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3. From the Mechanism of Psychosis to the Universal Condition of the Symptom: On Foreclosure

Dany Nobus Karnac Books ePub

Russell Grigg

I. Introduction

Lacan introduces the term ‘foreclosure’ to explain the massive and global differences between psychosis and neurosis; neurosis operates by way of repression, while psychosis operates by way of foreclosure. This distinction is complemented by a third category, though arguably less secure and more problematic than the first two, of disavowal, as a mechanism specific to perversion. These three terms which correspond respectively to Freud's Verdrängung, Verwerfung and Verleugnung, along with the three-part division of neurosis, psychosis and perversion, form the basis of what is effectively a differential diagnosis in Lacan's work, one that aspires to being truly psychoanalytic, deriving nothing from psychiatric categories. Thus, underlying the elaboration of the notion of foreclosure is a clear and sharp distinction between three separate subjective structures.

Two features of this psychoanalytic nosology worthy of note are firstly that it assumes a structural unity behind often quite different symptoms that are expressions of the one clinical type and secondly that there is no continuum between the various clinical types uncovered. A corollary is that in the case of psychosis this structure, a quite different structure from that of neurosis, is present even before the psychosis declares itself clinically.

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6. Ineluctable Nodalities: On the Borromean Knot

Dany Nobus Karnac Books ePub

Ineluctable Nodalities: On the Borromean Knot

Luke Thurston

I. Introduction

The first step towards an understanding of the Borromean knot—the key figure in the topological elaborations which were the central preoccupation of the last ten years of Lacan's life—is to separate it from its legendary penumbra. A predominant image of the knot as the emblem of a terra incognita of dark, abstruse speculation, the incomprehensible grand finale of Lacanian theory, has led to two opposing forms of misunderstanding: on one side, a sort of transferential supposition of knowledge, elevating the knot to the status of a hieratic mystery, a master signifier available only to the initiated; on the other, the idea of the knot as an irrelevant scholastic whim, which has allowed hostile critics to dismiss any talk of psychoanalytic topology as mere étourderie (absent-mindedness), echoing the title of a famously difficult Lacanian text from 1973.1

If Lacan was himself at times during the 1970's complicit with a certain imaginary notion of the knot (he occasionally allowed his stylistic elegance to slip into self-dramatization, causing one of his followers to refer ironically to ‘the epic of the Borromean knot’), we should not allow its legendary aura to hinder our efforts to analyze its emergence and development in Lacan's thought, and to try to grasp some of the problems and questions it raises.2

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: Maternal fetishism

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Emily Apter

In proposing maternal fetishism as a “new” perversion with a unique relevance for a broader understanding of motherhood and maternal desire, one must first confront the vexed question of whether the whole notion of perversion is so fundamentally outmoded that it deserves to be discarded as a relic of gender-biased psychoanalysis. Unlike neurosis or psychosis, perversion has not been readily ascribed to women in the history of psychoanalysis. In conformity with class- and culture-bound norms, women were habitually diagnosed as hysterical, maniacal, neurotic, frigid, sapphic, narcissistic, melancholic or psychotic—anything, it would seem, but perverse. Case histories of fetishism, masochism and sadism, from Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s sexological work Psy-chopathia Sexualis (1901) to Freud’s essay “Fetishism” (1927e), typically featured male analysands. The protagonist of Sacher-Masoch’s Venus im Pelz (1980) was not Wanda, the dominatrix, but Leopold, the male masochist, who, though whipped and trodden on by a woman, remained empowered in so far as it was he who authorized the conditions of his own bondage and enslavement.

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Birth, death, orgasm, and perversion: a Reichian view

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Nick Totton

“Why do you have to talk like that?” she asks me. “Talk like what?” I respond. “Speak to them, for them,” she answers. I have fielded this question many times. This time I try to keep it simple: “I am one of them,” I answer. Unsatisfied, she retorts, “But why must your language be so theoretical, so inaccessible?” Finally, I arrive at the answer I should have made long ago: “I like theory,” I tell her, “it is a kind of fetish for me; it turns me on.” [Hart, 1998, p. 13]

A term to get rid of?

There is no getting around it: the word “perversion”, by etymology and usage, is clearly both normative, implying that there is a straight path to which this crooked one is opposed, and punitive, a stamp of disapproval upon those perceived as bad and/or inadequate. What is more, there is not even any agreed and solid definition of “perversion” in psychoanalytic terms. The word can be, and is, used in very different ways, and some of the definitions on offer beg the question of aetiology completely. For example, Stoller (1975) chooses to define perversion as sexually aberrant behaviour based on hatred, thus eliminating all possibility of counter-examples to his hypothesis that this is in fact what perversion signifies.

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INTRODUCTION

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Lisa Downing

As has been pointed out by several of the authors whose contributions form the first section of this book, the notion of perversion is an increasingly controversial one. Sergio Benvenuto makes the comment that “today … the word ‘perversion’ is not considered politically correct”. Nick Totton asserts that it “is both normative... and punitive” and may therefore be “an unhelpful term both for its broad vagueness of usage and for its moralistic/pathologizing overtones”. This awareness has led in recent years to a change of emphasis from viewing perversions as moral deviations to seeing them as variations on a statistical sexual norm. However, while to differing degrees acknowledging that the meaning of perversion is dependent on historically and culturally contingent mores and morals, the writers in Part 1 unanimously state that the modes of human sexual fantasy and behaviour known as perversion, and the types of psychical organization they imply, continue to constitute a significant and fruitful problematic; one with which psychoanalysis cannot dispense.

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