Lacan & ‘Little Hans’ : July 1989 (New York) : Vicente Palomera

by Julia Evans on July 1, 1989


In his seminar on ‘la relation d’objet’ in 1957 Jacques Lacan develops the thesis that the phobic symptom is the result of a fault in the paternal function. This fault entails a difficulty in the construction of the paternal metaphor.

The link between phobia and the paternal function is already present with Freud. For both Freud and Lacan the encounter with the boy known in the analytic literature as “little Hans” is an opportunity to trace the main themes in the question of the father. Indeed, it is from this “clinical observation” that Freud will give the castration complex the fundamental place which it has come to occupy in analytic theory.

The importance Lacan attributed to the paternal function led him to refine the concept of father and to apply the three registers which he had singled out as necessary for psychic functioning; there are, then, three different fathers in Lacan’s work: the imaginary, the real and the symbolic father. From 1957 on Lacan stressed the importance of the “question of the father”, specified as being central in the analytic experience, as a questioning which, he says, is “eternally unresolved”.

Paper presented at the New York-Paris Workshop, New York, July 1989.


Analysis – The Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis in the Freudian Field : no 4 : p51-58 : 1993

Available here

Suggested References

No references are given

Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy – ‘Little Hans’: 1909 : Sigmund Freud : SE Vol X : pfl Vol 8

Seminar IV : Object Relation 1956-1957 : from 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan : Information here

Further quote from Vicente Palomera’s text:

When Lacan takes up this case, he examines what sort of relation links the mother and child, in order to find the origin of the anxiety. Hans, he says, is taken by his mother as an “all”, he is “entirely” taken up by the mother, in the totality of his being, his body. He is not loved as a “bearer of the penis” but as a “phallophore”, a representative of the phallus. The reason Hans was able to put up with this situation for a long time and play at being the mother’s phallus-the dimension of ‘as if’ and of the game is important and indicates that Hans has not chosen a perverse position-to act as if it were he who was giving satisfaction to his mother, is that Hans plays, he can play, at being the one who occupies the place of the lack opened up by the desire of the Other, here the desire of the mother.

Note : The ‘as if’ is probably a reference to

Some forms of emotional disturbance and their relationship to schizophrenia (‘as if’ case) : 1942 : Helene Deutsch or here

Quoted by Jacques Lacan

Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan : Information & availability here

Seminar III : 11th April 1956 : p192-193 of Russell Griggs’ translation : Here we obviously find the ‘as if’ mechanism that Mrs. Helene Deutsch has stressed as being a significant dimension in the symptomatology of the schizophrenias. It’s a mechanism of imaginary compensation – you can verify the usefulness of the distinction between the three registers – for the absent Oedipus complex, which would have given him virility in the form, not of the paternal image, but of the signifier, the name of the father.

Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan : Information available here : session of November 18th 1959 : on p9 of the Dennis Porter translation : referred to the ‘as if’ case.

Texts related to ‘Little Hans’

The Structural Problem of Phobia (Little Hans) : 1996 : Bernard Burgoyne or here

“Discreet Signs in Ordinary Psychoses – Clinic and Treatment”, Towards the NLS Congress in Dublin July 2016 : 10th October 2015 : Yves Vanderveken or here

Not If, but when by Bruno de Florence on August 11, 2011 or here

Guiding Principles for Any Psychoanalytic Act: 16th July 2006 : Rome : Éric Laurent or here

The Femininity-Complex in Men : 12th November, 1929 : published 1930 : Felix Boehm or here

A Short Study of the Development of the Libido, Viewed in the Light of Mental Disorders : 1924 : Karl Abraham or here

Self-punishment paranoia: Comments by Freud (1916) or here

Further Texts

By Vicente Palomera here

By Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

On ‘Little Hans’ here

Ordinary Psychosis here