Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan
We have learned to see Joyce as Lacan’s own symptom and as the Sinthome par excellence. A very particular, hard to localise symptom: neither sign nor signature, neither subject nor le moi, neither signifier nor letter, but a little of all these, twisting them all in a new wayward knot. Facing this waywardness, I’ll start from a moment of wonder in Lacan, a genuine astonishment facing Joyce’s puns, accompanied with a deeper recognition that he has been doing more or less the same thing with language for half a century. In order to make sense of this wonder, I’ll have to retrace the genealogy of the fascination exerted by Joyce on Lacan. Lacan had been reading Joyce before he tackled him directly in 1975. In Seminar XX,1 Joyce is mentioned as one of the main inventors of a Tel Quelian modernity, he is treated as a radical linguistic experimenter, in fact as as he would be by ´ Sollers, always invoked in the same breath with Artaud, Mallarme and ´ Lautreamont:
I agree that Joyce’s work is not readable – it is certainly not translatable into Chinese. What happens in Joyce’s work? The signifier stuffs the signified. It is because the signifiers collapse into each other, are recomposed and mixed up – read Finnegans Wake – that something is produced that, as a signified, may seem enigmatic, but is clearly what is closest to what we analysts, thanks to analytic discourse, have to read: the slip of the tongue. [. . .] What is at stake in analytic discourse is always this: you give a different reading to what is enunciated as a signifier than what it signifies.2

One could object that Finnegans Wake has been translated into Chinese (since then, to be honest) or argue that the difficulties of the text are relative and its modes of unreadability not so insurpassable to contemporary readers – at least for those who devote time and energy to its decipherment. Joyce appears here as the first writer to teach psychoanalysts how to read, and he owes this to a unique use of language in which the signifiers float and mean half-way, move always elsewhere. They mean something else as they slip between languages and also between speech and writing. This surfaces in the sentence taken by Lacan in his Sorbonne lecture. In the text, a female

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 27 voice asks: ‘Who ails tongue coddeau, aspace of dumbillsilly?’3 Joyce scholars have long identified this sentence as presenting courtship in the context of sexual wars leading to a Viconian marriage. Lacan admits that he ` ` would never have recognised the French sentence (‘Ou est ton cadeau, espece ´ d’imbecile!’) hidden under English words without Jacques Aubert’s help. Let us note that this expression is the ritual French phrase used by a prostitute asking money from a customer, which suggests obliquely and ironically the procedure of ‘la passe’, then recently instituted in Lacan’s own school. Has Lacan forgotten his own petit cadeau, his ‘little gift’ offered to the voice of peripatetic truth? Apparently unaware of the sexual undertones of his example, he comments:
What is unbelievable, is that this homophony, here of a translinguistic kind, is only borne by letters that conform to English spelling. [. . .] There is something ambiguous in this phonetic usage, I am tempted to write faunic: the faunesque of the thing derives entirely from letters, that is something that is not essential to language, something that has been woven by the accidents of history. That someone may use this in such a prodigious manner forces us to question the very nature of language.4

Lacan’s wonder should itself cause some wonder, although it would be rash to mount a philosophical critique in the Derridean mode. More recently Jacques-Alain Miller has stated in a commentary to the new editon of the Sinthome that he did not want to accuse Derrida at all.5 If Lacan analyses Joyce’s sentence as naıvely as possible, it is perhaps because his reading ¨ flirts with a certain type of stupidity but also stages it, meditates on it and makes better sense of it. In other words, one should not rush too hastily to a Derridean condemnation of Lacan’s apparently irrepressible ‘phonocentrism’, a logocentrism made manifest when he adds that the letter is not essential to language. Throughout the Joyce seminar, Lacan stresses the role of equivocation in writing, while claiming precedence over Derrida in this theoretical debate. Writing becomes a ‘precipitation of the signifier’, an expression that we need to re-examine in the context of the famous 1971 text entitled ‘Lituraterre’. For Lacan, Derrida had introduced his concept of writing only after psychoanalysis had shown him the way. Lacan decided to remain deaf to Derrida’s idea that writing is constitutive, hollows out the link that we take for granted between our most intimate thoughts and the voice we believe we hear when we think. Sticking to an old-fashioned difference between the vocal linguistic substance of the signifier and written effects of language, here Lacan remains in awe of Joyce’s riddles.

