Cornell Psychoanalysis Conference- The Act: Psychoanalysis and/in its Effects

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Cornell University Psychoanalysis Reading Group
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The Psychoanalysis Reading Group at Cornell University invites submissions for its fifth annual conference, featuring keynote speakers Willy Apollon (Psychoanalyst and Philosopher, GIFRIC) and Steven Miller (Assistant Professor, SUNY Buffalo).

The Act: Psychoanalysis and/in its Effects

March 8-9, 2013
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

While psychoanalysis is a discourse that both cultivates and responds to the fact of the unconscious, it is through the act – whether symptomatic, artistic, or political – that the unconscious manifests itself on the social scene.

Lacan approaches the act through a series of seeming paradoxes. Positioned at the limit of knowledge, the act is nonetheless a "signifying intervention." While the act functions as the product and impetus of a singular desire, it is at the same time predicated on the universal or social dimension of its reception. Though the analyst knows her own trajectory in the analysis in a formal sense, she must nonetheless act from the place of her own castration, embodying the material contingency of the "new order" that such an act might introduce. If it is the analyst's act that brings into existence the unconscious as and in its effects, it is in the approach to the act in theory and practice that we hope to pose the ethical, social and epistemological stakes of psychoanalytic praxis.

Posing such questions necessarily means contemplating the varied manifestations of the unconscious – from the act manqué to acting out to the passage à l'acte – whether as the ciphered letter of the symptom or the embodiment of the drive beyond the frame of the Other. Here, the ethics of the analytic act meet the analysand's desire, a provocation whose effect is a sometimes violent confrontation with méconnaissance and the dialectical impasses of the "beautiful soul." It is perhaps in this sense that, in defining the artifice of Joyce's sinthome, Lacan describes the obstacle and concept of the objet a as one that can be grabbed with the hand "like a weapon."

The psychoanalytic act is thus both creative and destructive, inventing new possibilities and positions while simultaneously sacrificing the past and overturning existing structures of exchange and identity. Indeed, the very object of sacrifice – the narrative of a symptom's cause, the structure of sacrifice itself – is invented retroactively, created through the very separation and destruction imposed by the act. Not surprisingly, the most common avatars of the act have been drawn from Greek theater, suggesting a heroic yet tragic destiny for those who risk this performance. Yet these examples also suggest the inherently ambiguous link between the act and the polis whether it in the case of Antigone's destructive fidelity or the founding gesture of the revolutionary. Where others have asked who comes after the subject, we ask what comes after the act.

To what extent can the "dit-mension" of the act be thought of and informed by the structure and practice of speech acts, i.e., performative statements that function more as deed than as address? How is the drive expressed through extra-linguistic modes, such as gesture or image? By what means do we find the truth of the subject's singular desire or the constitutive scission of the social in the theatrics of the analytic scene or, conversely, in the aesthetics of putting on an act? How does the act dialogue with concepts in philosophy, from Alain Badiou's event to Jacques Rancière's dissensus, or from Kierkegaard's theology to Deleuze's concept of repetition? When and how do the artistic and political conditions of such concepts think (in) the act themselves? Intersecting the clinical, artistic and political, the psychoanalytic act sutures these discourses and spaces together as much as it asserts their difference.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is January 25, 2013. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words; presenters will have 25 minutes each for their presentations with ample time for discussion afterward. Please send abstracts to the Psychoanalysis Reading Group at Notices of acceptance will be sent by February 4, 2013.