The Topic of the Imaginary

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The topic of the imaginary


The small talk I will offer you today was announced under the title 'The topic of the imaginary'. Such a subject is quite enough to fill up several years of teaching, but since several questions concerning the place of the imaginary in the symbolic structure crop up while following the thread of our discourse, today's chat may justify its title.

It wasn't without some preconceived plan, the rigour of which will, I hope, become apparent as it is revealed in its entirety, that last time I brought your attention to a case whose particular significance resides in its showing in miniature the reciprocal interplay of those three grand terms we have already had occasion to make much of- the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real.

Without these three systems to guide ourselves by, it would be impossible to understand anything of the Freudian technique and experience. Many difficulties are vindicated and clarified when one brings these distinctions to bear on them. This is indeed the case with the incomprehensions Mlle Gélinier remarked upon the other day when dealing with Melanie Klein's text. What matters, when one tries to elaborate upon some experience, isn't so much what one understands, as what one doesn't understand. The value of Mlle Gélinier's report is precisely to have highlighted what, in this text, cannot be understood.

That is why the method of textual commentary proves itself fruitful. Commenting on a text is like doing an analysis. How many times have I said to those under my supervision, when they say to me - I had the impression he meant this or that - that one of the things we must guard most against is to understand too much, to understand more than what is in the discourse of the subject. To interpret and to imagine one understands are not at all the same things. It is precisely the opposite. I would go as far as to say that it is on the basis of a kind of refusal of understanding that we push open the door to analytic understanding.

[To imagine one understands is for one to suppose that one is able to grasp the whole, to assimilate it to one's image of oneself, one's capacities, position in the world. Lacan distinguishes between the subject and the ego. The ego is the speaking subject/I under the domination of the imaginary register of language, its relationship to the symbolic order negotiated in the service of the imaginary desires.]

It isn't enough for it to seem to hang together, a text. Obviously, it hangs together within the framework of pat phrases we've grown used to -

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instinctual maturation, primitive aggressive instinct, oral, anal sadism, etc. And yet, in the register that Melanie Klein brings into play, there appear several contrasts, which I am going to return to in detail.

Everything turns on what Mlle Gélinier found to be peculiar, paradoxical, contradictory in the ego's function - if too developed, it stops all development, but in developing, it reopens the door to reality. How is it that the gate to reality is reopened by a development of the ego? What is the specific function of the Kleinian interpretation, which appears to have an intrusive character, a superimposing upon the subject These are the questions that we will have to touch upon again today.

You should have realized by now that, in the case of this young subject, real, imaginary and symbolic are here tangible, are flush with one another. I have taught you to identify the symbolic with language - now, isn't it in so far as, say, Melanie Klein speaks, that something happens? On the other hand, when Melanie Klein tells us that the objects are constituted by the interplay of projections, introjections, expulsions, reintrojections of bad objects, and that the subject, having projected his sadism, sees it coming back from these objects, and, by this very fact, finds himself jammed up by an anxious fear, don't you have the feeling that we are in the domain of the imaginary?

From then on the whole problem is that of the juncture of the symbolic and of the imaginary in the constitution of the real.


[Here Lacan develops an optical metaphor/model, not unlike the mirror-stage, to explain the imaginary and the way in which under its agency the I is identified with the ego. It is a metaphor or model in that while the imaginary certainly may capture visual perception, its net over experience, over the relationship between language and world, is much broader.]

To clarify things a little for you, I've concocted a little model for you, a substitute for the mirror-stage.

[What we are talking about here, while it certainly emerges at a particular time when the child achieves a certain sense of mastery in connecting language and world, what emerges then is an enduring agency in human life.]

As I have often underlined, the mirror-stage is not simply a moment in development. It also has an exemplary function, because it reveals some of the subject's relations to his image, in so far as it is the Urbild of the ego. Now, this mirror-stage, which no one can deny, has an optical presentation - nor can anyone deny that. Is it a coincidence?

The sciences, and above all those sciences in labor, as ours is, frequently borrow models from other sciences. My dear fellows, you wouldn't believe what you owe to geology. If it weren't for geology, how could one end up thinking that one could move, on the same level, from a recent to a much more ancient layer? It wouldn't be a bad thing, I'll note in passing, if every analyst went out and bought a small book on geology. There was once an analyst geologist, Leuba, who wrote one. I can't recommend you to read it too highly.

Optics could also have its say. At this point I find that I'm not in disagreement with the tradition established by the master - more than one of you must have noticed in the Traumdeutung, in the chapter 'The psychology of the dream process', the famous schema into which Freud inserts the entire proceedings of the unconscious.

Inside, Freud places the different layers which can be distinguished from the level of perception, namely from the instantaneous impression - Mnem', Mnem", etc, both image and memory. These recorded traces are later repressed into the unconscious. It is a very pretty schema, which we will come back to since it will be useful to us. But I'd like to point out that it is accompanied by a commentary which doesn't appear to have ever attracted anyone's attention, even though it was used again in another form in Freud's quasi last work, the Outline of Psycho-analysis.

