Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek, a philosopher and cultural critic, is Senior Researcher in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at the University of London. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, The Parallax View, The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic (with John Milbank), and Žižek's Jokes (Did you hear the one about Hegel and negation?), these five published by the MIT Press.

  • Incontinence of the Void

    Incontinence of the Void

    Economico-Philosophical Spandrels

    Slavoj Žižek

    The “formidably brilliant” Žižek considers sexuality, ontology, subjectivity, and Marxian critiques of political economy by way of Lacanian psychoanalysis.

    If the most interesting theoretical interventions emerge today from the interspaces between fields, then the foremost interspaceman is Slavoj Žižek. In Incontinence of the Void (the title is inspired by a sentence in Samuel Beckett's late masterpiece Ill Seen Ill Said), Žižek explores the empty spaces between philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the critique of political economy. He proceeds from the universal dimension of philosophy to the particular dimension of sexuality to the singular dimension of the critique of political economy. The passage from one dimension to another is immanent: the ontological void is accessible only through the impasses of sexuation and the ongoing prospect of the abolition of sexuality, which is itself opened up by the technoscientific progress of global capitalism, in turn leading to the critique of political economy.

    Responding to his colleague and fellow Short Circuits author Alenka Zupančič's What Is Sex?, Žižek examines the notion of an excessive element in ontology that gives body to radical negativity, which becomes the antagonism of sexual difference. From the economico-philosophical perspective, Žižek extrapolates from ontological excess to Marxian surplus value to Lacan's surplus enjoyment. In true Žižekian fashion, Incontinence of the Void focuses on eternal topics while detouring freely into contemporary issuesfrom the Internet of Things to Danish TV series.

  • Žižek's Jokes

    Žižek's Jokes

    (Did you hear the one about Hegel and negation?)

    Slavoj Žižek and Audun Mortensen

    Žižek as comedian: jokes in the service of philosophy.

    “A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”—Ludwig Wittgenstein

    The good news is that this book offers an entertaining but enlightening compilation of Žižekisms. Unlike any other book by Slavoj Žižek, this compact arrangement of jokes culled from his writings provides an index to certain philosophical, political, and sexual themes that preoccupy him. Žižek's Jokes contains the set-ups and punch lines—as well as the offenses and insults—that Žižek is famous for, all in less than 200 pages.

    So what's the bad news? There is no bad news. There's just the inimitable Slavoj Žižek, disguised as an impossibly erudite, politically incorrect uncle, beginning a sentence, “There is an old Jewish joke, loved by Derrida...“ For Žižek, jokes are amusing stories that offer a shortcut to philosophical insight. He illustrates the logic of the Hegelian triad, for example, with three variations of the “Not tonight, dear, I have a headache” classic: first the wife claims a migraine; then the husband does; then the wife exclaims, “Darling, I have a terrible migraine, so let's have some sex to refresh me!” A punch line about a beer bottle provides a Lacanian lesson about one signifier. And a “truly obscene” version of the famous “aristocrats” joke has the family offering a short course in Hegelian thought rather than a display of unspeakables.

    Žižek's Jokes contains every joke cited, paraphrased, or narrated in Žižek's work in English (including some in unpublished manuscripts), including different versions of the same joke that make different points in different contexts. The larger point being that comedy is central to Žižek's seriousness.

    • Hardcover $19.95
    • Paperback $12.95
  • The Monstrosity of Christ

    The Monstrosity of Christ

    Paradox or Dialectic?

    Slavoj Žižek, John Milbank, and Creston Davis

    A militant Marxist atheist and a “Radical Orthodox” Christian theologian square off on everything from the meaning of theology and Christ to the war machine of corporate mafia.

    “What matters is not so much that Žižek is endorsing a demythologized, disenchanted Christianity without transcendence, as that he is offering in the end (despite what he sometimes claims) a heterodox version of Christian belief.”—John Milbank

    “To put it even more bluntly, my claim is that it is Milbank who is effectively guilty of heterodoxy, ultimately of a regression to paganism: in my atheism, I am more Christian than Milbank.”—Slavoj Žižek

    In this corner, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, a militant atheist who represents the critical-materialist stance against religion's illusions; in the other corner, “Radical Orthodox” theologian John Milbank, an influential and provocative thinker who argues that theology is the only foundation upon which knowledge, politics, and ethics can stand. In The Monstrosity of Christ, Žižek and Milbank go head to head for three rounds, employing an impressive arsenal of moves to advance their positions and press their respective advantages. By the closing bell, they have not only proven themselves worthy adversaries, they have shown that faith and reason are not simply and intractably opposed. Žižek has long been interested in the emancipatory potential offered by Christian theology. And Milbank, seeing global capitalism as the new century's greatest ethical challenge, has pushed his own ontology in more political and materialist directions. Their debate in The Monstrosity of Christ concerns the future of religion, secularity, and political hope in light of a monsterful event—God becoming human. For the first time since Žižek's turn toward theology, we have a true debate between an atheist and a theologian about the very meaning of theology, Christ, the Church, the Holy Ghost, Universality, and the foundations of logic. The result goes far beyond the popularized atheist/theist point/counterpoint of recent books by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and others. Žižek begins, and Milbank answers, countering dialectics with “paradox.” The debate centers on the nature of and relation between paradox and parallax, between analogy and dialectics, between transcendent glory and liberation. Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher and cultural critic. He has published over thirty books, including Looking Awry, The Puppet and the Dwarf, and The Parallax View (these three published by the MIT Press). John Milbank is an influential Christian theologian and the author of Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason and other books. Creston Davis, who conceived of this encounter, studied under both Žižek and Milbank.

