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Synopsis of André Green, ‘L’Objet (a) de J. Lacan, sa logique, et la théorie freudienne. Convergences et interrogations’

[‘The Logic of Lacan’s Objet (a) and Freudian Theory: Convergences and Questions’]

CpA 3.2:15–37

André Green joined the Société psychanalytique de Paris (SPP) in 1955, two years after Lacan had left and set up the Société française de psychoanalyse (SFP). Green worked as an analyst at the Sainte-Anne’s Hospital, and had been publishing papers on psychoanalysis since the late 1950s, broaching diverse topics in psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice.1 Green attended Lacan’s seminar between 1960 and 1967, and in 1965 was invited to give a paper in Lacan’s ‘closed’ seminar.2 He delivered the paper on 22 December 1965, at the 4th session of Lacan’s Seminar XIII, The Object of Psychoanalysis (1965-66), and this is the text reproduced here.3

I. The Objet petit a in Lacanian psychoanalysis

Green’s introduction situates the paper within the context of Lacan’s seminar of that year. He makes a preliminary distinction between two senses in which there is an object of psychoanalysis. First, like any science, psychoanalysis has an object that is proper to it. But, secondly, psychoanalysis also deals with specific kinds of objects in the libidinal sense. Green implicitly takes up Lacan’s suggestion in ‘La Science et la vérité’, that the proper object of psychoanalysis as a discipline might be a particular kind of object, what Lacan terms the objet petit a (CpA 1.1:15; E, 864). An analysis of Lacan’s concept of the objet petit a is thus necessary, not only because of the intrinsic difficulties of the concept, and its central place in Lacan’s system, but also because it ‘marks out the limitations of the modern structuralist dimension of Lacanian thought, and, no doubt, of all psychoanalytic thought’ (CpA 3.2:16; trans. 164). In his article Green will present a wide-ranging analysis of the role of this special ‘object’ in instituting the conditions for the distinction between subject and object in general. Noting the semantic overlap between the terms ‘subject’ and ‘object’ (where the ‘subject’ of an analysis can also be its ‘object’ (15/164), he suggests that the concepts of subject and object have ‘related destinies’ which can be illuminated by a psychoanalytic account of the role of a special kind of object, the objet petit a, in the formation of the subject. His aim will be to examine the binary oppositions of ‘identity and difference’, ‘conjunction and disjunction’, and - within the context of the work pursued within the Cahiers pour l’Analyse - the notions of ‘suture and coupure [break/cut]’, and relate them back to their original process of formation. Green believes that the objet petit a indicates the ‘limits’ of psychoanalytic structuralism insofar as it raises questions about the role of affectivity in the relation to objects that cannot be answered within a purely structuralist framework.

The article begins with a summary account of the significance of two key schemas in Lacan’s version of psychoanalysis, the ‘schema L’ (E, 548) and ‘schema R’ (E, 553). These diagrams show how the relation between subject and Other is mediated by an imaginary relationship. Initially, the subject desires ‘the primordial object’, which Green glosses as ‘the Mother’ (16/166). But the subject can only enter a relation of desire with the primordial object by identifying itself with the image the primordial Other wants it to be. Lacan’s schemata illustrate how a ‘system of desires [...] is opposed to the system of identifications’4 The path that leads towards ‘the primordial object M (the Mother)’ becomes entangled in a series of imaginary relations, in which the child fashions itself in the image of what it thinks the Other would like it to be, identifying with these images, and bringing about a series of transformations in its libidinal relation to the object.

Green notes that the ‘situation of the mirror stage’ in Lacan’s writings must be taken as a ‘structuring situation’, rather than a chronological stage (16/166; cf. E, 93-100/75-81). It describes a structural situation that cannot be perceived with the methods of psychology in general, only by psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis gives an account of the structural field within which the child’s desires develop.

It is psychoanalysis which gives to the child, woman born, a significance bearing on his entire development: namely, that he is the substitute for the penis of which the mother is deprived, and that he can only achieve his status as subject by situating himself at the point where he is missing from the mother on whom he depends. This substitute is the location and link of the exchange between the mother and the father, who, possessing the penis, still cannot create it (since he has it) (16/166).

