Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek

SIC 10

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: March 2017

Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Psychoanalytic Theory

Challenging the widely-held assumption that Slavoj Žižek's work is far more germane to film and cultural studies than to literary studies, this volume demonstrates the importance of Žižek to literary criticism and theory. The contributors show how Žižek's practice of reading theory and literature through one another allows him to critique, complicate, and advance the understanding of Lacanian psychoanalysis and German Idealism, thereby urging a rethinking of historicity and universality. His methodology has implications for analyzing literature across historical periods, nationalities, and genres and can enrich theoretical frameworks ranging from aesthetics, semiotics, and psychoanalysis to feminism, historicism, postcolonialism, and ecocriticism. The contributors also offer Žižekian interpretations of a wide variety of texts, including Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Samuel Beckett's Not I, and William Burroughs's Nova Trilogy. The collection includes an essay by Žižek on subjectivity in Shakespeare and Beckett. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek affirms Žižek's value to literary studies while offering a rigorous model of Žižekian criticism.
Contributors. Shawn Alfrey, Daniel Beaumont, Geoff Boucher, Andrew Hageman, Jamil Khader, Anna Kornbluh, Todd McGowan, Paul Megna, Russell Sbriglia, Louis-Paul Willis, Slavoj Žižek


"A truly delightful collection of essays, bursting with fresh and genuinely interesting ideas. From the first to the last essay Žižek proves to be an unfailing source of inspiration. Rather than taking literature as the object of study, the essays—following Žižek in this approach—take it as the object with the help of which they think about various important topics and concepts. The result is a most powerful and compelling read." — Alenka Zupancic, author of Ethics of the Real: Kant and Lacan

"This superb collection of essays is testimony not only to the fact that Slavoj Žižek is the most profoundly original critical theorist of our time, but also to the enormously productive influence he has had on a new generation of literary critics. Beyond the sterile opposition between the so-called 'new historicism' and old 'high theory,' Žižek’s thinking opens up new possibilities of theoretically informed reading, not only for the letter, but more importantly, we might say, for its Joycean 'litter,' the real." — Kenneth Reinhard, coauthor of The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Russell Sbriglia is Assistant Professor of English at Seton Hall University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction: Did Somebody Say Žižek and Literature? / Russell Sbriglia  1
Part I. Theory
1. Reading the Real: Žižek's Literary Materialism / Anna Kornbluh  35
2. Looking Awry: Žižek's Ridiculous Sublime / Shawn Alfrey  62
3. The Bankruptcy of Historicism: Introducing Disruption into Literary Studies / Todd McGowan  89
4. The Symptoms of Ideology Critique; or, How We Learned to Enjoy the Symptom and Ignore the Fetish / Russell Sbriglia  107
5. Concrete Universality and the End of Revolutionary Politics: A Žižekian Approach to Postcolonial Women's Writings / Jamil Khader  137
6. A Robot Runs through It: Žižek and Ecocriticism / Andrew Hageman  169
Part II. Interpretation
7. Shakespeare after Žižek: Social Antagonism and Ideological Exclusion in The Merchant of Venice / Geoff Boucher  195
8. Beyond Symbolic Authority: La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes and the Aesthetics of the Real / Louis-Paul Willis  222
9. Wake-Up Call: Žižek, Burroughs, and Fantasy in the Sleeper Awakened Plot / Daniel Beaumont  245
10. Courtly Love Hate Is Undead: Sadomasochistic Privilege in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde / Paul Megna  267
11. The Minimal Event: Subjective Destitution in Shakespeare and Beckett / Slavoj Žižek  290
Contributors 317
Index 321
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6318-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6303-3
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