Teaching to Transgress: The Four Discourses of Lacan (IV)

Psychoanalysis is important in the application of grammatology as a pedagogy. Applied Grammatology does not wish to eliminate speech, representation, truth as correspondence and even science from academic discourse. What it aims at is that it attempts to put them in their place. It means that it attempts to show that they are not the binary opposite of each other speech and writing. This raises the question: how are we to talk, lecture or mount a discourse in a grammatical classroom? Lacan did not use grammatology directly but he used a non-magisterial style as a necessary corollary to teach psychoanalysis as a university course. One way of entering the pedagogic significance of the work of Lacan is investigate the phenomenon of transference and countertransference comparatively, by juxtaposing the patient-analyst relations with student-teacher relations.

This approach is in contrast to Bergson and Piaget’s tradition that thinks the student grows in abstraction when the teachers know how to keep himself/ herself out. Lacan on the other hand teaches that student is already an intertwined subject. The four discourses of Lacan become our guiding map or DNA of public space that we constitute and inhabit as human subjects and struggle with each other in that space. The first discourse is the discourse of mastery, where students are often trapped in what is called writer’s block. It denies the existence of the other in the apotheosis of the self. It is basically despotic. The second discourse is the discourse of the university where a faceless bureaucracy facilitates the transmission of information. This discourse is basically regulative and disciplinary. The third discourse is the discourse of the hysteric where an individualized student carries out a border-jumping performance of a critic. It, therefore, is a discourse of an obsessive questioner. The fourth discourse is called the discourse of the analyst in which the student discovers the possibilities of connection, potentially ad infinitum. It is a discourse of an ethical listener. This is a reversal of the discourse of the master just like the hysteric discourse was the reversal of the discourse of the university. This discourse brings about the balancing of the self and the other.

We may be able to see the play of all discourse at different levels of orality, literacy and electracy. We may try to identify the dominance of one in each of them. Under the condition of orality, it seems that the dominant discourse is one of the masters. This is why we can only repeat what the master says. The master signifier or the transcendental signifier opens as well as restricts the play of the chain of signifiers on the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axis. This play is fully controlled by the master signifier. When it comes to literacy, we may notice that it is the discourse of the university that regulates it. This is why the transcendental signifier is disciplinary and accordingly sets the play of the chain of signifiers on the paradigmatic axis and syntagmatic axis. Here one has to follow the line/ discipline to be counted. In the context of electracy, one may find that the discourse of the hysteric sets the play of the chain of signs on the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axis as a performance of interrogation. This play breaks with the master’s discourse as well as the discourse of the university. Opens a transgressive boundary crossing chain of signifiers.

The question is what does this chain of signifiers do to the subject’s desire ? in the case of orality, the subject’s desire is to become the image and likeness of the master. Under the condition of literacy, the subject’s desire is to follow the code laid down by the university and become experts ordered by the laws and institutions of the university. In the case of electracy, the subject desire is thrown open to the dynamic networks of the internet and hence the subject become a hysteric. We have to note that Lacan teaches that desire cannot be fulfilled as a result of the drive to become a master, or the expert recognized by the university, even to play the hysteric is always delayed and differed. Therefore, the Challenge is to transgress the discourse of the master, the discourse of the university and that of the hysteric and embrace the discourse of the analyst. But we have to remember that none of these discourses exists in their pure forms. They intermingle and cannot be fully boxed into the role of Master or Hysteric. This means we often switch from masterly, disciplinary or hysteric practices of teaching and learning. This does not mean that these four discourses merge so as to lose their characteristics. But we can of course tell when someone talks like a master, or start talking on behalf of the university or when the discourse of hysteria stops and the voice of reason begins to shine.

In the fast-changing world of electracy, the teacher can no longer play the role of the master and be the sole producer of knowledge. Students have excess to knowledge on the tips of their fingers and cannot be expected to reproduce the voice of their master. Electracy has castrated the discourse of the master. In the discourse of the university, Knowledge and disciplinary competence takes the place of the master. This means the student is disciplined to work in a competent manner. The ecology of electracy dismantles the ecology of the university as well as of the master. The discourse of the university has become a special case in the world of internet-driven electracy. We may agree that electracy is a hysteric world. It hysterises us. It is crazy, utopian and even suicidal. It violates all textual codes of production of knowledge. It breaks the bounds of discursive limits. It is a world of excess and surplus. We need the sanity of the analyst to sail through the worlds of electracy. Listening is the mainstay of the discourse of the analyst. Listening, therefore, become the pedagogic tool. This is active and opens listening without having the need to prejudge or pre-empt the desires of the students. It is this listening that makes heterogeneous voices comfortable.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao