The undergrowth of enjoyment: how popular culture can serve as an introduction to Lacan

Winter 1989

Zizek uses Lacanian psychoanalysis to read film texts, focussing on the crucial break in Lacan’s thinking which occurred in 1959/60, when an emphasis on desire was transformed into a focus on jouissance or enjoyment. Zizek looks at ideas of communication, and the cinematic gaze and voice, as well as the motif of dreaming and waking (in particular the popular ‘it was all a dream’ ending) in relation to films by Hitchcock, Spielberg, Gilliam and others, as well as in the writing of Robert Heinlein, Franz Kafka, Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith. He pays particular attention to films which feature technical ‘prohibitions’, such as a rule of ‘no cuts’, ‘no speech’ or ‘no objective viewpoint’. These, he argues, induce a kind of claustrophobia and psychosis in the viewer, rendering such formal experiments ultimately unsatisfying.

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