28 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 At the same time, the strategy of equivocation deployed with a vengeance in Finnegans Wake has practical uses for therapy: ‘What in Joyce makes the symptom, the pure symptom of what is our relation to language, when it is reduced to symptoms – i.e. to what effect it has when this effect is not analyzed – I would even add when one forbids oneself to play with any equivocation that might move the unconscious of anybody’.6 At the end of his seminar, Lacan concludes that, for Joyce, writing is essential to his being, to his Ego: ‘For Joyce, the ego has played a different role from that of the common mortals. And writing is essential to his ego.’ Joyce’s ego absorbs all cultures, encompasses the entire orb – a world reduced to language. The writing process set in motion can work endlessly, since it aims at reconstituting a writer’s Ego, which grows to the dimensions of our linguistic and cultural universe. This is in fact not far from Derrida’s own perception of Joyce’s impact on philosophy! As Derrida had noted as early as 1962, in his thesis on Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry, Joyce’s project in Finnegans Wake could be described as the exact opposite of Husserl’s phenomenology, with its wish to reduce equivocity to univocity. Joyce uses ‘a language that could equalize the greatest possible synchrony with the greatest potential for the buried, accumulated, and interwoven intentions within each linguistic atom, each vocable, each word, each simple proposition, in all wordly cultures and their most ingenious forms’.7 The well-known story of the missed encounter between Lacan and Derrida should send us toward other missed and successful encounters. In fact, Lacan’s investment in Joyce does not date from the seventies, from his association with Sollers (who looms large in J.-A. Miller’s endnotes) – and who had to choose at one point between Lacan and Derrida in terms of friendship and allegiances. Sollers chose Lacan, much as Jolas chose Joyce over Gertrude Stein. I’ll return to the two cultural frames, two avant-gardist little magazines, transition and Tel Quel, that respectively shaped the production of Work in Progress in the twenties and thirties and its reception by Lacan in the sixties and seventies. In 1995, Michael Thomas Davis, a friend of mine teaching at Princeton, discovered that Lacan had borrowed a book by Joyce from Sylvia Beach’s lending library, Shakespeare and Co., in 1941.8 This was not a book by James Joyce but by an author of numerous studies on Irish and Anglo-Irish language and history, Patrick Weston Joyce. On 15 October 1941, Lacan borrowed A Concise History of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1922, a potted Irish history written by the erudite polygraph. Not doing what he did to Jacques Aubert, Lacan returned it on 1 December of that same year. Roudinesco’s biography evokes his anglophilia at the time, his reading American novels in Marseilles and having started translating T. S. Eliot’s

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 29 poetry. The address on the register is his official one at 97 boulevard Malesherbes, not the one he was going to occupy soon after, rue de Lille – Lacan’s divorce followed on 15 December 1941. Lacan opened an account at Sylvia Beach’s lending library only two months before it closed for good – a closure that was imposed by the sudden interest in Finnegans Wake and Joycean items from a German officer who was threatening to confiscate all the books. Shakespeare and Co. was closed on 11 December 1941.9 Why had Lacan got that particular book? Was it Joyce’s relatively recent demise (13 January 1941) in Zurich that decided ¨ Lacan to read the novel in English with the help of the most easily available guide, Stuart Gilbert’s James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study? This is what Davis supposes, since he observes that P. W. Joyce’s Concise History is mentioned by Gilbert in his commentary on Joyce’s use of Irish history.10 Stuart Gilbert mentions the successive waves of conquerors that invaded Ireland, some of Grecian origins, others perhaps semitic. Among them, the Milesians would have come from Scythia via Egypt and Spain. Ireland would owe its specific spirit and culture in part to ancestors of the Wandering Jew. All of which would imply that Lacan had started studying Ulysses seriously in 1941, and that he had been attracted to the coincidence of this Irish homophony. From one Joyce to the other! Reading Ulysses, he might have found hints leading him to the famous lending library where he borrowed the book, a bookstore to which he used to go as a very young man. First, the most obvious, in Stephen’s musings during the discussion on Shakespeare in the library: ‘William Shakespeare and Company, limited’.11 Then, later, hidden in a long list of names of Irish heroes of antiquity (in the ‘Cyclops’ episode), the curious name ‘Patrick W. Shakespeare’12 just before ‘Brian Confucius’. The intention is clear: Joyce transforms the famous Irish historian who authored books such as English as We Speak it in Ireland and The Origin and History of Irish Names of Place into a local Shakespeare. But Lacan’s interest in Ulysses dates from an even earlier encounter with Joyce (when?), as well as his having been present at the first reading of sections of the book – in English and in French – that took place at Adrienne ´ Monnier’s Aux Amis des Livres bookstore, rue de l’Odeon on 7 December 1921, thus just twenty years earlier. J.-A. Miller confirms that Lacan told him he was present at the famous reading, among the 250 members of the ´ audience.13 During that reading Valery Larbaud explained the entire system of correspondences that seemed to make better sense of Ulysses. What Lacan says of his first encounter with Joyce has triggered speculation. Lacan said in his Sorbonne talk of 1975 that he had met Joyce when he was 17, which would place the fatidic encounter in 1918, which, as we know, is impossible as Joyce only arrived in Paris in 1920. The slip-up on the date may stem

