Lacan and Contemporary Film

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Todd McGowan, Sheila Kunkle
Other Press, 2004 - Performing Arts - 246 pages
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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 Memento, Eyes Wide Shut, Breaking 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.

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About the author (2004)

Todd McGowan

Todd McGowan teaches film and critical theory in the English Department at the University of Vermont. He is the author of The Feminine "No!" and The End of Dissatisfaction: Jacques Lacan and the Emerging Society of Enjoyment. He lives in Vermont.


Sheila Kunkle

Sheila Kunkle is Professor of Social Sciences at Vermont College of the Union Institute and University. She is the author of numerous articles on Lacanian psychoanalysis and culture. She lives in Vermont.

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