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How to Read Lacan (How to Read) Paperback – January 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


  • Slavoj i ek was named in Prospect as one of the top 100 public intellectuals of our day
  • i ek's readership will increase the market for How to Read Lacan
  • Adding to 10 other titles currently available in the How to Read series --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Slavoj Žižek, philosopher and psychoanalyst, heads the International Center of Humanities at Birkbeck College. His numerous books, translated into more than thirty languages, include The Parallax View and Lacan: The Silent Partners.

Simon Critchley is a best-selling author and the Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research. His books include Very Little…Almost Nothing, Infinitely Demanding, The Book of Dead Philosophers, The Faith of the Faithless, Bowie, Memory Theatre and Suicide.

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Product Details

  • Series: How to Read
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393329550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393329551
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"The most dangerous philosopher in the West," (says Adam Kirsch of The New Republic) Slavoj Zizek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His books include "First as Tragedy, Then as Farce;" "Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle;" "In Defense of Lost Causes;" "Living in the End Times;" and many more.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Zizek admits in the introduction that he brings both arguments and material from his other published works to this How to Read manual. As a result, readers of Zizek will recognize the echoes of some jokes, lists and paragraphs. The limit of Zizek's sustained argumentation reaches about three pages. Each of the seven chapters will have a title, three or four pages will directly address that chapter's title and then fourteen or so pages will rehearse and mull topics of tangential relation. More of these topics of tangential relation are political, cultural, and philosophical rather than specifically Lacanian. Zizek sees Lacan as a tool for reading and interpreting, whose writings compel more ethical considerations than anything else. Each paragraph of Lacan that Zizek discusses proves its worth for its moment but makes little claim for its systematic application or perennial value. The attention of Lacan seems only slightly more mercurial than Zizek's. I find much of Zizek's discussion thought-provoking, clever, and engaging. I feel there is more Zizek than Lacan here, and I love reading Lacan. The list of materials for further reading is refined and helpful. Overall, this book smiles as it serves its tour of duty.
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Format: Paperback
Language is a pre-existing, social construct. For anyone who wants to truly say something new, there exists a conundrum: how strictly will I adhere to pre-existing forms, at the expense of breaking away from what has already been said?

In other words, how much emphasis do I want to put on making myself comprehensible to others? For Lacan, it seems, the answer was essentially "screw it. I'm going to forge ahead as far as I can, and I'll leave it to other people to figure out what I meant".

Principal among those 'other people' who have taken up the task is Slavoj Zizek. An important thing to note about this book is that Zizek doesn't instruct the reader on how to decipher the writings of Lacan. In fact, they're barely mentioned. Rather, he gives an overview of Lacan's thought, and shows how his ideas can be applied to every day situations. Which is to say, he gives a series of classic (and sometimes recycled) Zizek anecdotes and pop culture analyses.

As another reviewer noted, one definitely gets the sense in reading this book that there's a lot more Slavoj Zizek here than Jacques Lacan. In my opinion, however, that's a good thing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an historian of ideas I have sought a methodology beneath and beyond ideational analysis, identifying the presuppositions of our ideas. It was not until reading a review of several books by Slavoj Zizek several months ago that I begin to realize that this task is the life work of Jacques Lacan (1901-81).

Zizek's HOW TO READ LACAN is an insightful introduction to realities that escape our conscious awareness, resting deep beneath geologic layers of symbolic pretensions. With a double doctorate in both philosophy and pyschoanalysis, Zizek is especially qualified to introduce us to Lacan's work, arguably the most renowned psychoanalyst since Sigmund Freud.

Not sharing Zizek's expertise in popular culture, this reviewer is not qualified to give HOW TO READ LACAN five stars. And yet, while enabling us to probe more deeply the microscopic dimensions of our daily lives, Zizek's reading of Lacan also empowers us to understand and stand under the macroscopic dimensions of geopolitics on the fragile planet that is our home.

An instance of this reading is Zizek's interpretation of Donald Rumsfeld's March 2003 rendition of 1) known knowns, 2) known unknowns and 3) unknown unknowns. Zizek continutes that what Rumsfeld "forgot to add was the crucial fourth term: the 'unknown knowns,' things we don't know that we know -- which is precisely the Freudian unconscious, the 'knowledge that doesn't know itself,' as Lacan use to say, the core of which is fantasy." These 'unknown knowns,' Zizek continues, are "the disavowed beliefs and suppositions we are not even aware of adhering to ourselves, but which nonetheless determine our acts and feelings."
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Format: Paperback
The book effectively treats readers to more of Zizek himself than the French psycho-analyst. So from the start I'd recommend the Lacan enthusiast/beginner to look somewhere else (and then later come back to this work).

Still, in line with the whole series, the chapters are short, thus providing explanations, anecdotes, stories and jokes in summarized form, too. Also, if you've ever read a Zizek book you'll know how messy and (oftentimes) incoherent his writing can be; this book at least has the topics more or less clearly spelled out (even then one has to carefully comb most paragraphs with a marker), making it easier to not only comprehend what Zizek is saying but to categorise it all as well.

A bonus about reading this book is that it covers almost all the key Lacanian ideas that Zizek invariably repeats and reapplies in his other books; one could even say that, conceptually, every Zizek book diverges no more than 20-30% from any other one because they're mostly about contemporizing, applying and refreshing Lacan anyway. This book explains the symbolic order, the 'lamella', the site of the Real (one and the smae with the screen which filters out the Real - go figure), hyper non-activity (or extreme passivity masquerading as activity), the subject supposed to know/believe/enjoy, libidinal investments, fantasy as escape from the world, etc. - all of these and many more are given a concise treatment which also serves as a sweet taster of what to expect in Zizek's other phone-book sized publications.

Ultimately, one has to wonder: Is Zizek's Lacanianism dependent on his Marxism or the other way around?
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