[Lacan quotes from Freud, providing an anchor for using such optical metaphors, including the warning that we should not take the analogy literally but use it to help us understand the various functions and structure of the psychical.]

I will read it to you as it is to be found in the Traumdeutung. What is presented to us in these words is the idea of psychical locality - what is at issue here is precisely the field of psychical reality, that is to say of everything which takes place between perception and the motor consciousness of the ego. I shall entirely disregard the fact that the mental apparatus with which we are here concerned is also known to us in the form of an anatomical preparation, and I shall carefully avoid the temptation to determine psychical locality in any anatomicalfashion. I shall remain upon psychological ground, and I propose simply to follow the suggestion that we should picture the instrument which carries out our mental functions as resembling a compound microscope or a photographic apparatus, or something of the kind. On that basis, psychical locality will correspond to a point inside the apparatus at which one of the preliminary stages of an image comes into being. In the microscope and telescope, as we know, these occur in part at ideal points, regions in which no tangible component of the apparatus is situated. I see no necessity to apologise for the imperfections of this or of any similar imagery. Analogies of this kind are only intended to assist us in our attempt to make the complications of mental functioning intelligible by dissecting the function and assigning its different constituents to different component parts of the apparatus. So far as I know, the experiment has not hitherto been made of using this method of dissection in order to investigate the way in which the mental instrument is put together, and I can see no harm in it. We are justified, in my view, in givingiree rein to our speculations so long as we retain the coolness of our judgement and do not mistake the scaffolding for the building. And


Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954

since at our first approach to something unknown all that we need is the assistance of provisional ideas, I shall give preference in the first instance to hypotheses of the crudest and most concrete description.2

I don't have to tell you that, seeing as advice is given so as not to be followed, since then we haven't missed an opportunity of taking the scaffolding for the building. On the other hand, the authorisation which Freud gives us to make use of supplementary relations so as to bring us closer to an unknown fact incited me into myself manifesting a certain lack of deference in constructing a schema.

Something almost infantile will do for us today, an optical apparatus much simpler than a compound microscope - not that it wouldn't be fun to follow up the comparison in question, but that would take us a bit far out of our way.
[Optics provides fruitful ground for our model for it deals with understanding the production of images, representations which in some way stand between ourselves and the world and more or less adequately reflect it. ]

I cannot urge you too strongly to a meditation on optics. The odd thing is that an entire system of metaphysics has been founded on geometry and mechanics, by looking to them for models of understanding, but up to now it doesn't seem as though optics has been exploited as much as it could have been. Yet it should lend itself to a few dreams, this strange science which sets itself to produce, by means of apparatuses, that peculiar thing called images, in contrast to other sciences, which import into nature a cutting up, a dissection, an anatomy.

Don't think that, having said this, I am trying to make you believe that the moon is made of green cheese, or to make you take optical images for those images with which we are concerned. But, all the same, it is not for nothing that they share a name.

[[[Virtual]] versus real images. We can make virtual images of real images, e.g. a photograph of a rainbow. So real images may be called virtual objects.]

Optical images possess a peculiar diversity - some of them are purely subjective, these are the ones we call virtual, whereas others are real, namely in some respects, behave like objects and can be taken for such. More peculiar still - we can make virtual images of those objects which are real images. In such an instance, the object which is the real image quite rightly has the name of virtual object.

[In optics, every point in real space has some correlate in imaginary space. Mathematics expresses the relationships between them. The point: the real, or "reality" as that term is being used here, may be inscribed within imaginary space by speech dominated by the rhetorical functions or voices of the imaginary.]

There is in truth something which is even more surprising, which is that optics is founded on a mathematical theory without which it is absolutely impossible to structure it. For there to be an optics, for each given point in real space, there must be one point and one corresponding point only in another space, which is the imaginary space. This is the fundamental structural hypothesis. It gives the impression of being overly simple, but without it one cannot write even one equation, nor symbolise anything - optics would be impossible. Even those who are not aware of this couldn't do a thing in optics if it didn't exist.

[The two spaces [in our conscious experience of the world] generally fuse together.]

Here, too, the imaginary space and the real space fuse. Nonetheless they have to be conceived of as different. When it comes to optics, there are many

2 (1900a) GW 11/111541; Stud 11512; SE V 536.

The topic of the imaginary


opportunities for employing certain distinctions which show you the extent to which the symbolic source counts in the emergence of a given phenomenon.

[There appears to be a perceptual mechanism that renders images of rainbows like objects, able to be intersubjectively referred to, etc. similar to the way in which the mechanism of the camera is able to record it.]

On the other hand, there is in optics a set of phenomena which can be said to be altogether real since we are also guided by experience in this matter, but in which, nonetheless, subjectivity is implicated at every moment. When you see a rainbow, you're seeing something completely subjective. You see it at a certain distance as if stitched on to the landscape. It isn't there. It is a subjective phenomenon. But nonetheless, thanks to a camera, you record it entirely objectively. So, what is it? We no longer have a clear idea, do we, which is the subjective, which is the objective. Or isn't it rather that we have acquired the habit of placing a too hastily drawn distinction between the objective and the subjective in our little thought-tank? Isn't the camera a subjective apparatus, entirely constructed with the help of an x and a y which take up residence in the domain which the subject inhabits, that is to say that of language?

