Éric Laurent is a psychoanalyst practicing in Paris, France. ‘ He is an Analyst Member of the School, and a member of the EBP, ECF, EOL, NEL, and NLS.

This text first appeared in French as “Rire des norms” in La Cause du Désir, no. 1l0 (2022):

93-97.

Translated by Julia Richards, published as ‘Laughing at Norms’ in The Lacanian Review 13 (2022) p120-124

Available at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net /Laurent

References

P121 The articulation of the normal with the male norm [norme mâle] first made in Seminar XIX: …or Worse, precisely during one of the conferences announced under the title “The Knowledge of the Psychoanalyst”, and it concerns male homosexuality: For something to have meaning, in the current state of thought, it’s sad to say so, but it has to be pitched as normal. This is why André Gide wanted homosexuality to be normal. And, since you perhaps have the lowdown on this [along these lines they are legion]. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail it will fall under the cover of the normal.’ [1] [1]. Jacques Lacan, ” . . .or Worse”: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Adrian Price (Cambridge: Polity, 2018), 57.

See Seminar XIX a (1971-1972) The Savoir of the Psychoanalyst or The Psychoanalyst’s Knowledge – Seven Talks at St Anne’s Hospital : from 4th November 1971: Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19711104 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), 3rd February 1972 talk, pIV 10-11 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation from unedited tapes : The interest of what I am highlighting does not lie in saying that from all time things have been the same as the point to which we have got to. There was perhaps, there perhaps still is somewhere, but, it is curious, it is always in places where you must really seriously prove your credentials before entering it, places where there occurs between men and women this harmonious conjunction which makes them believe to be in seventh heaven. But it is all the same very curious that we never hear tell of it except from the outside.

On the other hand it is quite clear that through one of the ways that I have finally to define that it is rather with Φ that each one has a relationship with the other. This becomes fully confirmed once one looks at what is called, using a term that is very fitting, like that, thanks to the ambiguity of Latin and of Greek, is called ‘homos’ – ‘ecco homo’ [sic] as I put it. It is quite certain that the homos have better and more frequent and more firm erections.

What is curious, but anyway it is all the same a fact which for a person that for a certain time we have heard spoken about, this creates no doubt. Do not be deceived by it, all the same, there is ‘homo’ and ‘homo’, huh! I am not talking about André Gide, you must not believe that André Gide was a homo!

(62) This introduces us to what follows. Let us not lose our bearings, what is at stake is meaning. In order for something to have meaning in the contemporary state of thoughts, it is sad to say it, but it has to posit itself as normal. This indeed is why André Gide wanted homosexuality to be normal; and, as you may be able perhaps to have echoes of it, in this sense, there is a crowd of them. In no time at all this is going to be taken as normal, to the that we will have new clients in psychoanalysis who will come to tell us: “I have come to see you because I don’t think I’m a normal paedophile!” It’s going to create a traffic jam!

P121 In “L’étourdit,” whose writing follows the Seminar “…or Worse”, the aphorism displaces the context of the normal of homosexuality toward neurosis. That “L’étourdit” and “…or Worse” must be woven together is an essential point …

See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts)

& Seminar XIX a (1971-1972) The Savoir of the Psychoanalyst or The Psychoanalyst’s Knowledge – Seven Talks at St Anne’s Hospital : from 4th November 1971: Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19711104 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts).

3. Jacques Lacan, “L’étourdit,” (1973), in Autres Ecrits (Paris: Seuil,200l), 479

P121 In “L’étourdit,” Lacan completes “Kant with Sade.” He opposes Kant and his “noumenon” that flees thought to the way jouissance comes to knot itself with thought in neurotic symptoms, in those two major neuroses which “by taking the normal seriously, tell us that it’s more like a male/bad norm [norme mâle].”

See Kant with Sade : April 1963 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19630401 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts)

&

See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), p84-85 of Anthony Chadwick’s translation, www.Freud2Lacan.com : My worry is that aphorisms, which by the way I am happy to present in bud, might flower again from the ditches of metaphysics (for the noumenon is prattle, futile subsistence…) I am betting that they will prove to be plus-nonsense, funnier, for speaking, than what leads us [81] in this way… to what? Must I be startled and I swear that I did not see it straight away whereas you already… [82] these first truths, but it is the text itself in which the symptoms of the great neuroses are formulated, of the two which, if you take the normal seriously, tell us that it is rather the norm male.

