Lacan in Public argues that Lacan’s contributions to the theory of rhetoric are substantial and revolutionary and that rhetoric is, in fact, the central concern of Lacan’s entire body of work.
Scholars typically cite Jacques Lacan as a thinker primarily concerned with issues of desire, affect, politics, and pleasure. And though Lacan explicitly contends with some of the pivotal thinkers in the field of rhetoric, rhetoricians have been hesitant to embrace the French thinker both because his writing is difficult and because Lacan’s conception of rhetoric runs counter to the American traditions of rhetoric in composition and communication studies.
Lacan’s conception of rhetoric, Christian Lundberg argues in Lacan in Public, upsets and extends the received wisdom of American rhetorical studies—that rhetoric is a science, rather than an art; that rhetoric is predicated not on the reciprocal exchange of meanings, but rather on the impossibility of such an exchange; and that rhetoric never achieves a correspondence with the real-world circumstances it attempts to describe.
As Lundberg shows, Lacan’s work speaks directly to conversations at the center of current rhetorical scholarship, including debates regarding the nature of the public and public discourses, the materiality of rhetoric and agency, and the contours of a theory of persuasion.
A “Choice” Outstanding Academic Title This groundbreaking study introduces and explores Lacan’s complex theories of subjectivity and desire through close readings of canonical children’s books such as Charlotte’s Web, Stellaluna, Holes, Tangerine, and The Chocolate War, providing an introduction to an increasingly influential body of difficult work while making the claim that children’s textual encounters are as significant as their existential ones in constituting their subjectivities and giving shape to their desires.
Postmodern Spiritual Practices: The Construction of the Subject and the Reception of Plato in Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault, by Paul Allen Miller, argues that a key element of postmodern French intellectual life has been the reception of Plato. This fact has gone underappreciated in the Anglophone world due to a fundamental division in culture. Until very recently, the concerns of academic philosophy and philology have had little in common. On the one hand, this is due to analytic philosophy’s self-confinement to questions of epistemology, speech act theory, and philosophy of science. As such, it has had little to say about the relation between antique and contemporary modes of thought.
On the other hand, blindness to the merits of postmodern thought is also due to Anglo-American philology’s own parochial instincts. Ensconced within a nineteenth-century model of Alterumswissenschaft, only a minority of classicists have made forays into philosophical, psychoanalytic, and other speculative modes of inquiry. The result has been that postmodern French thought has largely been the province of scholars of modern languages.
A situation thus emerges in which most classicists do not know theory, and so cannot appreciate the scope of these thinkers’ contribution to our understanding of the genealogy of Western thought, while most theorists do not know the Platonic texts and their contexts that ground them. This book bridges this gap, offering detailed and theoretically informed readings of French postmodernism’s chief thinkers’ debts to Plato and the ancient world.
Responding to the ongoing “objectal turn” in contemporary humanities and social sciences, the essays in Subject Lessons present a sustained case for the continued importance— indeed, the indispensability—of the category of the subject for the future of materialist thought.
Approaching matters through the frame of Hegel and Lacan, the contributors to this volume, including the editors, as well as Andrew Cole, Mladen Dolar, Nathan Gorelick, Adrian Johnston, Todd McGowan, Borna Radnik, Molly Anne Rothenberg, Kathryn Van Wert, and Alenka Zupancic—many of whom stand at the forefront of contemporary Hegel and Lacan scholarship—agree with neovitalist thinkers that material reality is ontologically incomplete, in a state of perpetual becoming, yet they maintain that this is the case not in spite of but, rather, because of the subject.
Incorporating elements of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary and cultural studies, Subject Lessons contests the movement to dismiss the subject, arguing that there can be no truly robust materialism without accounting for the little piece of the Real that is the subject.