carries meaning, the voice of the sentence that marks her destiny, and the voice from which she draws jouissance.”
Translated by Isabel Aguirre


[1] Modified version of the lecture given at the Knotting Seminar organized by ASREEP in Lausanne, on March 6, 2021

[2] Alexandre Stevens , “Bodily Effects of Language,” Argument, Towards the Congress of the NLS 2021.
[3] Jacques-Alain Miller, “Jacques Lacan and the Voice,” Psychoanalytical Notebooks n˚ 6, NLS, The London Society, London, 2001, pp. 93-104.
[4] Jacques-Alain Miller, “Biologie lacanienne et événement de corps,” La Cause freudienne N˚ 44, Paris, Seuil, 2000, pp. 7-59.
[5] Miller, op. cit., p. 18.
[6] Anne Lysy, Miquel Bassols, “En Introduction,” Mental N˚ 32, REFP, Brussels, October 2014, pp. 37-38. Introduction à la conversation des AE au cours du congrès de la NLS. “Ce qui ne peut se dire“ (Ghent, May 2014).
[7] Jacques-Alain Miller, “L’économie de la jouissance,” La Cause freudienne N˚ 77, Paris, Seuil, February 2011, p. 146.
[8] Jacques-Alain Miller, “L’Autre sans Autre,” Mental N˚ 30, REFP, Brussels, October 2013, pp. 157-171.
[9] Yves Vanderveken, “Points de Perspective Clinique, Mental N˚ 30, REFP, Brussels, October 2013, pp. 35-39. Intervention at the NLS Congress in Athens in 2013, “Le sujet psychotique à l’époque geek.“
[10] Miquel Bassols ,“Le langage comme trouble du réel,” Mental N˚ 30, REFP, Brussels, October 2013, pp. 29-33. Intervention at the NLS Congress in Athens in 2013, “Le sujet psychotique à l’époque geek.“
[11] Jacques Lacan, The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. A. R. Price, Cambridge, Polity, 2016.
[12] Lacan, op. cit., p. 79.
[13] Eric Laurent, “Lalangue and le forçage de l’écriture,” La Cause du désir N˚ 106, Paris, Eurl Huysmans, 2020, p. 45.
[14] Jacques Lacan, “Le symptôme,” Conference in Geneva, 1975.
[15] Marie-Jose Asnoun, “What Is it To Hear,“ Psychoanalytical Notebooks N˚ 6, London, London Society, 2001, pp. 105-113.
[16] Jacques-Alain Miller, “Biologie lacanienne et événement de corps,” La Cause freudienne N˚ 44, Paris, Seuil, 2000, p. 44.
[17] Anne Lysy, text submitted during the ACF-Belgique conference, on February 20, 2016 and which is one of the orientation texts for the NLS 2021 Congress.
[18] Ana Aromi, “Un littoral d’écriture,” Mental 32, REFP, Brussels, October 2014, pp. 39-43.
[19] Jacques-Alain Miller, “Rêve ou réel,” Ornicar? N˚ 53, Paris, Navarin, 2019, pp. 99-112.
[20] Eric Laurent, “Le corps comme lieu pour l’alangue,” Mental N˚ 40, REFP, Brussels, November 2019, pp.19-32.
[21] Jacques Lacan, “Lituraterre,” Autres Écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, pp. 11-20.
[22] Veronique Mariage, Paper submitted during the WAP Congress in Brussels, July 2002. La Cause freudienne N˚ 52, November 2002, pp, 36-38.
Facebook Facebook
Twitter Twitter
Our mailing address is:
Join NLS Messenger

 unsubscribe from this list

Copyright © 2020 NLS.
All rights reserved.

Back to list