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Literature and Psychoanalysis$

Jeremy Tambling

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780719086731

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719086731.001.0001

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Freud, Lacan: hysteria, paranoia, psychosis

Freud, Lacan: hysteria, paranoia, psychosis

(p.120) 7 Freud, Lacan: hysteria, paranoia, psychosis
Literature and Psychoanalysis

Jeremy Tambling

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents three of Freud's ‘case-histories’: Dora, diagnosed as hysterical; Schreber, a paranoid schizophrenic; and the Wolf Man, a case of infantile neurosis, in order to approach Lacan on paranoia and psychosis. The ‘Dora’ case turned out negatively. For the other two, Lacan has been one of the most significant commentators. The discussion raises the question of literature and madness, literature as a form of madness, enabled to be so by psychoanalytic theory about language, and also discusses the power of the Real in relationship to psychosis.

Keywords:   Schreber, Dora, Freud's case histories, Jacques Lacan, Wolf Man, infantile neurosis, madness, psychoanalytic theory


This chapter begins with three of Freud's ‘case-histories’: Dora, diagnosed as hysterical; Schreber, a paranoid schizophrenic, and the Wolf Man (a case of infantile neurosis), in order to approach Lacan on paranoia and psychosis. The ‘Dora’ case turned out negatively. For the other two, Lacan has been one of the most significant commentators.

The Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (Bruchstück einer Hysterie-Analyse) appeared in 1905, though much of it was written in January 1901, Freud calling it, initially, ‘Dreams and Hysteria’. It can be seen as an appendix to The Interpretation of Dreams. No case more than this of Dora proves the feminist critique, that Freud gives a theory of male sexuality only. The problem is that psychoanalysis, as here a male discourse, pronounces on women (Frosh, 1999: 183–205). Both ‘Irma’, co-opted into Freud's self-analysis, and made to serve his reading of himself, and ‘Dora’ represent cases of the failure of the psychoanalytic method to reach, or help, these women. Freud would have agreed: there is the famous comment which Ernst Jones quotes him as making to Marie Bonaparte, ‘The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the female soul is, “What does a woman want?” [Was will das Weib?]’ (Jones, 1955b: 421).

Freud began work with Dora, an eighteen-year-old, in October 1900, and the analysis concluded on the last day of December. Ida Bauer, the real ‘Dora’–the name suggests Dora Spenlow in David Copperfield, but Freud also notes, in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, that it was the name he called Rosa, his servant (SE 6.241–2)–was born in Vienna in 1882. She had undergone neurotic symptoms in childhood. Her father, a manufacturer, who had taken his family to live outside Vienna, where they had (p.121) formed a friendship with Herr K and his wife, first visited Freud, as a syphilis patient, in 1894. Ida Bauer, who was married, apparently unhappily, between 1903 and 1932, died in New York in 1945 (Bernheimer and Kahane, 1985: 33–4, Mitchell, 2000: 82–108).

No analysis Freud wrote reads more like a novel of the late nineteenth century, or as a roman à clef (SE 7.9), or else as modernist literature, if that is defined as, characteristically, the art of the fragment, rather than as literature which makes a claim, through its realism, towards giving a comprehensive sense of middle-class Viennese life. Calling it a ‘fragment’ includes Freud's knowledge not only of the incompleteness of the case but of the fragmentary nature of the information given to him by the patient, with its lapses of memory. By a strange parapraxis, Freud dated the analysis to 1899 (SE 7.13); it has been suggested that this was part of an anxiety that Dora might have read something of The Interpretation of Dreams, which had appeared at the end of 1899. Freud analyses Dora and comments on the father, but says nothing about the mother, save that she suffered from what he calls ‘housewife's psychosis’. She spent the day cleaning the house in what Freud calls ‘obsessional cleanliness’ (SE 7.20). Yet Freud fails to connect this with the point that the woman had actually been infected by her husband (SE 7.75): it confirms a sense in the text that Freud is overpatriarchal, over-anxious, for example, to see Dora's desire as confirming aspects that would satisfy male phantasies; thinking that he had not noticed till too late the phenomenon of ‘the transference’; i.e. that process by which Dora identified Freud with her father, so that unconscious feelings were revived, but not as belonging to the past, but in relation to the analyst in the present (SE 7.116–17). Such confidence shows itself in a belief that the ‘hidden recesses of the mind’ of the patient can be wholly read–‘he that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his finger-tips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore’ (SE 7.77–8). To such confidence, which deconstruction calls ‘phallogocentrism’, Dora reacted by walking out, giving Freud a fortnight's notice of this, as if, Freud noted, he was being treated as a maidservant or a governess (SE 7.105): the point is made in a context that implied that Dora was acting as Herr K with a governess whom he fired.

Dora, her symptoms an insistent cough and aphonia (voicelessness), was brought, reluctantly, to see Freud on her father's authority. The precipitating issue was Dora's accusation that Herr K had made her a proposal while they were walking round the lake, which her father took to be a phantasy, and which Herr K denied. Dora begged her father to break off relations with Herr K and his wife, of whom she had been fond. It seems (p.122) clear that there was some intimacy between Frau K and Dora's father, which Dora had known about from her governess, whom Dora could see was in love with her father, and who briefed both Dora and her mother against the father's relationship with Frau K (SE 7.36–8). Freud considers that the father's agenda in employing him was that he should talk Dora out of a belief that there was sexual intimacy between him and Frau K (SE 7.109). So Freud had the awareness that he was being ‘used’, which may construct something of the over-certainty of interpretation that exists in his reading of Dora.

Freud thinks, from the fluency of the narrative that Dora gives in reproaching her father, that Dora was in love with Herr K (SE 7.39). The passage generalises about a patient bringing forth ‘a sound and incontestable train of argument’, and saying that ‘it soon becomes evident that the patient is using thoughts of this kind, which the analysis cannot attack [such as Dora's anger against her father] for the purpose of cloaking others which are anxious to escape from criticism and from consciousness’ (SE 7.35). That is typical of Freud: he takes as problems what others regard as solutions. We can call his work ideology-critique, since it looks at the solutions that people use to deal with apparently insuperable problems, and shows that these solutions are the work of ideology, what people think they ought to think. Ideology includes, after all, those things which seem so natural that they ‘go without saying’: these answers, belonging to the sphere of bourgeois ideology, are the problem which psychoanalysis interrogates.

Dora says that Herr K had kissed her before, when she was fourteen. Her revulsion, hysteria, Freud regards as a ‘reversal of affect’ and a ‘displacement of sensation’ from pleasure in the genital area to horror expressed in the mouth, as by a nervous cough (SE 7.28). Dora's displeasure with her father is that she feels she has ‘been handed over to Herr K as the price of his tolerating the relations between her father and his wife’ (SE 7.34). Her explanation leads to Freud saying that the patient's narrative, in psychoanalysis, has a fluency which suggests there is a covering over of thoughts anxious to escape from criticism and consciousness. ‘Reproaches against other people leads one to suspect the existence of a string of self-reproaches with the same content’ (SE 7.35). Logical accusations are not accepted at face value; this is the section where he discusses the necessity of speaking frankly about sexual matters, though when he does so, it is via J'appelle un chat un chat (I call a cat a cat) (SE 7.49), which is both sexually provocative and at the same time going round the subject.