    • Hardcover $28.95
    • Paperback $24.95
  • The Parallax View

    The Parallax View

    Slavoj Žižek

    In Žižek's long-awaited magnum opus, he theorizes the "parallax gap" in the ontological, the scientific, and the political—and rehabilitates dialectical materialism.

    The Parallax View is Slavoj Žižek's most substantial theoretical work to appear in many years; Žižek himself describes it as his magnum opus. Parallax can be defined as the apparent displacement of an object, caused by a change in observational position. Žižek is interested in the "parallax gap" separating two points between which no synthesis or mediation is possible, linked by an "impossible short circuit" of levels that can never meet. From this consideration of parallax, Žižek begins a rehabilitation of dialectical materialism.

    Modes of parallax can be seen in different domains of today's theory, from the wave-particle duality in quantum physics to the parallax of the unconscious in Freudian psychoanalysis between interpretations of the formation of the unconscious and theories of drives. In The Parallax View, Žižek, with his usual astonishing erudition, focuses on three main modes of parallax: the ontological difference, the ultimate parallax that conditions our very access to reality; the scientific parallax, the irreducible gap between the phenomenal experience of reality and its scientific explanation, which reaches its apogee in today's brain sciences (according to which "nobody is home" in the skull, just stacks of brain meat—a condition Žižek calls "the unbearable lightness of being no one"); and the political parallax, the social antagonism that allows for no common ground. Between his discussions of these three modes, Žižek offers interludes that deal with more specific topics—including an ethical act in a novel by Henry James and anti-anti-Semitism.

    The Parallax View not only expands Žižek's Lacanian-Hegelian approach to new domains (notably cognitive brain sciences) but also provides the systematic exposition of the conceptual framework that underlies his entire work. Philosophical and theological analysis, detailed readings of literature, cinema, and music coexist with lively anecdotes and obscene jokes.

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  • The Puppet and the Dwarf

    The Puppet and the Dwarf

    The Perverse Core of Christianity

    Slavoj Žižek

    One of our most daring intellectuals offers a Lacanian interpretation of religion, finding that early Christianity was the first revolutionary collective.

    Slavoj Žižek has been called "an academic rock star" and "the wild man of theory"; his writing mixes astonishing erudition and references to pop culture in order to dissect current intellectual pieties. In The Puppet and the Dwarf he offers a close reading of today's religious constellation from the viewpoint of Lacanian psychoanalysis. He critically confronts both predominant versions of today's spirituality—New Age gnosticism and deconstructionist-Levinasian Judaism—and then tries to redeem the "materialist" kernel of Christianity. His reading of Christianity is explicitly political, discerning in the Pauline community of believers the first version of a revolutionary collective. Since today even advocates of Enlightenment like Jurgen Habermas acknowledge that a religious vision is needed to ground our ethical and political stance in a "postsecular" age, this book—with a stance that is clearly materialist and at the same time indebted to the core of the Christian legacy—is certain to stir controversy.

  • Looking Awry

    Looking Awry

    An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture

    Slavoj Žižek

    Slavoj Žižek, a leading intellectual in the new social movements that are sweeping Eastern Europe, provides a virtuoso reading of Jacques Lacan. Žižek inverts current pedagogical strategies to explain the difficult philosophical underpinnings of the French theoretician and practician who revolutionized our view of psychoanalysis. He approaches Lacan through the motifs and works of contemporary popular culture, from Hitchcock's Vertigo to Stephen King's Pet Sematary, from McCullough's An Indecent Obsession to Romero's Return of the Living Dead—a strategy of "looking awry" that recalls the exhilarating and vital experience of Lacan.

    Žižek discovers fundamental Lacanian categories the triad Imaginary/Symbolic/Real, the object small a, the opposition of drive and desire, the split subject—at work in horror fiction, in detective thrillers, in romances, in the mass media's perception of ecological crisis, and, above all, in Alfred Hitchcock's films. The playfulness of Žižek's text, however, is entirely different from that associated with the deconstructive approach made famous by Derrida. By clarifying what Lacan is saying as well as what he is not saying, Žižek is uniquely able to distinguish Lacan from the poststructuralists who so often claim him.

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Contributor

  • Critical Theory and Interaction Design

    Jeffrey Bardzell, Shaowen Bardzell, and Mark Blythe

    Classic texts by thinkers from Althusser to Žižek alongside essays by leaders in interaction design and HCI show the relevance of critical theory to interaction design.

    Why should interaction designers read critical theory? Critical theory is proving unexpectedly relevant to media and technology studies. The editors of this volume argue that reading critical theory—understood in the broadest sense, including but not limited to the Frankfurt School—can help designers do what they want to do; can teach wisdom itself; can provoke; and can introduce new ways of seeing. They illustrate their argument by presenting classic texts by thinkers in critical theory from Althusser to Žižek alongside essays in which leaders in interaction design and HCI describe the influence of the text on their work. For example, one contributor considers the relevance Umberto Eco's “Openness, Information, Communication” to digital content; another reads Walter Benjamin's “The Author as Producer” in terms of interface designers; and another reflects on the implications of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble for interaction design. The editors offer a substantive introduction that traces the various strands of critical theory.

