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Encore, the comic edges of love and knowledge: Seminar XX and L’étourdit

“That a secret can be announced without being revealed, or, alternatively, that the secret is manifest, this is what there is [il y a] (es gibt) and will always remain to translate, even here, etc.”

—Jacques Derrida

Scott McDaniel, Untitled

Qu’on dise reste oublié derrière ce qui se dit dans ce qui s’entends. That or what one might be saying remains forgotten behind what is said in what is heard.” Delivering the lecture he would go on to publish in 1973 as L’étourdit, at a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the

Hôpital Henri-Rousselle—the same hospital where, as a young man, he used to present his cases in the clinic of Professor Georges Daumézon—Lacan distinguished what is heard in something said from what might already have slipped away at the very moment of its utterance, what is felt in something said from what might go on eluding perception. The saying and the said, the dire and the dit, became in his discourse a kind of impossible couple; irrevocably split, perpetually entwined. Then, raising the ante still further, Lacan proceeded to bind these ill-fated pairings—what I hear in what you’ve said conjoined with what remains forgotten behind it, what I sniff out in what I’ve heard espoused with what continues, unperceived—with sex. Demonstrating his own version of the passion of the utterance mined by Molière to such rip-roaring effect in his comedies, Lacan delineated a passion unique to the said—a suffering, a pain, a Christ-like endurance; an affection of the mind or eruption of anger, at once an amorous feeling or sexual impulse—which, he insisted, lay at the very heart of the Freudian logos he worked tirelessly to extend. But what does this amour—this suffering, this sex—have to do with an analysand’s saying? What does it say to an analyst’s listening? A voyage made in and through speech—to cite George Steiner—any analysis will gather into dynamic, elucidative custody the utterances by which one ever and fruitlessly seeks out that seamless coincidence of predication and essence; one’s words, syntax, style coming finally to have constituted a search (a re-search) for the ultimate coitus: correspondence between articulate consciousness and the matter of [one’s] perceptions. The big joke of this tragic drama is that what will come to designate passion—the plot marking out the excitation and the anguish of the (spoken, gendered, sexed) couple—is nothing less than an absence, a ‘castration’ or, to cite one of Lacan’s many coinages in L’étourdit, an ab-sens, at one and the same time (French being polysemic and economical) a turn away from meaning, a lack of sense, a change of direction. 


The entire psychoanalytic project rests on this pivot, this absence, this about-face designating—literally, pointing out, nominating or appointing (as to a sacred office)—passion Itself.


We’ll engage this year in a line-by-line reading of L’étourdit alongside Seminar XX (Encore) of 1972-3, Lacan’s love letter delivered to psychoanalysts from the logical verge of meaning and incomprehension, sex and knowledge.

Faculty:  Benjamin Davidson

Dates and Times:  Wednesdays 5–7pm Pacific Time, biweekly beginning September 27, 2023

Location:  Online via Zoom

Fee:  Free, donation to the School encouraged


Benjamin Davidson, Ph.D. Dr. Davidson is a faculty member and Research Analyst of the Lacanian School, and an Associate Dean of Students at Stanford University, where he has led seminars on Lacanian and Freudian analysis since 2010.  He maintains a private practice in Palo Alto and San Francisco, and is a co-editor and frequent contributor to the European Journal of Psychoanalysis.


Tel: 650.704.8226

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