Let us take up our account at the point we left it the last time, namely at the moment that Hirsch-Hyacinth speaking to the author of the Reisebilder whom he met at the Baths of Lucca, said to him: “And as true as God shall grant me all good things, I sat down quite as an equal, quite famillionairely.”
This then is where we will begin, with the word famillionaire which has had its good fortune. It is known because Freud takes it as his starting point.
This then is where we will recommence, and it here that I am already going to try to show you the way that Freud approaches the witticism. The analysis is important for our purposes.
In fact, the importance of this exemplary point is to show us, because, alas, there is need for it, in an unmistakable fashion the importance of the signifier in what we can call with him the mechanisms of the unconscious.
It is clearly very surprising to see already that the whole body of those whom their discipline does not especially prepare for it – I mean the neurologists – in the measure that they are working together on the delicate subject of aphasia, namely of speech deficits, are from day to day making remarkable progress in what is in question, what can be called their linguistic formation, while psychoanalysts whose whole art and technique is based on the use of the word, have not up the present taken the least account of it, even though what Freud shows us, is not simply a type of humanistic reference manifesting his culture and the extent of his reading in the field of philology, but a reference that is absolutely internal and organic.
Because I hope that since the last day, most of you at least have opened Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, you can see for yourselves that his reference to the technique of the joke qua language-technique, is very precisely the point around which his argument always pivots; and that if what emerges in terms of meaning, in terms of signification in the joke is something that seems to him to deserve to be related to the unconscious, it is only – I want to hammer home that everything that I have to say about the witticism is related to this – founded on its very function of pleasure which pivots and turns always and uniquely because of analogies of structure that are only conceivable on the plane of linguistics, analogies of structure between what happens in the joke, I mean the technical aspect of the joke, let us call it the verbal aspect of the joke, and what happens under different names that Freud discovered, moments under different names, which is the mechanism proper to the unconscious, namely the mechanisms such as condensation and displacement. I limit myself to these two for today.
Here then is where we are: Hirsch-Hyacinth speaking to Heinrich Heine; or Hirsch-Hyacinth, a fiction of Heinrich Heine, gives an account of what happened to him. Something happens at the beginning, to limit ourselves to the segment that I have just isolated, something particularly clear, raising in a way in order to put it on a plateau, to exalt it, what is to follow, this invocation of the universal witness and of the personal relationship of the subject to this witness, namely God. “As true as God shall grant me all good things”, which is incontestably something that is at once significant by its meaning, and ironic because of what reality can show us as lacking in it, but starting from here the enunciation is made: “I was sitting beside Solomon Rothschild, quite as an equal.” Here we have the emergence of the object; this „quite‟ carries with it something which is significant enough. Every time we invoke the „quite‟, the totality, it is because we are not altogether sure that this totality is really closed, and in effect this can be discovered at many levels, and indeed at every level at which this notion of totality is used.
Here in effect he begins again with this „quite‟, and he says: „quite ……..‟, and it is here that the phenomenon is produced, the unexpected thing, the scandal in the enunciation, namely this new message, this something that we do not even yet know what it is, that we are not yet able to name, and which is “……. famillionairely”, something of which we do not know whether it is a parapraxis or a successful act, an accident or a poetic creation. We will see. It can be all of these at once, but it would be well to lay stress on the formation on the strict signifying plane, of the phenomenon of what will taken up afterwards.
I will tell you what it is, and I already announced it the last day: in a signifying function which is proper to it qua signifier escaping from the code, that is from everything that had been accumulated up to this in terms of formations of the signifier in its functions as a creator of the signified, something new appears there, that can be linked to the very sources of what can be called the progress of a tongue, its changes.
We must pause first of all at this something in its very formation, I mean at the point at which it is situated in relation to the formative mechanism of the signifier. We have to lay stress on it in order to be able even to continue in a valid way on what will turn out to be the consequences of the phenomenon, even of what accompanies it, even its sources, it reference points. But the essential phenomenon, is this nexus, is this point, at which appears this new paradoxical signifier. this famillionaire from which Freud begins, and to which he repeatedly returns, on which he asks us to dwell, to which, as you will see up to the end of his speculation on the witticism, he does not fail to return as designating the essential phenomenon, the technical phenomenon that specifies the joke, and that allows us to discern what the central phenomenon is, that by which he teaches us on the plane that is our own proper plane, namely the relationship with the unconscious, and that which allows us also at the same time to illuminate from a new perspective everything that surrounds it, everything that leads it towards what can be called the Tendenzen, because it is the term Tendenz that is employed in this work, of this phenomenon that has different spheres of influences, the comic, laughter, etc…; phenomena that may radiate out from it.
Let us pause then at famillionaire. There are several ways to approach it, this is the aim, not just of this schema, but of this schema in so far as it is provided to allow you to inscribe the different planes of the signifying elaboration, the word elaboration being chosen here specially, because it is expressly chosen here, Freud introduces it specially.
Let us stress this, and in order not to surprise you too much, let us begin to perceive the direction in which it is going. What happens when famillionaire appears? It can be said that something is indicated there that we experience as a perspective opening out towards meaning; something tends to emerge from it that is ironical, even satirical, also something that is less evident, but which develops we might say, in the after-effects of the phenomenon, in what is going to be propagated from here into the world as a consequence. It is a type of emergence of an object, that itself tends rather in the direction of the comical, of the absurd, of the nonsensical. It is the famillionaire in so far as it derides the millionaire, by tending to take on the form of a figure, and it would not be difficult to indicate the direction in which in fact it tends to be embodied.
Lacan’s Seminar 5: The Formations of The Unconscious, page 16
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