– The discussion, Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : p132, is abbreviated in the translation and those Lacan invites to comment are missed out. The complete discussion, on ‘René Spitz’s ‘Yes and No’, involving Victor Nikolaevitch Smirnoff, is available in French only, see Discussion during Seminar VII (p133) : 3rd February 1960 : Jacques Lacan, with Victor Nikolaevitch Smirnoff (Smirnov), Xavier Audourd, Jean Laplanche, & Unknown, at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19591118)

– Further notes and information on Seminar VII, see Seminar VII The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1959-1960) : from 18th November 1959 : Jacques Lacan at this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19591118 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts)

– Reference : The Primal Cavity – a contribution to the genesis of perception and its role for psychoanalytic theory : 1955 : René Spitz, see this site /5 Other Authors A-Z (Spitz or Index of Authors’ texts). There is a quotation from this text near the end of this post.

During the Reading Group of 7th September 2013, the following passage was read:

p132 of the Dennis Porter translation, Routledge Edition (1992) :

I would like now to make sure that today’s meeting might be of some use to those who have travelled some distance to get here.

Given the point we have reached in my Seminar, it seems likely that some of you may have questions to ask me or answers to give, so as to suggest the meaning for them of some element or other in my argument.

I know that it is never easy to break the silence in a crowd, to ring one’s little bell, so to speak. I will, therefore, give you the opportunity to ask me a written question. The only disadvantage there is that I am free to read it as I see fit.

At the same time we are going to do something unexpected that strikes me as a good idea. Some of you attended the scientific meeting of our Society yesterday. I don’t know how it ended because I had to leave after having responded at some length to the lecturers, people for whom I have the greatest affection, and after I had expressed my deep interest in their work. They are here today and I would like to ask Smirnov for some clarification on the subject of Spitz’s “No and Yes.”


For comments on Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : p133 : see Notes from Seminar VII 3rd February 1960 (p133) – Interventions by Xavier Audouard & Jean Laplanche on René Spitz & the function of ‘rooting’: 28th September 2013 (Reading Group) : Julia Evans. See this site /5 Other Authors A-Z (Evans)

a) This discussion is abbreviated in the translation and those Lacan invites to comment are missed out. The complete discussion, involving Victor Nikolaevitch Smirnoff, is available in French only, Discussion during Seminar VII (p133) : 3rd February 1960 : Jacques Lacan, with Victor Nikolaevitch Smirnoff (Smirnov), Xavier Audouard, Jean Laplanche, & Unknown. See this site /Other Authors A-Z (Audouard, Laplanche or Smirnov)

b) The meeting referred to, was probably one of the SFP and this needs checking. From Wikipedia : In 1953, after a disagreement over the variable-length session, Lacan and many of his colleagues left the Société Parisienne de Psychanalyse to form a new group, the Société Française de Psychanalyse (SFP). One consequence of this was to deprive the new group of membership within the International Psychoanalytical Association.

c) The following is information on René Spitz who is quoted from Wikipedia. As he taught psychoanalysis in Paris, I suspect that Jacques Lacan knew him.

Book: R. A. Spitz : 1957 : No and Yes – On the Genesis of Human Communication : New York: International Universities Press

From Wikipedia : René Spitz was born in Vienna, Austria, and died in Denver, Colorado. From a wealthy Jewish family background, he spent most of his childhood in Hungary. After finishing his medical studies in 1910 Spitz discovered the work of Sigmund Freud. In 1932, he left Austria and settled in Paris for the next six years, where he taught psychoanalysis at the École Normale Supérieure. In 1939, he emigrated to the United States, and worked as a psychiatrist at the Mount Sinai hospital. From 1940 to 1943, Spitz served as a visiting professor at several universities, before eventually settling in Colorado.

Spitz based his observations and experiments on psychoanalytic findings, developed by Freud. Some of Freud’s ideas are still present in contemporary developmental thinking. Where Freud performed his famed psychoanalytic studies on adult subjects, Spitz based his ideas on his empirical research on infants.

