Letter, Trace, Archive: Freud, Lacan, and Derrida on the Signifier in Psychoanalysis

Theory and Criticism 9635 [C] 

Professor Matthew Rowlinson

Course Outline

At the center of this course will be the readings of Freud to be found in the work of Lacan and Derrida. From his work in the 1960’s on, Derrida was influenced by Lacan’s return to the letter of Freud’s text, but he also rapidly emerged as a forceful critic of the binary concept of sexual difference at the foundation of the Lacanian and Freudian analysis of culture and of the apparent logocentrism of psychoanalysis’ privileging of speech. In his late writing, Derrida incorporates into his critique of Lacan a deconstruction of the latter’s privileging of human speech by contrast to the animal trace.

With these concerns at its center, the course will read major works of Freud on language, the trace, and repetition, including selections from The Interpretation of Dreams, "The Uncanny," Beyond the Pleasure Principle and "Note on the Mystic Writing Pad." We will read important works of Lacan from the 1950’s and 60’s, including the “Seminar on the Purloined Letter” (and the story of Poe on which it comments), “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,” “Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis,” and selections from The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, and a selection of Derrida's writing on Freud and Lacan including “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” "The Factor of Truth,” “Psyché,”Archive Fever and concluding with The Animal that Therefore I am.

The works we will cover remain foundational for the study of cultural memory, trauma, and repetition; gender; language and the unconscious; and the question of the animal. This course should be of value to students working in any of these fields.