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Wilson, M. (2002). Apropos Ahumada on Lacan. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50(1):383-384.

(2002). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 50(1):383-384

Apropos Ahumada on Lacan

Mitchell Wilson

December 27, 2000. I am writing regarding Jorge Ahumada's book review essay, The Private and the Public: Psychoanalysis as Letter’ (J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn. 48/3). I read the essay with anticipation and interest, especially given its author's well-deserved place within the international psychoanalytic community. Unfortunately, I was disappointed and dismayed by both the tone and the content of his essay.

In the conventional book review essay, the writer places a premium on clear explication and summary of the main ideas under consideration. In Ahumada's case, he does not seem interested in teaching or explaining. With a smugness of tone that echoes the great Lacan himself, Ahumada gives the reader—especially the uninitiated reader—little chance to grasp much of anything, because he doesn't start with first principles and assumptions. Instead his essay gets off to an unfortunate beginning because he emphasizes the political and fashionable side of Lacanianism, rather than the development of a theoretical and clinical body of thought. After all, Lacan started writing in the 1930s and teaching his seminar in the early 1950s, long before he became a “celebrity.”

In terms of content, basic Lacanian ideas get buried in the crowded middle of the essay. They are buried enough that the naive reader would have no way of knowing whether an idea was important or not. For example, one finds in the middle of a paragraph on the eighth page of the essay a single sentence about Lacan's concept of the minor stage. Yet Lacan's entire oeuvre starts from this idea of the minor stage and “dual relations.” Lacan asserts that psychoanalysis is not about imaginary or dual engagements (however inevitable such interactions may be); that is, psychoanalysis is not dyadic but fundamentally triadic. For Lacanians psychoanalysis is, ideally, the exercise of the symbolic function (based on the structure of language and the subject's particular constitution by speech, symbolic interaction, family structure and relationships, etc.).

Ahumada is better when discussing the Symbolic. But even here he falters. In reviewing Serge Leclaire's fine book, Psychoanalysing, he mentions in passing—with little explication—Leclaire's chapter on the famous “unicorn” dream.

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