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Dreams According to Lacan’s

Dreams According to Lacan’s

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parallax, 2000, vol. 6, no.

3, 63–81

Dreams According to Lacan’s re-interpretation of the Freudian Unconscious
Ellie Ragland

Lacan’s well-known ecrit, ‘The Agency of the letter in the unconscious or reason ´ since Freud’ (1957) was rst published as ‘the instance of the letter in the unconscious’.1 This essay rst appeared in an issue of la Psychanalyse that declared its intention of studying ‘psychoanalysis’ as one of ‘the sciences of man’.2 Even though Lacan included his piece in the volume, he pointed out in that essay that a classi cation such as ‘the sciences of man’ was problematic for him. ‘Man’ is inhabited by the signi er in the unconscious, he said, rather than being the one who wields the signi er from a position of conscious reason and of intentionality. ‘Conscious reason’ and ‘intentionality’ become the tools one might equate with demonstrating a science. From a psychoanalytic point of view, ‘conscious reason’ and ‘intentionality’ are methods of mind at odds with the governing unconscious. Rather, one can only create a science of the unconscious from within a logic particular to it. Posing the question – What determines what one calls ‘reason’ or thought? – in his rst Seminar, given in 1953–1954,3 Lacan later answered in Le seminaire, livre V that ´ something – ‘a unary trait – has been knotted to something else’ a void hole of space. The ‘something else’ that resembles the spoken word that discourse can unknot, 4 is concrete, like Dora’s father’s cigar smoke. This smoke was encapsulated in Dora’s memory because it was linked to something stable, something that ‘resembles the spoken word’. But what resembles the spoken word without being it? In Lacanian parlance, it is the linkage of images (the imaginary) to words (the symbolic) and to the real of aÚ ect that he calls a sinthome. It sublimates meaning into a knot made up of its own parts ‘imaginary, symbolic, real and the knot itself, while it is the object a-cause-of-desire that these four ‘orders’ encircle. Thus, the ‘something else’ knotted to something that resembles a word is the sinthome, made of master signi ers (S1) that Lacan calls meaning constellations composed of absolute identi catory unary traits. These are, in turn, made up of the images, the language and the inscriptions of the oral, anal, invocatory and scopic drives on the real of esh. Words or objects remembered, recalled or called back into memory – are the objects one desires precisely because they harken back to objects one rst lost, desired, and of which one retains a concrete unary trace. One came to know the rst objects that cause desire, not because they possess any originary essence such as maternal natural goodness – coming from some privileged past moment that one can retrieve in the present. They do retain the trace of the
parallax ISSN 1353-464 5 print/ISSN 1460-700 X online Ñ 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals

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essence of jouissance. And it is this essence that xes precise traits of the real – rst laid down in the past – in the outside world of the Other and others who resemble them. Resemblance, for Lacan, belongs to metonymy, to desire. These ‘objects’ that resemble something like a parole, which is not one, are semblances or masks. Made up of unary traits, identi catory pieces of narcissism, and the libido and traumata that compose the real, these ‘objects’ function like a signpost that says ‘that’s it’, ‘that’s das Ding an sich’. In a sense, the decomposed mask would reveal a puzzle of pieces rst treasured at the moment of loss and the originary eÚ ort of re nding. They become known, in memory, then, as pieces of the metonymic jouissance (essence) of a ‘person behind’ who seeks the particular details of her or his pleasure in a precise unary trace; not in a whole other or even in whole objects. Perhaps someone desires, beyond all reason, a new car of a certain type. Further details would reveal that that is because this girl’s father sold that type of car in his business. The desired car is a metonymy of an Oedipal nostalgia. Unary (non-dialectical) traits bind concrete images, words, and aÚ ects to the void place of holes in thought that we continually ll by desired objects in everyday life and in dreams.5 In this essay, I shall work with the thesis that dreams are valuable because they send messages to the Other and to ego ideal others about what is lacking in the dreamer’s desire. In this sense, dreams are tautological, because the message sent is, really, to the dreamer him or herself. Thus, when Freud remarks that the censor is absent in dreams, this would be equivalent to saying that the symbolic order of the secondaryprocess signi er is missing. Or the imaginary father, acting as visible agent of the superego, is missing. Neither the well-made narrative, nor the supervising superego privileged in everyday life, gives order to the dream. Rather the imaginary orders the dream, functioning as a virtual real, giving the dream its character of true-seemingness, or semblance. Lacan maintained in Le seminaire, livre V that the distance that separates the spoken ´ word ( parole) – which is lled up by the being of the subject from the empty discourse which buzzes around human acts, from the ‘something’ of unconscious meaning, helps to explain the motive of dreams as that of unconscious desire. In other words, desire takes on the clothes proÚ ered by the imaginary. Thus, Lacan’s reinterpretation of Freud’s dream theory, is a departure from Freud’s idea of dreams as wish ful llment. Unconscious desire, for Lacan, is not a wish. Unconscious desire means that the unconscious is radically absent from a conscious assessment of meaning, although it is present as the mysterious motivator of intentions and acts. And, as a motivator, it works according to the thought processes typical of an unconscious primary-process arrangement of thought, rather than that of secondary-process grammar or other kinds of motivators such as biology or instinctual causality. To the degree that human acts especially dreams – are seemingly irrational, Lacan calls them impenetrable by the imagination of motives which are irrational insofar as they are only rationalized in the egoistic system of misrecognition. ‘These [missed] acts, these [forgotten] words reveal a truth from behind. Within what we call free associations, dream images, symptoms, a word bearing the truth is revealed. If Freud’s discovery has any meaning, it is that truth grabs error by the scruÚ of the neck in the mistake’.6 If, however, one were to recognize unconscious motives for what they
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are, they would no longer be unconscious. Nor would the ego hide the unconscious, while acting as a conscious agency of misrecognition, repression and denial. Thus, we have the rst clue to Lacan’s reinterpretation of Freud’s theory of dreams. They enunciate a repressed desire. The wishes of conscious life are not those that emanate from the subject of the unconscious, except insofar as these disguise a wish that concerns desire. Lacan emphasized the fact that Freud rarely used the German word for ‘desire’ – Begierde - in his work. The subject of the dream wish der Wunsch is not the libidinally desiring subject whose other face in language is that of lack that lies between wanting and having. Such lack is not negotiated by simply obtaining the objects one wants, then, being satis ed. Desire, rather, is a structural lack-inbeing that is negotiated along the imaginary path of ego identi cations and mirrorstage dual specularities we call transference relations. The dream is distorted, not only because desire is not sanctioned by the superego of public, conscious life, but also because the real of sexuality and loss are further covered over in the dream. It is distorted twice over. Concrete repressed desires speak in dreams and the unbearable real tries to give voice to its own impasses and losses, thus seeking a kind of ‘cure’ in the unconscious space of the dream. The dream bears the freight of these eÚ orts at dealing with wounded narcissism. No wonder we have to sleep to dream. Secondary-process uses of language are a kind of obsessional battery of denials and refusals of the necessity of working with the real deprivations and imaginary frustrations whose home is the dream. But the dream does not enter consciousness as a direct rendering of lacks and losses. Rather, it is not only transformed by condensation and displacement – that is, masked – and further distorted in the remembering and recounting of it. Lacan’s remarks on dreams show them as both dialectical among parts of the subject and, at the same time, one-dimensional. Lafont writes: Topology formalizes the operations which are at work and which, starting with the hole and its edge, construct reality. In this sense Lacan could say that ‘it is structure’. ‘[R.S.I., unedited seminar (1974–1975) ] [...] If the hole, @, is known as the Lacanian dimension par excellence, topology also presents an irreducibly new element [...] “one” dimension [... which] suÝ ces to make the word consist. [...] The word is pronounced in “one dimension”, in real time [...] the word, without thickness, nor surface’.7 At the level of the image, the dream word resembles a layering of absolute unary strokes, more like a painting than a story. When retold in waking life, the dreamer displays an internal debate among various parts of her own psyche, embellishing the dialectical part of the dream in a narrative mode, thereby revealing the tension emitted from the dreamer’s Ideal ego formation vis-a-vis ego ideal imaginary others ` she wants to satisfy in the Other. In her eÚ ort to interpret the dream’s opaque meanings – between desires and beliefs that constitute the Ideal ego symbolic formation – its transferential intention towards the other/Other makes it, perforce, dialectical. Not only is the dream a message designated to and for a speci c other, it is dreamt within a speci c signifying context of an historical local Other. Moreover,