30 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 from Lacan’s insistence on the fact that he, too, was ‘a young man’ when he got in touch with Joyce in the flesh (this recalls a no less mythical meeting between an ‘older’ Yeats and a younger (and poorer) Joyce, Joyce quipping that Yeats was too old for him to help the Irish poet). Joyce would have been named by Lacan even before he had been encountered – sending us to homophony between jeune homme (young man) and je nomme (I name). It is ´ tempting to see in Lacan’s disturbance of memory in rue de l’Odeon another type of reminiscence, the fact that it had taken Joyce seventeen years to write Finnegans Wake (‘Paris 1922–1939’). In a sense, Joyce had always accompanied Lacan in Paris, even when he wasn’t there yet – a structurally necessary ‘company’ disguised as an odd number! This is also because Joyce’s name came to mean more than the simple reference to a person or an author. For Joyce allowed Lacan to retranslate Freud once more and perhaps for the last time. Lacan’s French language is indispensable to move from German to English. Daniel Brody had blamed the animus Ulysses evinced towards Jung on the author’s name: just ‘Translate your name into German’, he told Joyce.14 That ‘Joyce’ can be rendered as ‘Freud’ in German is a reminder that the break between Freud and Jung left a deep impact, but that Lacan’s first steps in the psychoanalytic milieu were influenced by Jung himself (from whom he heard the famously apocryphal anecdote of Freud asserting that they were bringing the plague when Freud and Jung arrived in New York). Moreover, the disciples of Joyce gathered in the pages of transition tended to prefer Jung to Freud, at least to judge from Jolas’s essays and the issues of transition in which Jung was translated and invoked. However, the homophony was not new even for Joyce; he was aware of it as early as the twenties. When he arrived in Paris in the summer of 1920, soon to ‘meet’ Lacan somewhere, he told John Rodker ‘that the name Joyce meant the same thing in English as Freud in German’.15 While Joyce experienced this translation as an objective joke that sealed something like a fate, a young French medical student was ready to catch the joke at the first rebound. Joyce managed to have his biography published in 1939, the year Finnegans Wake was made available to readers. Most of Gorman’s James Joyce was co-written or censored by Joyce, who masterminded the double publication of a seventeen-year creative process and a biography that had been nine years in the making. This first biography is unreliable but there is a lot to learn from it, including the idea that the portrait of the young Joyce that emerges is antipodal to the ‘Joyce as Stephen’ concept which earlier and naıve readers tend to accept (a mistake Lacan is not far from making ¨ himself). Gorman describes James Joyce’s energy and popularity, his infectious sense of humour and athletic feats such as swimming

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 31 energetically in the sea. His sense of fun was justified by the fact that Joyce was true to his name: ‘The name is obviously of French extraction – Joyeux’.16 Indeed, the earliest ‘Joyces’ coming to Ireland were descendants of an Anglo-Norman settler who came from Wales in the twelfth century, who spoke Norman French, not Gaelic. What would Freud have thought of changing his name to Joyce? Would he have wished to translate Jung as ‘Young’ (and thus more easily ‘freudened’, to quote Finnegans Wake) or ‘Le Jeune’? Lacan insisted upon the fact that Freud’s name had been translated in a lecture on Freud he gave in May 1956 to medical students – in the presence of Jean Delay, the author of a famous biography of Gide.
I will begin by saying [. . .] that Freud’s name signifies joy (joie). Freud himself was conscious of this, as is demonstrated by a good number of things – an analysis of a dream that I could adduce, dominated by a sum of composite words, more especially by a word of ambiguous resonance, both English and German at the same time, and in which he enumerates the charming little spots in the environs of Vienna. [. . .] I’m [. . .] recalling that his family, like all families of Moravia, of Galicia, of the outlying provinces of Hungary, owing to an edict of 1785 by Joseph II, had to choose this name from a list of names – it’s a feminine first name, in fairly frequent use at the time. But this name is a much older Jewish name which throughout history one already finds translated differently.17

The world of dreams entered so courageously by Freud is a world of puns and onomastics in translation. To understand this better, let’s take a closer look at Freud’s dream quoted by Lacan. In the dream of ‘Hearsing’, Freud dreams that he stops at a train station called Hearsing on his way to visit his friend Fliess. He alludes to place names like Hietzing, Liesing, Modling, all ¨ suburbs of Vienna, the first of which calls up the English word ‘hearsay’.18 In glossing the name of Modling, Freud gives its etymology as Medeliz: ¨ ‘Hitzing, Liesing, Modling, (Medlitz, meae deliciae der alte Name, also ¨ ‘‘meine Freud’’), und den Englischen Hearsay 5 Horensagen’. By a witty ¨ signature, Freud writes ‘Freude’ without its usual final e! This inside joke confirms an intimate knowledge about his own name, a name containing both ‘delights’ and ‘joy’. This dream demonstrates the work of condensation and the function of puns, and proves also that the Interpretation of Dreams paves the way to Finnegans Wake. Perhaps Freud authored his invention of psychoanalysis more with his first name – a name that he deliberately changed by shortening it from Sigismund to Sigmund, to let echoes of Sieg (victory) and Siegfried ring clearer – than with his family name. Freude does not appear to be a crucial

