Analysis of a single dream : 1936 [1937] : Ella Sharpe

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1936

Originally, one of a series of lectures on “Dreams” given to students in training under the auspices of the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, London, in the years 1934 and 1936.

Published: Dream Analysis: A Practical Handbook for Psycho-Analysts: 1937: Ella F. Sharpe: Issue 29 of International Library of Psycho-analysis, Hogarth Press

Chapter V: Analysis of a single dream

Available, from the book, as a pdf at  /authors a-z or authors by date 

References by Jacques Lacan

Jacques Lacan extensively reviews Ella Sharpe’s case in Seminar VI, availability given Seminar VI: Desire and its interpretation: 1958-1959 : from 12th November 1958 : Jacques Lacan or here, during the sessions he gave on :

14th January 1959,  Chapter 8 : p98 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

21st January 1959, Chapter 9 : p106 & p108 & p109 & p110 & p111 & p112 & p116 & p118 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

28th January 1959, Chapter 10 : p119 & p121 &p122 & p124 & p125 & p130 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

4th February 1959, Chapter 11 : p133 & p134 & p135 & p140 & p141,&p142 & p145 & p146  of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

11th February 1959, Chapter 12: p147 & p155 & p156 & p157 & p158 & p159 & of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

4th March 1959, Chapter 13 : p161 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

11th March1959, Chapter 14 : p172 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

10th June 1959, Chapter 24 : p304 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

Also Seminar VIII : 28th June 1961 : See Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here  


Seminar VIII : See See Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here 

Seminar VIII : 12th April 1961 : p199 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : … that I already took it further by saying that if this is a way of looking at things, there is all the same a singular reversal in the articulation of the problem, a reversal which clinical facts allow us to highlight. It is for this reason that I analysed at length for you, carried out a critique of Ella Sharpe’s famous dream which is precisely what my seminar analysed the last time. This dream of Ella Sharpe turns entirely around the thematic of the phallus. I would ask you to refer to this summary because I cannot be repeating myself and because the things which are there are absolutely essential. The meaning of what is in question on this occasion is this thing that I highlighted which is that, far from the fear of aphanisis being projected as one might say into the image of the castration complex, it is on the contrary the necessity, the determination of the signifying mechanism which, in the castration complex in most cases pushes the subject, not at all to fear aphanisis but on the contrary to take refuge in aphanisis, to put his desire in his pocket. Because what analytic experience reveals to us, is that something is more precious than desire itself: to preserve its symbol which is the phallus. This is the problem which is proposed to us.

p201  I ended what I taught you in connection with the dream of Ella Sharpe with these words: “This phallus” – I said, speaking about a subject caught up in the neurotic situation which is more exemplary for us in so far as it was that of aphanisis determined by the castration complex – “this phallus, is and is not. This interval – to be and not to be – the tongue allows us to perceive in a formula where the verb to be slides: ‘he is not without having it, (il n’est pas sans 1’avoir)’. It is around this subjective assumption between being and having that the reality of castration operates. In effect, the phallus” – I then wrote – “has a function of equivalence in the relationship to the object: It is in proportion to a certain renunciation of the phallus that the subject enters into possession of the plurality of objects which characterise the human world. In an analogous formula, one could say that the woman ‘is without having it, (est sans 1’avoir), which can be experienced very painfully in the form of Penisneid” – but which, I am adding this to the text, is also a great force. “This is what Ella Sharpe’s patient does not consent to see: he ‘shelters’ the signifier phallus….” and I concluded: “No doubt there is something more neurotogenic than the fear of losing the phallus, it is not to wish that the Other should be castrated.”

Also Seminar VIII : 28th June 1961 : See Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here  : p335 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : This is what the phobia means and this indeed is why its support is the phallus as signifier.

I will not need, in this connection, to recall to you, in our previous experience, everything that illustrates, everything that confirms this way of envisaging things. Simply remember the subject of “The analysis of a single dream” by Ella Sharpe, this little cough when he warns the analyst before coming into her office, everything that is hidden behind this, everything that emerges with his stories, his familiar reveries: “What would I do if I were in a place where I did not want to be found? I would give a little bark. People would say: it’s only a dog”. Everyone knows the other associations: the dog who, one day, masturbated along his leg, I mean the patient’s leg. What do we find, in this exemplary history? That the subject, more than
ever in a defensive position at the moment of entering the analytic office, pretends to be a dog. He pretends to be it, it is all the others who are dogs before he enters. He warns them to take on again their – human appearance before he enters. You must not imagine that this corresponds in any way to a special interest in dogs. In this example, as in all the others, to be a dog has only one meaning, that means that one goes “bow-wow”, and nothing else. I would bark, people would say – those who are not there – “it’s a dog”, the value of the einziger Zug.  

Other references

No references to Sigmund Freud in the text.

From ‘A Note to Readers’ : In addition to Freud’s work on ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, students attending the lectures, were recommended to the chapters on “Freud’s Theory of Dreams” and “The Theory of Symbolism” in Ernest Jones’s work ‘Papers on Psycho-Analysis’ as the most compact summary of Freud’s work on dreams.

The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud  : Available here

The Theory of Symbolism : 1916 : Ernest Jones : See The Theory of Symbolism : 1916 : Ernest Jones or here 

Further Information:

Posts for Seminar VI : towards NLS in Ghent, 2014  here

A number of the references commented on by Jacques Lacan are available at Seminar VI: Desire and its interpretation: 1958-1959 : from 12th November 1958 : Jacques Lacan or here

Posts for Reading Seminar VII  here  

A number of the references commented on by Jacques Lacan are available at Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan or here

Posts on Dreams   here


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 Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, London


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By Ella Sharpe 

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Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here 

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Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here 

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