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Why Theory

English, TV & Video, 1 season, 168 episodes, 2 days, 2 hours, 55 minutes
About
Why Theory brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to examine cultural phenomena.
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Prequel

Ryan and Todd explore the prequel as a narrative form. They consider its radical potential and how it might function ideologically. They discuss prequels such as Fire Walk With Me and Better Call Saul.
6/11/20241 hour, 14 minutes, 41 seconds
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Modernist Novel

Ryan and Todd theorize the modernist novel as a specific literary form, defined not by its time period but by its structural exigencies. They relate this form to the importance of the ending that function as a cut in the narrative movement rather than as a summation of all that has happened, which contrasts it with previous iterations of the novel.
5/27/20241 hour, 17 minutes, 42 seconds
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Endings

Ryan and Todd explore the problem of the ending, focusing on when and why the ending becomes important in film and television. They discuss the relationship between the ending of life and the ending of a work of art, especially in terms of psychoanalytic thinking.
5/11/20241 hour, 25 minutes, 44 seconds
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Parallax View

Ryan and Todd analyze Slavoj Zizek's contribution in what may be his magnum opus--The Parallax View. They discuss how he builds on the concept of parallax as originally articulated by Kojin Karatani and its implication for Zizek's understanding of politics.
4/28/20241 hour, 12 minutes, 18 seconds
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Seminar 11

Ryan and Todd unpack Jacques Lacan's most well-known seminar--Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. In doing so, they focus on Lacan's own exclusion as a starting point and then delve into two concepts that Lacan does not list among the fundamental ones--subjectivity and the objet a.
4/13/20241 hour, 26 minutes, 40 seconds
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Seminar 7

Ryan and Todd analyze the complexity of Jacques Lacan's Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. They discuss the various notions that appear there--from das Ding to sublimation to death drive to the ethics of desire.
3/30/20241 hour, 28 minutes, 23 seconds
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Critique Of Pure Reason -- Introduction

Ryan and Todd continue their exploration of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason with the Introduction. They discuss the importance of his critique of dogmatic metaphysics and the incredible discovery of the synthetic a priori judgment. Ryan's sports article: https://link.springer.com/journal/41282/online-first
3/16/20241 hour, 18 minutes, 51 seconds
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Blue Velvet

Ryan and Todd interpret David Lynch's Blue Velvet by paying special attention to the Kantian dimension of the film. They consider the film in terms of the thing-in-itself and the sublime.
3/3/20241 hour, 19 minutes, 10 seconds
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Critique Of Pure Reason -- Preface

Ryan and Todd begin their analysis of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason by working through the prefaces to the first and second edition of the work. They focus on the radicality of Kant's breakthrough and the role that the limit plays in his philosophy.
2/18/20241 hour, 20 minutes, 4 seconds
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Symbolic Castration

Ryan and Todd consider the concept of symbolic castration as it develops in psychoanalysis and as it bears on both politics and culture. They relate symbolic castration to some of the key concepts in psychoanalytic theory, including fetishistic disavowal and the phallus.
2/5/20241 hour, 31 minutes, 50 seconds
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Dialectical Reversal

Ryan and Todd explore the working of the dialectical reversal, how weaknesses can turn into strengths, how successes can turn into failures. They look at this through a variety of everyday examples and a few choice filmic ones.
1/22/20241 hour, 15 minutes, 29 seconds
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Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations

Ryan and Todd think through Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, focusing especially on the parallels with psychoanalysis and the work's political significance. They also address the ramifications of the private language argument that Wittgenstein formulates.
1/8/20241 hour, 10 minutes, 57 seconds
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Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Ryan and Todd discuss Ludwig Wittgenstein's project in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. They begin by looking at this project on its own terms and taking stock of its grand ambitions. Then they examine its intersection with the concerns of psychoanalysis and dialectics.
12/24/20231 hour, 25 minutes, 4 seconds
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1980s Christmas

In their annual Christmas episode, Ryan and Todd look at the 1980s Christmas film, focusing on Christmas Story, Trading Places, Scrooged, Christmas Vacation, and Home Alone. They discuss the nostalgia that predominates this period of Christmas films and how this limits the political reach of these works.
12/12/20231 hour, 22 minutes, 18 seconds
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Discourse on Method

Ryan and Todd examine perhaps the founding text of modern Western philosophy--Rene Descartes' Discourse on the Method. They consider how Descartes articulates an egalitarian philosophy through his conception of radical doubt and examine the influence of this text of subsequent thinkers and on theory today.
11/26/20231 hour, 8 minutes, 38 seconds
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Envy