    Taken together, the essays show how critical theory and interaction design can inform each other, and how interaction design, drawing on critical theory, might contribute to our deepest needs for connection, competency, self-esteem, and wellbeing.

    Contributors Jeffrey Bardzell, Shaowen Bardzell, Olav W. Bertelsen, Alan F. Blackwell, Mark Blythe, Kirsten Boehner, John Bowers, Gilbert Cockton, Carl DiSalvo, Paul Dourish, Melanie Feinberg, Beki Grinter, Hrönn Brynjarsdóttir Holmer, Jofish Kaye, Ann Light, John McCarthy, Søren Bro Pold, Phoebe Sengers, Erik Stolterman, Kaiton Williams., Peter Wright

    Classic texts Louis Althusser, Aristotle, Roland Barthes, Seyla Benhabib, Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Arthur Danto, Terry Eagleton, Umberto Eco, Michel Foucault, Wolfgang Iser, Alan Kaprow, Søren Kierkegaard, Bruno Latour, Herbert Marcuse, Edward Said, James C. Scott, Slavoj Žižek

  • The Dash—The Other Side of Absolute Knowing

    The Dash—The Other Side of Absolute Knowing

    Rebecca Comay and Frank Ruda

    An argument that what is usually dismissed as the “mystical shell” of Hegel's thought—the concept of absolute knowledge—is actually its most “rational kernel.”

    This book sets out from a counterintuitive premise: the “mystical shell” of Hegel's system proves to be its most “rational kernel.” Hegel's radicalism is located precisely at the point where his thought seems to regress most. Most current readings try to update Hegel's thought by pruning back his grandiose claims to “absolute knowing.” Comay and Ruda invert this deflationary gesture by inflating what seems to be most trivial: the absolute is grasped only in the minutiae of its most mundane appearances. Reading Hegel without presupposition, without eliminating anything in advance or making any decision about what is essential and what is inessential, what is living and what is dead, they explore his presentation of the absolute to the letter.

    The Dash is organized around a pair of seemingly innocuous details. Hegel punctuates strangely. He ends the Phenomenology of Spirit with a dash, and he begins the Science of Logic with a dash. This distinctive punctuation reveals an ambiguity at the heart of absolute knowing. The dash combines hesitation and acceleration. Its orientation is simultaneously retrospective and prospective. It both holds back and propels. It severs and connects. It demurs and insists. It interrupts and prolongs. It generates nonsequiturs and produces explanations. It leads in all directions: continuation, deviation, meaningless termination. This challenges every cliché about the Hegelian dialectic as a machine of uninterrupted teleological progress. The dialectical movement is, rather, structured by intermittency, interruption, hesitation, blockage, abruption, and random, unpredictable change—a rhythm that displays all the vicissitudes of the Freudian drive.

  • Liquidation World

    Liquidation World

    On the Art of Living Absently

    Alexi Kukuljevic

    An examination of the disoriented subject of modernity: a dissolute figure who makes an makes an object of its absence; from Baudelaire to Broodthaers.

    In Liquidation World, Alexi Kukuljevic examines a distinctive form of subjectivity animating the avant-garde: that of the darkly humorous and utterly disoriented subject of modernity, a dissolute figure that makes an art of its own vacancy, an object of its absence. Shorn of the truly rotten illusion that the world is a fulfilling and meaningful place, these subjects identify themselves by a paradoxical disidentification—through the objects that take their places. They have mastered the art of living absently, of making something with nothing. Traversing their own morbid obsessions, they substitute the nonsensical for sense, the ridiculous for the meaningful.

    Kukuljevic analyzes a series of artistic practices that illuminate this subjectivity, ranging from Marcel Duchamp's Three Standard Stoppages to Charles Baudelaire's melancholia. He considers the paradox of Duchamp's apparatus in the Stoppages and the strange comedy of Marcel Broodthaers's relation to the readymade; the comic subject in Jacques Vaché and the ridiculous subject in Alfred Jarry; the nihilist in Paul Valéry's Monsieur Teste; Oswald Wiener's interpretation of the dandy; and Charles Baudelaire as a happy melancholic. Along the way, he also touches on the work of Thomas Bernhard, Andy Kaufman, Buster Keaton, and others. Finally, he offers an extended analysis of Danny's escape from his demented father in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

    Each of these subjects is, in Freud's terms, sick—sick in the specific sense that they assume the absence of meaning and the liquidation of value in the world. They concern themselves with art, without assuming its value or meaning. Utterly debased, fundamentally disoriented, they take the void as their medium.

  • What IS Sex?

    What IS Sex?

    Alenka Zupančič

    Why sexuality is at the point of a “short circuit” between ontology and epistemology.