32 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 concept in canonical psychoanalytic literature, and psychoanalysis is only now tackling the issue of affects – you will not find ‘joy’ in the index to the Standard Edition. It took Lacan to transform a key Freudian term – Lust – into French as jouissance. Having started this process, Lacan needed the assistance of Joyce to provide a living signature, which implied that he had to ‘borrow’ Joyce’s name. Lacan, as the inventor of jouissance, was retranslating Freud into French while translating Joyce into a revised and revisited Franco-Irish Freud. In the end, Joyce literally replaced Freud as a ‘founder of discursivity’ (as Foucault said) for Lacan: Joyce became the only ‘author’ who could lead to an understanding of psychosis, and then turned quite logically into the psychoanalytic Symptom as such, in the sweeping equation of James Joyce with Mister Sinthome. I wanted to remain for a while with this mixture of bafflement and of jouissance, or more simply of an untranslatable joy migrating between texts, bodies and languages, because Lacan’s stupefaction when discovering the mass of writings on Joyce – generously provided by Jacques Aubert, who did not hesitate to deplete the university library of Lyon II, where he was then Professor of English, of many rare books on loan to Lacan for a very long time – seems parallel to the wonder experienced by another Jacques . . . It is to Beckett’s Jacques Moran that I now turn, a Moran arriving at the end of a fruitless quest for Molloy. Moran is finally going home, not being sure whether he has failed in his mission. But he longs for his bees, and remembers how he used to be fascinated by the figures their dances make in creating an animal sign language.
I was more than ever stupefied by the complexity of this innumerable dance; involving doubtless other determinants of which I had not the slightest idea. And I said, with rapture, Here is something I can study all my life, and never understand. And all during this long journey home, when I racked my mind for a little joy in store, the thought of my bees and their dance was the nearest thing to comfort. For I was still eager for my little joy, from time to time!19

Moran still needs to obey the call of duty and he will inflict on himself a ‘pensum’: he has to write his report. In a similar manner, in April 1975, at a time when he was already immersing himself in a spate of critical approaches to Joyce because of the forthcoming invitation to open the June 1975 international James Joyce Symposium in Paris, Lacan found a little joy and relief from his own Joycean ‘pensum’ by reminiscing on Gide’s witty satire Paludes:
´ It is worth giving all its due to the proverb translated and glossed by Andre Gide in Paludes – Numero deus impare gaudet, which he translates as ‘Number

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 33
´ ´ ˆ two is happy being odd’ (‘Le numero deux se rejouit d’etre impair’). As I have said for some time, this is quite right, since nothing would realize the two if there was not the odd, the odd that begins with three – which is not obvious immediately and makes the Borromean knot necessary.20

Gide’s joke is based on a common French schoolboy’s mistranslation of a half-line in Virgil’s Eighth Eclogue, ‘numero deus impare gaudet’, meaning ‘uneven numbers please god’ (‘god rejoices at uneven numbers’). It turns here, by over-literalisation, into a Lacanian paradox: number two becomes an odd number, it even rejoices at being odd! In the eclogue, two shepherds are rivals and try to outdo Orpheus. The power of poems or charms (carmen) is evoked, like the spells Circe used to ‘spellbind the shipmates of Odysseus’.
Draw Daphnis back from town, my spells, draw Daphnis home. First with these three triple threads in separate colours three I bind you, then about this altar thrice I bear Your puppet self; uneven numbers please the god. (numero deus impare gaudet)21

Let’s admire Lacan’s serendipity: he quotes Gide’s novel to suggests that freedom derives from odd numbers, which for Gide may of course allude to some sexual ‘oddity’,22 while calling up the powerful theme of God’s enjoyment, or more precisely, God’s jouissance, that is in fact the jouissance of the Other. This limns the contours of a domain that he will explore with Joyce, the richly variegated field of braided knots, of triple strings bound together in different colours so as to contain the hole of jouissance. It is as if the combination of Gide and Joyce had announced the investment of the ‘Borromean planet’ that dominated Lacan’s last years. The Borromean knot is another way of indicating how the jouissance of God can become literature. Paludes, the most ‘postmodern’ of Gide’s novels (indeed, it could be signed by Donald Barthelme), opens with an ironical preface that leaves the readers free to make sense of it:
Before explaining my book to others, I wait for others to explain it to me. To want to explain first of all means immediately restricting the meaning; for if we know what we have meant, we do not know that we meant only that. – One always says more than THAT. – And above all, what interests me is what I have put there without knowing it, – that part of Unconscious that I would like to call God’s part. – A book is always a collaboration, and whatever it is worth, the more the scribe’s part is small, the more God’s welcome will be great. – Let us wait for the revelation of things from everywhere; from the audience, the revelation of our works.23

34 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 Of course, with such a parodic or satirical farce, since Gide gives a hilarious caricature of French intellectuals and aesthetes of the turn of the century, one cannot be sure how seriously the quoted statement is to be taken. When ´ ´ ˆ ‘Numero deus impare gaudet’ is translated as ‘Le numero deux se rejouit d’etre impair’, Gide’s narrator comments that ‘l’impair’ entails a promise of happiness or freedom.24 Having started with Gide’s psychobiography (by Delay) and writing a new Joycean psychobiography, Lacan sees a promise, if not of happiness (bonheur), at least of ‘bon noeud’ in the coincidence. This noeud (knot) confirms that we can perceive an even number as a pair from the point of view of oddness/impair – at least, that we need to count up to three before beginning.25 And this is why he will try to escape from the trap of psychobiography thanks to the Borromean knot. This sends us back to Poe’s speculations on oddness and evenness at the beginning of ‘The Purloined Letter’ (the deluded Prefect called everything that was beyond his comprehension ‘odd’), and thus to Lacan’s ‘Purloined Letter’ seminar and his subsequent 1971 essay on literature entitled ‘Lituraterre’, an article that starts by commenting on Joyce’s use of the letter/litter pun. Besides, Gide’s motto echoes with Joyce who declared more than once that he had not written Finnegans Wake alone, but had used countless ‘collaborators’ (or as the Wake puts it, ‘anticollaborators’) whose words he has stolen or quoted without their permission. The great Letter of the Wake becomes an equivalent of the universe – it is a ‘chaosmos of Alle’ in which everything changes all the time, and in this moving chaos the ‘continually more or less intermisunderstanding minds of the anticollaborators’. The mention of Joyce in a context determined by odd speculations on numerology is not fortuitous. Indeed, when Lacan began his seminar on Joyce, he declared that he was taking a new departure because he had wanted to go beyond the Trinitarian scheme that underpinned the logic of Borromean knots elaborated so far. He had, up to the R. S. I. Seminar of 1974–5, toyed with the possibility of organising the three ‘registers’ of the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary in such a way that they are, on the one hand, well ‘knotted together’ and can call up the signifier of ‘heresy’ ´ ´ (the capitals R, S, I sound like heresie). At the end of this seminar, Lacan discloses his main insight: ‘if Joyce is completely caught up in the sphere and the cross, it is not only because he read a lot of Aquinas thanks to his education with the Jesuits. You are all as caught in the sphere and the cross. Here is a circle, the section of a sphere, and within the cross. [. . .] But no-one has perceived that this is already a Borromean knot’.26 Lacan animates Joyce’s cross, making it result from two curves that are also the sections of two interlocking circles. What Clive Hart had described

