‘Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture’ by Slavoj Žižek

First published by MIT Press (October Books) in 1992. Download link updated on 13th August 2021.

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Slavoj Žižek, a leading intellectual in the new social movements that are sweeping the world, provides a virtuoso reading of Jacques Lacan. Here he inverts current pedagogical strategies to explain the difficult philosophical underpinnings of the French theoretician and practician who revolutionized our view of psychoanalysis. He approaches Lacan through the motifs and works of contemporary popular culture, from Hitchcock’s Vertigo to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, from McCullough’s An Indecent Obsession to Romero’s Return of the Living Dead—a strategy of “looking awry” that recalls the exhilarating and vital experience of Lacan.

Žižek discovers fundamental Lacanian categories—the triad Imaginary/Symbolic/Real, the object small a, the opposition of drive and desire, the split subject—at work in horror fiction, detective thrillers, romances, in the mass media’s perception of ecological crisis, and, above all, in Alfred Hitchcock’s films. The playfulness of Žižek’s text, however, is entirely different from that associated with the deconstructive approach made famous by Derrida. By clarifying what Lacan is saying as well as what he is not saying, Žižek is uniquely able to distinguish Lacan from the post-structuralists who so often claim him.


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.

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