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Synopsis of Serge Leclaire, ‘Compter avec la Psychanalyse. Séminaire de l’École Normale Supérieure 1965-1966’, I

[‘Reckoning with Psychoanalysis. Seminar at the École Normale Supérieure 1965-1966’, I]

CpA 1.5:55–70

‘Compter avec la psychanalyse’ (which translates as ‘Reckoning with Psychoanalysis’, rather than ‘Counting with Psychoanalysis’) is the title given by Serge Leclaire to the publication in the Cahiers pour l’Analyse of eleven seminars held at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (rue d’Ulm site) between November 1965 and March 1967. The seminars are spread over three volumes, CpA 1.5, 3.6 and 8.6. They were led by Serge Leclaire and ran concurrently with Jacques Lacan’s Seminars XII (Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis) and XIII (The Object of Psychoanalysis), also held at the Ecole Normale Supérieure at rue d’Ulm). The main texts are largely by Leclaire himself, but the question periods contain interventions from Jacques-Alain Miller, Jean-Claude Milner, Alain Grosrichard, Jacques Nassif, and others.

A brief opening text by Leclaire indicates that the concerns of his seminar are located between the practice and theory of psychoanalysis, with each side informing the other (CpA 1.5:55). The seminar opens with a remark by Jean-Claude Milner that Leclaire’s avowed aim to take clinical experience, rather than classic Freudian texts, as his point of departure, is itself perfectly in line with the most advanced Lacanian theory. In his own way, Leclaire too is presenting an epistemological enquiry, but one specifically targeted at the register of discourse in the analytic session (55).

This first instalment of Leclaire’s seminar is made up of three sessions.

Session 1: ‘Speaking with Psychoanalysis’ [Parler avec la psychanalyse].

17 November 1965. From notes taken by Alain Grosrichard.

In the first session Leclaire returns to the critique of the use of the notion of meaning or sense [sens] in psychoanalysis, first presented in his influential 1960 paper (co-authored with Jean Laplanche) ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’.1 According to Leclaire, the analyst does not obey a logic of meaning [logique du sens] (57), but in listening for the unconscious must rather follow the formal paths opened up by the signifier. ‘The true “unconscious meaning”’, says Leclaire, ‘reveals itself through word-sequences of the type l’essence du nombre - les senses d’une ombre, in which phonic similarity conceals two different signifying chain, both of which can be exploited by the primary processes of the unconscious. Since the unconscious works through the gaps or lacunae in the patient’s speech, the analyst is obliged to give priority to the letter of the patient’s utterances, rather than a supposed hidden meaning.’ Leclaire cites Freud’s example, as given in the opening chapter of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, ‘The Forgetting of Proper Names’, of a momentary forgetting of the name ‘Signorelli’ during a conversation on a train. Freud analyses how repressed thoughts about death and sexuality arising during the course of his conversation had managed to pull the name ‘Signorelli’, which was in the process of forming signifying chains with these repressed thoughts, into the unconscious (SE 6: 1-7).

Leclaire outlines the three ‘phases’ [temps] encountered in the course of an analysis.

First, the analyst must sidestep [ésquiver] the initial appearances of meaning or sense) presented by the analysand’s speech (56). The analyst must start by giving equal weight to each element in the chain of significations produced by the analysand. Unlike the medical doctor, the psychoanalyst postpones the diagnosis of an illness for as long as possible.

In the second phase of an analysis, the analyst must reckon with the ‘evanescence’ of the manifestations of the unconscious, and create the conditions for instants in which the unconscious is ‘unveiled’. Leclaire cites Freud’s experience with the forgetting of Signorelli: ‘when I learnt the correct name from someone else, I recognised it at once and without hesitation’ (SE 6: 2; CpA 1.5:57.

