K e n t J o h n s o n
We would like to respond to the epistle of protest by Alison
Croggon published here at VeRT. We do so because her letter
is revelatory of certain key misunderstandings among members
of the British-Poets listserv. These misunderstandings have
led to a number of angry and false accusations against the
writers of the "Dear Lacan materials and against the editors
of VeRT. We trust that what follows will set the matter
straight. For easier cross-reference, we reproduce Ms.
Croggon's letter immediately below, numbering the points we
will respond to in respective order.
[Letter by Alison Croggon]
1) I hope these posts stand on their own. They were written
for a mailing list, without the intention of publication
orfurther consideration outside the particular context in
which they were written.
2) When Kent Johnson submitted his Lacan dialogues to VeRT,
he also submitted, without permission and in violation of
copyright, a selection of emails from British-poets
members to this magazine.
3) British Poets members objected because the emails were
presented as if they were a fair representation of what had
been originally written, when in fact many of them had been
greatly altered, sometimes to mean the exact opposite of what
had been originally said. The editors assert that "the posts
had, indeed, been edited-- though not materially changed":
this is in fact not true. Each one of my own posts either
been misleadingly cut, or had been rewritten, or had parts
added which I did not write. I hope this comparison makes
clear how they were changed, and for what reason.
4) I was angered by these changes, which seemed to me
extraordinarily dishonest and, to say the least, self-
aggrandising. I still fail to see the relevance of publishing
the British Poets posts to the original work: despite all
Kent's claims, the Lacan dialogues created no especial
scandal, apart from boring a number of people witless by
turning up as regularly as spam. I have no doubt they are
better served by being published in their current form, where
they can be accessed voluntarily by those interested.
5) The editors have agreed to publish the original and
altered emails side by side, so that anyone interested in
this minor spat can make up their own minds.
1) Ms. Croggon's and the rest of the British-Poets Listserv
posts cannot help but "stand on their own." Readers will find
them, in situ and in their own ink, by clicking on the
Jiscmail link provided. This will take them to the British-
Poets homepage, where the Lacan blow-up can be viewed in all
its hilariously extended and fully-contextualized glory. It
all begins with my post entitled "Jacques Debrot's analysis,"
on February 12, 2001.
2) It is important to note that the "Lacan dialogues are not
Kent Johnson's alone. In fact, the British-Poets e-mail
parody section was written solely by Jacques Debrot (a
corporeal man with a fine beard reminiscent of the young
Marx's during his Young Hegelian years, even if some British-
Poets are convinced that Debrot is Johnson's invention!).
3) Ms. Croggon is confused here, and the confusion she
expresses requires some background so to be righted:
The Dear Lacan project was spontaneously conceived and
composed at fairly intense velocity over a short span of time
by its three writers (Johnson, Debrot, Zizek). Ideas were
flying back and forth. Revisions to the project's conceptual
nature were made. Pieces were offered, scrapped, and
replaced. It was, that is, very much an open and fluid
undertaking, and during its compositional turbulence and
blur, a miscommunication occurred between its two main
In short, when Johnson announced the "published" Lacan
materials at British-Poets, he was under the impression that
Debrot had simply selected e-mails from the publicly archived
discussion and sent them to the VeRT editors for verbatim
reproduction. While this had indeed been the original
intent, Debrot had subsequently informed Johnson in a
previous e-mail (albeit in passing and somewhat obscurely,
thus Johnson's failure of recall) that he was going to "fuck
around" a bit with the e-mails "to see where it might go."
Debrot began this process and sent the embryonic stages of
this "fucking around" to the VeRT editors, who had invited
Johnson and him to submit materials with the knowledge that the
materials could be revised "on-line" until the issue was
"officially up." Debrot then went on to radically alter the
selected original emails he had sent as a working text
to VeRT into a kind of madcap prose-poem.
The intent of this now-finished prose-poem is to provide
aesthetic-comedic pleasure in the age-old traditions of
satire and in-your-face parody. The target of the satire is a
group of pompous ruffians (this is our personal opinion, of
course) who take themselves way too seriously. Doubtless, Ms.
Croggon does not like being the butt of a well-deserved
paroidia, and we can understand that. But we must point out
that in drawing her "altered e-mail" examples from a
provisional and working version of the "British response"
section, she is, perhaps unintentionally, casting forth
something of a red herring.
The premature announcement by Johnson to British-Poets was
made on March 20. Johnson was "suspended by the British-
Poets Listserv "owners on March 21. VeRT issue #3, with the
completed Lacan materials, was officially announced on
Poetics Listserv by editor Andrew Felsinger on March 28.
In summary, when Johnson shared the VeRT URL with British-
Poets on March 20, what the members clicked into was a
provisional version still being forged, as they say, and not
the final work. Ms. Croggon should stop wagging her
finger over an issue that is moot. We now invite her and
others to view the real, official, and still white-hot
version of the send-up.
4) There were twelve letters from the Lacan series posted at
British-Poets Listserv. There were 92 posts charging the
authors of the letters with being "boring" and/or
"pornographic." There were a couple hundred other posts,
front and back-channel, accusing the authors of being
misogynist, of conspiring to destroy the List, of being in
various stages of dementia or mental retardation, and so on.
Would you please pass the Spam? Thank you.
This all culminated, as previously mentioned, in Kent Johnson
being "suspended" from the List. No explanation was offered
for this censorious action, but it is no doubt because the
twelve Lacan posts were, as Ms. Croggon has it, "boring people
5) Again, we would like to remind readers that not only are
Ms. Croggon's original e-mails available here; every parodied
e-mail can be found in its original form on the archives of
the British-Poets, for which we have conveniently provided a
link. It is here where the most outrageous and shocking
chapter of the Lacan nightmare is to be found.
long live psychoanalysis,
Jacques Debrot & Kent Johnson
PS: Slavoj Zizek has written and asked us to attach the
following brief note:
Dear Kent and Jacques,
I agree with everything you say. But please, I can no longer
have anything more to do with this affair, which really has
become boring in the most stultifying way.