Motives of Paranoiac Crime : December 1933 : Jacques Lacan

by Julia Evans on December 12, 1933

i)  Published Minotaure 3-4, 12th December 1933

Original publication available at /Lacan (91  Cover, table of contents, and Lacan’s article, Motifs du Crime Paranoïaque, Minotaure 3-4, December 1933 )

ii) p383-388 of De la Psychose Paranoraque dans ses Rapports avec la Personnalite (1932), Publication of Jacques Lacan’s doctoral thesis in French : 

‘De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité, suivi de Premiers écrits sur la paranoïa’ (1932) Published: Paris: du Seuil, 1975 

: Published at or download available from / texts by request.  Password from here

Related text On Paranoid Psychosis in its relationships with the personality, followed by first writings on Paranoia (Aimée) : 1932 : Jacques Lacan   or   here     &

The Problem of Style and the Psychiatric Conception of Paranoiac Forms of Experience : June 1933 : Jacques Lacan or here    

In translation, 

1) Translated by Jon Anderson, in Critical Texts 5.3 1988,  Columbia University 

Available at /lacan (July 1933)

Bilingual, see /lacan (89 Le problème du style… & Motifs du crime paranoïaque: le crime des sœurs Papin)

Various newspaper articles from the trial are included in French behind the translation.  The index of these texts is given below.

2) Translation by Russell Grigg,

Published, bilingual, as Motives of Paranoic Crimes : The Crime of the Papin Sisters, in The Lacanian Review, Issue 10, September 2020, p16-34

Bilingual with 2 translations, Jon Anderson & Russell Grigg, see /lacan (89. … 2 translations) 

Introduction to Russell Grigg’s translation : 

The mystery of the Papin Sisters and the knot of Paranoia by Laura Sokolowsky, 

The Lacanian Review, Issue 10, 2020, p14-15

Also available at  /lacan December 1933

“Lacan is a block, we take it as a whole, Lacan’s teaching is inseparable from his practice,” Jacques-Alain Miller claims. [1] This implies that we cannot separate Lacan the theoretician, the exceptional reader of Freud, the prodigious rhetorician, from the Lacan who was a practitioner of analysis. To take Lacan as a block is also to consider that his first explorations into psychosis (his 1932 thesis on the case of Aimée is its highest achievement) can be reread in the light of his final teaching. In the Seminar Le Sinthome, [Seminar XXIII : 10th February 1976 : pVI 2 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation, ] when he is considering Joyce’s relationship to writing, Lacan himself refers to his article in “Ecrits ‘Inspirdés’: Schizographie” of l93I (published by Massan, Paris). What were Joyce’s writings inspired by, he asks?

The admirable article on the Papin sisters, published by Lacan in the Surrealist review Le Minotaure at the end of 1933, is no exception to this rule. It aims to elucidate the double crime that scandalized the era: two daughters of the common people massacre two members of the bourgeoisie; French society itself was attacked, and justice must be swift! The scandal and fascination block out the logic of a criminal act that Lucan succeeds in decoding, while also giving it its tragically human signification.

One night in February 1933, Christine and Léa Papin, until then irreproachable maids in the service of a well-to-do family in Le Mans, savagely assassinated their boss and her daughter. Having committed the double crime, the sisters washed themselves, changed, and locked themselves in their room. The police found them huddled together in a bed. During the hastily put together trial, experts concluded that the two sisters were of perfectly sound mind and that their fits of anger had escalated into a homicidal rage.

Using the only medical testimony that picked up on the strangeness of the psychological couple formed by Christine and Léa Papin, Lacan takes a view opposed to the experts who had not been able to identify the subtle signs of psychosis before the accomplishment of their murderous passage to the act. For Lacan, it was an obvious case of ‘folie à deux’. He also relies on an article by Freud that was written in 1921, in which Freud discusses narcissistic object choice and the passage from

hatred to love in sibling relations, leading to an erotic and rejected homosexual fixation in the case of the paranoiac. [probably Ch VI, SE XVIII] Lacan shows that the Papin sisters were stuck in the dead end of a specular relation. In order to resolve the mystery of femininity’s connection to the phallus, these Siamese sisters only had at their disposal the real of two other female bodies, to be cut up and scrutinized. In addition, the figurative expression “to tear out the eyes” (crever les yeux à quelqu’un) was not a metaphor; since the Papin sisters did tear out the eyes of their victims while they were still alive.