TN81 Lacan plays on noumène and nous mène, though to what end…

TN82 Lacan leaves the verb blank, possibly alluding to the opening page of Sartre’s La Nauséé, where Roquentin has difficulty finding a new word to match his new experience of the way phenomena have of presenting themselves to him.

P121 It’s no longer Kant with Sade but Kant with Dora and the Rat Man. A true rat-ification.

See Kant with Sade : April 1963 : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19630401 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts.

See Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria (‘Dora’) : 1901 [1905] : Sigmund Freud, SE VII p7-114. Available, bilingual, from www.Freud2Lacan.com /homepage (FRAGMENTS OF AN ANALYSIS OF A CASE OF HYSTERIA, 1905 (Bruchstűck einer Hysterie-Analyse) (Dora))

&

Notes upon a case of Obsessional Neurosis (The ‘Rat Man’) :1909d : Sigmund Freud, SE X p155-249 or Penguin Freud Library (PFL) : Vol 9 : p31. Published bilingual at homepage of www.Freud2Lacan.com /go down the page to NOTES UPON A CASE OF OBSESSIONAL NEUROSIS [The Ratman]

Also this site / c) Dora-Hysteria (1 A Lacanian Clinic/ A Case Studies/ i) Of Analysis) & this site / f) The Rat Man-Obsessional (1 A Lacanian Clinic/ A Case Studies/ i) Of Analysis)

P122 The aphorism according to which the normal is “more like a bad norm [norm male]” [3] [3]. Jacques Lacan, “L’étourdit,” (1973), in Autres Ecrits (Paris: Seuil, 200l) 479

See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), p84-85 of Anthony Chadwick’s translation, www.Freud2Lacan.com, quoted above.

P122 This expression allows us to re-read the lesson from Seminar XlX where Lacan introduced the central place of the normal. He states there: “Analysis began there. If the notion of the normal had not taken on such traction in the wake of history’s accidents, analysis would never have seen the light of day”.[4] It required that subjects feel that they weren’t part of the male norm or the feminine norm for them to come and ask Freud for help. [4]. Jacques Lacan, …or Worse, op. cit., 7l. This page number is not the right one.

Quote from p57 of Adrian Price’s translation : It’s going to produce a traffic jam.

Analysis got off to a start with this. Had the notion of normal not taken on such an extension following certain vagaries of history, analysis would never have seen the light of day.

This follows the Cormac Gallagher quote above : See Seminar XIX a (1971-1972) The Savoir of the Psychoanalyst or The Psychoanalyst’s Knowledge – Seven Talks at St Anne’s Hospital : from 4th November 1971: Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19711104 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), 3rd February 1972 talk, pIV 11 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation from unedited tapes : It’s going to create a traffic jam!

Analysis is part of that. If the notion of normal had not taken on, following certain accidents of history, such an extension, this would never have happened. All the patients, not alone that Freud took on, but it is very clear to read that it is a condition, to go into analysis, at the start, the minimum is to have a good university formation. This is clearly stated in Freud. I ought to underline it, because the University discourse about which I have a lot of bad things to say, and for the best of reasons, but all the same it is what feeds analytic discourse.

P122 In “L’étourdit” Lacan clarifies why the normal took charge of meaning. It’s because “we are under the reign of the scientific discourse” and of the calculations that accompany it.[5] [5]. Jacques Lacan, “L’étourdit,” op. cit., 475. See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), p84 of Anthony Chadwick’s translation, www.Freud2Lacan.com : It is not I who will conquer, but the discourse which I serve. I will now say why.

We are in the reign of scientific discourse and I’m going to make it felt. Felt from the place where is confirmed my criticism, earlier, of the universal that “man is mortal.”

Its translation into scientific discourse is life-insurance. Death in scientific speaking is a matter of calculating probabilities. It is in this discourse what death has as true.

