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      Citation: 24 Cardozo L. Rev. 2229 2002-2003 Content downloaded/printed from HeinOnline (http://heinonline.org)Tue Mar 13 17:02:25 2012-- Your use of this HeinOnline PDF indicates your acceptance of HeinOnline's Terms and Conditions of the license agreement available at http://heinonline.org/HOL/License-- The search text of this PDF is generated from uncorrected OCR text.-- To obtain permission to use this article beyond the scope of your HeinOnline license, please use: https://www.copyright.com/ccc/basicSearch.do? &operation=go&searchType=0 &lastSearch=simple&all=on&titleOrStdNo=0270-5192  KILLING THE OBJECT:PSYCHOSIS AND THE CRIMINAL ACT Linda Belau* In French clinical psychiatry, the phrase passage l acte designates those types of impulsive acts of a violent or criminal nature indicating the onset of an acute dissociative episode. These acts supposedly mark the point at which the subject proceeds from an idea or intention to an act.' In Lacanian psychoanalysis, one s alliance with the most radical and ethical position is demonstrated through what isreferred to as the passage l acte. In this sense, one s actions are not symbolically mediated; rather, they are aligned with the real beyond the symbolic. In Seminar X, L angoisse (Anxiety), Lacan introduces the idea of the passage a / acte, likening its structure to what he calls a letting drop (niederkommen lassen).   In the passage 6 l acte, Lacan says, one topples off the stage of social relations, falling out of the realm of symbolic concerns; this is what engenders the ethical (or at least the non-pathological) dimension of the act. Grounded in his clinical work in psychoanalysis, Lacan s notion of the ethical is not thesame as the traditional ethics of moral philosophy insofar as it does not revolve around the Good, nor is it linked to pleasure, or the service of goods. Thus, passage l acte is fundamentally different from acting- out, which is more like an unconscious message that the subject addresses to the Other or in the symbolic network; the symbolic being nothing other than the field of the Other. 3 Unlike acting-out, whichmakes a call to the Other, the passage a l acte functions at the level of jouissance, of an unmediated enjoyment that is addressed to no one. 4   Linda Belau is an Assistant Professor at the University o Texas-Pan American in theDepartment o English. She is the author o several articles on psychoanalysis and literary theory and is also editor o Topologies of Trauma: Essays on the Limit of Knowledge and Experience. She is currently completing a book entitled Encountering Joussance: Trauma, Psychosis,Psychoanalysis. I See DYLAN EVANS, AN INTRODUCTORY DICTIONARY OF LACANIAN PSYCHOANALYSIS 136 (1996). 2 Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire X, L angoisse (Jan. 23, 1963) (unpublished seminar paper).   d. 4 This, incidentally is exactly how Lacan refers to the symptom in Seminar X where he 2229  CARDOZO LA W REVIEW Passage 6 / acte, therefore, is entirely devoid of pathological content; one passes to the act not for symbolic recognition or return, but for some other reason that takes one beyond such concerns. In Seminar VII where he takes up the question of the Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan maintains that Antigone makes precisely this passage as she aligns herself with the family Ate.   Antigone does not ally herself with the exiled brother because she is responding to a higher law or because she is attempting to secure her place in the divine order. She commits her crime as an act of filiality with the empty signifier (SI), with the impossibility of the symbolic order to guarantee the law it purports to inaugurate. Now, my particular interest in psychosis ultimately lies here in the question of this ethics-the horizon of the real-and its relation to an unmediated act, especially since the psychotic suffers the real as an unrelenting, unbounded attack ofjouissance as if from outside the body. I will continue this point momentarily, but, before I get ahead of myself and start making the claim that a psychotic s criminal act-serial murder, to take the example that I will turn to in this Article-is an ethical act, it is of utmost importance that we recognize that the analytic ethic which Lacan formulates necessarily relates action to desire, in the sense that desire is a question. This ethic concerns itself with a relation to the Other, the barred Other, that is, which always presents itself in and as a question: Che vuoi? This means that we must consider both the question of desire and the function of any possible Other in relation to the psychotic act. Technically speaking-and this will most certainly be elaborated below-a psychotic is not subject to the dialectic of desire. Since he has essentially no meaningful relation to or in the symbolic register and since his relations are suspended in a kind of imaginary alienation (there is no lack in the Other), the psychotic issubject to demand rather than desire. 