I will leave these questions hanging, to move straight on to a small example that I will try to get into your heads before I put it on the blackboard, because there is nothing more dangerous than things on the blackboard - it's always a bit flat.

It is a classical experiment, which used to be performed in the days when physics was fun, in the days when physics was really physics. Likewise, as for us, we find ourselves at a moment in time when psychoanalysis is really psychoanalysis. The closer we get to psychoanalysis being funny the more it is real psychoanalysis. Later on, it will get run in, it will be done by cutting corners and by pulling tricks. No one will understand any longer what's being done, just as there is no longer any need to understand anything about optics to make a microscope. So let us rejoice, we are still doing psychoanalysis.

[The model of the inverted bouquet. It matters that it is a bouquet, something of a certain dazzling beauty perhaps.]

Put a vast cauldron in place of me - which perhaps could quite happily stand in for me on some days, as a sound- box - a cauldron as close as possible to being a half-sphere, nicely polished on the inside, in short a spherical mirror. If it is brought forward almost as far as the table, you won't see yourselves inside it - hence, even if I were turned into a cauldron, the mirage effect that occurs from time to time between me and my pupils would not come about here. A spherical mirror produces a real image. To each point of a light ray emanating from any point on an object placed at a certain distance, preferably in the plane of the sphere's centre, there corresponds, in the same plane, through the convergence of the rays reflected on the surface of the sphere, another luminous point - which yields a real image of the object.

I am sorry that I haven't been able to bring the cauldron today, nor the experimental apparatuses. You'll have to represent them to yourselves.

Suppose that this is a box, hollow on this side, and that it's placed on a stand, at the centre of the half-sphere. On the box, you will place a vase, a real one. Beneath it, there is a bouquet of flowers. So, what is happening?


Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954


The experiment of the inverted bouquet

The bouquet is reflected in the spherical surface, meeting at the symmetrical point of luminosity. Consequently, a real image is formed. Note that the rays do not quite cross perfectly in my schema, but that is also true in reality, and for all optical instruments - one only ever gets an approximation. Beyond the eye, the rays continue their movement, and diverge once again. But for the eye, they are convergent, and give a real image, since the characteristic of rays which strike the eye in a convergent form is that they give a real image. Convergent in meeting the eye, they diverge in moving away from it. If the rays happen to meet the eye in the opposite sense, then a virtual image is formed. This is what happens when you look at an image in the mirror - you see it where it isn't. Here, on the contrary, you see it where it is - on the one condition that your eye be in the field of the rays which have already crossed each other at the corresponding point.

At that moment, while you do not see the real bouquet, which is hidden, if you are in the right field, you will see a very peculiar imaginary bouquet appear, taking shape exactly in the neck of the vase. Since your eyes have to move linearly in the same plane, you will have an impression of reality, all the while sensing that something is strange, blurred, because the rays don't quite cross over very well. The further away you are, the more parallax comes into play, and the more complete the illusion will be.
[This gives us a model for "the strict intrication of the imaginary world and the real ['reality' as constructed by the symbolic] world in the psychic economy."]

This is a fable we will put to a great deal of use. To be sure, this schema has no pretension to touch on anything which has a substantial relation to anything we deal with in analysis, the so called real or objective relations, or the imaginary relations. But it allows us to illustrate in a particularly simple way what follows on from the strict intrication of the imaginary world and the real world in the psychic economy - now you are going to see how.

This little experiment pleased me. It is not me who invented it, it has been around for a long time, known as the experiment of the inverted bouquet. As it

The topic of the imaginary


stands, in its innocence - these authors didn't make it up for us - it seduces us with its contingent details, the vase and the bouquet.

[A model for a primitive ego, one that does not yet posit itself as an object, a non-reflexive ego. The speaking subject, the I, identifies itself with some object which promises to give the satisfaction of a purposive mastery of the relationship between its speech, its actions and the objects.

The Urich, the original ego: the Lustich, the covetous ego

A sense of a mastery [an imaginary mastery] over certain simple operations which metaphorically have a spatial connotation, of containment, exclusion. "Oral" phenomena.]

Indeed, the specific domain of the primitive ego, Urich
or Lustich, is constituted by a splitting, by a differentiation from the external world - what is included inside is differentiated from what is rejected by the processes of exclusion, Aufstossung, and of projection. From then on, if there are any notions which are placed at the forefront of every psychoanalytic conception of the primitive stage of the ego's formation, it is clearly those of container and contained. This is how the relation of the vase to the flowers that it contains can serve us as a metaphor, a most precious one at that.

