As some of you may recall, I have been toying with the idea that the sinthome is in some way related to the formula for fantasy:  $-a; that is, the formula for fantasy represents a symptomal knot (sinthome) which substantializes the noumenal Thing (this last point may be a bit contentious, but I’m sure discussion will ensue on it).

Here’s a quote from Mladen Dolar’s article, “Beyond Interpellation” (I can bring copies to the next meeting…  this is a must read!), which gives credence to what I propose:

The Lacanian formula for fantasy “correlates the symbolic subject (the one not based on recognition, the empty space that Lacan marks $) and the objectal surplus (objet a); these are the two entities not covered, I think, by the mechanism of interpellation…  The two are also connected in the symptom, although in a different way – Lacan gives it much thought in his last phase through the notion of sinthome.  Symptom and fantasy are two ways to establish a link between the $ and the objet a…” (Beyond Interpellation, p. 91).

This also helps to understand why, in The Parallax View, Zizek conceives $ and a as two sides of the same entity:  $ is the empty place in the Symbolic, and a is the excessive object without a place in the Symbolic.  They are the same entity viewed from two different positions in a ‘parallax view’.  One is subject, the other is substance, but there is a speculative identity between the two:  ‘substance as subject’.  However, they cannot be perceived simultaneously:  “They form a conceptual pair, both opposed and complementary” (Beyond Interpellation, p. 91).  I would argue, then, that symptom and fantasy share a similar relation, which is why analysis focuses on fantasy (dreams and hallucinations, for instance; or, the subject’s sense of ‘reality’) and symtpoms/sinthomes (nervous ‘ticks’; hysterical outbursts, etc. etc.).

The only thing that might discredit this claim is that, in some places, Zizek links the idea of sinthome to the Master-Signifier.  However, I would still argue that fantasy/sinthome occupies the Void of the empty Master-Signifier, thus maintaining my point and linking it to the Master-Signifier.

The Death-Driven Penguin

March 18, 2009

While I found this paper interesting, it’s low on theory and long on description – perhaps McNally’s method of writing is to leave the bulk the theory in the books in which he found them (with references), assuming that if you want to you will go read the theory… but the rest should be understandable without it. Which is kind of interesting to think about in relation to Lacan’s style: Lacan tries to frustrate you in order to make you go read things for yourself and reap the benefits of study, where McNally prefers to present information that it might easily be understood, but leavs hints (references) about the bigger picture…

On the same note, it was once pointed out to me that grad students tend to spend to much time in papers giving exegesis of theory, rather than getting to the point…

Anyway, beyond my interest in the simple description of the crisis and the economic tools that precipitated it (because I’m next to completely ignorant about what’s happening), I liked the following section the most:

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God the Postulate

March 13, 2009

Okay, so I looked at the paper that I wrote for Vernon the other day and can now report back on the 2 forms of freedom that Kant talks about. The first is negative freedom. This freedom is attached to the letter-writing example, i.e. even if you do write a letter to condemn someone to save your own life, you very well could not right that letter. That is, you could go against your natural inclination to save your skin and refuse to right the letter. This is freedom from the noumenal as the realm of causality. The second, positive,freedom is the positing of a universal maxim – i.e. the ability to come up with a moral law that (attempts to) conform to the categorical imperative. Positively defined freedom is the ability of any rational will “to determine their causality by the representation of rules” and to act upon them (CoPrR, 29).

So, as SB was saying, this second freedom is probably linked to the supposed freedom of one who has acted. I.e. at some point there must have been a ‘primal choice’ made which can be read into your present actions.

Another thing I found that I had forgotten about is that Kant talks about Freedom as an historical development, and he starts with the Greeks – more specifically, the stoics. Kant argues that the stoics were able to conceive of freedom, but they did so without being able to include happiness (read: pleasure). So, the stoics had to be free but not happy, and held themselves to be divinities beyond contentment. It’s Kant’s contention that the question of pleasure is only able to come into contact with the question of freedom with the advent of Christianity – i.e. the ability to posit a noumenal cause for the world in place of us (i.e. God) as well as an infinite soul and heaven. The Lacanian overtones here are clear: God, the soul and heaven are postulates (and not fundamental concepts) that support the will to be ethical (i.e. the freedom of positing a universal moral law) and enable us to both be ethical and have pleasure (read: enjoyment).

Here’s the summary I wrote in my paper:

There is in the end one categorical imperative and three postulates: immortality, freedom and God. The postulate of freedom is the necessary supposition of independence from the sensible world (negative freedom) as well as the capacity to determine the will through the moral law (positive freedom) (Kant, 110). The will and the moral law consequently imply each other. The postulates of God and the immortal soul are also necessary: Kant defines a postulate as “attached inseparably to an a priori unconditionally valid practical law“, and so those of God and the immortal soul cannot be left aside (Kant, 102).