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let us propose that we remember dreams, not only because they bespeak a deep trauma, as well as the unanswered desires of a day’s residue. Dreams enounce a repressed lack stemming from the dreamer’s desire. For example, an American woman, having just moved to Germany where she was to live for a year, remembered one word and one image of a dream: (Hitler’s) ‘Lebensraum’ was ‘spoken’ in her dream alongside a huge living room sofa. In Lacanian teaching, any interpretation is an eÚ ort to interpret one’s own fundamental (unconscious) fantasies. The dream illustrated the woman’s political discomfort at spending time in Germany – a message from the real – as well as her egoistic imaginary concern with the ugly sofa in the Gastehause living room. In everyday life, such political concerns were dismissed by the woman, as they were by other foreign scholars living in Germany. Such politics belonged to history, the past, and certainly had nothing to do with current fears or opinions. The symbolic order uses language to deny the real, thereby creating a social forum of ideals and ideal goodwill. In dreams, symbolic order taboos and conventions drop out and the real of memory – such as memories of World War II – is stated through a duality of image/language. The overlays of day residue place an ugly sofa at the surface of the dream alongside a literal translation of ‘living room’. The image plus the word join the imaginary to the symbolic to state the truly masked part of the dream: the real of politics and death. Lacan read Freud’s work on dream wishes as covering over an ‘I want’ and an ‘I don’t (can’t) have’ that constitute a language of meaning, rather than the meanings Freud nally attributed to a pleasure-seeking biological id in con ict with any prohibition to its satisfactions. In uenced by modern logic and mathematics, Lacan proposed that unconscious desires enter consciousness with all the fuzziness of the number two in mathematics. Two is an irrational number – typical of the mirrorstage confusion where two are taken to be one – precisely because it is made up of the negative features of the numbers zero and one, the fractions one calls real or negative numbers, and, as such, has no distance from its own positive existence between the number one of clarity and the number three of distance and perspective. In mathematics and in Lacanian logic, two denotes a mixture which cannot be unraveled. In the mirror stage experience, others give parts of their identities to an infant to construct its Ideal ego. As such, the Ideal ego is both symbolic – made of the Other – and imaginary – made of others. The twoness of the imaginary axis has no obvious beginning and end except in the singular traits that indicate some xation, some mark of a unary trait, some sign that the ‘one dimension’ of the real was laid down by the spoken word ( parole). The singular elements have objective qualities that escape the opaque mirror morass of twoness that characterizes the ego as it combines the ego ideal and Ideal ego with closure-like properties of Hegel’s synthesis.8 Hegel’s Auf hebung, his sublation or synthesis is fuzzy because it contains mixed properties from two sets: the thesis and the antithesis. Freud calls such a lack of clarity, made manifest in dreams, unconscious examples of condensations and displacements. Lacan calls this third category the nonsense where the truth of the unconscious lies. We have, he says, thereby advancing a third category of logical truth function made up of mixed unlike things, a category of non-sense whose
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meaning is that of the underside of two clear meaning systems – the ‘I think’ of the symbolic order and the ‘I am’ of the imaginary order. Such residue becomes ‘negatively veri able data’ in empirical studies; fodder for the trash can in ‘science’ laboratories; ‘the explanatory gap’ in cognitive sciences; and the ‘green sheep sleeping furiously’ that linguists such as Noam Chomsky rejects. One might go so far as to say that such meaning is at home only in three kinds of contexts: Surrealist poetry which sought to combine the most unlike images for the purposes of creating a new reality – a Sur-reality; the language of dreams; the free associations typical of the analyst’s couch. This category of new meaning – of non-sense – is precisely what Freud and Lacan sought to understand in the analytic setting, rather than to dismiss as meaningless. Freud recognized that some truth was transformed and distorted there. Lacan gave the logic and laws of such meaning as unconscious truth – metaphor as condensation, which functions by substitution, and metonymy as displacement, which functions by magnifying meaning via drive constellations that evolve around the objects that rst caused desire. Moreover, Lacan described unconscious, nonsensical meaning as the truth of the real that is distorted by the illusions and chimeras of the ego. Indeed, the ego ideals that speak most loudly in the day residue of manifest dream content cover over the Ideal ego unconscious formation. Dream enigmata and ego perplexity are rst cousins, then, both being made up of the ‘objects’ in-between alienated thought and separation from primordial objects-cause-of-desire. As such, this is a category of wandering knowledge between the thinking and the living being, a nonsensical knowledge that resides at the point of overlap between two ensembles. All the same, such knowledge can be graphed topologically as the contradictory underside of the Moebius band which occults dual (surface) properties at its point of intersection: 8. 9 More precisely, how do the diÚ erences between the Ideal ego and the ego ideal function in the dream in a dialectical way? Lacan’s answer to this is important, for it takes up the fact that in 1915 Freud repudiated his own theory of dreams along lines rst developed in 1900 in Chapter 7, ‘The Psychology of the Dream Process’.1 0 Freud wrote there: ‘What we remember of a dream and what we exercise our interpretative arts upon has been mutilated by the untrustworthiness of our memory. Secondly, there is every reason to suspect that our memory of dreams is not only fragmentary but positively inaccurate and falsi ed’.11 In On Narcissism: An Introduction (1914), 1 2 and in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), 1 3 Freud repudiated his 1900 dream theory along with his presentation of a new theory of the ego. In ‘On Narcissism’, the ego is a force in con ict with the libido. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), the ego is reduced to the projection of a surface, to the body, in other words. In Le seminaire: livre V (1957–1958): Les formations de l’inconscient, Lacan develops a nascent ´ distinction Freud made in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921) 1 4 between the ego ideal and the Ideal ego, ego ideals describing one’s relations with one’s peers and the Ideal ego pertaining to the attributes a body of people attribute to a leader. In Le seminaire, livre V, Lacan describes the Other as the set of spoken words that are ´ reduced, at the limit, to the imaginary other, the ego ideal. The Other, in this sense, becomes a supplemental ego of the symbolic, by way of the imaginary.1 5 When a dialogue between the other and its imaginary oÚ shoot, one’s counterpart, breaks
