Messager 330 - 2011/2012

Report on the Knottings Seminar, London Society

3 fevrier 2012
3 February 2012

Report on the London Society Knottings Seminar

14th January 2012

Philip Dravers

“Interpretation as knowing how to read aims at reducing the symptom to its initial formula, i.e. the material encounter between a signifier and the body, the pure shock of language on the body. So, admittedly, to treat the symptom you have to pass through the shifting dialectic of desire, but you also have to rid yourself of the mirages of truth that this deciphering brings you and aim beyond, at the fixity of jouissance and the opacity of the real.”

This year’s Knottings seminar inLondon took place on the 14th of January on a lovely winter afternoon with a fresh chill in the air and the sun set firmly in the sky. Our main speaker on this occasion was Anne Lysy, president of the NLS, who gave us avery clear exposition of the theme of this year’s congress. Our approach to the theme was both broadened and deepened by two case presentations, one by ourcolleague, Despina Andropoulou, joining us from Athens, who threw light on the symptom’s role as an invented solution in a case of ordinary psychosis, and a second by our very own Bogdan Wolf.

Anne Lysy began her presentation by reflecting on the many different occasions she has presented on this theme in the various geographically distanced groups that make up the NLS. She thus reminded us of the purpose of the Knotting seminars: to make our School exist in a process of interlinking that binds its disparate elements together with the common thread of an orientation and the elaboration of a common theme. This year, the principle thread for this orientation has been provided by Jacques-Alain Miller’s paper “Reading a Symptom” and our speaker went on to comment on this text at some length, while also developing references to various other texts by Freud, Lacan and Miller, including: “Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety”, Lecture 23 on the “Pathways to Symptom Formation”; Seminar XX, Encore; and the lectures from last year’s Cours.

Anne Lysy declared that the overall purpose of her presentation, entitled “The symptom and the trauma of language”, was to explore the symptom as a “body event”, namely the symptom defined on the basis of the reiteration of an initial encounter between the body and language, and how this relates to Freud’s conception of the symptom and the role of fixation in its formation. More specifically, she indicated that her talk had four principle aims:

to situate what Jacques-Alain Miller means when he says that psychoanalysis “targets the pure shock of language on the body” and what it means to define the symptom as the reiteration of this initial encounter

to ask what relation there is between this encounter and what Freud called “fixation”

to explore what Lacan meant by defining the symptom on the basis of the body event and how this relates to what, in his paper on the end of analysis, Freud described in terms of leftovers, residues and remainders.

to discuss a range of consequences that the new perspective on the symptom has for theorientation of the treatment and its relation to the differential clinic.

Indexing her comments on the penultimate paragraph of “Reading a Symptom” (see above) Anne Lysy then proceeded to draw out an oppositional framework which later served to orient our discussions.









On the one side, you have truth, desire and the minimum signifying combinatory of S1àS2; and on the other you go beyond the dialectics of desire and its deciphering to the real at stake in the symptom. In the course of her presentation Anne Lysy developed this schema by exploringMiller’s references and drawing out essential points.

Meaning (sens)

Outside meaning (hors-sens)




A @ J







Symbolic (S→I,R)

Real (S.I.R.)







Listening, understanding

Writing, reading

Advent of signification
(“avènement de signification”)

Event of the body (“événement de corps”):

The initial shock & its reiteration

“The etc. of the symptom”:

It never stops writing itself/being written

As she went on to explain, the left hand column derives from a time when Lacan grounded his teaching on the axiomatic of language and the primacy of the symbolic and the right hand one from a timewhen this is replaced by an axiomatic of jouissance in which the concept oflanguage finds itself displaced by lalangue and the primacy of the real is brought to the fore. Although the ‘symptom’ (as decipherable) has been placed in opposition to the ‘sinthome’ (as ‘opaque jouissance’) on the schema above, Anne Lysy indicated that the symptom could also be placed in the middle: it is a Janus, J.-A. Miller says, as it has an aspect that concerns truth (left column) and an aspect that is real (right column). The logic that governs the first column is encapsulated in the phrase, “Jouissance is prohibited to whoever speaks, as such”; while the second finds its most succinct expression in a phrase from “Joyce le symptôme”, where Lacan speaks of “the jouissance proper to the symptom” as being “an opaque jouissance for having excluded sense”. In this respect, it is important to note that the term “reading”, which orients our theme for this year, appears in the right hand column of the table, since what the analytic discourse teaches us to read is ultimately beyond meaning. As Jacques-Alain Miller declares “Knowing how to read, consists in putting a distance between speech and the meaning it carries, based on writing as outside-meaning, as Anzeichen, as letter, based on its materiality”.