In his seminar on Joyce the issues of ‘folie à deux’ and the continuation of the symptom return in the question that bears on James Joyce’s relation to his schizophrenic daughter Lucia. [Seminar XXIII : 17th February 1976 : pVII 6, VII 7, VII 8-9 & Diagram VII-6  of Cormac Gallagher’s translation, ] In addition, the knot of paranoia will correspond to the trefoil knot, and Lacan will show that when a subject knots together the imaginary, symbolic, and real, the knot is only supported by the continuity of these three dimensions, R.S.I. are from then on ‘one and the same consistence, and it is in this that paranoid psychosis consists, ” [2]

Laura Sokolowsky


“Inspired” writings: Schizography : 12th November 1931 : Jacques Lacan  : See here for quotation from pVI 2 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation.

Probably Group (Mass) Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego : 1921 : Sigmund Freud,

SE XVIII p69-143 : published bilingual by : probably Ch VI, SE XVIII p101-102


Some Neurotic Mechanisms in Jealousy, Paranoia and Homosexuality : 1922b : Sigmund Freud : 

SE XVIII p221-231 : Published bilingually at , Suggest Section C – Homosexuality SE XVIII p231

[l] Jacques-Alain Miller, “L’homme décidé,” Vacarme, no.l8 (2002/1):51-54. Online: .

[2] Jacques Lacan, The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book xxiii, ed J.-A. Miller, trans. A.R. Price (Cambridge: Polity: 2016), p41. :  See Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here   Cormac Gallagher’s translations are always preferred.

See also On Paranoid Psychosis in its relationships with the personality, followed by first writings on Paranoia (Aimée) : 1932 : Jacques Lacan   or   here     

& The Problem of Style and the Psychiatric Conception of Paranoiac Forms of Experience : June 1933 : Jacques Lacan or here    

Content of the post at /Lacan /82

Translator’s Introduction : Jon Anderson

“The Problem of Style and the Psychiatric Conception of Paranoiac Forms of Experience” appeared in the first number of Le Minotaure in June 1933 : Jacques Lacan  (Le problême du styleet la conception psychiatrique des formes paranoiaques de l’experience) and was reprinted as P383-388 of the 1975 Seuil edition. (Translated by Jon Anderson: p4-6 of Critical Texts 5(3), 1988)


 Comment jouer les bonnes  by Jean Genet

Documents rassembles et presentes par Jean Allouch : 

– Littoral n” 9 

Exorbitantes soeurs Papin

– Littoral n” 9 

Paris-soir 29 septernbre 1933 

A la veille des Assises du Mans les mobiles du crime des soeurs Papin reslent obscurs

 L’hypothèse de Ia folie a été rejetée par les experts 

“Si elle recommence, avait dit autrefois Léa, après une réprimande de sa patronne, je ne me laisserai pas faire.. 

(De notre envoye special Jérôme et Jean Tharaud) 

– Littoral no 9

Paris-soir 30 septembre 1933 

Les Soeurs Papin ont comparu cet après-midi devant les jurés de la Sarthe 

Christine, à qui il avait fallu passer la camisole de force, semble avoir maintenant retrouvé son calme. 

(De notre envoyé spécial Jérôme et Jean Tharaud) 

– Littoral 9

Paris-soir 8 octobre 1933 

L’affaire Papin et les experts 

(Par Jérôme et Jean Tharaud) 

On Paranoid Psychosis in its relationships with the personality, followed by first writings on Paranoia (Aimée) : 1932 : Jacques Lacan   or   here    

The Problem of Style and the Psychiatric Conception of Paranoiac Forms of Experience : June 1933 : Jacques Lacan or here    


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Julia Evans  

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst


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