The architecture of Seminar XX: Encore meets some of its fundamental pillars already in the sixties. Lacan highlights a certain negligence regarding the way in which post-Freudian psychoanalysts took a stand on female sexuality and masked their embarrassment by covering the enigma of the feminine with the field of meaning. He poses the fundamental question in a precise and dazzling way: “it is appropriate to investigate whether phallic mediation exhaustively accounts for everything drive-related that can manifest itself in women, especially the whole current of maternal instincts”[1]. Female sexuality already appears, in this context, as the “effort of a jouissance enveloped in its own contiguity”[2], that is, of a not-all jouissance drained by phallic mediation.

What will be at stake in the following decade, in Encore, is a body that enjoys itself [se jouit], since the enjoy itself, on the side of the not-all, carries an ecstatic note. Lacan will dedicate to this ecstatic note the exuberant sixth class of this Seminar, opening us to a very rich field of investigation: both in the ambit of the loving relationship with God, that is, of a transcendence, as is the case of Hadewich d’Anvers, Teresa D’Ávila and Juan de la Cruz, and of the mystical experience as immanence, without the presence of a God, whose testimonies give us some writers in the field of literature and poetics. The recourse to Christian mystical poetry and to the ecstatic experience that is related to it, it is well known, are decisive in his formulation of this jouissance that escapes phallic negativization. Such a proposition places this jouissance on the side of the not-all, without this implying an annulment of the phallic aspect.

The testimony of the mystical adventure and the fruition of the ecstasy that snatches the body at the edges of the unspeakable, cannot do without language in its poetic and ejaculatory forms. On the horizon of this experience that takes place between pure absence and a mixture of love, ecstatic jouissance, openness to the Other and the imminent presence of a living body that enjoys itself, would we not be facing a body that vivifies itself, which differs from the classical framework present in the infinite demand for love, where ravishment comes as the other face of devastation?

J.-A. Miller re-launches what Lacan isolates under the aegis of feminine jouissance as a pure body event. This non-symbolizable, unspeakable jouissance, which has affinities with the infinite, is sometimes experienced in dreams[3]. He exemplifies it through a dream reported by an analysand, which does not fail to evoke ecstatic states; an effervescent geyser, like an inexhaustible vortex of life that had appeared to a woman as what she had always sought. The body at stake here is not the body of sexual intercourse, not even one that is defined by the image, but consists solely of a body that enjoys itself.

In the wake of such formulations, what introduces language into the register of jouissance? Freud had postulated that it is castration. Lacan proposes something different: it is the repetition of the One, which commemorates the eruption of an unforgettable jouissance [4]. It is in this way that Lacan generalizes the instance of this opaque jouissance, pertaining to female sexuality. Language, in this light, is apprehended at the level of what is printed on the body as an effect of jouissance, there producing traces of affectation. At the level of drive, castration and object a, we still have a perspective of the sublimated body, transcendentalized by the signifier. From the jaculatory Yad’lun, the body emerges as the Other of the signifier, and the body event as the true cause of psychic reality[5].

Translated by Louise Lhullier

[1] Lacan, J. Guiding Remarks for a Convention on Female Sexuality. Écrits: the first complete edition in English. New York, London: W.W. Norton, 2005, p. 730.

[2] Ibid., p. 736.

[3] Miller, J.-A. L’Être et l’Un, 3/2/11(unpublished).

[4] Miller, J.-A. L’Être et l’Un, 3/23/11 (unpublished).

[5] Miller, J.-A. L’Être et l’Un, 5/11/11(unpublished).