Zizek: film reviewer

Catherine Driscoll catherine.driscoll at adelaide.edu.au
Fri Apr 21 20:36:47 PDT 2000

Hi Ken

Thanks for your take on Zizek -- but having a prior position on a topic doesn't relieve him, so far as I can see, from the obligation to explain what he means by very significant generalisations. What you say is in general not different to how I understand Zizek, but...

>Contemporary film, mainstream of course, is for Zizek
>postmodern, which basically means that it has mass appeal and a comforting
>quality (you can *see* the f/x and therefore don't need to be afraid or
>about whatever goes bump in the night)(BTW - the postmodernizing attitude is,
>strictly speaking, psychotic according to Zizek - the fusion of the Real and
>the Symbolic - which is the logic of late capitalism).

Now I haven't read the Lacan-Hitchcock book in years, but does H. count as postmodern? God I hate that term used as floppy everything I'm not into category. Moving on, moving on, I know much of this list by now... Also, my understanding of Zizek would be that fusing the Real and the Symbolic is not 'a bad thing' but rather less soapboxily the constitutional force of late modernity. Am I wrong?

>I'm not sure what Zizek
>means by an ethical extreme (this is where I need to have read the article).

Won't tell you much, but basically there's a farmer riding a lawnmower to see his dying brother, and the Mr Ripley character killing a friend to get his life = ethical extremes.

>Ethics, for Zizek, is a viewpoint from the perspective of radical evil,
>from the anxiety of guilt imposed on the psyche by the superego (the
>transgression of an unknown and unknownable law). This isn't a typical
>way of
>talking about ethics. Ethics is always in relation to the object of desire,
>from which notions of good and evil are derived and relative to. I think
>Fredric Jameson sums it up pretty well: [Lacan's] "Kant avec Sade" transforms
>the very project of a moral philosohpy into an insoluble intellectual paradox
>by rotating it in such a way that the implicit gap in it between subject and
>law catches the light" (Jameson, The Ideologies of Theory, Vol 1, "Imaginary
>and Symbolic in Lacan" 96).

I don't know this essay and should have a look when I have a moment but perhaps you can tell me where Zizek says ethics is always from the perspective of radical evil. Why is this a sensible way of talking about ethics? Or do you mean the quote from Plague of fantasies? I can see what I think this is saying about the ethical paradox -- we can only be subjects by being incapable of the neutral-objective representation, yes? (and this is not anything he discusses in his Britannica byte) -- but where's 'radical evil'?

>The ethical paradox: the Real qua traumatic antagonism is the objective
>of subjectivization itself; it is the object which accounts for the
>failure of
>every neutral-objective representation, the object which 'pathologizes' the
>subject's gaze or approach, makes it biased, pulls it askew... the Real qua
>trauma is not the ultimate 'unspeakable' truth which the subject can approach
>only asymptomatically, but that which makes every articulated symbolic truth
>forever 'not-all,' failed, a bone stuck in the throat of the speaking being
>which makes it impossible to 'tell everything' (probably from Zizek,
>Plague of
>Fantasies, Ap. III).
> > And there are things I don't think are at all clear in this piece --
> what is
>our age here?, the ref to postmodern art just confused me given that what
>discussing can't possibly be confined to post 80s culture; and who is we here
>-- Bosnian nuns and visitors to the Tate gallery are all 'we'? Oh well...
>"Our age" would be a flux of premodernizing, modernizing and
>Zizek approaches "our age" through the study of philosophical attitudes (ie.
>mapping ideology) (ie. symptoms) - hysteria and paranoia for the modern,
>psychosis for the postmodern. The we is stylistic, since the "I" does not
>exist. "I think."

Yes but in this flux then what the hell is the specificity of the 'postmodern' or at least the difference between cows sawed in half and for example cubism? because he clearly thinks there is a difference

>Basically, "we" and "our" mean nothing. He articulates them as empty
>signifiers. In Tarrying With the Negative he talks about the revolutionary
>difference between "We are a people" and "We are THE people." One is
>relativistic, fragmented, and substantial (and psychotic), the other empty,
>universal, and meaningless.

Haven't read this either -- is this different to Laclau on empty/political signifiers? But it still confuses me, given that it doesn't say anything at all for me what happens when Zizek says 'we' in this kind of speaking philosophy to the people moment.


------------------------------------ Dr. Catherine Driscoll

Department of English University of Adelaide Adelaide SA 5005 AUSTRALIA

email: catherine.driscoll at adelaide.edu.au phone: 61-8 8303 5627 fax : 61-8 8303 4341 http://www.adelaide.edu.au/English/cdriscol.htm ------------------------------------

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list