(p.123) Freud considers Dora's blame of her father obsessive, and her relationship to him to have Oedipal resonances; when he mentions this, Dora's response, denying it for herself, but telling of a cousin's love for her own father, makes him think her unconscious is confirming what had been said, adding that ‘there is no such things at all as an unconscious “no”’ (SE 7.57). The statement is developed in the essay ‘Negation’ (1925), and we shall discuss it later in this chapter, but, if it is true, it makes clear that to deny an Oedipal attachment is not possible; it reveals a repression. The argument suggests that Dora was actually in love with Herr K, but then proposes a lesbian attachment to Frau K, and Freud here adds that he has never come through a single analysis of a man or a woman without having to take into account a very considerable current of homosexuality (SE 7.60). Freud considers that Dora was in love with Frau K and angry with her when she thought that, like the governess, Frau K was interested in her only on account of the father. Freud thus concludes that Dora's anger with the father suppressed her love for Herr K, ‘which had once been conscious’, but also make her, conceal her love for Frau K ‘which was in a deeper sense unconscious’. ‘She grudged her father Frau K's love, and had not forgiven the woman she loved for the disillusionment she had been caused by her betrayal’ (SE 7.63); hence her feelings were jealous; here Freud thinks of the jealousy as being masculine-like on Dora's part, so missing a point: the suggestion that Dora had lesbian feelings towards Frau K makes the phallocentric reading which he gives to her dreams, prioritising the woman's feelings towards the man, irrelevant. It does not relate to her desire, misreads the dreams. The technique which allows Freud to detect feminine desire disables him from reading its importance.

Lacan's comments on Dora, which see her identifying with her father, and so with Herr K's wife, and understanding that she had been handed over to Herr K as the price for tolerating the father and Herr K's wife together, treat her hysteria as asking a question in her dreams, which Lacan sees as reacting to insertion in the symbolic order: ‘Am I a man or a woman?’ For Dora, the question is, ‘What is it like to be a woman?’ and ‘What is it to be a woman?’, and specifically, ‘What is a feminine organ?’ (Lacan, 1993: 171–2). The fourth question is posed because, unlike the phallus, ‘there is no symbolisation of woman's sex as such’ (Lacan, 1993: 176). Feminine sexuality is not represented in language, in so far as this is patriarchally constructed. The question ‘What is a woman?’ attempts to symbolise the female organ. And Lacan says that ‘the symbolic provides a form into which the subject is inserted at the level of his being. It's on the basis of the (p.124) signifier that the subject recognises himself as being this or that’ (Lacan, 1993: 178, 179).


Chapter 6 examined Lacan on paranoia in relation to the imaginary and paranoid knowledge. Paranoia is the subject of Psychoanalytic Notes on an Autobiographical Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides) (1911), Freud's ‘attempt at an interpretation’ of the Memoirs of Daniel Paul Schreber: Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken (1903; literally, Great Thoughts of a Nervous Patient). Schreber (1842–1911), a judge in Dresden, and a man of ‘strict morals’, was born in Leipzig; his father, on whom Freud comments, was Dr Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber, a specialist in child care, and in indoor gymnastics, and machines to train youth, physically and mentally. According to Niederland, he acted as an impediment to Schreber being able to assume what he calls ‘an active masculine role’ (Niederland, 1974: 41).

Schreber married in 1878, a year after the suicide of his brother, and eight years after that of his father; his marriage ‘marred only from time to time by the repeated disappointment of our hope of being blessed with children’ (Schreber, 1955: 63: alluding to his wife's miscarriages). Schreber spent time in Sonnenstein Asylum near Dresden, and in 1884–85 in Leipzig Psychiatric Clinic, where the director was Professor Paul Flechsig (1847–1929), who cured him of what he called ‘hypochondriacal ideas’. If he felt grateful to Flechsig, he writes, ‘my wife felt even more sincere gratitude and worshipped Dr Flechsig as the man who had restored her husband to her; for this reason she kept his picture on her desk for many years’ (Schreber, 1955: 63). One noteworthy point about Flechsig is that he was one of the first who rejected the view that mental illness had anything to do with the soul; for him, there was an organic basis to mental illness (Lothane, 1992: 212–13).

From a lower judicial appointment, Schreber was promoted to Senatspräsident (i.e. as a district judge) in Dresden in June 1893, but before taking up office in October, and as if as a response to his ennobling, he dreamed that his previous nervous disorder had returned, and had ideas between sleep and waking ‘that after all it really must be very nice to be a woman submitting to the act of copulation’. He adds: ‘the idea was so foreign to my whole nature that I may say I would have rejected it with indignation if fully awake; from what I have experienced since I cannot exclude the possibility that some external influences were at work to implant this idea (p.125) in me’ (Schreber, 1955: 63). This suggests paranoia, and we perhaps should consider the implicit attitude to male and female sexuality in the word ‘submit’. After a second illness that October, he was rehospitalised, transferred to Lindenhof Asylum, and back to Sonnenstein. His Memoirs were written to take action for his discharge, in 1902, but he returned, after 1907, dying in the Leipzig-Dösen Asylum.

Freud makes Schreber an instance of paranoia, using for evidence, virtually, only the Memoirs, which he reads as a text. He examines his hypochondria, and feelings of being persecuted by certain people including Flechsig, the ‘soul-murderer’, and his delusional ideas, including believing that he had direct contact with God. The summary that the Court Judgement of 1902 gave of his case was: ‘he believed that he had a mission to redeem the world and restore it to its lost state of bliss. This, however, he could only bring about if he were first transformed from a man into a woman’ (SE 12.16). Freud regards the becoming woman–which he equates with emasculation–as Schreber's primary delusion, and the basis for persecution emanating from the ‘rays of God’, which Schreber equated with voices which he heard, which talked the ‘basic language’. Freud considers Schreber's attitude to God, who was to make him a woman, making him undergo ‘voluptuous excesses’, as a mixture of reverence and rebelliousness (SE 12.29). He spoke of ‘miracled’ or ‘talking birds’, threatening him in meaningless phrases, which Freud speculates must be phantasies of young women (SE 12.36). Freud analyses the relationship with Flechsig–who had acted as Schreber's doctor in a first period of nervous disorder, spoken of as hypochondria–as one where Schreber phantasised homosexual rape. Indeed Freud speculates that the basis of Schreber's illness was homosexual desire, which he could not endorse in himself; this, directed to Flechsig, meant that God had to replace the latter: making the emasculation ‘consonant with the Order of Things’. So ‘his ego found compensation in megalomania, while his feminine wishful phantasy made its way through and became acceptable’ (SE 12.48).

The imaginary persecutor divides into Flechsig and God; while Flechsig divides up into forty to sixty divisions, God divides into the ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ God. ‘A process of decomposition of this kind is very characteristic of paranoia. Paranoia decomposes just as hysteria condenses. Or rather, paranoia resolves once more into their elements the products of the condensations and identifications which are effected in the unconscious’ (SE 12.49). Freud intuits from this a dual sexual desire in Schreber in relation to his elder brother and his father, and thinks of desire as directed towards the father, who is also symbolised in the sun.

(p.126) Freud's third section in his analysis, ‘On the Mechanism of Paranoia’, considers the part played by a homosexual wish in the development of paranoia. Freud runs through material from his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) to discuss the movement from autoeroticism and narcissism to an ‘anaclitic’ (i.e. heterosexual) object-choice. Evidently, he considers these stages to include homosexual feelings, which, with heterosexual object-choice, are deflected from their sexual aim, and give ‘an erotic factor to friendship and comradeship’. Freud discusses the possibility of ‘fixation’ at any of these stages, thinking it entirely possible that some crisis in life, which he calls ‘frustration’–he amplifies this in ‘Types of an Onset of Neurosis’ (SE 12.231–8)–may lead to a reversal, to an earlier object-choice. And such a crisis Schreber faced. At this stage, Freud mentions schizophrenia, (SE 12.62), a term which was then new, and coined by the Zürich-based Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939), revising the term used by Emil Kraepelin (1856–1928), who had studied with Paul Flechsig at Liepzig. Kraepelin, in 1892, had called psychosis dementia praecox.