Initially, the child is pulled in two directions. ‘In the zone of imaginary, the subject goes in one of two directions: either towards the object or towards the ideal’ (ibid). In Lacan’s schema, two lines emerge from the position of the subject, at right angles to each other: the ‘system of desires’ (iM in the schema) and the ‘system of identifications’ (eI). The ‘field of the real’ [le champ du réel] emerges out of ‘the tension between these two systems’. In the beginning, the child’s sense of reality is at the mercy of these two poles of the imaginary, desire and identification. For Lacan, the child’s initial field of experience is intrinsically unstable, oscillating in a dialectic that inevitably confuses objects of desire with objects of identification. If the relation to the libidinal object is mediated by imaginary relations, the process of orienting oneself towards the ideal also in turn implies a narcissistic libidinal component (the ‘ideal ego’), insofar as the ego takes itself as a love object.

The ego thus emerges through a relationship with certain objects that ‘act simultaneously as love objects and as objects of identification, but insofar as they are uprooted, cut up, and deducted from a series which allows for the appearance of lack [arrachés, decoupés, prélevés sur une série qui fait apparaître le manque]’ (17/167; trans. modified). The foreshadowing of lack among the child’s objects will be the condition for the emergence of a ‘third term’ at the symbolic level, which will permit the ‘structuration of the process’ (17/167). There can be no criterion that distinguishes reality from the imaginary until the instalment of a symbolic order.

The child’s emergence of the symbolic order is conditioned by the conversion of certain imaginary objects into supports of the symbolic order. In the field of the imaginary, an ‘imaginary phallus’ emerges as an answer to the intricated desires of the child and mother. For Lacan, it is the conversion of the imaginary to symbolic that is the key operation in the construction of the symbolic order. This operation is performed specifically through the local establishment of a link between the paternal function and the phallus. Both the father as name bearer, and the symbolic phallus are characterised by a fundamental lack or absence. By undergoing a castration of the imaginary phallus, the child is enabled to acquire a purely symbolic ‘phallic signifier’, granted by the third term, the Father.

We may then make the following remark about the Other: located in the place of the Name of the Father, situated solely in the field of the symbolic, at the pole opposite to the subject that is here identical to the phallus, the Other can only be reached by the two paths just described, via the object or via narcissism. There is no direct route (17/166tm).

The process of ‘structuration’ is also necessary if the Other is to emerge as a separate entity, beyond the imaginary misprisions of the subject. Psychoanalytic structuralism attempts to understand the processes by which subject’s relation to the Other is established and then modified during the course of the early development of its desires:

If the Other [A], in order to attain its full significance, requires the support of the Name of the Father (which is neither a name or God), it does so by traversing the maternal defile [défilé maternel] and only becomes effective when the cut [coupure] between subject and maternal object separates it irremediably from the said object. Or, again, when the lack that affects the primordial object, reveals itself in the experience of castration. The series of castrations postulated by Freud - weaning [sevrage], sphincter control [dressage sphinctérien], castration properly speaking - gives this experience in its structuring and signifying repetition, in its recurrence (19/167tm).

The objet petit a is the ‘remainder’ of this symbolic operation, and Green’s guiding aim is to bring to light its role in the determination of patterns of human desire and psychosexual repetition. Psychoanalytic structuralism needs to understand this special object, and to clarify the ‘sequence of castrations’ that drives development: ‘The object (a) will be what falls out of this series of experiences [L’objet (a) sera donc ce qui de ces expériences, va choir]’ (19/167).

Green attempts to relate some of Lacan’s more abstract remarks about the objet petit a back to the developmental aspects of Freud’s theory. For instance, he specifies that the object falls ‘from its “position of exponent in the field of the Other”’ [exposant au champ de l’Autre], citing Lacan’s 1960 text ‘Remarks on Daniel Lagache’, which contains an early abbreviated account of the objet petit a. Lacan had stated there that the objet petit a derives its function from the symbolic’ in the manner of ‘an arm at the phobic outpost, an arm against the threat of desire’s disappearance, and the role of a fetish in perverse structure, as the absolute condition of desire’ (E, 682). This ‘absolute condition of desire’ is nonetheless incarnated in a partial object. These ‘partial’ objects can nevertheless be given a general description, and related back to the symbolic order. While the objet petit a is ‘a partial object, it is not merely a part, or a detached piece [pièce détachée], [...] but is an element of the structure from the outset’. In an enigmatic passage, Lacan puts it as follows:

Being selected as the index of desire from among the body’s appendages, object a is already the exponent of a function, a function that sublimates it even before it exercises the function; this function is that of the index raised toward an absence about which the ‘it’ has nothing to say, if not that this absence comes from where it speaks [ça parle].

