The multiple theoretical overlappings between Artaud and Lacan are marked by the silent eloquence of a bio-graphical half-saying. It is possible to locate only a single place in the entire corpus of Lacan’s writings, seminars and conferences in which he speaks directly of Artaud: in “Raison d’un échec”, Lacan threatens to “sedate” those of his followers who would be inclined to behave like him. Indeed, their sole actual encounter had been a clinical one: Doctor Lacan visited the inmate Artaud in 1938, shortly after his hospitalisation in Saint Anne. On that occasion he declared: “Artaud is obsessed, he will live for eighty years without writing a single sentence, he is obsessed”. This diagnosis turned out to be utterly wrong: Artaud died ten years later; in the meantime, he had written six books and left behind many hundreds of notebooks. At one point in Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society, Artaud “has done with” Lacan, half-mentioning him once and for all; he establishes that “Doctor L.” is an “erotomaniac” and thus turns the very accusation of madness against the psychiatrist himself.
“I don’t know Freud’s or Jung’s psychoanalysis very well”
(ARTAUD to his psychiatrist in the asylum of Rodez)
“[…] admirers of the theme of the unconscious, of both the Freudian and the American kind, this unconscious of which they imagine they are making a spectroscopy”
(ARTAUD, “Bases universelles de la culture”)
The works of Artaud are characterised by a life-long crusade against sexuality. From a biographical standpoint, the mounting radicalism of such an attack coincides with a sexual abstinence which is deliberately chosen and publicised. Artaud refuses sexuality “in its present form”, he criticises the fact that it is a historical derivative, a symbolic construct. Another sexuality – either mythically lost or à venir – is thereby presupposed. More precisely, historical sexuality should be identified with organic sexuality and the organic or divided body which is socio-culturally produced by the religious soul, medical anatomy and scientific atomism. Organic generation and the phallic jouissance it entails are for Artaud, a priori, a synonym of de-generation insofar as they follow the loss of a primordial unity. He thus speaks of the human body as a “maison de chair close”: the paradigmatic image of the brothel (“maison close”, literally “closed house”) is provided by the organically sexuated body-house; by the closure, the framing of our flesh (“chair”) which entails an act of division, a separation of the inside from the outside.
How, more specifically, is organic sexuality necessarily de-generate? Artaud believes that man is fully perverted by a mental obsession for coitus. Certainly, organic sexuality is concretely omnipresent in our daily life and is indeed far from being repressed; however, for Artaud, coitus is primarily a perversion since it is the ubiquitous form of thought. Given that, for him, metaphysics is that which “one carries for oneself as a result of the emptiness one carries within”, he identifies coitus as the supreme metaphysical device: coitus stands for an ideologically conformist apparatus imposed upon us in order to conceal the lack introduced by (symbolic) division. This structural perversion is what the late Artaud names “erotomania”, in a clear and ironic contrast with the technical meaning of the term as defined by psychiatry – for which it is “an obsession with chaste love”. In what appears to be a mocking re-elaboration of the homunculus theory, Artaud states that “every human-man has a sex beneath his brain, a sort of small sex which he soaks in his consciousness”.
Erotomania qua perversion is undoubtedly at the same time a père-version, or “version of the Father”, in two overlapping ways: 1) it sustains what Artaud calls the “idiotic periplus”, the tirelessly repetitive, “dull” circle of the de-generate lineage of father-son-father of which Artaud claims to be the “leveller”; 2) for the same reason, erotomania supports the stupidity of the Father/Other, its utter inconsistency, and thus paradoxically allows the otherwise impossible emergence of meaning. It is in this precise sense that, according to Lacan, the “non duped”, those who are not deceived by the symbolic Other – i.e. psychotics – “err”: meaning can emerge only from idiocy (i.e. non-psychosis), from an utterly arbitrary Name-of-the-Father, an obliviousness with respect to the lack in the Other supported by a perverse phallic jouissance. It is for this reason that Lacan writes the latter “j’ouïs sens”. Phallic jouissance allows us “to make sense”: by enjoying père-versely – that is for the Father/Other –, by thinking that the latter is One, by being able to “think” tout-court, “I hear” (j’ouïs) a sense.
This strict Lacanian interdependence between phallic jouissance, Other and symbolic thinking/meaning is clearly grasped by Artaud himself. On the one hand, he often identifies God/Father/Other with de-generate phallic sexuality; for instance, he writes: “They have found a new way to bring out god […] in the guise of morbid sexuality”. On the other, expressions such as “not thinking but of coitus”, “thinking with the sex” are recurrent locutions in his works: as I have already suggested, they attempt to describe a structural, mental père-version that greatly exceeds a “will to have sex”. In fact they designate a modality of thought itself, the only modality through which, presently, historically, thought can “think”. More specifically, one could say with Artaud that in the erotomaniacal père-version thought has found its own “impouvoir”, its (im)possibility of thinking. Thought can “pre-tend” to think only by establishing a metaphysics of sex; thinking is merely a pre-tending to think, since, at best, thinking amounts to thinking the impossibility of thought. That is to say, the inability to think which characterises thought, the fact that human thinking is given only by way of a gap, a “witnessing oneself”, through being one’s own spectator – something which persecutes Artaud –, this thought that can never fully be thought is structurally marked by a metaphysical demand which finds in coitus both a temporary satisfaction and an always renewed dissatisfaction.
From a Lacanian standpoint, one might well argue that Artaud is suggesting that coitus functions as the epitome of a semblant: it both veils and preserves a lack. Thus satisfaction lies less in the physical satisfaction of coitus itself than in the (dis)satisfaction of a mental demand, that is, in erotomania. What is primarily at stake here is not the satisfaction of a specifically pathological perversion but the endless repetition of a structural – though “holed” – père-version through partial (dis)satisfaction. Artaud coins a neologism which wonderfully summarises the mad astuteness of false thinking: he substitutes “being satisfaits” (“satisfied”) for “being satis-fous”; this “being satis-wild” tries to convey a concept in which libido and symbolic meaning are inextricably mingled. The mental satisfaction of an impotent thought in the guise of erotomania is a dominant (hegemonically ideological) form of madness which must be juxtaposed with that form of madness, madness tout-court for society, which is ascribed to those – like Artaud himself – who rebel against erotomania. Erotomania has to be condemned as false thinking and, in parallel, as a partial form of – phallic – jouissance which derives from a de-generate sexuality. The Lacanian name for this “satis-wildness” would inevitably be “happiness”.
Historical sexuality can only be organic: it must derive from division and, as such, be condemned. Artaud’s theoretical enterprise prior to his internment in 1937 could consequently be summarised by one major question: how can we overcome division? We could well propose that, at this stage, Artaud hysterically denounces the (epistemological, sexual) hole in the Other while refusing to accept it as such: his ban on sexuality coincides with a ban on phallic jouissance qua “cork” of the (lacking) Other, qua derivative of and substitute for the fact that there is no relation between the sexes. Nevertheless, Artaud still believes, unlike Lacan, that there is another, extra-historical, extra-symbolic jouissance.
