On Seminar XI

Seminar XI was the first of Lacan’s seminars to be published and also his first to be delivered to a broad educated audience beyond analysts in training. As such, it seems to be regarded as a kind of “go-to” self-introduction to Lacan. Rereading it for my tutorial with Stephen Keating, however, I was disappointed. It has some suggestive remarks, some helpful clarifications of concepts, some development of important notions (objet petit a, the Real, the element of sexuality), some intriguing discussions of the relationships among psychoanalysis, religion, and science — but I’m not sure what it really adds up to.

The problem, for me, is that the thing seems to go off the rails once he starts talking about Merleau-Ponty, and then it never recovers. He promises a coherent development of the four concepts (unconscious, repetition, drive, transference) in their interrelations — and then we spend like a quarter of the time randomly talking about vision? Transference in particular never seems to get the necessary development: I got the sense that he was continually saying, “And of course I’ll really explain transference next time!”

Am I missing something?

3 thoughts on “On Seminar XI

  1. I had a similar reaction to Seminar XI and I felt guilty because it’s held up as one of the most important seminars. I really think the writings in Ecrits are much more useful than the Seminars. Sometimes Ecrits can be dense but it’s much less frustrating and the writings are focused and bounded unlike the Seminars.

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