Introduction and reply to Jean Hyppolite’s presentation of Freud’s ‘Verneinung’ & the commentary : 10th February 1954 : Jacques Lacan & Jean Hyppolite

by Julia Evans on February 10, 1954

These are published in the Écrits : 1966 (Availability given Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here) in three parts:

Introduction to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary
on Freud’s “Verneinung”

Response to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s “Verneinung”

A spoken commentary on Freud’s ‘Verneinung’, by Jean Hyppolite

Published in translation:

7th December 2018 : To request a copy of any text whose weblink does not work, contact Julia Evans: : For fuller details, see Notice : Availability of texts from LacanianWorks by Julia Evans or here


1) By John Forrester

i)  This version is very short and much of Jacques Lacan’s detailed argument is missing.  p52-61 of Seminar I :10th February 1954 : Chapter V, Introduction and reply to Jean Hyppolite’s presentation of Freud’s ‘Verneinung’ : Availability  Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here

ii) A spoken commentary on Freud’s ‘Verneinung’, by Jean Hyppolite : 10th February 1954

This was presented during Jacques Lacan’s Seminar I : On Freudian Technique on 10th February 1954

Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s “Verneinung” : 10th February 1954 : translated by John Forrester : in the Appendix (p289-298) of Seminar I : Availability given Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here

2) Translated by Bruce Fink (This text is more complete)  :

Introduction to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary
on Freud’s “Verneinung”   p308

Response to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s “Verneinung”        p318

A spoken commentary on Freud’s ‘Verneinung’, by Jean Hyppolite          p746

Of : Écrits, Jacques Lacan, The first complete edition in English : W.W. Norton & Co : 2002 :   (Details Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here)

Available here  & Part 2 here

3)  Published in French:

Originally published as ‘Commentaire parlée sur la ‘Verneinung’ de Freud’, La Psychanalyse 1, 1956, p29-40.

Published, in French, at École Psychanalyse, Pas Tout Lacan here and available as : 1954-02-10, Introduction au commentaire de Jean Hyppolite sur la Verneinung de Freud (9 pages) or here

Reprinted as Ch V & APPENDIX of  Le Séminaire I, Les Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1975

& two of the Écrits (Introduction and Réponse) & the Appendix I of Lacan’s Écrits, 1966, p879-887,

and also in Jean Hyppolite, ‘Figures de la pensée philiosophique, écrits  de Jean Hyppolite, Parais: PUF, 1971, Vol 1, p385-396


– Ego psychology and interpretation in psychoanalytic therapies (Case ‘fresh brains’) : December 1948 (New York) [1951] : Ernst Kris or here : P59-61 of John Forrester’s translation

– Negation (Verneinung)  : 1925h : Sigmund Freud : Standard Edition Vol. XIX

– Intellectual Inhibition & Disturbances in Eating (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : September 1933 [Published1938] : Melitta Schmideberg or here

P321 of Bruce Fink’s translation : From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The ‘Wolf Man’) : 1914[published 1918b] : Sigmund Freud

Standard Edition: Vol 17 (SE XVII): p3 or Penguin Freud Library (PFL) : Vol 9: p225

Published at Richard G. Klein’s site and available here


Jacques Lacan comments Dream ‘fresh brains’ in Seminars I, III, VI & X and Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis : 26th & 27th September 1953 & Direction of the Treatment : 10th to 13th July 1958 or here


– Referenced by Russell Grigg in his intervention to the NLS Congress in Tel Aviv, on 2nd June 2019, on “References for Signifiers in the Real: from Schreber to the Wolf Man” [This is Lacan’s analysis of the Wolfman.]

Quote from Grigg :  So, where do we find these phenomena in their “raw state”? Is there anywhere where the signifier in the real is presented to us in non-discursive form? Luckily, there is. The Wolf Man’s hallucination as a child is a case in point, and it is discussed in “Response to Jean Hyppolite”


P321 of Bruce Fink’s translation : I need go no further to find such an example than to take up the one that fell into our lap last week, by investigating a significant moment in the analysis of the Wolf Man. [Reference 2]

I believe that you still recall the hallucination whose trace the subject finds anew when he remembers [a scene from his childhood]. The hallucination appeared erratically in his fifth year, but it comes to him now with the illustration whose falsity is soon demonstrated, that he has already told Freud about it. Our examination of this phenomenon will be rendered easier by what we already know about its context. For it is not on the basis of an accumulation of facts that light can shine forth, but on the basis of a fact that is well reported with all its correlations, in other words, [p322/Fp385] with the correlations that one forgets precisely because one does not understand the fact – except when a genius intervenes intervenes who formulates the enigma precisely (here again) as if he already knew its solution(s).