“What a beautiful image is a eunuch!”, writes Artaud in L’art et la mort. (Real) castration is an attractive imaginary lure, the mirage of a re-conquered unity, which accompanies him from the self-identification with Abelard in L’art et la mort (1925-1927) to the invention of Saint Antonine who emasculates himself in Artaud le Mômo (1946). However, (real) castration ultimately offers a false remedy against the differentiality of phallocentrism: it violently refuses organic sexuality but it does not really undermine it. For this reason, the very term “castration” usually indicates a form of lack in Artaud’s texts: “That which man today calls human is nothing but the castration of the supreme part of man”. Such a lack is not compatible with Artaud’s nostalgic struggle for the One.
We can actually distinguish two distinct meanings of castration in Artaud. The first is associated with the name of Abelard, possibly the most famous eunuch in all history. In a paradoxical move, Artaud seems to suggest that Abelard was castrated by the sexualisation of his love relationship with Héloïse and not by Fulbert’s henchmen. His point is sufficiently transparent: those who have (organic) sex are castrated; (symbolic) castration and organic sexuality are co-dependent (as Lacan states, “sexus is clearly connected with secare”). Rather, true virility lies in asceticism and love between man and woman has to remain Platonic. The mythical scene of pure love is depicted in the following way: “Héloïse has […] a beautiful heart”; in this way, “the question of love becomes simple” and Abelard is able to “recover the game of love”. On the other hand, organic sexuality entails Héloïse’s transformation into a monstrous castrated aggregate of organs: “Her skull is white and milky, her breasts disreputable, her legs spindly, her teeth make the noise of paper”. Here the reader should be reminded that Artaud himself believed that he “had been deflowered by [his only lover] Génica”: the violent castration-deflowering of Abelard/Artaud is presented as his uncertain entrance into the conformist-erotomaniacal dimension of the Symbolic.
In Heliogabalus, Artaud describes another meaning of castration: “When the Gaul cuts off his member […], I see in this ritual the desire to have done with a certain contradiction, to reunite in a single blow the man and the woman, […] to fuse them in one”. In this case, castration would seek a reconciliation between the two sexes: however, the androgynous union of man and woman necessarily fails since the same act which (re)finds the woman is also the one which loses the man. Artaud therefore concludes: “It is a gesture which finishes them”, the Gauls bleed to death.
At this stage, it should be evident how these two kinds of castration overlap: the will to have done with a certain contradiction, to get rid of the hindrance of organic sex and go back to the androgynous One, could be read as a will to castrate symbolic castration. In passing, it has to be noted how this longed-for One confronts us with a highly problematic notion of unity; the latter is ambiguous inasmuch as the cutting (real castration) which re-originates it literally re-fragments the body… This One might eventually be identified with the reverse of the Lacanian corps morcelé, a fragmented body which Artaud paradoxically considers to be a primordial unity and which, later in his work, will develop into what is obscurely named a “body without organs” – that is to say, nothing but an a priori “positive” reading of what could otherwise only be defined as scattered “organs without body”. In other words, castration qua physical amputation, that of the Gauls, coincides with a failed attempt to castrate organic sexuation, which, in turn, has to be understood as the castration of a – mythical – ascetic virility. The unattainable result of this double castration which should allow us to return to a pre-lapsarian state, this absolute jouissance that Artaud is seeking despite repeatedly sensing its impossibility, is named with two different and only apparently contradictory terms: “love” and “cruelty”.
The double castration invoked by Artaud as the only possible way of attaining absolute jouissance should be read as a double alienation, as the act of alienating oneself from symbolic alienation. This act both lets the subject authentically emerge in his rebellion against the differentiality of the Other – against being sexuated as much as against “being spoken” by the Other – and de-subjectivises him, given that the subject is as such a parlêtre, a symbolic, desiring being-of-language. It should not surprise us that one of Artaud’s incessant mottos is “becoming an aliéné authentique”. For him, it is necessary to render alienation authentic. With this project in mind, he will travel at first to the remote land of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and then to the west coast of Ireland where he will be arrested under unclear circumstances, shipped back to France and interned in various asylums.
One should recall that “aliéné” in French means both “alienated” and “mad”: what is at stake here for Artaud is producing a madness that would be “authentic”. As he himself points out after nine years of internment: “An authentic madman […] is a man who preferred to become mad, in the socially accepted sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain superior idea of human honour”. Two notions of madness are here juxtaposed. There is a forced choice of which Artaud seems to be aware: either one accepts erotomania – false thinking, inauthentic madness, symbolic alienation – or one renders erotomaniacal madness authentically mad – which is to say, alienates alienation – thus refusing to compromise one’s individual anti-social acts. This choice is forced in the precise Lacanian sense: “Either I do not think or I am not”; the subject can only choose between two different ways of getting lost: there where I (pre-tend to) think – in the socially alienated unconscious – “I cannot recognise myself”; on the other hand, “there where I am [in the Real], it is clear enough that I lose myself”.
At this stage one should recover the properly Lacanian term for such a double alienation: this moment of pure negativity should be named (further) “separation”. Artaud often uses the same term in order to explain his refusal of sexuality. Thus, he invokes an “integral chastity” which corresponds to an “absolute separation of sexes”: any sexuality à venir has to presuppose the end of the alienation between man and woman that was introduced by organic sexuality. It is possible to fight against this (symbolic) alienation only through another alienation: “Sexuality will be put back in its place […]. This means that the sexes will be separated for a certain time”.
“Authentic alienation” therefore stands here for a synonym of virginal purity; separation must be achieved by erecting a wall of ascetic continence. As we shall shortly see, it is a matter of literally opposing the generation gap. Thus, Artaud writes that “authentic madmen of asylums, have guarded themselves against erotic crime, or if not, it was because they were not authentically mad”; we could rephrase all this by means of a simple proportion: authentic madness = purity : inauthentic madness = impure erotomania. Against the “conformism” of erotomaniacal reasoning Artaud proposes an alternative itinerary: being more chaste than maidens, he says, actively becoming virgin. Non-conquered virginity will therefore remain a merely organic category; this is why old Artaud’s sex/penis has “receded”.
Furthermore, it should be emphasised how erotomania is an illness from which the whole of society suffers; only the totalising effects of structural obscenity can succeed in segregating the specific madness of “madmen” or, to put it the other way round, it is only the inevitability of the obscene support that can establish society as One, necessarily segregating society… More specifically, Artaud believes that erotomania does not merely define our age as an age pervaded by imposed ideological lust which obliges us to forget love; it is not sufficient to regard it as the most explicit symptom of a generic “spell cast upon society” (by psychiatrists and priests at first); it does not reduce itself to representing the most tangible sign of a successful operation of “collective” and “civic” black magic. Its peculiarity, its being “beyond” the “repressive hypothesis”, is rather demonstrated by the fact that erotomania ends up achieving its most excessive expression in psychiatrists themselves, that is to say, in those who might have been mistakenly identified as “immunised repressors” (these paradoxical repressors who instigate sex…). There is no clear and ultimately pacifying dualism between “repressors” and “repressed”; differently put, Artaud seems to be aware of the fact that the injunction to enjoy phallically is inextricable from (the w/hole of) society as such, from its establish-meant, or its being counted as One: it constitutes society’s obscene, superegoic support. In this way, authentic madmen not only “attack a certain conformism of manners” but also “attack the conformism of institutions themselves” and should be diametrically opposed to psychiatrists who are all radical erotomaniacs insofar as they clearly stand as the “guardians” of false thinking.
