Zizek and the New Lacanians method

Although Slavoj Zizek has over the past ten years published some 20 books (many dealing with film examples, and some devoted to studies of individual directors, such as Hitchcock, Lynch, Kieslowski: (1992; 2000), it is not easy to distil from his writings a transferable or transportable methodology. On the other hand, so distinctive is his approach, so recognizable is his style of argument, and so typical are the examples he chooses that one can (as Stephen Heath has done) speak of a 'Zizek film' (Heath 1999: 36).

• One repeated theme in the work of the New Lacanians is the notion that fantasy is not in opposition to reality but that which secures and anchors our sense of everyday reality. Indeed, it is fantasy which makes reality's brute facticity (the Real) meaningful and liveable.

• When looking at a film, we should try and identify the obsessional element, that which at first glance appears to be merely one feature or detail among others, but which sticks out or doesn't belong: this is the symptom (or 'traumatic kernel'), and it at once sustains, suspends, and subverts the apparent meaning or logic of an event.

• Among characters in films, Zizek distinguishes between desire-creatures and drive-creatures, the latter typified by a kind of relentless, unstoppable momentum, which powerfully pushes events in the direction of apparently senseless repetition but which speak of the energies that all living organisms mobilize toward their own self-annihilation. This momentum is Lacan's version of the Freudian death-drive, and as we shall see, it can help us understand the repeated interactions, but also the symbolic function of the pair 'protagonist-antagonist' in Back to the Future.

• Zizek has also interrogated the type of causal nexus advanced by a narrative. He often looks for points where the linear flow doubles up upon itself or forms a kind of inside out loop, a Möbius strip that points to a temporality of deferred action. Across this Nachträglichkeit another logic of desire manifests itself, in which all narratives necessarily unfold themselves from their end, hinting at a 'return of the repressed' coming from the future, not the past.

• The New Lacanians, finally, regard cultural productions as inherently political. They insist on the paradox of human agency, where an absolute rupture exists between the 'ethical' act of the individual subject and social authority, while at another level, the law and fantasy are not opposed (as so much radical thinking posits) but collusive and interdependent.

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