Jacques Lacan Talks About Psychoanalysis with Panache (1973)

Both psy­cho­analy­sis and psy­chother­a­py act only through words. Yet they are in con­flict. How so? There we have the ques­tion posed to psy­cho­an­a­lyst, psy­chi­a­trist, and world-famous pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al Jacques Lacan in the video above, a clip from a script­ed qua­si-inter­view called Tele­vi­sion whose answers play like his famous lec­tures. Watch it, or watch our pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured video of Lacan giv­ing a talk, and you’ll expe­ri­ence one qual­i­ty that made him world-famous. Few oth­ers could com­bine such high-flown sub­ject mat­ter with such the­atri­cal­ly emphat­ic ora­tor­i­cal abil­i­ty — an abil­i­ty you can sense even if you don’t under­stand French. For­tu­nate­ly, sub­ti­tles have been pro­vid­ed, offer­ing Anglo­phones a chance to under­stand what con­nec­tions the man saw between the uncon­scious, lan­guage, Freud, sex­u­al rela­tions, and com­e­dy.

“There are, inso­far as the uncon­scious is impli­cat­ed, two sides pre­sent­ed by the struc­ture, the struc­ture which is lan­guage,” Lacan begins. “The side of mean­ing, the first side, the side we would iden­ti­fy as that of analy­sis, which pours out a flood of mean­ing to float the sex­u­al boat.” These remarks come pre-writ­ten in the script of Tele­vi­sion, some­thing between a con­ver­sa­tion and a play that grew out of Jacques-Alain Miller’s failed attempt to film a tra­di­tion­al inter­view of the psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic lumi­nary. “After every cut, when it was time to start up again, Lacan shift­ed a bit in his dis­course,” Miller wrote in Micro­scopia: An Intro­duc­tion to the Read­ing of Tele­vi­sion. “Each time he gave an addi­tion­al twist to his reflec­tions which were unfold­ing there, under the spot­lights, thwart­ing any chance of bridge-build­ing. We stopped after two hours; I gave him in writ­ing a list of ques­tions; and he wrote [Tele­vi­sion] in about two weeks’ time. I saw him every evening and he gave me the day’s man­u­script pages; then he read or act­ed out — with a few impro­vised vari­a­tions — the writ­ten text. He made a spring-board of this false start.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Jacques Lacan Speaks; Zizek Pro­vides Free Cliffs Notes

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • So pre­sum­ably the oth­er side of the struc­ture of lan­guage (as far as the uncon­scious is con­cerned of course) is mean­ing­less?

    He goes on to talk about the ‘high point of com­e­dy’, a lofty height I’m only pre­pared to accept he knows any­thing about if the whole rou­tine is a piss-take. Some­thing I don’t rule out.

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