All this would also explain why, according to Artaud sin and social/erotomaniacal satis-wildness are co-implied. The same social imperative (the superego) commands us to enjoy and makes us feel guilty for not enjoying enough an enjoyment which corresponds, in the end, to a lack of enjoyment (jouis-sans) but cannot be revealed as such. Thus the erotomaniac, passes from the utterly reassuring absurdity of the fault which characterised the “repressive” discourse of the traditional master – “Isn’t it absurd to feel guilty if I enjoy”? – to a much more unbearable fault for absurdity which capitalistic discourse attributes to the subject who never enjoys enough – “Am I not guilty if I do not really enjoy while enjoying? Isn’t this absurd?”. In “Dossier d’Artaud le Mômo”, Artaud writes the following: “I condemn you,/ you know why I condemn you/ and I, I do not”. The Other is utterly stupid. You are guilty, you know why you are guilty (why I think you are), precisely because I (society) who am accusing you do not know why. You are guilty of knowing that I do not know why you are guilty (you are guilty because you found out about my fraud!), you are guilty of not being guilty, ultimately you are guilty of absurdity (qua hole in the Other, qua inexistence of the sexual relationship), you are thus responsible for the absurdity which my fraud was avoiding…
Alienation is both sexual and linguistic. It concerns both desire and meaning. In order to be “authentically alienated”, that is fully separated, one must therefore also alienate linguistic alienation. According to Artaud, linguistic separation will coincide with the formation of a truly non-alienated “speech before the words” in which one is not spoken by the Other. Artaud would agree with Lacan that the unconscious that is structured like a language lies outside; he thus writes: “In my unconscious it is the others that I hear speaking”. As Lacan himself points out while speaking of Joyce’s daughter Lucia (a “so called schizophrenic” he says), the “madman” (aliéné) is somehow superior with respect to “normal” people inasmuch as he is the only one who correctly senses that words and language are always imposed by the Other. However, this superiority is not for Lacan an “advantage”: on the contrary, it corresponds to the psychotic “worse” of those who “do not err”, who are not fooled by the Other, those whose Symbolic malfunctions.
2. “UNE FORCE ANTIGONE”:
“The others who have died are not separated. They still turn around their dead bodies./ I am not dead, but I am separated”
(ARTAUD, The New Revelations of Being)
It is well known that, according to Lacan, the fictional, mythically impossible, character who fully embodies separation is the virgin Antigone. While interned at the asylum of Rodez, Artaud writes a short text entitled “Antigone chez le Français” in which he describes her act of separation. What does Artaud say about Antigone?
1. Antigone is the woman; she is the woman who is, “the formal embodiment of a woman”. Artaud implicitly inscribes her name in the list of his seraphic harem of filles-à-venir, also named, not accidentally, “daughters of the heart”. Who are they? Filles-à-venir are post-sexuated women that Artaud could love. According to an organic vision of life they are friends, potential lovers, grannies, an Afghan translator of Art and Death who has never existed in any birth-register, all bound together by an imaginary “inmixing of subjects”, as Lacan would call it.
An anti-family must be built and chosen: “You must decide between your parents and me”. Here one recovers an unexpected development of Artaudian asceticism: filles-à-venir are daughters of continence. They are perhaps daughters of a corps-à-venir, a body without organs, which the androgyne could only erroneously anticipate. A different notion of unity is at stake here, a unity of pure difference. Artaud’s daughters are not organically de-generated from him but neither are they descendent emanations of a capital One which by now appears insufficient. His are all “first-born” daughters. “We won’t get out, in the world as it is now made, from this idea of primogeniture, not the first son of his father, but the father of his first son”; “first” is a characteristic of the son/daughter as such. The father can only be father of a son/daughter who was not generated by him: like Artaud in relation to his “immortal little girls”. Filles-à-venir were never (organically) born and can never (organically) die: they are real and as such “undead”. Therefore one has to emphasise how the decline of the androgyne coincides for Artaud with a revaluation of woman who had previously been accused of interrupting the androgyne’s binary perfection, once and for all, by detaching herself from man (thus establishing a void, a difference).
2. Artaud and Antigone “deserve one another” for having both suffered, undergoing a “supreme inner combat” and being “tortured” by an “abominable notion of infinity”. Antigone managed to defeat it: this is proved by her name, “the name of a terrible victory”. Insofar as “names are not [always] given at random”, Artaud can say that Antigone has become her own name, “Antigone” now embodies an antagonistic force par excellence, “the force-Antigone of being”. He tells us that in order for her to achieve this status – i.e. symbolic separation, alienation from the Symbolic – Antigone had to defeat “all of that within us which is not being or ego [moi], but persists in wanting to be considered as the being of our ego”. Antigone has therefore succeeded in defeating alienation, both sexual/linguistic alienation in the Symbolic, for which “I is an Other” – the social unconscious which desires, speaks us and gives us a name – and imaginary alienation, for which the “ego is an other”, a false unity, an object that emerges through an alienated identification with the image of the other. It is also clear that for Artaud there are two kinds of being, a negative and a positive kind: the “dull [obtuses] forces” – once again a reference to stupidity – of the alienating being, the being which “is” in my place and through which I “witness myself”, are in fact opposed to the antagonism of a “contrary force”.
3. Artaud himself is attempting finally to defeat “all other egos which are other than myself”. He needs Antigone to help him in a “last combat” through which he should be able to become his real name; but he also knows that this same victory would entail the “burial of his brother the ego [moi]”, the death of his actual but never actualised “self”; the “true” self is itself a brother, a sibling or double, and it can emerge only as an (objectified) unachievable mirage of unity from an alienated standpoint. In other words, Artaud is well aware of the fact that Antigone’s victory is cruelly “terrible”, as he says. On this point, Lacan teaches us that the separation of the object from symbolic identity leads us to a “loss of reality”, i.e. “subjective destitution”.
4. Artaud also tells us how Antigone achieved her terrible victory over the “other egos”: “Separating from her soul the force which pushed her to exist”, dissociating herself from the alienating force which nevertheless made her exist. Social existence qua false being is alienated by definition; it is what Artaud elsewhere defines as “êtreté”, “beingbeen”, an objectified being, a state [état] which is not: “I know that this world is not”. Artaud specifies that Antigone separates herself from alienated existence by “finding a contrary force”, a force contrary to existence which allows her “to recognise herself as being different from the being she was living and which lived her”. Antigone’s terrible victory implies that she dies symbolically and in reality: what survives is the name of an antagonistic force of pure negativity which we might well name “death drive”.
