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Lefer, J. (2019). Lacan, Psychoanalysis and Comedy, edited by Patricia Gherovia and Manya Steinkloler, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2016, 247 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 47(1):124-126.

(2019). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 47(1):124-126

Lacan, Psychoanalysis and Comedy, edited by Patricia Gherovia and Manya Steinkloler, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2016, 247 pp.

Review by:
Jay Lefer, M.D.

To read Lacan is to enter into a new world. Resting on Freud's metapsychology, Lacan imprints himself on Freud, as though he were standing over him and saying, “Well said, only I will expand what you are really thinking.” Lacan's metapsychology becomes the linguistic unconscious, filled with metaphors, metonymy, algebraic symbols, and prosody. The new experience will give the reader jouissance, a mixture of pleasure and pain.

Just as James Joyce's Finnegans Wake (Joyce, 1939, 1999) required another book to decipher its author's playful language (Campbell & Robinson, 1944, 2005), Lacan's work, La Langue, the language of the unconscious that exists simultaneously with consciousness, also requires books to understand. The French school of psychoanalysis has contributed a number of them: Roudinesco (2011), Zizek (2006), Duthey (2003), and Haddad (2002).

Taking Freud's monograph Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious as a blueprint, the authors reread Freud through Lacan's lens, grasping the reader in a remarkable overview of comedy that is a joy to understand. Of course, although dissecting humor may obstruct the comedy, this well-written book preserves its playfulness and brings out a smile, even a laugh. Dreams, “the royal road to the unconscious,” are viewed as “puns, witticisms, and one-liners.” A joke is the road to the unconscious. When we make an interpretation during treatment, making the obvious explicit and resonating with the patient's unconscious, we recall that the patient laughs or that there is laughter through tears.

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