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down, any person encounters the hole of the real (ø), whether it comes from the frustration of being misunderstood, from bad dreams, from anxiety, or from some other source. The Other, Lacan teaches, – not the Ideal ego – functions as the guarantee of truth and the seat of the word that founds this truth, while the ego ideal is the specular other or alter-ego of one’s secret self-image.16 But what joins them in the dialectic of thought, or in the dream, for that matter? Lacan says that they are joined by the object the Other desires, by what the other lacks to ful ll it – the object a – the primordially lost object that can only ever be refound in substitute forms. Thus, the object resides on the side of metonymy, at the place of the Other’s evanescent desire, while the (extra) sense of a given meaning dwells within the substitutive structure of metaphor. Lacan later calls such meaning ‘unconscious’ and locates it in the gap between the imaginary and the symbolic (-Q).17 By the end of his second seminar,1 8 Lacan has characterized the ego as an encrusted sore of identi cations built upon the esh of the biological body, opening up that physical body to the meanings of a given (Other) symbolic order, except in autism which, by de nition, is a refusal to participate in the Other at all.19 The ego, as Lacan portrays it in Seminar V is ‘the prematuration of birth’ over the ‘natural’ beingfor-death characteristic of the body unaware of itself as a body of thought.20 The logic of the unconscious signifying chain which motivates conscious actions, as well as dreams, starts with four complex structures of two couples, Lacan says, each of which relates with the other, both by symmetry and dissymetry, as well as by being like and unlike. These four signi ers – [abde] a,b,c,d – each has the property of being analyzable in function of the three others. Lacan goes on to explain that the imaginary Other is built on top of the symbolic Other as a supplement, a secondary structure, diÚ erent from the rst. In other words, the Other is inherently duplicitous. It is occulted by an ego that borrows language from it, an ego which lives by a diÚ erent logic than does language. This alone could de ne the diÚ erence between manifest and latent dream content, manifest belonging to the imaginary realm of the ego, and latent belonging to the symbolic realm of the verbal signifying chain. Added to the imaginary and symbolic, the real of trauma makes knots of radically repressed material within the symbolic and imaginary. We can see why Lacan spoke of a lack in the Other, a lack dreams will try to ‘speak’ for a given subject. This second structure – the imaginary ego of 1957–1958 – while constructed by the Other, is reduced to the other, the specular other of narcissistic identi cation, as opposed to the symbolic world of words and conventions that lack the living quality, the beingness of the other as ego ideal. The psychotic is the single subject who speaks from the pure symbolic, thus accounting for the lifelessness of his or her speech, for the mechanical nature of his or her words. Such subjects lack the false layer of imaginary identi cations that separates most subjects from the real of their esh, protecting them from an encounter with the angst of a void place in being and thought. Ferdinand de Saussure has been honoured for discovering the linguistic sign (S/s) that Lacan, in turn, subverts, making the bar between the signi er (as that which represents a subject for another signi er) and the signi ed (those xations created by master signi ers) a limit point. Insofar as the signi er creates the signi ed, not the reverse,2 1 Sigmund Freud will be subverted as well in that the manifest content of imaginary identi cations – the Other – will structure the latent content.
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Even though the latent is also constructed, it does not derive from Kleinian prebirth fantasies or from Freudian instinctual mechanism of the organism qua organism. Rather, it manifests the structuration of unconscious positions that intertwine the wishes of desire with the lacks of the subject, the libido of the fantasy with the language that inscribes the body surface by signi ers. Thus, the imaginary body is created as a dual space-written upon – which projects itself as ego, a would-be continuity of being and esh. Yet, even though the signi er creates the signi ed, each, nonetheless, intersects with the other as separate meaning systems that touch one another and then oat apart in non-linear referentialities whose meaning is lost. The two kinds of meaning at issue are joined, all the same, by the plastic displaceability of metonymy (signi ed evocations of objects that caused desire in the rst place), and the substitutability of metaphor which can take any object to make a new meaning. Insofar as signi ers and signi eds each work by diÚ erent logics – the signi ed by xations of desire and repetitions, the signi er by changing and moving via diÚ erential references that represent a subject for another subject, even if by microcosmic increments – the contingent, associative possibilities of the primary process in dreams means that each person’s experience of words, images, or aÚ ects will be singular. One wonders, then, just how the clothe of the signifying system attaches itself to the clothe of the system of signi eds? Anchoring points is an inadequate answer because it gives no theory as to why or how. It merely aÝ rms that the disparate systems touch at certain points where a signi ed anchors a set of signi ers. One must go to the categories of the real, imaginary and symbolic for an answer to this question. The signi er – the symbolic – works by the diÚ erential logic of language, while the signi ed – the imaginary – works by the specular logic of mirror-stage mimesis and identi cation. The real refers to an intangible component which is the mother’s desire in its unconscious reference to a father’s name signi er that marks separation, diÚ erence and law; a third term signi er dividing the symbiosis of two thought to be one. And, paradoxically, the father’s name signi er functions retrospectively to produce the eÚ ect of diÚ erence that allows an infant to count to two via the loss occasioned by the disjoining of the imaginary One of the mother and infant dyad that the father signi er’s implicit ‘no’ to Oneness causes. Lacan’s ‘linguistic’ answer would put this argument in these terms. Metonymy has the structure of a minus within the signifying chain – S ( Õ ) s – while metaphor adds something to the chain – S ( 1 ) s. Metonymy subtracts a signi er that concerns desire, and metaphor adds a new one that had not previously been linked to the chain by identity to an element in it before. The newness that results from addition creates the surprise of suddenly seeing the mechanical encrusted on the living (or the living liberated from the mechanical [Bergson]), thereby producing the pleasure of invention. Metonymy has the opposite eÚ ect, referring back to losses, rst losses, and thus to the bittersweet pains of nostalgia that arise in reference to remembrance of things past. The dream functions as a dialectical relation between the Ideal ego seeking its lost object(s) and the ego ideal promising to supply them, while the functional language of such eÚ orts is the coordination of metaphor with metonymy which Freud calls the
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interplay of condensation with displacement. In dream work, metaphor and displacement are privileged. Indeed, there is no diÚ erence between the way they work in dreams and in conscious discourse, Lacan argues, except the condition Freud pointed out: Ruchsicht auf Darstellbarket (‘consideration of the means of representation’). There is, in other words, a limitation operating within the system of writing, a limitation which is not a gurative semiology. The dream is more like a parlour game in which one is supposed to get people to guess what the charades mean. Dreams are performed in ‘dimension one’, while they are recounted in ‘dimension two’. That the dream itself uses speech makes no diÚ erence since, for the unconscious, it is only one among several elements of representation. The point is that representation, neither in charades nor in dreams, does not oÚ er logical articulations of causality, contradiction or hypothesis, that would prove they are a form of writing instead of a form of mime. Dreams do not work by such a logic, but, rather, follow the laws of the signi er: ‘Father don’t you see I’m burning?’ means quite literally that the father had anticipated his child’s bandaged body’s catching on re when he left the room under the care of an old watchman in order to get some sleep himself. He had obviously noted that the candle was burning to the end and susceptible of falling over. And he cannot have missed that the older man was as tired as he. This information – manifest or day residue dream material – coupled with the sound of the candlestick actually overturning produced his nightmare of terror; reproach and guilt inducement on the part of his son.22 The signi er here is the candlestick which represented the potential of the boy’s body’s catching on re, referring itself to another signi er: the old man who was as sleepy as the father from their long wake beside the dead body. Freud called the dream a rebus, a statement of unconscious thoughts that is like hieroglyphics or a gurative painting. Lacan argued in Le seminaire, livre XIII ´ (1965–1966): L’objet de la psychanalyse that early hieroglyphics in cave paintings lead back to the logical matrix of the signi er.23 Freud could never exit from the imaginary impasses of his own discovery, Lacan argued, because he never understood that ‘free association’ functions by the laws of metaphor and metonymy, making the ‘psychical’ an eÚ ect of the unconscious on the somatic. In other words, the secondary process or conscious part of language – metaphor – is wish ful llment, daydreams, day residue, while fantasies, for Lacan, are not daydreams or day wishes. Fantasies are unconscious organizations of one’s subjectivization of reality. While Freud spoke of wish ful llment, Lacan translated this as unconscious thought. When fundamental fantasy elements appear in conscious thought, be it as manifest dream thought or as a literary text, these elements will follow the laws of the signi er that organizes language around desire. Yet, it is diÝ cult to grasp that the signi er is constitutive. Moreover, Lacan argues that Freud’s genius was so farsighted that he assigned it formally and precisely to the unconscious. Lacan goes as far as proposing that The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) made it possible for formal linguistics to develop. But Freud’s arguments were not suÝ cient to show the formative power of the signi er, a problem linguists never solved. Secondly, even though analysts have been fascinated by unconscious meanings, it was the imaginary dialectic in them that interested them – not how they came to be in the rst place. At the level of scienti c development, Lacan argues that Freud’s discoveries maintained that the unconscious leaves none
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of our actions outside itself. If anyone takes dreams seriously today, or in classical dream interpretation, they scan them for the forms in which they appear, thinking thereby to see a regression and remodeling of the object relation, what supposedly gives a character type to someone. But Lacan’s return to Freud is not to the Freud who has been developed in this direction. Rather, his ‘return’ is to Freud’s text and to the trope of metaphor which Lacan writes as: function (of the Subject) I (maginary) s horizontal). And the function (S’) S 5 S ( 1 ) s. Metaphor depends upon the vertical, S the signi ed, metonymy: function (S........S’) 5 s. The ( 1 ) means a crossing of the bar ( Õ ) in its constitutive value for the emergence of meaning. The signi er must pass into the signi ed, in other words, in order that meaning be created. What is constituted as the meaning of the unconscious subject of desire is no longer a transcendental subject with his or her existential aÝ rmation of cogito ergo sum. Rather, philosophy and science collude to dismiss the subject of the unconscious, which is Freud’s Copernican revolution: ‘Is the place that I occupy as the subject of a signi er concentric or excentric, in relation to the place I occupy as subject of the signi ed? – that is the question. It is not a question of knowing whether I speak of myself in a way that conforms to what I am, but rather of knowing whether I am the same as that of which I speak’.24 ‘I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think’.2 5 Lacan’s translation of the Freudian cogito explains the problem in the ‘Seminar on “The Purloined Letter”’.26 Everyone, except Dupin, thinks in the realm of the visible where the phallic veil of the image reigns supreme, aided by its crutch, the signi er. Between the enigmatic signi er of the rst sexual trauma – assuming diÚ erence as sexual diÚ erence – and the term substituted for it in an actual signifying chain, a spark passes that xes the symptom as ‘a metaphor in which esh or function is taken as a signifying element’.2 7 So the true dream dialectic is not between dream gures extended into object relations (‘Father, don’t you see I’m burning?’) – the father wishing to extend his son’s own life. The dialectic is a debate between desire and jouissance within the dreamer’s own psyche – his or her being as a subject. In actuality, the burning child’s father wanted to stay with his son and he also wanted to sleep. Knowing his son was dead, he opted to sleep. Jouissance won out over desire. But he paid for this in delity to his son’s corpse, causing his son to suÚ er the further indignity of having his body catch on re, thus beginning the process of decomposition even before the grave and foreshortening the time the father could stay with even some imaginary semblance of his son. The father’s guilt at his own carelessness awoke him. The dialectic here is between metaphor (as symptom) – the father substitutes sleep for his vigil beside his son – and metonymy (desire for something else) – in this case, sleep. In the dream of the witty butcher’s wife, the woman dreams of the desire for some smoked salmon, the delicacy her friend loves passionately. The butcher’s wife substitutes her friend’s favorite food for her preferred delight, caviar. Lacan’s point is that the witty butcher’s wife’s dream is not about wanting caviar, but about wanting salmon. And, even then, the dream is not about wanting salmon, but about desire:
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the witty butcher’s wife wants what she does not have – to be thin like her friend. In conscious life this is not her desire. But it is the desire of her unconscious, a part of her unconscious fantasy world.28 Both paradigmatic dreams go back to the real of castration insofar as one’s being is as a being-for-the-gaze, a wish to live beyond castration, a wish to be whole and beautiful in the imaginary. Once the unconscious can no longer be thought of as biological or instinctual, nor can the ego be thought of as an agency of mediation, health, or adaptation. Rather, the unconscious is structured like a language. This means, not only that the unconscious works by the laws of metaphor and metonymy, but that a signi er will represent a ‘subject’ for another signi er, although the subject may itself be a lack or gap in the conscious signifying chain of meaning. The subject, then, is an enigma, an unconscious ‘I don’t know’ (the Unbewusste). If Lacan had stopped there, then he could have made no claims to advancing beyond phenomenology or hermeneutics. The ‘I don’t know’ would be an empty cipher awaiting the Rezeption Geschicte of a given reader’s intersubjective response. But Lacan attributed a substantivity to this concrete lack in the signifying chain of meaning, a lack which itself has the structure of the ( primary-process) displaced metonymizations of desire. These displacements, not only translate the object a, and its primitive or residual unary traits, it shows the unary traits as disconnected from the primordial objects that rst caused desire – the breast, the faeces, the urinary ow, the imaginary phallus, the phoneme, the voice, the gaze and the nothing – functioning as losses that fade into the void of a cut, or the real of angst.2 9 Thus, any metonymy has as its task the necessity of going towards the secondary-process substitutions of metaphor, substitutions that, quite literally, ll the gap – that is the subject lack of fullness or presence within the signifying chain – with diÚ erent kinds of enjoyment and with varying desired objects. The ego is the unwitting narcissistic tool of conscious language, as well as the agent that represses unconscious desire and imaginary fantasy. The ego is also so attached to its secondary-process functions of communicating, informing, and remembering that a speaker may deny in the second half of a sentence what he or she said in the rst part, particularly if some desire or non-ideal picture of ‘self ’ has slipped through the net of language in the second part. In such moments, the ego gathers up its being-for-narcissism to ensure that language keep subject division intact. Thus, the subject of (unconscious) desire remains trapped within narrative or secondary process, alienated from the truths of his or her being that are rooted in desire, fantasy and jouissance. In this psychoanalytic picture of the divided subject, both the subject ($) and the ego (i[o]) reside co-simultaneously in conscious language and in unconscious language. In Ce qui fait insigne (1987–1988) , Jacques-Alain Miller rereads Lacan’s che vuoi? graph to show that the dreaming Ideal ego at the left-hand corner of the graph is the installation of the Father’s Name signi er.30 Others have argued that this rst unconscious formation, the Ideal ego – this bedrock layer of maternal murmurings – comes from the mother’s desire, from her lalangue. Miller’s point is that the mother’s desire is an imaginary identi cation with phallic signi cation, with the assumption of sexuation in terms of diÚ erence qua diÚ erence. Even though it is the mother, or primary caretaker, who constructs the Ideal ego in the rst three years of life, she