This is why, when reflected in the mirror, it not only gives the petit a [a’], the standard of exchange, the currency with which the other’s desire enters the circuit of the ideal ego’s transitivisms. It is also restored in the field of the Other, serving the function of desire’s exponent in the Other [Il est restitué au champ de l’Autre en function d’exposant du désir dans l’Autre] (E, 682/571).

The objet petit a serves as the vehicle, in ‘the field of the Other’ for desire. As a by-product of an original series of relations to the Other, the objet petit a serves as the formal support for the continuation of sexual relations with others. The French term exposant indicates an ‘exhibitor’ or ‘exponent’ of the Other.5 In the ‘fundamental fantasy’ of every subject, Lacan continues, the objet petit a ‘takes on an elective role [...] by figuring that before which the subject sees himself abolished when he realises himself as desire’ (E, 682/571). This relation of subject to Other appears most vividly in fantasy in general. ‘We know that fantasy allows this structure of relations to be established, insofar as that fantasy reveals the subject of this relationship even as it erases its tracks’. As in Nassif’s article on the concept of fantasy (CpA 7.4), Green’s article underlines the importance of fantasy in the constitution of the structure of the subject, in its repetitive character at the adult level, and in its value as an epistemological lens through which the original emergence of the subject can be discerned.

Green also stresses the relations of Lacan’s theory of the objet petit a to Freud’s later theory of fetishism (19/168-169; SE 21:147-159). The fetish is in no way a ‘positive’ entity, it exists only in a ‘reflexive’ or ‘negative’ mode. Thus the ‘phallic mother’ is not terrifying because she is phallic, or because she embodies the phallus as a destructive weapon, but because she symbolises the recurrence of castration. ‘The snakes on the Medusa head deny, as many times as there were snakes, castration’ (19/168; cf. SE 18: 273; SE 19:144). If the subject is thus reminded multiple times of what he wants to annul, the fetish object can come to serve as ‘the witness’ and ‘veil’ of the castrated genitals [sexe châtré], or to reduce castration to its purely symbolic value, of ‘a lack in the field of the Other’. Insofar as it is characterised by lack, the objet petit a functions in the same way. Green specifies that it operates on two levels: 1. As the revelation of the lack of the Other. 2. And as a lack proper to the signifying process (20/169).

In parallel with Luce Irigaray’s investigations into Lacan’s concept of specularisation in CpA 3.3, Green suggests that ‘this appearance in the form of the object of lack brings out the specific focus of our exposition, that is, the non-specularisable nature of the (a)’ (20/169) As ‘what is missing in the Other’, the objet petit a, strictly speaking, cannot be ‘specularised’, or given a consistent reflection in reality. But it is the ‘gap in the possibilities of thought’ presented by this special object that will be ‘filled in by the process of significance [significantisation], by the mirage of knowledge.’ In this way, the subject is able to ‘short-circuit the impossible specularisation of lack’ and to go on to identify itself ‘with the knowledge which, emerging at the site of that loss which brings it into play, covers over this loss to the point of forgetting its existence’ (20/169). The objet petit a is thus a ‘remainder issued by the desire of the Other, a residue that has slipped past the bar’, and which is perceived by the subject as having the power to ‘affect the great Other’ (20/170). Alluding to Lacan’s theses about the subject of science in Seminar XII and ‘Science and Truth’, Green infers the epistemological homologue of the objet petit a is the interest that can be ascribed to knowledge [l’intéressé du savoir] (20/170).

The object is also a ‘product of a work’ [produit d’un travail]. The binary oppositions in Freud and Lacan between ‘progression-regression’, ‘conjunction-disjunction’, and ‘suture-cut [coupure]’ (21/170) should be referred to ‘developments engendered on the plane of knowledge’ [savoir], and to the processes of miscognition and failure of knowledge that occur along the way. The production of meaning or signification [significantisation] compensates for the loss of the object, but ‘traces of the work’ of knowledge remain detectable. In such cases, once again, the objet petit a remains the ‘surest guideline’ for the analyst, the ‘index of the truth’ of the subject’s desire.