You know that the process of his physiological maturation allows the subject, at a given moment in his history, to integrate effectively his motor functions, and to gain access to a real mastery of his body. Except the subject becomes aware of his body as a totality prior to this particular moment, albeit in a correlative manner. That is what I insist upon in my theory of the mirror stage - the sight alone of the whole form of the human body gives the subject an imaginary mastery over his body, one which is premature in relation to a real mastery. This formation is separated from the specific process of maturation and is not confused with it. The subject anticipates on the achievement of psychological mastery, and this anticipation will leave its mark on every subsequent exercise of effective motor mastery.

[In a sense, then, this is the original adventure of seeing oneself, except that here one sees oneself in certain operations and objects with which one identifies, which one takes to be one's own.]

This is the original adventure through which man, for the first time, has the experience of seeing himself, of reflecting on himself and conceiving of himself as other than he is - an essential dimension of the human, which entirely structures his fantasy life.
[If the image of the bouquet is the metonymical focus of one's world, the image of the vase may be said to be the projected unity of the body, my body, to which the bouquet is referred. How referred? If we play with the metaphor a little, we can think of the vase and its gaping hole. So it is a unity with a gaping hole, one which demands to be beautifully filled. This is a figure for desire. Lacan's concept of desire should be distinguished from biological urge, want. He borrows Hegel's concept of desire which has two important terms. Desire is lack with respect to an implicit or explicit ideal. Desire thus understood implies the backdrop of the symbolic with its array of normative 'shoulds', 'musts' and 'ideals'. Lacan often says "Desire is desire of the Other (the symbolic)." It is the Other which first makes demands upon us, inititating us into its economies of desire, positing us as positions of lack which must be filled.]

In the beginning we assume there to be all the ids, objects, instincts, desires, tendencies, etc. That is reality pure and simple then, which is not delimited by anything, which cannot yet be the object of any definition, which is neither good, nor bad, but is all at the same time chaotic and absolute, primal. This is the level Freud is referring to in Die Verneinung, when he talks about judgements of existence - either it is, or it is not. And it is here that the image of the body gives the subject the first form which allows him to locate what pertains to the ego and what does not. Well then, let us say that the image of the body, if we locate it in our schema, is like the imaginary vase which contains the bouquet of real flowers. That's how we can portray for ourselves the subject of the time before the birth of the ego, and the appearance of the latter.
[Freud's story of the little boy who invents a game in which he throws them away, saying "Fort" (gone). Then he extends the game with a spool tied to a thread which he throws over the edge of his bed, crying "Fort" but then pulling it back and saying "Da" (there) with an "ooooo" of satisfaction. This is the basic economy of the pleasure principle, which governs the imaginary, the negotiation of "Fort" and "Da", absence and presence, which for Lacan resonates all the way from the child's game to the most sophisticated ways in which the imaginary posits itself as master in its world, with "+" being the sign of a return of pleasure which signifies for a time that the lack has been filled, a signifier has come to occupy the hole in the vase; "-" indicates the absence, the exposure of the lack--which, however, the imaginary is capable of appropriating masochistically in an identification with being nothing.]

I'm schematising, as you're quite well aware, but developing a metaphor, a thinking apparatus, requires that from the start one give a sense of what its use is. You will see that this apparatus here possesses a versatility which allows for all sorts of movement. You can invert the experiment's conditions - the pot could just as well be underneath and the flowers on top. You could make what is real imaginary at your discretion, on condition that you retain the relation of the signs, + - + or - + - .


Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954

[For the "real" image to appear, i.e. for the imaginary to include the "real" (here in the sense of reality), the eye must be within the cone of what the curved mirror reflects which may be said to represent the symbolic order which both constitutes the reality within the cone and permits the imaginary object, the virtual object, to be constituted within it. More to the point, the symbolic allows the imaginary desire to be publicly invested within it so long as the eye's apparent desire is also the desire of the Other/symbolic order. In Suspicion Joan Fontaine's father, the epitome of the symbolic order, is prepared to accept her imprudent marriage to Cary Grant so long as he accepts the chairs, gets a job, settles down. If the chairs are like the bouquet for Fontaine, they are for Grant representatives of the oppressive demands of the symbolic, demands which at the limit imply the disappearance, aphanisis of the individual into the herd. For he will not accept that his transgression be kept secret, except from this wife.]

For there to be an illusion, for there to be a world constituted, in front of the eye looking, in which the imaginary can include the real and, by the same token, fashion it, in which the real also can include and, by the same token, locate the imaginary, one condition must be fulfilled - as I have said, the eye must be in a specific position, it must be inside the cone.
[[[Outside]] the cone it will no longer see what is imaginary. This does not mean that it won't have desires. But it will have to occupy itself with its private idealizations, virtual images, like Stallone perhaps throughout most of Copland.]

If it is outside this cone, it will no longer see what is imaginary, for the simple reason that nothing from the cone of emission will happen to strike it. It will see things in their real state, entirely naked, that is to say, inside the mechanism, a sad, empty pot, or some lonesome flowers, depending on the case.

You might say - We aren't an eye, what is this eye which wanders around?

The box represents your own body, the bouquet, instincts and desires, the objects of desire which rove about. And the cauldron, what's that? That could well be the cortex. Why not? It would be fun - we'll discuss that some other day.