The writer Louis Sass considers Schreber's state to be marked by delusions, accompanied by a mood where ‘the perceptual world seems to have undergone some subtle but all-encompassing change: unfamiliar events and objects may seem like copies or repetitions of themselves; perceptual phenomena may seem tremendously specific and deeply meaningful, but without the patient being able to explain why’ (Sass, 1994: 5). He compares the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978), ‘shadowless cityscapes of infinite precision and uncanny meaningfulness with names like “The Enigma of the Day” and “The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street”’. De Chirico paints alienation and melancholia and indifference, what Maurice Blanchot calls ‘the madness of the day’: the title of one of his récits (Blanchot, 1999: 189–99). Schizophrenia is a term applicable to the twentieth century and to modernism, rather than to the nineteenth century, though in the last chapter I argued that it may be even more relevant to think of the twentieth century in relation to trauma.

Paranoia takes the form of contradicting the culturally inadmissible statement ‘I (a man) love him (a man)’, through such statements, which include those of erotomania, as:

  • I do not love him, I hate him
  • I do not love him–I hate him because HE PERSECUTES ME
  • I do not love him, I love her
  • I do not love him–I love her because SHE LOVES ME
  • It is not I who love the man–she loves him
  • I do not love at all–I do not love any one–the equivalent of ‘I love only myself’

(p.127) Freud shows a process of denial taking paranoid form, involving changes of the verb and of the object of the sentence, and even change of the subject (not I–she loves). Undeclared love becomes a delusion of being persecuted. An erotomania–Lacan's subject–takes over, which involves exaggerating the sense of one's own desirability as a heterosexual love-object. Delusional jealousy enters in with the ‘she loves him’ phase. Finally there is megalomania, the strongest form of paranoia, which produces the solipsism of ‘I am myself alone’, which Richard of Gloucester, on his way to becoming Richard III, announces at the end of 3 Henry VI (5.6.83). Equally sinister is Iago's ‘I am not what I am’ (Othello 1.1.65). The second of Freud's imagined statements, whereby the other is hated because ‘he hates me’, is an instance of projection, where ‘an internal perception is suppressed, and, instead, its content, after undergoing a certain kind of distortion, enters consciousness in the form of an external perception’ (SE 12.63). So projection is ‘when we refer the causes of certain sensations to the external world, instead of looking for them (as we do in the case of others) inside ourselves’ (SE 12.66). Freud also discusses repression in paranoia, which operates differently from projection, since it involves, first, fixation, where one instinct has been left behind others, and exists at a more infantile stage (SE 12.67). The instinct lagging behind is repressed by the ego, but this produces only ‘the failure of repression’, ‘irruption’, ‘the return of the repressed’. What returns, of a fixated instinct, comes back as a symptom (SE 12.68).

Freud also notes Schreber's belief in the imminence of world catastrophe. If for Schreber, other people were ‘cursorily improvised men’ (SE 12.68), because his paranoia or megalomania had withdrawn from all investment in other people, then Freud concludes that ‘the delusional formation … is in reality an attempt at recovery, a process of reconstruction’ of the outer world (SE 12.71). Repression detaches the libido (desire) from people, but the process of ‘recovery’, which is the return of the repressed, brings the outside world back again in hostile form. So ‘what was abolished internally returns [as the repressed returns] from without’ (SE 12.71). The paranoid person has projected so much on to the other, and this makes its return.

Madness and Literature

Schreber's Memoirs have been examined repeatedly, both corroborating what Freud said about Schreber's father (Niederland, Schatzman) and questioning Schreber's psychosis in relation to his contemporary Germany, whether arguing, like Elias Canetti, that Schreber exemplifies a tendency towards fascism, Canetti paralleling his desire for sole survivorship with (p.128) the attitudes of Hitler, or whether he was a ‘paranoid, molar’ type, centralising all power to himself (Canetti, 1973: 505–37, Deleuze and Guattari, 1988: 279, 364). Or was his madness, emerging before he could take up the offices he was given, as Eric Santner (1996) contends, a way of resisting the totalitarian temptation? Santner makes comparisons with Kafka, as another figure oppressed by fascist culture, and equally a figure in flight. Michel de Certeau, relating Schreber's text to mysticism, draws attention to the way that he was degraded in the language which addressed him (De Certeau, 1986: 35–46). Deleuze, too, allows for the thought that Schreber's movement is towards ‘becoming woman’, which cannot be seen negatively (Flieger, 2000: 38–63).

Also interesting is Louis Sass, arguing that madness (schizophrenia) is a condition which increases during the time of modernism. Sass sees Schreber internalising, from his father's control, a sense of being under surveillance, comparable to Foucault's account of the Panopticon, where ‘the individual feels constantly exposed to an external, normalising gaze, thus subjecting him or her to the dictates of an authority that must ultimately be internalised’. The internalised surveillance ‘eradicates spontaneity, increases the sense of isolation and inwardness, and instills a relentlessly self-monitoring mode of consciousness’ (Sass, 1992; 1994: 157–8, Foucault, 1977a: 170–228). Sass opens up Freud's sense of the superego as an internal structure to show it as having a social existence, and source: we have already commented on this through Derrida (see Chapter 3). Derrida situates the causes and effects of neurosis and psychosis not in the subject as source, but as an effect of disciplinary procedures, which construct madness, and a carceral mode of existence, and in this he follows Foucault. This argument may be compared with the psychoanalyst Victor Tausk (1879–1919), writing on the ‘influencing machine’ (1919), where schizophrenics feel they are under the power of an apparatus which makes them see pictures, projects their feelings on to the wall, and produces motor phenomena in the body. Tausk reads that as the ego splitting off its sexual being, and projecting it as a machine, which then influences the subject. The ‘apparatus’ is thus phallic, and controlling, and film theory has linked it to the creation of the cinematic apparatus, which is thus narcissistic, projecting sexuality on to the subject (Tausk, 1950, Copjec, 1982).

The difference between Freud and Foucault becomes key to reading modern literature. It seems that madness becomes not a danger for the writer but a condition that attends writing, as though writing had become madness, a marker of alienation. Foucault defines madness as ‘the absence of an oeuvre’ (a work); in other words, as the indication that the person has (p.129) no share in the productive economy, but is functionless; Maurice Blanchot sees that as the effect of writing itself (Foucault, 2006: xxxi, Blanchot, 1982: 13, 23); it takes away the subject's autonomy, or sense of having the power to create a text; it creates désoeuvrement, ‘worklessness’. The danger of psychoanalysis, as of any interpretative tool, is that it claims to give the truth about the subject, as has been shown in the analysis of James's The Turn of the Screw already mentioned, where the governess may be hysterical, as Edmund Wilson thought, or may be seeing ghosts, where the ghosts may be destructive or not (Felman, 1982: 94–207). Claiming the ability to interpret risks paranoia. But a distinction of psychoanalysis is that it does not demonise those it writes of, and becomes a condition in which madness, as a perhaps new phenomenon, can be thought about, not reductively, or in a mode which thinks it knows more than the patient, but giving possible ways of thinking in order to give to the patient different ways of interpreting. This appears in the next case-history: the ‘Wolf Man’.

The ‘Wolf Man’

‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’ (1918) as a title suggests that the text shows a literary, which is also an interpretative, arrangement, of a case-study. Certainly, there is a history here, which goes beyond Freud's writing, spanning much of the twentieth century (Brooks, 1984: 264–85). The ‘Wolf Man’, Sergei Pankeev (1887–1979) was born on Christmas Day on his father's estate on the Dnieper river in Russia. He went to Odessa University in 1905; at that time, his sister Anna committed suicide, and he describes how, in the aftermath of that, he made a journey to the Caucasus, in an apparent identification with Lermontov, the author of A Hero of Our Time (1840). At the same time his health broke down, apparently after a gonorrhoeal infection. Freud writes that he had attempted an ‘intimate physical approach’ towards his sister in puberty, and she had rejected him, and he had turned to servant girls as substitutes for the sister, and as subtle forms of, in fantasy, debasing his sister (SE 17.22).

