Henry Krutzen’s Index of Lacan’s Seminar
For English-speaking students of Lacan’s work it is unfortunate how little this book is known.
This short post attempts to rectify that by giving a shout-out for Krutzen’s marvellous work and to encourage its dissemination amongst English-speakers.
Firstly, to address the obvious problem: this is a French book and is written in French. But if you don’t speak French that hardly matters.
English-speakers should in no way be discouraged by the fact the book is in French because, as an index of Lacan’s Seminar, the only effort they need make is to find the French translation for the reference they are searching for. What’s more, Krutzen separates the main index into four columns: theme, seminar, date and argument (the latter being a short commentary on the points Lacan is making), meaning it is simple to pinpoint, cross-reference and trace Lacan’s argument throughout his work. As English-speakers of the book will find, French is a very similar language to English; after all, the latter is in large part derived from the former, and they might be surprised to find that the majority of references look like mis-spelt English terms. As Alexander Dumas reputedly quipped, ‘English is just French, badly pronounced’!
When used in conjunction with Dr Cormac Gallagher’s freely-available translations of Lacan’s Seminars (a resource to which all English-speaking Lacanians are hugely in debted) Krutzen’s Index is a powerful resource and a great antidote to the all-too-easy practice of taking the word of secondary texts as writ. Having used it as a reference when writing articles on this site I can vouch for its indispensability.
Whilst the majority of Lacan’s Seminars are translated into English there are still notable exceptions. To take just one example, a translation of Seminar IV, Lacan’s commentary on the object relations school that dominated in the mid-1950s when it was delivered is – so I am told by other Lacanians – ready but remains unpublished.
Where English translations exist however, Krutzen’s Jacques Lacan: Séminaire 1952-1980 – Index Référentiel will prove invaluable. The project of indexing Lacan’s entire Seminar, from the private sessions held on the topic of the Wolf Man case history in 1952 to his last work in 1980 prior to the dissolution of his school, is obviously a daunting and laborious one. Remarkably though, the Index runs to almost 1000 pages of, principally, thematic references but also indexes of proper names and mathemes used by Lacan throughout the course of his teaching.
The Index has gone through a number of incarnations. As the author explains in the preface, the project started in the early nineties. Krutzen had not attended Lacan’s Seminar, but by this time had already completed a trawl through each of the 27 Seminars later indexed in this book. Having acknowledged that, as spoken presentations, they were a work in constant progress he resolved to re-read them, this time chronologically, noting the references that took his attention along the way so that he could find them later on. Three years later, he found himself with 16,000 references that offered a deep insight into the the progress and development of Lacan’s work.
Krutzen first published an early version of the Index as an online database in the mid-nineties, searchable by theme and author. It persisted until the late nineties when, as a result of the publication deal with Anthropos it was taken offline, prior to the first print edition emerging in 2000. It is now, at the time of writing, in its third edition (published in 2009).
The book itself is relatively easy to find: check out Amazon UK, US or, if stock is limited or only the earlier editions are available, Amazon France. Abebooks is also worth a look to get the best price.
By Owen Hewitson, LacanOnline.com
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