Transference and Readability of Sex, by Yasmine Grasser


Lacan, seeking to structure the analytic experience, proposed in Seminar XI to question “the conceptual status” of the four fundamental concepts introduced by Freud: the unconscious, repetition, transference, and the drive. From the beginning, Lacan recalled that he had already situated these terms in his teaching in relation to the “function of the signifier” in order to show their “operative value” in the field of psychoanalysis. His further step was to demonstrate that in the analytic relation, the concept is in operating mode when there returns “in act” [en acte] a real – another reality, a tuché that occurs “as if by chance”.

From the start, Lacan attacked what he called “the rejection of the concept”, a way of bringing together what he challenged among psychoanalysts, namely the plurality of their conceptions concerning the major Freudian concepts.

In an interview given in 2012 to the magazine La Cause du Désir, No. 80, Jacques-Alain Miller considered it necessary to revalue the notion of concept in Lacan. He claimed, “that the concepts that are indicated as such in the text of Lacan act as a quilting point”, and added, “that a concept all alone does not exist.” The expression “quilting point” is familiar to us. Lacan had borrowed it from Saussure during his seminar on psychosis in order to make his students grasp its significance in discourse: “It’s the point of convergence that enables everything that happens in this discourse to be situated retroactively and prospectively” – all that is knotted of “trans-significant connotations”. We must understand that the concept as a quilting point is the tool that Lacan used to structure experience, and to re-define each concept anew in relation to each of the other three. Lacan realised, on the one hand, that their “framework” had responded to Freud’s desire at first, and was thus tied to the function of desire; and, on the other hand, that this desire of Freud’s, constituted as an object by the psychoanalyst, occupied for each one the “structuring place of the lack” which was reflected there. Lacan found the incidence of a lack at the level of each concept: lack of being (unconscious), missed encounter (repetition), lack of knowledge (transference), lack of representation (drive). This lack is in the place where “the enactment of sexual reality” is made present in the analytic experience – where jouissance bursts forth, Lacan will later say.

In the analytic experience, transference does not function as a concept; it is first of all a “phenomenon” which non-symmetrically includes the analysing subject and the psychoanalyst. The analysand, beyond his demand, goes to meet the subject supposed to know his desire – which implies that the analysis will take its departure from the subject supposed to know. The analyst must only know that he is going to meet the subject’s unconscious desire – demonstrating that the analyst’s desire is the essential function which, behind the love of transference, is linked to the patient’s desire

The desire of the analyst is thus the pivot of transference. Transference in the analytic relation “represents a mode of access” to the unconscious and to its subject who seeks his or her certainty; it is “the mode of operation”, which, without being confounded with the efficacy of repetition which is cathartic, is necessary for the “enactment of sexual reality” in experience; it “inscribes” the weight of sexual reality in the subjective constitution, making “readable” how the drive, and what is linked to it, make the meaning of sex arise.

Subsequently, Lacan will use logic to identify new concepts and restructure the experience, but he will always try to grasp how sex emerges in the analytic relationship. In 1964, he had isolated a concept of the One, distinct from unity, starting from “the one of the cleft, the line, the break”. This one had sprung out for him from Freud’s text. According to him, it was “an unknown form of the one”, which he translated as “the concept of the lack”. This concept of lack will lead him, in 1972, to catalogue in Seminar XIX his “stories of Ones”, and to question the function of this “One that arises as the effect of lack” in the set theory. By seeking to make use of it at the level of analytic discourse, Lacan introduced it to speak of the position of the analyst in the experience of transference. The analyst for Lacan was “the One” as soon as the analysand showed that he wanted to be the only one with the analyst – not to make One together, but to make two with the analyst. He wrote: It is not the One, that of unity, that reigns over Eros in the transference, no, “Eros makes the One with both”. He deduced that “the structure of sex (as real) is the dual, the number two”. From this he will draw the axiom, “there is no sexual relation.”

Translated by Janet Haney and John Haney

1 Lacan, Jacques, Seminar III, The Psychoses, Routledge, 1993, p. 268.