The third phase involves the encounter with the essential obstacle [la butée], the ‘rock’ around which the analysand’s neurosis is structured, and which ‘allows the analyst to fix his movement of unveiling, and to found his choice’ (58). The danger in this phase is that the sticking-point alighted upon has arisen out of a fantasmatic projection of the analyst. But, alluding to Freud’s late piece ‘Analysis Terminable and Interminable’, Leclaire stipulates that what can nevertheless always ‘hold the place’ [tenir lieu] of la butée are references to the phallus and castration.2

In the concluding discussion, Jacques-Alain Miller asks Leclaire whether he thinks that the efficacy of analytic intervention rests on a truth that is already operative, or whether the efficacy of truth is inseparable from the theoretical knowledge [connaissance] of the phenomena. Miller mentions that this is a problem for political practice, because it can all too readily occur that ‘a practice can have efficacy while completely misrecognising the cause’ (58). Therefore, he says, in order to hold a rigorous discourse on analytic practice, one must integrate the concepts of truth, knowledge and action.

Alain Grosrichard questions whether the problem of a specific phase or time for the encounter with ‘the’ obstacle [la butée] is well posed. Taking up Miller’s question, he asks whether this time might not be assimilated to the ‘efficacy of truth’. It is possible to misrecognise truth, just as it is possible for perfectly correct interpretations to be inefficacious in treating the patient (59).

Jean Mathiot takes up Leclaire’s suggestion that la butée might be a fantasy of theory. Would Leclaire agree that the attempt to ‘close’ psychoanalytic theory and practice by referring back to biological and real historical references (such as the primal scene) would itself be ‘fantasmatic’ if it aimed at producing a theoretical and scientific system. He also asks if psychoanalytic therapy can be efficacious apart from its relation to truth (59).

Paulin Houtondji asks what allows Leclaire to talk of the unconscious as another text, rather than being ‘another side’ of the same text.3

No responses from Leclaire are supplied.

Session 2: ‘Fantasy and Theory’ [Fantasme et Théorie].

1 December 1965. From notes taken by François Baudry.

Leclaire begins by citing Freud’s remark in ‘The Unconscious’, that fantasies have a mixed nature. ‘On the one hand, they are highly organized, free from self-contradiction, have made use of every acquisition of the system Cs […] On the other hand, they are unconscious and are incapable of becoming conscious. Thus, qualitatively they belong to the system Pcs., but factually to the Ucs. Their origin is what decides their fate’ (SE 14: 190-1). Leclaire reflects on suggestions about the common structure of fantasies put forward by Melanie Klein and her school.4 This approach has its advantages. Whether we are talking about the most ‘diurnal’ or the most ‘nocturnal’ degrees of fantasy, fantasy retains the same structure, and appeals to the same scenarios. Leclaire suggests that in diurnal fantasy, ‘the subject lives their reverie in the first person’; while in dreams, at the other pole, there is no ‘subjectivation’, and the subject becomes part of the scene (CpA 1.5:60). Referring to Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis’s recently published paper ‘Fantasme originaire, fantasme des origins, origine du fantasme’ [English title: ‘Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality’], Leclaire suggests that a certain ‘unity of content’ can be extrapolated from fantasies, beyond their structural unity. Laplanche and Leclaire had noted that

In their content [and] in their theme (primal scene, castration, seduction …), the original fantasies also indicate this postulate of retroactivity: they relate to origins. Like myths, they claim to provide a representation of, and a solution to, the major enigmas which confront the child. Whatever appears to the subject as something as needing an explanation or theory, is dramatized as a moment of emergence, the beginning of a history.

Fantasies of origins: the primal scene pictures the origin of the individual; fantasies of seduction, the origin and upsurge of sexuality; fantasies of castration, the origin of the difference between the sexes. Their themes display, with redoubled significance, that original fantasies justify their status of being already there.5

Taking up Laplanche and Pontalis’s thesis, Leclaire suggests that there is a unity of content to fantasies insofar as they all concern the emergence of desire in fantasies of origins. This, moreover, is why fantasies always implicitly involve appeals to ‘theory’.6

In a discussion of clinical approaches to fantasy, Leclaire says that ‘two references are essential for the determination of the structure of the fantasy’ (CpA 1.5:61). On the one hand, fantasies are tied to an emotion that is corporeally localized. He gives examples: anal excitation, oral or dental excitations, or ‘sensations of threshold or passage [émoi de seuil, de passage]’. On the other hand, they are attached to signifiers; and more particularly to ‘signifiers as such’, that is, signifiers detached from their relation to the signified. This is how one should understand Freud’s suggestion that fantasies are ‘made up from things that are heard, and made use of subsequently’ (SE 1: 248).7 Leclaire gives examples of how certain signifiers used by the mother (proper names and pet names) can become detached from their common significance for the child and become sites for unconscious signifying chains.