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 35 as the basis of Joyce’s world view in Finnegans Wake – a grid made up of the interlocking of a sphere and a cross – is a structure that accounts for a looped linguistic universe (the first words of the book, ‘riverrun, past Eve’s and Adam’s’, seem to continue the last words of the last page: ‘. . . along the’) and yet it keeps generating new meanings as a solution for the paradox of the quadrate circle, that is ‘circling the square’. Lacan appropriated Clive Hart’s ideas as developed in Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake27 and tried to buttress these by using his brand of (Lacanian) numerology. In a seminar in which he admits to being haunted, obsessed, or ‘the prey of the knot’28 – a Borromean knot he has not looked for but just ‘found’, ´ thanks to a lucky coincidence brought to him by Valerie Marchand, who alerted Lacan to the properties of the Borromean knot29 – his meetings with Joyce follow the pattern of happy coincidences. Roudinesco has described at some length Lacan’s exploration of ‘the Borromean planet’30 in a mock-heroic manner as a last-ditch struggle against oncoming senility. ´ Having fallen under the sway of mathematicians like Thome and Soury, Lacan spent a lot of time drawings complex knots and circles on the blackboard, pointing at them and then getting lost. He thought that there was something to be read directly, a ‘real’ that could be shown or calculated by mathematical topology, being reluctant to admit that these figures modelised his theory. My view is less negative than Roudinesco’s account. Even if Lacan seems at times to lapse into jumbled reminiscences from all his previous writings, I believe that the Sinthome seminar is rife with exciting discoveries and new theoretical avenues. One cannot but admire the theoretical courage of a thinker ready to jeopardise the stability of a previous system by exploring boldly a terra incognita – Joyce’s writings. When Jacques Aubert invited Lacan to give the major address at the 1975 International Joyce Symposium, he could not guess that he would be luring Lacan into regions that would durably change his theory. All the new elements introduced in the early seventies – the Borromean knot of the Real, the Symbolic, the Imaginary, the emergence of the Symptom in the real, the new importance given to jouissance in its connection with writing, the idea of writing as making holes in reality, the theory of the lack of sexual rapport, the new figure of the Father as a perverse father – forcibly recur in the Joyce seminar, a seminar in which they find an elegant and last re-plotting: a reknotting, in fact. As I was present when Lacan gave his speech at the Sorbonne in 1975,31 I could not help registering some uneasiness facing what I saw then as a mixture of brilliant insights and trite biographical explanations. It took me several years to disentangle remarkably original readings from a groping and fumbling approach that owes its tentative character to the fact that

36 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 Lacan had, after all, tried to do his homework honestly, digesting as much of the plethoric Joyce scholarship as he could. More than once, he quotes Joyce’s remark that the best way to assure immortality was to keep ˆ professors busy for centuries. Lacan began the talk ‘Joyce le symptome’ by making fun of the newspapers that had announced ‘Joyce the Symbol’ whereas he meant to talk about ‘Joyce the Symptom’. Then he makes his point simply, monolithically: Joyce embodies the ‘symptom’ as such, a symptom that has to be written ‘sinthome’, the older form of the word already used by Rabelais – a writer who was also a physician and Joyce’s predecessor in delirious verbal experimentation. Having morphed into the sinthome, Joyce becomes a literary saint – a depiction that in fact accords quite well with Joyce’s self-presentation to posterity (he called Gorman’s biography ‘the martyrology of Gorman’). Lacan sends his audience to his discussion of ‘sainthood’ in Television and his identification of Joyce with the letter as waste or refuse: ‘A saint’s business, to put it clearly, is not caritas. Rather, he acts as trash; his business being trashitas. [. . .] That is really the most amazing thing in the whole business. Amazing for those who approach it without illusions: that saint is the refuse of jouissance’.32 After Jean Genet in Sartre’s masterful critical biography, it is now Joyce’s turn to become a ‘saint and martyr’ of Literature. Joyce is the symptom of literature, a man who, as Claudel remarked, had let himself be devoured by letters, becoming inhuman in fact so as to be one with Literature. Lacan selfconsciously founds his own critical discourse on a nomination: he calls Joyce the ‘sinthome’ so as to give a dynamic function to a proper name that will be seen to contain jouissance – a very particular type of jouissance. What does Lacan, fundamentally, contribute to Joyce’s scholarship? His reading is based upon a biographical approach; he has obviously read Ellmann’s famous biography with care. Lacan reads A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and even Ulysses as straight autobiography, often erasing important distinctions between Stephen Dedalus and James Joyce: he says ‘Joyce’ whenever he talks of Stephen Dedalus. Joyce’s choice of an artistic career derives from a wish to compensate for a lack on his father’s part. John Joyce is absent, lacking, failing, and his elder son’s writing aims at supplementing this fundamental deficiency. By becoming a writer, Joyce burdens himself with a paternity his own father seems to have rejected. There has been a mistake in the very writing of the Joyce family in which the three circles of the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic have not been properly tied together. Writing splices together these partially loose rings or circles. According to Lacan, James Joyce remains caught up in his father’s symptoms, all marked by a central ‘perversity’, even while rejecting him:

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 37 both father and son are spendthrifts, heavy drinkers, unable to keep their families sheltered from disaster. While John Joyce imagined that he had ‘killed’ his exhausted wife who died of cancer at an early age, Joyce’s cross was his daughter, Lucia, who started showing signs of derangement in the late twenties, and behaved more and more erratically until she was institutionalised in 1934. Lucia’s fate confirms Joyce’s dangerous flirtation with psychosis. Lacan’s reading is not so far from Jung’s views on Ulysses. Like Jung, Lacan stresses Joyce’s wish to defend Lucia against psychoanalysis so as to ward off any suggestion that his own writing could be seen as ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘psychotic’, and like Jung he admits that Lucia drowns in the black waters of the Unconscious while the more experienced swimmer reaches back to the surface.33 On the other hand, Lacan denounces Joyce’s tendency to fall into Jungian archetypes in his universal history. Why is this belated designation of the centrality of the Ego so surprising and paradoxical? We have to remember that Lacan’s entire system is built as a war machine against ‘ego psychology’. Since the 1950s, his main polemical thrust had been directed at Anna Freud’s legacy and the ‘Americanisation of the Unconscious’. Typically, Lacan’s first publication in English was ‘Some Reflections on the Ego’, a text first given as a lecture in London in 1951, published two years later in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis 34 – ironically, just at the time he was being expelled from the IPA (International Psychoanalytical Association) for his unconventional handling of the cure. In this early text, Lacan stresses language as constitutive of the ego, and mentions that Freud situates the ego in the dimension of hallucination, therefore of delusion or ‘misrecognition’. Any attempt at bolstering the ego leads to a reinforcement of the neuroses one wanted to destroy. It was therefore rather unexpected to see the old ego resurface with Joyce, even if it was to present the Ego as knot, writing and Symptom. Lacan speaks of the signifier ego, following the English use, and not of the French moi, used to translate Freud’s Ich,35 which suggests a renewed confrontation with British and American ego-psychology. The idea of the lability and supplementarity of the Joycean ego is finally confirmed by a close reading of a passage from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, when Stephen feels his anger fall from him ‘as easily as a fruit is divested of its soft ripe peel’.36 Such a transformation of anger into disgust is emblematic of the Joycean body: a body that can fall from one’s self, a mere envelope that by itself cannot really ‘hold’ the subject. Joyce’s ego would constitute a ‘peel’, a mere rim loosely captured by the Imaginary. The Real is not knotted to the Unconscious: it appears in symptoms that are metonymically linked

38 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 with places like Cork or Dublin. The concept of the ego that is proposed is not ‘natural’; on the contrary, it is even more artificial than before, but it cannot be reduced to the register of the Imaginary. The new Lacanian ego is indeed, as Ezra Pound wrote, an Ego Scriptor.37 Joyce, who consistently refused to be psychoanalysed, and whose name repeats and translates Freud’s name, would seem to act as Lacan’s wild psychoanalyst. In Joyce, the maximum of artifice is equivalent to the maximum of ‘consistent’ truth: Joyce’s ego absorbs all of culture, encompasses the entire orb, a world reduced to language. Whether one likes Joyce or not does not matter: unlike Marguerite Duras who needed to be loved by her readers (and generally succeeded), Joyce does not care. The writing process he has set in motion is autonomous and endless, it will always reconstitute his monstrous and fascinating Ego – an Ego-Symptom that has grown to the dimensions of the universe. Lacan’s reservations facing Joyce are real, but his grudging admiration is clear, with its share of mimetic fascination: can one say with Nestor Braunstein that there was a subjective identification of Lacan with Joyce? There is no identification without some minimal sympathy, as this was the case with Duras. Joyce does not generate ‘human’ interest in Lacan beyond a certain number of biographical determinations that he, like Joyce, violently rejected in his youth. Precisely because of this lack of human empathy, because there is no imaginary capture via sentimental delusions, Joyce can precipitate a pure symptom: he becomes literally the sym-ptom, something that falls together. But falls into what? This is why the question of Joyce’s madness is unavoidable. For if Joyce was indeed mad, was Lacan also mad? He asked in February 1976:
After which point is one mad? Was Joyce mad? The fact that I will not solve the question today will not prevent me from working with my distinction between Truth and the Real. [. . .] I began by writing Inspired Writings, this is why I should not be astonished to find myself confronting Joyce, and this is why I dare pose the question: Was he mad? By what were his writings inspired to him?38