Pankeev travelled to St Petersburg, and to Bavaria, meeting psychiatrists such as Emil Kraepelin (Munich, 1908) who diagnosed him as manicdepressive, as he had, apparently, also diagnosed the Wolf Man's father, who died, apparently by suicide, in 1908. At the same time, the Wolf Man met Therese, who was divorced, and had a four-year-old daughter, who was to die from tuberculosis (1919); he married Therese in 1914: being Jewish, she had everything to fear from the Anschluss of 1938, when Germany occupied Austria, and she killed herself that year.

(p.130) Incapacitated, unable even to dress himself, the Wolf Man came for treatment by Freud in January 1910. The case was concluded in 1914; Freud published it in 1918. Pankeev returned for treatment in September 1919, and again in 1926, when Freud assigned him to his pupil, the American born German-Jewish Ruth Brunswick (1897–1946); this lasted five months, and she wrote up the case, as one of paranoia (Gardiner, 1973: 286–331). He then became acquainted with the American psychoanalyst Muriel Gardiner (1901–95), who was living in Vienna; she remained in contact after she returned to America in 1938, hearing of the privations and hunger in which he and his mother, who died in 1953, had endured in and after the Second World War. He remained in Vienna; Gardiner adds that he was convinced ‘that without psychoanalysis he would have been condemned to lifelong misery’ (Gardiner, 1973: 9).

Freud sets out a chronology of the events of the Wolf Man's childhood, including an interpretation of events which the Wolf Man never verified: that at the age of one and a half, he either witnessed his parents copulating or had a phantasy of this. At the age of two and a half, there was a scene with Grusha, a nursery-maid, of whom he was fond, whose name (‘pear’) gave him an association of a big pear with yellow stripes on its skin; Freud thinks that in watching her scrub the floor, ‘he had micturated in the room, and she had rejoined, no doubt jokingly, with a threat of castration’ (SE 17.92). Freud associates her with a fear of a butterfly with yellow stripes, which terrified him when it lighted on a flower: ‘it had given him an uncanny feeling. It had looked, so he said, like a woman opening her legs’ (SE 17.90). Freud thinks of the butterfly as a ‘screen memory’ behind which was the other fear, of the woman. At the same time, there was another screen memory: ‘he saw himself with his nurse looking after the carriage which was driving off with his father, mother and sister, and then going peaceably back into the house’ (SE 17.14). Freud writes that ‘this showed him alone with his Nanya [the older peasant woman who came to look after him] and so disowned Grusha and his sister’ (SE 17.121). Before the age of three and a half, he heard his mother complaining to the doctor, saying ‘I cannot go on living like this’ (SE 17.77). At the same time as this, Freud notes that the Wolf Man was initiated into sexual matters by his sister, in a quasi-seduction, and Freud also dated to this time his sexual flirtations with his Nanya, which produced from her the threat of castration (SE 17.20–1, 24). At this time, an English governess was engaged for the children (SE 17.14–15).

Freud dates to the Christmas marking his fourth birthday the dream which gives the clue to his analysis. This was of the bedroom window (p.131) opening of its own accord and revealing six or seven white wolves sitting on the walnut tree in front of the window. (The drawing the Wolf Man produced, and which Freud reproduced (SE 17.30), shows five wolves.) Freud argues that the dream's ‘manifest content’, where the Wolf Man stressed the attentive looking of the wolves, and their motionlessness, implies that behind the dream was another ‘unknown scene’, now distorted, ‘even distorted into its opposite’ (SE 17.34). This, and the prominent tails of the wolves, which produced from Pankeev the story of the tailor pulling off a wolf 's tail, and then, in a further development, climbing into a tree to escape the wolves who could not climb it, suggests to Freud a castration anxiety. And that is supplemented by folk tales: of the wolf which ate up the seven little goats, and the Wolf with Red Riding Hood, both of which are fantasies of the older eating the younger, and which suggest to Freud, in his first paper on the subject, ‘The Occurrence in Dreams of Material from Fairy Tales’ (1913), the idea of Kronos eating his sons (SE 12.287). These wolf fears make him reverse the situation: the attentive looking was the boy's, so that the distortion was ‘an interchange of subject and object, of activity and passivity, being looked at instead of looking’, and ‘rest instead of motion’.

Digression: Ambivalence, and the Double

These reversals are basic to much in Freud, and to literary interpretation. They apply to his dream interpretation, which works by seeing images in dreams as constantly displacing themselves, in a process of metonymy. Second, they apply to a paper ‘The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words’ (1910, SE 11.153–61), which extends the arguments of the philologist Karl Abel whose essay of 1884 considered Egyptian hieroglyphics to show that the Egyptians had a large number of words denoting at once a thing and its opposite. Freud begins by quoting from The Interpretation of Dreams chapter 6:

The way in which dreams treat the category of contraries and contradictories is highly remarkable. It is simply disregarded. ‘No’ seems not to exist as far as dreams are concerned. They show a particular preference for combining contraries into a unity or for representing them as one and the same thing. Dreams feel themselves at liberty, moreover, to represent any element by its wishful contrary; so that there is no way of deciding at a first glance whether any element that admits of a contrary is present in the dream-thoughts as a positive or as a negative. (SE 4.318)

The point recalls Saussure's sense that, in language, ‘there are only differences without positive terms’ (Saussure, 1974: 120). Each term is haunted (p.132) by another term: to say ‘I am a woman’ means that ‘I am a man’ unconsciously haunts the statement. If so, the process of saying ‘No, I am not a man’ becomes a repression of the possibility that haunts the statement. The dream reveals this, as does language. ‘To let’ means ‘to allow’, but it also means ‘to prevent’, as in the old legal phrase ‘without let or hindrance’.

But the essay which is the most obvious for the strange effect of something being what it is and the opposite is ‘The Uncanny’–Das Unheimliche (1919), which shows that the unheimlich, the unfamiliar (‘the unhomely’) is also heimlich (SE 17.224–6). Heimlich means ‘familiar’, but, as in English, ‘familiar’ means ‘well known’, and implies domestic security, but a ‘familiar’ is also a ghost, and so something strange, secret, daemonic, so heimlich also means its opposite; das Unheimliche. Freud quotes the definition of the philosopher Friedrich Schelling (1775–1854): ‘everything is unheimlich that ought to have remained secret and hidden, but has come to light’ (SE 17.225). This includes, then, whatever has been repressed. The essay gives a reading of E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776–1822), the German novelist whose work turns so much on the literary figure of the double, on ‘characters who are to be considered identical because they look alike’. Hoffmann's fictions turn upon strange repetitions, and makes Freud discuss repetition, arguing:

the ‘double’ was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego, an ‘energetic denial of the power of death’, as [Otto] Rank says … this invention of doubling as a preservative against extinction has its counterpart in the language of dreams, which is fond of representing castration by a doubling, or multiplication of a genital symbol … from having been an assurance of immortality, it becomes the uncanny harbinger of death. (SE 17.235)

In this reversal, the double, which should seem to guarantee the absoluteness and singleness of the ego, does the opposite: it produces, like repetition, an opposite sense; that there is no single ego, no original: it pronounces death. So it relates to the castration anxieties, related to the fear of the loss of the eyes, which run through Hoffmann's The Sandman. Repetition, which threatens because it suggests that life is dominated by the machinic, is uncanny; it contains something in it which is different, which pulls out of any experience something other, double, ambivalent, reversing all senses, and a prompting towards death (Royle, 2003, Cixous, 1976: 525–48).

One further instance of reversal comes from the book published as Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921), when Freud is discussing the ‘herd instinct’ and noting the demand for justice as equal treatment (p.133) for all. Freud argues that a competitive and envious desire to want everything has to be replaced by a group spirit:

Social justice demands that we deny ourselves many things so that others may have to do without them as well, or, what is the same thing, may not be able to ask for them. This demand for equality is the root of social conscience and the sense of duty. It reveals itself unexpectedly in the syphilitic's dread of infecting other people, which psychoanalysis has taught us to understand. The dread exhibited by these poor wretches corresponds to their violent struggles against the unconscious wish to spread their infection on to other people; for why should they alone be infected and cut off from so much? why not other people as well? And the same germ is to be found in the apt story of the judgement of Solomon [see I Kings 3.16–28]. If one woman's child is dead, the other shall not have a live one either. The bereaved woman is recognised by this wish.

