Ethic 145

Ethic 145

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan





What interests us here very probably emerged in the middle or at the beginning
of the eleventh century, and continued into the twelfth or even, in Germany,
to the beginning of the thirteenth. The phenomenon in question is
courtly love, its poets and singers, who were known as “troubadours” in the
South, as “trouveres” in the North of France, and as “Minnesanger” in the
Germanic realm – England and parts of Spain were only involved at second
hand. These games were linked to a very precise poetic craft and emerged at
that moment, only to be eclipsed subsequently to the point where the following
centuries only retained a somewhat dim memory of them.


At the high point, which stretches from the beginning of the eleventh century
to the first third of the thirteenth, the very special technique of these
courtly love poets played a highly important role. It is difficult for us today
to evaluate precisely the importance of that role, but certain circles – in the
courtly love sense, court circles, aristocratic circles – that occupied an elevated
position in society were certainly influenced markedly.


The question as to whether there were, in fact, formal lessons in love has
been raised. The way in which Michel de Nostre-Dame, otherwise known as
Nostradamus, represents at the beginning of the fifteenth century the way in which juridical power was exercised by the Ladies – whose extravagant Languedocian
names he cites – cannot fail to excite a thrill in us at its strangeness.


This is something that was faithfully reproduced by Stendhal in On
Love, an admirable work on the subject, and one that is very close to the
interest displayed by the romantics in the resurgence of the poetry of courtly
love, which was called Provengal at the time, but which was, properly speaking,
from the region of Toulouse or indeed from the Limousin.


The existence and operations of these tribunals devoted to the casuistry of
love and evoked by Michel de Nostre-Dame are open to debate and often
debated. Nevertheless, we do have certain texts, including especially the work
by Andreas Capellanus that Renouart discovered and published in 1917. The
shortened title is De Arte Amandi, which thus makes it a homonym of Ovid’s
treatise – a work that was passed down to posterity by the clergy.

这些聚会的存在与运作,专注于爱的伦理学,由米契尔、德、诺斯特拉达姆所召唤,公开接受争辩,而且时常被争辩。可是,我们确实有某些文本,包括特别是卡皮兰那斯的著作,雷诺特在1917年发现,而且予以出版。简缩的标题De Arte Amandi ,因此成为是奥维德的论文的同音异义字词—这一本著作由僧侣传下给后代。

This fourteenth-century manuscript that Renouart discovered in the Bibliotheque
Nationale gives us the text of judgments handed down by Ladies,
who are well-known historical figures and include Eleanor of Aquitaine. She
was successively – and this “successively” involved a great degree of personal
involvement in the unfolding drama – the wife of Louis VII the Younger and
Henry Plantagenet, whom she married when he was Duke of Normandy and
who subsequently became King of England, with all that that involved relative
to claims made on French territory. Then there was her daughter, who
married a certain Henry I, Count of Champagne, and still others who were
historical figures. In Capellanus’s work they are all said to have participated
in tribunals devoted to the casuistry of love, and such tribunals all presuppose
perfectly coded points of reference that are by no means vague, but imply ideals to be pursued, of which I will give you some examples.

雷诺特Bibliotheque Nationale 发现的这个十四世纪的原稿,给我们这个判断的文本,由「女士们」传递下来。她们是著名的历史人物,包括Eleanor of Aquitaine.。 她接二连三地,这种「接二连三」牵涉到不同程度的个人的牵涉到展开的戏剧。路易七世的妻子,这位年轻的亨利、普兰塔尼特,但他是诺曼地的公爵时,她嫁给他。他随后成为英国的国王。因此牵涉到对法国队领土的主张。因此,还有她的女儿,嫁给亨利一世,章培尼的伯爵。还有其他的历史的人物。在卡普兰那斯的著作,她们据说曾经参与各种专注于讨论爱的伦理学的聚会。这些聚会预先假设决非的模糊的完美符码的指称点,但是暗示着要被追求的理想。我将给予你们一些例子。

It doesn’t matter whether we take them from the Southern French domain
or the German domain except as far as the signifier is concerned, which in
the former case is the “langue d’oc” and in the latter the German language –
this is after all a poetry written in the vernacular. Except for the signifier,
then, the terms overlap, repeat each other; both involve the same system.
They are organized around diverse themes, the first of which is mourning,
and even mourning unto death.


