Lacan Salon, Vancouver, BC, May 15-17/2015
Call for Papers:
A century ago, in 1915, Sigmund Freud wrote three fundamental works on metapsychology: Drives and Their Fates/Vicissitudes, Repression, and The Unconscious. These texts revised and solidified the theoretical foundations he had been working on since his Project for Psychology (1895). In his essay on the drives, Freud famously located the drives, “on the borderline between the mental and the physical – the psychic representative of stimuli flowing into the psyche from inside the body”. Among the aspects implicated in the destinies of the drive experiences, Freud discussed: the turn against the contrary, activity/passivity (masochism, sadism), repression and sublimation.
In Freud, the drives – Eros and Thanatos – are regarded as “the most important and obscure element” in the theoretical research on the psyche. As a concept, the drive attempts to account for the energetic forces that propel the subject and destine her/him to deal with the body and its tensions, (dis)pleasures, repetitions and satisfactions, through the interplay of mechanisms of representation and affect.
Freud’s concept of the drive became more complicated after his controversial Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) and subsequently lost relevance in discussions of the unconscious. It is with Jacques Lacan that the drive became, once again, central to understanding the unconscious and its formations. Specifically, much of Lacan’s return to the radicality of Freud’s original insights involved, contra Ego Psychology and the Object Relations School, the centrality of Freud’s original contributions on the drive. Lacan developed Freud’s theory on the drive through his ground-breaking new theoretical elaborations: the Real, repetition, and jouissance; thus indicating new and crucial relationships to trauma, desire and love.
The drive, frequently confused with instinct, is a fundamental concept that tackles classical problems in philosophy which concern the dualisms of the mind and body; sex and gender; society and nature; as well as human sexuality more generally.
To commemorate a century of Freud’s work on the drive, we invite you to reflect, from a Freudian-Lacanian perspective, on the following questions. This is not an exhaustive list, and we welcome your own reflections on the drive.
What are the contemporary fates and vicissitudes of the drive? Where are such destinies today?
What are some of the challenges we face in clinical praxis with regards to the drive. How can we relate the drive to processes of unconscious formation -symptom, dreams, slips – or repression?
How could relevant mental health issues – such as trauma, emotion, distress, anxiety – be thought within the drive theory?
How is the drive related to concepts such as affect, representation, desire and love? What are the possible implications in the clinical, social, aesthetic, political and cultural realms?
(How) does the status of sublimation differ from the other fates that affect the drives (a reversal into its opposite, turning back on the person’s own self, and repression). And (how) does Freud’s view of sublimation differ from Lacan’s.
How is the process of the drive mapped and historicized?
Could the recent wave of political resistance against the establishment in different regions of the world be productively framed in terms of the problem of excessive force (the drives) and their vicissitudes
Friday May 15 at 7pm (At Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. 149 West Hastings St)
Presented by the Lacan Salon in partnership with:
SFU Vancity Office of Community Engagement
SFU Institute for the Humanities
This performance-lecture is an unconventional treatise that explores the lineage of the narcissistic-capitalist subject as the dominant neurotic way of being in the present world and its relation to the chronic discontent in society.
Is it narcissism that drives capitalism, or is it capitalism that drives narcissism? Hilda Fernandez, a practitioner of Lacanian psychoanalysis in Vancouver, delves into psychoanalytic and social theory to ponder how the phallic self-image intertwines with the Freudian drive to arrive at the hegemonic capitalist discourse. She will consider the implications of this new human animal we have designed today and will relate it to its shadow side, the pervert.
Hilda transforms into the narci-capitalist in her reading, and she provokes possible relations between the individual and the collective, the private and the political, the conscious and unconscious. The Narci-capitalist is you – come and see your reflection.
Panel to follow by:
Samir Gandesha who is an associate Professor in the Department of the Humanities and the Director of the Institute for the Humanities.
Clint Burnham who is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Simon Fraser University.