Thus social feeling is based upon the reversal of what was first a hostile feeling into a positively-toned tie in the nature of an identification … this reversal seems to occur under the influence of a common affectionate tie with a person outside the group [i.e. a leader, with whom all in the group can identify]. (SE 18.121)

The argument is that an earlier envy, which is also an anger, has to reverse into its opposite: into a drive towards asserting a will to justice for all. The basis of justice, is, therefore, envy, or what Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals calls ressentiment (Nietzsche, 1996: 22); here, Freud's analysis comes close to Nietzsche's sense of morality and social justice as the lowest common denominator which is produced by ‘preachers of equality’ whose anger, and desire for revenge is because they feel they have suffered a personal slight (Nietzsche, 2005: 86). The difference in Freud is that a reversal has happened, as it has not, quite, in Nietzsche: the feeling does not recognise its earlier envy, in its apparent drive towards justice (Forrester, 1997: 13–43).


Freud's interpretation of the Wolf Man's dream makes it, in his ‘unconscious memory traces’, a version of witnessing copulation between his parents, where the mother was taken from behind (a tergo). Freud takes the woman's sexual position as revealing, magnified in fantasy, the castration threat, and he says the episode received a ‘deferred revision’ in the dream, a point repeated in the footnote (SE 17.38). Freud calls the copulation the ‘primal scene’ (Urszene) (SE 17.39). Freud gives an analysis of the whole dream, (p.134) including the point that the high tree is ‘a symbol of observing, of scopophilia’ (SE 17.43), but, to summarise:

The steps in the transformation of the material, ‘primal scene–wolf story–fairy tale of “The Seven Little Goats”’ are a reflection of the progress of the dreamer's thoughts during the construction of the dream: ‘longing for sexual satisfaction from his father–realization that castration is a necessary condition of it–fear of his father’. (SE 17.42)

The ambivalence of response to the father will be noted (compare SE 17.65 and 118). For Freud, the effects of the scene were ‘deferred’ (SE 17.44, see also 17.47, 58, 109), so that the case history illuminates ‘Nachträglichkeit’, the idea that the effects of an event, possibly a traumatic one, are not felt at the time, but have an afterlife. The actual ‘primal scene’ may be beyond recall: the Wolf Man never confirmed the memory, which remained, therefore, a ‘construction’ on Freud's part, never a recollection (SE 17.50–1; see 48–60 generally). Freud is aware that what he writes is speculation; not science, but fiction: creating a past for the Wolf Man. The question of the beginning, of what the primal scene is, becomes something unknowable: this has profound implications for fiction, which is always concerned with what it is that opens a narrative, or makes it possible to launch a series of events.

Since Freud speculated that the primal scene might have been a phantasy of the Wolf Man's, it becomes a question whether there was any ‘primal scene’. Here the Wolf Man could not help, for, though he never accepted that he had witnessed the primal scene, the nature of repression would make him an unreliable witness to his defence that he had not. But equally, if the ‘primal scene’ is echoed in later events, it seems that these are not new, part of a series, but part of a repetition of the primal scene, an event not known, but to be constructed from its symptomatic reappearance at later moments in life. And the primal scene in the life of the boy is already a repetition from the parents; behind the primal scene is an earlier one, which would be the substance of an impossible knowledge: the scene of the boy's own conception.

Three points supplement this analysis. The boy's relation to his father is homosexual, but coded less in male/female terms than in the distinction between active and passive, which is also seen as male/female. Hence the desire to take a feminine role in relation to the father was repressed and replaced by fear of the wolf (SE 17.46–7). Freud thinks of a feminine attitude towards men being repressed systematically, and producing as a symptom, in the Wolf Man, intestinal pains (SE 17.80). This leads to another (p.135) point, which is the next stage in the narrative of what happened to the child. He turned towards religion, but set his face against the feature of suffering in the figure of Christ, and then turned his critical dissatisfaction on to God the Father (SE 17.62). He also tormented small animals. ‘In his sadism he maintained his ancient identification with his father; but in his masochism he chose him as a sexual object’ (17.63). Freud considers this as the beginning of ‘obsessional neurosis’. The ambivalence towards the father must be remembered.

This relates to a second point: he identifies with his mother and fears the abdominal pains which he thinks she suffers and which he also has. This, Freud says, was his ‘repudiation of being identified with her in this sexual scene–the same repudiation with which he awoke from the dream’ (SE 17.78). ‘Repudiation’ (Verwerfung) reappears in the following paragraphs, first saying that he repudiated the idea of what sexual intercourse involved: i.e. the vagina, which, of course, he did not possess. Freud sees an absolute contradiction in the way the Wolf Man could live having both a fear of castration and an identification with women ‘by means of the bowel’, i.e. through anal intercourse. Freud thinks this contradiction is characteristic of how the unconscious works, and adds, ‘A repression [Eine Verdrängung] is something very different from a repudiation [eine Verwerfung]’ (SE 17.80, translation modified).

Repression, Disavowal, Negation, Foreclosure

We must continue with Verwerfung. Freud speaks of the attitude the patient took to the problem of castration, and said he rejected (verwarf) it and held to his theory of intercourse by the anus. Freud adds that, when he speaks of him having rejected it, it was as if it did not exist for him. But at the same time, the Wolf Man recognised castration as a fact. So, says Freud, summarising, with a sense of the difficulty of ‘feeling his way’ into his mental processes, ‘first he resisted and then he yielded, but the second reaction did not do away with the first. In the end there were to be found in him two contrary currents side by side, one of which abominated the idea of castration, while the other was prepared to accept it and console itself with femininity.’ But Freud says that beyond this was a third ‘current’, Verwerfung, repudiation, which did not as yet even raise the question of the reality of castration' (SE 17.84–5: Verwerfung is omitted in the English translation, see Laplanche and Pontalis, 1973: 166). Here, Freud reports a hallucination the Wolf Man had, aged five, of cutting with his penknife into the bark of one of the walnut trees. ‘Suddenly, to my unspeakable terror, I noticed that (p.136) I had cut through the little finger’ of the hand. He did not speak to his nurse, but sat down, and then saw the finger was uninjured (SE 17.85). Freud identifies this with a castration anxiety, but, significantly, the boy does not think castration has taken place.

Hence the Wolf Man never accepts the reality of castration, which means that he can both be feminine in relation to the father, and, as with his reaction to God, deny his authority. The absence of speech when the Wolf Man hallucinates cutting off his finger is interpreted by Lacan as a psychotic episode. When castration is not symbolised within the Symbolic order, its non-existence there means that it returns within ‘the Real’, the domain outside symbolisation, and associated with trauma. We shall examine this in more detail below.

Freud, then, considers the Wolf Man as wavering between activity and passivity, and breaking down after an organic infection had shattered his narcissism, and his sense of being favoured by destiny (SE 17.118), something Freud relates to the point that the Wolf Man had been born with a caul, a Glückshaube, a ‘lucky hood’, like a magic protection (SE 17.99)–like Dickens's David Copperfield, who feels similarly privileged, and thinks that he cannot drown.

