‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek’ by Russell Sbriglia

Published by Duke University Press in 2017. Download link updated on 6th August 2021.

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Challenging the widely-held assumption that Slavoj Žižek’s work is far more germane to film and cultural studies than to literary studies, this volume demonstrates the importance of Žižek to literary criticism and theory. The contributors show how Žižek’s practice of reading theory and literature through one another allows him to critique, complicate, and advance the understanding of Lacanian psychoanalysis and German Idealism, thereby urging a rethinking of historicity and universality. His methodology has implications for analyzing literature across historical periods, nationalities, and genres and can enrich theoretical frameworks ranging from aesthetics, semiotics, and psychoanalysis to feminism, historicism, postcolonialism, and ecocriticism.

The contributors also offer Žižekian interpretations of a wide variety of texts, including Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Samuel Beckett’s Not I, and William Burroughs’s Nova Trilogy. The collection includes an essay by Žižek on subjectivity in Shakespeare and Beckett. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek affirms Žižek’s value to literary studies while offering a rigorous model of Žižekian criticism.

Contributors: Shawn Alfrey, Daniel Beaumont, Geoff Boucher, Andrew Hageman, Jamil Khader, Anna Kornbluh, Todd McGowan, Paul Megna, Russell Sbriglia, Louis-Paul Willis & Slavoj Žižek.


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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