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The Inexhaustible Demand of the Femininne – a Question Which Not Only Concerns Women

When it comes to a woman, it is not the same thing, because a woman has a very great freedom in relation to the semblant1

Lacan, beginning from the clinic – the sole and indispensible object of research and the ultimate end of psychoanalysis – identifies the place of repetition within Freud’s work and manages to articulate jouissance with language in terms of the structure of discourse. In discourse, the unconscious is implicated from a structural point of view. The topological arrangement is characterised by four constant fixed places around which – the terms, S1, S2aand $2, rotate in a logical succession that cannot be altered, the turns of these discourses account for the various social bonds.

In the discourse of the hysteric, it is the symptom which is in the place of the semblant; this place at the top left constitutes the determining element that gives the discourse a general direction “The semblant is not only locatable, essential in designating the primary function of truth but without this reference it is impossible to qualify the stuff of the discourse3”, Lacan points out.

Viathe “masquerade” the hysteric seems to be bound to the law of the semblant in order to represent herself to the social, amorous or sexual other. Although it is a matter of masquerade, the phallic power here is substantial for her, whether she assumes it, envies it or challenges it, as it enables her to cope with her lack of being. On this level she naturally enjoys great deal more freedom than with the semblant.

For the hysteric, the relation with the semblant also constitutes her division ($) bringing her closer to the real. On one hand she refuses to “take herself for the woman4”, she rather “plays the part of the man who supposesa knowledge to the woman5, it is the Other woman she addresses in order to investigate the concealed truth of her own being – as Dora exemplifies when she seeks in Frau K the mystery of her own femininity.

It is in relation to this impossible, between what she refuses to be and what she does not have the knowledge to be, that the hysteric takes her position of enunciation; she identifies with the inherent tear in the dialectic tension between TheWoman and a woman, the inexhaustible question of femininity.

In terms of pronounced phenomenological manifestations, visible outcomes are produced on the body; the symptom means something, it is written, but another jouissance that eludes signification, which is of the letter, must be taken into account. In the dimension of the discourse of the hysteric, the semblant is produced by the truth that has the advantage of coinciding with the surplus jouissance of the object a,placed under the bar. Already here one gets a glimpse of what Lacan will soon specify in an innovative way, namely, that there is another jouissance beyond phallic logic, an additional jouissance which he will describe as “supplementary”. The feminine is a mode of jouissance subject to the not-all6.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Lacan, in Seminar XX, seems to bring hysteria closer to femininity: “[t]hat can only, in effect, lead them to this final term – and it is not for nothing that I call it as I do – […], as it is said in Greek, hysteria, namely, to play the part of the man (faire l’homme) as I have said, being thus homosexual or beyondsex themselves – it being henceforth difficult for them not to sense the impasse that consists in the fact that they love each other as the same in the Other, for, indeed, there is no need to know you are Other to be there.”7

Women cannot speak about this not-alljouissance, it is at the limit of language and consequently beyond signifying representation; it relates rather to silence, as M.-H. Brousse8points out; it is experienced in the body without being localised in any organ. It is their enigma, their secret.

In the formulas of femininity, on the right side of the tables of sexuation, those who are located there, no matter what their anatomy or their marital status (whether they are men or women), the feminine is not a matter of women only – they do not constitute a set but they can only partake of it one by one because each one is an exception, an exception which by inscribing itself on the side of the not-allsubtracts itself, at least partially, from the dominance of the phallus and the power which accompanies it.

It is interesting to note the importance of the hysterisation in discourse within the analytic cure and how from the very beginning the concept of the not-allemerges from the novel effects produced by the discourse of the analyst, a discourse which through a discursive turn produces exactly that which in the discourse of the hysteric remains concealed under the bar and how for this reason, it immediately presents itself in opposition to the universal.

Similarly, at the end of an analysis, as several testimonies of the Pass indicate, it is possible to distinguish the position of the analyst as a semblant of object a, in an analogous way with the feminine position of the S(A) barred, invented by every speaking being to name a jouissance excluded by the signifying chain, which borders, without plugging, the hole of feminine foreclosure.

Translated by Catherine Massol

1Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XVIIID’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 2007, p.35. Unpublished in English.

2Master signifier, knowledge, jouissance and divided subject.

3Lacan, J.,le Séminaire livre XVIII,op. cit., p. 25

4Lacan, J.,le Séminaire livre XVI,D’un Autre à l’autre,Editions du Seuil, 2006, Paris, p. 335.

5Ibid, p.387.

6Lacan developed the concept of the “not-all” mainly in Seminars XIXand XX as well as in L’étourdit”.

7Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XX, Encore, London & New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1998, p. 85.

8M.-H. Brousse, Mode de jouir au féminin, Navarin Editeur, 2020, p. 68.