Doubtless a crisis of relationship with the father is at the heart of this case-history. Freud insisted on the infantile sources of the neurosis, and attacks Jung and Adler for disputing the primacy of infantile sexuality, and the Oedipal struggle. An approach to the Wolf Man, and Freud's analysis, comes from Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, whom we mentioned in Chapter 5. Their form of psychoanalysis, called ‘cryptonymy’, is discussed by Jacques Derrida in the Preface: ‘Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok’. (‘Fors’ from the Latin foris, foras, means ‘outside’ (compare ‘foreign’), and is the same as the French ‘hors’.) Abraham and Torok consider the meaning of a Russian being analysed in German: the possibility of thinking across different languages further complicating the idea of an ‘origin’ through the point that the German of the Wolf Man is also not his ‘origin’. ‘Cryptonymy’ as a word combines ideas of the crypt (a place for hiding: language as preserving secrets) and metonymy. Derrida, discussing it, puns, and plays with the antithetical meaning of primal words. Thus, he says, ‘for’ implies an interior, ‘the innermost heart’ is ‘le for intérieur’, and an exterior. Repression takes place inside language, which acts as a crypt concealing repressed material, but the material which has been incorporated within the body is already subject to endless displacements inside language. It is impossible here to distinguish an inside and outside of what the self knows and what it has repressed: as Derrida puts it, ‘a certain (p.137) foreign body is here working over our household words’ (Abraham and Torok, 1986: xxv). In the same way, Lacan refers to ‘intimate exteriority’, which he calls ‘extimacy’ (Lacan, 1992: 139), showing how psychoanalysis makes problematic inside/outside distinctions: the unconscious is extimate, within the subject, but constituting the subject without.

Derrida makes the ‘crypt’ the foreign body which is included through incorporation in the self, and which is a ‘foreigner in the Self, and especially of the heterocryptic ghost that returns from the Unconscious of the other, according to what might be called the law of another generation’ (Abraham and Torok, 1986: xxxi). To unpack this sentence: Abraham and Torok consider that inside the wolf dream there is a memory of the father raping the daughter. They interpret this through attention to the displacements of language that go through several languages (Abraham and Torok, 1986: 67–71). The traumatic memory carries through from a sense of the father's open fly, to the importance of the letter V, suggested in, for example, the pricked-up ears of the wolves, the number 5 (V in Latin), the jaws of the wolf, the first letter of ‘wolf’, the open window in the dream, the stories his sister told him about Nanya holding the gardener upside-down in order to play with him sexually (SE 17.20), the wings of the butterfly, and the idea of the woman's legs being open in the shape of a Roman V, and even the point that from the age of ten onwards the Wolf Man would fall into a depressed state at around five in the afternoon (SE 17.37). It should be noted that Freud discusses much of this material (SE 17.89–91), even referring to the Wolf Man's suspicions of his father's relations with his sister (SE 17.83). The interpretation by Abraham and Torok, which implies that the Wolf Man identified with the sister and told what he had seen to the English governess who ‘turned his idea of pleasure into sin, his father into a criminal, and himself, the little Sergei into a court of law raised above his father’ could only mean one thing. ‘From then on, this pleasure, jealously kept in his innermost safe, could only be the subject of total repudiation’ (Abraham and Torok, 1986: 76).

Surrealism and Literature

What Lacan says on Verwerfung is inseparable from his discussion of paranoia, in which Freud was ‘initially and essentially interested’ (Lacan, 1993: 4). Lacan on paranoia suggests interest in madness. Freud engaged with that in the Schreber case, but not otherwise: his topic is neurosis. Unlike the psychotic, the neurotic knows that he or she is ill, as inside the symbolic order.

(p.138) Lacan, from the time of his doctorate, was fascinated by paranoid psychosis, being partly influenced by Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault (1872–1934), working on erotomania. Part of Lacan's thesis studied a woman he called Aimée, who had tried to stab an actress, Huguette Duflos, in 1930 (Roudinesco, 1994: 32–51; Dean, 1992: 42–7): analysis suggested that Aimée had thought that the actress was secretly in love with her (erotomania) and had attacked her when she felt this was not the case: attacking that which threatened her narcissistic sense of herself, that she was completed by the woman who loved her. ‘Erotomania’ comes from Esquirol (1772–1840), follower of the French psychiatrist Pinel (1745–1824), in his Traitédes maladies mentales (1837). Also fundamental to Lacan was the case of the Papin sisters, who were later the theme of Genet's play The Maids (1947). In 1933, Christine and Léa Papin had, simultaneously, as under the power of a collective desire, risen up and killed their two employers, mother and daughter, morcellating the bodies, like the sparagmos, tearing a body to pieces, in Greek tragedy. Again, the case seemed to be that of two people murdering the basis of what gave them identity (Roudinesco, 1994: 61–5). An article by Lacan on the Papin sisters appeared first in the journal Minotaure, a Paris-based surrealist journal (1933–39): here Lacan gave an abbreviated account of his thesis.

Lacan's interests articulated with the surrealists' fascination with the female criminal (someone doubly transgressive), and with hysteria (Foster, 1993: 46–54), as with the case of Violette Nozière, a woman who attempted to murder her parents in 1934. It was turned into a film by Claude Chabrol starrring Isabelle Huppert, in 1978. With the Papin sisters, a quotation from the older, Christine, in prison applies: ‘I really do think that in a different life I should have been my sister's husband’ (quoted by Macey, 1988: 71). Freud's connections between homosexuality (lesbianism) and paranoia reappear (it was also relevant for Aimée); equally, the impulse towards crime obeys what was discussed in Chapter 4: crime is sought out of a desire for punishment: but Lacan supplements this, calling this desire for crime ‘self-punishing paranoia’ (Lacan, 2006: 138). Paranoid psychosis is seen as awareness of a ‘gap’ in the essence of the self (Lacan, 2006: 144), which comes from awareness of the distance between the self that identifies with the image in the mirror, and that image. The relationship between the mirror stage and paranoia will be recalled.

Lacan met Salvador Dalí (1904–89) in 1930 (Dalí met Freud in 1938); and knew the surrealists, including, as already seen, Breton (Dean, 1992, Iversen, 2007: 39–71). Surrealism attempted to paint the ‘primary process’, to render socially repressed desire, using ‘automatism’, a passive opening (p.139) up to irrational images. Dalí's ‘paranoiac-critical’ method, which argues for the multiple interpretation of a visual image, was the reverse of the surrealists' interest in hysteria. In each case, Dalí insisted on pressing the most paranoid reading, as if paranoid himself. Thus in 1963, Dalí published his ‘paranoiac-critical’ interpretation of the ‘Angelus’ (1857–59) painting by Jean-François Millet (1814–75), Le Mythe tragique de l'Angelus de Millet: Interprétation ‘paranoique-critique’. It had been planned since the 1930s. For Dalí, the man and woman praying in the rather kitsch pastoral painting of peasants at sunset were responding not to the church bells but to a buried child in a coffin between them, which had been painted over. The male's hat before his body conceals an erection. The figures symbolise a mother and son about to have sexual intercourse, the son being terrified by the predatory mother.

Dalí's analysis begins by quoting from Isidor Ducasse (1846–70), the Uruguay-born writer who in Paris, as Le Comte de Lautréamont, wrote Les Chants de Maldoror. This famously evokes the handsomeness of a boy, speaking of an aggressive and a passive beauty being like ‘the chance juxtaposition of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table’ (Lautréamont, 1978: 217). The statement, praising a chance encounter, or trouvaille, and referring to two males meeting, was taken up by André Breton. Dalí makes the umbrella, as a phallic symbol, male, and the sewing machine female, while reading the woman as destructive, comparing her with the female praying mantis, which devours the male, after mating with him. The homosexuality in Lautréamont has been heterosexualised, by making the woman an image of destructiveness. Is Dalí being antifeminist, or is he, as he claims, pursuing the imaginary desires of the 1930s, that most fascist decade, and seeing fascism as marked by hatred of the feminine (Greeley, 2001, Dalí, 1996: 273–97)? In other words, is his reading not his personal view, but one allowing us to read the symptoms of the age?

