Scribbles on a Bus

I scribbled this note on a bus, on the way home from a lecture.

Today I tried to teach Lacan to a group of second year students. These are students who are not tied to any particular discipline, although the course is a sociology one. Most of them are preparing to graduate, and they all seem advanced. Summer school students are generally advanced. In any case, I found myself pushing through a fundamental awkwardness. I had intended to speak to these students about the real Lacan. As it happens, speaking of anything real poses considerable challenges. Stammering, stuttering, extended moments of silence. I lost my place. I became disoriented. It wasn’t dramatic, I made my peace with the disorientation, with the loss of place — the straying from the topic/topos.

I asked myself: how did Lacan sustain a discourse without the awkwardness, and to what end? He inevitably made a name for himself (it is up to us to be “Lacanian”), but, my end, was a disintegration or a tarnishing of my image as I confronted the real so directly.

The laughing girls behind Lacan in that one video. He could not quite quiet them, though he tried. He intimated that their laughter was a part of what he had to say, and that, moreover, that they did not want to know anything about why they laughed. But that nonetheless did not stop them from laughing, and from distracting me, as they did, throughout the entire video. These laughing girls were also in my audience. It may have been paranoia, a laughing at … what? At the inability to articulate, or the struggles of the real. They want to know nothing about Lacan, ..or worse. They want to know it all about Lacan, or rather, they believe that it can all be said about Lacan. The last laugh is also here the last word on Lacan.

Yet, last year, in an advanced seminar on psychoanalysis & the social bond, we made much more headway on the real Lacan. The seminar was an incredible success, and we all left the seminar feeling an intense interest or questioning animated by a desire to come to know Lacan. The number of participants must have had something to do with this success: 5 or 6, 7 with me. But in the lecture there were 30 or more. I could have hardly been the plus-one since I was expected to be the only one.

I felt powerless in the face of the real Lacan.

Lacan can not be taught. That is my position. He can only be worked through. His discourse was meant for the electric age, for what Marshall McLuhan described as the age of “cool media.” The lecture is too “hot” of a medium for Lacan. Misunderstandings are not allowed within the university lecture.

The seminar is the ideal space for Lacan within the university.


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