Right Thing, Wrong Place: Secondary Litterature on Zizek

January 5, 2009

I am reading “Embracing the Paradox: Zizek’s Illogical Logic” by Shelia Kunkle (IZJS, V2#4) and it’s driving me nuts. She ape’s Zizek’s style too closely, using movies to talk about what she aims to talk about. I admit that she makes some good observations about some of these, but it none the less is driving me to the docks. It is the right thing (Zizek’s ‘method’/style) in the wrong place (someone else’s paper). There’s just something pathetic about seeing someone so closely identify with the philosophy of another.

I was reading little sections of the Interpretation of Dreams last night, and there’s a section (Chapter 4 “On Distortion in Dreams”) on identification where Freud writes that a whole room of hysterics will take on the same symptom because they unconsciously realize that they can enjoy their own hidden wishes by means of the same symptom. The same seems to be the case of intellectuals: they know they can avoid the same problems as does their master by taking on their personal ticks, their ‘contingent’, particular methods of approaching problems. In this case, it’s the problem of the concreteness of Zizek’s examples. The problem is still here (in Kunkle’s paper) couched in terms of the Hegelian concrete, which is not the same as that of Marx – She fully accepts Zizek’s frame of reference.

One observation that she makes, (and outside these sorts of examples, incidentally – see page 3) is that when one gets to the other side of the parallax view it is not only one’s subjective position that changes, but also the object with which that subject is engaged. So, SB’s comment that “nothing substantial changes” in formal conversion does not mean that only the subjective position changes, as I took it to mean. It means that the object, which has no essence but is only surface, also changes. This completely erases the difference I perceived between our perspectives.

In the case of Andrea Yates, the formal conversion could have ended in the realization that it was not her mothering that was the problem but the form of mothering: if she realized that she enjoyed the particular family formation she could have also come to realize that it was a particular formation, she could have come to see what processes made it what it was, that it was not the closed, reified, object that she took it to be. She could have seen it differently and approached it differently.


7 Responses to “Right Thing, Wrong Place: Secondary Litterature on Zizek”

  1. mukyo said

    One thing I think I learn over and over in my anguish of reading Zizek is that he’s saying thing by not saying it, which has helped immensely in my reading of Lacan without giving up. Maybe for Kunkle’s style of using Zizek’s style is to speak to a particular audience that is familiar with how to read in a particular way. Maybe her style is her way of relating to the reader to be on the same track. Lacan insists on us studying Aristotle to learn Rhetoric. Rhetoric can be done in all kinds of styles. It might as well be a familiar one.
    Thanks, now I have to check out the article!

  2. Joe said

    Thank God I’m not the only one. I stopped reading it, if only for a while, half-way through it. Regarding the Interpretation of Dreams bit, I wonder if this could be a fruitful way to engage the Alan Sokals of the world who deplore so many academics as hiding behind bad-writing.

  3. sonnyburnett said

    Odd, I just starting to read that essay, got to the top of page 7 and stopped b/c of what I saw as an error: her identification of “love as a passion that… [is] outside the limits of the Law.” I think she makes a mistake here, which retroactively caused me to re-read the first 6 pages with the suspicion that she substantializes the Real somewhat.

    Or is it all in her technique of presentation? Zizek has really developed a great technique for minimalizing such misreadings, and this author, in her own style, may not quite articulate her (proper?) understanding as convincingly as Zizek & the rest of his Sovenian bunch of misfits do.

    But to the extent that she mimicks Z’s style, she succeeds. Myself, I have no qualms with mimicking his style. You know, during the late Lacan’s day, there were dozens of little mini-Lacans running around the campuses of Paris. If you have a master (or monarch?), the way to shake off his influence most readily is to go into ‘ape mode’.

    Though Lacan’s hairstyle for me is just too goofy. And Zizek’s tics, well… I’ll stick to my own set, while continuing, of course, to ape his writing.

  4. mukyo said

    Hey Joe!

    I think Dogen is nothing but “Bad writing.” We have to be a “Bad reader.” in order see what he’s really saying, no? Bad meaning “not normal”.
    Zizek looks worse than I look when I wake up in the morning. Just knowing that starts the day off on a good note!

  5. Joe said

    Those concerned with imitations of Zizek ‘style’ (I’m not so sure Kunkle’s problem is a matter of style per se, but kind of over-proximity to some content-level aspect of Zizek that I’m having a hard time articulating) might be interested in this McSweeney’s parody of Zizek:


  6. Joe said


    I get what your saying. When I say “bad writing” I don’t mean “not normal,” something more like “bad faith” in Sartrean lingo. To that end, I think we’re concerned with very related issues.

  7. mukyo said

    For sure, thanks. She could be pulling one over, that an option, too.
    Harry just started deleting me from his discussion because I’m not speaking correctly. That’s a good “over coffee discussion”.

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