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Slavoj Žižek (1949 - )

Related: cinema - philosophy - psychoanalytical film theory - psychology

Oppositional film theorist: David Bordwell

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock) (1992) - Slavoj Zizek [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Key text: The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006)


Slavoj Žižek (born March 21, 1949) is a Slovenian sociologist, philosopher and cultural critic.

Slavoj Žižek was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia). He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy in Ljubljana and studied Psychoanalysis at the University of Paris).

Žižek is a professor at the European Graduate School and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is a visiting professor at the United States universities (Columbia, Princeton, New School for Social Research, New York, and the University of Michigan).

Žižek is well known for his use of the works of Jacques Lacan in a new reading of popular culture. In addition to his work as an interpreter of Lacanian psychoanalysis, he writes on countless topics, such as fundamentalism, tolerance, political correctness, globalization, subjectivity, human rights, Lenin, myth, cyberspace, postmodernism, multiculturalism, David Lynch, and Alfred Hitchcock. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavoj_Zizek [Dec 2004]

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006) - Sophie Fiennes

See here

On 9/11

Welcome to the Desert of the Real (2002) - Slavoj Zizek
[FR] [DE] [UK]

"And was the bombing of the WTC with regard to the Hollywood catastrophe movies not like the snuff pornography versus ordinary sado-maso porno movies? This is the element of truth in Karl-Heinz Stockhausen's provocative statement that the planes hitting the WTC towers was the ultimate work of art: one can effectively perceive the collapse of the WTC towers as the climactic conclusion of the XXth century art's "passion of the real" - the "terrorists" themselves did not do it primarily to provoke real material damage, but FOR THE SPECTACULAR EFFECT OF IT." --Slavoj Žižek, - 10/7/01 - Reflections on WTC - third version - via http://www.cosmos.ne.jp/~miyagawa/nagocnet/data/zizek.html [Dec 2004]

David Bordwell and Slavoj Žižek

David Bordwell and Slavoj Žižek criticize each other. David Bordwell rejects hermeunetic (interpretive) approaches such as structuralism and Lacanian psychoanalysis in film theory. and proposes a different approach: neoformalism. Slavoj Žižek dislikes neoformalism. Judging by the meaning of formalism in literary theory which by its very nature focuses more on form and style rather than content and context, and the fact that formalism somewhat parallels the theories of cultural pessimist F. R. Leavis I'm inclined to dislike neoformalism as well. But it is to soon to judge David Bordwell, from what I've read of him on genre theory he seems well-informed and spoken.

One can understand David Bordwell in his criticism of some of the language used by those he rejects.

In this article which reviews Slavoj Žižek's The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory (London: BFI, 2001), Bordwell attacks the opaqueness of Screen Theory's 1970s Marxist film theory, of which I quote:

The problem is to understand the terms of the construction of the subject and the modalities of the replacement of this construction in specific signifying practices, where "replacement" means not merely the repetition of the place of that construction but also, more difficultly, the supplacement-the overplacing: supplementation or, in certain circumstances, supplantation (critical interruption)-of that construction in the place of its repetition. --Ben Brewster, Stephen Heath, and Colin MacCabe, "Comment," Screen 16, 2 (Summer 1975), 87.

Try wikifying that!

But my defense here is for Slavoj Žižek. The documentary which I've mentioned in a previous post is interesting. And the best bit about Žižek is that he uses films as examples of his theories. I know of no other philosopher or cultural critic that uses films to the extent that he does. Other scholars stick to books to explain the human condition. And today, how sad that may be for the book world, if you want to refer to common fictional experiences, you almost have to use films rather than books. How many people all over the world have seen Psycho, or at least the shower scene? How many people have read American Psycho? Much less. How many have seen it? A lot more. It makes you wonder whether there is a case to be made for the hegemony of visual culture.

Trying to analyze the differences between Bordwell and Žižek, would it be possible that Bordwell represents the "analytical" side of film theory and film philosophy and Žižek the "continental philosophy" side? [Jul 2006]

Or is this conclusion untenable in the light that:

many now claim that the distinction [between analytical and continental philosophy] is worthless: that the subject matter of continental philosophy is capable of being studied using the now-traditional tools of analytic philosophy. If this is true, the phrase "analytic philosophy" might be redundant, or maybe normative, as in "rigorous philosophy". The phrase "continental philosophy", like "Greek philosophy", would denote a certain historical period or series of schools in philosophy: German idealism, Marxism, psychoanalysis qua philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, and post-structuralism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic_philosophy#Relation_to_continental_philosophy
[Jul 2006]

See also: Slavoj Žižek - Marxist film theory - psychoanalytical film theory - David Bordwell - Noël Carroll - structuralist film theory - film theory


A MacGuffin is a plot device that holds no meaning or purpose of its own except to motivate the characters and advance the story. The device is usually used in films, especially thrillers. The term "MacGuffin" was invented by Alfred Hitchcock, who made extensive use of MacGuffins in his films.