Continuing to follow the theses of Laplanche and Pontalis, Leclaire suggests that there are only a few fundamental forms of fantasy (fantasies of seduction, of the primal scene, and of castration). Leclaire ventures that nevertheless in each case, the particularity of the fantasy can only be found by referring to the ‘singular mode of anchoring in the body (the distinct emotion) and the chain that attaches it to one or several privileged signifiers’ (61). One of Leclaire’s themes since the 1960 article on ‘The Unconscious’, developed in his Cahiers essays and then in his 1968 book Psychoanalysing, is the important role of small, fragmented chains of ‘key signifiers’ in the constitution of the repressed unconscious. In the 1960 article, Laplanche and Pontalis had developed Lacan’s theory of the ‘quilting point’ [point de capiton], by virtue of which ‘the chain of signifiers comes to be fixed onto the signified’.8 The text of the unconscious, they had suggested, was composed of ‘switch words’, in which chains of associations were rooted, and from which the derived chains radiated. The way to perform ‘a rigorously “literal” reading’ of a text, said Leclaire in one section of the article, was to observe that the analysand’s chains of association ‘unfold roughly along two paths; on the one hand, the purely literal level of the “signifier” (for example [in his analysis of the Dream of the Unicorn], the disentangling of Anne and Lili from Liliane) and, on the other hand, the level of meaning [sens] or “significance” [signifiance]’ (relating to the signifieds).9 Leclaire suggests that ‘the chains of associations and the dream’s manifest text coincide […] in a few “switch-words” that are precious for our investigation: it is these terms that must be considered as the constitutive elements of the unconscious text’. Leclaire gives examples of these key clusters of signifiers in the present text, as well as in CpA 2.5 and 5.1). Leclaire’s Psychoanalysing contains the fullest elaboration of his theory of names, which he claims can be related to ‘the body, conceived of as a set of letters, of erotogenic zones’.10

Next Leclaire turns to the question of the ‘structure and function of the fantasy’ (CpA 1.5:62). Fantasy has a binary structure. Minimally, it is composed of two terms, X and Y, that are related to each other in a ‘scansion’ (an action, such as to see, to touch, to hit). Fantasies present scenarios of the type ‘A child is being beaten’ [on bat un enfant] (the name of Freud’s 1919 paper on fantasy (cf. CpA 7.4), or ‘we are about to find it’ (Leclaire’s example). ‘The two terms, X and Y, whatever their position of substitution or permutation, constantly fulfil the roles of subject and object’ (62). Fantasies offer permanent places for subjects and objects.

Leclaire notes that this ‘permanence’ of the subject of the fantasy has a privileged relation to the ‘evanescence of the subject of the unconscious’. For the fantasising subject, the fantasy fills a gap or occupies a ‘hole’ [trou] left by the unconscious, which partly accounts for the ‘framing’ or ‘window’-like feature of the fantasy (62). The fantasy can manifest itself as a ‘threshold’ [seuil] (the window in Freud’s case of the ‘Wolf-Man’), or as the surface of a mirror (as in Alice in Wonderland); it can also appear as ‘another world’ in itself (Carroll’s Wonderland, or the ‘microcosms’ in Goethe’s New Melusine). The perspectives afforded by fantasy take place within an asymmetrical topology. ‘Interiors’ can have a luring relation that lead into further interiors. Relations to objects in fantasy unfold within these fixed and permanent spaces. ‘In sum, it can be said that the fantasy ensures the permanent representation of the evanescent relation of a subject to an object’ (63). Leclaire notes that fantasy also supports the spaces in which theorising takes place, and in which general subject-object relations unfold.

