Originally published on 6th October 2022 as orientation text in the Newsletter of the 52nd Journées de l’École de la Cause freudienne: “Je suis ce que je dis. Dénis contemporains de l’inconscient”. Available online. https://journees.causefreudienne.org/la-jouissance-performative-et-lacte-analytique/

Translated from the French by Florencia F.C. Shanahan

Published at the Lacanian Review Online, LRO 368, on 18th January 2023, https://www.thelacanianreviews.com/performative-jouissance-and-analytic-act1/

References & Notes

– Lacan first followed the French linguist Émile Benveniste & Footnote [7] … and Lacan’s objector is named in the interview between É. Marty and J.-A. Miller, in Lacan Quotidien, n° 927, op. cit. [Émile Benveniste (27 May 1902 – 3 October 1976) was a French structural linguist and semiotician. He is best known for his work on Indo-European languages and his critical reformulation of the linguistic paradigm established by Ferdinand de Saussure. Benveniste was born in Aleppo, Aleppo Vilayet, Ottoman Syria to a Sephardi family. Wikipedia]


– … and the Oxford philosopher John L. Austin in the 1950s, over the updating of the notion of act in language,

[John Langshaw Austin, OBE, FBA (26 March 1911 – 8 February 1960) was a British philosopher of language and leading proponent of ordinary language philosophy, best known for developing the theory of speech acts.

Austin pointed out that we use language to do things as well as to assert things, and that the utterance of a statement like “I promise to do so-and-so” is best understood as doing something—making a promise—rather than making an assertion about anything. Hence the title of one of his best-known works, How to Do Things with Words.

Austin, in providing his theory of speech acts, makes a significant challenge to the philosophy of language, far beyond merely elucidating a class of morphological sentence forms that function to do what they name.

Austin’s work ultimately suggests that all speech and all utterance is the doing of something with words and signs, challenging a metaphysics of language that would posit denotative, propositional assertion as the essence of language and meaning.]


-Lacan states, in “Function and Field of Speech and Language”, what he means by the act that knots speech and language, the subject and the Other. He presents it in abyme*, attributing its formulation to an objection made to him by Benveniste [see above], stressing that the act of language according to Lacan, taken in a dialectical form, amounts to defining “a communication in which the sender receives his own message from the receiver in an inverted form.”**[7] [7] Lacan, J., “Function and Field….”, in Ecrits, Transl. B. Fink, London/New York, Norton & Co., 2006, p. 233.

*Footnote a), The reprise en abyme is underlined by É. Marty in Le Sexe des modernes, op. cit. p. 131 … [From Wikipedia : Mise en abyme (also mise-en-abîme, French “put in the abyss”) is a transgeneric and transmedial technique that can occur in any literary genre, in comics, film, painting or other media. It is a form of similarity and/or repetition, and hence a variant of self-reference. Mise en abyme presupposes at least two hierarchically different levels. A subordinate level ‘mirrors’ content or formal elements of a primary level.

‘Mirroring’ can mean repetition, similarity or even, to a certain extent, contrast. The elements thus ‘mirrored’ can refer to form (e.g. a painting within a painting) or content (e.g. a theme occurring on different levels).

…To summarise, mise en abyme is a form of similarity, repetition and hence a variant of self-reference that is not necessarily discussed within its appearing medium, it only occurs. If the occurrence is discussed, or if mise en abyme triggers reflections on the respective medium or the construction of the text for example, mise en abyme is combined with metareference. & Laurent states reprise and not mise…]

**See The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan : Also known as the Rome Report. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19530926). P85 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : This is in fact the essential form from which all human speech derives rather than the form at which it arrives.

Hence the paradox by which one of my most acute listeners, (Benveniste) when I began to make my views known on analysis as dialectic, thought he could oppose my position by a remark that he formulated in the following terms:

‘Human Language (according to you) constitutes a communication in which the sender receives his own message back from the receiver in an inverted form.’ This was an objection that I had only to reflect on for a moment before recognizing that it carried the stamp of my own thinking- in other words, that speech always subjectively includes its own reply, Pascal’s ‘Tu ne me chercherais pas si tu ne m’avais trouvé’ [83] [Footnote 83 : ‘You would not be looking for me if you had not already found me’, the words of Christ in Le mystère de Jesus, Pensées (Brunschvicq ed. 553, Pléiade ed. 736), Translator’s note] simply confirms the same truth in different words, and that this is the reason why, in the paranoiac refusal of recognition, it is in the form of a negative verbalization that the inavowable feeling finally emerges in the persecutory ‘interpretation’.