Ryan and Todd discuss the structure of envy, its relationship to jealousy, and its political implications. They make reference to Othello and Seven as landmark explorations of envy, while also noting its relationship with the other deadly sins.
11/13/20231 hour, 12 minutes, 24 seconds
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Science Fiction Cinema

Ryan and Todd discuss the generic development of science fiction cinema while also addressing its philosophical implications. They include a deeper analysis of Metropolis, The Thing From Another World, Forbidden Planet, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. See: Voyage to the Moon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLVChRVfZ74 Metropolis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_4no842TX8 Phantom Empire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qbf6KX8O98
11/2/20231 hour, 35 minutes, 51 seconds
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Monadology

Ryan and Todd present the philosophy of Leibniz as articulated in his late work the Monadology. They link this text to the breakthroughs of later thinkers such as Kant and Hegel, as well as discussing how Leibniz anticipates the contemporary situation.
10/12/20231 hour, 18 minutes, 44 seconds
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The Prince

Ryan and Todd analyze Machiavelli's The Prince by tracing its influence on later political thinkers, including Hegel, Gramsci, and Althusser. They discuss Machiavelli's novelty and his limitations as a thinker of the political act.
10/1/20231 hour, 14 minutes, 29 seconds
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Surplus Enjoyment

Ryan and Todd explore the idea of surplus enjoyment as the basis for a theory of capitalism. They consider the psychic hold that capitalism has in terms of the surplus enjoyment that it both promises and provides.
9/16/20231 hour, 16 minutes, 53 seconds
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Surplus Value

Ryan and Todd unpack Marx's concept of surplus value and explore its fundamental role in the interpretation of capitalist society. They discuss the relationship between surplus value and profit, while considering how we should think about the drive to amass surplus value.
9/2/20231 hour, 18 minutes, 58 seconds
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Oppenheimer

Ryan and Todd offer their interpretation of Christopher Nolan's most recent film Oppenheimer. They focus on the relationship between the form of the film and its content, while considering the political implications of its depiction of the hero. They think about the film in relationship to the rest of Nolan's filmography.
8/19/20231 hour, 21 minutes, 28 seconds
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Barbie

Ryan and Todd interpret the film Barbie while responding to both leftist and rightist critiques of the film. They discuss the film's exploration of fantasy, its highlighting of contradiction, and its emphasis on the role of desire in politics.
8/5/20231 hour, 30 minutes
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Creative Writers & Daydreaming

Ryan and Todd analyze Freud's essay "Creative Writings and Daydreaming." They look first at the theory of fantasy that Freud develops in this essay and then turn to his conception of what generates the work of art, discussing it in terms of the current strike in Hollywood. In their concluding remarks, they deal with problems that Freud runs into in his theorizing here.
7/22/20231 hour, 19 minutes, 21 seconds
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Uncanny

Ryan and Todd analyze Freud's essay "The Uncanny" and the broader implications of this concept. They discuss the importance of the uncanny for understanding the horror film and focus on the difference between a psychoanalytic approach to the concept and the notion of the uncanny valley. Links from the episode: Žižek & So On podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6S0mig3K8TiuJoXHOG5VnT?si=6a55de55c2f24b22 Shibui (minimal groove quartet): https://shibuimusic.bandcamp.com/ Joseph Aisenberg’s Brian De Palma’s Carrie: Studies in the Horror Film: https://www.amazon.com/Brian-Palmas-Carrie-Studies-Horror/dp/B09NH3BCCP/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3PCVQVVCQ49BW&keywords=joseph+aisenberg&qid=1689001285&sprefix=joseph+aisenber%2Caps%2C205&sr=8-1
7/10/20231 hour, 14 minutes, 53 seconds
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Poststructuralism

Ryan and Todd attempt to show why the term "poststructuralism" is inapt for describing any of the thinkers that it usually is thought to indicate. They go through the major theorists known under this moniker and reveal why poststructuralism doesn't exist.
6/24/20231 hour, 17 minutes, 59 seconds
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Tribute to Mari Ruti

Ryan and Todd devote this episode to the memory of Mari Ruti, who died on June 8, 2023. They discuss her core theoretical ideas and work through her major works. In addition, they include a few memories of Mari's singular life.
6/12/20231 hour, 11 minutes, 35 seconds
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Succession

Ryan and Todd analyze the recently concluded television series Succession. They discuss it in terms of capitalist subjectivity, tragedy, the death drive, and the ideology of the family. There are spoilers at every point in this discussion.
5/29/20231 hour, 24 minutes, 39 seconds
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Bottle Episode

