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Serge Leclaire (1924–1994)

One of the first disciples of Jacques Lacan, Serge Leclaire was a prominent French psychoanalyst who played a special role in the production of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse by allowing his seminar to be published there and providing a critical perspective on the exploration of psychoanalysis underway in the journal. Born in Strasbourg with the surname ‘Liebschutz’ to an agnostic Jewish family, his father obtained false papers with the name ‘Leclaire’ during the Second World War. During his studies of psychiatry, Leclaire met a Hindu monk who introduced him to the writings of the psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto. Shortly thereafter Leclaire entered into analysis with Lacan at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. Leclaire was Lacan’s close ally through the many ruptures within the French psychoanalytic movement, and would eventually serve as the founder of the Department of Psychoanalysis at the experimental University of Paris-VIII at Vincennes in 1969.

Leclaire’s contributions to Lacanian psycho analysis and the inscriptive role of the signifier on the body. Within the Cahiers, his pieces caution against a wholesale appropriation of psychoanalytic discourse that obscures the unique relation between analyst and analysand. Moreover, while making use of Jacques-Alain Miller and Jean-Claude Milner’s contributions to Lacanian theory, Leclaire argues that what is lost in their analyses is a sense of what makes some signifiers more prominent than others, i.e., what distinguishes ones that pertain to the discourse of the unconscious from those that do not. In an extensive reading of the ‘Wolf Man’ case in volume five, Leclaire warns against ‘the error of making the signifier no more than a letter open to all meanings,’ and argues that ‘a signifier can be named as such only to the extent that the letter that constitutes one of its slopes necessarily refers back to a movement of the body. It is this elective anchoring of a letter (gramma) in a movement of the body that constitutes the unconscious element, the signifier properly speaking’. This emphasis on the inscriptive role of signifiers is also evident in Leclaire’s books Psychanalyser (1968) and On tue un enfant (1975), the former of which played a key role in communicating the novelty of the Lacanian intervention in psychoanalysis to a wider audience. His contribution to the Cahiers pour l’Analyse was decisive not only because it granted the imprimatur of a practicing analyst, but also because it actively explored the relation of psychoanalysis to other discursive frameworks and practices central to the journal’s concerns without losing sight of the specificity of clinical practice.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Serge Leclaire, ‘L’analyste à sa place?’, CpA 1.4 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN] [TRANS]
Serge Leclaire, ‘Compter avec la psychanalyse (Séminaire de l’ENS, 1965-1966)’, CpA 1.5 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Serge Leclaire, ‘Note sur l’objet de la psychanalyse’, CpA 2.5 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Serge Leclaire, ‘Compter avec la psychanalyse (Séminaire de l’ENS, 1965-66)’, CpA 3.6 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Serge Leclaire, ‘Les éléments en jeu dans une psychanalyse (à propos de l’Homme aux loups)’, CpA 5.1 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Serge Leclaire, ‘Compter avec la psychanalyse (Séminaire de l’ENS, 1966-67)’, CpA 8.6 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Psychanalyser. Paris: Seuil, 1968. Psychoanalyzing: On the Order of the Unconscious and the Practice of the Letter, trans. Peggy Kamuf. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
  • Démasquer le réel. Paris: Seuil, 1971.
  • On tue un enfant, Paris: Seuil,1975. A Child is Being Killed: On Primary Narcissim and the Death Drive, trans. Marie-Claude Hays. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
  • Rompre les charmes. Paris: Inter Éditions, 1981.
  • Le Pays de l’autre. Paris: Seuil, 1991.
  • État des lieux de la psychanalyse. Paris: Albin Michel, 1991.>
  • Demeures de l’ailleurs: 1954-1993. Paris: Arcanes, 1996.
  • Ecrits pour la psychanalyse, Paris: Seuil, 1996.
  • Principes d’une psychothérapie des psychoses. Paris: Fayard, 1999.
  • Œdipe à Vincennes. Paris: Fayard, 1999.