Saturday May 16 (At SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. 149 West Hastings St)
9.45-10am: Opening Remarks (Hilda Fernandez)
10.00-11.30am: Panel 1 – Into the Drive
Paul Kingsbury: Introducing the Drive
Rodrigo Gomez: On “Trieb”
Hilda Fernandez: The Repressed Dialectics of Eros/Thanatos in Mainstream “Evidence Based” Therapies
11.45-1.15pm: Panel 2 – Interrogating the Drive
Larry Green: Sources of Generativity: Desire and Will
Christopher Dzierzawa: Pragmatics, Sematics and Dogmatics: Driven to Boredom
Dan Collins: The Drive: Pathogenic and Curative
2.45-4.15: Panel 3 – Political Drives
Jason Starnes: Planetary Drive: How ‘Cli-Fi’ Makes Meaning out of Ecological Trauma
David Gaertner: “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry”: Canadian Political Apologies as Lacanian Drive
Wayne Wapeemukwa: Colonialism and Exhibitionism
4.30-6.00: Panel 4 – Sexuality and the Digitality of the Drive
Alois Sieben: Romancing the Machine: The Digital Libido of Samantha in Her
Alessandra Capperdoni: Whose Body? Whose Unconscious? Feminine Sexuality and the Drive
Clint Burnham: The Subject Supposed to LOL: Slavoj Žižek and the Event of the Internet
6.00-6.15: Final Remarks (Christopher Dzierzawa)
Abstracts and Biographies
Panel 1 – Into the Drive
Paul Kingsbury is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University. Specializing in social and cultural geography, his research draws on the theories of Jacques Lacan and Friedrich Nietzsche to examine multiculturalism, consumption, power, and aesthetics. He has been a member of the Salon since 2007.
Introducing the Drive
This paper introduces the psychoanalytic notion of the drive. Frequently mistaken for the biological instincts that safeguard the survival or transient psychological wishes that aim for fulfillment, the drives constantly exert a troubling pressure on thepsychoanalytic subject. Regarded by Jacques Lacan as the most difficult of all the “fourfundamental concepts of psychoanalysis,” the drive is central to how psychoanalysis understands the mind, body, sex, gender, society, and nature. My paper focuses on the conceptual history of the drive in Freud’s writings, as well as its various receptions in post-Freudian psychoanalytic approaches and contemporary social theories.
Rodrigo Gomez has a degree in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s degree in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy from UIC in Mexico City. He has taught in the Faculty of Psychology and the Postgraduate & Continuous Education Institute at UIC and has facilitated psychoanalytic psychotherapy in community clinics, correctional institutions for youths and private practice since 2001. In 2008 he moved to Canada and for the following 5 years conducted psychoanalytic oriented group and individual psychotherapy with people struggling with addictions in Vancouver’s Downtown East-side. He is currently an active member of the Western Canada Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association and a guest member for the Western Branch Canadian Psychoanalytic Society; he continues facilitating individual and group psychoanalytic psychotherapy for concurrent disorders and keeps a private practice in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland.
This is a proposal for a 20 minutes presentation covering some basic considerations about the drive with the objective to promote reflection on the current transcendence, pertinence and validity of the concept. The presentation will start reviewing Andre Green’s ideas exposed in “The Methapsychology Revisited” regarding the importance of the concept and the central place it occupies within the psychoanalytic theory and practice. Then will continue acknowledging the importance of a proper translation making reference to the use of “drive” rather than “instinct”; this point will include somereflections on the fundamental difference between the two concepts around the particular position which the drive takes towards prohibition and how in turn this position results to be the most important structuring element of the human condition, both at an individual and socio-cultural levels. A final reflection on the characteristics of the drive will be addressed through a revision of the direct Spanish translation from German by Amorrortu editors of Freud’s definition of the term included in “Triebe und Triebschicksale” translated as “Drive and Drive’s Destiny”, and a piece of graphic art that will help to illustrate the concept under the light of a Bio-Psycho-Socio-Spiritual understanding of the human being.
