TRACES – Thomas Svolos

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


NLS Congress presents

Thomas Svolos

An excerpt from: Thomas Svolos, The Aims of Analysis: Miami Seminar on the Late Lacan (New York: Midden Press, 2020), pages 31-36.
The following exchange occurred during a Seminar on “The Aims of Analysis” presented by Thomas Svolos in Miami Beach, Florida, on October 26, 2019, at the invitation of Lacanian Compass Miami.
Isolda Alvarez Arango: Okay, I have something. I don’t know if it is a question or a comment, but this is the thing. About the delusion thing—what about the body? The jouissance and type of signifiers that are, like you said, the mathemes, signifiers in the real. When you have the mathemes, you have signifiers in the real, because there is no meaning attached to it. It is just the place they are occupying and probably the relationship that they have with one another, right? But there is not a meaning attached to each one of them. So, what you said about jouissance and the body, the body event like you were talking the other day in the lecture. Can we still talk about delusion? And I know that there is a whole pragmatic thing about the use, but in this context, we are discussing this meaning of this word.

[1] See, for example, Fredric Jameson, The Antimonies of Realism, London, Verso, 2013, especially chapter 2.


Thomas Svolos: I think my first approach to that would be: if you think about the experience of a body event, it is without meaning. It is real. There is something. It is anguish. And, when you talk about it, give it your attention, as Miller says, you put meaning to it, then the body event is gone in a sense.
Arango: You’ve grasped it.
Svolos: You have taken hold of it. I believe that you can almost say that the body event is the moment of an apprehension of the body as real. I would say that. I would say that the body event, for an individual, a body event does not concern the imaginary body, that one can look at, but it is also not the mortified or symbolic body, right? Because the symbolic body has been named. All the parts have been named. We know how they work. There is an order to it. As you know, it is a named body. I think a body event, at least the moment of apprehension of the body event, prior to giving it meaning, is of the order of the real, and it is the real of the body. It is a moment, it is a temporal thing.

Alicia Arenas: It is a manifestation of pure jouissance of the body, with no meaning.
Svolos: Yes. Exactly.
Alvarez Arango: But a little jouissance, I am not so sure that we can still talk about delusion, like the one that we are talking about.
Svolos: No. Because a delusion involves the symbolic. That said, when you start to speak about it and it enters into the symbolic, then we might say that it is captured in a delusion, the delusional words one attaches to it.
Juan Felipe Arango: What you say about it is always a delusion. That is a delusion. What you say about it. But not the event itself. You must say something, you have to say something
or write something down. It is always an approximation. It is not correct. Even the mathematical formula, it is an approximation, it is not the object.
Alvarez Arango: The object itself.
Arango: And I want to add something. On this particular point, psychoanalysis has gone farther than any other discourse. And, that is not the issue, because science does not recognize that it has a deficit or that they are doing a kind of demonstration in the treatment of truth in science. Even if they know that it is no longer a problem in math, when they apply it, it becomes a belief. That is why maybe in Seminar XXIV, in Joyce the Sinthome, Lacan talks about thinking, the process of thinking, rationality, and how the thinking process itself is an obstacle to arrive at that point, because it is part of the symbolic, we have thoughts in signifiers. Only psychoanalysis, let’s say, is very biased or very aware, that this is a delusional practice. It is an irony, because it is to wake up the analyst in a certain way to say that we are delusional, but also because the other fields are very delusional, I am not talking about religion, but science itself.
Svolos: I would agree.
Just to go back to the issue of the body. For those of you who practice, think of schizophrenia. It is obvious that the schizophrenic appreciation of the body is very different. The body is less symbolized and thus less mortified. The strength of the symbolic on the body is often weaker and so the individual has a body that, in a sense, is more real. The different kinds of phenomena that someone with schizophrenia talks about regarding their body are very interesting, and it is very different, and I would say it is the real. It is another way of thinking about the question of the body, because the body is experienced in a very different way than the classical neurotic body.
Unknown participant: And if I am not mistaken, Lacan is one of the first to actually give place to those delusions saying, okay, you kind of can try to understand psychosis from what they try to say what their delusions are. From my short clinical experience, when psychotics try to explain their delusions and hallucinations, it has a better prognosis than it would if they cannot actually try to make sense and tie a knot around what is becoming the consequence of encountering that real and not having the ability to symbolize it, even though none of us really can symbolize it, because it goes beyond what we can name.
Svolos: Yes. I think the essence of schizophrenia, in that regard, is a disconnection and the practice is often about making connections. The schizophrenic may use the analytic experience to build a symbolic framework, which may have a delusional quality to it, but nonetheless, it is a symbolic framework that is stabilizing for the schizophrenic. It is very helpful connecting the dots.
Arenas: Related to these events, the body events, it is important to differentiate them from the conversions. Because conversions do disappear completely, as they are made of chains of language, they belong to the symbolic body. The body event, instead, belongs to the real body, with the interventions of the analyst, they may change in intensity, in force, but do not disappear completely.
Svolos: Right, it is true . . . I think you are right. Because a classical conversion symptom is a return of the repressed. A repressed signifier. It is the action of the signifier on the body, and if you can put that into the symbolic order and it is no longer repressed, it does disappear completely. And, this distinction shows the difference between the action of the signifier on the body and, with a definition you could almost use about what a body event is, the action of the real on the body or something like that. I don’t know, it sounds funny, not exactly right, as in a sense the real is always in the body, not acting on it.
Arenas: It is exactly that, it doesn’t come from the repressed, it is a direct mark of jouissance on the body.
Svolos: Yes, and the other thing about it that is interesting is that conversion symptoms generally are very specific. They are localizable . . .
Alvarez Arango: They are fixed.
Svolos: Fixed, yes. A body event, in as much as it has something to do with the real, it does not exist. So, it comes from a place, it is like some kind of . . .
Alvarez Arango: Opaque?
Svolos: Yes, it is an opaque experience, to use again that word opaque. Body events tend to be less localized. It is more of an ambience almost, although that word has the wrong temporality.
And, curiously, this binary of conversion symptom and body event has interesting echoes in other fields. I am thinking here of affect theory and the work that Fredric Jameson has done on the distinction between what he calls “named emotion” and “affect” in art. There are some distinctive shared characteristics between these subjective phenomena and some artistic phenomena. [1]

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