That would mean that the reading hallucinates what is to be seen, as the paranoid does (like Schreber); it is a delirious reading, but here its purpose is critical, in lifting the repression which happens in bourgeois viewing of images. What fascinated Dalí, and Lacan, was the idea that paranoid interpretation changes reality, which begins as if objectively to take on its forms. Breton accused Dalí of sympathies towards fascism; and the connection between fascism and paranoia has already been noticed, giving the sense that single identity is a technologised, armoured narcissistic structure, and that possession of knowledge and identity is aggressive, in its emphasis on a ‘hard’ masculinity.

(p.140) Paranoia and The Real

The key to paranoia, for Lacan, is Verwerfung (‘foreclusion’ in French, ‘foreclosure’ in English); he contrasts it with those other words which suggest repression. All four words of these psychoanalytic terms, giving the sense of a defence against the reality of the external world, should be noted:

Die Verdrängung–repression, discussed by Freud in 1915 in an essay of that name (SE 14.141–58), and most simply, thought of as a defence reaction to demands made by the drives.

Die Verneinung–negation: title of a 1925 paper (SE 19.233–9). Meaning ‘negation’ and ‘denial’, it appears when a patient reacts to an attempt to uncover the unconscious by saying, ‘I didn't think that’. Since there is no ‘no’ in the unconscious, such a reaction tends to point to a closing down, a denial of the suggestion, a refusal of it. The French translation is ‘la dénégation’, which implies a double negative: to negate is already a negation of a something which has been accepted (see below).

Verleugnung–disavowal, denial. This concept appears in ‘Fetishism’ (1927, SE 21.153), and it implies that the person denies the existence of something in external reality: male fetishism specifically ‘denies’ that the female has no penis, out of fears for its own castration. When Freud mentions Verleugnung in ‘Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction between the Sexes’ (1925), he says this ‘denial’ for an adult–as opposed to a child–‘would mean the beginning of a psychosis’ (SE 19.253). (See SE 19.143, note; Laplanche and Pontalis, 1973: 118–21).

Verwerfung–foreclosure, or repudiation; this word implies that something has not even been noticed, has not ‘taken’ in the ego; has just not been noticed. What has been repudiated is the ‘name of the father’, which secures entry into the symbolic order, and which gives it overall meaning.

Lacan takes from Freud the idea that Schreber's denials mean that ‘what was abolished internally returns from without’ (SE 12.71), since he says in The Psychoses: Seminar III, 1955–56, part of which was rewritten for Écrits as ‘On a Question Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis’: ‘whatever is refused in the symbolic order, in the sense of Verwerfung, reappears in the real’ (Lacan, 1993: 13). To expand: ‘in the subject's relationship to the symbol there is the possibility of a primitive Verwerfung, that is, that something is not symbolised and appears in the real’ (Lacan, 1993: 81).

‘The Real’, which was discussed in Chapter 6, needs more explanation now. At issue, says Lacan:

is the rejection of a primordial signifier into the outer shadows, a signifier that will henceforth be missing at this level. Here you have the fundamental (p.141) mechanism that I posit as being at the basis of paranoia. It's a matter of a primordial process of exclusion of an original within, which is not a bodily within but that of an initial body of signifiers. (Lacan, 1993: 150)

Paranoid psychosis, which is not an organic condition, relates to the signifier. Commenting on Dora, who was neurotic, and non-psychotic, Lacan says that psychosis requires ‘disturbances of language’, which makes it exceed paranoia (Lacan, 1993: 92). Paranoia produces logical processes of thought taken to strange conclusions, but psychosis adds hallucinations and delusions, which, in language, mean outbursts of neologisms, meaningless jingles, logorrhea, what Lecercle calls délire (= delirium plus language that ‘un-reads’, that undoes the symbolic order of language), the two functions of délire being ‘disruption of the signifying system and reconstruction’. Lecercle finds in Schreber ‘the lack of the coherence which makes meaning possible’ and ‘reconstruction of a whole cosmos as much as of syntax’ which ‘evinces an excess of coherence which again precludes meaning’ (Lecercle, 1985: 138).

We must clarify Verwerfung. Lacan introduced a paper on Freud's ‘Die Verneinung’ by the Hegelian Jean Hyppolite (Lacan, 2006: 308–17, 746–54, 318–33). (Negation is, of course, a Hegelian concept.) Hyppolite draws attention to Freud in saying that ‘“Affirmation” [Die Bejahung] as a substitute for uniting, belongs to Eros; negation–the successor to expulsion–belongs to the instinct for destruction’ (SE 19.239). Affirmation and unification, introjecting elements into the self, go together, while negation expels unfavourable elements from itself, and belongs to a destructive drive. But, Hyppolite comments, Freud says that the negating judgement is made possible only by the creation of the symbol of negation. So what is negated has already been symbolised in the unconscious, where it is marked. Hyppolite continues with Freud, saying that ‘we never discover a “no” in the unconscious’:

in analysis there is no ‘no’ to be found in the unconscious, but recognition of the unconscious by the ego demonstrates that the ego is always misrecognition; even in knowledge [connaissance], one always finds in the ego, in a negative formulation, the hallmark of the possibility of having the unconscious at one's disposal even as one refuses it. (Lacan, 2006: 753)

Negation includes a prior marking in the self, showing there has been a reception, of what is then turned down. There is no unconscious ‘no’. Hyppolite brings his Hegelianism to bear in agreeing with this. The negated is kept in a state of repression, and appears as a symptom, within the realm of the symbolic. But Verwerfung is ‘the absence of Bejahung’: no sign of the father's authority is left.

(p.142) Lacan speaks of a ‘phallocentrism’, wherein the child identifies with the mother, but desires her desire, which is the phallus, and so does not remain in the imaginary, in narcissistic self-completeness. Phallocentrism is ‘conditioned by the intrusion of the signifier in man's psyche’. The phallus is ‘the pivotal point in the symbolic process that completes, in both sexes, the calling into question of one's sex by the castration complex’. (Neither sex has the phallus: both are as though castrated, i.e. both denied access to full truth, or identity.) The phallus is evoked by ‘the paternal metaphor’ (Lacan, 2006: 463), which is a recognition of the Name-of-the-Father, as guaranteeing meaning. Lacan cites ‘Totem and Taboo’, that the murder of the literal father by the sons suggests that ‘if this murder is the fertile moment of the debt by which the subject binds himself for life to the Law, the symbolic Father, insofar as he signifies the Law, is truly the dead Father’ (Lacan, 2006: 464). There is an inseparable connection between accepting the authority of the Law, or the Name, of the Father, and the symbolic order.

With Schreber, Lacan gives an algorithm. The Name-of-the Father is placed over the Desire of the Mother (meaning ‘desire for the mother’, and ‘what the mother desires’), in an order which is S/s. (As always, the signifier is over the signified: repression has happened; everything happens symbolically, not in reality). The signifier of the Name means the repression of the signified, the phallic, what the mother desires. But another algorithm places the Desire of the Mother over the signified to the subject. What the subject desires is replaced, superseded, by the Mother's desire. Putting these together, and working backwards, the child's Imaginary has been replaced by the Mother's Desire, but that (as a signifier, proclaiming the supremacy of the mother's will) is, within the first algorithm, repressed beneath the Name-of-the-Father: phallic authority. We are out of the desire of the mother, which represents the lack of the phallus, into apparent independence: the Name-of-the-Father, expressed in another algorithm: an A (autre, ‘other’) over the Phallus. The Phallus, as the mark of difference and the mark of authority, is known but is repressed, beneath the Other, the symbolic order, as supported by the phallic (Lacan, 2006: 465). The verticality of this suggests metaphor: the paternal metaphor keeps metaphor in place.