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builds her edi ce around the place the phallus is assigned in reference to a Father’s Name. Thus, at the base of the dreaming ego, one nds the unconscious installation taken from the dialectic of a lack in the Other – the primordial mother – in the language of sexual diÚ erence, having or not having, being or nor being, whose third term referent is the phallic signi er that marks the symbolic order of diÚ erence over the real order of sameness. Not only does manifest dream content participate in a cover up of the real that Lacan eventually equated with the subject’s truth – (‘The true aims at the real’.) 31 – to invoke the true, the real and jouissance, we would have to bring into dream theory an idea of the dream as itself a symptom, even a cultural symptom, of the fact that ‘the whole truth cannot be told’ either in representations or in jouissance.3 2 One sign of this is that jouissance is a limit to the real, jouissance being that which tracks down in appearance, in semblance, in whatever clothes a self image, that which functions in fantasy to envelope the object-cause-of-desire;33 that is, the narcissistic language of manifest content.34 Something manifest appears at the surface of the dream and hides something latent: The manifest content is semblance or appearance, while the latent content contains the real or true of desire and jouissance. Still, the real or true is not The Truth, as classical dream theory thought, but a singular rendering of the humble truth of one person’s being – an hontology – told in the particular language of the partial drives (oral, anal, invocatory and scopic). According to Miller, such a theory does not t in with the science of empirical truths which view semblances or appearances as real and true. Rather, semblances are deceptive, even though one pretends they are true. Lacan looked, rather, to pre-Cartesian poetry which proposed a divorce between appearance and reality, rather than to the remarriage of appearance and reality over which Descartes presided. The Lacanian semblant is not an artifact, then, nor a piece of empirical data, nor the work of a biological id. Although the semblant exists in nature, as the rainbow, for example, or, even as the imaginary phallus when it is taken as the sign of reproduction, 35 the real is not in nature. It enters nature only when enough semblants are organized and coordinated to succeed in prescribing the impossible (to say, to do, to think), as, for example, in the ritual of the Eucharist.36 The real appears, Miller stresses, as a consequence of the impossible. Thus the ‘nature of semblants’ is that of structure: Two overlapping voids frame the impossibilities that make up sublimation, Lacan argues, giving us a formula for Antique tragedy, as well as a formula for the dream: Something is lacking and something else is lost. Between the two is a void place of the intersecting losses, such as Antigone’s loss of her brother Polynice’s life and honor and her simultaneous loss of Creon’s benevolent gaze. In trying to explain this picture of the dream in which the manifest content is a semblance while the latent content leads to structure where content can be peeled oÚ grammar, so to speak, unveiling the real, I shall recount a paradigmatic academic’s dream. A truck is delivering loads of paper, among which is a xeroxed copy of a bound book manuscript ready to be sent out to the publisher. Everything is ne except for one detail: Someone – the printing press or the delivery person – has torn
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the last page, so the book is not complete. By taking recourse to free association, this dream could produce volumes of writing about the kind of typeface used in the MS, how that associates with print faces seen in recent day residue, who the delivery person was in actual life, as well as what was delivered, and so on. One could write a volume on dream associations coming from this dream’s day residue, as one can on most dreams. Heeding Freud’s later rejection of his dream theory, Lacan argues that free association always proves itself to be false, imaginary, partaking of bad in nity and of in nite metonymization. In heeding dreams, Lacan pays attention, rather, to the signi ers stated in the dream and to the structure of desire to which they lead, latent in relation to the manifest content, but at the surface of the dreamer’s desire in life. Although a signi er leads to a latent meaning of the dream, the truths told there are structural truths of the unconscious, while the manifest meaning speaks of ego dilemmas occurring in the present time of the dreamer’s life. In this sense, Lacanian structure is always topological structure: the manifest meaning will be on one side of a Moebius strip, face-up, on the surface, and the latent meaning will be laid out in the same way on the other side of the Moebius band, on the surface. That which is occulted is a third thing – the real impossibilities concerning structure (concerning one’s desire, narcissism, fantasy and so on) that are hidden in the twist of the Moebius band. And the real opens onto the structure of the sexual diÚ erence which will always bear on castration as the source of trauma, be it that of being weaned from a breast/bottle to a cup, or that of assuming sexuation in reference to a sexual diÚ erence which is ‘learned’ and, therefore, is not a natural biological diÚ erence. The assumption of sexual diÚ erence is a drama about ‘having’ that bears on ‘being’ in the language of loss, lack, separation – that is, castration – for both sexes.37 There are two new things going on in this hypothesis concerning dreams. The dream is made of images that are not the simple associative pictures Freud described when he depicted the manifest dream as a thought revealed by the association of an event with an image or picture of day residue. Rosemarie Sand argues in ‘Manifestly Fallacious’ that such material should not be discarded by psychologists, however, insofar as day residue manifests ego concerns about daily life problems.38 One cannot disagree with Sand’s argument. It can only prove itself to be true. One could even describe Sand’s argument as another guise of classical dream interpretation, the dream’s meaning being taken at face value. Freud argued, rather, that the dream disguises its own origin. Lacan advanced Freudian theory here by proposing that dream images are neither imaginary images, such as the teddy bear that so often serves as a transitional object, nor are dream words to be taken as insignia. Rather, the signi er is the only way into the real of structure (be it of fantasy, desire, symptom, and so on), hidden within both manifest and latent contents. In the dream about the torn MS mentioned above, the signi er that kept being repeated as a vocal sound or, at least, as a ‘monstration’ or showing of certain words, was, ‘the paper is cut’. In the dream, the delivery man gave the dreamer her MS, but she saw that its last page was torn into and she could not remember what had been written there. The cri de coeur in the dream was ‘the paper is cut’, ‘the paper is torn’. In Lacanian analysis, such a dream does not bear on the dreamer’s feelings about the MS or about the delivery man or any other manifest part of the dream. Rather, ‘the paper
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is torn’ leads to a commonplace saying in the English language: ‘a paper cut’. We have all had paper cuts on our ngers or our tongues. The paper cut becomes a latent statement about castration; an enunciation of the unconscious fear of the gaze with its castrating aura of judgment into which we are all born, most particularly when a new book is being sent oÚ to a publisher. So powerful is the signi er, that by Seminar XX, Lacan stated that ‘the signi er is the cause of jouissance’.39 The signi ers that present a subject of desire for another signi er which, in turn, causes jouissance (or not), stand between a natural cause and a cultural cause of the dream. Lacan names this insignia the semblant or appearance. It is a cause of desire which appears as a dream picture that disguises the real within the latent meaning. But how does this psychoanalytic turn advance our understanding of dream theory? First, the dream’s images are semblants which Lacan de nes as those illusions one takes to be ‘the thing itself ’, but which actually function like masks, to carry meaning between the real and the symbolic.40 If one considers the dream as made manifest in terms of the structure of Lacan’s che vuoi? graph, then the base meaning would be that the subject that lacks fullness of meaning as a transcendent subject of essence is, rather, the subject as a lack of desire and jouissance. The subject ($) carries the message of lack to the Ideal ego unconscious formation which supports a few xed master signi ers which, in turn, are projected into conscious meaning. These signi ers are messages meant to verify a paternal signi er, or a symbolic