Leclaire then conducts an analysis of Freud’s dream of the botanical monograph in the Interpretation of Dreams (SE 4: 169-70. Leclaire relates Freud’s dream of ‘tearing open’ the book to his fantasies about his role as the discoverer of psychoanalysis. Leclaire notes that in Freud’s fantasies one also finds the double structure of references to the body (e.g. urethral and oral eroticism) and to the signifier (in associations upon the name ‘Sigi’, a diminutive for Sigmund, such as Sieg [victory]).11

In the discussion, Jean-Claude Milner asks whether the reference of the fantasy to the body proposed by Leclaire assumes a particular ‘model’ of the body, as the set of places [ensemble des lieux] where fantasy produces its singular sensations. He suggests that it appears that ‘the body of the fantasy is made of expanses [plages] and barriers (for instance, the teeth in opposition to the lips’, while other features, such as its holes and rings, suggest a relation between interior and exterior that unites the space of fantasy with that of the drive (65). So if there is a distinctive model of the fantasmatic body to be constructed, is it different to that provided by the theory of the drives? Would it be possible to derive the one from the other? Leclaire agrees that this might be possible, but that the question of the surface as limit, and of the limit of the surface, in the case of orificial thresholds, will be treated in the next session.

Session 3: From the Body to the Letter [Du corps à la lettre]

15 December 1965. From notes taken by Jean Mathiot.

Leclaire with some general remarks about the relation of bodies in erotic activity, comparing the ‘grasping’ of the body to the ‘grasping’ involved in the concept [Begriff]. Both cases, he says, involve an attempt to ‘seize an absence’ (66). The body absents itself all the more in the attempt to grasp it with concepts. Hence the importance of the fantasy, in which the analyst finds attempts to fill up this ‘gap’ [trou]. Psychoanalysis in any case gives the lie to the idea that the body is ‘antinomical’ to discourse, since it emerged out of the analysis of the ‘speaking body’ [corps parlant] presented by hysterics.12

Leclaire then turns to the question of ‘how the body appears’ according to psychoanalysis. He says the status of the body is marked from the beginning by ‘separation’ (through birth), and sexual ‘differentiation’ (67). He discusses two modes of relation to the body in neurosis. The hysteric feels themselves to be born too early; he or she is too certain of his/her separation. The hysteric has undergone the experience of becoming onetoo early, of being a separated entity that has fallen out or been rejected too early, so she attempts to master separation by recreating it over and over again. The obsessional, on the other hand, is uncertain about his separation. As the precocious partner of his mother, he has invested the sign of his differentiation, the phallus, too early. In his protected world, he is the phallus. He cannot differentiate himself as a living being, because he takes himself for the phallus, the guarantee of difference.

Linking the body to the asymmetrical internal:external topology of surfaces alluded to earlier in relation to fantasy, Leclaire states that body and skin are surfaces in different ways for the hysteric and the obsessional. For the former, the body is a ‘limit’, while for the obsessional, it is ‘resistance’ (67). Rather than being said to be ‘one’, the bodily surface should be said to be ‘non-dual’ [non-deux]. Composed of erogenous zones, the body surface is ‘the elusive site of differentiation’ (68). He then makes a very compacted allusion to a specific text by Freud:

The sensible has a double face: the experience of a difference between a same and not-same [pareil et pas pareil], for all the senses, and for the entire surface (not only for the edges and holes, the privileged places). It is in the sensible body, as a non-dual surface, that one effectively finds the root of all possible differentiation, and the model of all discrimination, including logic (68).