One should also note how elsewhere in his works Artaud describes separation from the Symbolic in completely opposite terms: “It is me [moi], told me my ego [moi] which listens to me. And I [je] have replied: all egos are at this point since for what concerns me I [je] don’t listen to you”; “victory” here is equivalent to the uprising of a wild plurality of egos against the domination of a single ego. However, I do not believe that we are facing here a mere contradiction; beyond the apparent irreconcilability of these two alternatives one should in fact detect what Lacan himself describes as the two opposite but inextricable deadlocks of separation: tragedy and Buddhism. The subject can be separated from the object in two different ways. More specifically, separation qua first stage of the traversal of the fundamental fantasy ($◊a), should literally be considered as the detachment of the symbolic (barred) subject from the imaginary object of desire. The consequence of this is the emergence of the object (cause of desire) – the object a – in its real void which can then lead to two complementarily opposite impasses; either the subject tragically identifies himself with his fundamental lack-of-being, his irreducible scission, precisely by overcoming all contingent alienations, thus losing the object, or else the subject identifies himself with the object a, thus “turn[ing himself] into a mummy”; this nirvanisation is by no means ascetic since it perversely takes the void of the object for the Real of the Thing: the radical alternative to tragedy is therefore psychotic perversion… In Artaud’s terms, all this means that one can either obtain a cruel I – i.e. one’s real name – without the other (all other egos are in fact defeated and what was thought to be the “true” ego is “buried”), or a multiplicity of others, a proliferation of (other) egos without the I. Lacan suggests that psychoanalysis is able to overcome this impasse by re-subjectivising the object after its emergence as void, which means in Lacanese to individualise (the lack of) jouissance through the imposition of a new Master-Signifier.
In Seminar VII, Lacan’s famous reading of Antigone fails to distinguish between tragedy and Buddhism as two distinct negative outcomes of separation. If, on the one hand, Antigone acts tragically by saying “No!” to Creon, on the other, she also lives an extra-symbolic mummified life “in between two deaths”; Lacan reminds us that when she is “placed alive in a tomb” she is in fact a “still living corpse”. Here one should note that, according to Artaud, who continually invokes the image of the mummy, the latter is “eternally between death and life, it is corpse and foetus”: Antigone – and those who behave like her – is therefore someone who prefers to “die alive instead of living dead” (i.e. to exist in a symbolically alienated state).
More importantly, I would argue that Seminar VII does not tell us that separation might lead to an impasse; it does not explain how psychoanalysis should overcome the double deadlock of tragedy and mummification, the pure negativity of a destructive, albeit necessary, moment. Antigone “does not compromise her desire” to bury Polynices and in so doing achieves separation: in 1959-1960 this is for Lacan the fundamental ethical law of psychoanalysis; what is not sufficiently emphasised by him is the fact that Antigone does not return, that her act is self-destructive… On the contrary this fact should be stressed, given that, at least at this stage, Lacan seems to suggest tragedy as a (contradictory) model for the aim of psychoanalytical treatment.
It is for this same reason that Antigone must not entirely be taken as a model: she cannot epitomise the analysand; the analysand must provisionally be hystericised, as Lacan will say in Seminar XVII, but he does not have to become a tragic figure. Ten years after his reading of Antigone, Lacan will refute the identification of psychoanalysis with tragedy; as Miller correctly notes: “In The Ethics of Psychoanalysis Lacan had exalted transgression, whereas in Seminar XVII he makes fun of the transgressive hero” since, as he himself claims, “one transgresses nothing”, transgression is a “lubricious babble”… For Lacan it is certainly necessary to assume the real (of the) lack and the inconsistency of the Other’s “dull forces”. However, separation must be only fleeting. We cannot dwell in the lack. In other words, Lacan is also asking us to compromise our desire precisely in order to keep on desiring, that is to say, to dwell in a properly functioning though re-symbolised Symbolic; Lacan is asking us to compromise after not having compromised, to limit our non-compromised desire for the Void in order to impose a new way of desiring…
More precisely, I am proposing to read the injunction “do not compromise your desire!” in two mutually implied ways. Its first moment corresponds to Antigone’s assumption of the lack, her distancing from the Symbolic; its second moment corresponds to carrying on desiring without falling into the void. If desire is the desire of the Other, desire of desire – and desire is for Lacan the essence of man qua parlêtre –, “do not compromise your desire” can and must also mean “keep on desiring!”… “Do not compromise your desire” also means “do not give up the Other!”, do not give up the dimension of the socio-linguistic, symbolic Other which is made possible only by desiring… “Change it but do not give it up!”… The desire of the Other, which we are qua parlêtre, also corresponds to the desire to remain within the Other. Active subjectivisation is possible only in the intersubjective Symbolic after we have temporarily suspended it and “reshaped” it through the imposition of a new Master-Signifier and the emergence of a new (partly subjectivised) jouissance connected to it. In other words, the political truly starts at the very point where the evil purity of an anarchic and destructive ethics – which nevertheless constitutes the precondition of the former – is compromised.
According to Seminar XI this subjectivisation can be achieved through psychoanalytical treatment, in what Lacan defines as the “traversal of the fundamental fantasy”. Briefly, the latter means: 1. Detaching the object a from the barred subject $; 2. Achieving the void of separation (subjective destitution); 3. Re-subjectivising that same void through sublimation. It will then take another six years for Lacan to elaborate this notion into a sketch of a psychoanalytical politics of anti-ideological jouissance. Ideology turns out to be nothing but the jouissance which fails to recognise the lack – its lack, the jouis-sans… – and as a consequence individually to subjectivise it; the control of jouissance is left to the Other. Such a politics is outlined in Seminar XVII with the elaboration of the four discourses, a significant political contribution which still awaits in-depth analysis. In this renewed theoretical context the tragic figure of Antigone would stand for the embodiment of a radicalised, self-destructive hysteric (an impossibly mythical figure) who, after having discovered that the Master/Other is barred, would decide to sacrifice herself in a gesture that reacts against its inconsistencies: as a consequence, she would not undermine the existing Other, but would ultimately sacrifice herself for its maintenance or, at best, for the père-verse mirage of another consistent Other; precisely by deciding to collapse into the void of the lack Antigone refuses to accept it.
The results achieved by Lacan in Seminar XVII are then further complicated by his re-working of the symptom in 1975-76: the latter seems to suggest that any possible subjectivisation of jouissance has to undergo the radical destabilisation of “non-triggered” psychosis and the successive creation of a (partly) “personalised” Symbolic – one’s “non-tragic” name – by means of one’s writing, the marking of one’s jouissance through the written letter. In other words, what I am also suggesting here is that Lacan’s reading of Joyce, far from being a literary-clinical case-study, represents his most mature formulation of a psychoanalytical ethics and politics.
3. ‘SUFFER IN ORDER TO AFFIRM YOURSELF!’
Unlike Antigone, Artaud returns after nine years of internment and he returns with his name, which Antigone – according to both Lacan and Artaud himself – had acquired only at the price of disappearing forever in perpetual subjective destitution. Artaud returns as “Artaud-le-Mômo”, which is to say, literally as a madman (“mômo”) who writes about his return and is able to return only by writing it – one of the chapters of the book Artaud-le-Mômo is indeed entitled “Le retour d’Artaud-le-Mômo”; Artaud keeps on repeating that the old Artaud is dead… His main theoretical achievement in the years of his return – his last – should be identified with the elaboration of a cosmological ontology of suffering: “real” being amounts to an authentic “douleur” which has been stolen by God. In parallel, this same douleur corresponds to an Other, absolute jouissance which must be opposed to phallic jouissance – which Artaud simply calls “jouissance”.
