CL 382: Kristeva and Žižek Read Lacan:

The Subject, Agency, and the Symbolic Order in Recent Theory

Fall, 2007 [Unique # 34005; TTH3:30-5; MEZ 1.210

Katherine Arens

Syllabus | Texts and Links | Assignments |
Wiki Assignments | Précis Assignment

Course Description:

The interest in identity politics, agency, and the relation of individuals to social signification, subject formation, and distinction reached US shores by way of French theory, especially via the so-called French feminists, Irigaray, Cixous, and Kristeva, the work of Jacques Derrida, and Foucault.

What has been undervalued is the role of Jacques Lacan's work in defining the problematics forgrounded in contemporary post-colonial, post-modern cultural studies.

This course will approach this lacuna by following one of the very few critics to take up Lacan's program consistently over the long term: Slavoj Žižek, Slovenian intellectual. We will start with his Looking Awry, The Sublime Object of Ideology, and Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out to outline his version of identity formation and identity politics (especially as used as a tool to approach popular culture and film), then move back to Lacan himself, to selections from the Écrits, to the Seminars (particularly The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis and The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis) to trace how communication, signification, and power are entwined in the model. For the last bit of the course, we'll take on one strong reading of Lacan in France, Kristeva, whose work on semanalyse extends Lacan's paradigm in a way that corrects some of Žižek's few lacunae, by historicizing the subject in particular ways. In certain cases, our readings in Lacan will be referenced back to Freud and Freudianism to show what was at stake.


  • Subject formation: the Imaginary
  • L'objet petit a: meeting the Real
  • Signification: welcome to the symbolic order
  • Agency and Signification
  • Territorialization and the Individual
  • The Speaking Subject of (Western) Knowledge
  • Nationalism and Politics


  • 4 Precis = 4 x 5 % = 20% of grade
  • 5-10 Wikipedia entries in the class theory wiki = 25% of Grade
  • Final project: Annotated Bibliography = 40% of grade
  • Final Application: Abstract = 15% of grade (not required for CR/NC)


Slavoj Žižek
  • Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2001; ISBN 978-0415928120
  • For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor. 2nd ed. Verso, 2002 ; ISBN 1-85984-460-x
  • How to Read Lacan. Norton, 2006; ISBN 0-393-32955-0
  • Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. MIT, 1992; ISBN 978-0262740159
  • The Ticklish Subject. Verso, 1999. ISBN 1-85984-291-7
  • Lacan: The Silent Partners. Verso, 2006; ISBN 978-1-84467-549-4
Jacques Lacan
  • On Feminine Sexuality, the Limits of Love and Knowledge: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX, Encore. Norton, 1999; ISBN 978-0393319163
  • Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. Norton, 2007; ISBN 978-0393329254
  • The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (The Seminar of Jacques Lacan , Book 11). Norton, 1998; ISBN 978-0393317756
Julia Kristeva
  • Kristeva Reader
  • Lacan: The Silent Partners. Verso, 2006; ISBN 978-1-84467-549-4. Ed. Toril Moi. Columbia UP, 1986; ISBN 978-0231063258
  • Portable Kristeva
  • Lacan: The Silent Partners. Verso, 2006; ISBN 978-1-84467-549-4. Ed. Kelly Oliver. Columbia UP, 2002: ISBN 978-0231126298
  • The Revolution in Poetic Language
  • Lacan: The Silent Partners. Verso, 2006; ISBN 978-1-84467-549-4. Columbia UP, 1984; ISBN 978-0231056434