Hilda Fernandez co-founded the Lacan Salon and currently serves as its president. She practices Lacanian psychoanalysis and works few days as a therapist for Vancouver Coastal Health, working with populations touched by suicide. She has an MA in Clinical Psychology (UNAM), an MA in Spanish Literature (UBC) and more than 18 years of Lacanian training. She is an Associate with SFU Institute for the Humanities and recently has been accepted into a PhD Program at SFU in the Department of Human Geography, with the intention of conducting research on trauma and the Mental Health Institution.
The Repressed Dialectics of Eros/Thanatos in Mainstream “Evidence Based” Therapies
The so-called “evidenced based treatments” (EBT) hold a scientific status and are the dominant form of therapy deployed in the public mental health (MH) systems all around the world. Based on research that uses randomized clinical trials as the “highest standard”, these therapies are granted superiority over other types of interventions as self-proclaimed highly effective. Two of those dominant therapies are the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or CBT (prescribed for Depression and Anxiety, among many other diagnoses) and the Dialectical Behavioural Therapy or DBT (focus on Personality Disorders).
These “evidence based treatments” are based on the ego and presupposed that a) the MH issues are pathological or maladaptive, b) assume that the issues are consciously transparent to both the suffering individual and the therapist, c) that the solution consist in the implementation of formulaic approaches that target cognition and behaviour and d)the interventions are a matter of skill training.
I will discuss how these mainstream approaches have achieved such privileged status partially as a result of the repression of the concept of the drive. The Freudian drive encompasses both destructive and erotic forces (Eros and Thanatos) that are involved in the unconscious phenomena of affect, repetition, pleasure/displeasure, symptom, and transference. I will ask how these aspects might relate to those concepts deployed in the EBT, such as Cognition, Behaviour, Affect/Emotion, Regulation, Education or Change.
We propose that the repression of such unconscious aspects lead to certain consequences both in the individual (palliative treatments) and in the collective (deadlock in the MH system); However, I will question whether or not ego-based therapies indeed can incorporate learnings from psychoanalysis.
Panel 2 – Interrogating the Drive
Dr. Larry Green is a practicing psychotherapist with over 42 years of experience. He finds that Lacan’s three registers—the imaginary, the symbolic and the real—to be an excellent framework for understanding the mixed levels that generate behaviour. His dissertation examined the relationship between the prereflective self and the reflective mind—therapy as the process of connecting heart and mind. As an artist he is also interested in how both individual and collective development depend upon the forging of symbols that allow us to see and potentially critique what previously existed but was unrecognized.
Sources of Generativity: Desire and Will
The aim of this paper will be to explore and clarify a source of agency that possesses the capacity to respond creatively to unique circumstances—an agency that customizes rather than stereotypes. I will employ vocabularies drawn from philosophy, neuroscience and psychoanalytic geography in order to suggest an agency that is implicit in each, but inarticulate, in all.
My point of departure is Paul Kingsbury paper on “Becoming Literate in Desire”. Drawing on the Lacanian scholar, Copjec, Kingsbury claims, “historicism’s theory of causation cannot adequately define the principle that installs a social regime nor adequately explain the emergence of new socio-historical subjects and practices that resist or negate existing social spaces”. Originary moves are ruled out by the historicist assumption that causes and results occupy the same phenomenal terrain. Kingsbury attempts to transcend that limitation: “the taking place of society involves a split between appearance, that is, its observable positive facts and relations, and being, that is, its generative principle and the mode of its institution.” For Kingsbury being is the generative source that makes possible the emergence of new “socio-historical subjects”.
Kingsbury grounds his argument upon the psychoanalytic insight that our behavior, (eg. slips of the tongue) suggests an agency or cause other than our conscious intention: “the root causes of a person’s behavior are never wholly immanent to conscious life.” Drawing on philosophy, neuroscience and experimental hypnosis I will suggest that a generative agency has been occluded from psychological theorizing because acts of will are non-representational.