In 1935, Spitz began research in the area of child development. He was one of the first researchers who used direct child observation as an experimental method—studying both healthy and unhealthy subjects. His greatest scientific contributions came from his studies of the effects of maternal and emotional deprivation on infants.

Spitz valued several aspects: Infant observation and assessment, anaclitic depression (hospitalism), developmental transitions, the processes of effective communication, and understanding developmental complexity.

Spitz noted three organizing principles in the psychological development of the child:

  • the smiling response, which appears at around three months old in the presence of an unspecified person;
  • anxiety in the presence of a stranger, around the eighth month;
  • semantic communication, in which the child learns how to be obstinate, which the psychoanalysts connect to the obsessional neurosis.

d) From the following quote, I note that Victor Smirnoff (Smirnov) was in analysis with Jacques Lacan from 1954 & was much involved with the SFP until the split in 1963. After this he became very active in the founding and running of the Association Psychanalytique de France (APF), contributing most importantly to training issues through his writings and his many control analyses. He was the association’s president in 1975 and again in 1984. He was a child psychoanalyst.

From www.answers.com, quoting from Gale Dictionary of Psychoanalysis: Victor Nikolaïevitch Smirnoff (Smirnov) : The French psychoanalyst and neuropsychiatrist Victor Smirnoff was born on November 27, 1919, in Petrograd and died in Paris on November 5, 1995.

The child of doctors belonging to the social-democratic intelligentsia, he emigrated with his parents in 1921 after the Bolsheviks came to power. He spent some early years in Berlin before moving to Paris in 1929. After medical training, he worked as a psychiatrist under Georges Heuyer. In 1950, a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation took him to the United States on a fellowship in child psychiatry. There he came into contact with the pioneers of the Child Guidance movement, while his cultural interests and love of books led him into artistic and literary avant-garde circles.

Back in Paris in 1954, he undertook an analysis with Jacques Lacan at the suggestion of Wladimir Granoff. Much involved in the internal debates of the Société Française de Psychanalyse leading up to the split of 1963, Smirnoff was one of those, when that split occurred, who opted for rejoining the International Psychoanalytical Association and distanced themselves from Lacan’s practical procedures while acknowledging the value of his teaching.

As a child psychoanalyst, Smirnoff took part in the organization of teaching at La Salpêtrière with Jean-Louis Lang and Daniel Widlöcher, and founded the psychotherapy clinic of the fifteenth arrondissement of Paris, known as “La Rue Tiphaine,” where the psychoanalytical approach predominated. … Smirnoff’s friendship with Masud Khan in London and his desire for cultural expansion led to his translation into French of several essential texts, including Winnicott’s “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena” (1953) and Klein’s Envy and Gratitude (1955).

Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : From the next Reading Group, starting the 3rd paragraph, ‘I am far from being critical of Spitz.’

Note : I am editing this to transfer to this site more than 10 years after I wrote this. The following is not in the word document I saved, and I am reluctant to just delete…… From my note in my copy of Seminar VII, this was discussed on 7th September 2013. Ah ha! it gives the passages in Spitz’s text to which Jacques Lacan refers.

From Ch X – Marginal Comments of the Dennis Porter translation : top of p133 of Dennis Porter’s translation, Routledge edition:

Quote, 3rd February 1960, p133 of Dennis Porter’s translation :

Why did you not tackle the “Yes”?

[Mr Smirnov’s answer, in French – see this site /5 Other Authors’ A-Z (Smirnov) See above for information on René Spitz ]

Let me explain to those who do not know the text that it is a book belonging to a series of investigations founded on the direct observation of newborn babies of newborn babies or more precisely of infants, that is to say, up to the point of the appearance of articulated language as such. Within this dimension, Spitz claims to find the “No” as a “pattern”, [JE Notes : It seems that Jacques Lacan is putting this finding up for question with the use of the verb ‘claim’.] as a semantic form in a certain number of gestures and expressions, and primarily in “rooting” [JE notes : During the reading group on 7th September 2013, there was much discussion as to whether the ‘No’ is linked to “rooting”. Rooting may also be spelt as routing or finding in English. A further distinction is between ‘rooting to’ and ‘routing for’, as in a football team which one routes for.] – that is to say, in the oscillating gesture of the head that the infant makes in its approach to the breast. The word is very difficult to translate into French, but there is a correlative in the English text in the word “snout”, which clearly indicates what is involved.