This context is furnished to us in the obstacles to analysis that this case presented, Freud seeming to proceed here from one surprise to the next. For he did not, of course, have the omniscience that allows our neopracticitioners  to situate case planning at the crux [principe] of the analysis. Indeed, it is in this very case study that he asserts with the greatest force that the crux should be quite the opposite – namely, that he would rather give up the entire stability of his theory than misrecognise the tiniest particularities of a case that might call his theory into question. This means that even if the sum total of analytic experience allows us to isolate some general forms, an analysis proceeds only from the particular to the particular.

The obstacles of the present case, like Freud’s surprises – assuming you remember not only what came to light last week but also my commentary on this case in the first year of this seminar [Reference 3] – lie at the heart of contemporary concerns: namely, the “intellectualization” of the analytic process, on the one hand, and the maintenance of repression, despite conscious acknowledgement [prise de conscience] of the repressed, on the other.

For Freud, in his inflexible inflection of analytic experience, comments here that, although the subjecy manifested in his behaviour that he had access (not without audacity) to genital reality, the latter went unheeded in his unconscious where the “sexual theory” of the anal phase still reigned.

Freud discerns the reason for this phenomenon in the fact that the feminine position, assumed by the subject in the imaginary capture of the primal trauma (namely, the one whose historicity gives the case write-up its major raison d’être), makes it impossible for him to accept genital reality without inevitably being threatened with castration.

But what Freud says about the nature of the phenomenon is far more remarkable. It is not a question, he says, of repression (Verdrängung), for repression cannot be distinguished from the return of the repressed in which the subject cries out from every pore of his being what he cannot talk about.

Regarding castration, Freud tells us that this subject “did not want to know anything about it in the sense of repression” (“er von ihr nichts wissen wollte im Sinne der Verdrāngung”). [Footnote 4] And to designate this process he uses the term Verwerfung, for which, on the whole, I would propose the term “excision” [retranchement]. [Footnote 5]

Its effect is a symbolic abolition. For, when Freud says, “Er verwarf sie,” “he excises” castration (adding, “und blieb auf dem standpunkt des Verkehrs im After,” “and held to his theory of anal intercourse”), he continues: “thereby one cannot say that any judgment regarding its existence was properly made, but it was as if it had never existed.” [Footnote 6]

Several pages earlier, right after having determined the historical situation of this process in the subject’s biography, Freud concluded by distinguishing it expressly from repression in the following terms: “Eine Verdrāngung ist etwas anderes als eineVerwerfung.” [Footnote 7] …

The process in question here known as Verwerfung, which I do not believe has ever been commented on in a sustained manner in the analytic literature, is situated very precisely in on of the moments that Prof Hyppolite has just brought out for us in the dialectic of Verneinung: Verwërfungis exactly what opposes the primal Bejahungand constitutes as such what is expelled. You will see proof of this in a sign whose obviousness will surprise you. For it is here that we find ourselves at the point at which I left you last week, a point beyond which it will be much easier for us to after what we have just learned from Prof. Hyppolite’s talk.

… has just brought out for us in the dialectic of Verneinung:Verwërfungis exactly what opposes the primal Bejahungand constitutes as such what is expelled. …


  1. GW XII, p103-21, [“From the History of an Infantile Neurosis,” chapter 7, “Anal Erotism and the Castration Complex,” SE XVII, 72-88] or Penguin Freud Library (PFL) : Vol 9: p225

From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The ‘Wolf Man’): 1914[published 1918b] : Sigmund Freud

Published at Richard G. Klein’s site www.Freud2Lacan.comand available here

  1. Namely in 1951-1952 : See Notes on the Wolfman : 4 sessions from 1951-1952 : Jacques Lacanor here
  2. GW XII, 117 [SE XVII, p84]
  3. [Added in 1966] As you know, having since weighed this term more carefully, I have gotten the term “foreclosure” accepted as the translation for it.