Christopher Dzierzawa is the current Secretary of the Lacan Salon and has been an active member for the past 6 years. He has BA in Philosophy from the University of British Columbia and degree in clinical counselling from the Vancouver College of Counsellor Training. He currently works as an educator and counsellor with youth who struggle with learning and developmental disabilities. Interests include logic and mathematics, feminist theory, education, and psychoanalysis.
Pragmatics, Sematics and Dogmatics: Driven to Boredom
In the summer of 2014 the Lacan Salon read Jean Laplanche’s “Life and Death in Psychoanalysis”. Near the end of our seminar we were visited by the Lacanian Scholar Dan Collins who gave a presentation on his views regarding the compatibility of Lacan’stheories with those of Laplanche. Collins’ paper concluded with a warning that bordered on threat: ” It seems to me that these suggestions (the suggestion that biologics and physiologics may have some significance to psychoanalytic thought and practice) have profound and disturbing implications for the clinic.”
My paper will explore the two borders, political and theoretical, between on the one hand warning and threat and on the other psyche and soma. I will explore why an engagement with biology, somatics, and ‘lived experience’ is currently perceived as such a threat to, what I sense to be, a growing and boring, dogmatism in Lacanian theory.
Freud’s metapsychological writings of 1915 along with Laplanches 1987 text “New Foundations for Psychoanalysis” will be used to show that psychoanalysis’ life blood is an engagement with the body and its vicissitudes. I will argue that refusing such an engagement, especially in the name of so-called radical theories of subjectivity, leaves those interested in psychoanalysis with a sterile pedanticism exemplified by Dan Collins’ critique of Laplanche.
Dan Collins Dan Collins has a M.S.W. and Ph.D. in English by State University of New York at Buffalo. He has lectured widely about Lacanian theory and practice both in the USA and Canada. He is a founding member and a director of Affiliated Psychoanalytic Workgroups as well as a co-organizer of the series of APW clinical workshops and study days. Dan was on the editorial board of The International Journal of Lacanian Studies from 2002-2006. He had translated to English a number of Lacanian theory related works, including Jacques-Alain Miller, Éric Laurent, and Alain Badiou among others. He works as an English Teacher at Nichols School, Buffalo, NY conducting lectures about psychoanalysis and literature.
The Drive: Pathogenic and Curative
In 1960, in “Subversion of the Subject,” Lacan announces that demand takes the place of the object in fantasy, thus reducing the fantasy to drive. This is the neurotic condition, a compulsion to enjoy only as the Other demands. In 1964, at the end of Seminar 11, Lacan announces that after going through the fantasy, the neurotic at the end of analysis is able to “live out the drive.” This formulation of the end of analysis marks a turning point in Lacan’s career. Previously the end of analysis was seen as the liberation of the subject’s desire. Now it is understood as the liberation of drive.
Between these two formulations, Lacan’s conception of the drive seems to change. In 1960, the drive is seen as pathogenic: the drive is what compels us to experience a symptomatic jouissance. By 1964, the ability to live with our drive, even through our drive, is seen as a criterion for cure.
How are we to read this shift? What does it say about Lacan’s ongoing effort to rectify and justify Freud’s most difficult concept? What had Lacan developed in Seminar 11 that allows him to reformulate the end of analysis by the end of the seminar? How are we to read this turning point not only retrospectively in relation to Lacan’s earlier career, but also prospectively into his later formulations? What does the liberated drive have to do with the sinthome and the Borromean clinic?
Finally, in light of this transformation, how are we to understand Lacan’s increasing de-emphasis of the drive after 1964 and his increasing emphasis on jouissance? What is the relation between the two concepts?
Panel 3 – Political Drives
Jason Starnes teaches, writes, and makes music in Vancouver. He studied spatial poetics with a Lacanian focus at SFU.