I wish I could remember Hegel’s critique of this, but instead I’ll say this: It seems to me that the end of analysis would look like a dialectical return to the stoics – i.e. we don’t need a God/Other; the divine is returned to the human (Christ); we are then free to ‘not enjoy’…

SB had mentioned that a Lacanian-inspired analyst will be talking about No Country for Old Men on Wednesday, April 15 and that it might be cool for us to go and see. I don’t see a link on the TPS&I page, but I’ll keep an eye out.

In addition, I had mentioned that McNally has a new paper on the crises that can be found on a Marxist blog dedicated to the subject. Voila!


March 10, 2009

If you all recall, when we met to discuss chapter 1 of Ticklish Subject, we discussed the difference between Kant’s mathematical and dynamic antinomies (p. 41).  This, I think, led us into the discussion of differences between idealism and materialism (on which BTP has posted below).  Now, I’m not sure I entirely understand how this relates to idealism/materialism (still working through some of the details), but if anyone wants to read a very very good article on Kant’s antinomies and the logics of sexuation, I recommend Joan Copjec’s chapter in Read My Desire (1994), “Sex and the Eunthenasia of Reason”.  In this chapter, Copjec begins with a critique of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990) and the problems with its post-Structuralist/Deconstructionist methodology and assumptions.  Copjec’s article is a good defence of psychoanalysis, and the deadlock of sexual difference in psychoanalysis, against post-Structuralism, which refers to Kant’s mathematical and dynamic antinomies to make her case.  I’m still working through some of the ideas in this chapter, and trying to think through some of the critiques she makes against Butler, but I think that it is very useful in this discussion.  It is also probably helpful to read through chapters 2-4 in Tarrying with the Negative (1993), chapters 3 and 4 in For They Know Not What They Do (2nd Ed. 2002), and chapter 6 in The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989) alongside this article (particularly Zizek’s discussions of Kantian antinomies and the logics of judgement).

Another interesting read is Butler’s Psychic Life of Power (1997), which I think is worth reading in anticipation of Zizek’s critique of her and Foucault in chapter 5 of Ticklish Subject (read especially her chapter on Freud and Foucault).

The deadly jester

March 9, 2009

I just found this critique of Zizek online: “The Deadly Jester”

In it do we not only get hackneyed attacks along the following lines: Zizek’s reading public being to bowled over by the pop-content of his books to read it as seriously as the author thinks he is able to (“Under the cover of comedy and hyperbole, in between allusions to movies and video games, he is engaged in the rehabilitation of many of the most evil ideas of the last century.”; “Is Zizek’s audience too busy laughing at him to hear him? I hope so, because the idea that they can hear him without recoiling from him is too dismal, and frightening, to contemplate”); we also get the author picking out the cheapest quotes to make an initial volley against Z’s work:

And In Defense of Lost Causes, where Zizek remarks that “Heidegger is ‘great’ not in spite of, but because of his Nazi engagement,” and that “crazy, tasteless even, as it may sound, the problem with Hitler was that he was not violent enough, that his violence was not ‘essential’ enough”; but this book, its publisher informs us, is “a witty, adrenalinfueled manifesto for universal values.”

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Meeting Days/Times

March 5, 2009

Okay…  Lets all start with the days/times when we are not available.  Generally, my calendar is open, apart from specific meetings and appointments.  So I’m good with whatever day/time is decided and my absence will only be sporadic.

For all new and incoming members,

a project that I wanted to start along with this group was a “referece-dictionary” of Zizek’s examples. The idea was that as he (sometimes) changes what he says about the examples he makes, it would be useful to be able to look up examples that you’re interested in.

The “At the level of a bug…” page was set up for that. So, if you’re going through other Zizek peices and you note some examples, add them to this page.

Does anyone want to ‘bottomline’ doing this for The Tick? I’m happy to do it (it was my idea, after all) but if someone else is keen on it there’s no point of us both doing the same thing.


Literary Studies Speaker Series

The People’s Two Bodies: Reflections on the Somatic Sublime

Eric Santner
University of Chicago

Friday, Mar 13, 2009, 2:30-4:30 pm
Northrop Frye Hall, Rm. 113

Eric L. Santner is the Philip and Ida Romberg Professor in Modern
Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago. His books include
Friedrich Hölderlin. Narrative Vigilance and the Poetic Imagination;
Stranded Objects. Mourning, Memory, and Film in Postwar Germany; My Own
Private Germany. Daniel Paul Schreber's Secret History of Modernity; On
the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and
Rosenzweig; Catastrophe and Meaning: The Holocaust and the Twentieth
Century ( co-edited with Moishe Postone), The Neighbor: Three Inquiries
in Political Theology , written with Slavoj Zizek and Kenneth Reinhard);
and On Creaturely Life: Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald (University of Chicago
Press). Santner’s work engages the intersection of literature,
philosophy, psychoanalysis, social theory, and religious thought.

Santner’s talk will address the biopolitical transformation of the idea
of sovereignty in the modern world – the libidinal construction of a
body politic through a “materialist sublime.”

For further information contact Rebecca Comay at