Green suggests that his summary of Lacan’s theses about the itinerary of the objet petit a can serve as the basis for several further developments of key concepts. First, what is the relation of the object (a) to representation, and what is its relation to the signifying chain? In the pages that follow, Green will examine the relation between ‘represented lack’ and ‘speech as concatenation’ in Lacan by way of a critical discussion of Jacques-Alain Miller’s account of signification in ‘Suture’ (CpA 1.3). Secondly, situating the relation between psychoanalytic ideas about the mechanisms of ‘coupure’ or ‘cut’ alongside notions of suture and representation permits a return to the contested notion of the Vorstellungs-Repräsentanz (discussed at length by Michel Tort in CpA 5.2). The signifier has two sides: representation and affect, and Green will claim that affect has not been taken sufficiently into account as a part of the fundamental signifying operation. Finally, Green spells out what he sees as the consequences of Lacan’s latest position, as it appears in Lacan’s ‘La Science et la vérité’: ‘If knowledge is that which comes forth in the place of truth, after the loss of the object, shouldn’t they be linked to one another by the traces of this loss and the attempt to efface them?’ (21/171). These questions will lead Green into a complex account of various problems in the Lacanian psychoanalytic theory of the time, offering in the process solutions to the problem of the ‘distinction between the representative of the drive and the affect’ (28/179), along with an elaborate development of the ‘differential distribution of the mode of representation’ (30/182).

II. Miller’s Concept of Suture

In the second main section, ‘The Suture of the Signifier, its Representation and the Object (a)’, Green engages in a critical analysis of Jacques-Alain Miller’s ‘Suture’ (CpA 1.3) He inquires into the relation of the [objet petit] a with the ‘the cut/break’ [coupure] on the one hand and with ‘suture’ on the other, and promises to ‘situate the number zero in its relation to the vicissitudes [destin] of the objet petit a’ (22/171). For Green, Miller’s account of the relation of concept and object in Frege just misses its target. First, Miller’s account of the initial relation between concept and object, derived from Frege, needs to be elaborated. ‘Not only does the subject cut itself off from the scene and chain of signification, but the first of these objects functions simultaneously as a concept and as an object, not represented but named as single object and as concept of non-identity to itself, a concept that threatens truth, insofar as it is out of play [hors-jeu], or beyond the I [hors-je]’ (23/172). Miller’s account shows however how the subject, as the enunciator of the statement, must be placed outside the statement itself, in a manner analogous to the zero outside the series of numbers. Both subject and zero lie outside of their respective ‘chains’, while being simultaneously necessary for their support. But the ‘truth-threatening situation’ requires further analysis. What must be involved is a particular kind of ‘encounter with truth’, where truth is dissociated from the possibility of demonstration [manifestation] and self-identity, and persists only through ‘the blank or the trace that negates it’ (23/173). Green specifies that it is not enough to understand the logic of suture as a ‘simple relation of absence’: ‘what should be pinpointed [cerné] is the relation of lack to truth’. Green goes on to elaborate the correspondences between Miller’s operation of suture and the psychoanalytic theory of repetition. The subject itself should be understood in terms of repetition, and its sequence of ‘nullifications’ should be related to the sequence of objets petit a.

Green then returns to the questions raised by Leclaire to Miller in ‘The Analyst in his Place?’ (CpA 1.4:51), stating that Leclaire’s question about whether the analyst too, as well as the patient, undergoes a ‘suture’ of the unconscious remains to be answered. If the analyst uses signifying ‘concatenations’, then these too must be subject to the operation of suture. Green relates the discussion back to its concrete origins in Freud’s work:

The evidence rests in Freud’s much-neglected discussion of the consequences of castration. If castration is possible, if the threat is realized, the subject is deprived of masturbatory pleasure; but castration also implies the much-feared and henceforth irreversible impossibility of union between the castrated subject and the mother. If we consider castration to be the collapse of the entire concatenation, we may then understand why Freud sees castration as a disaster causing incommensurable damage. In any case, the penis plays the role of mediator between cut and suture (CpA 3.2:24/174).