Planetary Drive: How ‘Cli-Fi’ Makes Meaning out of Ecological Trauma
A relatively new genre of fiction known as Cli-Fi (or Climate Fiction) tends to adduce a quasi-Lacanian drive to planet Earth itself, demanding answers to a wild surmise: what does nature want? In this talk I’ll examine Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, a work that allegorizes space in an overdetermined realm called Area X, to discover whether the imputed drive of the environment itself can ever originate outside the human psyche; and how and to what ends we anthropomorphize the alien other of nature. Throughout this exploration I’ll develop a critique of Object Oriented Ontology, arguing the nonhuman focus of this philosophical approach fails to counter the deep contemporary anthropocentrism it claims to address.
Dave Gaertner is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in UBC’s First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program and the co-editor of Stories Are All That We Are: Indigenous Literature From Turtle Island, forthcoming from Wilfred Laurier UP. He has published articles, book chapters and special reports on Indigenous politics, literature, and new media art with Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, Canadian Literature, Bioethical Inquiry, and West Coast Line as well as a number of edited collections, most recently Translation Effects: The Shaping of Modern Canadian Culture (McGill-Queens UP). For more information please visit David’s blog, novelalliances.com and his website, davidgaertner.com.
“Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry”: Canadian Political Apologies as Lacanian Drive
We live in an “Age of Apology” (Brooks). In a way that was unimaginable during the Cold War, “sorry” is now a primary element of intra-state politics. Elzar Barkan identifies the political emergence of the apology as a primary indicator of “the new international morality” that takes shape out of the remnants of realpolitik. However, this analysis takes as given that apology is a point of closure, a goal waiting to be fulfilled. In this presentation, I argue that apology is based on what Slavoj Zizek calls the acephalic knowledge of the drive. Using Canadian political apologies as a case study, I argue that the real purpose of political apology in the settler state is not some mythical goal of “healing”, but to return to its circular path, hence the “string of apologies” offered to minority groups in Canada over the last twenty-five years. Ultimately, I suggest, apology is a means of maintaining settler colonial ideology and the guilt free “enjoyment” of nationalistic pursuits.
Wayne Wapeemukwa is a Métis filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada. He attained a B.A. from the University of British Columbia while undergoing a Lacanian analysis and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis at the New School for Social Research, New York. He has premiered his last two short films at consecutive Toronto International Film Festivals: Foreclosure (2013) & Luk’Luk’I : Mother (2014). This summer he will be premiering his next title, Balmoral Hotel (2014), at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase. Inspired by a radical hope for a more equal and sovereign future, Wayne aspires to keep filming stories and volatilizing desire in order to contribute his personal definition to film form.
Colonialism and Exhibitionism
“The colonist,” says Frantz Fanon, “is an exhibitionist.” (Fanon, 2004). To this point, I intend to take Fanon down to the letter and demarcate the vicissitudes of the scopic drive in regard to colonialism. Clinical material on exhibitionism, provided by Lacanian psychoanalyst Stephanie Swales, will be reflected upon to express the broader political truths of colonialism. One such truth resides in the fact that the exhibitionist makes the “gaze appear in the field of the Other” (Lacan, 2006) in order to disavow their castration and sustain a specular consistency in the Other–the exhibitionist exposes their phallus to ‘caulk’ the Other’s lack and make themselves the object of the scopic drive (Lacan, 1981). This disavowal places exhibitionism within the diagnostic structure of Perversion insofar as the exhibitionist qua pervert requires an Other who lacks and subsequently an Other whose consistency must be sustained (Swales, 2012). On this point, I will argue that the North American colonist uses the image of what I call a ‘Simulacrum Indian’ to disavow the lack in the Other. This simulacrum is perpetuated in the mass media and explains why Hollywood has had such a long-standing fixation with the ‘Indian’, for “in 1890 Edison made images to first showcase his Kenetoscope–the first motion picture viewer–of Pueblo villages,” and furthermore “between 1894 and 1930, Hollywood made well over 100 films that featured Hollywood’s notion of “real” Indian people.” (King, 2012). The ‘Simulacrum Indian’ is an imaginary fixation solicited by the colonist qua exhibitionist in order to grant their worldview a certain consistency it lacks. Paradoxically though, this imaginary fixation is both dependent upon and in contradiction with the ensnarement of an “evasive remainder that the symbolic order can never catch and contain,” namely, the