Leclaire will return to this distinction between the pareil and pas pareil in CpA 2.5:129, 134, 3.6:87, and 5.1:17. As he makes clear in his response in the question period to François Baudry’s question about the sources of his conception of difference (70), his conception here is determined by a key passage in Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920):

The present development of human beings requires, as it seems to me, no different explanation from that of animals. What appears in a minority of human individuals as an untiring impulsion towards further perfection can easily be understood as a result of the repression of the drives on which all that is most precious in human civilization is based. The repressed drive never ceases to strive for complete satisfaction, which would consist in the repetition of a primary experience of satisfaction. No substitutive or reactive formations and no sublimations will suffice to remove the repressed drive’s persisting tension; and it is the difference in amount between the pleasure of satisfaction which is demanded and that which is actually achieved that provides the driving factor that will permit of no halting at any position attained, but, in the poet’s words, ‘presses ever forward unsubdued’.13 The backward path that leads to complete satisfaction is as a rule obstructed by the resistances which maintain the repressions (Freud, SE 18: 42).

For Leclaire, then, the ‘irreducible difference’ (CpA 1.5:70) between two ‘pareils’ refers to ‘the difference in amount’ between pleasure demanded and pleasure actually achieved. In the articles to follow, he will attempt to integrate this conception with a theory of the drives. Here, he connects it to the theory of unconscious concepts he discussed in Freud’s case of the ‘Wolf Man’ in CpA 1.4:51. Difference can only appear on the infantile body-surface once a ‘little piece’ of the surface has been separated: the body can then affect itself, or affect or be affected by another body. The chain created by the unconscious concept, the concept of the ‘small piece’ detached from the body, as Freud says, ‘in order to gain the favour of some other person whom he loves’ (SE 17: 131) is the libidinal condition for the emergence of the signifier. Leclaire goes on to elaborate that ‘this wandering piece that can be separated, by figuring the place of separation, transgresses, in the literal sense of the term, the surface’s function of limit. And as a limit itself, it marks difference, thus transcending the effaceable trace of the sensible: the pain of the wound becomes an ineradicable mark’ (CpA 1.5:68). This initial transgression, he says, is rediscovered in orgasm and in sadistic ‘jouissance’. It is, says Leclaire, ‘the void or hole around which fantasy turns’.

Referring implicitly to the argument of Miller’s ‘Suture’, Leclaire concludes that what must be done is to relate the concept of the signifier more securely to the events on the bodily surface:

It is necessary to grasp the fundamental relations of the signifier with this indelible mark that is the detachment installing the cut [coupure] within the non-dual, and which makes emerge the radical transgression that institutes the zero of lack. There alone does the zero of lack appear as zero and not only as lack. There the signifier ‘incarnates’ itself, insofar as the cut makes the zero of lack and the polarising one of the trait emerge (68).

In the ensuing parts of the ‘Compter avec la psychanalyse’ seminar, Leclaire will continue to attempt to refer Miller’s account of suture back to the process of the erotogenetic construction of the body, as well as to Lacan’s own discussion of the unary trait). For Leclaire, the signifier is anchored in early events affecting the erogenous body. Targeting Miller’s aims for a general theory of discourse, Leclaire concludes that ‘no theory of discourse is possible without having assured a correct position for the body’, and moreover for its peculiar transgressive relation to the order of discourse.

A question and answer session follows. Alain Grosrichard queries whether it is possible to go ‘from the body to the letter’. Is not the body already in the letter? ‘If that is not the case, then how and why is it the phallus, or rather the penis, that is privileged as the little detached body, the origin of the Signifier’? (69) Leclaire replies that the path he has taken, from body to letter, does indeed ‘transgress the rule of a certain use of speech’, and that this would be how he deals with Grosrichard’s first objection. Moreover, ‘how else is one to mark the order of pleasure in that of discourse?’ (70).

Michel Tort asks what the relation is between transgression and the problem posed by Freud of the relation between the interior and exterior (69). Leclaire responds that one in Freudian topography, it is the ‘barrier of repression’ that would need to be considered (70).

Catherine Backès inquires into the relation between the proper name and the body (69). Leclaire responds that ‘the proper name constitutes a privileged form of that which, in the letter, marks and supports the body’ (70)

Jacques Nassif inquires into Leclaire’s view on the relation between atemporality of the body and the ‘constancy’ of the drives Freud discusses in ‘Drives and their Vicissitudes’. Leclaire responds that the force of the drives ‘no doubt has a direct relation with the constancy of the limiting function’. Nassif has two other questions: ‘Does the body become a signifier before the emergence of difference?’ and ‘Is it possible to talk, as Freud does, of the body as the “source” of the drive’ (69). To the first Leclaire replies indirectly, stating ‘that it is absolutely possible to maintain that the body is the source of the drives’. To the second, he responds that he can talk of the body in this way because ‘the body is a signifier. The question of the before or after has to go via the [question of] the body as limit’ (70).