    Consider sublimation—conventionally understood as a substitute satisfaction for missing sexual satisfaction. But what if, as Lacan claims, we can get exactly the same satisfaction that we get from sex from talking (or writing, painting, praying, or other activities)? The point is not to explain the satisfaction from talking by pointing to its sexual origin, but that the satisfaction from talking is itself sexual. The satisfaction from talking contains a key to sexual satisfaction (and not the other way around)—even a key to sexuality itself and its inherent contradictions. The Lacanian perspective would make the answer to the simple-seeming question, “What is sex?” rather more complex. In this volume in the Short Circuits series, Alenka Zupančič approaches the question from just this perspective, considering sexuality a properly philosophical problem for psychoanalysis; and by psychoanalysis, she means that of Freud and Lacan, not that of the kind of clinician practitioners called by Lacan “orthopedists of the unconscious.”

    Zupančič argues that sexuality is at the point of a “short circuit” between ontology and epistemology. Sexuality and knowledge are structured around a fundamental negativity, which unites them at the point of the unconscious. The unconscious (as linked to sexuality) is the concept of an inherent link between being and knowledge in their very negativity.

  • The Not-Two

    The Not-Two

    Logic and God in Lacan

    Lorenzo Chiesa

    A philosophical examination of the treatment of logic and God in Lacan's later psychoanalytic theory.

    In The Not-Two, Lorenzo Chiesa examines the treatment of logic and God in Lacan's later work. Chiesa draws for the most part from Lacan's Seminars of the early 1970s, as they revolve around the axiom “There is no sexual relationship.” Chiesa provides both a close reading of Lacan's effort to formalize sexual difference as incompleteness and an assessment of its broader implications for philosophical realism and materialism.

    Chiesa argues that “There is no sexual relationship” is for Lacan empirically and historically circumscribed by psychoanalysis, yet self-evident in our everyday lives. Lacan believed that we have sex because we love, and that love is a desire to be One in face of the absence of the sexual relationship. Love presupposes a real “not-two.” The not-two condenses the idea that our love and sex lives are dictated by the impossibility of fusing man's contradictory being with the heteros of woman as a fundamentally uncountable Other. Sexual liaisons are sustained by a transcendental logic, the so-called phallic function that attempts to overcome this impossibility.

    Chiesa also focuses on Lacan's critical dialogue with modern science and formal logic, as well as his dismantling of sexuality as considered by mainstream biological discourse. Developing a new logic of sexuation based on incompleteness requires the relinquishing of any alleged logos of life and any teleological evolution.

    For Lacan, the truth of incompleteness as approached psychoanalytically through sexuality would allow us to go further in debunking traditional onto-theology and replace it with a “para-ontology” yet to be developed. Given the truth of incompleteness, Chiesa asks, can we think such a truth in itself without turning incompleteness into another truth about truth, that is, into yet another figure of God as absolute being?

  • The Trouble with Pleasure

    The Trouble with Pleasure

    Deleuze and Psychoanalysis

    Aaron Schuster

    An investigation into the strange and troublesome relationship to pleasure that defines the human being, drawing on the disparate perspectives of Deleuze and Lacan.

    Is pleasure a rotten idea, mired in negativity and lack, which should be abandoned in favor of a new concept of desire? Or is desire itself fundamentally a matter of lack, absence, and loss? This is one of the crucial issues dividing the work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan, two of the most formidable figures of postwar French thought. Though the encounter with psychoanalysis deeply marked Deleuze's work, we are yet to have a critical account of the very different postures he adopted toward psychoanalysis, and especially Lacanian theory, throughout his career. In The Trouble with Pleasure, Aaron Schuster tackles this tangled relationship head on. The result is neither a Lacanian reading of Deleuze nor a Deleuzian reading of Lacan but rather a systematic and comparative analysis that identifies concerns common to both thinkers and their ultimately incompatible ways of addressing them. Schuster focuses on drive and desire—the strange, convoluted relationship of human beings to the forces that move them from within—“the trouble with pleasure."

    Along the way, Schuster offers his own engaging and surprising conceptual analyses and inventive examples. In the “Critique of Pure Complaint” he provides a philosophy of complaining, ranging from Freud's theory of neurosis to Spinoza's intellectual complaint of God and the Deleuzian great complaint. Schuster goes on to elaborate, among other things, a theory of love as “mutually compatible symptoms”; an original philosophical history of pleasure, including a hypothetical Heideggerian treatise and a Platonic theory of true pleasure; and an exploration of the 1920s “literature of the death drive,” including Thomas Mann, Italo Svevo, and Blaise Cendrars.

  • All for Nothing

    All for Nothing

    Hamlet's Negativity

    Andrew Cutrofello

    Hamlet as performed by philosophers, with supporting roles played by Kant, Nietzsche, and others.

    A specter is haunting philosophy—the specter of Hamlet. Why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?

    Entering from stage left: the philosopher's Hamlet. The philosopher's Hamlet is a conceptual character, played by philosophers rather than actors. He performs not in the theater but within the space of philosophical positions. In All for Nothing, Andrew Cutrofello critically examines the performance history of this unique role.

    The philosopher's Hamlet personifies negativity. In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet's speech and action are characteristically negative; he is the melancholy Dane. Most would agree that he has nothing to be cheerful about. Philosophers have taken Hamlet to embody specific forms of negativity that first came into view in modernity. What the figure of the Sophist represented for Plato, Hamlet has represented for modern philosophers. Cutrofello analyzes five aspects of Hamlet's negativity: his melancholy, negative faith, nihilism, tarrying (which Cutrofello distinguishes from “delaying”), and nonexistence. Along the way, we meet Hamlet in the texts of Kant, Coleridge, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Benjamin, Arendt, Schmitt, Lacan, Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida, Badiou, Žižek, and other philosophers. Whirling across a kingdom of infinite space, the philosopher's Hamlet is nothing if not thought-provoking.