In the middle of this, your eye doesn't rove about, it is fixed there, like a titillating little appendage of the cortex. So, why am I telling you that it roves around and that, according to its position, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't?

[The eye which roves about is the speaking subject, the subject not identical with the ego but which constitutes itself as ego in identifying with the economy of the imaginary.]

The eye is here, as so often, symbolic of the subject.

The whole of science is based on reducing the subject to an eye, and that is why it is projected in front of you, that is to say objectivated - I'll explain that to you another time. In relation to the theory of the instincts, some time back someone proposed a very beautiful construction, the most paradoxical that I have ever heard professed, which entified the instincts. At the end, not a single one was left standing, and it was, just on this account, useful to undertake this demonstration. In order to reduce us for a moment to being only an eye, we had to put ourselves in the shoes of the scientist who can decree that he is just an eye, and can put a notice on the door - Do not disturb the experimenter. In life, things are entirely different, because we aren't an eye. So, this eye, what does it mean?

It means that, in the relation of the imaginary and the real, and in the constitution of the world such as results from it, everything depends on the position of the subject. And the position of the subject - you should know, I've been repeating it for long enough - is essentially characterised by its place in the symbolic world, in other words in the world of speech.
Whether he has the right to, or is prohibited from, calling himself Pedro hangs on this place. Depending on what is the case, he is within the field of the cone or he isn't.

That is what you have to get into your heads, even if it seems a bit much, to understand what follows.


[[[Interpreting]] one of Melanie Klein's cases, Lacan gives us his own version of what we should understand by the achievement of the game of "Fort/Da". Except here we are dealing not with a 1-2 year old but an older boy.]

We must accept Melanie Klein's text for what it is, namely the write-up of an experiment.

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Here's a boy, who, we are told, is about four years old, whose general level of development is between fifteen and eighteen months. That is a question of definition, and you never know what is meant. What is the instrument of measurement? Specification is often omitted. An affective development of fifteen to eighteen months, this notion remains even more fuzzy than the image of a flower in the experiment I just set up for you.

The child possesses a very limited vocabulary, more than just limited in fact, incorrect. He deforms words and uses them inopportunely most of the time, whereas at other times it is clear that he knows their meaning. Melanie Klein insists on the most striking fact - this child has no desire to make himself understood, he doesn't try to communicate, his only activities, more or less playful, are emitting sounds and taking pleasure in meaningless sounds, in noises.

Even so, this child possesses something of language - otherwise Melanie Klein could not make herself understood by him. He has some of the elements of the symbolic apparatus at his disposal. On the other hand, Melanie Klein, from this first, so crucial, contact with the child on, characterises his attitude as one of apathy, indifference. He is nonetheless not lacking in direction. He does not give the impression of being an idiot, far from it. Melanie Klein distinguishes him from all the neurotic children she had previously seen by observing that he gave no sign of anxiety, even in the disguised forms which it assumes in neurotics, either explosion or else withdrawal, stiffness, timidity. It could not escape the notice of this therapist, with all her experience. There he is, this child. as if nothing was going on. He looks at Melanie Klein as he would look at a

piece of furniture.

I am underlining these aspects because I want to highlight the uniform character of reality for him. Everything is equally real for him, equally indifferent.

This is where Mlle Gélinier's quandaries begin.
The child's world, Melanie Klein tells us, is manufactured out of a container - this would be the body of the mother - and out of the contents of the body of this mother.3 In the course of the development of his instinctual relations with this privileged object, the mother, the child is led into instigating a series of relations of imaginary incorporations. He can bite, absorb the body of his mother. The style of this incorporation is one of destruction. [parasite?]

In this maternal body, the child expects to encounter a certain number of objects, themselves possessing a specific unity, though objects which may be dangerous for him are included amongst them. Why dangerous? For exactly the same reason whereby he is dangerous for them. Mirroring them, as one might well say, he clothes them with the same capacities for destruction as
3 The term Lacan uses is 'contenu', which covers both the English 'contents' (the term Klein uses, see op. cit. p. 232 and particularly P. 221) and 'contained'. which is the English term most appropriate for some of the uses to which Lacan is putting the term in this seminar.


Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954

those of which he feels himself the bearer. It is in virtue of this that he will come to accentuate their exteriority in relation to the initial limitations of his ego, and reject them like bad, dangerous objects, poo-poo.

Certainly these objects will be externalised, isolated, from this primal universal container, from this primal large whole that is the fantasised image of the mothers body, the entire empire of the primal infantile reality. But they will nevertheless always be endowed with the same maleficent accent which marked his first relations with them. That is why he will reintroject them, and switch his attention to other, less dangerous objects. For example, he will construct what is called the equation Saeces-urine. Different objects from the external world, more neutralised, will be set up as the equivalents of these first ones, will be linked up with them through the imaginary - I am underlining it - equation. Hence, the symbolic equation that we rediscover between these objects arises from an alternating mechanism of expulsion and introjection, of projection and absorption, that is to say from an imaginary interplay.

