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La suture

Jacques-Alain Miller’s contribution to the first volume of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse was an investigation into the concept of ‘suture’, a term Jacques Lacan had used allusively in several instances in his Seminar XI (1964) without giving it a definition. Debate over the nature of suture, its remit as a concept, and its relation to other concepts would form one of the guiding threads of the Cahiers.

Lacan’s Seminar XI (1964), published as ‘The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis’, was the first to follow his expulsion from the International Psychoanalytic Association and Louis Althusser’s resultant invitation for him to hold his seminar at the École Normale Supérieure. It was at this seminar that Jacques-Alain Miller and the other normaliens comprising the Cercle d’Épistémologie would first be exposed to Lacan’s teaching.

In the second session, Lacan refers to the unconscious as ‘situated at that point where, between cause and that which it affects, there is always something wrong [qui cloche]’ (S11, 22). Before using the Freudian terminology, Lacan had noted that in philosophy ‘the function of cause’ always presents a gap ‘to any conceptual apprehension’ (S11, 21). In other words, recourse to ‘cause’ to explain a given sequence is, for Lacan, no explanation at all. As an example, he cites the common knowledge that the moon ‘causes’ the tides. Here, ‘cause’ indicates a site of non-knowledge. ‘In short, there is only cause in something that doesn’t work’ [‘Bref, il n’y a de cause que de ce qui cloche’] (S11, 22).1

Moreover, ‘cause is to be distinguished from that which is determinate in a chain’ (S11, 22), which means that ‘cause’ is only ever invoked or considered when a smooth functioning according to a ‘law’ is not self-evident. What does this have to do with psychoanalysis? For Lacan, the ‘cause’ itself, which is indeed indistinguishable from a quest to know the cause, is always the marker of a gap that exists between the real and our knowledge of it. This framework applies in the sciences and in philosophy, but also in the rigorously unique and personal framework that is the domain of psychoanalysis. ‘For what the unconscious does is to show us the gap through which neurosis recreates a harmony with a real - a real that may well not be determined’ (S11, 22).

It is important to remark that the word Lacan uses for ‘gap’ is ‘béance’, an archaic term connoting a ‘gaping openness’ or indeed a sore or wound. Lacan continues in this register when he then describes neurosis as a scar. The experience of neurosis is the permanent reminder of ‘the gap so characteristic of cause’, the remnant of an originary wound. Neurosis itself is the ‘scar [...] of the unconscious’ (S11, 22). Lacan is shifting between registers here, a philosophical and psychoanalytical one, in order to make the point that cause, in the sense of ‘reason for’, or indeed raison d’être, when concerning the subject’s own existence is something that can never be known. As such, it is a permanent unknown, a void or gap, and this despite the fact that one’s entrance into analysis is itself spurred by a quest for knowledge, to know and then eliminate the ‘cause’ of one’s neuroses.

With this framework and the surgical metaphor already established with ‘béance’ and ‘scar’ [‘cicatrice’], Lacan positions his project against ego psychology:

In actual fact, this dimension of the unconscious that I am evoking had been forgotten, as Freud had quite clearly foreseen. The unconscious had closed itself up against his message thanks to those active practitioners of orthopaedics that the analysts of the second and third generations became, and who, by psychologising analytic theory, devoted themselves to suturing this gap [à suturer cette béance]. Believe me, I myself only ever re-open it with precaution (S11 23, translation modified).

To stick with Lacan’s metaphor, the ‘suture’ is that which closes over the ‘gap’ thus marking the site for the permanent ‘scar’. In this passage Lacan accomplishes the rhetorical feat of using his surgical metaphor to describe, with the same formulation, a betrayal that has taken place in Freud’s reception history and the constitutive ‘betrayal’ that is foundational for discrete subjects in the suturing over of the inaugural gap qua cause that is their ‘reason’ for existence.

