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November 11, 2009

Famous Slovenian Philosopher/Film Buff Coming to UVM

 ZizekIf you're a grad student or professor in the humanities, you probably already know who I'm talking about — Slavoj Zizek. Regardless of whether you can pronounce his name, this eclectic, eccentric thinker has shown up in the Village Voice, the New Yorker, the NYT, and perhaps even on the shelf of your local video store.

Basically, Zizek is to academia what Jacques Derrida was in the 1980s: an icon. (But a schlubbier one, if his photos are any indication.)

His inspiration is psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan ... the post-Freudian guy who postulated that desire is based on lack. (I used to understand all this stuff. Don't ask me now.)

But ... Zizek also named one of his books after a line in The Matrix (Welcome to the Desert of the Real). He stars in a documentary called The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, which is not what you probably think it is.

In Pervert's Guide, Zizek revisits a number of scenes from classic films (through the magic of digital tech) to explore, as AV Club reviewer Noel Murray put it, how "we shape our belief systems and personalities around shared cultural experiences" — that is, movies.

Zizek even wrote copy for an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue to accompany photos by Bruce Weber. When the Boston Globe asked him what was up with that, in 2003, he replied, "If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing ass to get a tenured post, I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!"

A man after my own heart. Except that he totally disagrees with me on The Dark Knight. Oh, well. He also doesn't like Kung Fu Panda. But he's logged some major hours playing Grand Theft Auto.

Anyway, Zizek will be in movie guru mode when he visits UVM to give a lecture called "We're Only Human: Ideology in Hollywood Today." He'll speak in the Billings — Ira Allen Lecture Hall (formerly CC Theatre) on
Friday, November 20 at 3-4:30. No UVM ID is required to attend.

Maybe he'll have something to say about the Twilight frenzy sure to erupt that very Friday. And its ideological underpinnings, of course. Edward Cullen totally represents an eruption of the capitalist Imaginary into the Symbolic. Whatever that means.

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