Furthermore, when you congratulate yourself on having met someone who speaks the same kind of language as you do, you do not mean that you meet with him in the discourse of everybody, but that you are united to him by special kind of speech.

Thus the antinomy immanent in the relations between speech and language becomes clear. As language becomes more functional, it becomes improper for speech, and as it becomes too particular to us, it loses its function as language.


-Lacan recognises ‘the striking of his own thought’ and immediately adopts this objection as a definition. The presence of the Other at the very heart of the performative of speech gives full scope to the response I expect as soon as I speak, for ‘What I seek in speech is a response from the other.”[8] [8] Lacan, J., “Function and Field….”, op. cit., p. 247. See The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan : Also known as the Rome Report. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19530926), P86 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : For the function of language is not to inform but to evoke.

What I seek in speech is the response of the other. What constitutes me as subject is my question. In order to be recognized by the other, I utter what was only in view of what will be. In order to find him, I call him by a name that he must assume or refuse in order to reply to me. …


-This incessant response ruins the mirages of performative identity. “I identify myself in language, but only by losing myself in it as an object.”[9] [9] Ibid., p. 247. See The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan : Also known as the Rome Report. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19530926), P86 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : … I identify myself in language, but only by losing myself in it like an object. What is realized in my history is not the past definite of what was, since it is no more, or even the present perfect of what has been in what I am, but the future anterior of what I shall have been for what I am in the process of becoming.


– As in Lacan’s teaching the Other dispenses with the law of the Name-of-the-Father (which was limited to the specificity of psychoses where the Name- of-the-Father collapses[10]), the Other becomes a partner of jouissance. [10] Lacan, J., “On a Question Prior….”, in Ecrits, op.cit., p. 485. “after the Name-of-the-Father began to collapse—the latter being the signifier which, in the Other, qua locus of the signifier, is the signifier of the Other qua locus of the law.” See On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis : December 1955-January 1956 [1958] : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (1955 or Index of Jaques Lacan’s texts), p217 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : To move on now to the principle of the foreclosure (Verwerfung) of the Name-of-the-Father, it must be admitted that the Name-of-the-Father reduplicates in the place of the Other the signifier itself of the symbolic triad, in that it constitutes the law of the signifier. P221 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : The term, in which the Process by which the signifier has ‘unleashed’ itself in the real culminates, after the failure of the Name-of-the-Father was opened up – that is to say, the failure of the signifier in the Other, as locus the signifier, is the signifier of the Other as locus of the law’

– It is then revealed that, according to Schreber’s expression anticipating Georges Bataille: ‘God is a b…’, in other words, a partner of jouissance. See On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis : December 1955-January 1956 [1958] : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (1955 or Index of Jaques Lacan’s texts), p221 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : Thus the last word in which ‘the internal experience’ of our century should have yielded us its computation, is articulated fifty years ahead of its time in the theodicy to which Schreber is exposed: ‘God is a tart’ (Dieu est une p…).[40] [40] Under the form: Die Sonne ist eine Hure (S. 384-App.). For Schreber, the sun is the central aspect of God. The

interior experience referred to here is the title of Georges Bataille’s most central work. ln Madame Edwarda, he describes the strange extremity of this experience.

In order to formulate the analytic act, an act defined by him, Lacan authorises a rereading of Aristotle, which he quotes and comments on explicitly in the Seminar devoted to the Act.[11] [11] Lacan, J., Seminar 15, “The Analytic Act”, (1967-1968). Unpublished. See Seminar XV The Psychoanalytic Act (1967-1968) : from 15th November 1967 : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19671115 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts).


