‘Notes Towards a Definition of Communist Culture’ Masterclass by Slavoj Žižek

The event took place from 15th to 19th June 2009 at Birbkeck Institute for the Humanities in London.

Everybody knows T. S. Eliot’s famous essay Notes towards the definition of culture. This masterclass analyses phenomena of modern thought and culture with the intention to discern elements of possible Communist culture. It moves at two levels: first, it interprets some cultural phenomena (from today’s architecture to classic literary works like Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise) as failures to imagine or enact a Communist culture; second, it explores attempts at imagining how a Communist culture could look, from Wagner’s Ring to Kafka’s and Beckett’s short stories and contemporary science fiction novels.

Day 1:

Different Utopian Visions


Day 2:

Architecture as Ideology: the Failure of Performance-Arts Venues to construct a Communal Space


Day 3:

Wagner’s Ring as a Communist Narrative


Day 4:

Iran, Populism and Democracy


Day 5:

Environment, Identity and Multiculturalism



Allen Speight, Hegel, Literature and the Problem of Agency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001)
Slavoj Žižek and John Millbank, The Monstrosity of Christ (Cambridge: MIT Press 2009)
Richard Wagner: The Ring of the Nibelungs (libretto, available on line)
Franz Kafka: Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk (available online)
Samuel Beckett:  Not I (available online)
Theodor Sturgeon, Stranger Than Human (a classic sci-fi novel available in many editions).

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