HomePhilosophia: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 14 no. 2 (2013)

Pathology and Creativity: a Sinthomatic Reading of Lacan’s Seminar XXIII

Ian Parker

Discipline: Psychology



Jacques Lacan’s innovative development of Freudian psychoanalysis entails a differentiation between registers of the “symbolic,” “imaginary,” and “real,” and then an analysis of the way these three registers are held together as three rings of the “Borromean knot.” This work is taken a significant step further in his 1975-76 Seminar XXIII, and is sometimes thought to mark the shift to a “later Lacan.” The seminar shifts its focus from “symptom” ( as a coded message to the Other, repetitively sent even unbeknownst to the subject) to the  “sinthome” as a device by which the subject configures and is configured by a little circuit of messages. The Borromean knot is now seen as held together in some circumstances by the “sinthome.” In this paper I explore what Lacan has to say about language, the Borromean knot, James Joyce, and God, and then turn to explore the place of symptoms, “sinthomes” and psychoanalysis itself in relation to psychiatry and contemporary culture. This paper is in two parts. In the first I review main lines of argument in Seminar XXIII, and then in the second part I embed Lacan’s account in the broader cultural processes in which our clinical work must be read in order to be rewritten.