Lacan will use the language of suture in only one other instance in this seminar. Following the lesson titled ‘What is a Picture?’ wherein the relation between the objet petit a and the gaze is further developed, Michel Tort - a contributor to the Cahiers - asks Lacan if he might say more about the relation between the moment of the gesture and the moment of seeing in terms of his earlier arguments about ‘logical time’ (E, 197-213). Lacan responds as follows:

Look, what I marked there was the suture [j’ai marqué là la suture], the pseudo-identification, that is there between what I called the time of the terminal arrest of the gesture and what, in another dialectic that I called the dialectic of identificatory haste, I put as the first time, namely, the moment of seeing. They overlap [Ça se recouvre], but these times are certainly not identical, since one is initial and the other terminal (S11, 117, translation modified).

Lacan continues, and observes how the ‘gaze’, incarnated in the fascinum, possesses an ‘anti-life, anti-movement function.’2 By contrast:

The moment of seeing can intervene here only as a suture, a conjunction of the imaginary and the symbolic, and it is taken up again in a dialectic, that sort of temporal progress that is called haste, thrust, forward movement, which is concluded in the fascinum (S11, 118).

The two usages of ‘suture’ in Lacan’s seminar may appear at first glance unrelated, but the formulation that one finds here - suture defined as ‘conjunction of the imaginary and the symbolic’ - is in fact a helpful conceptualisation, in the terms of Lacan’s tripartite schema of the imaginary, symbolic and the real, of the process described earlier using surgical metaphors. The suture establishes the ‘symbolic’ - i.e., the field of discourse and language - by covering over an essential ‘gap’ or lack (which we can correlate to the ‘real’) in the domain of the ‘imaginary’, that is, the brute pre-symbolic experience of embodied existence. Moreover, in Lacan’s brief comments to Tort cited above something of the motivational element of suturation is expressed in the notion that the ‘conjunction’ of these fields provokes ‘haste, thrust, forward movement’. The conceptual conjunction of these two aspects of ‘suture’ - suture as covering over of an original lack, and suture as establishing the subject in the chain of signification - will constitute Jacques-Alain Miller.’s argument in ‘La Suture: Éléments d’une logique du signifiant’ (CpA 1.3).

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

In ‘La Science et la vérité’ (CpA 1.1, the journal’s inaugural article, and the opening lesson of his Seminar XIII, Lacan says that modern logic is ‘the strictly determined consequence of an attempt to suture the subject of science, and Gödel’s last theorem shows that the attempt fails there, meaning that the subject in question remains the correlate of science, but an antinomic correlate since science turns out to be defined by the deadlocked endeavour to suture the subject’ (CpA 1.1:12; E, 861).

Later, near the conclusion of this piece, Lacan makes a distinction between science and religion with recourse to the operation of suture: ‘Need it be said that in science, as opposed to magic and religion, knowledge is communicated? It must be stressed that this is not merely because it is usually done, but because the logical form given this knowledge includes a mode of communication which sutures the subject it implies’ (CpA 1.1/27-8; E, 877).

Lacan’s usage of ‘suture’ throughout this piece is typically oracular. But it is clear that Lacan understands the concept’to occupy something of a nodal point in two separate relationships: 1) that of psychoanalysis to science per se, and 2) that of psychoanalysis to itself as a ‘science’. Suturation is presented here as an essential component of science, insofar as science takes a ‘logical form’. But at the same time, Lacan wants to argue that the process of suturing itself can never be complete or perfected within science. The ‘endeavour’ will always be ‘deadlocked’, and psychoanalysis can address this. (This is why the paradoxes of modern logic were of such significant value for Lacan). But what of psychoanalysis’s own scientific status? Lacan contrasts it with the ‘mode of communication which sutures the subject it implies. Such is the main problem raised by communication in psychoanalysis. The first obstacle to its scientific value is that the relation to truth as cause, in its material guises, has remained neglected by the circle of its elaborators’ (CpA 1.1:28; E, 877).

