Going in Circles
Josefina Ayerza

Author’s Bio

This article has been modified from its original version. At first published in Lacanian Ink 10 under the name of Rena Grant, here is the actualized version the author read at THE PARIS-USA LACAN SEMINAR, MAY 1 & 2, 2010, re-formatted by herself.

I first glimpsed Rena at the initial meeting of the Paris-New York Psychoanalytic Workshop, co directed by Stuart Schneiderman and Jacques-Alain Miller at Barnard College, Columbia University, in the Fall of 1987.

She didn’t look like anyone else. For all that, her illogical unseasonable clothing – feet bare inside high heeled shoes, her body wrapped in abstruse layers of brown, her spread of hair, her enormous eyes, made for a bizarre magnetism and a radical presence.

If Rena had a seat with a subliminal name, in the sense that no one would sit there even if she didn’t come to the Seminar, it wasn’t only because she carried the regular crowd of at least two or three hard-core punk students with her. An ongoing show, Rena in the class embodied revolt.

Whether it was against Stuart Schneiderman himself – our Lacanian professor – or maybe contra some celebrated guest who dared confront her stance – Oh! She would scream at them! The thick Scottish accent, the lilting quality of her voice, the seductiveness of her wit, added well to Rena’s self-confident posture calling on a “Lacanian, feminist, Troskist, Marxist mode of analysis.” The class would combust when cases like Freud’s Dora were seen through the new perspective.

Several months into the Seminar, I brought myself forth through the suggestion of the institution of forming a Lacan study group. Rena’s voice raised in marvel.

—What Lacan?
I heard myself say —The one and only

I shivered… How had I come to call aloud such a glib response? The delight in Rena’s face, mischievous, daring, was by now answering a secret question to myself – if I liked her so much, feared her as well it was because her rule was always amazement, indeed challenge. She surprised me once again when she said no more and how soon the silence became unbearable.

Baffled, I walked my way to the blackboard. The professor, my analyst, was asking for my name and phone number in white chalk. The class done with, Rena addressed me in the elevator – where are you from? Where do you live? Why do you want to assemble a Lacanian study group? It didn’t take long for us to decide on a drink at some bar in the neighborhood. She ordered a scotch on the rocks, myself a glass of red wine, she ordered another scotch on the rocks, myself a glass of red wine, she ordered another scotch on the rocks, myself a cappucino… Our conversation wandered from her being a teacher in the Literature Department at Columbia, to me being what they call a Lacanian… from her living and erring in the University area most of the time, to me trying to settle down in NYC; from her enjoying transgression in the meanderings of the libido, to me being mesmerized by her skill and her guts.

Through the next three years, the radiance of the Paris-New York Workshop gleaming, we managed to have a constant sort of fun, which pursued through long talks on the phone, episodes in bars, and such deviant situations as Rena winning an award for the best personal ad in the Village Voice.

In 1989, the end of the Seminar coincided with the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Paris-New York Psychoanalytic Workshop at the Alliance Française. The topic was Gender and Perversion, the outcome division – of Paris and New York.

At the same time Rena left Columbia to become a professor of English at NYU. If she offered me a room to lecture at the Literature Department – the famous study group had become the Lacan Circle of New York – it was because she cherished Lacan’s ways, specifically his way with words.

lacanian ink had, as of now, achieved a certain consistency. Rena was assumed to be writing an article on King Lear. The impossibility of finishing the article, compounded by her sporadic appearance at the meetings became the unsettling issue.

Not to mention Rena’s faucets which you had to open with a wrench, or the walking in her bathroom through puddles of water, or the columns of magazines she used for a seat… Though parties at her place were always great and somehow hilarious, an increasing loss of energy started showing up in her pale countenance.

5 years of analysis were coming to an end. To a point that my analyst’s famous blue eyes – like my father’s ones — weren’t there, not anymore…

—Talking of little objects a flying— said Schneiderman
I came to Paris, had a series of sessions with Eric Laurent

—Your analysis is finished—said Laurent
What did I feel?

I wanted a patient. I found him in the street, as he was trying to sell a toy to the passer by.

—do you know of a lacanian analyst in NYC?—
—yes, I do.

Again I came to Paris. Eric Laurent listened…

—perfume… père-fume… père-fumiste…

till he uttered,

—yes, that is your name of symptom!
That sudden.

Jacques-Alain Miller’s “cynical twist” came to mind. What a moment…! If anything it was the point in time I allowed myself of myself.

If the Symptôme with a formal name did the rest, it did it by itself… as if it knew the way.

Was Rena discussing the details of her own burial. How did I come to think Rena was talking about it? If the tale took me off any gloomy thought it was on account of her wonderful use of words, her lovely accent, the binding charm of her wit.
Thus she found a way to stage her fate, for us – her friends – for herself. She died in the Spring of 1992, at 32 years old, of internal bleeding.

Art: Ivonne Thein  

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