– Lacan implicitly polemicises, without explicitly naming him, with John L. Austin who had just published in 1962 his “How to do things with words”, breaking with the logic of the proposition that fascinated the Cambridge school, : Note

Performative in Science and Truth

I encountered for the first time, performative, when studying Seminar XIII- Science & Truth : 1st December 1965 : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19651201 or Index). A hugely helpful text is Moment of Truth-the Newman reference : 26th November 1995 : Philip Boxer, see this site /5 Other Authors A-Z (Boxer or Index of Authors) which introduces J. L Austin in relation to Jacques Lacan’s reference to Newman.

John Austin on performative utterances

(From: J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, ed. J. O. Urmson and Marina Sbisá. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962.)

[Defining the Performative]

Utterances can be found… such that:

  1. They do not ‘describe’ or ‘report’ or constate anything at all, are not ‘true or false,’ and
  2. The uttering of the sentence is, or is a part of, the doing of an action, which again would not normally be described as, or as ‘just,’ saying something.

This is far from being as paradoxical as it may sound or as I have meanly been trying to make it sound: indeed, the examples now to be given will be disappointing.


  1. ‘I do (sc. take this woman to be my lawful wedded wife)’ – as uttered in the course of the marriage ceremony.
  2. ‘I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth’– as uttered when smashing the bottle against the stem.
  3. ‘I give and bequeath my watch to my brother’ – as occurring in a will.
  4. ‘I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow.’

In these examples it seems clear that to utter the sentence (in, of course, the appropriate circumstances) is not to describe my doing of what I should be said in so uttering to be doing or to state that I am doing it: it is to do it. … What are we to call a sentence or an utterance of this type? I propose to call it a performative sentence or a performative utterance, or, for short, a ‘performative.’ (pp. 5-6)

[Implications of the definition]

Are we then to say things like this:

‘To marry is to say a few words’ or

‘Betting is simply saying something’?

Such a doctrine sounds odd or even flippant at first, but with sufficient safeguards it may become not odd at all. … The uttering of the words is, indeed, usually a, or even the, leading incident in the performance of the act (of betting or what not), the performance of which is also the object of the utterance, but it is far from being usually, even if it is ever, the sole thing necessary if the act is to be deemed to have been performed. Speaking generally, it is always necessary that the circumstances in which the words are uttered should be, in some way, or ways, appropriate, and it is very commonly necessary that either the speaker himself or other persons should also perform certain other actions, whether ‘physical’ or ‘mental’ actions or even acts of uttering further words. … Surely the words must be spoken ‘seriously’ and so as to be taken ‘seriously’? This is, though vague, true enough in general – it is an important commonplace in discussing the purport of any utterance whatsoever. I must not be joking, for example, nor writing a poem…. (pp. 6-8)

[Wider consequences]

Once we realise that what we have to study is not the sentence but the issuing of an utterance in a speech situation, there can hardly be any longer a possibility of not seeing that stating is performing an act. (p. 139)

From https://web.stanford.edu/class/ihum54/Austin_on_speech_acts.htm


-While he had not shied away from a virulent polemic with Ogden and Richards[13], proponents of the Cambridge school, about their objectification of meaning, [13] Cf. Lacan, J., “The Instance of the Letter…”, in Ecrits, op. cit., p. 412. See The Agency (Insistence or Instance) of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud (Sorbonne, Paris) : 9th May 1957 : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19570509),

In their book The Meaning of Meaning, Ogden and Richards criticized Saussure for ‘neglecting entirely the things for which signs stand’ (Ogden & Richards 1923, 8). The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism (1923) is a book by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards …

P150 of Alan Sheridan’s translation may be the reference : These considerations, important as their existence is for the philosopher, turn us away from the locus in which language questions us as : its very nature. And we will fail to pursue the question further as long as we cling to the illusion that the signifier answers to the function representing the signified, or better, that the signifier has to answer: its existence in the name of any signification whatever.

