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Paperback | $21.95 Trade | £17.95 | 168 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 6 b&w illus. | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262534130
eBook | $15.95 Trade | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262341899
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What IS Sex?


Consider sublimation—conventionally understood as a substitute satisfaction for missing sexual satisfaction. But what if, as Lacan claims, we can get exactly the same satisfaction that we get from sex from talking (or writing, painting, praying, or other activities)? The point is not to explain the satisfaction from talking by pointing to its sexual origin, but that the satisfaction from talking is itself sexual. The satisfaction from talking contains a key to sexual satisfaction (and not the other way around)—even a key to sexuality itself and its inherent contradictions. The Lacanian perspective would make the answer to the simple-seeming question, “What is sex?” rather more complex. In this volume in the Short Circuits series, Alenka Zupančič approaches the question from just this perspective, considering sexuality a properly philosophical problem for psychoanalysis; and by psychoanalysis, she means that of Freud and Lacan, not that of the kind of clinician practitioners called by Lacan “orthopedists of the unconscious.”

Zupančič argues that sexuality is at the point of a “short circuit” between ontology and epistemology. Sexuality and knowledge are structured around a fundamental negativity, which unites them at the point of the unconscious. The unconscious (as linked to sexuality) is the concept of an inherent link between being and knowledge in their very negativity.

About the Author

Alenka Zupančič, a Slovenian psychoanalytic theorist and philosopher, teaches at the European Graduate School and is a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and the Arts. She is the author of The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two and The Odd One In: On Comedy, both in the Short Circuits series, published by the MIT Press.


“Zupančič’s latest work takes your breath away. It is a pathbreaking discovery of the philosophical wager at the heart of the psychoanalytic project. Zupančič forces us to confront for the first time the ontological significance of sex.”
Todd McGowan, Professor of English, University of Vermont; author of Capitalism and Desire
“Zupančič performs here a remarkable feat: with the consummate clarity and precision for which she has become known, she restores to sex its florid obscurity and its enigmatic logic and gives to sexuality the ontological dignity it is due. This book is bound to be heralded as an event.”
Joan Copjec, Professor, Brown University; author of Read My Desire and Imagine There's No Woman
“Freud argued that there was something fundamentally unsatisfying at the very core of sexuality. What Is Sex? is surely one of the most satisfying accounts we’ve ever had of this ‘something.’”
Eric L. Santner, The Philip and Ida Romberg Distinguished Service Professor in Modern Germanic Studies, The University of Chicago