Australasian Journal Of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
NO.1&2 - 2022
Australasian Journal Of
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
NO.1&2 - 2022

A few remarks on ‘A Lacanian View of Infancy’, thirty years later

Leonardo S. Rodriguez

I am grateful to the Editor of our Journal and her team for the opportunity to reflect in writing on my work in psychoanalysis with children over the last thirty years. I have included a list of my publications in this field during that period which partly represents my clinical findings, conceptual research on a number of questions and my little contribution to psychoanalytic theory since 1992.

The invitation also moved me personally, and induced a sentiment of nostalgia when I found myself once again in the company of dear friends and colleagues, with whom I spent many hours talking about things psychoanalytic and beyond, as well as actually working in seminars, study groups and conferences: the late Isla Lonie, Ann Cebon and Craig Powell. In many ways their generosity made my life in my country of adoption easier, and offered me multiple opportunities for sharing ideas and experience in what continues to be the very difficult task of creating something with a child through psychoanalysis – something that offers an alternative to suffering and helplessness.

I also appreciate the contribution that Julian Katz made by writing an introduction to the original collection of articles on the infant, even if I cannot omit saying that his references to the works of Klein, Kohut and Lacan are mistaken, which I cannot understand except by imagining that he did not study those works properly.

I still maintain the conceptual principles and clinical approach reflected in my 1992 paper, although today (and with the benefit of hindsight) I would elaborate further on them. But I prefer now to present a summary of my clinical and research work in psychoanalysis with children during these thirty years.

1. Lalangue, discourse and the acquisition of language
Psychoanalysis studies and makes use of the formative power of language and discourse (or language in action). In the last ten years of his working life, Jacques Lacan introduced and developed a concept that is still work-in-progress for us, and for which he created a neologism: lalangue (la + langue). The word condenses the term langue (‘language’ is the usual English translation), which designates since Ferdinand de Saussure the synchronic system of any natural language, and evokes the first verbalizations of the infant (la-la-la), the infans first attempts at engaging in discourse, as well as the mother’s imitation of the infant’s first speech (which has been called motherese or baby talk by the specialists). This foundational conversation leaves the first marks in the emerging subject of not only language but also the unconscious itself. Freud had already proposed a conceptual framework to give an account of the first inscriptions in the unconscious (Cf. Letter 52 to Fliess in Standard Edition 1).

We have much to learn from contemporary studies on language acquisition. They are not generally based on the psychoanalytic experience, but are nevertheless enlightening in their apprehension of the structural link between, on the one hand, the acquisition of material components of language and the rules that govern their usage and, on the other, a foundational jouissance that invades the infant and the mother (or whoever performs her function), which for the rest of the subject’s life will animate the experience of the voice and the word, and be particularly active in the formations of the unconscious (dreams, parapraxes, jokes, symptoms and the free associations of the patient in analysis). [Cf. Rodríguez 1998; 2008a; 2013; 2016; 2017b; 2017c; 2020; 2022]

2. The constitution of the human infant as a speaking being and a subject of language and of desire
This area of enquiry was already considered in the 1992 paper, but I worked further on the distinction between the subject of language and the subject of desire (clinically relevant, particularly in the diagnosis and treatment of the psychoses); between the subject of the enunciation and the subject of the statement (relevant, among other applications, for the understanding of autism and schizophrenia); between sense and reference (according to Lacan, and beyond the conceptual distinction first established by Frege), which is especially useful in the conception and practice of psychoanalytic interpretation. By now, in our perspective of the human being in analysis and the direction of the treatment, we are guided by Lacan’s concept of the subject of the unconscious as parlêtre (another neologism, based on the condensation of parle + être, or ‘being of speech’, i.e. being constituted by speech; also: par + lettre, ‘by the letter’). The usefulness of these concepts becomes evident as soon as one applies them in clinical practice: it is then clear that they are not metapsychological notions, but concepts grounded in the experience of psychoanalysis.

Even before his/her conception, language and discourse impose on the human being a fundamental alienation which is the source of both creative and traumatic effects. It is the task of psychoanalysis to assist the subject of any age to separate his/her living existence from those effects of alienation, i.e. to become a being that is irreducible to language and discourse, to what he/she has been told he/she is and to what he/she has been telling him/herself he/she is. [Cf. Rodríguez, 1992; 1996a; 1996c; 1998; 1999; 2001a; 2001b; 2006a; 2016; 2017c; 2019; 2020; 2022]

3. The ethical law and human desire
The ethical dimension of human life starts very early, as Freud indicated in his Project for a Scientific Psychology, where he regarded it as a direct derivative of the original state of helplessness. The psychoanalysis that Freud created is fundamentally an ethical experience: it is not only practical reason (as Kant defined ethics), but also a radical enquiry into the subject’s ethical position, which using her own terms Melanie Klein ascribed to the infant since the beginnings of life. This is particularly relevant to the questions posed by the ending of an analysis. I have investigated the particular questions that ethics brings to the psychoanalyst who works with children, and the specific problems engendered by contemporary cultural developments in sexual practices. [Cf. Rodríguez, 1992a; 1992b; 1994a; 1994b; 1995a; 1995b; 1999; 2001d; 2003; 2004; 2005b; 2006b; 2007a; 2007b; 2007d; 2008b; 2011b; 2012; 2014; 2017c; 2019a; 2019b; 2020]

