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Number 12: Summer 2016

Review: Seductions and Enigmas: Laplanche, Theory, Culture, edited by John Fletcher and Nicholas Ray, Laurence and Wishart: London, 2014, 365 pp., ISBN: 978 1 909831 08 7

Robert Weiss

Since the first English translation of his work, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, in 1976, the influence of Jean Laplanche has steadily increased among Anglophone psychoanalysts and scholars. Until that point he was best known for the critical dictionary of psychoanalysis he co-wrote with Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, which offered an analysis of Freudian terms and concepts and can be seen to be the beginning of a project that continued until Laplanche’s death in 2012—to constitute ‘new foundations’ for the theory of psychoanalysis. ‘My tactic,’ Laplanche states in his 1987 book New Foundations for Psychoanalysis, ‘has always been to take an apparently classic theme in Freudian psychoanalysis, and to call it into question, challenge it and problematise it.’

In the excellent introduction to their book, which brings together essays by Laplanche and by a range of clinicians and scholars, John Fletcher and Nicholas Ray outline the themes and ideas behind these new foundations. New foundations that constitute a faithful reading and a radical departure from classical notions surrounding Freud’s metapsychology; a going astray—from Freud and by Freud.

There are three essays by Jean Laplanche in this volume: ‘Interpreting (with) Freud’ from 1992, and ‘Sublimation and/or Inspiration’ and Exigency and Going Astray’ from 2002 and 2006. They have been judiciously chosen by the editors to provide theoretical elaborations of Laplanche’s foundational theories of psychoanalysis, and they show how he retains a faithfulness to the project of not only calling Freud to question, but using strictly Freudian methods to do so. They also retain, most faithfully, the two key elements of his reworking of Freud: the effects of translation on the psychical processes, and the development of his General Theory of Seduction.