P122 In this discourse, the universal “man is mortal” translates into life insurance. “Death, in the saying of science, is a matter of calculating probabilities. It is, in this discourse, what truth it has.” [6] [6]. ibid. : See the quotation above.

P122 The paragraph where this aphorism on the male norm occurs is introduced by a remarkable writing device. Lacan makes a particular use of the three suspension points of the ellipsis, a usage worthy of Joycean epiphanies. The use of suspension points in the title of …or Worse functions as an elision in the form of a bar on the father. : See Seminar XIX (1971-72) …Ou pire …Or worse : from 8th December 1971 : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19711208 or Index of Lacan’s texts)

P122 In “L’étourdit,” a continuous text, with no subsections, the discontinuities are, all the same, not lacking, and the suspension points contribute to that effect in multiple ways.[7] [7]. We could differentiate the usage of suspension points on page 487, where they are used at the beginning of three paragraphs, with that on p479, cited here. : See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts),

the usage of suspension points on page 487 : p105-106 of Anthony Chadwick’s translation, www.Freud2Lacan.com : There remains the stable state of the flattening of the phallus, namely of the strip [90] where analysis finds its end, the one which ensures its supposed subject of knowledge :

[TN 90 Lacan plays on two of the meanings of bande: strip (as in Möbius strip), and erection.]

… that, the dialogue from one sex to another being forbidden since a discourse, whatever it may be, is founded by excluding that which language brings along as impossible, that is the sexual relationship, there results for the dialogue inside each (sex) some inconvenience

…that nothing could be spoken “seriously” (namely in order to form a limit series) except by taking sense from the comic order – for which there is no sublime (see Dante on that point again) which does not take its leave

… and then that the insult, if it proves by the εποζ [word] to be of the dialogue the first word as well as the last (conféromère [91]), judgment likewise, even the “last”, remains fantasy, and for speaking, touches the real only by losing all signification.

[TN91 It is not clear what this word means, nor what its function is in the sentence. Literally, breaking the word into its Latin and Greek components, I get “carrying over a part”. The French components con, féro-, mére are more suggestive of the terms used in insults, but do not get me any closer.]

with that on p479, cited here. : p84-85 of Anthony Chadwick’s translation, www.Freud2Lacan.com : My worry is that aphorisms, which by the way I am happy to present in bud, might flower again from the ditches of metaphysics ( for the noumenon is prattle, futile subsistence…) I am betting that they will prove to be plus-nonsense, funnier, for speaking, than what leads us [81] in this way [Jack Stone translates this ‘thusly’]…

[TN81 Lacan plays on noumène and nous mène, though to what end…]

to what? Must I be startled and I swear that I did not see it straight away whereas you already… [82] these first truths, but it is the text itself in which the symptoms of the great neuroses are formulated, of the two which, if you take the normal seriously, tell us that it is rather the norm male.

And that brings us back to earth, perhaps not the same one, but it is perhaps the right one and that analytical discourse is less leaden-footed there.

[TN82 Lacan leaves the verb blank, possibly alluding to the opening page of Sartre’s La Nauséé, where Roquentin has difficulty finding a new word to match his new experience of the way phenomena have of presenting themselves to him.]

P122 Here, the suspension points allow for a sudden unfastening in the text. After having played on the equivocation of noumine [noumenon) and nous mène [leads us], insisting on the verb ‘to lead,” it’s on the us that Lacan plays. He hails an interlocutor, until then implicit in the hidden presence of the reader. “What leads us thusly . . . to what? Must I jump, must I swear that I didn’t see it right away while you, already . . . these first truths, but it’s the very text from which are formulated the symptoms of the great neuroses.”[8] [8]. Jacques Lacan, “L’étourdit,” op. cit., 479. : See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), : p84 of Jack Stone’s translation (see above for Anthony Chadwick’s translation), www.Freud2Lacan.com : My difficulty is that the aphorisms which moreover I content myself to present in bud, might make a reflowering of the graves of metaphysics, (for the noumena, is prattle, the futile subsis­tance . . . ). I parry that they will prove to be plus-de-non­sense, more funny, to say it, than what leads us thusly . . . to what? Must I leap ahead, must I swear that I have not seen it right away while you, already . . . these first truths, but this is the text itself from which are formulated the great neuroses, from the two which, to take seriously the normal, we say that it is rather a norm male.