Lacan asks what happens when the Name-of-the-Father is missing:

At the point at which the Name-of-the-Father is summoned … a pure and simple hole may thus answer in the Other; due to the lack of the metaphoric effect, this hole will give rise to a corresponding hole in the place of phallic signification. (Lacan, 2006: 465–6)

(p.143) Where the Name-of-the-Father has been foreclosed, a hole appears in the symbolic order: this no longer has the coherence that the phallic significance of the Name-of-the-Father gives it: it just seems ‘words, words, words’, as Hamlet says (2.2.192). The symbolic order seems, normally, to be a protection, which Lacan explains by saying that ‘the neurotic inhabits language, the psychotic is inhabited, posssessed by language’ (Lacan, 1993: 250). Language has the immediacy and the power of the real, so that words, as things, come back with hallucinatory force. The absence of the father in Schreber's sense of the world produces the homosexuality with which he imagines being a woman, and thinks of being a wife to God; here, Lacan differs from Freud who thinks the homosexual fear launches Schreber's paranoia.

One example of a possible ‘foreclosure’ is given by Jean Laplanche, using Lacan, writing on the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843), mad for his last forty years (Laplanche, 2007: 40–2, 48–9). At the centre of Hölderlin is perception of absence, the sense that it is not now the time of the gods; that ‘we have come too late’, as one poem, ‘Bread and Wine’, says (Tambling, 2010a: 2–4). The poet must now fill the missing space, which produces a failure resulting in absolute collapse. Foucault reviewed Laplanche's work, thus, incidentally, giving the lie to those who argue that Foucault was not interested in psychoanalysis, and Derrida in an essay on the schizoid dramatist and poet Antonin Artaud, reviewed the work of both (Foucault, 1977b: 68–86, Derrida, 1978: 169–95). Foucault diverts Laplanche's attention from the personal events of Hölderlin's biography, and his relationship with Schiller, a father-replacement, towards something else, the ungrounded nature of language. It is not the absence of the father which has produced this sense of signification lacking; it is rather a historical conjuncture which focuses attention that ‘language comes from elsewhere, from a place of which no-one can speak, but it can be transformed into a work [i.e. poetry, but note Foucault's definition of madness, already cited] only if, in ascending to its proper discourse, it directs its speech towards this absence’ (Foucault, 1977b: 86). Introducing Laplanche's book, Rainer Nägele links that with Lacan on aphanasis, when defining the signifier as ‘that which represents the subject to another signifier’. I, as a subject, look at another signifier, called S2, as that which is full of meaning, which seems to stand in as a full subject. But of course, there is an emptiness about the other signifier. Nägele cites two passages from Lacan's Seminar XVI (1968):

This other signifier, S2, represents in this radical connection precisely knowledge, in so far as it is the opaque term, where … the subject gets lost, or where it vanishes, something I have underlined … in the term ‘fading’ [aphanasis]. (p.144) In this subjective genesis, knowledge presents itself from the outset as the term where the subject vanishes. (Laplanche, 2007)

What Lacan calls the fading of the subject may be compared with Blanchot's conception of désoeuvrement. As the subject moves into the language of the signifier, so that ‘fading’ which is like a state of ‘worklessness’ prevails. Madness is the situation of a loss of difference between the subject and the work that is happening in language, and, in calling it aphanasis, Lacan sees it as basic to writing. The alternative, where the writing subject thinks he has knowledge, is conducive of paranoia, as we have seen. Nägele draws attention to Freud's sense of Urverdrängung (primal repression), something Freud seems to predate before the ego or superego get to work (SE 20.94). Nägele calls it ‘a repression before all repression’, and quotes Lacan:

This is what Freud designates as Urverdrängung. This so-called originary repression is only seemingly a repression, because it is expressly formulated not so much as repression, but as a kind of kernel already out of the reach of the subject and yet being a knowledge. This is what the notion of Urverdrängung means in so far as it makes possible that a whole signifying chain will attach itself to it, thus implying that enigma, the contradiction in adjecto [contradiction in terms] which is the subject as the unconscious. (quoted in Laplanche, 2007: xiv)

Before all repression is a repression, which keeps the subject in a state of fixation (SE 12.67), where the subject is attached to something left far behind, in its own archaic experience. Freud and Lacan both allow that meaning, and the inflection that all signification has, is attached to something unknown, because primarily repressed. So what supports, or activates, the meaning that the subject works with in writing is unknown. Clarity of utterance because of clarity of meaning, such as the Cartesian subject has, is impossible. The basis of knowledge cannot be had. Foucault reads modern literature, starting with Hölderlin, as working from that groundlessness. A subject is represented by a signifier, because there is no full subject to represent.

The Sinthome

One more take on madness, to be approached indirectly.

For Lacan, the necessity is to keep the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real orders together. From Seminar XIX onwards, he speaks of the Borromean knot, which is illustrated in Seminar XX (Lacan, 1998: 107–38). It is three rings so interlinked that, if one is cut, the whole chain falls apart. (p.145) The rings correspond to the three orders. The idea of a failure of coherence points to a basic absence in being, which we have already discussed, through Žižek, as the power of the negative, of absence, of a failure in the Other, which is the topic of psychoanalysis, especially articulated in its Lacanian form. A Marxist critique, as with Althusser, suggests that ideology makes it seem that everything is consistent, that there is a way of representing reality which makes sense of the absences. The symbolic order seems consistent. Lacan, and Žižek, see the failures of representation showing themselves up in the form of symptoms. A symptom reveals a failure; its signifying value is that it shows up gaps, aporias. When Žižek writes Enjoy Your Symptom (2001), the title suggests as much that the symptom is produced out of a failure within the symbolic order, as that it points to a repression in the subject. ‘According to Freud, when I develop a symptom, I produce a coded message about my innermost secrets, my unconscious desires and traumas’ (Žižek, 2006: 11). If ‘woman is the symptom of man’, as Žižek quotes Lacan as saying, that may mean not only that the place of women, and the way that women are read, in culture (e.g. as marked out by lack, as though castrated) may be read as symptomatic of a failure within masculinity, which desperately attempts to hold on to a patriarchal identity. So it may also mean that ‘man himself exists only through woman qua his symptom’, that the woman, constructed negatively, patriarchally, with, as we saw with Dora, no signifier to speak her identity, nonetheless brings out something lacking inside the man, in so far as her jouissance is different from, outside, the symbolic order, which may try to speak for it, but cannot. These are the arguments of Lacan's Seminar XX (1972–73); Encore: On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge.

In the case of James Joyce, the fear is of falling into madness; as though the tie formed by the Borromean knot is in danger of falling apart. In Seminar XXIII, Le Sinthome (1975), discussing James Joyce (1882–1941), Lacan began speaking of le sinthome as a fourth, which knots together these three orders (R, S, I) (Rabaté, 2001: 154–82, Harari, 2002, Thurston, 2004). Sinthome, an old spelling of ‘symptom’, is like one of the portmanteau words from Finnegans Wake, and it combines in itself the sense of something which falls by chance (the old meaning of ‘symptom’), and something which cannot be ‘read’, like the ‘stain’ discussed in Seminar XI. Something opaque, inseparable from chance, outside interpretation, must be allowed in. Perhaps the sinthome is a signifier of the Name-of-the-Father (who is also the Father of the Name). It implies ‘saint homme’, ‘saint Thomas’ (Aquinas), and includes ‘sin’ (including the original sin of the father, HCE, (p.146) in Finnegans Wake). ‘Joyce’ and ‘sens’ (sense, meaning) become inseparable from jouissance.

Lacan sees Ulysses and Finnegans Wake as huge linguistic attempts to create the Name of the Father in order not to go mad, as Joyce's daughter, Lucia, was schizophrenic, and was analysed by an unsympathetic Jung. A paternity must be affirmed, and it may said that Joyce shows the necessity of mad writing, with its symptoms, in order to prevent a worse psychosis. In other words, the writing of madness has become indistinguishable from mad writing. Hölderlin and Joyce represent two poles which mark out the modern: writing which because it is based on the ungrounded nature of writing risks madness, and writing which assumes madness to avoid it.