THE LACANIAN Concept
SUTURE – A TERM CLOSELY IDENTIFIED WITH
LACANIAN PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY, ALTHOUGH I DO NOT THINK THAT LACAN HIMSELF
USED THE TERM FREQUENTLY, AT LEAST NOT IN HIS PUBLISHED WORKS.
The work of JACQUES-ALAIN MILLER (psychoanalyst, writer,
editor of Lacan’s Seminars, and Lacan’s son-in-law) is more directly
responsible for the initial formulations of the concept and for putting
it into circulation. But, since I did find a passage from the Question
and Answers in Seminar XI (The Four Fundamental Concepts of Pscyhoanalysis),
I thought I would begin by citing it.
This exchange occurs at the end of the session, „What
is a Picture,“ March 11, 1964.
M. Tort: Could you say more about the relation
you posited between gesture and the moment of seeing?
What is a gesture? A threatening gesture, for
example? It is not a blow that is interrupted. It is certainly something
that is done in order to be arrested and suspended. . . . It is this very
special temporality, which I have defined by the term arrest and which
creates its signification behind it, that makes the destinction between
the gesture and the act.
What is very remarkable in the Peking
Opera . . . is the way fighting is depicted. Oen fights as one has
always fought since time immemorial, much more with gestures than with
blows. Of course, the spectacle itself is content with an absolute dominance
of gestures. In these ballets, no two people ever touch one another, they
move in different spaces in which are spread out whole series of gestures,
which, in traditional combat, nevertheless have the value of weapons, in
the sense that they may well be effective as instruments of intimidation.
Everyone knows that primitive peoples go into battle with grimacing, horrible
masks and terrifying gestures. You mustn’t imagine that this is over and
done with! When fighting the Japanese, the American
marines were taught to make as many grimaces as they. Our more recent
weapons might also be regarded as gestures. . . .
. . . Does this explanation satisfy you? Was that
the question you asked me?
M. Tort: No, I wanted you to say more about
that temporality to which you already referred once, and which presupposes,
it seems to me, references that you have made elsewhere to logical time.
Look, what I noticed there was the suture,
the pseudo-identification, that exists between what I called the time of
terminal arrest of the gesture and what, in another dialectic that I called
the dialectic of identificatory haste, I put as the first time, namely,
the moment of seeing. The two overlap, but they are certainly not identical,
since one is initial and the other is terminal. . . .
This terminal time of the
gaze, which completes the gesture, I place strictly in relation to
what I later say about the evil eye. The gaze in itself not only terminates
the movement – it freezes it. Take those dances I mentioned – they are
always punctuated by a series of times of arrest in which the actors pause
in a frozen attitude. . . . The evil eye is the fascinum, it is
that which has the effect of arresting movement, and, literally, of killing
life. At the moment the subject stops, suspending his gesture, he is mortified.
The anti-life, anti-movment function of this terminal point is the fascinum,
and it is precisely one of the dimensions in which the power of the gaze
is exercised directly. The moment of seeing can intervene here only as
a suture, a conjunction of the imaginary and the symbolic, and it is taken
up again in a dialectic, that sort of temporal progress that is called
haste, thrust, forward movement, which is concluded in the fascinum.
What I wish to emphasize is the total distinction
between the scopic register and the invocatory, vocatory, vocational field.
In the scopic field, the subject is not essentially indeterminate. The
subject is strictly speaking determined by the very separation that determines
the break of the a, that is to say, the fascinatory element introduced
by the gaze.Does this satisfy you more? Completely? . . .
M. Tort: Almost.
[Jacques Lacan. The Four Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis.
Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York and London: WW. Norton.
Miller’s definition of suture (in a nutshell)
is that process through which the subject is joined into the signifying
chain, allowing the signifier to stand-in for the subject’s absence in
discourse. The use of „I“ to designate the subject, however, both divides
the being of the subject from its meaning, but also closes – „sutures“
– the divide that the attempt at self-representation in the language of
the other opened. Jacques-Alain Miller, „Suture: elements of the logic
of the signifier“ Screen vol. 18 no. 4 (Winter 1977/8) 26-28.
- Green. Andre. „L’objet (a) de J. Lacan, sa logique et la
théorie freudienne.“ Cahiers pour l’analyse. No. 3 (1966):
- Miller, Jacques-Alain. "La Suture.“ Cahiers pour
l’analyse. No.1 (1966): 39-51.
- Miller, Jacques-Alain. „Suture: elements of the logic of
the signifier.“ Screen vol. 18 no. 4 (Winter 1977/8) 24-34.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis.
[Especially the sections on Aphanisis.].
- See also my Web sites for
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