In 1946, shortly after his release, Artaud affirms the following: “I am there [là],/ there means pain”. I am there where I suffer. Being is suffering: in order to be one has “to suffer being, all of being”. Suffering, the immediacy of pain, which leaves the false dichotomy between the corporal and the mental aside, becomes the sole and most immediate proof of my being-real. It is in this sense that pain overlaps with the “purest reality”, as Artaud already called it in The Nerve Meter: “This douleur driven into me like a wedge at the centre of my purest reality, at that region of sensibility where the two worlds of body and mind come together”. The immanence of suffering entirely characterises real being, without any risk of transcendent doubling. Suffering is one.
Pain not only overcomes the division between body and mind, cancelling the specific subjectivity which prospers in the hiatus that separates them, but also suspends any possible transcendence as well as any transcendental. Thus an a-historic history of pain exists, a continuity without place which is to be opposed to God’s / the Other’s organically sexuated history: “Yes, there is a certain history of suffering of which my life is part, whereas it was never able to be part of ordinary life, which has never done anything but run away (putting oneself in a state of detachment [recul], calculated, curled up, methodical and premeditated) from suffering”. Life based on eudaimonistic criteria is not. Pain should be lived and by living it, by being, no possibility of calculation would be left for us. Suffering qua anti-representation cannot be thought, it can only be lived. Thus Artaud writes the following: “The question is to locate oneself in the beyond of [negative] being and of its reflective notion of consciousness./ […] It is the only way of being there [“être là”, again],/ hitting, suffering, tearing oneself to pieces, not thinking,/ dis-imagining images!”. In order to put an end to what he repeatedly calls the “scandal” of a life which witnesses itself, we should immerse ourselves in douleur. In parallel, suffering also functions as a detector of what is not but seems to be (false being). “Being burnt,/ torn to pieces,/ quartered/ are facts which do not correspond to a state [état] but to being [être]”.
Outside of douleur, there seems to be nothing: “One does not do anything, one does not say anything, but one suffers, one despairs at oneself and one fights […] – Shall we appreciate, judge, justify the fighting?/ No./ Shall we name it?/ Neither,/ naming the battle means killing nothingness, perhaps./ But above all it implies stopping life…/ We shall never stop life./ But shall we come out to […] the embankment of the after battle, in order to breathe the memories of the battle?/ Never./ The battle restarted deeper, then what? The perpetual stripping of the flesh? The indefinite scraping off of the wound? The infinite work of the fissure from whence the wound emerged?/ Maybe”. Supposing that one chooses douleur, what strategy should be adopted during and after the battle? Artaud replies abruptly: no judgement, no justification should be given, no critical operation should be carried out: these would all put us in what was defined as “detachment” from douleur. One must always remain in the immanence of the battle; this is why even one denomination alone would be enough to stop life. This would already be a dangerous retreat; not by chance, it is precisely on the name and judgement of God that, in the same years, Artaud concentrates his attack, his faecal (materially anti-transcendent) discharge: “I shit on the Christian name”. The act of naming which initiates the intersubjective dimension and the subsequent operation of writing, is not just unable to reveal douleur-life but also blocks it, annihilates it. Artaud is here implicitly recalling the fundamental contradiction of his own bio-graphy: in fact this determines him both with the douleur that he continually claims to suffer (the “bio” component) and with his role as a writer who is constantly tempted to symbolise this douleur (the “graphic” component). This oscillation generates a complex operation of writing: “Authenticity/ of pain/ which is me”, Artaud paradoxically writes. Endless paradox of a writing which “kills the [symbolic] nothingness” of suffering by naming it, nailing it to the black and white of the written page and, at the same time, through the same process, “stops [real] life” qua suffering.
It is now important to emphasise how, according to Artaud, avoiding the encounter with pain can only imply a provisional postponement. Pain soon comes back by another route, that of the Other. If one does not choose pain, one then suffers it through God and his “suppôts” (henchmen). Artaud’s choice of douleur is therefore not part of a deliberately masochist programme. “I chose the dominion [domaine] of douleur”: this affirmation, which has both ethical and ontological implications, does not merely mean that “I chose the territory of douleur”. Dominion also implies a certain control. Only by choosing douleur can one control it, without suffering it passively. Thus, there are two kinds of douleur: the first is the one which is “up to us”; in other words, it corresponds to our share of existential suffering, which, given its immediate immanence, is equivalent to our personal share of being. If we choose douleur, we are as much as we suffer. On the contrary, if we try to avoid it, douleur returns in a different, père-verse form (in a strictly Lacanian sense): the self-redoubling which is one with what Artaud calls “the detached state” with respect to douleur, creates a transcendence, an empty space in which God easily manages to insinuate himself – for Artaud the organic body is indeed a body divided by God qua “sinker of wells”. In this case, we are passively subjected to a douleur which is not up to us, we suffer for God / the Other. A nothingness that “did not want to suffer being”, now wants to be and will “be” as long as someone continues to suffer for it. In this case, we are not as much as we suffer, since the share of being proportionate to our suffering is ex-propriated by God. In Suppôts et Suppliciations, Artaud specifically notes that when God – defined as a “sorcerer” – deprives us of the share of being which is consubstantial with our suffering, we lose the “benefit of douleur”. In other words, once suffering perversely becomes suffering for God, the “benefit” – which is literally “what-makes-good” – turns into a spell, a curse, a “maléfice” – which, on the contrary, is “what-makes-evil”… This distinction should give us a plausible avenue into the contorted Artaudian obsession with “spells” and “collective black magic”.
Something else is certain for Artaud: the transcendent/organic man who refuses actively to choose pain has learnt how to take God as a model; he does not want to suffer being any longer – while continuing to suffer it for Him – and he is therefore tempted to make the other (man) suffer (for) it. Artaud thus writes: “There are millions [of people] […] who take away […] the spirit of other people’s pain in order to achieve a consciousness, an I, a soul, a duration”. By operating in milieus where pain is canalised and forced to circulate – hospitals, asylums, where “death is cherished” – the doctor-psychiatrist represents, among organic-transcendent men, all of whom aggressively discharge their own suffering onto others, the apotheosis of sadism: “Asylums’ doctors are conscious and premeditated sadists”. Everywhere in everyday social life one makes the other suffer in one’s place, but it is only in an asylum that one can succeed in dis-charging the other completely, reaching the point at which the conformism of “collective” or “civic” black magic, that is the intersubjective spell (maléfice) of expropriating pain, literally turns into possession of the other. Again, a libidinous element clearly emerges in this process: “Modern medicine […] makes its dead men undergo electroshock or insulinotherapy […] every day it empties its heaps of men from their I,/ thus presenting them as empty […] to obscene atomic and anatomic solicitings”. As we have seen, psychiatrists are also for Artaud erotomaniacs par excellence. Erotomania qua phallic j’ouïs-sens, perverse suffering for the Other, and sadism all ultimately coincide. Because of this, the active acceptance of one’s own suffering – i.e. real jouissance – presupposes, in contrast to the passivity required by God, the interruption of the sadistic chain through one’s disengagement from the phallic j’ouïs-sens of the Other: “Suffer in order to affirm yourself,/ establish your own body all alone, without thinking of taking anything away from/ that of anyone else/ above all not through jouissance”.