If science is defined by the suturation that constitutes its ‘mode of communication’ then psychoanalysis, insofar as it seeks to undo the suture in the manner intimated in Seminar XI, cannot be considered a science itself. Earlier in this piece, Lacan himself cautions against this very conflation:

The object of psychoanalysis [...] is no other than what I have already proposed about the function played in analysis by object a. Is knowledge of object a thus the science of psychoanalysis? This is precisely the equation that must be avoided, since object a must be inserted, as we already know, into the division of the subject by which the psychoanalytic field is quite specifically structured [. ...] This is why it is important to promote firstly, and as a fact to be distinguished from the question of knowing whether psychoanalysis is a science (that is, whether its field is scientific), the fact that its praxis implies no other subject than that of science (CpA 1.1:14-5; E, 863).

The subject of science is the essential precondition for psychoanalysis. And it is at least intimated, if never directly stated, that for Lacan ‘the subject of science’ in question is essentially the modern form of subjectivity as such. Thus, the suturation that one witnesses as constitutive of the logical discourse of modern science is equivalent to the suturation that generates modern subjects as such. As psychoanalysis has as its essential condition this crucial element of ‘science’, it is at once distinct from science and fully dependent upon it for its practice.

In ‘La Suture: Éléments d’une logique du signifiant’ (CpA 1.3), Jacques-Alain Miller develops the implications and consequences of Lacan’s comments on suture through a reading of Gottlob Frege’s Foundations of Arithmetic. Miller’s aim is to formalise the term, to make it a more rigorously defined concept’, by having it denote a fundamental procedure in the constitution of ‘the logic of the signifier’ in which Frege’s logic, and all variants of modern logic, are themselves grounded. Miller reads a ‘suture’ in Frege’s generation of the whole number line via the successor operation, and, in particular, in the inaugural gesture which generates the number 1 (one) from 0 ( zero). In Frege’s framework, zero is the concept attributed to the category ‘that which is non-identical to itself’. By definition, this is a category that has no members. Hence, it merits the name of zero. But as this is a singular category, the naming of it with a unitary concept, i.e. zero, the one name for the category, generates ‘oneness’ and hence the concept of one. The ‘suture’ occurs in the covering over of the originary lack that provides the concept of zero its (lacking) substance. In other words, at the source of the one - with all its connotations of full self-presence - is in fact a lack, or ‘gap’ to use Lacan’s term from Seminar XI.

Miller distinguishes his own argument from phenomenology by affirming that, in this case, the origin of the scientific operation that generates the one is not ‘forgotten’, but actively ‘repressed’. Miller ‘designates’ this repression with ‘the name suture’:

Suture names the relation of the subject to the chain of its discourse; we shall see that it figures there as the element which is lacking, in the form of a placeholder [tenant-lieu]. For, while there lacking, it is not purely and simply absent. Suture, by extension - the general relation of lack to the structure of which it is an element, inasmuch as it implies the position of a taking-the-place-of (CpA 1.3/39).

For Miller, it is absolutely crucial that this ‘suture’ names both a universal and a particular structure: ‘It is important that you realise that the logician, like the linguist, also sutures at his particular level. And, quite as much, anyone who says "I"’ (CpA 1.3/40). Nevertheless, his analysis hews to Frege’s arguments to argue that logical discourse is sutured:

If there are no things which are not identical with themselves, it is because non-identity with itself is contradictory to the very dimension of truth. To its concept, we assign the zero. It is this decisive proposition that the concept of not-identical-with-itself is assigned by the number zero which sutures logical discourse ( 1.3:44).

He then explains what is accomplished in the suture:

That which in the real is pure and simple absence finds itself through the fact of number (through the instance of truth) noted 0 and counted for 1. Which is why we say the object not-identical with itself invoked-rejected by truth, instituted-annulled by discourse (subsumption as such) - in a word, sutured (CpA 1.3:45).

Miller then further develops the consequences of this inaugural ‘suture’:

Just as zero as lack of the contradictory object must be distinguished from that which sutures this absence in the series of numbers, so the 1, as the proper name of a number, is to be distinguished from that which comes to fix in a trait the zero of the not-identical with itself sutured by the identity with itself, which is the law of discourse in the field of truth. The central paradox to be grasped (which as you will see in a moment is the paradox of the signifier in the sense of Lacan) is that the trait of the identical represents the non-identical, whence is deduced the impossibility of its redoubling, and from that impossibility the structure of repetition, as the process of differentiation of the identical (CpA 1.3:46).

