The Seminar, Book I, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954


By Janusz Kotara

You will see the difficulties that this notion of the unconscious gives rise to, and my only ambition is to show you them. On the one hand, the unconscious is, as I have just defined it, something negative, something ideally inaccessible. On the other hand, it is something quasi real. Finally, it is something which will be realised in the symbolic, or, more precisely, something which, thanks to the symbolic progress which takes place in analysis, will have been. I’ll show you, following Freud’s texts, that the notion of the unconscious must satisfy these three conditions.

Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar, Book I, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954, ed. J.-A. Miller, tr. J. Forrester, W.W. Norton & Co, London/New York, 1975, p. 158.


At this point we find ourselves at the heart of the problem that Freud sets up when he says that the unconscious is located outside time. It is true, and it isn’t. It is located outside time exactly like the concept, because it is in itself time, the pure time of the thing, and as such it can reproduce the thing within a certain modulation, whose material support can be anything. The compulsion to repeat involved nothing but this. This remark will take us a very long way, indeed well into those problems of time which analytic practice generates.

Ibid., p. 243.


What is fundamentally at issue in transference, is how a discourse that is masked, the discourse of the unconscious, takes hold of a discourse that is apparent. This discourse takes possession of these emptied-out available elements, the Tagesreste, and of everything else in the preconscious order, which is made available by the smallest investment of this, the subject’s fundamental need, which is to gain recognition. It is within this vacuum, within this hollow, with what thus becomes working materials, that the deep, secret discourse gains expression. We see it in the dream, but we also rediscover it in the slip of the tongue and throughout the psychopathology of everyday life.

Ibid., p. 247.