Notes from Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 (p133) : Interventions by Xavier Audouard & Jean Laplanche on René Spitz & the function of ‘rooting’ : Reading Group of 28th September 2013

by Julia Evans on September 28, 2013

There are further notes, including text from René Spitz’s paper  here. It is hoped to post access to this paper soon!

During the Reading Group of 28th September 2013, the following passage was read:

Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 :

Chapter X – Marginal Comments of the Dennis Potter translation : p133 of the Routledge Edition : Quote:

I am far from being of Spitz. I intend rather to defend him. I don’t mean he is right, but the work is good and sharply articulated. And I would fault you with failing to have brought out the fact that the phenomenon is analogous to what occurs in traumatic neurosis – it is, he says, the last memory before the emergence of the catastrophic reaction.


1) See here for notes on René Spitz and his use of “No and Yes”

2) Note that once again Jacques Lacan is bringing René Spitz’s conclusions into question.

Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : following paragraph p133 : quote

I embarassed you by asking you to comment on Spitz’s other works, namely, his fiction on ‘The Primal Cavity’ or at the very least his references to the screen of the dream.


1) In calling Spitz’s paper a fiction, Jacques Lacan is questioning his conclusions for a third time in as many paragraphs.

2) The Primal Cavity : a contribution to the genesis of perception and its role for psychoanalytic theory : 1955 : René Spitz : Available here

3)  From the American Psychological Association website here : details of the paper

The primal cavity: a contribution to the genesis of perception and its role for psychoanalytic theory.

Spitz, René A.

The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Vol 10, 1955, 215-240.

Abstract : The mouth as the primal cavity is the bridge between inner reception and outer perception; it is the cradle of all external perception and its basic model; it is the place of transition for the development of intentional activity and for the emergence of volition from passivity. In sleep the activity of the mind retraces its way toward the primal process, and the primal cavity then becomes the cavernous home of the dreams. 70 references.

4)  I suspect that Jacques Lacan is referring to the last sentence as ‘the screen of the dream’

Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : following paragraph p133 : quote

Spitz doesn’t on the whole elaborate on the fact that a form of reaction deriving from an earlier stage may be used in a critical situation. That seems to be a very useful idea, however, something that should always be emphasized. I think you made the point, unless it was Laplanche.


1. From Wikipedia here : Jean Laplanche ; 21 June 1924 – 6 May 2012) was a French author, psychoanalyst and winemaker. Laplanche is best known for his work on psychosexual development and Sigmund Freud’s seduction theory, and wrote more than a dozen books on psychoanalytic theory.

Laplanche grew up in the Côte d’Or region of France. In his adolescence he was active in Catholic Action, a left-wing social justice organization.[3] Laplanche attended the École Normale Supérieure in the 1940s, studying philosophy. He was a student of Jean Hyppolite, Gaston Bachelard and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In 1943, during the Vichy regime, Laplanche joined the French Resistance, and was active in Paris and Bourgogne. In 1946-47, he visited Harvard University for a year. Instead of joining that university’s philosophy department, he instead studied at the Department of Social Relations, and became interested in psychoanalytic theory. Upon returning to France, Laplanche began attending lectures and undergoing psychoanalytic treatment under Jacques Lacan. Laplanche, advised by Lacan, began studying medicine, and eventually earned his doctorate and became an analyst himself, joining the International Psychoanalytical Association, of which he remained a member until his death.

Laplanche continued his political activity. In 1948, Laplanche was one of the founding members of the organization Socialisme ou Barbarie (Socialism or Barbarism) after breaking with Trotskyism, but notes that the group’s “atmosphere soon became impossible”, due to the influence of Cornelius Castoriadis, who “exerted hegemony over the journal.” Nevertheless, Laplanche remained “in favour of the thesis of Socialisme ou Barbarie” until 1968.