I am far from being critical of Spitz, I intend rather to defend him. I don’t mean he is right, but the work is good and sharply articulated. And I would fault you with failing to have brought out the fact that the phenomenon is analogous to what occurs in traumatic neurosis – it is, he says, the last memory before the emergence of the catastrophic reaction.

I embarrassed you by asking you to comment on Spitz’s other works, namely, his fiction on ‘The Primal Cavity’ [ The Primal Cavity – a contribution to the genesis of perception and its role for psychoanalytic theory : 1955 : René Spitz, see this site /5 Other Authors A-Z (Spitz or Index of Authors’ texts)] or at the very least his references to the screen of the dream.

From René Spitz : The Primal Cavity : a contribution to the genesis of perception and its role for psychoanalytic theory : 1955

p215-216 : The Dream Screen and the Isakower Phenomenon

Lewin’s hypothesis takes as its starting point Freud’s statement that the dream is the guardian of sleep. The fundamental wish-fulfilling nature of the dream ensures the continuation of sleep. In this function the dream is the manifestation of a regression to the emotional state of the infant when it goes to sleep at the mother’s breast after having drunk his fill. Certain of his patients’ dreams appeared as if projected onto a screen which, Lewin holds. is the visual memory of the breast. He further assumes that this dream-screen-breast is always present in dreaming; that in the “blank dream” it actually is the dream content. He connects these findings with his other proposition, that of the oral triad of the wish to eat, to be eaten, to sleep (to die).

Isakower’s contribution is the clinical observation that some of his patients, when in the reclining position, particularly when subject to elevation of temperature, or in the predormescent state, have certain sensations which partake of the mouth, of the skin surface and of the hand sensitivity. The somewhat vague sensations are of something wrinkled, or perhaps gritty and dry, soft, filling the mouth, being felt at the same time on the skin surface of the body and being manipulated with the fingers. Visually the sensation is perceived as shadowy, indefinite, mostly round, approaching and growing enormous and then shrinking to practically nothing.

Lewin’s and Isakower’s observations have proved extraordinarily fertile both clinically, and theoretically. The clinical observations of numerous analysts, including myself. have confirmed their finding. …

Ibid. : P218 : Therefore, I offer the proposition that the Isakower phenomenon does not represent the approaching breast-at least not from the visual point of view. In my opinion it represents the visually perceived human face. All the phenomena, all the details described in lsakower’s and Lewin’s examples, as well as in those provided by other analysts, are to be found in the human face. The cracks, the wrinkles, the roses, the spots-but let Gulliver in Brobdingnag speak: “Their skins appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously colored when I saw them near, with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher, and hairs hanging from it thicker than pack threads, to say nothing further concerning the rest of their persons” (Swift)

Seminar VII continued, 3rd February 1960, p133 of Dennis Porter’s translation : Spitz doesn’t on the whole elaborate on the fact that a form of reaction deriving from an earlier stage may be used in a critical situation. That seems to be a very useful idea, however, something that should always be emphasised. I think you made the point, unless it was Laplanche.

Spitz is reduced to having a mechanism as passive as that of traumatic neurosis intervene. He thus implies some preceding frustration of the infant. He considers the act of “rooting” to be a trace which remains inscribed after something like the refusal or withdrawal of the breast that immediately precedes it. It is surprising that he expresses it in an isolated form, on the basis of a given case, and not in general.


[i] For the preceding discussion and information on René Spitz, please view beginning of this post!

[ii] Discussion is given in French at Discussion during Seminar VII (p133) : 3rd February 1960 : Jacques Lacan, with Victor Nikolaevitch Smirnoff (Smirnov), Xavier Audouard, Jean Laplanche, & Unknown. See this site /Other Authors A-Z (Audouard, Laplanche or Smirnov)

Further information:

See this site /m) Seminar VII, Jacques Lacan (1 A Lacanian Clinic/ C Cartel or group work)