Here the Freudian Anzeichen, is placed on a par with Lacan’s late teaching, as it indexes the fact that, as our speaker drew out in her talk, the jouissance of the speaking being is not primary, but is rather produced by the impact of language on the body. Here the signifier appears as the cause of jouissance – which effectively locates Seminar XX as the point of transition between the two perspectives represented on the schema above. Indeed, as Miller declares, in “Reading a Symptom”, in terms strongly reminiscent of Encore: “a symptom vouches for the fact that there has been an event that has marked [the speaking being’s] jouissance in the Freudian sense of Anzeichen, which introduces an Ersatz, a jouissance there ought not to be, a jouissance that troubles the jouissance there ought to be, i.e. jouissance of its nature as a body” – hence the notion of the clinamen of jouissance, the point at which our jouissance gets diverted, “swerves” or goes off track so to speak, which Miller invites us to target in analysis. Our main speaker devoted a lot of attention to a careful examination of howlanguage marks the body of the speaking being and how its repetition serves as the basis for the symptom’s mode of jouissance. This part of her presentation provoked a lively discussion as did her reference to a “metaphor of jouissance” in the context of an elaboration on the substitutive satisfaction of the symptom. During the course of this discussion Anne Lysy referred to J.-A. Miller’s following schema of the symptom:

As I write this report, it strikes me that there could be no better way of accounting for this formula than by referring to a comment that Miller makes in a paper about to be published in issue 24 of the Psychoanalytical Notebooks: “all satisfactions are substitutes for a satisfaction that does not exist, namely the one which, if it did exist, would give the truly genuine sexual relation”.

Anne Lysy’s presentation was warmly received by the London Society and other members of the audience. It gave rise to a passionate discussion on the themes that guide our work for this year. This discussion then gave way to the two case presentations below.

In her presentation “Between Two Languages”, Despina Andropoulou, approached the symptom from the perspective of Lacan’s late teaching where, as she explained: “The symptom is no longer considered as a message to be deciphered but a solution that shows the unique, even uncommon style of life that a subject lives in their effort to deal with the real, the trauma of language”. The case she presented was one of ordinary psychosis (with a schizophrenic underlying structure) and charted the history of a subject who came into analysis after the semblants had vacillated for the third time in her life. At the moment of consultation, a separation from the other was at stake under circumstances that were intolerable for the subject. Knowledge, which until then had given meaning to her existence, had ceased to motivate her due to its unsubjectified status. She had become petrified in a state of inertia and tremendous doubt, which soon gave rise to body phenomena. A new solution had to be found and, as our guest speaker explained, the invention constructed by the subject in the course of the analysis established a way of regulating the death that lalangue incarnated for her by means of another language, and at the same time allowed her to reconstruct a social bond. After her presentation, an interesting discussion took place which raised a number of key points. For her part, Anne Lysy posed the question of the distinction between the “body event” (which defines the symptom in Lacan’s latest teaching) and the “body phenomena” we often speak about in the clinics of psychosis or neurosis.

Bogdan Wolf then presented the case of a young male homosexual subject in which the direction of the treatment was indexed primarily on the subject’s position in relation to the phallus. His presentation generated a lot of discussion, particularly around his use of the triad of frustration, castration and privation (which Lacan referred back to in his transition to the Borromean clinic) to organise the material of the case and also about how the case related to our theme.

In short, the knottings seminar that took place in London earlier this month was a great success. Our guests were warmly received and the event, which was conducted in an atmosphere of lively debate, has helped us to orient ourselves towards this year’s NLS Congress in Tel Aviv.

Jacques-Alain Miller, “Reading a Symptom”, Hurly-Burly 6 (2011), p.152
1. Jacques Lacan, “The Subversion of the Subject”, Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink (Norton: London, 2006), p. 696
2. Jacques Lacan, “Joyce le symptôme”, Autres Écrits, p. 570. Cf. Anne Lysy, “The Unconscious and Interpretation”, Hurly-Burly 1 (2009), p. 78.
3. Notwithstanding the importance of the conceptual shift brought about by Lacan’s seminar Encore, let us not forget that Lacan also refers to the “clinamen” at the end of his chapter on “Tuché and Automaton” in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis.
1. Jacques-Alain Miller, “Psychoanalysis, the City and Communities”, Psychoanalytical Notebooks 24 (2012).