4. J’OUÏS-SENS, JOUIS-SENS, JOUIS-SANS
At this stage, a concise definition of Lacan’s notion of jouissance is needed. Jouissance is definitely not pleasure: on the contrary, it is precisely that which “goes beyond” Freud’s pleasure principle. The main characteristic of jouissance is suffering: however, we are dealing here with a kind of suffering which is not simply unpleasant and consequently cannot merely be related to pleasure in an oppositional way. As a first approximation, we could here define jouissance as “pleasure in pain”. Against the usual objection: “At the end of the day, we’re not all depraved masochists, speak for yourself…”, one should refer here to the undecidable nature of what Spinoza beautifully named, in Latin, titillatio, tickling. Who does not like being tickled? Does being ticklish correspond to a supreme form of pleasure or does it instead coincide with radical suffering? We all know that when we are adequately tickled we literally risk “dying of laughter”…
Contrary to Miller’s claim according to which Seminar VII is problematic insofar as it introduces a “profound disjunction between the signifier and jouissance”, I believe that, in this seminar, Lacan analyses both the allegedly “massive” jouissance of mythical transgression and the “brief satisfaction” of the jouissance which is structurally inherent in the superegoic component of any symbolic/signifying order. Furthermore, these two “degrees” of jouissance are intimately related to one another since the jouissance of transgression should itself be conceived, first and foremost, as the jouissance of the (Sado-Kantian) universalised Law. We approach here what is possibly the main ambiguity of Seminar VII: Lacan definitely thinks that the Paulinian dialectics between the Law and desire – supplemented by inherent phantasmatic transgression/jouissance – can be overcome by a radical transgression of the (Sado-Kantian) superegoic Law itself; yet, at the same time, he also seems to imply that we can reach a beyond of such a dialectics by means of a transgression which opposes itself to the superegoic Law. In particular, the ethics of psychoanalysis does not “leave us clinging to that dialectic [of Law and desire]” and is concerned with a (pure) desire which, beyond morality, “transgresses interdiction” and “rediscovers the relationship to das Ding somewhere beyond the law”: the “true duty” of psychoanalytic transgression is in fact “to go against the command” of the “obscene and ferocious figure” of the superego.
Now, the big question is: how does the Antigonian “transgressive” ethics of pure desire advocated by Lacanian psychoanalysis in Seminar VII differ concretely from the superegoic transgression of Sado-Kantian jouissance? Is such a distinction adequately defended, or do Lacan’s arguments rather risk confusing these two kinds of transgression? In my opinion, Seminar VII ultimately fails to elucidate the way in which the Lacanian ethics of “pure” desire is separated from the Sado-Kantian anti-ethics of (mythical) “massive” jouissance. More specifically, I believe that the unclear status of jouissance in Seminar VII – bluntly put, “Does Antigone ‘enjoy herself’ through pure desire?”, “Can jouissance be good?” – is the consequence of Lacan’s mistaken assumption of the existence of a “primordial Real” qua “totality” which, despite being relegated to a mythical pre- or post-symbolic domain, necessarily entails the postulation of a correlative “massive” jouissance. In other words, at this stage, Lacan has not yet completely overcome the (Sadean; Artaudian) idea that Nature is One (differential, “fermenting”) being that enjoys per se: this notion structurally contradicts all theoretical (and clinical) elaborations which presuppose the a priori of the barring of the Other and the logically concomitant reduction of Nature to the Not-One of the undead.
Not without oscillations, the late Lacan progressively acknowledges that “inherent” jouissance is, in a radical sense, the only possible jouissance; we may well theorise the mythical horizon of an extra-symbolic condition, yet, at the same time, this very theorisation is itself logically inconsistent with that of any increase in jouissance. In this final section it is therefore my intention to explain the different ways in which inherent jouissance functions as well as to propose some preliminary remarks on the intricate issue of the individual subjectivation of jouissance: how should the subject resist the imposition of the superegoic – and always potentially criminal – imperative of the law? With this aim in mind, I shall now enunciate a series of fundamental theses regarding jouissance, adopting the privileged standpoint of Seminar XXIII (1975-1976): in my opinion, it is in this work that Lacan finally assumes the full consequences of the fact that there is no Other of the Other.
1. We need to remember that the dictum “there is no Other of the symbolic Other” means primarily that – insofar as the symbolic Other is not legitimised by any Other external guarantor (i.e. the universalised Law of the Name-of-the-Father), insofar as the Symbolic is non-All – real otherness with respect to the Symbolic is no longer possible. In other words, in opposition to Seminar VII, for the final Lacan, there is no “primordial One” which was originally “killed” by the Symbolic; there is no “pure” primordial Real (no “real Real”) beyond the dimension of the Real-in-the-Symbolic, that is, of the leftover of the Real which “holes” the Symbolic (in conjunction with the Imaginary). To go further, it has to be underlined how, for Lacan, the “primordial One” – or “real Real” – is not-One precisely insofar as, to put it with Badiou, it cannot be “counted as One”: it actually corresponds to a zero. In a key passage from Seminar XXIII, Lacan points out that “the Real must be sought on the side of the absolute zero” since “the fire that burns [the mirage of “massive” jouissance] is just a mask of the Real”. We can think this 0 only retroactively from the standpoint of the “fake” symbolic/imaginary One (what Lacan calls a “semblant”): even better, we can retrospectively think this 0 as if it were a One – the One par excellence – only from the standpoint of the “fake” One. To put it differently: 0 is nothing per se but it is something from the determinate perspective of the “fake” One; the Thing-in-itself is in-itself no-thing (as Lacan says, it is l’achose). In other words, the 0 equates with the always-already lost mythical jouissance of the real Real: the “fake” One needs the “fake” jouissance of the object a in order to “make One” – to cork the hole in the symbolic structure – and thus retrospectively create the illusion of an absolute jouissance which was originally lost.
2. Jouissance is “pleasure in pain”. More specifically, this is always equivalent to the jouissance of the object a. The latter is a remainder of the Real which tears holes in the symbolic structure. The object a qua real hole in the Other is both the hole qua presence of a surplus-leftover Real (jouissance of “a”) and that hole qua absence of the Whole Real (the primordial Real which was never there in the first place), that is, qua absence of jouissance. What does this presence of a real leftover actually consist of? At its purest, the jouissance of “a” qua surplus jouissance (the partial drive) can only mean enjoying the lack of enjoyment: since there is nothing else to enjoy. This explains why in Seminar XVII (1969-1970) Lacan can state the following: “One can pretend [faire semblant] that there is surplus jouissance [i.e. jouissance of the object a]; a lot of people are still seized by this idea”. Jouissance is suffering since it is jouis-sans – to use a neologism which, to the best of my knowledge, was not coined by Lacan. Enjoying the lack of enjoyment will therefore mean suffering/enjoying the lack of the Thing, the fact that the Thing is no-thing (l’achose).
