There are two dimensions in teaching: accumulation and investigation.
To that end, repetition is a part of any teaching. It is a part of the teaching that must not be disregarded. Neither is it unpalatable. It is the recitation of the work accumulated by those who came before us. Lacan’s nightingale by Jacques-Alain Miller But there is the other dimension of this teaching, as one doesn’t teach merely through repetition. This other dimension is investigation. Investigation is research, research of the new. It is true that, to have an idea of something new, it necessary to know the existing literature. Research is also searching, waiting for the new. As such, there is dialectic between the planes of accumulation and investigation. Custom dictates that we “await the new”. We look for the right moment where it can be found. This then obeys another approach, different from an emphasis on repetition. However, that dimension assumes everything is contingent wherein any kind of foundational assurance is absent. In repetition we gain surety, but on the dimension of research this is not so. The emphasis has to be as it is in the “hard sciences”, where people organize and meet and in crossing paths with one another, generate new ideas. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, just as what I emphasized in respect to the systematic. It is this dimension toward which I am directed, leaving aside all that is systematic, the foundation that sustains all activity, but that is only interested in the measure; that, as a result, also gives a place to the a-systematic and to the singular.
Lacan’s Research: I’ll begin talking about one singularity: the search by Lacan for the form of his Seminar, his manner of teaching. He never had another way and never disregarded that style, even when he had his own School.
Lacan, in truth, had only one style of teaching: his Seminar. Probably the existence during thirty years of Lacan’s Seminar, contributed to making this concept part of the French language. In the classic Latin, seminarium is a kitchen garden. Seminare comes from semen. The modern use of the work Seminar has its origins in the Counter-Reformation (or, better stated, a place, a religious institution where the young are trained to receive religious orders). The modern meaning of Seminarium is born with the Council of Trent, in the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic Church sought out mechanisms for reconquering Christendom. By extension, from this point in modern history, it took on the general meaning to be the place where youth were “formed”. I found all of this in a dictionary of the French language, which went into detail on this point. We can continue the history of the word seminar by considering the modern sense of the term: in the university a seminar is distinct from a more didactic style of “master’s” course. In the former, the students present their work and the professor or master orients or corrects it and talks about the students’ work publicly with them. The students are directed based on the orders from above. This is what we call the seminar in the university environment. I believe that this form of teaching, the seminar, comes from Germany. I believe I read, in the memoirs of a historian, that it was introduced in France after the war (against Germany, that France lost) of 1870. Immediately after that, the French began robbing the ideas of the Germans, which had the end result of strengthening the French structures in a certain way such that many of fields of instruction imported and put in place the German methods. Thus, we had Ernest Renan giving the advice to France: study the Germans. This was something that was imposed in many intellectual disciplines.
We now consider the Seminar as a form of teaching.We can’t say that the interventions of the students had a major role in the Seminar of Lacan. These interventions were more residual in character. Nevertheless, periodically Lacan sought to re-energize the participants and stimulate questions or to present some kind of communication, but fundamentally in his Seminar, it is Lacan, the master, that speaks. This produced in France, almost a change in sentiment, or at least, eased the limit of what would be a Seminar.
But it is also important to say that Lacan’s Seminar is well named because it was a “sowing” of psychoanalysts, a place for the development of psychoanalysis and for the formations of the unconscious. One could say: a place for the formation of the unconscious and for the treatment of the unconscious by psychoanalysis and with results, that is to say, famous ones, because among the psychoanalysts formed in Lacan’s Seminar, there are many present in all of the analytic societies in France. If we consider its publication one could say that it was a successful formation both intellectually and at the level of practice. This implies the necessity that we examine, with a very powerful lens, just exactly what was this marvelous stance that Lacan took in his Seminar.