Finally, Miller concludes by observing how the logic of suture provides insight into the nature of the subject as such:

By crossing logical discourse at its point of least resistance, that of its suture, you can see articulated the structure of the subject as a ‘flickering in eclipses’, like the movement which opens and closes the number, and delivers up the lack in the form of the 1 in order to abolish it in the successor (CpA 1.3:48).

Miller’s presentation on ‘suture’ will be subjected to critique within the Cahiers by two practicing psychoanalysts, Serge Leclaire and André Green. Leclaire directly addresses Miller’s argument in ‘L’Analyste à sa place?’ (CpA 1.4):

In his enterprise of interrogating the foundations of logic, of the logic he describes as the logic of the logicians [logicienne], and in gathering together from the work of Lacan the elements of a logic of the signifier, Miller himself ends up presenting us with a logical, or rather as he puts it archaeological, discourse, capable of comprehending the discourse that issues from the analyticexperience. But to arrive at such a discourse, it is necessary, if I may say, to have a secure grasp of the point that makes the articulation of a logical discourse possible, that is, the point that Miller presents to us as the weak point [le point faible], and simultaneously the crucial point of every discourse, namely the suturing point [le point de suture] (CpA 1.4:50).

Leclaire is particularly troubled by Miller’s insistence that ‘anyone who says I’ sutures, and, in an implicit invocation of Lacan’s arguments in ‘La Science et la vérité’ wants to make the case for the psychoanalyst as the one who does not suture. The reason the analyst does not suture is precisely because he is not obsessed with establishing the ‘truth’ in the way that the logician, or indeed the neurotic, is.3

For André Green the primary concern raised by Miller’s argument is that of concatenation, i.e., how does the subject persist over a chain of discourse?

What is at stake, for us, in the confrontation with Miller’s reading of Frege is the tie between subject and signifier. The subject identifies with the repetition presiding over each of the operations through which concatenation knots itself, each fragment appropriated by the fragment preceding it and the one following it; at the same time and with the same gesture, the subject sees himself repeatedly ejected outside the scene -and the chain - which thereby constitutes itself. However, although the operation excludes the subject, the act of nullification does not destroy the gain which seems to us to persist, as long as we are able to recognize it in the form of the (a) [objet petit a] (CpA 3.2:23; trans. 173).

For Green, this translates into the crucial question: ‘how can suture take place?’ In effect, Green contends that Miller’s abstract analysis of the body (e.g., the penis, faeces, etc.) allow us to think of suturation as a relation of ‘object’ back to the ‘function of cause’ identified by Lacan.

Additionally, Volume Three contains two texts on Plato’s Sophist that also invoke Miller’s arguments concerning suture. In Xavier Audouard’s ‘Le Simulacre’ (CpA 3.4), it is argued that the Sophist ‘institutes himself like the zero’, thus making the chain of discourse possible (CpA 3.4:71). Jean-Claude Milner’s ‘Le point du signifiant’ (CpA 3.5) further engages with Miller’s ‘logic of the signifier’ in its reading of the Sophist. In Milner’s reading, the phenomenon of suture is tied to that of naming. If the Sophist receives a proper name he will cease to exist as an errant manifestation of non-being in Plato’s discourse. In other words, the proper name functions for Milner like the concept of zero does in Miller’s reading of Frege’s, as the mark of an errant lack or non-being that makes the chain of signification possible.