Ryan and Todd explore the concept of the bottle episode from the production and analysis of television. They discuss a variety of its manifestations along with its theoretical importance as a form. Ryan's article: https://www.academia.edu/82724525/The_Limitation_of_the_Bottle_Episode_Hegel_in_Community_preprint_
5/28/20231 hour, 23 minutes, 56 seconds
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Beyond Good and Evil

Ryan and Todd explore the important ideas from Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, focusing especially on Nietzche's historical critique of morality, his perspectivalism, and his notion of the will to power. They situate Nietzsche's breakthrough in relation to Freud's.
5/15/20231 hour, 16 minutes, 53 seconds
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The Racist Fantasy

Ryan and Todd discuss Todd's recent book The Racist Fantasy, which explores the psychic structure that underlies racism and that allows it to deliver enjoyment to those invested in it. They cover the role that fantasy plays in social life and the prospects for fighting racism. https://forgeorganizing.org/article/building-resilient-organizations https://www.baylorpress.com/9781602587359/trauma-and-race/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lacan-noir-david-s-marriott/1139152118 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8-VIi7tb44 https://fielddaylab.wisc.edu/
4/30/20231 hour, 14 minutes, 29 seconds
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Twitter

Ryan and Todd delve into the formal limitations that define the medium of Twitter. They analyze the politics of Twitter and the impact of the takeover by Elon Musk. Ryan's article cited in the episode is available here: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/clcweb/vol24/iss4/
4/16/20231 hour, 13 minutes, 10 seconds
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The Radical Western

Ryan and Todd delve into the western in its most radical manifestation, but they use as a starting point, the paradigmatic western Shane. They then examine more contemporary films that turn from the individual hero into a collective one.
3/31/20231 hour, 35 minutes, 23 seconds
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Western

In their second episode devoted to the classical Hollywood genres, Ryan and Todd explore the western by focusing on some of the most popular and some of the most theoretically compelling. They discuss directors John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Anthony Mann, as well as devoting time to the western 3:10 to Yuma. Their theorization of the western stresses the way that the genre lays out the social antagonism between law and lawlessness, in which the western hero functions as a vanishing mediator.
3/18/20231 hour, 30 minutes, 28 seconds
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Critique of Dialectical Reason

Ryan and Todd lay out the key points in Jean-Paul Sartre's vast attempt to marry existentialism and Marxism--The Critique of Dialectical Reason. They discuss the best moments of this work and then attempt to clarify how it goes awry. Its huge unspoken influence on more recent French thought is also a topic.
3/5/20231 hour, 27 minutes, 38 seconds
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Analysis Terminable & Interminable

Ryan and Todd delve into Freud's late essay "Analysis Terminable and Interminable." They focus on the role that the death drive plays in this essay and in Freud's later thought. They view this through the lens of Freud's claim in this essay that psychoanalysis represents one of the three impossible professions.
2/18/20231 hour, 20 minutes, 53 seconds
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Negation

Ryan and Todd engage with Freud's late essay "Negation" (1923). They look at the radical insights that he comes to as well as address the moments where he leaves various theoretical points undeveloped. They make a claim for the outsized importance of this brief essay.
2/5/20231 hour, 16 minutes, 7 seconds
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Being and Nothingness Side B

Ryan and Todd conclude their discussion of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness with a focus on Sartre's conception of freedom. They discuss the strengths and weaknesses that follow from how Sartre theorizes subjectivity in relation to the social order.
1/23/20231 hour, 20 minutes, 19 seconds
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Being and Nothingness Side A

Ryan and Todd discuss the first half of Jean-Paul Sartre's magnum opus Being and Nothingness. They cover the difference between the in-itself and the for-itself, bad faith, temporality, the unconscious, and other important concepts. The next episode will cover the second half of the book.
1/8/20231 hour, 20 minutes, 32 seconds
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Misfit Christmas

In an annual attempt to theorize the Christmas film, Ryan and Todd examine the concept of the misfit in three famous stop-motion Christmas films from the 1960s and 1970s: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. They discover the politics of nonbelonging at work in these films as it is figured through the idea of the misfit. Clips: We’re a Couple of Misfits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDHF08vEZTg) The Island of Misfit Toys (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr6GbKciNCY) Silver and Gold (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY-XDQN6ipE) The First Toymakers to the King (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8NSlCUAI4M) My World is Beginning Today (Jessica’s Trippy 2001/ Vertigo song; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSCq34_49Ws) Snow Miser (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPrbccEdI5o) Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (Springsteen; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76WFkKp8Tjs) Father Christmas (The Kinks; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPPCPqDINEk)
12/21/20221 hour, 19 minutes, 38 seconds
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Debt

