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Short Circuits

“Short Circuits” intends to revive a practice of reading which confronts a classic text, author, or notion with its own hidden presuppositions, and thus reveals its disavowed truth. The basic criterion for the texts in the series is that they effectuate such a theoretical short circuit. After reading a book in this series, the reader should not simply have learned something new: the point is, rather, to make him or her aware of another—disturbing—side of something he or she knew all the time.

Hamlet's Negativity

A specter is haunting philosophy—the specter of Hamlet. Why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?

Entering from stage left: the philosopher’s Hamlet. The philosopher’s Hamlet is a conceptual character, played by philosophers rather than actors. He performs not in the theater but within the space of philosophical positions. In All for Nothing, Andrew Cutrofello critically examines the performance history of this unique role.

Notes on a Passion

Most of our theories of laughter are not concerned with laughter. Rather, their focus is the laughable object, whether conceived of as the comic, the humorous, jokes, the grotesque, the ridiculous, or the ludicrous. In Laughter, Anca Parvulescu proposes a return to the materiality of the burst of laughter itself. She sets out to uncover an archive of laughter, inviting us to follow its rhythms and listen to its tones.

A Lacanian Cyborg Ontology

Cyberspace is first and foremost a mental space. Therefore we need to take a psychological approach to understand our experiences in it. In Interface Fantasy, André Nusselder uses the core psychoanalytic notion of fantasy to examine our relationship to computers and digital technology. Lacanian psychoanalysis considers fantasy to be an indispensable “screen” for our interaction with the outside world; Nusselder argues that, at the mental level, computer screens and other human-computer interfaces incorporate this function of fantasy: they mediate the real and the virtual.

What if Jacques Lacan--the brilliant and eccentric Parisian psychoanalyst--had worked as a police detective, applying his theories to solve crimes? This may conjure up a mental film clip starring Peter Sellers in a trench coat, but in Lacan at the Scene, Henry Bond makes a serious and provocative claim: that apparently impenetrable events of violent death can be more effectively unraveled with Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis than with elaborate, technologically advanced forensic tools. Bond’s exposition on murder expands and develops a resolutely Žižekian approach.

Paradox or Dialectic?

“What matters is not so much that Žižek is endorsing a demythologized, disenchanted Christianity without transcendence, as that he is offering in the end (despite what he sometimes claims) a heterodox version of Christian belief.”--John Milbank“To put it even more bluntly, my claim is that it is Milbank who is effectively guilty of heterodoxy, ultimately of a regression to paganism: in my atheism, I am more Christian than Milbank.”--Slavoj ŽižekIn this corner, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, a militant atheist who represents the critical-materialist stance against religion’s illusions; in the oth

On Comedy

Why philosophize about comedy? What is the use of investigating the comical from philosophical and psychoanalytic perspectives? In The Odd One In, Alenka Zupancic [haceks over both cs] considers how philosophy and psychoanalysis can help us understand the movement and the logic involved in the practice of comedy, and how comedy can help philosophy and psychoanalysis recognize some of the crucial mechanisms and vicissitudes of what is called humanity.

A Philosophical Reading of Lacan

Countering the call by some “pro-Lacanians” for an end to the exegesis of Lacan’s work--and the dismissal by “anti-Lacanians” of Lacan as impossibly impenetrable--Subjectivity and Otherness argues for Lacan as a “paradoxically systematic” thinker, and for the necessity of a close analysis of his texts. Lorenzo Chiesa examines, from a philosophical perspective, the evolution of the concept of subjectivity in Lacan’s work, carrying out a detailed reading of the Lacanian subject in its necessary relation to otherness according to Lacan’s orders of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real.

Plutarch tells the story of a man who plucked a nightingale and finding but little to eat exclaimed: "You are just a voice and nothing more." Plucking the feathers of meaning that cover the voice, dismantling the body from which the voice seems to emanate, resisting the Sirens' song of fascination with the voice, concentrating on "the voice and nothing more": this is the difficult task that philosopher Mladen Dolar relentlessly pursues in this seminal work.The voice did not figure as a major philosophical topic until the 1960s, when Derrida and Lacan separately proposed it as a central theo

The Parallax View is Slavoj Zizek's most substantial theoretical work to appear in many years; Zizek himself describes it as his magnum opus. Parallax can be defined as the apparent displacement of an object, caused by a change in observational position. Zizek is interested in the "parallax gap" separating two points between which no synthesis or mediation is possible, linked by an "impossible short circuit" of levels that can never meet.

Laibach and NSK

NSK is considered by many to be the last true avant-garde of the twentieth century and the most consistently challenging artistic force in Eastern Europe today. The acronym refers to Neue Slowenische Kunst, a Slovene collective that emerged in the wake of Tito's death and was shaped by the breakup of Yugoslavia. Its complex and disturbing work—in fields including experimental music and theater, painting, philosophy, writing, performance, and design—has an international following but a powerful and specific cultural context.

Siting Freud after Freud

"Can Freud be 'updated' in the twenty-first century, or is he a venerated but outmoded genius?" asks Jerry Aline Flieger. In Is Oedipus Online? Flieger stages an encounter between psychoanalysis and the new century, testing the viability of Freud's theories in light of the emergent realities of our time. Responding to prominent critics of psychoanalysis and approaching our current preoccupations from a Freudian angle, she presents a reading of Freudian theory that coincides with and even clarifies new concepts in science and culture.

The Perverse Core of Christianity

Slavoj Zizek has been called "an academic rock star" and "the wild man of theory"; his writing mixes astonishing erudition and references to pop culture in order to dissect current intellectual pieties. In The Puppet and the Dwarf he offers a close reading of today's religious constellation from the viewpoint of Lacanian psychoanalysis. He critically confronts both predominant versions of today's spirituality--New Age gnosticism and deconstructionist-Levinasian Judaism—and then tries to redeem the "materialist" kernel of Christianity.

Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two

What is it that makes Nietzsche Nietzsche? In The Shortest Shadow, Alenka Zupancic counters the currently fashionable appropriation of Nietzsche as a philosopher who was "ahead of his time" but whose time has finally come—the rather patronizing reduction of his often extraordinary statements to mere opinions that we can "share." Zupancic argues that the definitive Nietzschean quality is his very unfashionableness, his being out of the mainstream of his or any time.