Baudelaire, The Man of the World, and the Sinthome

In the age of “ordinary psychosis,” there is not only the Joycean method of stabilization (whereby the imaginary ego compensates for the symbolic name-of-the-father or the rupture of the Borromean trinity). There is also, exemplified remarkably by Charles Baudelaire, the efforts made by the so-called “Man of the World.”
The “Man of the World” presents many of the characteristics of an ordinary psychosis. I believe that it presents, minimally, all three of those listed in Jacques-Alain Miller’s 2008 paper “Ordinary Psychosis Revisted.” But there is a difference: the “Man of the World” does not compensate for a missing name-of-the-father by way of the imaginary ego (i.e., making a name for oneself). For example, the “Man of the World” does not affix a signature to his works, does not wish to be seen – indeed he wishes to remain anonymous! He remains modest, and so on.
So, what is going on here?
The “Man of the World” compensates for the missing name-of-the-father by “creating a personal form of originality” (Baudelaire). This can be found at play in the aesthetic work itself, but also the style of the man himself; the style of the man as he wanders the street in search of the crowd. I think perhaps it is more fitting, in this context, to discuss the Saint-Homme or Saint-Thom rather than the Sinthome. The “Man of the World” is cultivated, in search of a name for eternity, in search of an Other there within the crowd who might fleetingly compensate for eternity.
In the end he [the Man of the World] rushes out into the crowd in search of a man unknown to him whose face, which he had caught sight of, had in a flash fascinated him. Curiosity had become a compelling, irresistible passion (Baudelaire)
Here, finally, we can see, not as we might suspect (a simple demonstration of the earlier Lacanian teachings about the unary trait) but rather what came later through Jacques-Alain Miller’s teachings. There is a relationship of the unary trait to later teachings about symbolic identification through the so-called “compensatory make-believe” function. For example, Ellie Ragland, describing a particular case in her book Topologically Speaking wrote that “[t]he real trauma of loss valorizes certain traits of the lost objects – unary traits – positivizing them as identifications by which to fill in concrete places of lack.” Or, if you like, you might take this idea from Voruz, who wrote that “Lacan’s teaching […] reverses a number of the previous conclusions of psychoanalysis: […] [for example] the instance of a heterogeneous continuity oeprating on the trace of the unary trait, with the latter orienting the punctuation of enunciation in its progressive making sense of the Real.”

You can see how the “man of the world” is compelled to seek out from the crowd a point of identification in the unary trait. It is “irresistible.”


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