In Leclaire’s second ‘Compter avec la psychanalyse’ seminar, reproduced in volume 3 of the Cahiers (CpA 3.6), ‘suture’ is again referred back to a clinical setting. Leclaire discusses a patient’s fantasy about suturing his mother’s womb. In the analysis, the analysand tells of a difficult birth, involving a ‘veil’ (voile) over the mother, and the stitching up of her body (which thus bore ‘suturing points’ [points de suture].4

Volume 9, titled ‘Généalogie des sciences’, contains François Regnault’s ‘Dialectique d’épistémologies’ (CpA 9.4) a piece that is usefully considered alongside Audouard (CpA 3.4) and Milner’s (CpA 3.5) contributions in that all three examine the problematic of ‘suture’ in the context of Plato’s philosophy. Regnault attempts to enumerate all the possible relations between science and the discourse of science, i.e., an epistemology, through a reading of the relations between the One and the Multiple, and Being and Non-Being, in Plato’s Parmenides. Regnault broaches the relation between suture and foreclosure, a relation that will be central to Miller’s ‘Action de la structure’ (CpA 9.6) appearing in the same issue.

As Regnault himself notes, his arguments concerning this relation and the status of ‘the lack of a lack’ only acquire their sense in the light of Miller’s arguments in ‘Action of the structure’. Nevertheless, Regnault’s words are reproduced here to remain with the order of presentation within the Cahiers themselves. What Regnault is discussing in this instance is the possibility that there might be a scientific discourse of science itself. In other words, how do we have a discourse about something that is wholly indifferent and impermeable to anything ‘extrinsic’ to itself (a trait Regnault calls ‘the One of scientificity’)?

In Lacanian terms, one might say that scientificity can be defined from the foreclosure of a lack beyond its own field (it constitutes itself in this way); science taken in this sense lacks a lack. Yet this is what is excluded in turn; the One of scientificity is thus here the lack of this lack of the lack, since beyond science taken in [this] sense [...], there is nothing. Rather than excluding to the exterior, science excludes the exterior itself; this foreclosure of foreclosure, according to operations that one should be able to define, comes back to a suture, which consists in the reintroduction into science of an exteriority, which, qua subject, it annuls in its own discourse. But this sutures in a science [...] that which is excluded from it: this reintroduced exterior, though being the suture of a foreclosure all the same, is not the suture of a subject: here it is precisely foreclosure that plays the role of the subject. [...]

Science here is excluded from the discourse that considers it as being the subject of its own discourse, but if one persists in giving it the name of science, and that of epistemology to this discourse [of it], it is in any event the discourse that plays the role of science: it is, like [science], de-sutured, but here, de-sutured precisely from [science] (CpA 9.4:59-60).

Some of the density of Regnault’s formulations is unpacked in Miller’s ‘Action de la structure’ (CpA 9.6), a piece written before ‘La Suture’, but only published in this later issue of the Cahiers. Here ‘suture’ is presented in its relation to the key Lacanian concept’of foreclosure. Miller begins with an assessment of the concept of structure as such:

In order to reconstitute the totality of the structure, we must make these effects correspond with their lateral cause in this permanent space of distortions and general discrepancies [décalages], measure its incidence, and relate it back to lack as to its principle.

And yet lack is never apparent, since what is structured [le structuré] miscognises the action which forms it, presenting instead what appears at first glance to be a form of coherence or homogeneity. We must deduce from this that, in this place where the lack of the cause is produced in the space of its effects, an element interposes itself that accomplishes its suturation (CpA 9.6/96).

But, due to the primacy of lack, this suturation is dominant through the field of subjectivity itself and, consequently, any phenomenon of intersubjectivity: ‘No relationship between a subject and another subject, or between subject and an object, fills the lack, except by an imaginary formation that sutures it, but it finds itself in its interior’ (CpA 9.6:99).

Miller further specifies the nature of this lack, and ultimately gives the name of ‘suture’ to the ‘action of the structure’ itself:

The lack at issue here is not a silent speech that it might suffice to bring to light, it is not some impotence of the word or a ruse of the author, it is silence, the defect [défaut] that organises enunciated speech, it is the hidden place that cannot be illuminated because it is on the basis of its absence that the text was possible, and that discourses were uttered: an Other scene where the eclipsed subject situates itself, from where it speaks, for which it speaks. [...] We will therefore consider the whole of a text as the circling [l’entour] of a lack, principle of the action of the structure, which thus bears the marks of the action that it accomplishes: the suture (CpA 9.6:101-2).

