Slavoj Zizek (1949-) - Key Figures in Literary Theory

The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory - Gregory Castle 2007

Slavoj Zizek (1949-)
Key Figures in Literary Theory

Slavoj Zizek was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and studied philosophy at the University of Llubljana, where he received his doctorate. He also studied Psychoanalysis at the University of Paris and underwent analysis by Jacques Alain Miller, Jacque Lacan's son-in-law. In 1979, he became a researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy, at the University of Llubljana. He has lectured widely and served as a visiting professor in many US and European universities. In the 1980s, he was active in Slovenian politics, running for the presidency of the Republic of Slovenia in 1990. In addition to his duties at the Institute of Sociology, Zizek teaches at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

Zizek is one of the most provocative and original thinkers to emerge in the 1990s and has written on a wide array of topics. From the beginning of his career, he has worked within two very different theoretical traditions: Critical Theory and poststructuralist Psychoanalysis. Following the lead of early theorists like Herbert Marcuse, he applied psychoanalytic theory to social and cultural phenomena. In the space of two years, he published The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989), a study of Marx and Hegel from a Lacanian perspective, and Looking Awry (1991), a Lacanian reading of popular culture, including the films of Alfred Hitchcock. These texts established Zizek as one of the most influential Lacanian theorists. Tarrying with the Negative (1993) uses Lacanian theories to understand the power and variety of contemporary ideologies. His study of the Lacanian “Thing” - the unknowable REAL object that serves as the magnetic center for unconscious thoughts - within a context of Eastern European nationalism was a signally important application of Psychoanalysis to social phenomena. In the 1990s, he wrote and edited numerous volumes on Psychoanalysis, and several works on the German Romantic critic F. W. J. von Schelling. In Plague of Fantasies (1997), he explored the breakdown of the centered psychological SUBJECT in the COMMODIFIED space of fantasy.

In the late 1990s and the first few years of the new millennium Zizek published books on political SUBJECTIVITY, David Lynch's Lost Highway, Christian belief, and totalitarianism. In Contingency, Hegemony, Universality (2000), he joined Judith Butler and Ernesto Laclau in an exploration of the uses of Kantian and Hegelian theories for leftist political theory. The essays in this volume critiqued the classical theories of universality and suggested that contingent forms of it might prove useful for political action. A similar argument is mounted in The Fragile Absolute, Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (2000). In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Zizek has written on the occupation of Iraq, notably in Welcome to the Desert of the Real! (2002). His work demonstrates eloquently that theory has a vital role to play in contemporary politics.


Zizek, Slavoj. Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. New York: Routledge, 1992.

---- . Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.

---- . Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993.

---- . Welcome to the Desert of the Real!: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates. London and New York: Verso, 2002.

---- . The Zizek Reader. Eds. Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Leo Wright. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1999.