SAM Seminar: Mathematics in the Bedroom: Lacan’s Logic of Fantasy

When:18 Mar 2014, 5pm - 6:30pm
Venue:Robert Webster building, lecture theatre 327
Who:School of the Arts & Media

In his Seminar XIV, Logic of the Fantasy (1965-66), Lacan outlines the reasons why sex always fails to satisfy. It is not because we have erred in our choice of partner, but because the sexual act is the ghosting repetition of a far earlier, originary choice: whether to be a Man or a Woman. An important teaching from his middle period, this seminar sees Lacan calling on an array of logical and mathematical concepts such as Aristotle’s square of opposition, formal and symbolic logic, and the golden ratio to help him further elaborate the major concepts superintending his famous “return to Freud”: the One, the Other, the subject and the object a. The seminar also continues his decades-long engagement with Aristotle, Descartes, Heidegger, Wittgenstein and others, even as it provides a fascinating foreshadowing of Lacan’s later work on sexuation and men and women’s disparate forms of enjoyment as these are developed more fully in his Encore Seminar (1971-72).

In this round table, we present work from our Lacan reading group on Seminar XIV of the past 2 years. Through a discussion of Lacan’s use of Sophoclean tragedy, Bertrand Russell’s famous paradox and Aristotle’s square of opposition, we explore the determining role language plays in Lacan’s concept of sex as it is traced through various numerical and topological structures. Lacan is often faulted by feminists for his emphasis on the phallus (a stance which is not helped by certain infamous statements concerning the non-existence of The Woman). But in this seminar we find Lacan re-situating sexual enjoyment in its proper mathematical and logical dimension as the daily reminder of the fundamental enigma that lies at the heart of the universe of discourse.

Baylee Brits is completing her doctorate in the School of Arts and Media at UNSW. She holds a Research MA from the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. Her work revolves around mathematics in 20th century prose literature.

Kate Montague is a doctoral candidate in the School of Arts and Media at UNSW. Her research interests include the postwar American novel, tragedy, and psychoanalysis.

Sigi Jottkandt teaches in the English department at UNSW. She is author of Acting Beautifully: Henry James and the Ethical Aesthetic (2005), First Love: A Phenomenology of the One (2010) and co-edits S: Journal of the Circle for Lacanian Ideology Critique (

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