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9. In her 1979 essay “Oedipal Textuality,” Cynthia Chase writes, “Sophocles’ play portrays Oedipus as the one person in history without an Oedipus complex in the conventional sense: he has murdered his father and married his mother in an appreciation of expediency rather than in satisfaction of a desire. The one person who actually enacts patricide and incest completely misses the experience—until after the fact.” “Oedipal Textuality: Reading Freud’s Reading of Oedipus,” in Diacritics 9 (Spring 1979): 53-68. This after-the-factness of his complex is, for Chase, the reason why Oedipus Tyrannus should be read in terms of Freud’s deferred action. But what is the “final act” in Oedipus’ story? The crucial, if not also the last, revision of what the figure of Oedipus stands for takes place when the last of Cadmus’ true offspring dies, and my contention in this article will be that the significance of Oedipus’ history becomes decidable only in relation to the ultimate event in the drama of his life, which is Antigone’s burial of Polynices. The act, as we shall see, is a symbolic burial of Oedipus, who dies a mysterious death at the end of Oedipus at Colonus.
10. The original French is even more emphatic in stressing the contentlessness of the corpse than the Porter translation cited above. Lacan refers to the unique value of being as beyond any content, beyond, indeed, anything good or evil: “au-delà de tous les contenus, de tout ce que Polynice a pu faire de bien et de mal, de tout ce qui peut lui être infligé.” Le Séminaire de Jacques Lacan, Livre VII: L’Ethique de la psychanalyse, 1959-1960 (Paris: Seuil, 1986), 325.
11. Serge Leclaire offers an exquisite psychoanalytic account of the “unique value” of being. See “The Dream with the Unicorn,” in Psychoanalyzing: On the Order of the Unconscious and the Practice of the Letter, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), esp. 81-87.
12. Lacan, as Alenka Zupančič claims in Ethics of the Real: Kant, Lacan (London: Verso, 2000), would have seen these two values as archaic and modern forms of the same essential determination. Suffice it to indicate here that the differentiation between what we have called a singular being (the modern being-toward-death) and what will be identified later in the text as a family being (the archaic being-for-another) is crucial for understanding the ethics of the situation presented in the play.
13. Sophocles, Antigone, in Sophocles: Works, English and Greek, vol. 2, ed. and trans. Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), 87-89. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically within the text.
14. As far as classical studies are concerned, Lacan’s usage of the concept of Atè is unusual, but not unique. An understanding close to the one presented by Lacan was introduced by Josef Stallmach in his 1950 dissertation Atè: Beitrag zur Frage des Selbst- und Weltverständnisses des frühgriechisAntigone’s Kind chen Menschen. The work was published as Heft 18 of Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie (Meisenheim am Glan, 1968). I have not been able to locate any information regarding Lacan’s direct or indirect knowledge of Stallmach’s work. See Leon Golden, “Hamartia, Atè, and Oedipus,” in Classical World 72 (September 1978): 3-12.
15. Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1985), 217.
16. Irigaray, Sexes and Genealogies, trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 2.
17. Shepherdson, 140.
18. A typical psychoanalytic account of Oedipus does what Freud did not do himself; it reorganizes Oedipus’ story to correspond to Freud’s understanding of child sexuality. If unconscious knowledge is to mean anything, either Oedipus can have the complex retroactively, in the form of a deferred action (as argued by Chase), after he realizes who his parents were, or he cannot have it at all. When Chase concludes that Oedipus is the instance when “parrincest … becomes readable for the first time,” she repeats the common assumption that itself ignores the fact that for Freud Oedipus’ myth is a convenient example of what became readable in his self-analysis and what appeared in the analyses of his patients. Chase, 58.
19. See Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, in Sophocles: Works, English and Greek, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), 429-431. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically within the text.
20. The two other instances in which haima appears in Oedipus Tyrannus refer to Lauis’ blood, spilled by Oedipus. One is the prophecy that Oedipus relates to the Messenger, that he would “spill my father’s blood [patroon haima] with my own hand” (425). The second is the confirmation of the prophecy: “O three roads, hidden glade, coppice and narrow path where three ways meet, ways that drank my own, my father’s blood [toumon haima] shed by my hands” (471). The second instance also carries the sense that Oedipus has, literally, shed his own blood. In Antigone, Creon identifies Polynices’ attack on Thebes as the spilling of his own blood. He says that Polynices came back from exile to the land of his fathers and the gods of his race to feed on the blood of his own kind (haimatos koinou). See Antigone, 21.
21. Pucci, 9.
23. Butler, 45.
24. The fact that the Oedipus complex only “appears as that which is everyPenumbra where true” does not, for Lacan, lessen the hold of the father figure, but increases it. As “factually” true, the Oedipus complex would be a natural law (a biological fact, we might say), with as little symbolic consequence for a family as gravity has. The complex would be a given and not a matter of the economy of the truth—not the grounding myth of this economy.
25. Butler, 45.
26. I would also include Zupančič’s reading of Oedipus in her book Ethics of the Real. She says, for instance, “he [Oedipus] travels the path of initiation (of ‘symbolization’) in reverse and, in so doing, he experiences and demonstrates the radical contingency of the Meaning borne by the symbolic.” If the difference between Polybus and Laius were, indeed, one of contingency, and not one of status, we would not need to disagree with Zupančič’s account. But the question is not, as Zupančič seems to think, whether or not “the Father,” the superman of our fantasies, the king of Thebes, “is also the father (a man with all his weaknesses).” The paternity in question is much more precise: why is it that even “a man with all his weaknesses” can be Oedipus’ Father, but Polybus cannot? Zupančič goes so far as to suggest that Oedipus is not guilty. Of course he is. He is guilty because he identifies Laius with the father from the prophecy. Zupančič, 193.
