I am working on the assumption that our psychic mechanism has come into being by a process of stratification: the material present in the form of memory traces being subjected from time to time to a rearrangement in accordance with fresh circumstances - to a retranscription. Thus what is essentially new about my theory is the thesis that memory is not present once but several times over, that it is laid down in various kinds of indications.
Freud, Letter to Fliess, 6 December 1896 1
In his book, The Return of the Real (1996), Hal Foster draws attention to the critical possibilities made available by positing the psychic processes of ‘rearrangement’ and ‘retranscription’ as material social practices. By insisting on the productivity of linking ‘turns in critical models’ with ‘returns of historical practices’, Foster attempts to demonstrate how ‘a reconnection with a past practice’ might ‘support a disconnection from a present practice and/or a development of a new one’. 2 For example, he locates in Lacan’s famous ‘return to Freud’ the desire to perform a rigorous rereading of the foundational texts of psychoanalysis that not only seeks to ‘restore the radical integrity of the discourse but to challenge its status in the present, the received ideas that deform its structure and restrict its efficacy’. This, he argues, is a ‘contingent strategy’ which ‘reconnect[s] with a lost practice in order to disconnect from a present way of working felt to be outmoded, misguided, or otherwise oppressive’. 3 In this respect, the key to Lacan’s endeavour is the identification of an implicit connection between Freudian theory and structural linguistics, a connection unavailable to Freud but crucial to the renewal of psychoanalysis as a paradigm. By introducing one field of critical inquiry to another, by explicitly staging the implicit dialogue between them, Lacan is able to effect a ‘retranscription’ of psychoanalytic discourse.
The more modest project of this book is to deploy a similarly contingent strategy in exploring a range of connections between psychoanalysis and performance, both