News – March 2020
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In the light of the Coronavirus pandemic those events that have not been cancelled or postponed are being switched to digital delivery where possible. This offers an excellent opportunity to engage in Lacanian events around the world, many of which would not have been accessible until now. Below are a selection of the many talks, seminars, and resources which will be switching to online transmission over the coming months.
The Irish Circle of the Lacanian Orientation is running Seminars every weekend that are free and open to all. A guided reading of Freud’s Civilisation and its Discontents which began in late March will continue on 11th April and run up to 30th May, with a range of speakers from Spain, the UK, the US, and France contributing. Later, on 24th April there will be the first in a two-part webinar offering a Lacanian reading of Freud’s case histories led by Joanne Conway. Other events from the ICLO may be brought online during this time so keep an eye out via their site and Facebook page.
Lacanian Compass, which has been at the forefront of delivering its activities digitally for many years, will be hosting most of its forthcoming events online. See the site’s Events page for full details and how to access Zoom links to participate.
Philip Hill will now deliver his two seminars for The Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, on Introducing Lacanian Ideas for the Clinic, via Zoom. First on 22nd May will be ‘Suffering, Subjectivity and Compulsory Enjoyment’, followed by ‘Truth and Interpretation’ on 5th June. Neither workshop will assume any knowledge.
Full texts of fifteen volumes of the Papers of The Freudian School of Melbourne, dating back to the first issue in 1979, have now been made available for free online by the School. The latest editions are also available for order. Additionally, the School has started its Foundations of Psychoanalysis seminar series, which takes place on Wednesdays from 7:30-9pm, via Zoom. Studying the fundamental concepts underpinning Freudian and Lacanian theory and clinical processes it is open to students, scholars and colleagues. Details of how to join this and a number of other seminars from the School are here.
Après-Coup Psychoanalytic Association, based in New York City, will be hosting seminars online on 10th April and 1st May which will continue Paola Mieli’s series ‘On the Subject’s Relation to Knowledge’. Mileli will explore the function of knowledge and belief in relation to denial, disavowal, and foreclosure. Details of this and other upcoming online events are on the group’s Facebook page.
Quarantine might be a good time to indulge in the back-catalogue of podcasts from The Freud Museum London and New Books in Psychoanalysis from the NBN. The Museum also has lots of new content on its blog, including this timely piece on Freud at Home. Julia Evans’ LacanianWorksExchange.net and Richard G. Klein’s Freud2Lacan.com continue to be goldmines for texts useful to anyone with extra time to delve deep into some little-known works and newly-completed translations.
The London Society of the NLS is putting together an online reading of Seminar XVII with invited speakers joining via Zoom. The event should be launching after Easter (from week commencing 13th April in the UK) so there is time to read the text of Lacan’s Seminar before then. The London Society has in the meantime also released its Cartel Dossier containing short texts on the themes of the year’s cartels.
The Lacan Circle of Australia has announced the publication of the 2020 edition of its free online journal, PsychoanalysisLacan. With papers by A.R. Price, Russell Grigg, and David Ferraro among others, it includes commentaries on Lacan’s notoriously difficult L’Etourdit, and on the Schreber and Wolf Man case histories in the context of the elementary phenomena of psychosis. Previous editions, all online and all free to access, are also here.
Even though the NLS Congress scheduled for June is cancelled for this year, the Congress blog remains open and hosts a range of commentaries on the theme of ‘Interpretation: From Truth to Event’.
The Lacan Salon is gathering some theoretical, clinical and political thought on its page Listening to COVID-19. A collection of Lacanian perspectives on the epidemic are available already; keep an eye on the site for more to come.
Many in the Lacanian community have contributed their thoughts on the current pandemic, and The Lacanian Review Online offers a collection of these which continue to be released on a daily basis. Thomas Svolos’ commentary ‘Life Over Death’ is one of the more thought-provoking, looking at the question of mortality raised by the virus and the ‘Paradigms of Jouissance’ (to paraphrase one of Miller’s papers) that we see exercised in response to lockdown. Many contributors have taken the opportunity to make of the crisis a social commentary, however the focus of these is often not so much psychoanalysis as it is politics. We find somewhat well-rehearsed critiques of capitalism blended with concern about democracy, borders, and economic liberalism. Yet strangely, the effect of isolation and social distancing on both analyst and analysand is relatively little-explored, nor is what this means for the analytic clinic when sessions need to be conducted online instead of on couch. With some exceptions, Coronavirus itself is almost uniformly described as ‘the Real’, or an example of the appearance of ‘the Real’ (this concept seemingly the go-to dumping-ground for things Lacanians don’t understand). Thus in these commentaries COVID-19 is variously declared “a new name of the real”; “the real without borders or limits”; and “a real without a law”. It demonstrates “the emergence of a real exacerbated by this pandemic”, and is credited with uncovering how “the techno-scientific discourse which boasts about overcoming impossibility can do little against this real”. Even our simple but scarce toilet paper does not escape this description. “There is the real of death, but there is also toilet paper as a sign of a real in the symbolic”, announces one piece. Contrast this to the response from analysts of other orientations – for example, Prof. Don Carveth of the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis – who’s YouTube video offering a Kleinian commentary on behaviours in response to COVID-19 (hoarding of food, and the regression from the depressive to the paranoid-schizoid position in the face of the attack from Mother Nature which returns our previous attack on her) seems much more apposite to the times.
Turning to new books, and among last month’s newly-released publications was Reading Lacan’s Seminar VIII: Transference, the latest in the Palgrave Lacan Series. Edited by Gautam Basu Thakur and Jonathan Dickstein, the eighteen chapters follow Lacan’s 1960-61 Seminar and provide commentaries on each of its sessions. Contributors come from the worlds of philosophy, literature, and cultural studies as well as Lacanian scholars and practicing clinicians.
Released at the start of March was Silvia Lippi’s The Decision of Desire, in its English translation by Peter Skafish. Offering a re-examination of Lacan’s theory of desire that links it to masochism, mysticism, joy, death, and feminine jouissance, Lippi’s work combines Lacan with surrealist artists like Breton, writers such as Faulkner and Joyce, and philosophers such as Sartre, Levinas, and Spinoza.
Looking further ahead, July will see the publication of Lacan the Charlatan by Peter D. Mathews. It is another release from the Palgrave Lacan Series. The book’s provocative title comes from comments attributed to Chomsky about Lacan during a 1989 interview, in which he is supposed to have labelled him “an amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan.” Mathews’ book seeks to determine the validity of this accusation by examining the merit of Lacan’s engagements with linguistics, mathematics, science, ethics, and Hegelian dialectics as part of Lacan’s project to re-conceptualise psychoanalysis. (As the original interview is disputed, it is worth noting that Chomsky repeated these comments in a 2012 interview: “Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in a while but quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan, just posturing before the television cameras the way many Paris intellectuals do.”)
Finally in these times of social isolation, if you read French now may be the moment to revisit Jacques-Alain Miller’s 2011 Orientation lacanienne course, L’Un tout seul (The One All Alone). Much of Miller’s Course, representing the teaching he gave at the Department of Psychoanalysis at the University of Paris 8, is available thanks to Jonathan Leroy, on his site here. For English speakers, Lacan’s ‘British Psychiatry and the War’, his 1947 paper on the differences between the British and French responses to a situation of national emergency, might be a very topical alternative.
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