Lacan asked Jacques Aubert whether Joyce identified with the Redeemer. Aubert cautiously admitted to finding only traces of this.39 The reference to ´ ´ his 1931 publication of ‘Ecrits inspires’ in Annales medicales sends us back to the first moment when Lacan was trying to grasp the logic of psychotic discourse. In his ‘Inspired Writings’, Lacan bypassed a medical approach to the language of psychotics and alluded to experiments by Surrealist writers. In a bold move, Lacan refused to distinguish the artful simulation of psychotic delirium one finds in The Immaculate Conception by Breton and Eluard from ‘authentic’ productions of institutionalised patients: these texts

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 39 evince the same structures, as they are determined by pre-inscribed rhythmic formulas that are subverted and filled with other meanings. More or less contemporary with these ‘Inspired Writings’, Joyce’s friends working with Eugene and Maria Jolas and Stuart Gilbert on the magazine transition were busy collecting some of these ‘inspired writings’. For instance, in transition no. 18 (November 1929), a text in French by Roger ` Vitrac devoted to ‘Le Langage a part’ extensively quotes a medical treatise by Dr Seglas on ‘Language Trouble in Alienated Subjects’ before quoting ´ poetic texts by Prevert and Desnos as illustrations of the same linguistic process.40 This brings grist to the mill of the linguistic experiments or the ‘revolution of the word’ launched by Joyce. In a later issue of transition, Stuart Gilbert writes on ‘The Subliminal Tongue’; he starts with Joyce and examines cases of psychotic language, which include the psychical research on dissociation of personality by Morton Prince – also quoted in Finnegans Wake. And then Gilbert quotes Gide’s Paludes with the allusion to ‘that part of unconscious that I would like to call God’s part’.41 The question of Joyce’s potentially psychotic structure remained a riddle for Lacan, he never reached a single answer. Such caution was of little use, since Joyce would subsequently be used by Lacanian psychoanalysts as a ‘case’, a stepping stone to approach psychosis. Lacan once noted that Joyce would not have been analysable, not just because he was too much of a perverted Catholic, but because he loved his symptom too much.42 In the ‘end’, however, we cannot avoid a reminiscence of Lucia Joyce, who figures as the trace, the remainder of the symptomatic formation: she was psychotic, in spite of what Carol Shloss has written in her biography, and also both a central character in the Wake (Issy) and the main addressee of the book. Indeed, the most important effect of the encounter with Joyce was to force Lacan to revise his concepts a last time. Jouissance acquires a more positive meaning, closer to sens or halfway between sens and non-sens – meaning and the absence of meaning. Excessive enjoyment is not so systematically opposed to Desire but marks the written counterpart of a spoken Desire. The symptom as sinthome appears at the cusp between psychosis and neurosis. Writing is not limited to literary writing, but engages with the fundamental constitution of the subject. Finally the Ego, less accused of being an ideological or metaphysical illusion than in the fifties, turns into a useful tool, and artifice, an effect of writing. It is a braiding, a knotting of the Borromean rings. This means that even in psychoses one will find traces of an ego. In consequence, it is the whole theory of the foreclosure of the Name of the father that has to be articulated in an original fashion: with Joyce, one moves between the ‘original sin of the

40 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 father’ (Joyce wrote to his brother that Finnegans Wake was truly about original sin) and writing as an overcoming of the sin, not a sublimation but a transmutation to the level of the symptom. Lacan seems to go back to Joyce’s earliest insight when he described the Dublin he wished to portray in Dubliners – strangely enough, a text that Lacan never seems to quote – as a ‘hemiplegia’, a paralysis – and would declare he saw symptoms everywhere.43 In a belated admission of his agreeing with Derrida, writing is seen by Lacan as both supplement and replacement, terms that now describe the function of art in so far as it strives to reach beauty. Speech keeps its pragmatic function, since it works on double entendre and equivocation, the only weapon available to whoever wishes to fight against the lethal side of the Symptom. Lacan needed Joyce’s strenuous literary efforts in order to write the fourth knot of the Sinthome, and thus to make us aware of the lasting riddle produced by the enjoyment of the Symptom. It is clear that, for a Joyce scholar, Joyce is not psychotic. If Joyce’s madness remains a riddle for Lacan, it is because it was a riddle for Joyce himself. All those who were close to him at the end of his life, Mercanton, Gilbert, Jolas or Gillet, confirm this: Joyce never stopped asking whether Work in Progress was not a crazy idea, whether he was not absurd to keep on writing this invented language of the night while the whole world was rushing to global war and annihilation. At the same time, he was hoping against hope that if he managed to complete the book perhaps Lucia would recover her mental health. To Jacques Mercanton, who saw a lot of Joyce in the summer of 1938 in Lausanne, Joyce mentioned his tenor’s voice that had never broken, and quipped: ‘If I had matured, I would never have had the folly (better 5 committed this madness) of writing Work in Progress’.44 Just after, he referred to Ulysses: ‘That book was a terrible risk. A transparent leaf separates it from madness’.45 Finally he added: ‘It is absurd to say I have no skill. I have too much. But fortunately, no intellect. Otherwise, I should have gone mad a long time ago’.46 A psychotic would not speak like that, it seems; he would not even doubt what he is. Or if he would, it would be like the character in popular jokes about loonies and madmen. Joyce would be like the man who used to believe that he was a big marrow bone, is finally convinced by his psychiatrist that he is just a man and is released from the hospital. He turns the corner and runs back, shouting: ‘I know I am not a bone – but these dogs, how will they know?’ Similarly, we could imagine Joyce saying: ‘I know that I am not just a symptom. But they, all of them here, how will they know it?’