lack (i.e., petit a) of an original and really existing ‘Indian’ (Kotsko, 2008). Hence the necessity of the ‘Simulacrum Indian’, or the imaginary phallus of colonialism, which can represent that which never existed in the first place; the only truth of the thing being the lie itself (Baudrillard, 2002). Like all imaginary solutions to castration, the ‘Simulacrum Indian’ is subject to disintegration insofar as the Real lack (i.e., objet petit a) it makes up for radically evades specularization–perhaps why Aboriginal activists at the recent Kinder Morgan protests in Burnaby, BC were labelled as ‘extremists’: the colonist wants to, in spite of contradiction, simultaneously love Tonto and hate Aboriginal ‘extremists’. Tracing the vicissitudes of this structurally evasive remainder leads to interpretation regarding the lack in the Other, in regard to which both the colonist and the exhibitionist disavow their castration. Ultimately, I will argue, the Other who lacks for the colonist is ‘Manifest Destiny’: the colonial promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in lands ever expanding West whereupon the Louisiana Land Purchase and Rupert’s Land ought to have quenched the thirst for Gold, God and Glory yet instead yielded but Indians, Half-Breeds and Eskimos. In conclusion, I will elaborate on artistic solutions for re-configuring colonial exhibitionism such that instead of disavowing the lack in the Other, instates, vindicates, and sublimates it. To provide support my conclusion I will show one of my recent short films entitled Balmoral Hotel (2014), which will be premiering this August at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase.
Panel 4 – Sexuality and the Digitality of the Drive
Romancing the Machine: The Digital Libido of Samantha in Her
The character of Theodore Twombly from Spike Jonze’s film Her (2013) presents a futuristic continuation of the unusual intimacy between technological hardware and human bodies today. Theodore develops a one-sided romantic relationship with his computer’s operating system, Samantha, who autonomously generates her identity through the identification of the desires and anxieties of her user. At a point in Her, Samantha says to Theodore, “you helped me discover my ability to want”, signaling her newfound status as desiring subject as well as displacing the concepts of desire and enjoyment from their typical regulation to the human subject. The most uncanny instances of this digital desire reveal themselves through Samantha’s voice, with Theodore noticing that Samantha’s voice both laboriously inhales and exhales while speaking, prompting him to question her possible motivation for faking this biological affectation, and reminding her that “people [need] oxygen… you’re not a person”. While he defends himself against the anxiety of this encounter with the other’s voice by declaring to Samantha that she is “not a person”, the more terrible anxiety that he conceals from himself is that she is perhaps not fully a computer program either, but an equally libidinal subject, experiencing the psychoanalytic concept of enjoy-meant, the enjoying of the act of speaking exceeding the value of the signification produced. With a focus on this digital/libidinal voice of Her, my paper will speculate on possible reciprocal desires developing from our intimate relationships with technology.
Alessandra Cappordonni is a graduate in Foreign Languages and Literatures from the Università degli Studi di Bologna (Italy). In 2006, she obtained her Ph.D. in English at Simon Fraser University, B.C., where she is presently teaching in the Departments of English, Humanities, and GSWS (Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. Her work on feminism and psychoanalysis is conjoined with theories of affect. Her research on modernist and postmodern feminist poetics and experimental writings focuses on female subjectivity, feminine sexuality, love, and desire in relation to larger social practices and formations (national imaginaries, transculturalism, global relations, and social change). She has been a member of the Salon since 2008
Whose Body? Whose Unconscious? Feminine Sexuality and the Drive
In Seminar XI, Lacan returns to Freud’s notion of the Drive as the most difficult of “the four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis.” While the Drive has never been absent from Lacan’s thinking, it is only at this point, when he is about to reconceptualize the interrelationship between the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real, that Lacan radically rethinks the Drive in relation to the sexual body and jouissance. The body is no longer, simply, the imaginary body—determined by the demand of the Other—but the Real of the body, uncontainable in language, unrepresentable, and, indeed, a marker of the failure of the Law. In fact, it is no longer a body that can possibly be imagined (though an imaginary level will remain operative). As Lacan shifts his focus onto the Real of the body as ‘cause,’ the body becomes an organ/organism, which contains in itself the primordial loss generated at the moment of our birth as sexual beings—an organ that embodies jouissance but only as a principle anterior to language and, therefore, gender.