As one of those put it who at the beginning of the nineteenth century in
Germany formulated its characteristics, the point of departure of courtly love
is its quality as a scholastics of unhappy love. Certain terms define the register
according to which the Lady’s values are attained – a register indicated by
the norms which regulate the exchanges between the partners of the strange
rite, namely, reward, clemency, grace or Gnade, felicity. So as to imagine the
extremely ratified and complex organization concerned, think of the seventeenth-
century Map of Love (Carte du Tendre), although what one finds there
is a far more pallid version; the précieuses, too, at another historical moment placed the emphasis on a certain social art of conversation.


With courtly love things are all the more surprising because they emerge
at a time when the historical circumstances are such that nothing seems to
point to what might be called the advancement of women or indeed their
emancipation. To give you an idea of the situation, I would just refer to the
story of the Countess of Comminges, the daughter of a certain William of
Montpellier, that took place at the time of the full flowering of courtly love.


There was a certain Peter of Aragon, who was King of Aragon and was
ambitious to extend his power north of the Pyrenees in spite of the obstacle
raised at the time by the first historical campaign of the north against the
south, namely, in the form of the Albigensian crusade and Simon de Montfort’s
victories over the Counts of Toulouse. By reason of the fact that the
lady in question was the natural heir upon the death of her father of the
county of Montpellier, Peter of Aragon wanted her. She was, however, already
married, and seems to have been someone who was not cut out to involve
herself in sordid intrigues. She was of a highly reserved personality, not far
from sainthood in the religious sense of the word, since it was at Rome that
she ended her days with a reputation for saintliness. Political intrigue and the
pressure of the noble Lord Peter of Aragon forced her to leave her husband.
Papal intervention obliged the latter to take her back, but on her father’s
death, everything happened in accordance with the will of the powerful Lord.
She was repudiated by her husband, who was used to such things, and she
married Peter of Aragon, who proceeded to mistreat her to such a degree that
she fled. And that is why she finished her days in Rome under the protection
of the Pope, who turned out to be on occasion the only protector of persecuted


The style of this story simply shows the effective position of woman in
feudal society. She is, strictly speaking, what is indicated by the elementary
structures of kinship, i.e., nothing more than a correlative of the functions
of social exchange, the support of a certain number of goods and of symbols
of power. She is essentially identified with a social function that leaves no
room for her person or her own liberty, except with reference to her religious


It is in this context that the very curious function of the poet of courtly
love starts to be exercised. It is important to recall his social situation, which
is of a kind to throw a little light on the fundamental idea or graphic style
that Freudian ideology can give to a fashion whose function the artist manages
in a way to delay.


Satisfactions of power are involved, Freud tells us. That is why it is all the
more remarkable to emphasize that in the whole collection of Minnesange,
there are numerous poets who occupy positions that are not inferior to those
of emperor, king, or prince. There are, in fact, 126 Minnesange in the Manes manuscript collection, which was in the Bibliothique Nationale in Paris at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, and which Heinrich Heine used to go
and pay homage to, as if to the very beginnings of German poetry. But after
1888, as the result of negotiations I know nothing about, but that were certainly
justified, it was given back to the Germans and is now in Heidelberg.


The first of the troubadours was a certain Guillaume de Poitiers, the seventh
Count of Poitiers and ninth Duke of Aquitaine. Before he devoted himself
to his early poetic activities in the sphere of courtly love poetry, he appears
to have been a formidable brigand of the kind that, goodness knows, every
right-minded feudal nobleman of the period seems readily to have been. In a
number of historical situations that I won’t go into, he can be seen to have
behaved in conformity with the norms of the most barbarous practice of ransom.
That was the kind of service one could expect from him. Then, from a


I urge you right away to read those specialized works that contain a thematic
analysis of the veritable love ritual which was involved. The question
is, How should we situate it as analysts?