Aspace of Dumbillsilly: when Joyce translates Lacan 41

1 Jacques Lacan, On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Encore 1972–1973, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. and annotated by Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 1998. 2 Ibid. 3 James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (London, Faber and Faber, 1939), 15.18. 4 Joyce avec Lacan, ed. Jacques Aubert (Paris: Navarin, 1987), 26. ´ 5 ‘Derrida et le noeud’, in Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire XXIII. Le Sinthome (Paris: Seuil, 2005), sect. 15, pp. 232–6. 6 Joyce avec Lacan, ed. Aubert, 27. 7 Jacques Derrida, Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction, trans. J. P. Leavey (Stony Brook: Nicholas Hays, 1978), 102. 8 See Michael Thomas Davis, ‘Jacques Lacan and Shakespeare and Company’, James Joyce Quarterly, 32:3–4 (Spring–Summer 1995), 754–8. 9 See Noel Riley Fitch, Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation (New York: Norton, 1983), 405. 10 See Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce’s Ulysss: A Study (1930; New York: Vintage, 1955), 65–6. 11 James Joyce, Ulysses, A Critical and Synoptic edition, ed. Hans Walter Gabler with Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior (New York: Garland, 1984), 9.729. 12 Ibid., 12.190. 13 Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire livre XXIII, Le Sinthome, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, (Paris: Seuil, 2005), 197. 14 Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, new and rev. edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 628. 15 Ibid., 400. 16 J. S. Gorman, James Joyce (New York and Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1939), 8. 17 Jacques Lacan, Seminar III: The Psychoses, trans. Russell Grigg (New York: Norton, 1993), 232–3. 18 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. James Strachey (New York, Avon Books, 1965), 333. 19 Samuel Beckett, Molloy, in Three Novels (London: Pan Books, 1979), 169. ´ 20 Lacan ‘R.S.I. Seminaire 1974–75’, ed. J. A. Miller, Ornicar?, 5 (December–January 1975/1976), 49. 21 Virgil, The Eclogues, trans. Guy Lee (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1980), 90 and 91. ´ 22 Andre Gide, Paludes (Paris: Gallimard, 1920), 70. 23 Ibid., 12. 24 Ibid., 70. ´ 25 Lacan, ‘R.S.I. Seminaire 1974–75’, 49. 26 Ibid., 37. 27 Clive Hart, Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake (London: Faber, 1962). 28 Ibid., 57.

42 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1
29 Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan: An Outline of a Life and History of a System of Thought (Oxford: Polity Press), 363. 30 See Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan, 359ff. ˆ 31 ‘Joyce le symptome’, in Joyce avec Lacan, ed. Aubert. 32 Jacques Lacan, Television, trans. D. Hollier, R. Krauss and A. Michelson (New York: Norton, 1990), 15–16. 33 See Jung’s diagnosis of James Joyce and Lucia Joyce in Ellmann, James Joyce, new and rev. edn, 679–80. 34 Jacques Lacan, ‘Some Reflections on the Ego’, International Journal of Pyschoanalysis, 34 (1953). 35 He acknowledges this in the 16 March 1976 Seminar: ‘I have produced some meditations on what the English call the ego and what the Germans call the Ich’ (‘Le Sinthome’, Ornicar?, 9 (1977), 34). 36 James Joyce, A Portait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. S. Deane (New York: Penguin, 1992), 87. 37 Ezra Pound, The Cantos (London: Faber, 1986), 472. 38 ‘Le Sinthome’, Ornicar?, 8 (1976), 6. 39 Ibid., 9. 40 transition, 18 (Paris, 1929), 176–90. 41 Stuart Gilbert, ‘The Subliminal Tongue’, transition, 26 (1937), 151. 42 ‘Le Sinthome’, Ornicar?, 9 (1977), 38. He quotes Jacques-Alain Miller, who had pointed out that Lacan had said the same about the Japanese: consequently, there would be three categories of people who could not be analysable, the Japanese, the Catholics, and . . . Joyce. 43 I am quoting here James Joyce, Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann (London: Faber, 1975), 22. I have developed this point in James Joyce, Authorized Reader (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 28–49. 44 Jacques Mercanton, Ecrits sur Joyce (Vevey: L’Aire bleue, 2002), 55. 45 Ibid., 56. 46 Ibid., 56; and Willard Potts (ed.), Portraits of the Artist in Exile: Recollections of James Joyce by Europeans (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1979), 227.

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