Other, via the response of ego ideals in the outside world. It is the Other and others that hold the keys to bestowing value on the empty place that is the subject qua lack-of-being. The startling illumination that such an idea brings about is that we do not dream merely out of our own thwarted, unful lled wishes. We dream for others, indeed, for the Other. Our dreams are skewed messages sent to the Other in an eÚ ort to nd love and acceptance there. We dream transferentially. At the level of how this occurs, Lacan says dreams function as the enunciation of a repressed desire made in a circuit from one’s unconscious Other treasury of signi ers to the Other of the outside world one wishes to please. That is, we would not have to dream about how to please the other if the desire in question were not repressed, unful lled. Perhaps that is why, still following the che vuoi graph, the dream nally enunciates a drive in the top portion of the graph. Starting out as jouissance, the dream ends up cutting into the illusory consistency of imaginary jouissance. Where one awaits a completion, one encounters a castration that sends the dreamer’s message back to his or her signifying treasury from which it emanated.4 1 It is important at this juncture to distinguish between desire and drive. While desire is the desire to be desired – and thereby lls a lack-in-being – drive is the request or demand for the ful llment of jouissance. Desire works dialectically while drive belongs to the imperative mode. The dream emanates from repressed desire to enunciate its message as a thwarted demand, both caused by the Other and sent back to the Other. While one might follow Freud to say that this makes the dream a ‘wish’, pure and simple – the letter returned to its sender, – Lacan argues that while Ronald Fairbairn modelled his scheme of the subject on the dream,
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the crucial fact is that this dream is recounted by the subject. And experience tells us that this dream isn’t dreamt at any old time, in just any old way. Nor is it addressed to no one. The dream has all the value of a direct declaration of the subject. The images will only take on their meaning in a wider discourse, in which the entire history of the subject is integrated. The subject is as such historicized from one end to the other. This is where an analysis is played out – on the frontier between the symbolic and the imaginary. The subject does not have a dual relation with an object with which he is confronted. Rather, it is in relation to another subject that his relations with an object-other acquire their meaning, and by the same token their value’.4 2 Now let us look at Lacan’s reading of Freudian dream theory in light of what Freud argued about dreams late in his career, in ‘An Evidential Dream’ (1924): The[se] day’s residues [...] are not the dream itself: they lack the main essential of a dream. Of themselves they are not able to construct a dream [...] The essential factor in the construction of dreams is an unconscious wish – as a rule an infantile wish, now repressed – which can come to expression in this somatic or psychical material [...] and can thus supply these [the day’s residues] with a force which enables them to press their way through to consciousness even during the suspension of thought at night. The dream is in every case a ful llment of this unconscious wish, whatever else it may contain – warning, re ection, admission, or any other part of the rich content of preconscious waking life [...] It is this unconscious wish that gives the dream-work its peculiar character as an unconscious revision of preconscious material.4 3 Freud associates ‘depth’ – primary (infantile) process – with wish ful llment.4 4 These wishes emanate from the subject of the unconscious to whom Freud does not attribute thought. Lacan teaches that the subject can only desire in language, images and aÚ ect – via thought, that is. In ‘The agency of the letter’ he hypothesizes that such thought ‘functions by joining the desire for the replacement of traits of a primordially lost object (the breast, the feces, the urinary ow, the [imaginary] phallus, the phoneme, the voice, the gaze, the nothing) to some object retaining one or more properties of the lost one’.45 An infant – and later an adult – can substitute for these radically lost objects by the mechanism of metonymy which works by recognition of similar properties in objects, thereby enabling memory to select its objects of desire in the outside world by choosing the particular conditions of enjoyment that have already been constituted by the very unary traits that bind reminiscence of an object to the hole made by its loss. In this sense, dream images are not unlike unary traits; they are master signi ers – non-dialectical – of a subject’s own identi cations (S1s) and the object(a)’s property of having to be (re)found because they (it) have (has) been lost. While metonymy selects meaningful details that spell out desire as emanating from one or more of the eight primordial objects-cause-of-desire that fade away, leaving
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behind unary traces, this would mean that primary objects of desire are ‘obscure’ as objects, as such, being properly evocative and evanescent, recognizable only in the precise markings of the identi catory unary traits that satisfy one’s jouissance. Where Roman Jakobson found contiguity as the rhetorical trope in play in metonymy, Lacan returns to Freud to emphasize that the displacement of a primary object is more like the displacement of the bodily organ with which the object of desire is often confused by object-relations analysts. These fading objects – objects whose rst construction places them beyond the possibility of memory – are, nonetheless, substituted for by the precise images, signi ers and aÚ ects of one’s world that, in turn, constitute metaphor/condensation not only by the ‘law’ of substitutability, but also by the similarities characteristic of it.4 6 Put in other words, primordial objects are radically lost to memory, but something of their manner of constitution is known in the real of metonymic traits that elicit jouissance and in the metaphorical substitutions we take for the objects (things and people) we choose to love, to ‘invest in’, to ‘cathect’. This is not a dissimilar logic from that of the relation between ego ideals (others) and the Ideal ego unconscious formation. Ideal ego must be deduced from the others one chooses as friends and partners, from the desirable aspects that mark one as the one who is chosen from the real.4 7 Not only does Lacan’s theory of how metaphor makes metonymy functional make sense of Freud’s isolation of the mechanisms of condensation and displacement at work in dreams, he also sheds new light on the drive, as depicted in Freud’s ‘Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’ (1915).4 8 Psychoanalytic critic, Daniel Collins, sees Freud’s wish theory and his dream theory as antithetical to his drive theory. One might suggest, however, that Freud’s logic of metonymy clari es his object of the drive, making it anything but the ‘mythology’ he condemned it to, as well as illuminating the real dynamics of the three other fates of the drive that Freud placed in the borderland between the mental and the physiological.4 9 Freud claimed, for example, that the object of the drive is radically variable at, say, 2:00 am when certain men, upon leaving bars that close for the night, will choose anyone as a sexual object. Insofar as the aim of the drive is satisfaction, Freud gives the example of Dante’s saying that if he cannot have Beatrice, he will write The Divine Comedy; it’s all the same thing.5 0 In other words, the object of the drive may be radically particular at the level of metonymy, there where the judgment made comes from the object of fantasy that seeks discriminatory particularities over generalized imaginaries selected by an indiscriminate Id (ca). While metaphorical substitutions may be fuzzy ¸ displacements of desire, substitutions that readily confuse the object and the aim of the drive, metonymy makes careful distinctions as to what gives precise jouissance in the drives. These singular traits of objects are, indeed, those which may lead to love. Such a logic is also at work in dreams where the object (a) sought in the Other can never appear directly. What does appear are the (manifest) metaphorical substitutes for it and intimations of its metonymical character. In trying to make sense of how Lacan rereads Freud on dreams, giving ever greater precision to this murky realm, let us look at a typical ‘nonsensical’ dream. In the dream in question, people were seated around a large table. They were dining. Guests at a dinner party. One lady said she had seen a spider’s web behind her and she was going to leave because she was afraid of spiders. The hostess seated across