Green also takes up Leclaire’s claim that an operation analogous to suture can be excavated from Freud’s suggestions about primary ‘unconscious concepts’. The first chain of concepts in the unconscious concerns ‘the individual part[ing] with a piece of his own body in order to gain the favour of some other person whom he loves’ (SE 17: 131). Green suggests that from the contemporary perspective of psychoanalytic structuralism, the problem with such reconstructions is how to think through the semantic possibility of a situation where ‘each term disappears as soon as it has presented itself’ (25/175). While ‘any direct reference to the signified would destroy the structuralist enterprise’, some account of genesis nevertheless seems needed. Taking a step beyond Leclaire’s comparable approach to the problem of the precise relationship between the body and desire, Green notes that what has been missing from the discussion so far is a reference to the physiological structures of the body. ‘Does not our confidence in the stability of pertinent phonological traits ultimately depend on the functioning of the vocal apparatus? This apparatus is certainly under the control of the nervous system, which explains the fascination of linguists with cybernetics’ (25/175). Moreover (as Leclaire also suggests at CpA 1.4:52 and 1.5:57), the task of the psychoanalyst is to ‘listen’ to the play of meaning, which requires a further specification of the theories of meaning or sense in linguistics and psychoanalysis, and their respective demarcation.

Concluding his critical review of Miller’s argument, Green elaborates on the psychoanalytic significance of Miller’s concept of representation (27/177). Miller has shown how the subject is ‘born through an exclusion’, and only becomes capable of representation as a result of a cut or break [coupure]. ‘It is through the very operation of separation [coupure] that the subject comes forth, or constitutes itself as subject - at the expense of the object, it seems to me’ (27/177). What remains to be explained is how the object ‘lives on’ in the relation between desire and demand. ‘Demand becomes that which insures the renewed resurrection of desire in case desire would itself be found missing: demand is formulated via the object a’; nevertheless, without desire, demand is ineffectual.

III. Representation and Specularisation

In the third section, ‘The Relation of the (a) and i(a) and the Problem of Representation and Specularisation’ (28/178), Green takes up the theme of specularisation. ‘Lacan strongly emphasizes the fact that the objet petit a cannot be specularised: the mirror image he resorts to is neither the image of the object nor that of representation’. Miller has claimed that ‘the un-figurable or image-less object’ can be ‘represented by the number zero’, but the task (as Leclaire also reiterates) is to concretely relate the objet petit a to the object of the drive. In ‘Drives and their Vicissitudes’ (1914), Freud had confirmed the idea of the interchangeability of the object of the drive (SE 14: 122-23); yet somehow the object chosen still manages to compensate for the ‘impossibility of escaping from internal stimuli’. The object of the drive is therefore caught up in a complex process of exchange. On the one hand, it participates in the exchange, but on the other hand, not just any object can become an object of the drive. Green sees two problems arising at this point within the psychoanalytic account of representation.

The first is discussed in a sub-section, ‘The Problem of the Distinction between the Representative of the Drive and the Affect’. Green relates his discussion to the research of Laplanche and Leclaire on the relation of drives and affects to representations and signifiers in Lacanian psychoanalysis, and on the crucial mediating concept of Vorstellungs-Repräsentanz.6 What is the semantic status of affects? Green’s position is that ‘representation and affect are two different types of signifiers. Affect has a major aspect as a discharge process, whereas representation is a production entering into a combinatory system of transformations’ (29/180). Green then proposes a ‘conjectural’ distinction between representation and affect, which he claims can be supported by passages in Freud’s late writings. In ‘The Infantile Genital Organization’ (1923), for instance, Freud arrives at a complex and coherent account in which ‘affect takes on the status of signifier’ (28/180). Freud was increasingly tending to distinguish between repression [Verdrängung] and disavowal [Verleugnung] and (SE 19: 143), where the former involved the shifting of an affect, and the latter involved a refusal to believe what one perceives. Green proposes that ‘affect presents us with the effect of the erasure of the perceived trace restored in the form of a discharge’ (30/181), and speculates that a relation between ‘global’ and ‘partial’ disavowals and repressions could be elaborated to explain ‘the condition of the differentiated suture of certain conflictual organizations’. This leads Green to propose an expansion of the definition of the concept of signifier:

The signifier is that which, at the risk of its own disappearance, must, in order to subsist, enter into a system of transformations in which it represents a subject for another signifier falling under the act of the bar of repression or of disavowal, which thus forces it into a fall from its status of being - in its relationship to truth - and it is via this fall that it gains access to the rank of signifier in its resurrection (29/180).

