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Mon Jul 26 07:34:33 MDT 2004
Chronicle of Higher Education, July 30, 2004
Last in a series tracking a seemingly ubiquitous thinker.
By SCOTT McLEMEE
After six months of tracking Slovenia's psychoanalytic sphinx, we here
at Zizek Watch have entered a terminal crisis of moral and epistemic
reflexivity. (And yes, that's just as painful as it sounds.) The
question has become unavoidable: Why do we watch Slavoj Zizek?
Sure, it's fun to see him torment the Kantian neo-liberals. He knows a
lot of dirty jokes. And he can analyze an Alfred Hitchcock film like
nobody's business. But after a while, a reader begins to notice that Mr.
Zizek repeats himself. A lot. He even recycles whole chunks of material
from one work to the next. By the time Verso published his latest book,
Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, in June, devotees had encountered some
paragraphs in three or four earlier incarnations.
The prospect of novelty, then, forms no part of his appeal. On the
contrary, there is something about reading Mr. Zizek that calls to mind
certain remarks by Andy Warhol on the reassuring consistency of Coke and
Campbell's soup. No matter which can you open, it's going to be the same
as the last one you tasted.
But might there be more to it than that? In search of an answer, we turn
to an interview with Mr. Zizek in the July issue of The Believer -- a
literary magazine beloved by the twentysomething post-ironic hipster
literati. (Readers who are older, more earnest, and/or less cool may
also want to track down this interview. It offers perhaps the single
best short introduction to Mr. Zizek's characteristic preoccupations.)
In a comment on the genre of reality TV, the theorist notes that "the
charm of it is a certain hidden reflexivity. It is not that we are
voyeurs looking at what people are already doing. The point is that we
know that they know that they are being filmed." In other words, says
Mr. Zizek, "we are seeing people acting themselves. In everyday life, we
act already, in the sense that we have a certain ideal image of
ourselves, and we act that persona."
So why is Slavoj Zizek so fascinating? Because no one else can do nearly
so good a Zizek impersonation. It makes perfect sense if you think about
it, and even more if you don't.
And on that note, we here at Zizek Watch feel it is time to enter
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