I will just mention in passing a book that is somewhat depressing in the
way it solves problems by neatly avoiding them, although it is full of material
and quotations, namely, The Joy of Love by Pierre Perdu, which was published
by Plon. Another work of a very different type, since it deals less with
courtly love than its historical relations, is also worth reading, and that is the
nice little collection of Benjamin Perret, which, without explaining very well
what it’s about, he has called The Anthology of Sublime Love. Then there is
Rene Nelli’s book, published by Hachette, Love and the Myths of the Heart,
in which I find a certain philogenic moralism along with a lot of facts. And
finally you have Henry Corbin’s The Creative Imagination from Flammarion;
however, it goes much further than the limited domain that interests us today.


I am not going to expatiate on the obvious themes of this poetry, both for
lack of time and because you will find them in the examples in which I will
show what might be called their conventional origin. On this subject all the
historians agree: courtly love was, in brief, a poetic exercise, a way of playing
with a number of conventional, idealizing themes, which couldn’t have any
real concrete equivalent. Nevertheless, these ideals, first among which is that
of the Lady, are to be found in subsequent periods, down to our own. The
influence of these ideals is a highly concrete one in the organization of contemporary
man’s sentimental attachments, and it continues its forward march.
Moreover, march is the right word because it finds its point of origin in a
certain systematic and deliberate use of the signifier as such.


A great deal of effort has been expanded to demonstrate the relationship
between this apparatus or organization of the forms of courtly love and an
intuition that is religious in origin, mystical for example, and that is supposed to be located somewhere in the center that is sought, in the Thing, which
comes to be exalted in the style of courtly love. Experience has shown that
this whole effort is condemned to failure.


On the level of the economy of the reference of the subject to the love
object, there are certain apparent relationships between courtly love and foreign
mystical experiences, Hindu or Tibetan, for example. As everyone knows,
Denis de Rougemont made a great deal of this, and that is why I told you to
read Henry Corbin’s book. There are nevertheless serious difficulties and
even critical impossibilities involved, if only because of dates. The themes in
question among certain Moslem poets from the Iberian peninsula, for example,
appear after Guillaume de Poitier’s poetry.


Of interest to us from a structural point of view is the fact that an activity
of poetic creation was able to exercise a determining influence on manners at
a time – and subsequently in its historical consequences – when the origin
and the key concepts of the whole business had been forgotten. But we can
only judge the function of this sublimated creation in features of the structure.
The object involved, the feminine object, is introduced oddly enough through
the door of privation or of inaccessibility. Whatever the social position of him
who functions in the role, the inaccessibility of the object is posited as a point
of departure. Some of those involved were, in fact, servants, sirvens, at their place
of birth; Bernard de Ventadour was, for example, the son of a servant
at Ventadour castle, who was also a troubadour.


It is impossible to serenade one’s Lady in her poetic role in the absence of
the given that she is surrounded and isolated by a barrier.


Furthermore, that object or Domnei, as she is called – she is also frequently
referred to with the masculine term, Mi Dom, or my Lord – this Lady is
presented with depersonalized characteristics. As a result, writers have noted
that all the poets seem to be addressing the same person.

而且,如她所被称为的那个客体Domnei—她也时常被提到,用男性的术语Mi Dom,或我的主人。这位女士被呈现,带着除掉人格化的特性。结果,作家曾经注意到,所有的诗人似乎都在针对这位相同的人演说。

The fact that on occasion her body is described as g”ra delgai e gen – that
means that plumpness was part of the sex appeal of the period, e gen signifying
graceful – should not deceive you, since she is always described in that
way. In this poetic field the feminine object is emptied of all real substance.
That is what made it easy subsequently for a metaphysical poet such as Dante,
for example, to choose a person whom we definitely know existed – namely,
little Beatrice whom he fell for when she was nine years old, and who stayed
at the center of his poetry from the Vita Nuova to The Divine Comedy – and
to make her the equivalent of philosophy or indeed, in the end, of the science
of the sacred. That also enabled him to appeal to her in terms that are all the
more sensual because the person in question is close to allegory. It is only
when the person involved is transformed into a symbolic function that one is
able to speak of her in the crudest terms.

