‘Subject Lessons: Hegel, Lacan, and the Future of Materialism’ by Russel Sbriglia & Slavoj Žižek

Published by Northwestern University Press in February 2020. Download link updated on 6th August 2020.


Responding to the ongoing “objectal turn” throughout contemporary humanities and social sciences, the eleven 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. 

Various neovitalist materialisms and realisms currently en vogue across a number of academic disciplines (from New Materialism and actor-network theory to speculative realism and object-oriented ontology) advocate a flat, horizontal ontology that renders the subject just another object amid a “democracy of objects.” By contrast, the dialectical materialism presented throughout Subject Lessons maintains that subjectivity is crucial to grasping matter’s “vibrancy” and continual “becoming” in the first place. Approaching matters through the frame of Hegel and Lacan, the contributors to this volume—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 do so with one crucial difference: 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.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Subject Matters, Russell Sbriglia and Slavoj Žižek

1. What’s the Matter?: On Matter and Related Matters, Mladen Dolar
2. Subjectivity in Times of (New) Materialisms: Hegel and Conceptualization, Borna Radnik
3. Object after Subjects: Hegel’s Broken Ontology, Todd McGowan
4. The Nature of Dialectical Materialism in Hegel and Marx, Andrew Cole
5. Intellectual Intuition and Intellectus Archetypus: Reflexivity from Kant to Hegel, Slavoj Žižek
6. Fear of Science: Transcendetal Materialism and Its Discontents, Adrian Johnston
7. Ontology and the Death Drive: Lacan and Deleuze, Alenka Zupančič
8. Why Sex Is Special: Psychoanalysis against New Materialism, Nathan Gorelick
9. Twisting “Flat Ontology”: Harman’s “Allure” and Lacan’s Extimate Cause, Molly Rothenberg
10. Becoming and the Challenge of Ontological Incompleteness: Virginia Woolf avec Lacan contra Deleuze, Kathryn Van Wert
11. From Sublimity to Sublimation: Hegel, Lacan, Melville, Russell Sbriglia

Slavoj Žižek is a Philosopher and Psychoanalytic social theorist. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana; Professor at the School of Law and Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London; Distinguished Scholar at the Kyung Hee University, Seoul; and Visiting Professor at the German Department, New York University. His field of work comprises Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, dialectical-materialist metaphysical interpretations of German Idealism and Marxian critique of ideology. His more than sixty books in English have been widely translated. His latest publications include Pandemic! & Pandemic! 2, Hegel in a Wired Brain, Sex and the Failed Absolute, Like A Thief In Broad DaylightReading MarxIncontinence of the Void, and The Day After the Revolution.

Russell Sbriglia is Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Literature Studies, Department of English at Seton Hall University, United States. His teaching and research focus is on American literature of the long 19th century (1776-1914) as well as literary and critical theory. He is editor of Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek, Subject Lessons: Hegel, Lacan, and the Future of Materialism, and is currently completing a monograph titled A Gainful Loss: Melville avec Lacan.

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