2)  Jean Laplanche was one of the founders of the Association Psychanalytique de France (1964) and served also as its president in 1969-1971.  [JE : So split with Jacques Lacan at this point]

3)  Laplanche started publishing in 1961, so after this intervention, on seduction theory, the “object” of psychoanalysis, etc

4)  From Cathy Caruth’s interview with Jean Laplanche in 1994 : available here :  Introductory paragraph : His pioneering work on Freud’s early writing first revealed the temporal structure of trauma in Freud and its significance for Freud’s notion of sexuality. In his later work, Laplanche has elaborated on this understanding of what he called Freud’s “special seduction theory” in a “general seduction theory,” which examines the origins of the human psyche in the “implantation of the message of the other.” I interviewed him in his home in Paris on October 23, 1994.

Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : following paragraph p133 : quote

Spitz is reduced to having a mechanism as passive as that of traumatic neurosis intervene. He thus implies some preceding frustration of the infant. He considers the act of “rooting” … It is surprising that he expresses it in an isolated form, on the basis of a given case, and not in general.


1) Jacques Lacan once again criticises René Spitz’s work

Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : following paragraph p133 : quote

[Statements by Mr Smirnov and Mr Laplanche; a question from Mr Audouard: “Why do you speak to us about the Thing instead of simply speaking about mediation?”]


1) The full version of these statements and questions is available, in French, here

2) From Concept and Form:
The Cahiers pour l’Analyse
and Contemporary French Thought : website supported by Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) and Kingston University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. : available here  : Xavier Audouard (1924–2004)

A practicing psychoanalyst for more than fifty years, Xavier Audouard was an early associate of Jacques Lacan’s who was noted for his special interest in the relation between psychoanalysis and Hegelian dialectics. A Jesuit from 1943, Audouard left the religious order and entered into analysis with Lacan from 1958 to 1962 and from 1965 to 1969. Much like Serge Leclaire’s contribution, Audouard’s grants to the Cahiers pour l’Analyse the imprimatur of a practicing analysis. In an interview, he once avowed that he had little interest in topology or the various other formal sciences that so exercised Lacan and the Cercle d’Épistémologie (although he did maintain a lifelong amateur engagement with astronomy). In the spring of1965, Lacan invited him to contribute a lesson on Plato’s Sophist to his seminar, which is reproduced in Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis. Jean-Claude Milner’s ‘Le Point du signifiant’ (here) was first delivered in the same seminar several weeks later. The two ‘lessons’ are reproduced together in a dossier in volume three of the Cahiers devoted to Plato’s Sophist. In Audouard’s and Milner’s contrasting lessons we see different views of the relationship of the subject to non-being, with Audouard making a case for their conceptual unity in a kind of dialectical closure, with Milner instead arguing for the vacillating nature of non-being as both function and term and thus as a barrier to conceptual synthesis.

Selected Bibliography

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse: Xavier Audouard, ‘Le Simulcre’, here

‘Pourquoi Hegel? Lettre au Docteur Charles Durand en réponse à sa question’. La Psychanalyse. 5 (1959): 235-256.

3) From Wikipedia here : Yvan Audouard is a French man of letters, born 27 February 1914 in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City ) of a military father from Avignon. He died in the night from Saturday 20 to Sunday 21 March 2004 at his home in Paris .

He was a journalist at the Journal based in Lyon during the war, and then Franc-Tireur (Sniper) in 1944 (often under the pseudonym Francis Fontvieille). Alternately writer, humorist, storyteller, screenwriter, he became from 1945 a journalist Paris in various media outlets including Paris-Presse , Paris Day and ORTF . He then joined le Canard enchaîné (Chained Duck – similar to the British Private Eye) where he worked for thirty years.

He published several humorous books, pamphlets, and a thriller called Anthony the virtuous.

4)  Of the 3 known interlocutors, Yvan Audouard appears to be the only one who was not in analysis with Jacques Lacan. 

Further information:

‘Posts for the “A. Reading Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis”’ category : 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 for the “Lacan Jacques” category : Available here

Posts for the “Freud Sigmund”category : Available here