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Categories:Articles from World Association of Psychoanalysis Media

Fantasy, Castration. Some remarks on lesson 20



Bogdan Wolf


I start with the proposal, not bold enough, of a hypothesis that the form what Lacan calls “fundamental fantasy” takes on in lesson 20, is that of the phallic woman. He does not use the term “phallic woman/mother” in lesson 20 from which I started reading Seminar VI, hence a “hypothesis”. He already spent several lessons earlier speaking about just that. It is therefore important that in Lacan’s build up to this lesson on the fundamental fantasy we include his text from the previous year: “The Signification of the Phallus”. I can now move to mark the logical steps Lacan takes when he places on the graph of desire both: the fantasy called “fundamental” and, elsewhere and in opposition to it, castration. It is only when castration is not refused, namely when the payment for it is accepted, that what cannot be said can emerge as the impossible to say.

At the start of section III, Lacan throws in, almost at us, the formula of fantasy, $ ? a. The place of the object is not to satisfy the science of cognition as it developed from Aristotle to the Kleinian Object Relations. This sums up sections 1 and 2. The object emerges first as an effect of the subject failing in his certitude as a subject (p.434). What is this certitude in which the subject fails as a subject? It is a certainty of having a possession of the object.

My second step consists in locating this failure. The subject fails in his designation because he does not receive it from the Other to make up for his faltering certainty. The Other is a place of the phallic signifier but the Other does not say where to go. The subject cannot both be and have the phallus. As a man he can have it without being it. As a woman she could not care less about not having it. As Lacan will say in Seminar XVIII, the lack is an entirely man’s affair.

The third step consists in taking account of castration. Lacking in designation the subject perseveres, Lacan says, seeking it elsewhere. This opens a dimension of the Other of the Other, which does not exist but has a real stake for the subject. This subject seeks the terms to designate what he lacks at his own expense, i.e. pays for it. This is where castration appears. To find his place on the map of the unconscious he pays for his castration. Without his place in the discourse of the unconscious, the subject is lost in it albeit Lacan says “disappears”. Lacan does not say to pay with castration but for it, as it is already there and structures the relation with the Other of language. But to realise it the subject pays for castration through loss marked as loss, namely his personal loss, his image of and as a loved one. For the man desire and love can only be accessed through castration.

Fourthly, we can define castration at this point as the subject having a real stake in his imaginary relations that through substitution reveal the symbolic function of the signifier. Having put, and why not to say tied up?, the three registers of S, I, and R into a knot, Lacan introduces the symbolic phallus as an operator of significations, and of knotting operations, through castration in its “deepest sense”. In his reference to male homosexuality (F. Boehm). Lacan’s shifts Freud’s focus on narcissism in the relation with the phallic objects onto the relation with the Other that is in possession of the phallus. The phallus, which Lacan already spoke of in the “Signification”, can be found inside the vagina as the most prized of objects.

Ergo, my final step, the phallus in question is imaginary and can be marked as object of castration as -?. In the case of Robert, Ellie Sharpe’s patient, to which Lacan devotes six lessons in the Seminar, the phallus is omnipotent and ubiquitous. In castration the object is the phallus. But if the imaginary phallus is the object in castration, it is because the object aonly emerges as an effect of castration. It is important we note this difference. As an effect, the object subsequently serves to support the subject in his fantasy to obtain jouissance. The object can do for the subject what the Other failed to designate.

This brings me to a disjunction between two dimensions of what cannot be said which orient neurotic subject. The first dimension concerns the fantasy as it concerns the object aas jouissance. What cannot be said in the Other is therefore sent off to the dimension of fantasy. This disjunction marks a redefinition of the Other as a phallic woman into the lacking Other, the Other as desiring or as speaking which is the same thing. Hence the difference between believing the Other and believing in the Other, which has to do with the symptom. As for the second dimension of what cannot be said, it arises in effect of castration not being refuted and leads towards the signifier of the lack in the Other, S (A/). I propose at this moment to approach the graph of desire as a game of Snakes & Ladders. Once you step on a particular square you move several places further. If you step on another square, e.g. where castration is refused, you slide sideways and back to the fantasy. Fantasy can be constructed in this way, as a place or places to go across. One enjoys speaking about the symptom in analysis, as J.-A. Miller stressed in his course on symptom and fantasy, but not so much about fantasy. If the latter is to be constructed along the lines of the jouissance of the former, the crossing over is not a game because of the stake for the subject. Here Lacan spoke of a step, gradus, beyond the game of enjoying the symptom. This step has to do with the change of the status of the object from producing jouissance in fantasy to the position, analyst’s, as causing desire.


Posted on May 3, 2014 by NLS


  Date of Publish: 5 April 2017