Before inquiring into the meaning of Leclaire’s conception of difference (mentioned earlier), François Baudry asks him what the relation is between ‘the question of paternity and the question of truth’, and whether his conception of difference ‘gives the conditions of possibility of the sign in general’ (70). Leclaire only responds to the first question, saying that ‘a disturbed position in the region of castration (the situation of the relation with the father) necessarily disturbs the relations of the subject with the field of truth’, and that these disturbances could in principle be defined for each type of neurosis.

References to this text in other articles in the Cahiers pour l’Analyse:

  • ‘Compter avec la Psychanalyse. Séminaire de l’École Normale Supérieure 1965-1966’, II. CpA 3.6:92.
  • Jean Nassif, ‘Le fantasme dans “On bat un enfant”’. CpA 7.4:73.

English translation:

  • None.

Primary bibliography:

  • Freud, Sigmund. ‘Draft L’ [1897]. In Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey et al. London: Hogarth Press, 1953-1974. Vol. 1. [Hereafter ‘SE’ followed by volume number].
  • ---. The Interpretation of Dreams [1900], SE 4-5.
  • ---. ‘The Forgetting of Proper Names’ [1901], in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, SE 6.
  • ---. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality [1905], SE 7.
  • ---. ‘The Sexual Theories of Children’ [1908], SE 9.
  • ---. ‘The Unconscious’ [1915], SE 14.
  • ---. ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’ (‘The Wolf Man’) [1918], SE 17.
  • ---. Beyond the Pleasure Principle [1920], SE 18.
  • ---. ‘Analysis Terminable and Interminable’ [1937], SE 23.
  • Isaacs, Susan. ‘The Nature and Function of Phantasy’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 29:2 (1948).
  • Klein, Melanie. Narrative of a Child Analysis. London: Hogarth, 1960.
  • Laplanche, Jean and Serge Leclaire. ‘L’Inconscient: Une étude psychanalytique’. Les temps modernes, 1961. ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’, trans. Patrick Coleman. Yale French Studies 48 (1972), The French Freud, ed. Jeffrey Mehlman.
  • Laplanche, Jean, and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis. ‘Fantasme originaire, fantasme des origines, origine du fantasme’, Les Temps modernes 215 (April 1964). Trans. in International Journal of Psychoanalysis (IJPA) 49:1 (1968). Reprinted in Formations of Fantasy, ed. Victor Burgin, James Donald & Cara Kaplan. London: Methuen, 1986

Selected secondary literature:

  • Lacan, Jacques. Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis [1965-66], trans. Cormac Gallagher, unpublished manuscript.
  • Laplanche, Jean and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse. Paris: PUF, 1967. The Language of Psychoanalysis, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. London: Hogarth Press, 1973.
  • Leclaire, Serge. ‘Note sur l’objet de la psychanalyse’. CpA 2.5.
  • ---.. ‘Compter avec la Psychanalyse. Séminaire de l’École Normale Supérieure. 1965-1966’, II. CpA 3.6.
  • ---.. ‘Compter avec la Psychanalyse. Séminaire de l’École Normale Supérieure 1966-1967’, III. CpA 8.6..
  • ---.Psychanalyser. Paris: Seuil, 1969. Psychoanalyzing, trans. Peggy Kamuf. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.


