Desire 021 Jacques Lacan

Desire 021

Jacques Lacan

Desire and its Interpretation
1958 – 1959

Seminar 3 ; 26 November 1958

This is articulated in Freud. It is not enough for him to articulate it once, he articulates it a hundred times, and in every connection he comes back to it. It is precisely here that there enters in the enigma of what is called the transformation (18) of this affect, of what proves in this connection to be particularly plastic, and that by which all the authors moreover once they approach this question of affect, namely every time they see it, have been struck, I mean to the extent that no one dares to touch the question, because what is altogether striking is that I who practice an intellectualist psychoanalysis, am going to spend the year talking about it, but that on the
contrary you can count on the fingers of one hand the articles in analysis devoted to the question of affect, even though psychoanalysts are always full of it when they are talking about a clinical observation, because of course they always have recourse to affect.


There is to my knowledge a single worthwhile article on this question of affect, it is an article by Glover which is spoken about a good deal in the writings of Marjorie Brierley. There is in this article an attempt to take a step forward in the exploration of this notion of affect which leaves something to be desired in what Freud said on the subject.


This article is moreover detestable, like the whole of this book which, devoting itself to what are called the tendencies of psychoanalysis, gives a rather nice illustration of all the really impossible places that psychoanalysis is trying to lodge itself, in passing by morality, personalism, and other such eminently practical perspectives around which the blah of our epoch likes to spend itself.


On the contrary if we come back here to the things which concern us, namely to serious things, what do we read in Freud? We read the following: the affect; the problem is to know what becomes of it, in so far as it is disconnected from the repressed representation, and it thenceforth depends only on the substitutive representation which it is able to become attached to.


To what is disconnected there corresponds this possibility of annexation which is its property, and which is the way the affect presents itself in analytic experience as something problematic, which ensures for example that in the living experience of a hysteric, it is from this that analysis starts, it is from this that Freud starts when he begins to articulate analytic truths; it is that an affect arises in the ordinary,
comprehensible, communicable text of the everyday experience of a hysteric and the fact that this affect is there, which moreover seems to fit in with the totality of the text, except to a more exigent eye, this affect which is there is the transformation of
something else, and it is something which deserves that we should dwell on it; of something which is not another affect, which might be supposed to be in the unconscious.


This Freud denies absolutely. There is absolutely nothing like that, it is the
transformation of the purely quantitative factor; there is absolutely nothing which at that moment is really in the (20) unconscious this quantitative factor in a transformed form, and the whole question is to know how these transformations in the affect are possible, namely for example how an affect which is in the depths is conceivable in the restored unconscious text as being such and such, presents itself in a different form when it appears in the preconscious context.


What does Freud tell us?


First text: “The whole difference arises from the fact that ideas (Vorstellungs) are cathexis – basically of memory traces – whilst affects and emotions correspond to processes of discharge, the final manifestations of which are perceived as feeling.” (SE 14 178;GW 10 277) Such is the rule for the formation of affects.


It is also indeed the fact that as I told you, the affect refers to the quantitative factor of the drive, the one in which he understands that it is not just movable, mobile, but subject to the variable which constitutes this factor, and he again articulates it precisely in saying that its fate can be threefold: “Either the affect remains, wholly or in part, as it is; or it is transformed into a qualitatively different quota of affect, above all into anxiety;” – this is what he writes in 1915, and one sees there the beginnings of a position which the article Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety will articulate in the
topology – “or it is suppressed, i.e. it is prevented from (21) developing at all.”


“But in comparison with unconscious ideas (Vorstellunqsreprasentanz),” he tells us,” there is the important difference that unconscious ideas continue to exist after repression as actual structures in the system Ucs, whereas all that corresponds
in that system to unconscious affects is a potential beginning which is prevented from developing”, writes Freud.


This is an altogether inevitable preamble before entering into the mode in which I intend here to pose the question connected with the interpretation of desire in the dream. I told you that for that I would take a dream from Freud’s text, because after
all it is still the best guide to be sure about what he intends to say when he speaks about the desire of the dream.


We are going to take a dream which I will borrow from this article which is called “Formulierungen”, “Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning”, from 1911, which appeared just before the Schreber case.


I take this dream and the fashion in which Freud speaks of it and treats it, from this article, because it is articulated there in a simple, exemplary, significant, unambiguous fashion and to show how Freud understand the manipulation of these Vorstellungsreprasentanz, in so far as it is a question of the formulation of
unconscious desire.



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