P323 of Bruce Fink’s translation : Verwerfungthus cuts short any manifestation of the symbolic order – that is, it cuts short thebejahungthat Freud posits as the primary procedure in which the judgment of attritibution finds its root, and which is no other than the primordial condition for something from the real to come to offer itself up to the revelation of being, or, to employ Heidegger’s language, to be let-be. For it is clearly to this distant point that Freud brings us, since it is only afterwards that anything whatsoever can be found there as existent [comme étant].

Such is the inaugural affirmation, which can no longer recur [être renouvelée]except through the veiled forms of unconscious speech, for it is only by the negation of the negation that human discourse allows us to return to it.

But what thus becomes of that which is not let-be in this Bejahung? Freud told us right away that what the subject has thus excised (verworfen), as I put it, from the opening toward being will not be refound in his history, assuming we designate by the latter term the ocus in which the repressed manages to reappear. For I ask you to note how striking the formulation is since there is not the slightest ambiguity in it: the subject will not want “to know anything about it in the sense of repression.” For, in order for him to be able to know something about it in this sense, it would have had to come in some way to light in the primordial symbolisation. But once again, what becomes of it? You can see what becomes of it: what did not come to light in the symbolic appears in the real.

… In other words, it appears in relations of resistance without transference – to extend the metaphor I used earlier, I would say, like a punctuation without a text.

For the real does not wait [attend], especially not for the subject, since it expects [attends] nothing from speech. But it is there, identical to his existence, a noise in which one can hear anything and everything, ready to submerge with its roar what the “reality principle” constructs there that goes by the name of the “outside world”. For if the judgment of existence truly functions as we have understood it in Freud’s myth, it is clearly at the expense of a world from which the cunning [ruse] of reason has twice collected its share [part].

There is no other value to be given, in fact, to the reiteration of the dividing up [partage] of the outside and the inside articulated by Freud’s sentence: “Es ist, wie man sieht, wieder eine Frage des Aussen und Innen.” “It is, we see, once more a question of the outside and the inside.” When exactly does this sentence come? First there was the primal expulsion, that is the real as outside the subject. Then, within representation (Vorstellung), constituted by the (imaginary) reproduction of the original perception, there was the discrimination of reality as that aspect of the object of the original perception, there was the discrimination of reality as that aspect of the object of the original perception which is not simply posited as existing by the subject but can be refound (wiedergefunden) in a place where he can grab hold of it. It is in this respect alone that the operation, even if it is set in motion by the pleasure principle, es apes the latter’s mastery. But in this reality, which the subject must compose according to the well-tempered scale of his objects, the real – as that which is excised from the primordial symbolization – is already there. We might even say that it talks all by itself [cause tout seul]. The subject can see something of it emerge in the form of a thing which is far from being an object that satisfies him and which involves [p325] his presen tintentionality only in the most incongruous way – this is the hallucination here in so far as it is radically differentiated from the interpretive phenomenon. As we see here in the testimony Freud transcribes as the subject speaks.

The subject tells him that :

when he was five, he was playing in the garden next to his maid, and was cutting notches into the bark of one of the walnut trees (whose role in his dream we are aware of). Suddenly, he noticed, with a terror which was impossible to express, that he had sectioned his pinkie (right or left? He doesn’t know) and that the finger was hanging on by the skin alone. He didn’t feel any pain but a great deal of anxiety. He did not have the heart to say anything to the maid who was only a few steps away from him; he let himself fall onto a bench and remained there, incapable of looking at his finger again. In the end, he calmed down, looked carefully at his finger, and – lo and behold! – it was altogether intact.

Let us leave it to Freud to confirm for us-with his usual scrupulous care, employing all the thematic resonances and biographical correlations that he extracts from the subject by the pathway of association – the whole symbolic richness of the hallucinated scenario. But let us not ourselves be fascinated by it.

The correlations of the phenomenon will teach us more, regarding what we are interested in, than the narrative that submits the phenomenon to the conditions of the transmissibility of discourse. The fact that its content lends itself to this so easily, and that it goes so far as to coincide with themes of myth and poetry, certainly raises a question, a question which can be formulated immediately, but which perhaps must be posed anew in a second moment, if only owing to the fact that we know at the outset that the simple solution is not sufficient here.