1. In his Critique of the Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1928), Politzer criticises Freud’s account of the unconscious for its abstraction (and subordination of the perspective of the first person), and for its realism. For Politzer, the latent sense or meaning of the unconscious is ‘immanent’ in manifest, conscious symptoms, in the same way as a play is related to its theme ‘without our having to assume that this theme is already written-in somewhere’ (cited in Laplanche and Leclaire, ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’, 121). Just as ‘the rules of tennis are present in a match in implicit fashion’, the unconscious is composed of implicit meanings that explain the play of symptoms. In their article, Laplanche and Leclaire reject Politzer’s conception of ‘the immanence of a hypothetical intention to a sign’ from a Lacanian structuralist perspective. Politzer assumes that the manifest sign expresses only a single meaning, or that a manifest ‘letter’ expresses a latent meaning. In that case, Laplanche and Leclaire argue, a dream of one’s mother would either be directly correlated to an unconscious desire to sleep with one’s mother (which, they say, would make one a psychotic), or, alternatively, would be a completely new sign, entirely replacing another meaning (Laplanche and Leclaire, ‘The Unconscious’, 121-22). Either way, the notion of the unconscious disappears. Laplanche and Leclaire argue for a new realism of the unconscious, based on the retention of Freud’s topographical distinction of levels between unconscious and conscious systems. They contest that Politzer’s approach implies an ‘attitude of simultaneous translation’, rather than the ‘attitude of attention to lacunary phenomena’ that is appropriate to psychoanalysis. That is, it is the presence of ‘lacunary’ phenomena that indicate the working of the unconscious. Recalling Freud’s opening statement in the 1915 paper ‘The Unconscious’, that the hypothesis of the unconscious ‘is necessary because the data of consciousness have a very large number of gaps in them’ (SE 14: 166). It is only by attending to the ‘lacunary’ [Fr. lacunaire, Ger. lückenhaft] phenomena that the analyst can ‘re-establish a coherent sequence’ through the interpolation of inferred unconscious acts (Laplanche and Leclaire, ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’, 125-26). ‘The unconscious is not coextensive to the manifest as its meaning: it must be interpolated in the lacunae of the manifest text’ (ibid, 126). ‘It is clear that in order to interpret the manifest text, we must first of all perform a rigorously “literal” reading’ (ibid, 149).

2. ‘At no other point in one’s analytic work does one suffer more from the oppressive feeling that all one’s repeated efforts have been in vain, and from a suspicion that one has been “preaching to the winds”, than when one is trying to persuade a woman to abandon her wish for a penis on the ground of its being unrealizable, or when one is seeking to convince a man that a passive attitude to men does not always signify castration and that it is indispensable in many relationships in life […] We often have the impression that with the wish for a penis and the masculine protest we have penetrated through all the psychological strata and have reached bedrock, and that thus our activities are at an end’ (SE 23: 252).

3. In ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’, Laplanche and Leclaire argue that the unconscious does not contain ‘more comprehensive meanings’ that allow the gaps in consciousness to be filled, and ‘attached to the rest of the text’. The unconscious is rather ‘a second structure in which these lacunary phenomena find their unity independently of the rest of the text’ (Laplanche and Leclaire, ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’, 131).

4. In ‘Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality’, Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis had noted that ‘analysts such as Melanie Klein […] are, more than others, careful to distinguish between the contingent imagery of daydreams and the structural function and permanence of what they call “unconscious fantasies”’. Klein’s theory of fantasy was developed most famously in Susan Isaacs’ 1948 essay ‘The Nature and Function of Phantasy’.

5. Laplanche and Pontalis, ‘Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality’, 19.

6. Cf. Freud’s 1908 essay on ‘The Sexual Theories of Children’ (SE 9: 205-26).

7. In ‘Draft L’, included in a letter to Fliess of 2 May 1897 (SE 1).

8. ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’, 155.

9. ‘The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study’, 149. This portion of the text is written by Leclaire. For the assignation of the different parts of the essay to the separate authors, see the note in ibid, 175.

10. Leclaire, Psychoanalyzing, 62.

11. Leclaire elaborates this material at length in chapter 2 of Psychoanalysing, ‘Unconscious Desire: With Freud, Reading Freud’.

12. Leclaire also notes the manipulation of the verb [verbe] in fantasy (66).

13. From Goethe’s Faust, Part 1, Scene 4: ‘ungebändigt immer vorwärts dringt’.