  • Laughter

    Laughter

    Notes on a Passion

    Anca Parvulescu

    Uncovering an archive of laughter, from the forbidden giggle to the explosive guffaw.

    Most of our theories of laughter are not concerned with laughter. Rather, their focus is the laughable object, whether conceived of as the comic, the humorous, jokes, the grotesque, the ridiculous, or the ludicrous. In Laughter, Anca Parvulescu proposes a return to the materiality of the burst of laughter itself. She sets out to uncover an archive of laughter, inviting us to follow its rhythms and listen to its tones. Historically, laughter—especially the passionate burst of laughter—has often been a faux pas. Manuals for conduct, abetted by philosophical treatises and literary and visual texts, warned against it, offering special injunctions to ladies to avoid jollity that was too boisterous. Returning laughter to the history of the passions, Parvulescu anchors it at the point where the history of the grimacing face meets the history of noise. In the civilizing process that leads to laughter's “falling into disrepute,” as Nietzsche famously put it, we can see the formless, contorted face in laughter being slowly corrected into a calm, social smile. How did the twentieth century laugh? Parvulescu points to a gallery of twentieth-century laughers and friends of laughter, arguing that it is through Georges Bataille that the century laughed its most distinct laugh. In Bataille's wake, laughter becomes the passion at the heart of poststructuralism. Looking back at the century from this vantage point, Parvulescu revisits four of its most challenging projects: modernism, the philosophical avant-gardes, feminism, and cinema. The result is an overview of the twentieth century as seen through the laughs that burst at some of its most convoluted junctures.

  • Lacan at the Scene

    Lacan at the Scene

    Henry Bond

    A Lacanian approach to murder scene investigation.

    What if Jacques Lacan—the brilliant and eccentric Parisian psychoanalyst—had worked as a police detective, applying his theories to solve crimes? This may conjure up a mental film clip starring Peter Sellers in a trench coat, but in Lacan at the Scene, Henry Bond makes a serious and provocative claim: that apparently impenetrable events of violent death can be more effectively unraveled with Lacan's theory of psychoanalysis than with elaborate, technologically advanced forensic tools. Bond's exposition on murder expands and develops a resolutely Žižekian approach. Seeking out radical and unexpected readings, Bond unpacks his material utilizing Lacan's neurosis-psychosis-perversion grid.

    Bond places Lacan at the crime scene and builds his argument through a series of archival crime scene photographs from the 1950s—the period when Lacan was developing his influential theories. It is not the horror of the ravished and mutilated corpses that draws his attention; instead, he interrogates seemingly minor details from the everyday, isolating and rephotographing what at first seems insignificant: a single high heeled shoe on a kitchen table, for example, or carefully folded clothes placed over a chair. From these mundane details he carefully builds a robust and comprehensive manual for Lacanian crime investigation that can stand beside the FBI's standard-issue Crime Classification Manual.

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  • Interface Fantasy

    Interface Fantasy

    A Lacanian Cyborg Ontology

    André Nusselder

    Behind our computer screens we are all cyborgs: through fantasy we can understand our involvement in virtual worlds.

    Cyberspace is first and foremost a mental space. Therefore we need to take a psychological approach to understand our experiences in it. In Interface Fantasy, André Nusselder uses the core psychoanalytic notion of fantasy to examine our relationship to computers and digital technology. Lacanian psychoanalysis considers fantasy to be an indispensable “screen” for our interaction with the outside world; Nusselder argues that, at the mental level, computer screens and other human-computer interfaces incorporate this function of fantasy: they mediate the real and the virtual. Interface Fantasy illuminates our attachment to new media: why we love our devices; why we are fascinated by the images on their screens; and how it is possible that virtual images can provide physical pleasure. Nusselder puts such phenomena as avatars, role playing, cybersex, computer psychotherapy, and Internet addiction in the context of established psychoanalytic theory. The virtual identities we assume in virtual worlds, exemplified best by avatars consisting of both realistic and symbolic self-representations, illustrate the three orders that Lacan uses to analyze human reality: the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. Nusselder analyzes our most intimate involvement with information technology—the almost invisible, affective aspects of technology that have the greatest impact on our lives. Interface Fantasy lays the foundation for a new way of thinking that acknowledges the pivotal role of the screen in the current world of information. And it gives an intelligible overview of basic Lacanian principles (including fantasy, language, the virtual, the real, embodiment, and enjoyment) that shows their enormous relevance for understanding the current state of media technology.

  • The Odd One In

    The Odd One In

    On Comedy

    Alenka Zupančič

    A Lacanian look at how comedy might come to philosophy's rescue, with examples ranging from Hegel and Molière to George W. Bush and Borat.

    Why philosophize about comedy? What is the use of investigating the comical from philosophical and psychoanalytic perspectives? In The Odd One In, Alenka Zupančič considers how philosophy and psychoanalysis can help us understand the movement and the logic involved in the practice of comedy, and how comedy can help philosophy and psychoanalysis recognize some of the crucial mechanisms and vicissitudes of what is called humanity.

