24 04 09

Finally returning to the task at hand, I yesterday continued Jane Gallop’s companion to Lacan’s Ecrits, expressively titled Reading Lacan. This book addresses the problem of reading Lacan; for it is in fact a problem, given how convoluted and arcane his writing can be. Lacan’s gnosticism is not an accident of his inability as a teacher, writer, or thinker, but rather a part of the subject of what he has to teach. Gallop’s book addresses the immanent obscurity in Lacan’s work Ecrits, and (more gently than tackling the text head on, I think) guides the reader to the frames of mind in which Lacan’s writing can come to mean something, something important. Important, at least, if you take interest in the limitations of language and thought, or the philosophy of the work of writing and thinking as such.

Gallop’s style seems to continuously defer the explicit pedagogical task of explaining what Lacan means, for hers is a guide not of content but of form. If the reader is impatient while reading the first few chapters, it is because, while Gallops prefatory material seems to avoid the task and/or subject at hand, she comes to it not with the aggression of a tackler but with the tact of a learner less belligerent. The first few chapters cultivate a sense of what Lacan ’means’ through showing how what meaning his writing inspires in Gallop as his reader. Lacan himself (the name representing the authorial unity behind his works) is subjected to the analytical lens furnished by the mirror stage, rather than painting a picture of a baby in the abstract who stands up and retroactively establishes that it was a corporeal mess before that moment. Lacan’s reception in America is the partial object of Gallop’s reading of the Seminar on the ’Purloined Letter’, the proof that the evident cause of why (we ought to read Lacan in America) is hiding in plain sight.

Having not yet braved the ’raw’ Lacan myself, it is curious to read texts like Gallop’s. As she notes herself, if we want to suffer a ’Lacanian’ reading, then we would be wrong to enforce a necessary chronology when it comes to what to read:

This book will have been written for people who have read Lacan’s texts, and can most fully be understood as a response to Lacan. At the same time, the “present” book is meant to be an enticement and an orientation for a future reading of Lacan. If I were asked to suggest to my reader which should be read first, I would want to reply: both. (Gallop 2018, 92)

The easiest way to understand the suggestion that Gallop’s book should be read both before and after Lacan’s Ecrits, to which it is both an introduction and a response, is perhaps simply that Gallop wants to suggest that we should read her book multiple times. Thus it becomes both a before and an afterwards, as in the triad of Gallop-Lacan-Gallop her name occupies both positions at the same time. We could also understand the suggestion as meaning that we ought to read Lacan rather than Gallop twice, so as to produce a similarly structured but distinct triad, Lacan-Gallop-Lacan. Gallop’s position in both triads satisfies the condition of being both a response and an enticement.

Of course, the two perspectives can be synthesized in a single picture in which the relationship between Gallop and Lacan bends around, rather than running linearly from left-to-right, so that we are left with a loop that holds both texts in equal tension with each other:

┌- Gallop -┐
|          |
└- Lacan --┘

One can sample this loop to produce either of the aforementioned patterns, Gallop-Lacan-Gallop or Lacan-Gallop-Lacan. Simply begin at the preferred of the two names, and follow the loop two steps in either direction.

Though this reframing is more robust in one sense, it also reintroduces the original problem: where does one begin? Gallop’s answer (“both”) should also be read, I think, as “either, provided you go to the other and then loop back”. At least, this is how I seem to be going about approaching the impossible task of grasping a sense of “Lacan”.