Not without literature: Joyce with Lacan in the reinvention of psychoanalysis
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In a careful and sustained reading of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s groundbreaking twenty-third seminar, which is largely devoted to the life and work of the Irish writer James Joyce, this dissertation rethinks the often-misunderstood problem of the supposed relationship between literature and psychoanalysis upon the basis of Lacan’s identification of the foundation of psychoanalysis with his well-known apothegm “There is no sexual relationship [ Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel ].” The first chapter develops a reading of what, with specific reference to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Exiles , and his private correspondence with Nora Barnacle, it characterizes as the Joycean foundations of psychoanalysis. The goal of this reading is to make sense of Lacan’s provocative hypothesis according to which the Irish novelist, poet, and playwright managed to achieve the best that can be expected from psychoanalysis at its end without recourse to the experience of psychoanalysis. To that end, it rethinks the four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis (the unconscious, repetition, transference, and the drive) in consideration of both Lacan’s rethinking of the fundamental categories of modal logic (necessity, contingency, possibility, and impossibility) and the foundational role of silence, exile, and cunning — in conjunction with Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel — in Joyce’s extraordinary achievement. Whereas the goal of the first chapter is to make sense of Lacan’s hypothesis apropos of Joyce and the best that can be expected from psychoanalysis at its end, the aim of the second chapter is to uphold the drive that fails to achieve its goal of constituting the supposed relationship between literature and psychoanalysis. If, for Lacan, the drive amounts to the drive of the absence of the sexual relationship, then the drive at stake in this chapter is the drive of the absence of the literary-critical relationship, the drive to access literature with psychoanalysis. Rather than produce a reading intended to say the truth about the real of literature, Lacan affirms the Janus-like, two-faced nature of the symptom, with a face of truth, reflected in the work of the Irish modernist writer Samuel Beckett, and a face of the real, illustrated by Joyce’s œuvre . From Sigmund Freud’s engagement with literature to Joyce’s “Epiphanies,” Finnegans Wake , and Beckett’s Not I , the second chapter not only traces this symptom to the impossibility of the relationship between literature and psychoanalysis but also, at the same time, delineates its inherently sexed nature with reference to the work of several prominent critical theorists. This dissertation maintains that rethinking the supposed relationship between literature and psychoanalysis upon the basis of “There is no sexual relationship” is a matter of the ethics and politics of psychoanalysis. To reinvent the Freudian project in accordance with its ethics and politics relies upon both the undecidability of the critical relationship between literature and psychoanalysis as well as the symptom of an encounter that is ultimately not without literature.