4. Revision of the Oedipus complex
Lacan insisted until the end of his life that it was for others to be Lacanian if they so wished; as for him, he was a Freudian. And a Freudian he was, but not an obsequious one: he could be a harsh critic of Freud, the difference with other harsh critics of Freud being that he knew what he was talking about, having studied the works of Freud and dissected them as no other critic. Lacan reviewed the Freudian conception of the Oedipus complex in, roughly, two different periods: the first, in his Seminar V, on the formations of the unconscious; and the second, in his Seminar XVII (The other side of psychoanalysis), Seminar XX (Encore), Seminar XXII (RSI) and Seminar XXIII (The Sinthome). His initial revision was inspired by the author who had the most important single influence on his work: Claude Lévi-Strauss (The Elementary Structures of Kinship, 1949). The Lacanian conceptual revision of what Freud called the Oedipus complex has had a revolutionary impact in clinical psychoanalysis, particularly in what concerns feminine sexuality and the process of what he called sexuation. This is for us, again, work-in-progress, and in this brief account I can only refer to the relevant texts that appear among the references of my published works and on which I wrote commentaries and clinical applications. [Cf. Rodríguez, 1992b; 1993; 1995a; 1996a; 1996c; 1998; 1999; 2001a; 2003a; 2007b; 2008b; 2009c; 2011a; 2015; 2016a; 2016b; 2017c; 2019; 2020]


5. Other theoretical contributions
The psychoanalytic work with children and with people of all ages inspired a few studies that I have managed to put in writing over these thirty years. They mostly involve clinical problems, with some rudimentary incursions in the philosophical, logical and linguistic fields. I continue to work on the process of language acquisition and the infant’s insertion into human discourse; ethical questions that specifically emerge in our practice, and the application of developments in mathematical topology and the theory of knots, which occupied Lacan in the last years of his life, and about which he left a good number of open questions. [Cf. Rodríguez, 1992a; 1993; 1995b; 1996b; 2001c; 2003b; 2004; 2005a; 2005b; 2007c; 2008b; 2009a; 2009b; 2011b; 2012; 2015; 2017a; 2020]

Relevant publications, 1992-2022

L. RODRIGUEZ (1999). Psychoanalysis with Children. New York and London: Free Association Books.

Book chapters
J. AITKEN (Rapporteur), L. RODRIGUEZ et al. (1992a). La position de l’analyste dans le transfert. In Les strategies du transfert en psychanalyse. Paris: Navarin, 361-366. [Also in Spanish: Las estrategias de la transferencia en psicoanálisis. Buenos Aires: Manantial, 330-335.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1998). El decir autista. In Temas cruciales 1, 51-64. Buenos Aires: Atuel.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2001a). ‘Autism and Childhood Psychosis’; ‘Desire’ and ‘Name-of-the Father’. In H. Glowinski, Z. Marks and S. Murphy (Eds.), A Compendium of Lacanian Terms. London and New York: Free Association Books.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2003). Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges. In The Best Australian Essays 2002. Melbourne: Black Inc., 342-355.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2004). Transference, countertransference and the analyst’s desire. In C. Chouraqui-Sepel (Ed.), The Clinical of Transference: Lacan’s Seminar VIII. Paris: Formations Cliniques du Champ Lacanien, 45-63.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2007a). The ethical goals of psychoanalysis in the twenty-first century. In C. Soler (Ed.), The ethic of analytic treatment. Paris: Formations Cliniques du Champ Lacanien, 107- 121.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2009a). A true affect. In C. Soler (Ed.), Anxiety, the Affect of the Real. Paris: Formations Cliniques du Champ Lacanien, 69-80.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2011a). The Making of Love. In C. Soler (Ed.), Sexual Identity and the Unconscious. Paris: Formations Cliniques du Champ Lacanien, 47-66.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2016a). Hysterics today. In A. Grose (ed.) Hysteria Today. London, Karnac.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2017c). Psychoanalysis with children, the work with the parents, and the clinical structures. In C. Owens and S. Farrelly Quinn (eds.) Lacanian Psychoanalysis with Babies, Children, and Adolescents. London, Karnac.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2019). The lessons of little Hans. In C. Owens and N. Almqvist (eds.), Studying Lacan’s Seminars IV and V : From Lack to Desire. London and New York, Routledge.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2020). Une expérience psychanalytique orientée par l’œuvre de Jacques Lacan. In A. Nguyên (ed.), La clinique lacanienne. Paris, Stilus.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2022). The lessons of autism. In L. Tarsia and K. Valendinova, Treating Autism Today: Lacanian Perspectives. London and New York, Routledge.