    Comedy by its nature is difficult to pin down with concepts and definitions, but as artistic form and social practice comedy is a mode of tarrying with a foreign object—of including the exception. Philosophy's relationship to comedy, Zupančič writes, is not exactly a simple story (and indeed includes some elements of comedy). It could begin with the lost book of Aristotle's Poetics, which discussed comedy and laughter (and was made famous by Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose). But Zupančič draws on a whole range of philosophers and exemplars of comedy, from Aristophanes, Molière, Hegel, Freud, and Lacan to George W. Bush and Borat. She distinguishes incisively between comedy and ideologically imposed, “naturalized” cheerfulness. Real, subversive comedy thrives on the short circuits that establish an immediate connection between heterogeneous orders. Zupančič examines the mechanisms and processes by which comedy lets the odd one in.

  • Subjectivity and Otherness

    Subjectivity and Otherness

    A Philosophical Reading of Lacan

    Lorenzo Chiesa

    The evolution of the concept of subjectivity in the works of Jacques Lacan.

    Countering the call by some “pro-Lacanians” for an end to the exegesis of Lacan's work—and the dismissal by “anti-Lacanians” of Lacan as impossibly impenetrable—Subjectivity and Otherness argues for Lacan as a “paradoxically systematic” thinker, and for the necessity of a close analysis of his texts. Lorenzo Chiesa examines, from a philosophical perspective, the evolution of the concept of subjectivity in Lacan's work, carrying out a detailed reading of the Lacanian subject in its necessary relation to otherness according to Lacan's orders of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real. Chiesa emphasizes the continuity underlying apparently incompatible phases of Lacan's examination of the subject, describing Lacan's theory as a consistent philosophical system—but one that is constantly revised and therefore problematic. Chiesa analyzes each “old” theory of the subject within the framework of a “new” elaboration and reassesses its fundamental tenets from the perspective of a general psychoanalytic discourse that becomes increasingly complex. From the 1960s on, writes Chiesa, the Lacanian subject amounts to an irreducible lack that must be actively confronted and assumed; this “subjectivized lack,” Chiesa argues further, offers an escape from the contemporary impasse between the “death of the subject” alleged by postmodernism and a return to a traditional “substantialist” notion of the subject. An original treatment of psychoanalytic issues, Subjectivity and Otherness fills a significant gap in the existing literature on Lacan, taking seriously the need for a philosophical investigation of Lacanian concepts.

  • The Artist's Joke

    The Artist's Joke

    Jennifer Higgie

    Jokes and humor in avant-garde and contemporary art, as discussed by writers and artists ranging from Freud and Picasso to Andrea Fraser, the Guerilla Girls, and Slavoj Žižek.

    Ever since Freud's Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious appeared in 1905, humor both light and dark has frequently surfaced as a subversive, troubling, or liberating element in art. The Artist's Joke surveys the rich and diverse uses of humor by avant-garde and contemporary artists. The texts collected in this new reader from London's Whitechapel Gallery examine what André Breton called the “lightning bolt” of the unsettlingly comic, as seen in the anarchic wordplay of Duchamp, Picasso, the Dadaists, and Surrealists; Pop's fetish for kitsch and the comic strip; Bruce Nauman's sinister clowns and twisted puns; Richard Prince's joke paintings; art ambushed by feminist wit, from the Dadaism of Hannah Höch in the 1920s to the politicized conceptualism of Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger in the 1980s; the serenely uncanny in Mike Kelley's installations and the risibly grotesque in Paul McCarthy's; and the strangely comic scenarios of artists as various as Maurizio Cattelan, Andrea Fraser, Raymond Pettibon, and David Shrigley. Artists' writings are accompanied and contextualized by the work of critics and thinkers including Freud, Bergson, Hélène Cixous, Slavoj Žižek, Jörg Heiser, Jo Anna Isaak, and Ralph Rugoff. Jennifer Higgie is the coeditor of frieze magazine. She has published writings on such contemporary artists as Ricky Swallow, Magnus Von Plessen, and David Noonan.

    Artists surveyed include Leonora Carrington, Maurizio Cattelan, Marcel Duchamp, Marlene Dumas, Fischli & Weiss, Andrea Fraser, the Guerilla Girls, Hannah Höch, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Barbara Kruger, Sarah Lucas, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenberg, Raymond Pettibon, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Arnulf Rainer, Ad Reinhardt, ED Ruscha, Carolee Schneemann, David Shrigley, Robert Smithson, Annikia Ström, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol Writers includeHugo Ball, Henri Bergson, André Breton, Hélène Cixous, Sigmund Freud, Jörg Heiser, Dave Hickey, Jo Anna Isaak, Ralph Rugoff, Peter Schjeldahl, Sheena Wagstaff, Hamza Walker, Slavoj Žižek

  • A Voice and Nothing More

    A Voice and Nothing More

    Mladen Dolar

    A new, philosophically grounded theory of the voice—the voice as the lever of thought, as one of the paramount embodiments of the psychoanalytic object.

    Plutarch tells the story of a man who plucked a nightingale and finding but little to eat exclaimed: "You are just a voice and nothing more." Plucking the feathers of meaning that cover the voice, dismantling the body from which the voice seems to emanate, resisting the Sirens' song of fascination with the voice, concentrating on "the voice and nothing more": this is the difficult task that philosopher Mladen Dolar relentlessly pursues in this seminal work.

    The voice did not figure as a major philosophical topic until the 1960s, when Derrida and Lacan separately proposed it as a central theoretical concern. In A Voice and Nothing More Dolar goes beyond Derrida's idea of "phonocentrism" and revives and develops Lacan's claim that the voice is one of the paramount embodiments of the psychoanalytic object (objet a). Dolar proposes that, apart from the two commonly understood uses of the voice as a vehicle of meaning and as a source of aesthetic admiration, there is a third level of understanding: the voice as an object that can be seen as the lever of thought. He investigates the object voice on a number of different levels—the linguistics of the voice, the metaphysics of the voice, the ethics of the voice (with the voice of conscience), the paradoxical relation between the voice and the body, the politics of the voice—and he scrutinizes the uses of the voice in Freud and Kafka. With this foundational work, Dolar gives us a philosophically grounded theory of the voice as a Lacanian object-cause.

  • Suspect

    Suspect

    Alphabet City Magazine 10

    John Knechtel

    Essays, graphic novels, films, and commentary examine the figure of the suspect and the politics of suspicion in a post-9/11 world.

    What is the condition of the suspect in a post-9/11 world? Do perpetual detention, ubiquitous surveillance cameras, and the legal apparatus of the USA Patriot Act target suspects accurately or generate suspicion indiscriminately? Suspect, the latest in a series from Alphabet City and the first in its new format of topical book-length magazines, gathers hard evidence about the fate of the suspect in a culture of suspicion with contributions from writers, artists, and filmmakers. Their testimony takes a multiplicity of forms and formats. Among them: A 24-page color comic by graphic novelist Joey Dubuc asks the reader to make narrative choices in a web of surveillance, suspicion, and fear. Harper's contributor Mark Kingwell observes that while suspicion tries to isolate the suspect, in fact we are all the suspect. Slavoj Zizek reflects on the new cultural status of the suspect after Abu Ghraib. Philosopher George Bragues argues that even as the United Nations looks for ways to discipline "suspect nations," it simply cannot succeed under current international conditions. Alphabet City editor John Knechtel interviews Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, about the legal and political strategies of the Bush administration. Sylwia Chrostowska describes what happens, in the the 1970 Italian film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, when a corrupt official investigates himself. Screenwriter Timothy Stock and illustrator Warren Heise create a documentary in comic form about Critical Ensemble artist Steve Kurtz, charged under the bioterrorism provisions of the Patriot Act. Novelist Camilla Gibb portrays, in "Things Collapse," the terrifying effects of a "separating sickness" of unknown origin, which perhaps exists only in the fears of the population it strikes. And novelist Diana Fitzgerald Bryden follows her character Rafa Ahmed, a PFLP hijacker from the 1970s, as, many years later, she is to appear at a peace conference. Filmmaker Patricia Rozema, director of Mansfield Park and other films, contributes a 16-page film-in-a-book, "Suspect." Suspect is a non-partisan handbook on the mechanisms and machinations of suspicion for the twenty-first century national security state.

  • Interrogation Machine

    Interrogation Machine

    Laibach and NSK

    Alexei Monroe

    The first English-language study of NSK—one of the contemporary art world's most radical forces—with particular focus on the performances and productions of NSK's musical and conceptual division, Laibach.

    NSK is considered by many to be the last true avant-garde of the twentieth century and the most consistently challenging artistic force in Eastern Europe today. The acronym refers to Neue Slowenische Kunst, a Slovene collective that emerged in the wake of Tito's death and was shaped by the breakup of Yugoslavia. Its complex and disturbing work—in fields including experimental music and theater, painting, philosophy, writing, performance, and design—has an international following but a powerful and specific cultural context. Within the NSK organization are a number of divisions, the best-known of which is Laibach, an alternative music group known for its blending of popular culture with subversive politics, high art with underground provocation—reflecting the political and cultural chaos of its time.

    In Interrogation Machine, Alexei Monroe offers the first critical appraisal of the entire NSK phenomenon, from its elaborate organizational structure and its internal logics to its controversial public actions. The result is a fascinating portrait not only of NSK but of the complex political and cultural context within which it operates. Monroe analyzes the paradoxes, perplexities, and traumas of NSK's work at its deepest levels. His investigation of the relationships between conceptual content, stylistic method, and ideological subtext demonstrates the relevance of NSK in general and Laibach in particular to current debates about culture, power, war, politics, globalization, the marketplace, and life itself. As Slavoj Zizek writes in his foreword, "Today, the lesson of Laibach is more pertinent than ever."

    Monroe uses a variety of theoretical and historical approaches, as is appropriate to the shifting and elusive nature of his subject. The use of theory reflects NSK's own theoretical engagement; it is also a valuable way to read the issues raised by the work. Neither oversimplifying nor uncritically mystifying, Monroe leaves intact the "gaps, contradictions, and shadows" inherent in his subject, demonstrating that "it should still be possible to appreciate the work as art that moves, confuses, agitates, or fascinates."

  • Is Oedipus Online?

    Is Oedipus Online?

    Siting Freud after Freud

    Jerry Aline Flieger

    Psychoanalysis as a navigation device for the cultural maze of the twenty-first century.

