from Ralph Beliveau:

If you listened to this episode, you will hear about Jacques Lacan’s idea of a “quilting point”.

Here is a bit of cocktail napkin Lacan (ooohhh…this sounds painful!). When we learn language we enter a realm called the symbolic. We are separated from the “real” which is what we experience before language gets in the way…(the “symbolic”, by the way is a product of patriarchy…just sayin’…). But occasionally we get to a point where the symbolic and the “real” come in contact with each other, and for a brief instant the distance is gone…though just as quickly it moves away again. Or at least that is what the idea has always meant to me. It plays a particularly important role in thinking about Grace Marks and the “point” of quilting.

Here is a bit more from the wiki

Point de capiton

Frenchpoint de capiton

The French term point de capiton is variously translated in English editions of Lacan‘s work as “quilting point” or “anchoring point.” To avoid the confusion resulting from this variety of translation, the term has here been left in the original French.

Upholstery Button

It literally designates an upholstery button, the analogy being that just as upholstery buttons are places where “the mattress-maker’s needle has worked hard to prevent a shapeless mass of stuffing from moving too freely about.[1],” so the points de capiton are points at which the “signified and signifier are knotted together.”[2]


Lacan introduces the term in his 1955-6 seminar on the psychoses to account for the fact that despite the continual slippage of the signified under the signifier, there are nevertheless in the normal (neuroticsubject certain fundamental “attachment points” between the signified and the signifier where this slippage is temporarily halted. A certain minimum number of these points are “necessary for a person to be called normal,” and “when they are not established, or when they give way'” the result is psychosis.[3] This helps to explain how it is that in the psychotic experience, “the signifier and the signified present themselves in a completely divided form.”[4].

Illusion of a Fixed Meaning

The point de capiton is thus the point in the signifying chain at which “the signifier stops the otherwise endless movement of the signification” and produces the necessary illusion of a fixed meaning.[5]

Diachronic and Synchronic Dimension

Since the signifying chain has both a diachronic and a synchronic dimension, so also does the point de capiton:

Diachronic Dimension

The diachronic dimension of the point de capiton lies in the fact that communication is always a retroactive effect of punctuation. It is only when the sentence is completed that the sense of the first words is determined retroactively. This function is illustrated in the elementary cell of the graph of desire, in which the point de capiton is the leftmost point of intersection between the vector S – S’ and the vector.

Synchronic Dimension

The synchronic aspect is metaphor, by which the signifier crosses the bar into the signified.

“The synchronic structure (of the point de capiton) is more hidden, and it is this structure that takes us to the source. It is metaphor.”[6]

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Media and the End of the World Podcast

with Adam Croom and Ralph Beliveau

Back to Home
%d bloggers like this: