IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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point it became a fundamental concept of French psychoanalysis, linking up again with the French origins (Charcot) of the process itself, and its diphasic character. Following the same method as Freud, Lacan coined the noun, l’après-coup (a neologism) , on the basis of the common adverb and adjective après coup . But two spellings were possible, with and without the hyphen. Later on, in order to stabilize a difference of spelling between the noun and the adjective or adverb, some authors such as Jean Laplanche coined two terms in French: “après-coup” and “effet d’après-coup”, or suggested (Chervet 2006) that the dash be reserved for the noun: thus “l’après-coup” (noun) and “après coup” (adjective and adverb). Thanks to this accentuation of Nachträglichkeit, Lacan voiced concerns about the devaluation suffered by psychoanalysis in the post-war years, marked by a psychologising and developmental ‘geneticismus’, a theory of linear and chronological temporality, and by the ego-psychology. Through his very style, Lacan attempted to take possession of the process of après-coup (Chervet, 2010). Advocating a return to Freud, he maintained that the operation of après-coup is “never over” (1971); “the nature of the construction of the symptom is to be nachträglich ” (1956); “all points of view are obliged on each occasion to start from basic principals, as nachträglich , après-coup” (1969, p. 295-307, original italics); “the nachträglich , (let us recall that we were the first to take it from Freud’s text), the nachträglich or après-coup , by which the trauma is involved in the symptom, reveals a temporal structure of a higher order (than retroaction)” (1966, p. 839/2006, p. 711, original italics ). And referring to the two phases and to the act of putting into latency, he writes: “The after was kept waiting [ faisait antichambre ] so that the before could assume its place” (Lacan, 1966, p. 197/ 2006, p. 161). Lacan clearly saw the devaluation that the concept of après-coup suffers when it is reduced to a temporal adverb and to a linear determination between two successive events. However, he avoids the economic implications of the process of après-coup regarding the real nature of the traumatic event that it accomplishes thanks to its regressive work; and he only insists on the role of overdetermination involved in the verbal chain “by the deferred action [ après coup ] of its sequence” (1966 [1958], p. 532/2006, p. 446). Thus it is once again at the heart of Lacanian causality a primacy granted to progressive temporality. The operation of après-coup is thus a restructuring of past events, a resubjectivization of an unconscious past, which is transcribed in a formation of the unconscious. Later on, Lacan put forward the image of the torus to exemplify the process of après-coup. Speaking in the sessions turns into verbal digressions made necessary by the presence in this torus of a break, a gap, the division of the subject himself. These verbal digressions enable the torus to become a Moebius strip and an expressable message. The operation of après-coup is then represented by contortions, reversals and inversions of these verbal digressions. Lacan described the psychical causality of the operation of après-coup “as being circular and non-reciprocal”, perceiving accurately the dissymmetry that exists between the two scenes II and I, as well as in sessions between the two protagonists.


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