For even reduced to this latter formulation, the heresy is the same as the heresy that leads logical positivism in search of the ‘meaning of meanings’ [11] ([11] English in the original [Tr.]) as its objective is called in the language of its devotees. As a result, we can observe that even a text highly charged with meaning can be reduced, through this sort of analysis, to insignificant bagatelles, all that survives being mathematical algorithms that are, of course, without any meaning.[12] [12.] So, Mr I. A. Richards, author of a work precisely in accord with such an objective, has in another work shown us its application. He took for his purposes a page from Mong-tse (Mencius, to the Jesuits) and called the piece, Mencius on the Mind. The guarantees of the purity of the experiment are nothing to the luxury of the approaches. And our expert on the traditional Canon that contains the text is found right on the spot in Peking where our demonstration-model manage has been transported regardless of cost.

But we shall be no less transported, if less expensively, to see a bronze that gives out bell-tones at the slightest contact with thought, transformed into a rag to wipe the blackboard of the most dismaying British psychologism. And not without eventually being identified with the meninx of the author himself – all that remains of him or his object after having exhausted the meaning of the latter and the good sense of the former.


-Lacan wants to found an act that does not depend on the quality of the apparent agent, the psychoanalyst, but is based solely on the analysand and the subject at stake in the analytic experience. “If we follow the weft suggested to us by the use of the syllogism, what we have to arrive at is something that will join this subject to what has been put forward here as a predicate, the psychoanalyst – if there exists a psychoanalyst – and alas, this is what we lack to support this logical articulation. If there exists a psychoanalyst, everything is assured: there may be many others. But for the moment, the question for us is to know how the psychoanalysand can pass to the psychoanalyst. How it is that, in the most well-founded way, this qualification can only be supported by the psychoanalysand’s accomplished task.”[14] [14] Lacan, J., Seminar 15, “The Analytic Act”, (1966-1967), lesson of 7th February 1968. Unpublished. See Seminar XV The Psychoanalytic Act (1967-1968) : from 15th November 1967 : Jacques Lacan. See this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19671115 or Index of Jacques Lacan’s texts) : 7th February 1968, pIX 6-7 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : In effect, if we follow the thread, the web that the use of the syllogism suggests to us, what of course we ought to arrive at, is something that is going to connect this subject to what is here advanced as a predicate, the psychoanalyst – if a psychoanalyst exists. And, alas, this is what we lack to support this logical articulation. If one psychoanalyst exists, everything is assured. There can be a crowd of others.

But for the moment, the question for us is to know how the psychoanalysand can become a psychoanalyst. How does it happen that, in the most well grounded way, this qualification is only supported by the task completed by the psychoanalysand. Here indeed we see there being opened up this other dimenaion, which is one that I already tried to profile before you, about the conjunction of the act and the task. How do the two connect up?


-The object a is both the mark, the locus of the acephalous jouissance that animates the subject, and the result, the remainder of the accomplishment of the analyst’s task. For the subjectivation of the analysand’s sexual reality to occur, the psychoanalyst must already be the representation of that which he blocks [bouche] of this reality of the object a.[15] [15] Ibid. : 7th February 1968, pIX 7 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : What is at stake is what I called the o-object [a-object] which is for us here the true middle term that is proposed, assuredly, as a plus one, of a more incomparable seriousness by being the effect of the discourse of the psychoanalysand. And by being on the other hand, as I have stated it, in the new graph that you see me using here for the last two years, not what the psychoanalyst becomes, what is implied at the start by the whole operation, what ought to be the outcome of the psychoanalysing operation, what liberates in it something of a fundamental truth. The end of psychoanalysis, namely, the subject being unequal to any possible subjectification of sexual reality and the requirement that, in order that this truth should appear, the psychoanalyst should already be the representation of what masks, obtrudes, stoppers this truth and which is called the o-object.