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from her told her that spiders were not so frightening, but the guest ed anyway. The hostess could then look through the empty space opened up by the guest’s evacuation of her chair. There was a large spider egg, the size of a golf ball, brightly colored white, with red streaks going around it. Just as the hostess/dreamer was ready to investigate such a surprisingly large egg, it burst, producing an adorable black and white puppy with curly, fuzzy hair. The dreamer swept the dog into her arms, cooing to it and, then, awoke. At the level of day residue, the dream is easily explicable. The dreamer had just returned to her house which had been unoccupied for a year. Throughout the house were dead spiders and large eggs of unhatched ones. Some spiders indigenous to that region have red streaks on their backs. The day before the dream, the dreamer had read an article in a News Magazine on laser surgery to perfect one’s vision. Two ‘failed’ cases were reported, one in which a woman’s eyeball was left red. There was much talk in the article of reshaping eyeballs. The actual spiders, the dinner party which the dreamer had given three days previously, the laser surgery (which a friend of hers had had and which she was contemplating) and a line often repeated in her daughter’s ‘young adult’ novel ‘Daddy, doggie and me’ all come together in the dream as manifest content. But none of the day residue explains the dream as a logical communication, a message sent to the Other, for an other. The dream is only explicable if one follows the signi er in it – ‘Daddie, doggie and me’. The dream dog was a metaphorical metonymy, a substitute for an absent love in real life. The message in the dream is sent to the lover in the language of love: ‘Daddie, doggie and me’, a sweet cuddly dog who does not bite as do the spiders and absent lovers. And, of course, this message, intended for the lover – in the ‘see me’ of the scopic drive, or the ‘hear me’ of the invocatory drive – is returned to the dreamer’s signifying treasury as a failed communication, a dead letter, a castrated jouissance, as are all dreams. That dreams are reports of failures and fears makes them all the more useful for psychoanalysis. They are perforce already in the transference, a part of it, communicating some truth about the real in the skewed language and images that cannot speak directly about the wishes to set something straight in the symbolic order. If wishes were as easy to formulate clearly or as transparent in meaning as Freud once thought, they would not have to wend their way through the unconscious distortions and transformations that make them unrecognizable as message-bearing narratives, as communications. Further, Lacan makes topological sense of dreams – topology being the logic of place – wherein the interlinking of conscious to unconscious life shows, not only that the interlinking of metaphor to metonymy by the object a is not equivalent to a twosided piece of paper with the unconscious on one side and consciousness on the other. Rather, one bumps up against the bar separating signi er from signi ed, or both faces of a seemingly oppositional meaning, to place its opaque relations at the surface of the text. One is in the presence of a Moebius strip – 8 – operation where the twist in the middle occults the disappearing primary object sought: the father wants to have his son’s dead body intact even though it is burning; the witty butcher’s wife wants to be plump in conscious life and thin in unconscious life – an impossibility; the academic wants to spare her book from the cutting gaze of critical readers –
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another impossibility; the hostess wants to regain a lost love. In dreams, the meaning of the object-cause-of-desire travels away from the body into the image, signi er or aÚ ect where it takes on the character of a drive, a drive aimed at nding or retrieving the impossible. At the manifest level of ego, dreams are funny. They deal with daily problems. At the latent level of the void, they are sorrowful, concerning the real of loss. Thus, unconscious thought is topologically inseparable from the outside everyday world of ‘day residues’. But rather than focus on the concrete pieces of a day’s activities, Lacan looks at the larger scenario of dreaming as a response to transference relations one is in with the others/Other of one’s life. Indeed, this idea connects Freud’s two disparate categories: day residue as preconscious and inessential and unconscious wish ful llment as deep and essential. The wish ful llment, in Lacanian terms, is the wish to ll one’s desire as a subject of/in/for the Other. It makes sense, then, that Lacan compares the unconscious at the level of the real to a pulsating bladder, rather than to the ‘deep’ structures imagined by Freud, or the cave depicted by Plato. The unconscious, after Lacan, does not cohere to the imaginary model of container/contained, but dwells at the surface of the body as it disperses itself through fantasy and drive within the eld of language. Lacan adds something more about dreams that Freud did not say. Although Freud argued that the unconscious was sexual, he did not maintain that dreams necessarily were. By appending sexuality to the four partial drives that materialize language – the oral, the anal, the scopic, the invocatory – Lacan argues that we are necessitated in the sexual order.51 Put another way, the drives are, for Lacan, sexual. They were rst constituted at the site of the mother’s body and, thus, contain properties of libido or jouissance that make the real of sexual excitement (or sorrow at loss) enter language itself. It enters language, sublimated, as two intersecting voids or losses. While Freud interpreted ‘sublimated’ as meaning desexualized, as a part of the myth of the drives, Lacan argues that sublimated meant ‘sexualized’ in the sense that two void places overlap each other, each hollow wanting to be lled with jouissance objects that reside in primordial fantasies as they eddy up into secondary-process wish-ful llment language. That is, desire (or wish) is the desire for wholeness, for re nding the lost real parts of oneself to which life’s continual cuts and separations harken back as these return into the symbolic to disrupt smooth narratives and into imaginary consistencies to break apart the illusions that make bodily constancy or homeostasis the base line of the Freudian pleasure principle. Finally, that unconscious, wish thought is primary process–oriented – that is, concerned with fantasy, desire and libido – does not make it infantile. It simply makes the dream a product of the jouissance system, whose parameters and functions are as complex and extensive as are those of secondary-process representations and conscious thought. The desiring subject – the subject who has an unconscious wish – is the one whose other face in language is that of lack itself, which Lacan described as a concrete place of the real in between the wanting and having of desire. We have said that lack expresses itself by traveling the path of fantasy, via the imaginary structure of ego density and mirror-stage dual specularity, entering consciousness transformed in the remembering and recounting of the dream which metaphor and
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metonymy allow. Where Freud was stymied – wondering how to separate the recasting of the dream in the retelling of it from its primordial components – Lacan gave an answer. The dream is dialectical thought – taking account of the Other’s desire – displaying a tension between the ego ideal imaginary construct and the Ideal ego symbolic formation which displays both the creation of the Ideal ego by the symbolic Other and the dialectical tension in it that is derived from the imaginary other (ego ideals) of transference relations.5 2 What I am suggesting is that we remember dreams, not necessarily because they bespeak a trauma or a con ict- lled day’s residue. More fundamentally, we remember dreams within the dialectic of our own desire made up of wanting and (not) having. But signi ers are equally as important. Without language or discourse there would be no dreams, no silent world of wonderful images and forms, as evolutionary psychologists imagine the world of dolphin or chimpanzee language to be.53 Rather, the dream wish/desire is aimed at the Other in the eld of the gaze, as one who will give an answer to the lack the dream states (unlike psychotic hallucinations which are nightmares of attacking gures where delusion reigns -not fantasy – because the Other is already full). There is an ‘I want’ and an ‘I don’t (can’t) have’ that gives most people the language of meaning Freud found rooted in an innate con ict or tension he attributed to biology. Stressing the dream’s meaning, Lacan portrays unconscious desire as entering consciousness with all the dialectical fuzziness of the imaginary (irrational) number two, the mysterious sign of a mirror-stage twoness where two condenses into one that over ows its own borders in the dream.
