text: “Exile and the Knowledge of the Neurotic” (C Bonneau)

from the Congress website:

Exile and the knowledge of the neurotic

Chantal Bonneau

In Chapter X of Seminar XVIII, On a Discourse that Would Not Be of the Semblant, Jacques Lacan, after resuming the theory of the four semblant-based discourses at the end of his teachings in 1971, examines what might be deduced from the analyst’s discourse.[1] Freud had already demonstrated that the analyst’s discourse “clarifies the articulation of truth to knowledge.”[2]

The question of truth and knowledge is put into perspective through the neurotic’s symptom. Lacan recalls in passing that Marx, not Freud, created the notion of the symptom. The Marxist revolution denounced the artificial value of the fetish, made apparent through a system based on money and surplus value. The analytic discourse took the dimension of the plus-de-jouir from this theory. The semblant that makes up the capitalist discourse reinforces the idea that at the origin of all discourses there might be “a discourse that would not be of the semblant.” Therefore, rewritten in the analytic discourse as plus-de-jouir, the theory of Marxist surplus value is what gives rise to the moment when Lacan examines the question of sexual rapport as truth, in opposition to a semblant.

Formulated in the phrase “there is no sexual rapport,” this “knowledge of the neurotic”[3] is already a discourse. It is one that sets a limit to what can be said. It is a failure in the logic of writing, and from which speaking beings are exiled. What cannot be written drives the neurotic subject towards myths and rituals as ways to escape the lack of sexual rapport. Freud realised this early on in Civilisation and Its Discontents. All discourse would therefore be the symptom that replaces what is lacking in the speaking being. What would be its point of origin? Is it in speaking beings, or in the fact that the sexual rapport can be neither said nor written? Lacan does not answer this question, but he reminds us that initiation rites, operations, circumcisions or incisions all bear the sign of the phallus, the ultimate semblant that gives structure to sexual jouissance. The phallic semblant is not the signifier of lack, but rather “that from which no word comes.”[4] Neurotics, and especially hysterics, expect the word from the one whose castration, although necessary for jouissance, cannot meet this request. She waits for words that leave her unsatisfied. The symptom fills in for this missing word. When the complaint turns into a symptom, sometimes the hysteric encounters an analyst, a place where discourse permits the articulation of truth and semblant.


1- Lacan J., Le Séminaire, livre XVIII, D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, Paris, Seuil, 1971, p. 163.

2- Lacan J., ibid., p. 164.

3- Lacan J., ibid., p. 166.

4- Lacan J., ibid., p. 170.

 Translated from the French by Pamela King


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