Books/Jacques Lacan/Lacan And Contemporary Film

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‘Lacan and Contemporary Film’ by Todd McGowan & Sheila Kunkle



This unique volume collects a series of essays that link new developments in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and recent trends in contemporary cinema. Though Lacanian theory has long had a privileged place in the analysis of film, film theory has tended to ignore some of Lacan’s most important ideas. As a result, Lacanian film theory has never properly integrated the disruptive and troubling aspects of the filmic experience that result from the encounter with the Real that this experience makes possible. Many contemporary theorists emphasize the importance of the encounter with the Real in Lacan’s thought, but rarely in discussions of film. By bringing the encounter with the Real into the dialogue of film theory, the contributors to this volume present a new version of Lacan to the world of film studies.

These essays bring this rediscovered Lacan to bear on contemporary cinema through analysis of a wide variety of films, including MementoEyes Wide ShutBreaking the Waves, and Fight Club. The films discussed here demand a turn to Lacanian theory because they emphasize the disruptive role of the Real and of jouissance in the experience of the human subject. There is a growing number of films in contemporary cinema that speak to film’s power to challenge and disturb the complacency of spectators, and the essays in Lacan and Contemporary Film analyze some of these films and bring their power to light.

Because of its dual focus on developments in Lacanian theory and in contemporary film, this collection serves as both an accessible introduction to current Lacanian film theory and an introduction to the study of contemporary cinema. Each essay provides an accessible, jargon-free analysis of one or more important films, and at the same time, each explains and utilizes key concepts of Lacanian theory. The collection stages an encounter between Lacanian theory and contemporary cinema, and the result is the enrichment of both.


1. Visions and Numbers: Aronofsky’s π and the Primordial Signifier
Paul Eisenstein
2. The Anxiety of Love Letters
Renata Salecl
3. Between the Two Fears
Juliet Flower MacCannell
4. Beauty’s Eye: Erotic Masques of the Death Drive in Eyes Wide Shut
Mark Pizzato
5. Romancing the Capital: Choice, Love, and Contradiction in The Family Man and Memento
Anna Kornbluh
6. Fighting Our Fantasies: Dark City and the Politics of Psychoanalysis
Todd McGowan
7. An Ethical Plea for Lies and Masochism
Slavoj Žižek
8. Impossible Love in Breaking the Waves: Mystifying Hysteria
Frances L. Restuccia
9. Jane Campion’s Jouissance: Holy Smoke and Feminist Film Theory
Hilary Neroni