In the second subsection, Green sets out ‘The Problem of the Differential Distribution of the Mode of Representation’. He suggests that the Freudian theory of signification extends as far as the perceptual field. Lacan shows how the perceptual field is centred upon ‘points of fascination’ or ‘specularisation’ that translate effects in the symbolic order. Green says that these points result from the ‘barrage effect [effet de barrage] weighing upon discourse that necessitates not only combination, but also changes of register, material, and modes of representation of the signifier’ (31/183). Signifiers may appear in different ways, according to different modes of representation. Green suggests that the ‘ascension of the zero’ in sequences of representations can be thought as a ‘negative hallucination’. The phenomenon of aphanisis, or the loss of desire, ‘which, as we know, played such an important role for Lacan in the footsteps of Jones’ (31/183) suggests a link between the idea of ‘negative hallucination’ (or hallucination of lack) and the repetition of the zero in the succession of whole numbers according to Miller (CpA 1.3:46). Contra Lacan’s own reservations about the concept, Green says that ‘negative hallucination seems to me to be the inaugural link to Freud’s conception of narcissistic identification as relating to the mourning of the primordial object’. In mourning, there is the ‘coming forth of a negativised subject thus rendered capable of desiring’ (CpA 3.2:32/183). Insofar as it does not originate in representation, the negative hallucination would be a species of [Vorstellungsrepräsentanz]. Negative hallucination is therefore ‘the meeting point of separation [coupure] and suture’ (32/184).

IV. Identity and the Paternal Function

The final section is called ‘Identity and Non-Identity to Self: The Death Drive’. On the psychoanalytic model of the symptom, ‘the signifier reveals the subject only by effacing its trace’. The difference between psychoanalytic and non-psychoanalytic structuralism is that the former is concerned with the truth, specifically the truth as it ‘passes through an effacement of the trace’ (34/186). The psychoanalytic version of structuralism is concerned with ‘textual distortions’ and ‘traces of effacement’. As Green has suggested earlier, at the centre of the psychoanalytical account of subject-formation is the Name of the Father and the question of the nature and function of paternity. In the final pages, he relates ‘the question of origins, the relationship to the progenitor’ to the problems of truth, naming and representation discussed earlier in the piece. Green notes that in Totem and Taboo, Freud relates the prohibition of incest to a ‘funerary ritual that establishes the presence of the absent one, the dead Father’ (34/187). At this central point of the psychoanalytic model, the theory of the origin of the paternal function, Green finds the same double process of cut [coupure] and suture. The break [coupure] with the mother and its suture by means of substitute aims and objects can be correlated to the ‘suture of the disappearance of the father by the ritual or totem consecrated to him’, which installs him ‘in an inaccessible beyond where he is henceforth located’.

For Green, this suggests a coupure between the ideas of Lévi-Strauss and Freud concerning the primal father. For Lévi-Strauss, the mask serves as the basic form for the ‘dissimulation’ of ‘access to another world’. However, one must turn to Freud to understand the necessity of dissimulation. Beyond the mere relation of showing or hiding, the image of the Kwakiutl mask ‘reveals a relation of the unveiled to the effaced, to that which has been barred, to lack’. Religious representation always involves processes of metaphor and metonymy. In Judaic religion, as discussed by Freud in ‘Moses and Monotheism’, there a fundamental ‘erasure of any sign of God’s presence other than in forms of the Names of the father (Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai)’. Green suggests that the notion of a ‘redoubling of non-identity to itself’ articulated by Miller is therefore also visible in the traces of the foundations of religions (35/188). Such a ‘reduction’ testifies to the effects of an encounter with the death drive: ‘the work of the death drive, always silent, is localizable in this reduction (in every dimension of the word) which attempts to always reach the point of absence wherein the subject links its dependence to the Other, by identifying itself with its own erasure. The mutation of the signifier, its epiphany underlying its polymorphous and distributed forms, indicates the leap it intends to oppose - as in a dream - to this annulment’ (36/188).

In a brief conclusion, Green remarks that ‘the essential difficulty of psychoanalytic investigation has to do with its being a constrained discourse: it involves not only communication on the part of the analyst, but saying everything’. The flow of speech thus engendered may be impelled by the death drive, but the analyst treats the analysand’s words as ‘living’. Green ends by looking towards a future system in which all the varieties of objet petit a that cause desire can be understood, with reference to all the possible subject positions. To move towards this goal, he suggests that it would first be necessary to lay out the ‘elements of a mimetic conception or theory of the functioning of the subject’ (37/190).