The crux of Miller’s argument comes later, however, when a distinction between scientific and non-scientific discourse is ventured. Miller follows Lacan in recognising a certain ‘closure’ operative in scientific discourse, a ‘closure’ evocative of the concept of foreclosure Lacan used to describe the discourse of the psychotic, that is, a discourse in which the ‘name-of-the-father’ is foreclosed (i.e. not admitted or recognised) and, as a result, the psychotic recognises no Other, or other Scene, in which or through which his discourse is mediated (Cf. S3 ‘The Psychoses’ and E 531-83). But Miller makes a distinction: ‘This closing of scientific discourse should not be confused with the suture of non-scientific discourse, because it actually expels lack [elle met le manque à la porte], reduces its central exteriority, disconnects it from every other Scene’ (CpA 9.6:102). And yet, Miller will maintain, in perhaps the most controversial claim of the Cahiers, that ‘the lack of a lack is also a lack’ (CpA 9.6:102). As result, the ‘foreclosure’ of scientific discourse is, in Miller’s view, still predicated upon an operative and originary lack.

Alain Badiou’s ‘Marque et manque: À propos du zero’ (CpA 10.8) is a direct, critical response to this argument of Miller’s. For Badiou, the ‘foreclosure’ operative in scientific discourse means precisely that science is foreclosed to suture, i.e., that no suture is operative within it. As a result, this means ‘there is no subject of science’, and what is more, science can be distinguished from ideology precisely because of this ‘foreclosure’ to ‘suture’. In the final section of this article, titled ‘The Torment of Philosophy’ Badiou distinguishes his position from Miller as follows:

Must we then repudiate the concept of suture? It is rather a case here of prescribing its function by assignment it its proper domain.

The exception follows from the fact that there exists a signifying order, namely science in such a way that no lack is marked in it that does not refer to another mark in a subjacent order differentiated from the first. Science does not fall under the concept of the logic of the signifier. In truth, it is the fact that it does not fall under it that constitutes it: the epistemological break must be thought under the un-representable auspices of de-suturation.

Accordingly, there is no subject of science. Infinitely stratified, regulating its passages, science is pure space, without inverse or mark or place of what it excludes.

Foreclosure, but of nothing, science may be called the psychosis of no subject, and hence of all: congenitally universal, shared delirium, one has only to maintain oneself within it in order to be no-one, anonymously dispersed in the hierarchy of orders.

Science is the Outside without a blind-spot.

Conversely, the signifying structure defined by suturation can be designated in its specificity (as that which places lack), primarily as non-science. Thus the concept of suture is not a concept of the signifier in general, but rather the characteristic property of the signifying order wherein the subject comes to be barred - namely, ideology. [...]

To deploy the concept of suture in the very place where it is inadequate (mathematics), and to conclude that this concept enjoys a universal legitimacy over discourses by exploiting scientists’ conflation of their own activity (science) with its (ideological) re-presentation, is to reflect science in ideology: it is to de-stratify it by prescribing it its lack. (CpA 10.8:161-2).

The conflict between Miller and Badiou over the proper relation between ‘suture’ and ‘foreclosure’, and thereby the relation between science and ideology, would not be resolved within the Cahiers pour l’Analyse. Indeed, these two ‘relations’ turn on the problematic of the ‘subject’ as such, and the Miller/Badiou differend on this score has arguably produced the most fecund line of inquiry in the legacy of the Cahiers.