Was it about a procedure? Was it a method? It does not appear to be the case. I think it was such a success because it was neither a procedure nor a method. Some might classify it as a procedure, consider its results as if it was a technique, but clearly the Seminar was not a technique of Lacan. It began as a Seminar with a reading of Freud’s work. The first ten Seminars always referenced one or two of Freud’s books. The crucial point was Seminar XI, when Lacan considered the four key concepts of Freud, but presented in a new way. Later, he moved away a bit from the typical reading style of an academic seminar. Lacan had a model. It wasn’t all original. This model, I think, was the Seminar on Hegel that Kojève brought to life in the 1930’s. The readings done by Kojève in his Seminar recreated what Hegel had done. He created a reading that was a scansion, a punctuation of the Phenomenology of the Spirit on the point of the dialectic between the Master and the Slave. It was a creative reading so pregnant with meaning that it is only now that commentators have attempted to unpack the power of Kojève’s interpretations of Hegel’s work. Lacan’s reading of Freud was also a creative reading, a reading based on language and the function of the speech, or, should we say, as result of what appeared to be a pioneering science for the so-called “human sciences” of the 1950’s: structural linguistics. This form took as a point of departure a reading of Freud’s, but one informed by Saussure, revised and reedited by Jakobson. In truth, it is a formula invented by Levi-Strauss, not by Lacan. So, to summarize, the Seminar of Lacan was initially a seminar style of reading, which had as its model Kojève and was informed by a specific understanding of structural linguistics. However, the Seminar of Lacan is something else all together. It was, day after day, week after week, a discourse of someone who was experiencing the unconscious. Someone who manifested what in psychoanalysis was, at the same time, its practice and its difficulty and it preoccupations. Someone who expounded as he went, as he was going about making this discipline and this object; as he was entangled and trying to untangle himself, as he became enmeshed, muddled and then unstuck again. It is evidently the case that he was a long way from arriving at the idea of a teaching method. In the Seminar, Lacan exemplified, as result of Freud’s texts and the texts of others, his way of doing it, which clearly changed as time went on. He modified his way of working, in such a way that he succeeded in transmitting psychoanalysis as a discipline, but reinvented in his way. It is clear that it wasn’t always like that. In the beginning of his teaching, he presented things in the manner of a structuralist, in the style of “this is the correct form.” But now that we have a picture of the totality of his journey, we can perceive, in the evolution of his propositions, a style of reinvention and reformulation that constitutes a particular way of working. Certainly, it would be more palatable to present his teachings as an intellectual journey in the direction of the scientificization of psychoanalysis and the intellectual strength of Lacan had something of this, but the perspective of reinventing dislocates the impetus to scientificization. Lacan yielded an extraordinary effect in the formulation, dissemination and fecundity of psychoanalysis, because he demonstrated his own struggle with an object and a dimension that he could not completely master. It is a dimension that has it own consistency and its own internal resistance. At first glance, one might think that Lacan demonstrated his mastery of the topic, but no, by being aware of its unceasing quality, he shows, in contrast, the resistance of knowledge and a certain shattering of any mastery of the real. It is patently obvious that this is a demonstration of the inability of total mastery. Lacan was always reformulating, remobilizing and never said “its ready” about any point. When in the few times that he said it, he denied it shortly after a few words. What is at stake is preserving this sense or dimension of dissatisfaction. Even though one could be justified in doing so, we are not going to add a special domain: the domain of dissatisfaction. It would be the domain where one would be say that there is nothing satisfactory either in the programme, or in the methods that were achieved. It would be a domain where one would never say “it’s complete.” Dissatisfaction is a part of everything and for this reason we don’t need to create a specific domain for it. To justify oneself as an analyst is a work of desireThe Seminar of Lacan was not a method. We can develop this point further. This seminar, as I see it, was done by someone who sought to justify himself. It was ministered by someone who perhaps wanted to be pardoned for the practice of psychoanalysis. Sometimes, this is lost in the post-analytic experience of analysts, but for Lacan there was a certain sin in practicing psychoanalysis: the attempt of the professional to master a real which does not lend itself to being mastered. It is in this way that psychoanalysis is like an imposter, as Lacan asserted toward the end of this life. This is what energized him such that he presented himself every week in front of the audience, in front of the big Other, to defend his cause. It is important not to forget that it was he himself who invented the concept of the big Other. It is necessary to think that he had a certain relation with the dissimilar: that to which one is directed. At the same time as it is the place where a message is directed, it is also, in a certain way, its author. The big Other thus has two faces. On one hand, in order to be distinct from the small other, it is a function that seems anonymous, universal and abstract. But on the other hand, as Lacan underlines in Seminar V: The formations of the unconscious (apropos of the Witz), this big Other doesn’t function without a limitation of its space, without a limitation of its field to a parochial dimension. The parochial dimension is a province of shared meaning. Lacan established it in his Seminar, a province which allowed him to speak self-reflexively. That is, he created a province of the Other. He directed himself toward the analysts and formed them. It is because Lacan directed himself to this province of the Other that the community of analysts became constituted. The specific discourse that was directed toward them transformed itself into an Other. The discourse of Lacan was deposited, collected and returned to us, the Other to which he directed himself. The royal road to the unconscious was a dream, according to Freud. The Seminar of Lacan, for several generations, has been a real road to reach psychoanalysis. As it was neither a procedure nor a method, what was produced in the seminar had something to do with both desire and guilt.At the same time, Lacan created a special language to speak of the unconscious of psychoanalysis, a language especially adapted to capture and circumscribe psychoanalytic phenomena. This special language imposes itself now as psychoanalytic maxims, used outside the immediate circle of Lacan’s students. This language he created, as a result of elements he took from scientific discourse, was reconstructed and reshaped in order to conform to the object he was addressing. Lacan’s idea, surely, was to make a transcription of Freud’s work that could re-energize the psychoanalytic field and obtain, as such, a language more appropriate, adequate, and adaptable for psychoanalysis. I believe that teaching and research are not really effective if a teacher is not also animated by a dream... Translation by Gary Marshall Review by Thomas Svolos Source: http://www.lacan.com/jamnigh.htm Labels: Alain Miller, Lacan