Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eagleton, Terry. "The Phenomenal Slavoj Zizek." TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT April 23, 2008.

Slavoj Žižek is less a philosopher than a phenomenon. The son of Slovenian Communists, and the representative on earth (so to speak) of the late French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Žižek has been travelling the globe like an intellectual rock star for the past twenty years, gathering as he goes an immense fan club. He is outrageous, provocative and entertaining. He was, he tells us, tempted to suggest for the dust jacket of one of his books: “In his free time, Žižek likes to surf the internet for child pornography and teach his small son how to pull the legs off spiders.” He has been the subject of an art installation entitled Slavoj Žižek Does Not Exist, has starred in two films (Žižek! and The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema) and appears on one of his own dust jackets lying on Sigmund Freud’s couch beneath an image of female genitalia. His forty or so books, with titles such as The Sublime Object of Ideology, The Ticklish Subject, Enjoy Your Symptom! and Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Lacan (But Were Too Afraid To Ask Hitchcock), are dishevelled collages of ideas, ranging from Kant to computer science, St Augustine to Agatha Christie. There seems to be nothing in heaven or earth that is not grist to his intellectual mill. One digression spawns another, until the author seems as unclear as the reader about what he was supposed to be arguing. Moreover, to every reviewer’s horror, Žižek’s books are growing fatter by the year. The Parallax View, almost 400 densely printed pages on everything from biopolitics and Robert Schumann to brain science and Henry James, appeared only two years ago; In Defense of Lost Causes, a book that scoops up Lenin and Heidegger, Christ and Robespierre, Mao and ecology, is an even weightier door-stopper. Slavoj Žižek, then, is Europe’s prime example of a postmodern philosopher. He is a cross between guru and gadfly, sage and showman. In typically postmodern style, his work leaps impudently over the frontiers between high and popular culture, swerving in the course of a paragraph from Kierkegaard to Mel Gibson. Trained as a philosopher in Ljubljana and Paris, he is a film buff, psychoanalytic theorist, amateur theologian and political analyst. He is a member of the Ljubljana Lacanian circle, as improbable an association as the Huddersfield Hegelians. When it comes to politics, he is as adept at unpacking the intricacies of Rousseau or Carl Schmitt as he is at delivering instant journalistic judgements on Parisian rioting, the war on terror, or Turkey’s relations with the European Union. He was once a politician himself back home in Slovenia, and the shadow of the Yugoslavian conflict falls over his mordant commentaries on war, racism, nationalism and ethnic strife. . . . Read the rest here:

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