It is specifically this interplay that I am trying to symbolise for you in my schema through the imaginary inclusions of real objects, or inversely, through the capturing of imaginary objects within a real enclosure.

[Lacan continues to relate Melanie Klein's case of little Dick and her casting of it].]

    In Dick's case, we see clearly that there is the skeleton of imagination, if I may say, of the external world. It is there ready to surface, but only ready to.

Dick plays with the container and the contained. Already, he has quite naturally entified in several objects, the little train for example, a certain number of tendencies, of persons even - himself as little train, in comparison with his father who is the big train. Moreover, the number of objects of significance is, surprisingly, for him very limited, limited to the minimal signs capable of expressing the inside and the outside, the contained and the container. Hence the dark space is straightaway assimilated to the inside of the mother's body, in which he seeks refuge. What doesn't happen is the free play, the conjunction between the different forms, imaginary and real, of objects.

That is why, when he seeks refuge in the empty, dark inside of the maternal body, there are no objects there, to Mlle Gélinier's great surprise. For one simple reason - in his case, the bouquet and the vase cannot both be there at the same time. That is the key.

Mlle Gélinier's astonishment is based on the fact that, for Melanie Klein, everything takes place on a plane of equal reality - of unreal reality,4 as she puts it, which, in fact, doesn't facilitate our conceiving the dissociation of different sets5 of primitive objects. Melanie Klein has neither a theory of the imaginary nor a theory of the ego. It is up to us to introduce these notions, and to understand that, in so far as one part of reality is imagined, the other is real and inversely, in so far as one part is reality, the other becomes imaginary. One can

4English in the original.

5English in the original.

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see why, in the beginning, the conjunction of different parts, of sets,6 can never be accomplished. Here, we are in the mirror relation.

[In the mirror relation the I/eye projects itself into the world as ego by way of the intrication of imaginary and reality. This involves an interplay of being container and being that which is contained.
Both are ways of constituting the illusion of a certain purposive wholeness, organic unity. One may feel that one's lack is filled by being a part of something one takes to be greater than oneself. By contrast one may feel that one's lack is filled in making something else a part of oneself, assimilating it.]

We call this the plane of projection. But can one designate the correlate of projection? One has to find another word than introjection. As we use it in analysis, the word 'introjection' is not the opposite of projection. It is almost only ever used, you will notice, when it is a question of symbolic introjection. It is always accompanied by a symbolic denomination. Introjection is always the introjection of the speech of the other, which introduces an entirely different dimension from that of projection. Around this distinction you can discriminate between what is a function of the ego and what pertains to the order of the dual relation, and what is a function of the super ego. It is not for nothing that they are distinguished within analytic theory, nor that it is accepted that the super-ego, the authentic super-ego, is a secondary introjection in relation to the function of the ideal ego.

These are asides. I'll return to the case described by Melanie Klein.

[Little Dick's impoverished imaginary.]

The child is there. He has a certain number of significant registers at his disposition. Melanie Klein - we can follow her at this point - underlines the extreme restrictedness of one of them - the imaginary domain. Normally it is through the possibilities of play in the imaginary transposition that the progressive valorisation of objects comes about, on the plane that we commonly designate as affective, through a diversification, a fanning-out of all the imaginary equations which allow the human being to be the only animal to have at his disposition an almost infinite number of objects - objects marked with the value of a Gestalt in his Umwelt, objects isolated as to their forms. Melanie Klein underlines the poverty of the imaginary world, and, by the same token, the impossibility of this child entering into an effective relation with objects qua structures. An important correlation to grasp.

If we now sum up everything that Melanie Klein describes of this child's attitude, the significant point is simply the following - he makes no call.

The call - this is a notion that I ask you to retain. You are going to say to yourselves - Of course, being Doctor Lacan, he uses this to go on about language again. But the child already has his own system of language, quite sufficient. The proof is that he plays with it. He even makes use of it to play a game of opposition against the adults' attempts to intrude. For example, he behaves in a way which is said in the text to be negativistic.6 When his mother suggests a name to him, one he is capable of reproducing in a correct manner, he reproduces it in an unintelligible, deformed manner, which cannot be of any use whatever. Here we rediscover the distinction to be drawn between negativism and negation - as M. Hyppolite reminded us, thus demonstrating

6 English in the original.


Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954

not only his culture, but also that he has seen patients with his own eyes. As to Dick, he uses language in a strictly negativistic manner.[Little Dick makes no call, does not draw your attention to something he lacks. Explaining the function of the imaginary in terms of speech. signs. But for us to have the full sense of the imaginary which involves an illusion of mastery, the call is answered by the feint, the assumption of mastery over the relations of container and contained. ]

In consequence, in introducing the call, it isn't language that I am covertly slipping in. I will even go further - not only isn't it language, but it isn't a higher level of language. It is in fact beneath language, if we're talking of levels. You have only to observe a pet to see that a being deprived of language is quite capable of making calls on you, calls to draw your attention to something which, in some sense or other, it lacks. To the human call a further, richer development is reserved, because it takes place precisely in a being who has already reached the level of language.