3. One of the major tasks of psychoanalysis is to make the subject accept the real “a” qua lack. If I is jouis-sans, enjoying “more” or “less” makes sense only from a perverse standpoint which takes for granted the presence of jouissance. There is only one fundamental difference at work here: one can either accept or fail to accept the lack that jouis-sans is. Even when the subject’s fundamental fantasy (qua barrier) is undone once and for all, as happens in the case of psychosis, what is at stake is not an “increase” of jouissance but an incapacity of the Symbolic to manage the potentially destructive lack of jouissance that jouis-sans is. In other words, jouissance cannot be accumulated because it relies on lack; we cannot objectively accumulate lack, we can only say that (–1) + (–1) = – 2 if we tacitly assume that – 1 is something “more” than sheer lack, if, from the very beginning, we deceitfully turn – 1 into + 1… According to Lacan, the capitalist discourse epitomises perversion precisely insofar as it pre-tends to enjoy real “a” (the lack) as accumulated jouissance.
4. Jouissance is a conditio sine qua non of the inextricable relationship between the drive and desire. More precisely, the drive supplies a partial “masochistic” satisfaction of unconscious desire precisely through the dissatisfaction of jouis-sans. As a consequence, jouissance is generally a necessary precondition of human beings qua desiring beings of language. Most importantly, jouissance (of the object a) is not only that which, so to speak, inevitably “accompanies” the signifier yet remains detached from it: jouissance also emerges in the signifier itself. That is to say, the drive is not unspeakable, it “utters itself” in language in the guise of jouis-sens. Enjoyment (or better, its lack) is also enjoy-meant. Jouis-sans also indicates a linguistic lack of sense, an intrinsic limitation of symbolic knowledge as such – inasmuch as, by definition, symbolic knowledge is Not-All in the unconscious, it should also be regarded as a “means of jouissance”. The reason for this dual nature of jouis-sans is straightforward: the Symbolic (in its interplay with the Imaginary) that the Real of the object a tears holes in structures both the “libidinal” realm of desire/sexuality and the “epistemological” realm of knowledge. The basic Lacanian a priori for this parallelism can be found in the famous motto according to which “the unconscious is structured like a language”: desire and knowledge are the same unconscious linguistic structure and both partake of jouis-sans. Putting together the “libidinal” acceptation of the object a with its “epistemological” counterpart, we may argue that the fact that there is no Other of the Other entails the “nonsense” (i.e. the “epistemological” side of the object a) of the lack of jouissance, the lack of relation between the sexes (i.e. the “libidinal” side of the object a).
5. In his last seminars, most noticeably in Seminar XXIII, Lacan avails himself of at least four different variants of the notion of jouissance which, in my opinion, should nevertheless all be linked, directly or indirectly, to the object a. The first variant concerns the phallic jouissance of the object a in the fundamental fantasy: Lacan uses the algebraic sign Jφ to express it. Bluntly put, this is the jouissance that allows the subject to “make One” qua individuated parlêtre, the non-eliminable real supplement of phantasmatic symbolic identification. It is only on the basis of a j’ouïs-sens that the barred subject is able to “hear” (ouïr) the sense of the symbolic order: we could render j’ouïs-sens as “I enjoy, therefore I can make sense”.
The second variant relates to the jouissance of the Other under the hegemony of which we “make One” and “make sense”; this is therefore nothing but the ideological j’ouïs-sens which “corks” the holed symbolic structure itself. As Lacan observes as early as Seminar X, “j’ouïs” is nothing but the answer the subject gives to the superegoic commandment “Jouis!” (“Enjoy!”). It is easy to see that the jouissance of the Other is actually equivalent to phallic jouissance: the jouissance of the Other corresponds to ideological phallic jouissance considered, as it were, from the standpoint of structure and not from that of the (alienated) subject who is interpellated by a given ideology.
The third variant refers to what Lacan names Other jouissance which he denotes with the algebraic sign JA; in the early seventies, Other jouissance is famously associated with feminine jouissance. Other jouissance should definitely not be confused with the jouissance of the Other. Should we then regard it as being extra-symbolic? If on the one hand, it is true that, in Seminar XX, Other jouissance seems to indicate the pure jouissance of the Real beyond any symbolic contamination (indeed it is located “beyond the phallus”), on the other, it should be evident by now that such a definition of Other jouissance is highly problematic for any serious attempt to develop a consistent theory out of Lacan’s anti-structuralist move. The first versions of the so-called Borromean knot – a topological figure which Lacan uses to represent the interdependency of the orders of the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary – show us precisely where the difficulty, if not the contradiction, lies: JA (Other – feminine – jouissance) lies outside the ring of the Symbolic, but it is not outside all of the rings! In other words, without the ring of the Symbolic it would not be possible to have the Borromean knot (qua topographical representation of the subject-parlêtre) and consequently not even JA… The important point to grasp here is that feminine jouissance remains indirectly related to the Symbolic: the feminine not-All is ultimately both different from and dependent on the phallic Symbolic, precisely insofar as it stands as the not-All of the Symbolic, its constitutive point of exception… Consequently, JA cannot stand for the jouissance of the “real Real”, or, in other words, there is no Other jouissance given that there is no Other of the Other.
Lacan seems to become aware of this deadlock in Seminar XXIII, in which in fact JA barred – a fourth variant of jouissance – takes the place of JA in the Borromean knot. In one of the most important lessons of that year, Lacan says the following: “JA barred concerns jouissance, but not Other jouissance […] there is no Other jouissance inasmuch as there is no Other of the Other”. The passage from the notion of Other jouissance (JA) to that of the jouissance of the barred Other (JA barred) epitomises the fundamental distance that separates the image of Saint Theresa’s holy ecstasy – as referred to by Lacan in Seminar XX – from the “naming” of lack carried out by Joyce-le-saint-homme – as analysed in detail in Seminar XXIII. In this seminar, JA (of Woman; of God) becomes impossible: however, feminine jouissance could be re-defined in terms of JA barred. JA barred is therefore a (form of) jouissance of the impossibility of JA. Most importantly, one has to underline the fact that the jouissance of the barred Other differs from phallic jouissance without being “beyond” the phallus.
The elaboration of the notion of JA barred also has a significant repercussion for the late Lacan’s key motto according to which “Y a d’ l’Un” (“There’s such a thing as One”). In Seminar XX, Lacan seems to identify this One with JA, with the idea of a pure Real conceived of in the guise of “pure difference”, a “fermenting” Nature; although in Seminar XXIII he declares that JA is meant to designate the fact that there is a Universe, he nevertheless specifies that it is quite improbable that the Universe is, as such, a Uni-verse, that the Universe is a One (of pure, Other jouissance). This is to say, a pure, mythical Real – the undead – must be presupposed retroactively, but it cannot be counted as (a self-enjoying, divine) One, not even as the supposedly “weaker” One of “pure difference”.