  • Badiou, Alain. Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham. London: Continuum, 2005.
  • ---. The Concept of Model: An Introduction to the Materialist Epistemology of Mathematics, ed. Zachary Luke Fraser and Tzuchien Tho. Melbourne:, 2007.
  • ---. Number and Numbers [1990], trans. Robin Mackay. London: Polity, 2008. Chapter 3: ‘Additional Note on a Contemporary Usage of Frege’.
  • ---. Theory of the Subject, trans. Bruno Bosteels. London: Continuum, 2009.
  • Frege, Gottlob, Foundations of Arithmetic [1884], trans. J.L. Austin. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980.
  • Heath, Stephen. ‘Notes on Suture’, Screen, 18.4 (Winter 1977-78), pp. 48-76.
  • Lacan, Jacques. Écrits (1966), trans. Bruce Fink, in collaboration with Héloïse Fink and Russell Grigg. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.
  • ---. Seminar III: The Psychoses, trans. Russell Grigg. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
  • ---. Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1964), trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Penguin, 1977.
  • ---. Seminar XII: Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis (1964-1965), trans. Cormac Gallagher, unpublished manuscript.
  • Miller, Jacques-Alain. Un Début dans la vie. Paris: Gallimard, 2002.
  • Oudart, Jean-Pierre. ‘Cinema and Suture’, trans. Kari Hanet. Screen 18.4 (Winter 1977-78). 35-47.
  • Russell, Bertrand. The Principles of Mathematics [1903] (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 184-187 [on zero].
  • Sarup, Madan. ‘The Meaning of Suture’. In Sarup, Jacques Lacan. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. 154-158.
  • Zizek, Slavoj ‘Back To The Suture’. In The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kie?lowski Between Theory and Post-Theory. London: BFI Publishing, 2001. Chapter 2.


1. Lacan’s concern here is not prosaic usage. It is clearly not ‘wrong’ to say that the moon causes the tides, and scientists can certainly show how the effects of gravity and planetary rotation contribute to the tide patterns. Lacan’s point is simply to show that the invocation of ‘cause’ always indicates a problem, that is, something which is either not yet ‘known’ or perhaps is merely ‘taken for granted’. It is worth remarking, however, that even something like ‘gravity’ is not unrelated to Lacan’s concept of ‘cause’ here, insofar as it is a placeholder concept that denotes an inexplicable function that can nonetheless by mathematised and scientifically explained. Cf. Isaac Newton’s claim that the study of ‘attraction’ or gravity is purely mathematical, and proceeds in deliberate ignorance of its physical mechanism (Newton, Principia, definition viii).

2. In Ancient Rome, the fascinum was a phallus-shaped amulet worn around the necks (often of children), to ward off the evil eye or to bring fertility. Some variation of the fascinum remained in use in various witchcraft practices geared toward increasing fertility throughout the Middle Ages in Europe

3. In his reply to Leclaire in the 21st session of Lacan’s Seminar XII (a text which remains unpublished), Miller clarifies that suture in the field of psychoanalysis refers to: ‘A structure which puts in place a scene, a chain where the subject is produced in the first person, which is the chain or the scene of his speech in its relationship to the other scene, to the other chain where there is not, for the subject, any conceivable reflection, in that he is only an element of it. I would say that a sutured discourse is distributed between an apparent chain and a dissimulated chain which manifests itself as a point, a point whose crucial occultation, which is at once apathetic and thematic, is the condition for the opening of discourse (Gallagher, 5)’. Miller then intimates the argument concerning structuralcausality to be found in ‘Action de la structure’ (CpA 9.6): ‘In this, which is formal for what is involved in the structure of the suture, what I wanted to articulate about a theory of discourse opens the possibility of a generalisation outside the field of analysis of the cause that is unconscious or absent’ (Gallagher, 5).

4. In his assessment of this fantasy, Leclaire identifies a persistent fantasy of reparation, involving the fantasmatic representation of a valve, rooted in the oral drive. He offers that ‘the themes of punctuation, scansion [scansion], and closure [clôture] emerge as an effect of this obturating valve’ (CpA 3.6:84). Reconstructing the patient’s story, Leclaire found that it was Claude, not the mother, who shortly after his birth had to submit to a reparatory surgical intervention, from which he emerged with a slight malformation of the soft palate [voile du palais] that made sucking difficult. Leclaire suggests that in this atypical case, the surgical repair in the mode of a suture constitutes a model of a primary pulsional satisfaction, insofar as the subject’s oral drive was literally subject to a twisting and reformation (taking the patient to the edge of a psychotic structure). Claude’s demands for scansion, punctuation and closure in the analytic session stemmed from the uncertain nature of the process of repression to which he submitted in the course of the development of his drives.