For a fact is brought out in the narrative of the episode which is not at all necessary for its comprehension, quite the contrary : the fact that the subject felt it impossible to speak about at the time. Let us note that there is a reversal of the difficulty here in relation to the case of the forgetting of a name that we analysed earlier. In that case the subject no longer had the signifier at his disposal, whereas here he is arrested by the strangeness of the signified – to so great an extent that he cannot communicate the feeling he has, even if only by crying out, whereas the person who is most suited to hear his call, his beloved Nania, is right nearby.

Instead, he doesn’t balk [moufte], if you’ll allow me the term due to its expressive value. What he says about his attitude suggests that it is not simply that  [p326] he sinks into immobility but that he sinks into a kind of temporal funnel out of which he eventually rises without having been able to count how many times he has wound around during his descent and his renascent, and without his return to the surface of ordinary time having in any way occurred in response to an effort on his part.

The feature of a temporal abyss proves to have significant correlations.

Doesn’t all of this indicate to us, in the recollection’s in some sense extratemporal character, something like the seal of origin of what is remembered?

And don’t we find in this character something not identical but that we might call complementary to what occurs in the famous sense of déjà vu …

One might say that the feeling of déjà vu comes to meet the erratic hallucination, that it is the imaginary echo which arises as a response to a point of reality that belongs to the limit where it has been excised from the symbolic.

This means that the sense that something is unreal is exactly the same phenomenon as the sense of reality, if we designate by this term the “click” [déclic] that signals the resurfacing, which is hard to obtain, of a forgotten memory. What allows the second to be felt as such is the fact that it is produced inside the symbolic text that constitutes the register of the recollection, whereas the first corresponds to the immemorial forms that appear on the palimpsest of the imaginary when the text, leaving off, lays bare the medium of reminiscence.

To understand it in Freud’s theory we need but listen to the latter all the way to the end, for if a representation is of value there only in terms of what it reproduces from the original perception, this recurrence cannot stop at the original perception, except mythically. This observation already led Plato to the eternal idea ; today it presides over the rebirth of the archetype. As for me, I will confine myself to remarking that perception takes on its characteristic of reality only through symbolic articulations that interweave it with a whole world.

But the subject has a no less convincing sense if he encounters the symbol that he originally excised from his Bejahung. For this symbol does not enter the imaginary, for all that. It constitutes, as Freud tells us, that which truly does not exist; as such, it ek-sists, for nothing exists except against a supposed background of absence. Nothing exists except insofar as it does not exist.

This is what we see in our example. The content of the hallucination, which is so massively symbolic, owes its appearance in the real to the fact that it does not exist for the subject. Everything indicates, indeed, that the subject remains fixated in his unconscious in an imaginary feminine position that evacuates all meaning from his hallucinatory mutilation.

In the symbolic order, the empty spaces are as signifying as the full ones; in reading Freud today, it certainly seems that the first step of the whole of his dialectical movement is constituted by the gap of an emptiness [la béance d’un vide].

This is what seems to explain the insistence with which the schizophrenic reiterates this step. In vain, however, since for him all of the symbolic is real.

He is very different in this respect from the paranoiac whose predominant imaginary structures I laid out in my doctoral thesis, that is, the retroaction in a cyclical time that makes the anamnesis of his troubles so difficult, the anamnesis of his elementary phenomena which are merely presignifying and which only attain that ever partial universe we call a delusion after a discursive organisation that is long and painful to establish and constitute. [Footnote 10]



  1. De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité (Paris : Le François, 1932)See ‘The Case of Aimée, or Self-punitive Paranoia’: Jacques Lacan: 1932 or here



7th December 2018 : To request a copy of any text whose weblink does not work, contact Julia Evans: : For fuller details, see Notice : Availability of texts from LacanianWorks by Julia Evans or here



Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst in Earl’s Court, London



Related texts

Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan : Notes & availability here

Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here  

Further posts:

Lacanian Transmission here

Some Lacanian history here

Of the clinic here

The Wolfman here

Topology here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Jacques Lacan in English or here

Translation Working Group here

Use of power here