27. Voicing a common assumption, Chase claims that “the drama of Oedipus is his [Freud’s] most recurrent and insistent reference” (54). Yet, since Oedipus is, in fact, a rare reference for Freud, when Chase has to explain what Oedipus’ “psychoneurosis” is, she has to map him onto another of Freud’s cases and draw the implications for Oedipus’ unusual and not thoroughly considered (by Freud) situation. The Concordance lists only one instance in The Standard Edition where Freud discusses Oedipus and Sophocles’ drama—the famous passage in The Interpretation of Dreams. In all other instances, and there are fewer than one would think, the complex carrying the name of the mythological father is a shorthand for a theory of sexuality that Freud formulated independently from the tragedy and the myth.
28. Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. James Strachey et al. (London: Hogarth, 1953-1974), 4:262.
29. Ibid., 261-262; emphasis added.
30. Chase, 58.
The Aim of the Analytic Act Colette Soler
What is promised as an end of analysis?1 This question has been present from the beginning of psychoanalysis. Is it to cure what Freud called the “illness” of neurosis, that is, to reduce the dissidence of the symptom and reestablish “normality”—and, in particular, sexual “normality”? Freud was not far from this idea when he claimed that the capacity to love and work were the best we could hope to obtain, as well as when he ironically explained that the goal was to transform neurotic misfortune into common misfortune. Lacan, on the contrary, when interrogating the end of analysis in 1968, claimed that the aim was to produce an incurable subject. But in 1975, in contrast, he linked the end of analysis with identification with the symptom. It is this apparent change of perspective that I will investigate.
THE ILLNESS OF MANKINDPsychoanalysis, via Freud and Lacan, has produced the formula for the sexual illness of mankind. Due to the unconscious, “there is no such thing as a sexual relationship.” With this thesis, the status of the symptom is altered, and consequently the status of the therapeutic act. Let me follow this thread.
The thesis that the unconscious is structured like a language, and the symptom as a message, or metaphor, was suggested by Freudian technique.
But as Lacan never ceased to re-elaborate in his later years, with the unconscious understood as the “treasure of the drive”—which implies a wedding of the signifier and the living being—the symptom is the response of jouissance. Thus, Lacan came to the point where he recaptured the fundamental Freudian thesis: the symptom is a mode of satisfaction. It can be deciphered like a message, but it is not only a way of speaking, but above all it is a way of enjoying. This is why, years ago, I did not hesitate to evoke Lacan’s second step as a “second return to Freud.”2 The language of the symptom is, so to speak, incarnated, embodied; it organizes and regulates jouissance. Even further, the unconscious is made real through jouissance. Hence the surprising formula from Encore: “The real, I will say, is the mystery of the speaking body, 190 Penumbra the mystery of the unconscious.”3 In psychoanalysis, however, therapeutic effects testify to the grasp of language on what is most real in symptomatic disorders; one verifies that the least verbal of symptoms (anxiety, somatization, thought disturbances) can be transformed by the sole means of language. The curious docility of the symptom in an analytic session supports this conception of the unconscious.
Freud thus confronted the following problem: how can a mode of jouissance that is so self-centered, even autistic, come to be reconciled with the relationship of desire and love for another body, which is obviously necessary for the constitution of the sexual couple, whatever it may be, but especially of the heterosexual couple? The discovery of the drive, far from leading to pansexualism, rather posed the question, from its very origin, of the libido that was apt to sustain the sexual link. If Freud opened this perspective, he did not carry it to its logical conclusion. To answer the question, finally, he has nothing to offer but his elaboration of the Oedipus complex, with the various identifications that it entails. With this, he tried to explain one thing and its reverse, I mean the norm of heterosexual desire and what differs from it. And when he admitted that he did not know, it was the concept of “constitution”—that is, nature—so often referred to by him, that remained his last resort. I certainly realize that Freud’s texts are always more subtle than the mere enunciation of his theses and that the number of nuances with which he corrects each of them defies any easy summary. Nonetheless, after having clearly located the link between the symptom and sex—and it is precisely on this point that he broke decisively with Jung—Freud turned the symptom into an anomaly of the sexual, more precisely a distorted substitute of the socalled normal sexual satisfaction. Hence, in this case, it was obvious that the symptom could only be conceived within the sphere of an individual pathology of jouissance.
It must be said that this point of view is strongly suggested by the most elementary clinical experience of hearing the subject’s complaint. A symptom is presented to the analyst as that which does not stop imposing itself.
Whether it is in the form of not being able to refrain from certain thoughts or from a feeling in the body, or from experiencing certain troubling affects, a symptom is experienced as a disturbance, an anomaly, a deviation or constraint. In this respect, the only difference between the patient and Freud is that the former does not immediately perceive the symptom’s sexual implications, although from the very beginning, transference makes him aware of the incidence of the unconscious.
The primary affect of the symptom as dysfunction is a fact no clinician could deny, Lacan no more than any other. But what does psychoanalysis reveal when it deals with the “psychology of the love life,” in both its happy and unhappy forms, if not this: the unconscious is captain of the ship, presiding over what we call the mysteries of love, specifically over the choice of object The Aim of the Analytic Act insofar as it causes desire and/or jouissance. To put it in another way, the love partner, in the sexual sense of the term, and more generally any partner inscribed in a social link, is no less a product of the unconscious, no less coded than an obsession or a somatization. Thus between a man and a woman, and more generally between any two bodies, the unconscious is present, simultaneously separating and linking them. Freud perceived this when he exposed the fact that both love life and group formations are produced by repetitive choices. Repetition means that it is not all women that interest a man, but only some, that is, those who are linked with his unconscious. In other words, there is no such thing as sexual “instinct.”