“It is precisely around the questioning of the father, of the paternal function, I believe, it is organized the fundamental orientation of this Seminar (Lacan’s Seminar VI). And it is not by chance Lacan went to catch on The Interpretation of Dreams this dream of the dead father, which points out to the relationship of a son with his father and that constitutes a version of the father-son relationship different from the typical edipical version.”
The Dream: A father dies after a long and suffering illness and the son has repetitive dreams where the father appears alive and talking with him, as always. The son tells Freud – in the midst of hard self-reproach – that his father in the dream “Was dead but he did not know”, adding that during the painful illness, he had wanted the death of his father so that he would stop suffering, something it would had been horrible “if his father had known”. According to Freud, the “did not know” intersects the child's oedipal desire for the death of the father and the one of the present, that the father dies so he ceases to suffer.
However, the interpretation Lacan offers to this dream goes beyond the oedipal position, underlining that this is a case of psychosis. He explains it by saying that besides the field of the signifier, it is necessary to include here the dimension of the object as fantasy. It is about a dreamlike fantasy that emerges as a defense where the subject fades away when the “panic point” is touched upon. It is a mechanism that is not anymore on the side of denial but on that of forclusion. The sensation that somebody is dead without knowing it is a conviction that affects the image of the father in the dream. The subject has been abolished and the sensation comes directly from the real, that is why it cannot be a denial.
Miller states that in the first chapters of this seminar Lacan sketches out a first theory of the fantasy because he is pointing out that via the desire what emerges is the relationship with the object of the fantasy, purely Imaginary, which at that moment of the teachings overshadows the drive. However, at the end of this seminar, Lacan gives it a turn where he situates the drive in its right place, that of the object as real. Two versions of the object that many years later, at the end of his teachings, will be fused on the sinthome´s jouissance.
That is how Lacan situates the dream of the dead father, establishing a sensible difference between what Freud underlines from the dimension purely symbolic by introducing the dimension of the object, to which the subject clings confronted with the hole in the symbolic. Even when Lacan here doesn’t yet develops the notion of object a, he points out to something that goes beyond signification, affecting the sense of reality itself of this subject.
- Miller, J.-A., “The Other without Other”, Hurly Burly 10. December 2013, pgs. 15-29. New Lacanian School.
- Freud, S. Formulations of the two principles of the mental functioning (1911). The Standard Edition, Volume XIII. London, 1958.
- Lacan. J. Book VI. Desir and its Interpretation. Chapter III, pg.58. Polity Press. 2019.
- Miller, J.A. Presentation of Seminar VI. Paris, May 26, 2013. Translation by Adrian Price from the text in latigolacaniano.com