“Beyond oedipus: family dramas/family traumas”
Miami, february 3-5, 2017

A Report on Beyond Oedipus: Family Dramas/Family Traumas
Clinical Study Days 10, Miami, February 3-5, 2017    

Beyond Oedipus

Thomas Svolos – chair of the scientific committee of the 10th Clinical Study Days – commenced the event by announcing that, as of September 2016, Lacanian Compass (LC) is a non-profit organization. A significant achievement for the transmission of Lacanian Psychoanalysis in the United States, the LC will soon formalize its affiliation with the New Lacanian School (NLS) with the aim to promote the Lacanian orientation in the United States.

The theme of the conference, Beyond Oedipus, Family Dramas and Family Traumas, was chosen as a means to provide participants with an opportunity to discuss new configurations of the family structure, changes in the structure of the psyche as such, and the consequences these changes have for psychoanalytic theory and practice today. Though Lacan did not work in the era of the post-modern proper, his teaching, particularly his last teaching, generated a conceptual apparatus that prefigures the emerging phenomena of today. The logic of the not-all, the isolation of symptomatic identity, plus-de-jouir, and the formalization of the capitalist discourse, to cite a few, help us think and work with the rise of singularity, the tendency towards feminization, and the proliferation of contemporary addiction(s).

These tools in hand, participants of 10th Clinical Study Days engaged with the reorientation of the clinic in relation to the beyond of the binary distinction between the presence of the Name-of-the-Father (neurosis) its foreclosure (psychosis), towards the development of a Borromean clinic constructed from singularity, and an identity with one’s symptom, that could potentially go beyond the Oedipus. Along these lines. 11 diverse cases were presented and discussed by participants from France, Belgium, Canada, Argentina, Venezuela, and the United States, where participants traveled from California, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, New York, Texas.

 The Family as a Utopia

Pierre-Gilles Guéguen opened the conference by giving a lecture entitled “The Family as a Utopia.” He began by describing the function and evolution of the patriarchal family by underlying the institution’s link to the transmission of possessions. With or without love, it remained thus throughout Christianity– family was an institution that maintained patriarchy. Lacan criticized any grounding of the family structure based on the supremacy of the “male universal principle,” and he criticized it in the name of the not-all, that is to say, in the name of the feminine principle. In his text on The Family Complexes (1938), Lacan argued that the origin of our culture was linked to the structure of the patriarchal family, and that this structure had an impact on psychic development, principally, the occultation of the feminine principle. In other words, the more the idealization of the masculine, the more the denial of the feminine.

Guéguen noted that the more a man defends his fatherly position, the more he defends himself against the feminine position. Such a repression is highly visible, for example, in the structure of the Nazi family. Within the Nazi family, the German Aryan woman is dedicated to the family – that is to say reduced to be a mother–  and the Aryan man to war. As such, the Aryan family represents the hatred of the feminine principle. And this hatred of the feminine is what turns the family structure into a utopia. Unfortunately, the nostalgia for the father and the occultation of the feminine is still here and strong today. Freud identified this tendency in his text The Ego and the Id where he described the nostalgia and longing for an identification with a super-powerful father, and the super-ego. Such a tendency is also the source of religion, of paranoia, and segregation. Likewise, fundamentalism is a symptom of the desire to return to an old order. It is a reaffirmation of the masculine principle.

Identities as Politics

Marie-Hélène Brousse opened her lecture entitled “Identities as Politics, Identification as Process, and Identity as Symptom” by underlying the fact that the dominant conception of identity is an ideal identity, whole and stable, unified and intentional. Contrary to such a view, Lacanian psychoanalysis argues that life is something which goes “à la dérive” (adrift). In other words, the idea of a unified identity is nothing but a scandalous lie inasmuch as the subjective division of the subject, as well as the structure of the unconscious, goes against the possibility of such a unity.

Consequently, the critical dimension developed by Gender & Queer Theory can be seen as the demonstration of what Lacanian psychoanalysis said from the start, i.e. that the very notion of unity is an imaginary illusion. The search of Gender theory could, indeed, be described as a consequence of the collapse of the master discourse which was itself dependent on the Name-of-the-Father, that is to say, on a semblant that worked. The Name-of-the-Father defined masculinity and femininity within a certain kinship system so that identities were defined by binaries. This is no longer so and we are witnessing a pluralization of the Name-of-the-Father. The new Name(s)-of-the-Father are the norms, grounded on statistics, and which constitutes a new social order that is not organized by the one of exception. The administration of the modern social bond has to do with the same element, no more organized by the one exception, but organized by norms grounded on numbers.

