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Zhou Changjiang, Chaos

The Untreatable

Ever since Freud dreamt—and then wrote, in his Interpretation of Dreams—of Irma’s injection, psychoanalysis has been propelled by a remainder. The dream marks a turning point in Freud’s relation to his own desire: it marks his assumption of his own agency and savoir beyond the fall of the Other; and it constitutes an assumption of desire intimately and, we argue, necessarily, linked to what he sees (“a white patch and turbinal bones with scabs on them”) when he looks down Irma’s throat.

In this seminar, we are interested in exploring the “untreatable” and its role in the clinic, as well as links and differences between the concept of the untreatable, developed by Willy Apollon, and what Lacan conceptualized as the object-cause of desire. As Lacan argues in Seminar XI, “Analysis is not a matter of discovering in a particular case the differential feature of the theory, and in doing so believe that one is explaining why your daughter is silent—for the point at issue is to get her to speak, and this effect proceeds from a type of intervention that has nothing to do with a differential feature.” Lacan makes clear here that the work of an analysis is not one of diagnosis, theory and identification, or explanation, but a work of speech. 

What makes it possible, then, for any analysand to open her mouth and speak? How do we as clinicians act so as to provoke and sustain speech coming from the unconscious? What does the untreatable have to do with that risk, on the side of the analyst or clinician and on the side of analysand? What does the untreatable have to do with an analysand’s assumption of her own agency, savoir, and desire? And what are the effects of framing a praxis around the untreatable for the clinics of femininity, perversion, and psychosis, in addition to the clinic of neurosis? We believe that our context involves unprecedented developments of world formation (mondialisation), that invite, and even compel, our consideration of such questions.

Possible readings: 

Freud, S., “Analysis Terminable and Interminable,” “The Economic Problem of Masochism,” “Constructions in Analysis,” selections from Interpretations of Dreams

Lacan, J., selections from Seminar VIII, Transference; Seminar XI, Four Fundamental Concepts; Television

Apollon, W., “The Untreatable”

Bergeron, D., “The Symptom”

Cantin, L., “The Untreatable Quest of Desire:

McNulty, T., “Untreatable: The Freudian Act and its Legacy”

Faculty: Shanna Carlson and Richard Reinhardt
Dates & Times: 3rd Saturday each month from 10 am - 12 pm Pacific Time, January 2023-May 2023

Location: Online
Fee: free, donation to the School encouraged

Contact: Shanna Carlson at or Richard Reinhardt at

Shanna T. Carlson, Ph.D. is a Candidate Analyst in formation with the Lacan School of Psychoanalysis. She has a private practice in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is the author of various essays and of the book Sex for Structuralists: The Non-Oedipal Logics of Femininity and Psychosis (Palgrave 2018). Website and email

Richard Hoffman Reinhardt is a psychoanalyst-in-training and a PhD Candidate in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan, where his research focuses on theories of religion and on the history and intersections between early modern Christian mysticism, missionization, enslavement, and African-diasporic religions. He teaches on psychoanalysis and culture at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy Chicago and in the MA in Art Therapy Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a member of LSP, the Chicago Psychoanalytic Circle of the École freudienne du Québec, and a clinician at Depth Counseling, a psychoanalytic group practice in Chicago.

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