Clinical Study Days 4: Interpretation in Psychoanalysis

Paraphrasing Gloucester in Richard III, we could say “Now is the fall of our discontent made glorious summer by the sun of Lacan.” A cold, windy, rainy autumn New York weekend was made glorious by the light of Lacan’s teaching during the Clinical Study Days 4 and the forty Lacanians that met to discuss Interpretation.
Thirty nine Lacanian-Americans coming from all over the country (California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas) but also Canada and Mexico; plus one, Pierre-Gilles Gueguen, our Guest-speaker who crossed the Atlantic—once more—not to bring us the plague, but to share and contribute to our learning in Lacanian practice and theory.
The meeting took place at the prestigious Fordham University, Lincoln Center campus, thanks to the connections Professor Manya Steinkoler has with its English Department.

The Semblant
The first afternoon was dedicated to the theme of the next WAP Congress. Pierre-Gilles Gueguen’s lecture on the “Semblant and the Phallus” traced these concepts in Lacan’s work. Two round tables continued the discussion; the first one on The Clinical Concept of the Semblant with Alicia Arenas, Tom Svolos and Maria Cristina Aguirre focused on the different aspects of the semblant in Lacan’s work, its multiple meanings, its relation to the object a, jouissance, and psychosis. The second round table concentrated on “The Semblant in Contemporary Culture.” Cyrus Saint Amand Poliakof, Manya Steinkoler, Ellie Ragland and Gary Marshall discussed the use of the semblant in art, literature, religion and globalized market.

Art and psychoanalysis: “Don’t Blame it on New York!”
We traveled downtown to Chelsea—where all the art galleries are—to the superb setting of X-initiative, ex-Dia Center, that graciously hosted us for a unique event of art and psychoanalysis. Using Fumarolli’s comments on the art market in New York and having as backdrop Marchel Duchamp’s painting “Nude Descending the Staircase,” Pierre-Gilles Gueguen explored the object a in art and psychoanalysis, posing that both are ways of extracting the object, and making the difference with the lathouses, all those objects that proliferate and circulate in our civilization promising the illusion of instant satisfaction. An estimated 120 people were present at this meeting.

Clinical Case Presentations
Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to seven clinical cases and discussions. Our compass was the interpretation, the Lacanian interpretation.
But the unexpected event soon appeared when Pierre-Gilles Gueguen generously surprised us with a case of his own, with a careful elaboration on three particular interpretations in the case.
Dinorah Otero (New York), discussed by Alicia Arenas, presented the case of a young adolescent girl in search of the father whose fantasy was organized in the manner of “A Child is Being Beaten.”
Mercedes Acuna (Houston), discussed by Josefina Ayerza, presented the case of the breakdown of a young man, a short time after the sister had her own breakdown.
Pam Jespersen (Omaha), discussed by Ellyn Altman, presented the case about a man, an artist who was able to separate from his object through his creative work.
Jose Armando Garcia (Miami), discussed by Tom Svolos, explored the use of drugs and the system surrounding it (law, prison, rehabilitation) in a young man as a way to produce a separation from the mother.
Vidhya Selvaraj (Omaha), discussed by Pam Jespersen, surprised the audience with a case of a young autistic man with the freshness and the delicacy of her interventions: “a man does not beat a woman” providing him with a possible identification: to be a man, offering the choice of not being a woman and not being aggressive.
Charles Merward (California), discussed by Maria Cristina Aguirre, showed the ravaging effects an interpretation from a previous therapist using object relations theory had on a woman, an artist, sending her in a compulsory search for virtual sado-masochist satisfaction.
And, last but not least, Cristina Laurita (Pennsylvania), discussed by Ellie Ragland, presented the case of a young woman. The interpretation “nada en el rio” played on the homophonic equivocal of the Spanish word ‘nada” meaning at the same time, nothing and swimming, condensing the fear of the river and the fear of the void, but also as a reference to the mother’s name.

Gastronomic Interpretation The oral object was present not only through the interpretations, the presentations and discussions which were extremely rich and useful to the presenters and to the public, but also in the form of a gastronomic “tour de force” orchestrated by Manya Steinkoler.
Here is her interpretation:
An expert in the oral object, Manya Steinkoler procured the greatest breakfast and coffee-break snacks of New York — of real New Yorkers not trendy post-modern genderless New Yorkers who eat the kind of bullshit nouvelle foods Zizek critiques such as eggless egg salad and vegetarian meat. This tasting jubilee began on Friday afternoon with the famous Zomick’s Babka, or as it is more particularly known by all New York Babka afficionadoes, with the “Zomick’s Babka Melt-Away.” The Melt Away, made famous by Zomick’s kosher bakery, is the very best part of the Babka. It’s basically a condensed Babka; there is very little air (in the Babka or in the eater of the Babka); there is very little room or relief in between the chocolate and the crust or in between one’s belt and one’s belly. Vaccuum-packed, concentrated, fossilized, all of Eastern Europe is essentially compressed into chocolate crumb yeast cake so condensed and rich, it’s like a heavy chocolate brick. Who needs the pyramids? Needless to say, the “Melt Away” is obviously the envers of what happens when you eat this cake (the original Ellis Island name, “Pound It On,” however, had less marketing success). Yet, if “Melt Away” is understood in the Jonesian spirit of the aphanisis of the subject due to its sublime unity with the oral object, well, so be it, or as they say, Zei Gesund! Some have actually posited that Zomick’s Babka is the “mission impossible” Kantian Das Ding an Sich but Kant, who never left Konigsberg was unfortunately not familiar with it so he became a philosopher. Yet many have posited nevertheless that this would not have changed his philosophy because he would have been able to defend Newtonian physics with the gravitational force exerted by the Babka alone. (I remain skeptical). Significantly, at the time of the purchase of the Babka, Prof. Steinkoler was working on a paper on Bartelby and Kafka – thus — thought impossible by Babka afficionadoes – the jouissance of the Babka was actually increased in this instance by the associative jouissense (who would have thought that a babka could lack?? The adding of jouissense in this instance was diagnostically determinant since its addition demonstrated that it was possible for Babka to lack) (This is debatable, however and could be a topic for further clinical discussion) We should add for those unfamiliar with this delectable dessert and its delightful name, that the word Babka derives from the Polish noun meaning “grandmother.” This is why many of her grandchildren have become cardiologists and psychoanalysts.

Saturday morning, attendees were served the famous “Ottomanelli’s muffins.” These are enormous globular rotund orbs rather like small planets or large Buicks and come in a variety of flavors. As a beloved old Italian man in the neighborhood used to say about these muffins, “Mr. Ottomanelli has no relation to organized crime. But if you want someone’s knee-caps broken…hold on to one of those muffins for a few weeks!”

Saturday night we ate at New York’s famous P.J. Clark’steakhouse. Our specially prepared menu was entitled, “Gastronomic Interpretation” in honor of the Clinical Study Day. True to the American experience, however, the portions were simply too large to leave any room for interpretation.

Finally, Sunday morning we had what is known as the Sunday New York Breakfast: H & H bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon.

The effects of the Clinical Study Days 4 have been numerous: desire to work, to get together, to exchange…I think we can say, as Obama: ‘Yes, we can…create a Lacanian oriented community in North America!’

We will have our next Study Days next Winter in sunny Miami on the theme “Reading the Unconscious.”

The Scientific Committee of the Clinical Study Days 4 Maria Cristina Aguirre, Alicia Arenas, Thomas Svolos