Let us be schematic.

A certain Karl Buhler put forward a theory of language, which is neither unique, nor the most complete, but in it you'll find something of interest - he differentiates three stages in language. Unfortunately he located them in registers which do not make them very comprehensible.

First of all, the level of the statement as such, which is almost a level of the natural datum. I am at the level of the statement when I say the simplest thing to someone, for example an imperative. It is at this level of the statement that everything concerning the nature of the subject must be placed. An officer, a professor, will not give an order in the same language as a worker or foreman. At the level of the statement, from its style to its very intonation, everything we learn bears on the nature of the subject.

In any imperative, there's another plane, that of the call. It is a question of the tone in which the imperative is uttered. The same text can have completely different imports depending on the tone. The simple statement stop can have, depending on the circumstances, completely different imports as a call.

The third level is communication properly speaking - what is at issue, and its reference to the totality of the situation.

With Dick we are at the level of the call. The call acquires its weight within the already acquired system of language. Now, what is crucial here is that this child does not voice any call. The system whereby the subject comes to locate himself in language is interrupted, at the level of speech. Language and speech are not the same thing -this child is, up to a certain point, a master of language, but he doesn't speak. There is a subject here who quite literally does not reply.

Speech has not come to him. Language didn't stick to his imaginary system, whose register is extremely limited - valorisation of trains, of door-handles, of the dark. His faculties, not of communication, but of expression, are limited to that. For him, the real and the imaginary are equivalent.

Hence Melanie Klein here has to give up on technique. She has the minimum of material. She doesn't even have games - this child does not play. When he picks up a little train for a while, he doesn't play, he does it in the same way he moves through the air - as if he were an invisible being, or rather as if everything were, in a specific manner, invisible to him.

The topic of the imaginary


[How to interpret Melanie Klein's success with little Dick. Its not the Oedipal complex.]

   Melanie Klein here doesn't, as she is vividly aware, offer an interpretation. She starts off, she says, from ideas she already has, which are well known, as to what happens at this stage. I won't beat about the bush, I just tell him - Dick little train, 

big train daddy-train. Thereupon, the child starts to play with his little train, and he says the word, station.' Crucial
moment, when the sticking of language to the subject's imaginary begins to sketch itself.

Melanie Klein plays this back to him - The station is mummy. Dick is going into mummy. From this point on, everything starts firing. She'll only feed him these kinds of lines, and no others. And very quickly the child makes progress. That's a fact. So what did Melanie Klein actually do? nothing other than to bring in verbalisation. She symbolised an effective relationship, that of one named beingwith another. She plastered on the symbolisation of the Oedipal myth, to give it its real name. It's from that point on that, after an initial ceremony, taking refuge in the dark in order to renew contact with the container, something new

awakens in the child.

The child verbalises a first call - a spoken call. He asks for his nurse, with whom he came in and who he had allowed to leave as if it were nothing to him. For the first time, he reacts by calling, which is not simply an affective call, mimed by the whole being, but a verbalised call, which from then on includes a reply, This is his first communication in the strict, technical sense of the term.

Things then progress to the point where Melanie Klein brings into play all the other elements of a situation which is from then organised, right up to and including the father himself, who comes to take his own part. Outside of the sessions, Melanie Klein says, the child's relations unfold on the plane of the Oedipus complex. The child symbolises the reality around him starting from this nucleus, this little palpitating cell of symbolism which Melanie Klein gave him.

 That is what she later calls - gaining access to his unconscious.8   What did Melanie Klein ever do, which would reveal the least comprehendsion of any kind of process, which might, in the subject, amount to his unconscious? She accepts it from the start, out of habit. Do all read the case

again and you will see in it the spectacular demonstration of the formula that I am always giving you - the unconscious is the discourse of the other.

  Here is a case where it is absolutely apparent. There is nothing remotely like an unconscious in the subject. It is Melanie Klein's discourse which brutally grafts the primary symbolisations of the Oedipal situation on to the initial ego

related [moique] inertia of the child. Melanie Klein always does that with her subjects, more or less implicitly, more or less arbitrarily.

In the extreme case, in the case of the subject who hasn't acceded to human
7English in the original.
8 'avoir ouvert les portes de son inconscient - the phrase is taken from Klein's paper (p. 229).
[Klein does not uncover the Oedipus complex here. She simply gives the child some basic symbolic tokens and the idea of how to play the game with them.]


Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954

reality, since no call can be heard from him, what are the effects of the symbolisations introduced by the therapist? They specify an initial position from which the subject can introduce an interplay between the imaginary and the real and master his development. He is swallowed up in a series of equivalences, in a system in which objects are substituted one for the other. He runs through an entire sequence of equations which drive him out of the space between the doors where he had gone to seek refuge in the absolute darkness of the total container, to those objects which he substitutes for it - the wash-basin, for example. In this way he unfolds and articulates his entire world. And then, from the wash-basin, he moves on to an electric radiator, on to objects which are more and more complex. He accedes to richer and richer contents [contenus], such as to the possibility of defining the contained [contenu] and the non-contained [non-contenu].