Articles in journals
L. RODRIGUEZ (1992b). Analyser ou éduquer. La Lettre mensuelle 107. Paris: École de la Cause Freudienne, 33-35.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1993a). At the limits of the transference: psychoanalysis and autism. Analysis 4, 73-76. [Also in Spanish: En los límites de la transferencia (psicoanálisis y autismo). Uno por Uno 33, 54-57]

L. RODRIGUEZ (Rapporteur) et al. (1993b). The end of analysis: a comparative review. Analysis 4, 97-104. [Also in French: In La conclusion de la cure. Paris: Eolia (1994), 317-328); and in Spanish: In La conclusión de la cura. Barcelona: Eolia (1994), 317-328.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1994a) Rencontres avec Jorge Luis Borges. L’Âne, Le magazine freudien, 57-58.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1994b) Le False Memory Syndrome. L’Âne, Le magazine freudien, 57-58.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1995a). One hundred years of psychoanalysis. Australian Book Review 174, 36-39.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1995b). The ethics of psychoanalysis and the malaise of our culture. Analysis 6, 120-132.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1996a). The archaic maternal superego. Journal of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research 7, 25-43.

L. RODRIGUEZ (Rapporteur) et al. (1996b). Interpretation and truth. Analysis 7, 46-50. Also in French: Interprétation et vérité. In La Lettre mensuelle 147, 4-6.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1996c). The family and the subject: a Lacanian perspective. Analysis 7.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1996d). Letter from Australia. The Knot 1, 35-37.

L. RODRIGUEZ (1998). The mother, the child, the truth and the symptom. Analysis 8.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2001b). Autistic speech. Analysis 10. [Also in French: Le dire autistique. Trèfle 2, 73-88; in Portuguese: O dizer autista. In S. Alberti (Ed.), Autismo e esquizofrenia na clínica da esquize. Rio de Janeiro: Marca d’Água, 245-257; and in Spanish: El decir autista. In Las Psicosis en la Infancia, Temas Cruciales I. Buenos Aires, Atuel.]

L. RODRIGUEZ (2001c). Book reconsidered: The Interpretation of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud. A. & N.Z. J. Psychiatry 35:3, 396-401.

L. RODRIGUEZ, M. WILLIAMS and A. LEWIS (2001d) Au sujet de l’histoire de la function didactique en psychanalyse. In L’effet didactique en psychanalyse. Paris, Forums du Champ lacanien.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2003a). From the sublime to the ridiculous. Australasian J. Psychotherapy 22:1, 38-50.

C. DAVIS, A.LEWIS, U. PATON and L. RODRIGUEZ (2003b). The psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis. Analysis 12.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2005a). Destruction and creation of the world in the psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis. Australasian J. Psychotherapy 24:1, 8-30.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2005b). Psychoanalysis in the ‘posthuman’ era. Australasian J. Psychotherapy 24:2, 55-77.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2006a). Diagnosis in psychoanalysis. Web Journal of the CFAR, at

L. RODRIGUEZ (2006b). Some reflections on the last three sessions of Lacan’s Seminar VII. Web Journal of the CFAR, at

L. RODRIGUEZ (2007b). Sexual malaise in the twenty-first century. Analysis 13.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2007c). Plato’s cure for hysteria. Sit venia verbo 2, 31-32.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2007d). Freud’s dream and ours. Australasian J. of Psychotherapy, vol. 26 No. 2.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2008a). Autistic transference. Journal of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research 18, 135-155.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2008b). O ser-para-o-sexo. Stylus [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil] 17, 23-34.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2009b). Body parts. Analysis 15, 63-74.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2009c). Claude Lévi-Strauss in the century. Analysis 15, 191-198.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2011b). A desire for what is possible. Analysis 16, 51-63.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2012). Borges and immortality. Australasian Journal of Psychotherapy vol 30 No 1, 41-52.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2013). Discourse and lalangue. Analysis 18, 151-166.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2014). A response based on evidence. Analysis 19, 171-174. [In French: Une réponse fondée sur le preuve (d’efficacité). Champ Lacanien 13, 55-59; in Portuguese: Uma resposta com base em evidência. Stylus 26, 67-70].

L. RODRIGUEZ (2015). Notes on the analysis of perversions. Analysis 20.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2016b). The Oedipus Complex from Freud to Lacan. Australasian J. of Psychotherapy, vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 7-30.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2017a). Narcissisme et l’inconscient. In L. Izcovich (ed.) Les issues du narcissisme. Paris, Cours du Collège de Clinique psychanalytique de Paris, pp. 31-52.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2017b). The imposition of discourse. Analysis 21.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2019a). Psychoanalysis and authoritarianism. Australasian J. of Psychotherapy, vol. 37 No. 1.

L. RODRIGUEZ (2019b). Politics and psychoanalytic praxis. Analysis 22.

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