Lacan on Divine Desire and Dora


Lacan’s essay Presentation on Transference re-interprets Freud’s case of Dora to re-evaluate transference as a dialectical phenomenon. Although Freud beat himself up for ruining the treatment and ultimately blamed his failure on transference, Lacan believes Freud’s heteronormative bias led him to overlook Dora’s homosexual love for Frau K (something Freud notes in passing). While I don’t want to map out the complex relationships between the characters of Dora’s case, I did want to touch briefly on Lacan’s interpretation of Dora’s desire. Lacan understands that Dora recognizes Frau K as an embodiment of the mystery of Dora’s own femininity. According to Lacan, the problem women (and I would say hysterics who aren’t necessarily women) have to come to terms with is accepting the fact that they are object of desire for men. This difficult acceptance leads Dora to idolize Frau K hoping she can help her situate herself in this social exchange. However, Dora rebels and reufses to play by the rules. She resented her father for passing her off to Herr K, Frau K’s husband, in exchange for the affair that had been going on for years between Frau K and Dora’s father. Here’s the quote by Lacan that fascinated me:

“In her [Dora] long meditation before the Madonna and in her recourse to the role of distant worshipper, this mystery drives Dora toward the solution Christianity has offered for this subjective impasse by making women the object of a divine desire or a transcendent object of desire, which amounts to the same thing” (Ecrits, 181).


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