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This article is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

The Strange Case of Jacques L. Raymond Tallis

The case of Jacques L. is one of the most extraordinary in the post-Freudian archives. He established himself academically on the basis of a very detailed, perceptive study of a single patient - a paranoiac young woman called Aimée who had stabbed a well-known Parisian actress. In the next half-century or so, he contributed very few cases of his own to the psychoanalytical literature. But this did not inhibit him from elaborating psychological theories of an enormous scope, supposedly rooted in the insights he had found in Surrealism, Saussure and, of course, Freud, many of whose classic case histories he re-analysed. He reached famous conclusions: the unconscious is structured like a language; the world of words creates the world of things; the signifier, within the Symbolic Order, dominates over the subject; and so on. The patient reader of his Ecrits (selected and translated by Alan Sheridan, London, 1977; it perhaps ought to be translated as Scriptures), however, will find very little evidence therein in support of his enormous, and exciting, theories about the nature of the unconscious and its relation to language; about the relations between the subject and the self, the self and the Other, the self and the Real; and about the manner in which external reality is differentiated into separate objects. Lacan's oeuvre may be described as an inverted pyramid of speculation (and dogmatic assertion) poised on a tiny apex of ascertainable fact.

If this seems unfair, let us consider a representative theory, that ...


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