6 Does this then mean that the psychotic is incapable of an act? In Seminar XI, Lacan relates the logic of the act to the form of repetition, maintaining that an act is not mere behavior; thus, it wouldseem, an act is something other than a response to a demand. An act, maintains that the symptom does not call for interpretation and, therefore, is not like acting-out. In its essence, the symptom is not a call to the Other, but rather has gone beyond the barrier of the good and has moved toward the Thing. Id According to Dylan Evans, this is an early configuration of Lacan s notion of the sinthome. See Dylan Evans, From Kantian Ethics to  ystical Experience: An Exploration of Jouissance in KEY CONCEPTS O LACANIANPSYCHOANALYSIS 12 (Danny Nobus ed., 1998).   See JACQUES LACAN THE SEMINAR OF JACQUES LACAN OOK VII THE ETHICS OF PSYCHO N LYSIS 1959-1960, at 247 (Jacques-Alain Miller ed., Dennis Porter trans., 1992).   1 have decided to use the traditional masculine pronoun form to apply to both sexes in order to avoid clumsy locutions like his or her and she or he throughout this essay. By choosing thus, I do not intend to suggest that only males are psychotic or to cast any aspersions whatsoever on the masculine gender. 223 [Vol. 24:6  2003] PSYCHOSIS AND THE CRIMINAL ACT he writes, a true act, always has an element of structure, by the fact of concerning a real that is not self-evidently caught up in it. 7 The structure that Lacan mentions is the very movement of repetition, and it introduces the ethical question because it compels the subject to realizethe essential relation between his actions and his desire. So, passing to the act opens one to the ethical domain only insofar as one acts in conformity with his desire and only insofar as he assumes full responsibility for this desire. This brings us to the question of the antinomy between desire and enjoyment, since the law of the Oedipalfather binds desire, and enjoyment is tied to the anal father who is freed up from the constraints and prohibitions of the law. It is precisely this question of enjoyment orjouissance that organizes my inquiry into the motivations of the psychotic serial murderer, especially since his brand of murder is typically less an impulsive, spontaneous act than one that is excessively premeditated, or at least over-determined. If nothing else, the serial pattern indicates this premeditation, and so it would seem thatthe serial killer is not simply indulging a fleeting impulse, surrendering his rational faculties to some uncivilized libidinal urge, but rather, is somehow engaged in an activity that is more about gaining control of his libido than it is about letting go and giving way to his drives. A serial murderer has made a radical passage from an intention to an act; this is not debatable. The question remains, however, whether he has also acted in accordance with his desire or whether he engages in a kind of defensive acting-out. This brings us to the question of the meaning of the act itself: Is the serial killer's act a psychotic'scompensation for the foreclosed Name-of-the-Father and, therefore, adesperate attempt to delimit jouissance or is it a perverse attempt to make present the disavowed paternal function? That is, is the murderous act an imaginary support, intended as the only viable substitute for a missing symbolic, or is it a means to bring the symbolic mandate, the Name-of-the-Father, into existence? Is the psychoticattempting to become a law unto himself (like the pervert who, in transgressing the law, invents a new one), or does the serial killer rather suffer a fundamental crisis of and indifference toward the law, an indifference that concerns him most intimately?According to the psychoanalytic account, the psychotic is not subject to the dialectic of desire because he forecloses the Name-of-the-Father. Unlike the neurotic, the psychotic has not undergone symboliccastration, also known in psychoanalysis as the process of alienation in, and then separation from, the incestuous pre-symbolic maternal relation.Instead, he is subject to an unlimited jouissance an enjoyment that is   JACQUES LACAN THE SEMINAR OF JACQUES LACAN OOK X1 THE FOUR FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS OF PSYCHOANALYSIS 1964, at 5 (Jacques-Alain Miller ed., Alan Sheridan trans., 98 223
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