Aulagnier-Spairani, Piera (1923-1990)

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A physician, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, Piera Aulagnier-Spairani (formerly Castoriadis-Aulagnier) was born on November 19, 1923, in Milan, Italy, and died on March 31, 1990, in Paris.

She studied medicine in Rome, her early medical calling marked by her sustained focus on clinical practice. In 1950 she moved to France, where she completed her studies in psychiatry.

She trained in psychoanalysis with Jacques Lacan from 1955 to 1961. As his student, she joined ranks with him when he was expelled from the Société fran-çaise de psychanalyse (French Society of Psychoanalysis) in 1963, and she was among the psychoanalysts who first formed theÉcole freudienne de Paris (Freudian School of Paris) in 1964. True to her personal standards of rigor, she later resigned from that organization when she found herself in disagreement with Lacan's positions on the training of psychoanalysts.

In 1969, immediately after her break with Lacan, along with François Perrier, Jean-Paul Valabrega, and other analysts, she founded the Fourth Group of the O.P.L.F. (Organisation psychanalytique de langue fran-çaise [French-language psychoanalytic organization]) in which she remained a central figure, although it was never her wish to impose a hierarchical structure within the group.

Throughout these tumultuous years, she was known for her independent-mindedness and the calm in debates that led her to abstain from participating in vain polemics. However, her reserve was never synonymous with indifference. Her concern about the risk of conformity that threatens psychoanalytic and indeed other societies led her to denounce that tendency in 1969, when she wrote, "the audacity and genius needed to transgress accepted wisdom do not guarantee that the transgressors will be able to pass on to their heirs the ability to dismantle the barrier that has been broken through."

This spirit was reflected in her activity in the two she successively founded at the Presses Universitaires de France: L'Inconscient, with Jean Clavreul and Conrad Stein in 1967-1968, and then Topique, beginning in 1969. In both publications, pluralism and respect for the authors' thought always won out over issues of institutional affiliation.

Daily clinical practice and the ongoing pursuit of her writing were intimately linked for Aulagnier. In 1975, while she was married to Cornelius Castoriadis, her first book, The Violence of Interpretation: From Pictogram to Statement (under the name Piera Castoriadis-Aulagnier) was published by the Presses Universitaires de France. This work became an obligatory reference for those who felt the need, based on the clinical treatment of psychosis, to reexamine Freudian metapsychology. Two other books, published under the name Piera Aulagnier, followed: Les Destins du plaisir. Aliénation, amour, passion (1979; The destiny of pleasure: Alienation, love, passion) and L'Apprenti-historien et le maître sorcier. Du discours identifiant au discours délirant (1984; The apprentice historian and the master sorcerer: From the discourse of identification to the discourse of delusion); these books also found a broad readership. The long series of articles written beginning in 1961, most of them published in Topique, the revue she headed from its founding in 1969, were collected and reprinted in Un interprète un quête de sens (An interpreter in search of meaning; 1986).

All are indebted to Aulagnier for a new approach not only to psychosis, but also a new theory of representation that considers the psychotic's relationship to discourse. Beyond this, she established an entirely new theorization of the I and the conditions in which it comes into being. Her conceptual inventions emerged in close connection with clinical practice and under strict critical self-scrutiny, leaving those who knew her with lasting impressions of her tireless and passionate interest in the fundamental issues not just of psychoanalysis, but of human experience.

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: École freudienne de Paris (Freudian School of Paris); France; Inconscient, L' ; Interpretation; Pass, the; Psychanalyse et les nevroses, La ; Topique ; Viderman, Serge.


Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de. (1998). Penser la psychose. Une lecture de l'oeuvre de Piera Aulagnier. Paris: Dunod.

Troisier, Hélène. (1998). Piera Aulagnier. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.