At this stage, we should ask the following crucial question: how does the jouissance of the impossibility of Other jouissance, the jouissance of the barred Other, distinguish itself from “standard” phallic jouissance? After all, the latter is also, in its own way, a form of barred jouissance, of jouis-sans… Lacan’s straightforward answer is: phallic jouissance “makes One”, whereas JA barred “makes the individual”. If phallic jouissance (of the object a) makes the symbolic One, increasingly pre-tending to obliterate the lack, on the other hand, JA barred (which also enjoys the object a) makes the individual who, as it were, develops “his own” Symbolic from that lack. Joyce is “the individual” for Lacan insofar as he succeeds in subjectivising himself by (partially) individualising the object a, the lack in the Symbolic; the individual is not the ideological One but stands for another modality of the One, another (non-psychotic) way of inhabiting the Symbolic, “starting” from its real lack.
Here, we should emphasise particularly the way in which Lacan closely associates the emergence of JA barred – which he also more famously names the sinthome – with the issue of the naming of the Real and the “marking” of jouissance, with the long deferred question concerning the way in which the subject should bring about a re-inscription in and a re-symbolisation of the Symbolic after he has temporarily assumed the real lack in the Other. For Lacan, Joyce is indeed “Joyce-le-sinthome”. If, on the one hand, it is true that Joyce “abolishes the symbol”, on the other, it is equally the case that the “identification with the sinthome” (qua naming of one’s Real) advocated by the final Lacan as the aim of psychoanalysis could never amount to a permanent subjective destitution, a psychotic non-functioning of the Symbolic. In opposition to such a mistaken conclusion, one should underline the facts that:
a) Joyce is – to adopt a formula proposed by Darian Leader – a “non-triggered” psychotic. He is initially “in between” neurosis and psychosis and subsequently manages to produce a (partially) individualised Symbolic;
b) neurotics can eventually turn their ideological symptom – the jouissance imposed by hegemonic fundamental fantasies – into a non-psychotic sinthome when they undergo the traversal of the fantasy, the moment of separation from the Symbolic and the subsequent process of symbolic re-inscription through a new, individualised Master-Signifier. This also means that, despite not being a psychotic, Joyce does not initially need to traverse any fundamental fantasy. Unlike neurotics, he is already separated from the Symbolic; instead, he needs to “create” his founding Master-Signifier. As Miller puts it: “[Joyce’s] authentic Name-of-the-Father is his name as a writer […] his literary production allows him to relocate himself within the meaning he lacked”.
To conclude, I would like to comment on a thought-provoking question concerning the sinthome formulated recently by Hoens and Pluth: “From what point of view can the Name of the Father be seen as identical to the sinthome?”. The authors deliberately leave their question open so as to indicate that we are confronted with what remains unconcluded in Lacan’s work and to urge new reinventions of his own reinvention of Freudian psychoanalysis.
Here we should remark that by the early sixties, le Nom-du-Père ceases to be exclusively a prohibitive Non!-du-Père; in fact, in the standard situation of neurosis, it also allows the regulation through the symptom of an otherwise destructive jouissance, which is to say that its “No!” lets us (ideologically pre-tend to) enjoy (the lack which holes the Symbolic). What Lacan seems further to suggest with his later work on Joyce is that, in the case of “non-triggered” psychosis, this same regulation, which allows the subject to inhabit the social space, can eventually be carried out by the sinthome itself. In other words, the relativisation of the Name-of-the-Father which follows the barring of the Other – that is, the emergence of a structural lack – ultimately entails two complementary consequences in what concerns the symptom: on the one hand, the Name-of-the-Father, insofar as it occupies a place which actually lies outside of its competence – since the lack “belongs” to the domain of the Real – can itself be considered as a symptom (hence in Seminar XXIII, Lacan states that: “The Oedipus complex, as such, is a symptom”); on the other hand, “everything else that manages to orient and localise jouissance, i.e. symptoms themselves” can carry out the containment action which is usually accomplished by the “standard” Name-of-the-Father if the latter does not function properly. Joyce’s paternal metaphor was defective: it had to be supplemented by the writer. Thus, the name “Joyce” literally embodies a subjective place-holder for the lack in the Other and it does so by means of a particular way of writing. The name “Joyce” is a “singular universal”: Joyce reaches a substitutive version of the Name-of-the-Father – thus individualised/individuated and anti-ideological by definition – precisely by way of writing his jouis-sens.
A similar process is at work in the late Artaud. He is the one who endlessly deplores any kind of writing as “garbage” and who, precisely in order successfully to carry out this condemnation, feels constrained to struggle continuously between his awareness of the uselessness of writing and the will to write about it. Artaud writes against writing; he keeps on repeating: “Don’t write! Writing goes against being which is the immanent suffering of one’s own douleur…”. However, he realises that this paradoxical writing is in the end the only means through which one can individuate one’s own suffering against a perverse suffering for God and also against the utter separation of psychosis (which ultimately does not allow any individuation). How with greater precision does this transvaluation of writing – from representing the epitome of God’s apparatuses of ex-propriation to standing for a unique means of individuation of suffering – occur?
• Writing is at first diametrically opposed to being qua authentic, immanent douleur.
• Writing against writing coincides with writing douleur given that douleur is opposed to writing by definition.
• Writing douleur (being) is impossible; it is impossible to write about what by definition cannot be written.
• Writing douleur may therefore be equated with writing the impossibility of writing douleur (being).
• This same impossibility autonomously generates douleur… This is where writing is transvaluated; at first, it was by definition opposed to douleur/being/life, and then it generates douleur/being/life.
Artaud thus writes the douleur of writing douleur, which means that he both writes the suffering of writing and lives the individuated suffering of writing suffering. Artaud writes because he suffers an expropriation of suffering/jouissance and in this writing he perpetually reiterates this expropriation brought to the paroxystic point at which it becomes the individuated, truly subjectivised, writing of the painful incapacity of writing the suffering of expropriation. “One can invent one’s own language and make pure language speak with an extra-grammatical meaning, but this meaning must be valid per se, it must come out of horror […] the uterine being of suffering”.
On this key issue, there is a clear shift from early to late Artaud; his internment should be considered as a dividing line. The late Artaud underlines the writing in the writing against writing, since it generates authentic douleur/being, it generates “contra writing” (by way of its impossibility of expression): in this way, he does not confine himself to an utterly sterile condemnation of writing. What sort of writing is this truly individuated writing of authentic douleur/jouissance? “One has to defeat the French language without departing from it”: the shift between early and late Artaud is here perfectly summarised; one must not search for a real language “before” the words, which can lead only to the being-spoken of psychosis; one should instead write in a language “in between” the words, a jouis-sens.
Finally, it should be noted that this playing with language, which takes place in opposition to but nevertheless within its ex-propriating functions, is carried out by Artaud primarily on his own name. As Dumoulié has correctly pointed out, Artaud’s “first gesture of désaliénation was a re-investment of the proper name”. While at the time of his Irish breakdown and the first years of his internment Artaud refused his name and preferred a collapse into anonymity, regressively adopting his childhood nickname (Neneka) or his mother’s name, Artaud then “returns” as “Artaud-le-Mômo” by continuously reshaping his “real name”; as he himself claims, he is “a.r.t.o.”, he embodies his real letters, as Joyce is for Lacan the individual, “l.o.m. […] a structure which is that of the homo”.
Chiesa, Lorenzo Lacan with Artaud: j’ouïs-sens, jouis-sans, jouis-sens. In: Zizek, S., ed. Lacan: The Silent Partners. Verso Books.