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


English translation:

  • ‘The Logic of Objet (a) and Freudian Theory: Convergences and Questions’, trans. Kimberley Kleinert & Beryl Schlossman. In Interpreting Lacan, ed Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.

Primary bibliography:

  • Freud, Sigmund. ‘The Neuro-psychoses of Defence’ [1894]. In Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey et al. London: Hogarth Press, 1953-1974. Vol. 3. [Hereafter ‘SE’ followed by volume number].
  • ---. ‘The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words’ [1910], SE 11.
  • ---. ‘Drives and their Vicissitudes’ [1915], SE 14.
  • ---. ‘The Unconscious’ [1915], SE 14.
  • ---. ‘A Mythological Parallel to a Visual Obsession’ [1916], SE 14.
  • ---. ‘A Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams’ [1917], SE 17.
  • ---. The Ego and the Id [1923], SE 19.
  • ---. ‘The Infantile Genital Organization’ [1923], SE 19.
  • ---. ‘Fetishism’ [1927], SE 21.
  • ---. New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis [1933], SE 22.
  • ---. Moses and Monotheism [1939], SE 23.
  • ---. ‘An Outline of Psycho-Analysis’ [1940], SE 23.
  • ---. ‘Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defence’ [1940], SE 23.
  • Lacan, Jacques. ‘Seminar on “The Purloined Letter”’ [1955]. In Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink, in collaboration with Héloïse Fink and Russell Grigg. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.
  • ---. ‘On a Question Preliminary to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis’ (1957). In Écrits.
  • ---. ‘La Science et la vérité’. CpA 1.1. In Écrits.
  • ---. Seminar X: Anxiety [1962-63].
  • ---. Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis [1965-66], trans. Cormac Gallagher, unpublished manuscript.
  • 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.
  • Leclaire, Serge. ‘L’analyste à sa place?’ (CpA 1.4).
  • Miller, Jacques-Alain. ‘La Suture: Éléments de la logique du signifiant’. (CpA 1.3). ‘Suture: Elements for a Logic of the Signifier’, trans. Jacqueline Rose, Screen 18:4 (Winter 1977-78).

Selected secondary literature:

  • Green, André. ‘L’Inconscient freudien et la psychanalyse française contemporaine’. Les Temps modernes 195 (1962).
  • ---. ‘La Psychanalyse devant l’opposition de l’histoire et de la structure’. Critique 194 (1963).
  • ---. ‘Une Variante de la position phallique narcissique considérée plus particulièrement sous l’angle du jeu et des fonctions de l’activité fantasmatique dans la création littéraire en regard de la sublimation et de l’idéal du Moi’. Revue française de psychanalyse 27 (1963).
  • ---. ‘Névrose obsessionelle et hystérie. Leurs relations chez Freud et depuis’. Revue française de psychanalyse 38 (1964).


1. See for instance ‘L’Inconscient freudien et la psychanalyse française contemporaine’, Les Temps modernes, 1962; ‘La Psychanalyse devant l’opposition de l’histoire et de la structure’, Critique, 1963.

2. For the 1983 English translation, Green added a preface placing the article within the context of his early work and his relations with Lacan. He notes that ‘in 1967 my participation in Lacan’s seminar stopped […]. The great sophistication of Lacan’s theory could no longer mask for me the fact that many clinical and technical problems were ignored or left out by the master. Further, I was already paying great attention to the works of Winnicott and Bion. Their richness was not limited to brilliant rhetoric, and it was directly in touch with clinical experience and the new problems that psychoanalysts have to face with the changes in psychoanalytic practice. Nevertheless, I regard those years 1960-67 as an important step in my training, even though I had to come to the conclusion that Lacan’s way was not mine’ (Green, ‘The Logic of Objet a and Freudian theory’, 163).

3. The date in the Cahiers is given as 21 December 1965.

4. Schema R, from Lacan, ‘On a Question Preliminary to every Possible Treatment of a Psychosis’, 1955.

5. The English translation of Green’s article has ‘exhibitor’ for exposant. Lacan’s previous reference in the same passage to ‘the exponent of a function’ indicates a quasi-mathematical function (E, 682/571).

6. Cf. Jean Laplanche and Serge Leclaire, ‘The Unconscious’, 144.