Why speak in this case of the development of the ego? That's to confuse, as always, the ego and the subject.

Development only takes place in so far as the subject integrates himself into the symbolic system, acts within it, asserts himself in it through the use of genuine speech. It isn't even essential, you should note, that this speech be his own. In the couple that is temporarily constituted in what is, however, its least affectivated form, between the therapist and the subject, genuine speech can be brought forth. To be sure, not any old speech - that's where we perceive the virtue of the symbolic situation of the Oedipus complex.

It really is the key - a very elementary key. I have already pointed out to you that there most probably was a whole bunch of keys. One day perhaps I will give you a lecture on what we gain in this respect from the myths of primitive peoples - I wouldn't say inferior, because they aren't inferior, they know much more than we do. When we study a mythology, for example one that might perhaps appear with respect to a Sudanese population, we discover that for them the Oedipus complex is just a rather thin joke. It is a very tiny detail within an immense myth. The myth allows the cataloguing of a set of relations between subjects of a wealth and complexity besides which the Oedipus complex seems only to be so abridged an edition that in the end it cannot always be used.

But no matter. Us analysts have been satisfied with it up to now. Certainly, one does try to elaborate it a bit, but it is all rather timid. One always feels

terribly tangled up because one doesn't distinguish easily between the imaginary, symbolic and real.|

Now I want to bring the following to your attention. When Melanie Klein offers him the Oedipal schema, the imaginary relation which the subject lives, though extremely impoverished, is already complex enough for us to say that he has a world of his own. But for us this primitive real is literally ineffable. As long as he doesn't tell us anything about it, we have no means of gaining access

The topic of the imaginary


to it, except through symbolic extrapolations which constitute the ambiguity of all systems such as Melanie Klein's - she tells us, for instance, that within the empire of the maternal body, the subject is to be found with all his brothers, not to mention the father's penis, etc. Really?

It doesn't matter, since we can thus grasp in any case how this world is set in motion, how the imaginary and real begin to be structured, how the successive investments develop, investments which delineate the variety of human, that is nameable, objects. All of this process has its point of departure in this initial fresco constituted by a significative speech, formulating a fundamental structure which, in the law of speech, humanises man.

[Lacan speaks of this initiation into the symbolic which takes place by way of imaginary investment as a humanization. For the call and the possibility of refusal implicate us in relations of dependency from the very start. The appreciation of this dependency and a responsiveness to the call of those who thereby draw our attention to their lack is the beginning of humaneness.]

How can I put this in yet another way? Ask yourselves what the call represents in the field of speech. Well, it's the, possibility of refusal. I say the possibility. The call doesn't imply refusal, it doesn't imply any dichotomy, any bipartition. But you can see for yourselves that it is when the call is made that dependency relations establish themselves in the subject. From then on he will welcome his nurse with open arms, and in deliberately hiding himself behind the door, he will all at once reveal in relation to Melanie Klein the need to have a companion in this cramped corner which he occupied for a while. Dependency will come in its train.

In this observation, then, you see, quite independently, the set of pre-verbal and post-verbal relations at play in the child. And you realise that the external world - what we call the real world, which is only a humanised, symbolised world, the work of transcendence introduced by the symbol into the primitive reality - can only be constituted when a series of encounters have occurred in the right place.

These positions belong to the same order as those which, in my schema, cause a given structuration of the situation to depend upon a given position of the eye. I will make further use of this schema. For today I only wanted to introduce a bouquet, but one can introduce the other.

Starting from Dick's case and by employing the categories of the real, the symbolic and the imaginary, I showed you how it can happen that a subject who has all the elements of language at his disposition, and who has the possibility of making several imaginary moves that allow him to structure his world, might not be in the real. Why isn't he in it? - simply because things didn't happen in a specific order. The figure is in its entirety upset. No way of giving this entirety any development whatsoever.

Are we dealing with the development of the ego here? Look at Melanie Klein's text again. She says that the ego had developed in too precocious a manner, in such a way that the child has too real a relation to reality, because the imaginary could find no place there - and then, in the second part of her sentence, she says that it is the ego which halts development. This simply means that the ego cannot be fruitfully employed as an apparatus in the structuring of


Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954

this external world. For one simple reason - because of the poor position of the eye, the ego quite simply doesn't appear.

Let the vase be virtual. The vase doesn't appear, and the subject remains in a reduced reality, with a similarly reduced imaginary baggage.

The core of this observation, which is what you must understand - the virtue of speech, in so far as the act of speech is a mode of functioning coordinated to a symbolic system that is already established, typical and significant.

It would be worth your while to ponder the questions, to reread the text, also to get the feel of this little schema so that you could see for yourselves what use you could put it to.

What I've given you today is a theoretical discussion in complete contrast with the set of problems raised last time by Mlle Gélinier. The title of the next session, which will take place in two weeks time, will be - The transference - the different levels on which it should be studied.

24 February 1954<a></a><a></a><a></a>