Thursday, August 23, 2007

Harpham on Zizek

Harpham, Galt. "Doing The Impossible: Slavoj Zizek and the End of Knowledge." Critical Inquiry Volume 29, Number 3, Spring 2003.

All in all, much less exciting than the title might lead you to believe, but not a terrible polemic-by-way-of-introduction.

“If we took Zizek as a guide to the real character of conventional academic methods and practices, we would be forced to revise--actually, to discard--all our assumptions about academic work and indeed about rational thought as such. For if Zizek's practice were to be universalized, the result would be the destruction of the very idea of a field, a specialized professional discourse that arrives at a true account of a limited domain by progressive and rational means. It would mean the end of life as we know it.”

Harpham also says, “Much of Lacan's mystique derives from the fact that he grounds his hypotheses about the mind in a science of language, giving them authority, scope, and profundity. But, as we have seen, Lacan relied on Saussure for that science...” and it may be true that the mystique comes from this ‘structuralist veneer,’ but it is also the case (as Harpham says) that Lacan botched or radically altered Saussurean lingusitics. Isn’t a more sensible reading of the relationship between the two that in 1957 Lacan knew Saussure was huge, knew that everyone was saying these things, and proceeded with his own, rather un-Saussurean understanding of language? He is often nasty, often ironic—why not here? Certainly, Zizek is very clear in Sublime Object of Ideology that he does not consider Lacan to be any kind of structuralist.

dunno what's going on with the formatting. it's what i get for cutting-and-pasting from html.

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