Notes
1

Jacques Lacan, ‘The agency of the letter in the unconscious or reason since Freud’ (1957), Ecrits: A Selection, Alan Sheridan (ed. and trans.) (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977) , pp.146–78. 2 Lacan, ‘The agency’, p.149, n. 9, p.176. 3 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar, Book I: Freud’s Papers on Technique (1953–1954), Jacques-Alain Miller (ed.), John Forrester (trans. and notes) (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), p.1. 4 Jacques Lacan, Le seminaire, livre V (1957 –958): Les ´ formations de l’inconscient, Jacques-Alain Miller (ed.) (Paris: Seuil, 1998) , p.10. 5 Jeanne Lafont, Topologie Lacanienne et Clinique Analytique (Cahors: Point Hors Ligne, 1990) , pp.16–17. 6 Lacan, The Seminar, Book I, p.265. 7 Lafont, Topologie Lacanienne, p.14. 8 Lacan, The Seminar, Book I, p.264. 9 Lafont, Topologie Lacanienne, ch. 3, pp.41–63. 10 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900–1901) , The Standard Edition, vol. IV-V, cf. ch. 7, vol. V and p.512. 11 Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, p.512. Ragland 80

12

Sigmund Freud, ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’ (1914), The Standard Edition, vol. XIV, pp.67–102. 13 Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), The Standard Edition, vol. XVIII, pp.3–64. 14 Sigmund Freud, ‘Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego’ (1921) , The Standard Edition, vol. XVIII, pp.67–143. 15 Lacan, Le seminaire, livre V, p.12. ´ 16 Lacan, Le seminaire, livre V, p.12. ´ 17 Jacques Lacan, ‘La troisieme jouissance’ (1974), ` Les Lettres de l’EFP: Bulletin de l’Ecole freudienne de Paris, 16 (1975),178 –203. 18 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar, Book II (1954 –1955): The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, Jacques-Alain Miller (ed.), Sylvana Tomaselli (trans.), John Forrester (notes) (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991). 19 Ellie Ragland, Essays on the Pleasures of Death: From Freud to Lacan (New York: Routledge, 1995), cf. ch. 6, ‘The Paternal Metaphor’. 20 Lacan, Le seminaire, livre V, pp.10–11. ´ 21 Lacan, Le seminaire, livre V, p.13; ‘The Agency’, ´ p.149.

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Ellie Ragland, ‘Lacan, The Death Drive, and the Dream of the Burning Child’, in Death and Representation, Sarah Goodwin (ed.) (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994) , pp.80–102. 23 Gerard Wajcman, [From Tableau(‘Painting’)], in Critical Essays on Jacques Lacan, Ellie Ragland (ed.) (New York: G. K. Hall, 1999) , pp.142–48; cf. p.145. Wacjman explicates one lesson, that of May 4, 1966, from Lacan’s Le seminaire, livre XIII ´ (1965 –1966): L’objet de la psychanalyse. 24 Lacan, ‘The Agency’, p.165. 25 Lacan, ‘The Agency’, p.166. 26 Jacques Lacan, Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’, JeÚ rey Mehlman (trans.) (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988) , pp.28–54. 27 Lacan, ‘The Agency’, p.166. 28 Jacques Lacan, ‘The direction of the treatment and the principles of its power’ (1958) , Ecrits: A Selection, Alan Sheridan (trans. and ed.) (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977) , pp.226–80; cf. pp.256–72. 29 Jacques Lacan, ‘The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious’ (1960) , Ecrits: A Selection, Alan Sheridan (trans. and ed.) (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), pp.292–325; cf. p.315. 30 Jacques-Alain Miller, Ce qui fait insigne, course of 1987–1988, given in the Department of Psychoanalysis, The University of Paris VIII, Saint Denis, unpublished course, lecture of January 14, 1987. 31 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar, Book XX (1972–1973) : Encore, Jacques-Alain Miller (ed.) Bruce Fink (trans. and notes) (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998, p.91. 32 Lacan, The Seminar, Book XX, p.92. 33 Lacan, The Seminar, Book XX, p.92. 34 Rosemarie Sand, ‘Manifestly Fallacious’, in Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend, Frederick Crews (ed.) (New York: Penguin Books, 1998) , pp.85–93; cf. p.92. 35 Jacques-Alain Miller, De la nature des semblants, course of 1991–1992, given in the Department of

Psychoanalysis, The University of Paris VIII, Saint Denis, unpublished course, lecture of November 17, 1991. 36 Miller, De la Nature, Nov. 27, 1991. 37 Jacques Lacan, Seminar, livre VI (1958 –1959): Le desir et son interpre tation, unpublished seminar. Cf. ´ ´ ‘Desire and the Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet’ (1959), James Hulbert (trans.), Yale French Studies, 55/56 (1977). 38 Sand, ‘Manifestly Fallacious’, pp.85–93. 39 Lacan, The Seminar, Book XX, p.24. 40 Lacan, The Seminar, Book XX, ch. 8. 41 Lacan, ‘The Subversion’, p.315. 42 Lacan, The Seminar, Book II, p.255. 43 Sigmund Freud, ‘An Evidential Dream’ (1924) , The Standard Edition, vol. XII, pp.268–77; cf. p.274. 44 Freud, ‘An Evidential Dream’, p.175. 45 Lacan, ‘The Subversion’, pp.314–15. 46 Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis (Champaign and Chicago: The University of Illinois Press, 1987), cf. ch. 4, ‘The Relationship of Sense and Sign’, pp.196–266. 47 Jacques-Alain Miller, Les reponses du reel, course ´ ´ of 1983–1984, given in the Department of Psychoanalysis, The University of Paris VIII, Saint Denis, unpublished course. 48 Sigmund Freud, ‘Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’ (1915), The Standard Edition, pp.111–40. 49 Daniel G. Collins, ‘On the Drive’, Umbr(a): A Journal of the Unconscious, 1 (1997), 67–79; cf. 71. 50 Quoted by Collins in ‘On the Drive’, p.71. 51 Jacques Lacan, The Seminar, Book XI (1964): The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, JacquesAlain Miller (ed.), Alan Sheridan (trans.) (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), pp.188–89. 52 Lacan, The Seminar, Book II, p.243; cf. the Schema L. 53 Gregory Benford, Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia (New York: Avon Books, 1999).

Ellie Ragland is Professor and former Department Chair of English at the University of Missouri (Columbia). She received her Ph.D. in French and Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan and has taught in the Department of Psychoanalysis at the University of Paris VIII, Saint Denis (1994–1995) . She is the author of Rabelais and Panurge: A Psychological Approach to Literary Character (1976), Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis (1986), and Essays on the Pleasures of Death: From Freud to Lacan (1995). She coedited Lacan and the Subject of Language with Mark Bracher (1991) and edited Critical Essays on Jacques Lacan (1999). She is editor of the Newsletter of the Freudian Field and author of numerous essays on Lacan, psychoanalysis, literature, and gender theory. Her forthcoming books are Proving Lacan: Psychoanalysis and the Interdisciplinary Force of Evidentiary Knowledge, co-edited with David Metzger, and The Logic of Sexuation – Aristotle to Lacan.
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