Slavoj Zizek, a Hitchcock aficionado, has used the MacGuffin as an illustration of the structural principles of psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan in his book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin [Dec 2004]


  1. Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences (2003 - Slavoj Zizek [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    The latest book by the Slovenian critic Slavoj Zizek takes the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze as the beginning of a dazzling inquiry into the realms of politics, philosophy, film, and psychoanalysis. This is a polemical and surprising work. Deleuze, famous for his Anti-Oedipus (written with Felix Guattari), emerges here as someone much closer to the Oedipus he would disavow. Similarly, Zizek argues for Deleuze's proximity to Hegel, from whom the French philosopher distanced himself. Zizek turns some Deleuzian concepts around in order to explore the "organs without bodies" in such films as Fight Club and the works of Hitchcock. Finally, he attacks what he sees as the "radical chic" Deleuzians (he names, among them, Hardt and Negri's Empire), arguing that such projects turn Deleuze into an ideologist of today's "digital capitalism." Admired for its brilliant energy and fearless argumentation, Zizek sets out to restore a truer, more radical Deleuze than the one we thought we knew. --amazon.com

  2. Perversion and the Social Relation (2003) - Molly Anne Rothenberg (Editor), Slavoj Zizek (Editor), Dennis A. Foster (Editor) [Amazon US]
    The masochist, the voyeur, the sadist, the sodomite, the fetishist, the pedophile, and the necrophiliac all expose hidden but essential elements of the social relation. Arguing that the concept of perversion, usually stigmatized, ought rather to be understood as a necessary stage in the development of all non-psychotic subjects, the essays in Perversion and the Social Relation consider the usefulness of the category of the perverse for exploring how social relations are formed, maintained, and transformed.

    By focusing on perversion as a psychic structure, as opposed to a derogatory description of behaviors, the contributors provide an alternative to models of social interpretation based on classical Oedipal models of maturation and desire. At the same time, they critique claims that the perverse is necessarily subversive or liberating. In their lucid introduction, the editors explain that while fixation at the stage of the perverse structure can result in considerable suffering for the individual and others, perversion motivates social relations by providing pleasure and fulfilling the psychological need to put something in the place of the Father. The contributors draw on a variety of psychoanalytic perspectives—Freudian and Lacanian—as well as anthropology, history, literature, and film. From Slavoj Zizek’s meditation on "the politics of masochism" in David Fincher’s movie Fight Club through readings of literature including William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner, Don DeLillo’s White Noise, and William Burrough’s Cities of the Red Night, the essays collected here illuminate perversion’s necessary role in social relations.

    Contributors. Michael P. Bibler, Dennis A. Foster, Bruce Fink, Octave Mannoni, E. L. McCallum, James Penney, Molly Anne Rothenberg, Nina Schwartz, Slavoj Zizek --amazon.com

  3. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (October Books) (1992) - Slavoj Zizek [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    This book is very interesting but I think it would have been better to call it "An Introduction to Popular Culture through Jaques Lacan". This would be a proper title because Zizek dedicates more space to tell us what some products of popular culture are about (i.e. Stephen King's novel "Pet Sematary"; Robert Sheckley's short story "The Store of the Worlds") than to explain, or even outline, the theories of Jaques Lacan. This in itself is not a critique, I just want to say that the title can be misleading. You will not find here an explanation or an introduction to Lacan, but rather a Lacanian reading or interpretation of some products of popular culture (novels, short stories and films.) If you are looking for an easy or brief rendering of Lacan, this book will not be of much help. Moreover, I would say that the readers who will profit the most are those who are already familiar with, or at least know something about, Lacanian thought. This said, I think that Zizek's Lacanian reading of popular works is very good in some cases, and somewhat poor in others. For example, he recalls the novel "Pet Sematary" but he explains almost nothing about it. The good cases, however, make it worth the effort to read the book (Zizek's writing is complicated, but so is Lacan's), and even if you do not agree with some of his points, they are still useful to encourage thought and discussion. If you are interested in the study of popular culture, the interpretation of film and literature, or in the application of Lacanian theory to social analysis, this book will certainly be of use. --macpazfink via amazon.com

  4. Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (2002) - Slavoj Zizek [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    In the months after September 11, titles like 'The End of the Age of Irony' abound in our media. Liberals and conservatives proclaim the end of the American holiday from history. Now the easy games are over; one should take sides. Zizek argues this is precisely the temptation to be resisted. In such moments of apparently clear choices, the real alternatives are most hidden. Welcome to the Desert of the Real steps back, complicating the choices imposed on us. It proposes that global capitalism is fundamentalist and that America was complicit in the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. It points to our dreaming about the catastrophe in numerous disaster movies before it happened, and explores the irony that the tragedy has been used to legitimize torture. Last but not least it analyses the fiasco of the predominant leftist response to the events. --amazon.com

    About the series: Appearing on the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, these series of books from Verso present analyses of the United States, the media, and the events surrounding September 11 by Europe's most stimulating and provocative philosophers. Probing beneath the level of TV commentary, political and cultural orthodoxies, and 'rent-a-quote' punditry, Baudrillard, Virilio, and Zizek offer three highly original and readable accounts that serve as fascinating introductions to the direction of their respective projects, and as insightful critiques of the unfolding events. This series seeks to comprehend the philosophical meaning of September 11 and will leave untouched none of the prevailing views currently propagated. --amazon.com

Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (2002) - Slavoj Zizek [Amazon.com]

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock) (1992) - Slavoj Zizek

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock) (1992) - Slavoj Zizek [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Synopsis Hitchcock is placed on the analyst's couch in this volume of case-studies, as its contributors sweep on the entire Hitchcock oeuvre, from "Rear Window" to "Psycho" as an exemplar of "postmortem" defamiliarization. Starting from the premise that "everything has meaning" the films' ostensible narrative content and formal procedures are analyzed to reveal a proliferation of ideological and psychical mechanisms at work. But Hitchcock, here, is also a bait to lure the reader into "serious" Marxist and Lacanian considerations on the construction of meaning. The contributors are: Fredric Jameson, Pascal bonitzer, Miran Bozovic, Michel Chion, Mladen Dolar, Stojan Pelko, Renata Salecl, Alenka Zupancic and Slavoj Zizek. --via Amazon.com

see also: Alfred Hitchcock - Jacques Lacan - 1992

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