有时,她的身体被描述作为是g”ra delgai e gen ,意思是,肥胖是当时的性的吸引魅力,e gen 意味着高雅,不应该欺骗你。因为她总是以那个方式被描述。在这个诗意的领域,女性的客体被掏空掉所有的实在界的物质。那就是为什么随后会很容易让像但丁这样的形上学诗人,选择一个人,我们明确知道存在的人,换句话说,他爱慕的这位小壁特瑞思,当她九岁时。她一直是他诗的中心,从
Vita Nuova 到神曲The Divine Comedy,让她成为是哲学的相等语,或是在最后,成为是神圣者的智慧的相等语。那也让他用更加性感的术语像她求爱,因为受到质疑的这个人迹近于是寓言。仅有当牵涉的这个人被转变成为是一个象征的功用,我们才能够用大略的术语提到她。

Here we see functioning in the pure state the authority of that place the
instinct aims for in sublimation. That is to say, that what man demands, what
he cannot help but demand, is to be deprived of something real. And one of
you, in explaining to me what I am trying to show in das Ding, referred to it
neatly as the vacuole.


I don’t reject the word, although its charm derives from the virtual reference
to histology. Something of that order is, in effect, involved, if we indulge
in that most risque of reveries associated with contemporary speculation that
speaks of communication in connection with transmission inside organic
structures – transmission that functions pseudopodically. Of course, there is
no communication as such. But if in a monocellular organism such communication
were organized schematically around the vacuole, and concerned the
function of the vacuole as such, we could, in fact, have a schematic form of
what concerns us in the representation.


Where, in effect, is the vacuole created for us? It is at the center of the
sigmfiers – insofar as that final demand to be deprived of something real is
essentially linked to the primary symbolization which is wholly contained in
the signification of the gift of love.


In this connection I was struck by the fact that, in the terminology of
courtly love, the word domnei is used. The corresponding verb is domnoyer,
which means something like “to caress,” “to play around.” Domnei, in spite
of the fact that its first syllable in French is an echo of the word “don,” gift,
is, in fact, unrelated to it. It is related instead to the Domna, the Lady, or in
other words, to her who on occasion dominates.

关于这点,我对这个事实感到印象深刻。在骑士之爱的术语,domnei 这个字词被使用。对应的这个动词是domnoyer,那意味着某件像是「爱抚」「玩弄」。尽管这个事实,Domnei,在它的法文的第一个音节,是礼物”don,”的迴响。事实上,那跟它并没有关系。代替的,它是跟这个女士Domna有关系,或者换句话说,跟有时支配的她有关系。

That has its amusing side. And one should perhaps explore historically the
quantity of metaphors that exist around the term “dormer,” to give, in courtly
love. Can “donner” be situated in the relationship between the partners as
something that is predominantly on one side or the other? It has perhaps no
other cause than the semantic confusion produced in connection with the
term domnei and the use of the word domnoyer.

那有它的有趣的一面。我们或许从历史探索隐喻的数量,环绕在骑士之爱,「给予”dormer,」这个术语存在的隐喻。”donner”能够被定位在这个关系吗?处于伴侣作为某件在某边,或另外一边佔优势的东西之间的关系?它或许并没有其他原因,除了就是语意的混淆被产生,关于domnei 的这个术语,与 domnoyer这个字词的使用。

The poetry of courtly love, in effect, tends to locate in the place of the
Thing certain discontents of the culture. And it does so at a time when the
historical circumstances bear witness to a disparity between the especially
harsh conditions of reality and certain fundamental demands. By means of a
form of sublimation specific to art, poetic creation consists in positing an
object I can only describe as terrifying, an inhuman partner.


The Lady is never characterized for any of her real, concrete virtues, for
her wisdom, her prudence, or even her competence. If she is described as
wise, it is not because she embodies an immaterial wisdom or because she
represents its functions more than she exercises them. On the contrary, she
is as arbitrary as possible in the tests she imposes on her servant.


The Lady is basically what was later to be called, with a childish echo of the original ideology, “cruel as the tigers of Ircania.” But you will not find
the extreme arbitrariness of the attitude expressed any better than among the
authors of the period themselves, Chrltien de Troyes, for example.



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