This is what leads us back to the soil, perhaps not the same, but perhaps also it is the good one and analytic discourse is less heavy-footed there.

P123 This is what the Seminar ‘ … or Worse’ brought out, still in its lesson on the norm’. Phallic jouissance cannot be said to be sexual jouissance. Man and woman make believe, but the jouissance is real. “It’s very clear that it’s more with big Φ than with the other, the partner, that each has a relation.” Lacan exemplifies that the homosexual subject is more assured in his relation to his organ, in that he confounds more easily with big Φ than can the hetero, who must transit the incarnation of big Φ in the feminine body that does quite well without the penile organ. “[H]omos have better erections, and more often, and harder”. [9] [9]. Jacques Lacan, …Worse, op. cit., 71 : This page number is wrong – should be p57 of Adrian Price’s translation : See Seminar XIX a (1971-1972) The Savoir of the Psychoanalyst or The Psychoanalyst’s Knowledge – Seven Talks at St Anne’s Hospital : from 4th November 1971: Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19711104 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), 3rd February 1972 talk, pIV 11 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation from unedited tapes, see Footnote 1 above : On the other hand it is quite clear that through one of the ways that I have finally to define that it is rather with Φ that each one has a relationship with the other. This becomes fully confirmed once one looks at what is called, using a term that is very fitting, like that, thanks to the ambiguity of Latin and of Greek, is called ‘homos’ – ‘ecco homo’ [sic] as I put it. It is quite certain that the homos have better and more frequent and more firm erections. What is curious, but anyway it is all the same a fact which for a person that for a certain time we have heard spoken about, this creates no doubt. Do not be deceived by it, all the same, there is ‘homo’ and ‘homo’, huh! I am not talking about André Gide, you must not believe that André Gide was a homo!

P124 In the proliferation of norms, nothing overcomes the fundamental misrecognition. A man’s or woman’s partner, binary or not, is not the other of their choice; it is jouissance that compels them. On the side of the partner, it is the nothing. What remains is the surplus jouissance that is outside of meaning [hors-sens].The sexual non-relation returns all pretentions of norms to their vacuity. This orientation towards the real of jouissance produces sayings of a new sort, like Lacan’s aphorisms, which try to confront the utterances bearing on being that metaphysics handed down to us. Lacan hopes that they “will prove themselves to be of surplus nonsense, funnier, in a word.” [10] [10]. Jacques Lacan, “L’étourdit,” op. cit.,479. : See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), : p84 of Jack Stone’s translation (see above for Anthony Chadwick’s translation), www.Freud2Lacan.com : I parry that they will prove to be plus-de-nonsense, more funny, to say it, than what leads us thusly . . .

P124 [11]. At the end of “Létourdit,” Lacan takes example from Democritus’ nonsense, playing with signifying material to make the one of matter, the Greek atom, from an extraction of the void. He invented the “den”, from the void, “meden,” by cutting from it the negation “me,” making this double negation of the reference the name of the indivisible. In this way he laughs at the materialism that dominated the thinking of his times. : See L’Étourdit : 14th July 1972 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19720714 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts), : p124 of Anthony Chadwick’s translation, www.Freud2Lacan.com : That will not be a progress, since there is none which does not cause a regret, regret for a loss. But if one were to laugh at it [114], the language which I serve would find itself re-doing Democritus’ joke on μηδεν, (meden) by extracting it [μηδεν] by the fall of the μη (me) from the (negation) of nothing which seems to call it, as our strip does of itself for its rescue.

[51] Democritus in fact makes us a gift of the ατομοζ (atomos), of the radical real, by eliding from it the “not”, μη (me), but in its subjunctiveness, namely that modal whose demand remakes consideration. In exchange for which the δεν was indeed the stowaway whose secret now makes our destiny. [115]

TN114 Lacan puns on the name of the hospital Henri/en rie.

TN115 Lacan plays with clandestin, breaking it into clam (etymologically the French root of the medieval Latin word) “in secret”, and destin.