-Lacan introduces a radically new dimension into the performative logic. The one who has supported the operation finds himself at the end of it, excluded, rejected. “For if at the end of the finished psychoanalysis, this object a, which is undoubtedly always there […] it is nevertheless only at the end of the operation that it will reappear in the real, from another source, namely as rejected by the analysand.”[16] [16] Ibid. : 7th February 1968, pIX 7-8 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : Note well, in effect, that I will return at length to the essential of what I am articulating here, the essential is not at the end of the psychoanalysis, as some people imagine – I saw it from the questions posed – the psychoanalyst becomes the o-object for the other. This “for the other” here curiously takes on the value of a “for oneself”, in as much as , as subject there is none other than this Other to whom the whole discourse is left. It is neither for the Other, nor in a for oneself which does not exist at the level of the psychoanalyst, that there resides this o. It is indeed an in itself (en soi), an in itself of the psychoanalyst. It is in as much as, as the psychoanalysts themselves protest moreover – it is enough to open the (154) literature on it to see the testimony of it at every moment – they are really this breast of the “oh, my mother Intelligence”, of our Mallarmé; that they are themselves this waste product, presiding over the operation of the task, that they are the look, that they are the voice. It is in so far as they are in themselves the support of this o-object that the whole operation is possible. There is only one thing that escapes them, which is the degree to which it is not metaphorical.


-The subject ends up separating itself from its cause. The knot of the analytic task and the act defines the psychoanalyst as a rejection in the real, produced by the analytic task. “This is what is the production quite comparable to that of such and such a machine that circulates in our scientific world and which is, strictly speaking, the production of the psychoanalysand.” It is here that Lacan makes an offbeat reference to Austin in a piquant play on words. “What is it after you have so transformed the object a into a production line, if the psychoanalyst produces the a like an Austin?” It is not clear that Austin noticed that his passion for doing things with words had something to do with the homophony of his name with a car. : Seminar XV 7th February 1968, see this site /4 Jacques Lacan (19671115) pIX 10 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : The extraction, the absence of this dimension means that there is a being, the being of the psychoanalyst who can make everything that is at stake in the fate of the psychoanalysing subject turn, by being himself in the position of the o. Namely, in truth, to make his relation to him turn purely and simply around these terms of an algebra which are in no way concerned with a crowd of existing and more than acceptable dimensions. A pile of givens, of substantial elements in what is in operation, in place and breathing there on the couch. Here is a production that is altogether comparable to that of one or other machine which circulates in our scientific world and which is, properly speaking, the production of the psychoanalysand.

Here is something original. Here all the same is something that is rather tangible, which is not all that new, even though it is articulated in a way that nay appear striking to you. Because what does it mean if one asks the psychoanalysis not to bring into play in analysis what is called counter-transference? I would defy anyone to give it another sense than the following. That there is no place either for “I like you”, or “I do not like you”, after having defined them as I have just done. But then we find ourselves up against the question of what is involved, after having transformed the o-object for you at this point into an assembly line production, if the psychoanalyst produced the o like an Austin. What can the psychoanalytic act mean, if in effect the psychoanalytic act is, all the same, committed by the psychoanalyst?


On experiencing two Shakespeare’s plays with a biological sex change of the main characters.

In the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, seen August 2019, and of ‘Julius Caesar’, see April 2023, the gender of roles has been swopped. So Bianca becomes Bianco, the father becomes the mother, and the suitors are all female. In ‘Julius Ceasar’ some of the male roles became female and their stories as told by Shakespeare altered to fit this gender change. In neither case did this work. Why?

– those encased in a male body act differently to those in a female one.

– the interplay between male and female bodies (the Shrew) or between male bodies (Julius Ceasar) is unique to those bodies. If you give the part Shakespeare writes for a female body, to a male one (Shrew), the tension of the interplay between male and female is entirely lost. Similarly if you make a part written for a man by Shakespeare, based in historical fact, the tensions of man to man get lost and Julius Caesar ends up being unintelligible.

So pretending there is nothing beyond the category male or female, removes the inner meaning of the play. I understand Shakespeare did extensive research in London brothels (both kinds) and with his landlord’s young daughter, in order to build on the visceral experience of what is going on (Shakespeare explores most sexuality categories and combinations in ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’). If this backdrop is eliminated, then the cardboard cut-outs or categories which are left do not make sense.

An end note : I totally accept that roles are not given out evenly between the sexes or sexual orientation. My solution is to ask a female actor to play a male role as a man and vice versa.

Julia Evans – 15th February 2024

Related texts

Tracking Jacques Lacan’s use of ‘logos’ : from 30th October 2013 : Julia Evans. See this site /5 Other Authors A-Z (Evans or Index of Julia Evans’ texts)