            In modern families, there is a return in the Real of what was the function of the father. The social is taking over this function –  the system is the social. Lacan spoke about it in terms of its iron power, the power of the social bond. What comes in the place of the father is thus centered on the notion of use, on the function that you have been appointed to a symbolic place by the desire of someone. It has to do with pragmatism. The Family institution has to deal with that as well nowadays, although this multiplicity of identities does not alter the way identity operate in general. This is why the purpose of analysis is the fall of identifications. The fall of identities made of paper.

Identity as Symptom

In order to access a new form of identification, an identification to the One-Body, it is necessary to go beyond the three kinds of identifications that Freud described in his text Ego and the Id: the identification to the father through love, the hysterical identification, and the identification to the unary trait.[if !supportFootnotes][1][endif] To identify with the One-Body is to identify with the body and the drives, that is to say, to identify with the only identity that holds, the one of the symptom. This identity is not related to the structure of the subject, nor to the transferential unconscious, but to the body that we cannot escape, the body of the one-all-alone.

            Lacan said in a conference he gave in Baltimore in 1966, “the One-body is not the unary trait,” which means you always need a zero in order to produce a repetition. Speaking about this unary trait, in opposition to the One of the One-Body, Lacan added, “This trait repeats something particular and significant, and that is where the subject is. The subject is precisely this object, this unary trait, which has to do with one object. It is the first version of the subject.”

            In the original moment, there is no difference between the subject and the object, which means, as Marie-Hélène Brousse underlined, there is no difference between trauma and exquisite pleasure. There exists a moment when the subject is not yet separated from the object, and what we call a symptomatic identity has to do with this moment when the object and the subject are but one. The symptom provides an identity that is the only token of unity. Consequently, concluded Marie-Hélène Brousse, there is such a thing as identity in psychoanalysis that it is not related to the One-Body and the drives. This is distinctly not one’s identity made of paper.

From Drama to Comedy     

How is it possible to access one’s symptomatic identity? Marie-Hélène Brousse, in her second presentation, “From Drama to Comedy,” explained how and why the process of an analysis can be framed as that which pushes an analysand to go from drama – generated by the paradox that makes up the identity of paper –  to comedy, and its possible resolution through an identification to one’s symptom. Lacan has a theory of Tragedy, and he makes references to the theater throughout his teaching. He compared ancient tragedies, modern tragedies, and hyper-modern tragedies, in their relation to the Law, and the importance that each gives to the presence of a divided subject. Corneille, for example, shows this division perfectly in his plays. Everything is organized in terms of subjective division, as in Le Cid where Chimène, loves a man who has killed her father, indeed, the French have an expression, un dilemme cornélien

            In a comedy, on the contrary, everything has to do with the Other that does not exist. It is always a mockery, a diminishing of the Other, a way to ridicule it. This is why, in comedy, the symbolic order is unveiled as semblant. As such, comedy is an attack on the very principle of authority that gives power to the semblant. This is why everything turns around the Phallus, and why the Phallus is unveiled as object a. In Molière’s play The Miser (1668), for example, everything is interpreted in relation to the miser’s money box. To take another example, in The School for Wives (1662) the main character has only one idea, “not to be a cuckold.” In sum, the “tragic” dimension of comedy is always related to the obscure thing around which the comical character has built his whole life, and which, at the end, fails them.

            Consequently, to discover the place of object a within the process of an analysis is what can enable an analysand to access the dimension of comedy. In a Tragedy or a Drama, this place is still unidentified, and, as such, is called destiny. It is a cruel Other. And you have to be the hero. In Comedy, on the contrary, there is no wicked Other. It is just your object that is killing you. So, concluded Brousse with laughter, “you better change your relationship to your object if you don’t want to end up being the victim of it!”

Lacanian Compass as a Subject of the School

To conclude this 10th Clinical Study Day, all the participants and organizers, such as Maria-Cristina Aguirre, Thomas Svolos, Felipe Arango, Alicia Arenas, Karina Tenenbaum, Pamela King, Nancy Gillespie, Azeen Khan, Cyrus Saint Amand Poliakoff, Samya Seth, Robert Buck, and many others, engaged in a conversation around Jacques-Alain Miller’s text, “The Turin Theory of the Subject of the School.”

In this text, Miller argues that the concept of a School should never be objectified, in so far as to give a name is to reify. A School, on the contrary, is made out of a set of social relations, and so the founding of a Lacanian School should not be an institutional affair. The life of the School should be interpreted. The School needs to constantly analyze the relationship of its members to the ideal that brings them all together. The loneliness of each member is a sign of the fact that each member has a singular relationship to the Ideal.

Frédéric-Charles Baitinger