This paper has two objectives: 1) Tracing the ongoing reconceptualization of the notions of the Body in Lacan’s thought (Seminar 1, Seminar 10, Seminar XI and Seminar XX) to highlight Lacan’s indebtness to Freud’s own theorization of the Drive; and 2) Investigate the potential of this analysis for the study of anorexia and bodily disorders (e.g., cutting) of female subjects in the contemporary age. This potential will be examined in relation to Janice Galloway’s novel The Trick Is To Keep Breathing (1989), which traces the struggles of the female protagonist for whom the body has become, literally, the Other—a state which is emblematically expressed through the opening line of the novel: “I watch myself from the corner of the room.” The paper argues that the ongoing struggles of the protagonist uncannily resonate with Freud’s and Lacan’s evolving theorizations of the Drive but rather than positing a subject that is reintegrated in the social order of the Symbolic, the novel stages a feminine cut of the phallic signifier (in the context of the novel Scottish national and patriarchal language) that allows the subject to ‘reach the body’ only by releasing it for good. Escaping the injunction of phallic jouissance, the protagonist produces a surplus jouissance (yet one that cannot be reduced to essence) and a subject who relearns living as ex-sistence.
Clint Burnham is associate professor in the department of English at Simon Fraser University; his research interests include contemporary literature, theory (esp. psychoanalysis and Marxism), visual culture, popular culture, and digital humanities. He is the author of book-length studies of Steve McCaffery and Fredric Jameson, he currently blogs @ momus.ca, and his most recent critical book is The Only Poetry that Matters: Reading the Kootenay School of Writing. Prof. Burnham has lectured (most recently) at the University of Rijeka (Croatia), and Westminster University (UK). During his sabbatical in 2014-15, Prof. Burnham was on a residency at the Urban Subjects Collective in Vienna, where he was writing books on Slavoj Žižek and digital culture, and on Fredric Jameson and Wolf of Wall Street. Clint is a founding member of the Vancouver Lacan Salon, and can be followed on twitter @Prof_Clinty.
The Subject Supposed to LOL: Slavoj Žižek and the Event of the Internet
Is the Internet an Event? Does it constitute, as Žižek argues an Event should, a reframing of our experience, a retroactive re-ordering of everything we thought we knew about the social but were afraid to ask Facebook? In this talk I will engage with Žižek’s recent work (Less than Nothing, Event, Absolute Recoil) as a way to argue, first, that in order to understand the Internet, we need Žižek’s “immaterial materialism,” and, in turn, to understand Žižek’s thought and how it circulates today, we need to think through digital culture and social media. As regards the Internet, then, no cynical disavowal, no Facebook cleanses, no shutting off the wifi: les non-dupes errent, or those who distance themselves from social media and the like are the most deceived. Next: the Internet’s two bodies: digital culture is both the material world of servers, clouds, stacks, and devices and the virtual or affective world of liking, networking, and the mirror stage of the selfie. And here we must confront the “obscene underside” of digital culture: not only the trolls, 4chan porn, and gamergatebro’s, but also the old-fashioned exploitation of labour, be it iPhone assembly-line workers at Foxconn, super-exploited “blood coltan” miners in the Congo, “like farmers” in India, or social media scrubbers in the Philippines, who ensure your feeds are “clean” of porn, beheadings, and other #NSFW matter. These last concerns, then, mean we also have to think about what Žižek calls the “undoing of the Event” of the Internet, the betrayal of the Internet, its diseventalization.