    "Can Freud be 'updated' in the twenty-first century, or is he a venerated but outmoded genius?" asks Jerry Aline Flieger. In Is Oedipus Online? Flieger stages an encounter between psychoanalysis and the new century, testing the viability of Freud's theories in light of the emergent realities of our time. Responding to prominent critics of psychoanalysis and approaching our current preoccupations from a Freudian angle, she presents a reading of Freudian theory that coincides with and even clarifies new concepts in science and culture. Fractals, emergence, topological modeling, and other nonlinearities, for example, can be understood in light of both Freud's idea of the symptom as a nodal point and Lacan's concept of networks (rather than sequential cause and effect) that link psychic realities. At the same time, Flieger suggests how emerging paradigms in science and culture may elucidate Freud's cultural theory. Like Slavoj Zizek, editor of the Short Circuits series, Flieger shifts effortlessly from field to field, discussing psychoanalysis, millennial culture, nonlinear science, and the landscape of cyberspace. In the first half of the book, "Re-siting Oedipus," she draws on the work of Lyotard, Zizek, Deleuze, Virilio, Baudrillard, Haraway and others, to refute the assumption of Freud's outdatedness in the new century. Then, in "Freud Sitings in Millennial Theory," she recasts oedipal theory, siting/sighting/citing Freud in a twenty-first-century context. Thinking of Oedipus—decipherer of enigmas, wanderer—as a navigator or search engine allows us to see psychoanalysis as a navigation device for the cultural maze of the "bimillennial" era, and Oedipus himself as a circuit of intersubjective processes by which we become human. For humanity—still needed in the "posthuman" century—is at the core of Freud's theory: "Reading Freud today," Flieger writes, "reminds us of the complications of the Sphinx's riddle, the enigma that Oedipus only thought he solved: the question of what it is to be human. Psychoanalysis continues to pose that question at the crossroads between instincts and their vicissitudes."

  • Subtitles

    Subtitles

    On the Foreignness of Film

    Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour

    Translating the experience of film: filmmakers, writers, and artists explore the elements of film that make us feel "outside and inside at the same time."

    "Every film is a foreign film," Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour tell us in their introduction to Subtitles. How, then, to translate the experience of film—which, as Egoyan says, makes us "feel outside and inside at the same time"? Taking subtitles as their point of departure, the thirty-two contributors to this unique collection consider translation, foreignness, and otherness in film culture. Their discussions range from the mechanics and aesthetics of subtitles themselves to the xenophobic reaction to translation to subtitles as a metaphor for the distance and intimacy of film. The essays, interviews, and visuals include a collaboration by Russell Banks and Atom Egoyan, which uses quotations from Banks's novel The Sweet Hereafter as subtitles for publicity stills from Egoyan's film of the book; three early film reviews by Jorge Luis Borges; an interview with filmmaker Claire Denis about a scene in her film Friday Night that should not have been subtitled; and Eric Cazdyn's reading of the running subtitles on CNN's post-9/11 newscasts as a representation of new global realities. Several writers deal with translating cultural experience for an international audience, including Frederic Jameson on Balkan cinema, John Mowitt on the history of the "foreign film" category in the Academy Awards, and Ruby Rich on the marketing of foreign films and their foreign languages—"Somehow, I'd like to think it's harder to kill people when you hear their voices," she writes. And Slavoj Zizek considers the "foreign gaze" (seen in films by Hitchcock, Lynch, and others), the misperception that sees too much. Designed by Egoyan and award-winning graphic designer Gilbert Li, the book includes many color images and ten visual projects by artists and filmmakers. The pages are horizontal, suggesting a movie screen; they use the cinematic horizontal aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Subtitles gives us not only a new way to think about film but also a singular design object.Subtitles is being copublished by The MIT Press and Alphabet City Media (John Knechtel, Director). Subtitles has been funded in part by grants from The Canada Council for the Arts, The Henry N.R. Jackman Foundation, and the Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Council.

  • The Shortest Shadow

    The Shortest Shadow

    Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two

    Alenka Zupančič

    Restoring Nietzsche to a Nietzschean context—examining the definitive element that animates his work.

    What is it that makes Nietzsche Nietzsche? In The Shortest Shadow, Alenka Zupančič counters the currently fashionable appropriation of Nietzsche as a philosopher who was "ahead of his time" but whose time has finally come—the rather patronizing reduction of his often extraordinary statements to mere opinions that we can "share." Zupančič argues that the definitive Nietzschean quality is his very unfashionableness, his being out of the mainstream of his or any time.

    To restore Nietzsche to a context in which the thought "lives on its own credit," Zupančič examines two aspects of his philosophy. First, in "Nietzsche as Metapsychologist," she revisits the principal Nietzschean themes—his declaration of the death of God (which had a twofold meaning, "God is dead" and "Christianity survived the death of God"), the ascetic ideal, and nihilism—as ideas that are very much present in our hedonist postmodern condition. Then, in the second part of the book, she considers Nietzsche's figure of the Noon and its consequences for his notion of the truth. Nietzsche describes the Noon not as the moment when all shadows disappear but as the moment of "the shortest shadow"—not the unity of all things embraced by the sun, but the moment of splitting, when "one turns into two." Zupančič argues that this notion of the Two as the minimal and irreducible difference within the same animates all of Nietzsche's work, generating its permanent and inherent tension.