Ryan and Todd discuss the role that debt plays in the structure of capitalist society and in the psyche necessary for sustaining this society. They explore debt as a subject matter in film and television, as well as debt's relationship to the lacking subject.
12/10/20221 hour, 12 minutes, 43 seconds
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Enjoyment Right & Left

Ryan and Todd discuss Todd's latest book Enjoyment Right & Left, which examines the political divide in terms of the different forms that enjoyment takes. They engage with this divide across a variety of issues, from anti-trans violence to the controversy surrounding the World Cup.
11/26/20221 hour, 22 minutes, 20 seconds
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Technology

This is a special Why Theory episode that was recorded live at the Impakt Festival that took place in Utrecht, Netherlands. Ryan and Todd discuss the theme of the festival--"the curse of smooth operations"--in terms of our relationship to technology. They question how technology provides enjoyment for us. The introduction ends at 4:53, and the question and answer period starts at 57:48.
11/12/20221 hour, 19 minutes, 14 seconds
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Love

Ryan and Todd trace the history of how thinkers have dealt with the problem of love--the varying definitions of love, the view of love's role in society, and love's philosophical importance. They begin with Plato's Symposium, touch on the New Testament, explore the role of love in Hegel's thought, discuss Badiou's love event, and conclude with the psychoanalytic conception of love, as developed by Jacques Lacan and Mari Ruti.
10/29/20221 hour, 31 minutes, 33 seconds
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Badiou

Ryan and Todd provide an introduction to the philosopher of contemporary French thinker Alain Badiou. They begin with his insistence on the importance of mathematics and then move on to his understanding of truth in relation to the event. They also discuss the contrast between Badiou and Hegel.
10/15/20221 hour, 13 minutes, 22 seconds
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Event

Ryan and Todd explore the philosophical concept of the event, tracing its trajectory through three thinkers--Martin Heidegger, Alain Badiou, and Slavoj Zizek. They make this discussion concrete with an extended discussion of the current revolutionary feminist actions occurring in Iran.
10/2/20221 hour, 17 minutes, 4 seconds
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Neurosis

Ryan and Todd discuss the diagnostic categories of psychoanalysis, beginning with neurosis. They analyze the three forms of neurosis--hysteria, obsession, and phobia--while also focusing on the different manifestations of these three forms in the contemporary political arena.
9/17/20221 hour, 21 minutes, 20 seconds
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Hegel's Absolute Knowing

Ryan and Todd conclude their series on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit with a discussion of the Absolute Knowing section. They explore the relationship between this section and the rest of the book as well as considering what this section has to say about the relationship between mediation and immediacy.
9/4/20221 hour, 20 minutes, 24 seconds
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Hegel's Religion

In their penultimate episode on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, Ryan and Todd analyze the religion section of the book. They focus most on the comic work of art and the revealed religion sections as they try to make sense of why Hegel gives religion such a prominent place in the Phenomenology. Ryan was recently a guest discussing graduate student conferences, which one can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/lclcoralhistory Barry Manilow’s “misunderstood” Dr. Pepper song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyonMvAh1Bw
8/20/20221 hour, 16 minutes, 19 seconds
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Screwball Comedy

Ryan and Todd begin a series of discussions about the classical Hollywood genres with the screwball comedy, a genre that centers on the sexual antagonism. They look at the film that kicks off the genre, It Happened One Night, as well as the high point of the genre, Bringing Up Baby, in addition to others. Ryan was recently a guest discussing graduate student conferences, which one can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/lclcoralhistory
8/6/20221 hour, 27 minutes, 28 seconds
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Mourning and Melancholia

Ryan and Todd are joined for the episode by James Godley, who recently organized a conference on mourning and the pandemic, entitled "In the Wake of the Plague" (which one can access here: https://sites.dartmouth.edu/wake-of-the-plague/), to discuss Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia." They probe the cultural resonances of the text and question the reasons for its massive popularity among Freud's writings.
7/23/20221 hour, 27 minutes, 37 seconds
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Wild Psychoanalysis

Ryan and Todd analyze Freud's essay "Wild Psychoanalysis" and delve into the problem of treating symptoms with knowledge rather than addressing the enjoyment that they offer. Even though this is a minor Freud essay, it provides one of the pillars for a psychoanalytic approach to politics.
7/9/20221 hour, 20 minutes, 48 seconds
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Abortion Theory

In this special episode, Ryan and Todd address the newly minted US Supreme Court decision that overturns the nationwide right to abortion access. They delve into the history of the famous decision granting abortion rights and theorize what has changed. During this discussion, they use the so-called abortion episode from the television series "Maude" as a reference point. The works referenced in the episode can be found here: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6e2rff and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv1bmY4Wd34
6/25/20221 hour, 20 minutes, 57 seconds
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Quilting Point

Ryan and Todd investigate the concept of the quilting point (point de capiton), as originally coined by Jacques Lacan and then in additional permutations. They attempt to develop this concept in further directions that challenge Lacan's original theorization of it in order to uncover its political efficacy.
6/11/20221 hour, 22 minutes, 6 seconds
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Seminar 3

Ryan and Todd provide their reading of Jacques Lacan's Seminar III devoted to the psychoses. They focus on the idea of the foreclosure of the paternal signifier while also addressing the role that Lacan theorizing the imaginary having in psychosis. They also outline the theory of the signifier that Lacan articulates in this seminar and how it relates to his later theorizing.
5/29/20221 hour, 24 minutes, 39 seconds
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Hamlet

Ryan and Todd address the history of psychoanalytic interpretations of Shakespeare's Hamlet, devoting time to both Freud and Lacan's reading. They then delve into the play as a work of modernity, seeing in it the modern project that attempts to reject the authority of tradition and of the father. Ryan's article on seriality and binge mentioned in the episode is located here: https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10092/103108/22%20Engley.pdf?sequence=3
5/14/20221 hour, 31 minutes, 59 seconds
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Streaming

Ryan and Todd question the theoretical implications of the development of streaming for narrative, spectatorship, and politics. They look at the changes that streaming ushers in and the hidden continuity between streaming and earlier aesthetic forms.
5/1/20221 hour, 15 minutes, 34 seconds
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The Woman Doesn't Exist (Aphorism 8)

Ryan and Todd explore Lacan's late aphorism, "The Woman doesn't exist." They address the importance of this statement for psychoanalytic feminism and the complications that have arisen from it. The relation between signifying logic and the sociocultural situation becomes a central part of their discussion.
4/17/20221 hour, 12 minutes, 46 seconds
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Film Noir

Ryan and Todd explore theories of film noir and try to account for its success as a cinematic movement. They discuss films such as Out of the Past, Double Indemnity, and The Third Man, as well as figures such as the femme fatale and the hard-boiled detective in an effort to understand what gives film noir its radicality.
4/3/20221 hour, 21 minutes, 12 seconds
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Dualism & Multiplicity

Ryan and Todd investigate the possibility of thinking about all competing philosophies under the headings of dualism, multiplicity, and dialectics. They take as avatars for each position St. Paul, Gilles Deleuze, and Hegel. Rather than serving as a reductive matrix for dismissal, this model becomes a way to think about relationality between different thinkers and systems of thought.
3/19/20221 hour, 15 minutes, 22 seconds
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Mystic Writing Pad

Ryan and Todd delve into a shorter text from Freud's later years--"Notes on a Mystic Writing Pad." Freud takes the child's toy that he discovers as a paradigm for how memory works in the psyche. Ryan and Todd tease out the implications of the essay for how to understand the unconscious, and they conclude with an analysis of Jacques Derrida's famous discussion of it in "Writing and Difference."
3/6/20221 hour, 14 minutes, 15 seconds
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Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Ryan and Todd conduct a thorough exploration of Freud's 1920 text Beyond the Pleasure Principle, beginning with the claim that this represents Freud at his most radical and original point. They look at the notion of death drive that Freud develops and trace how he comes to abandon the idea of the primacy of the pleasure principle.
2/20/20221 hour, 11 minutes, 53 seconds
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Superhero Film

Ryan and Todd examine the theoretical underpinnings of the genre of the superhero film. They look at its origins in the western and its development from the 1970s through Christopher Nolan and culminating in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They discuss why one might see it as a failed genre.
2/7/20221 hour, 14 minutes, 11 seconds
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Hegel's Spirit

Ryan and Todd pick up their discussion of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit with an exploration of the "Spirit" section of this book. They probe into Hegel's conception of Sittlichkeit (or the ethical order) and his investment in the act of getting one's hands dirty ethically and politically.
1/22/20221 hour, 20 minutes, 13 seconds
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Metalanguage (Aphorism 7)

Ryan and Todd discuss Lacan's claim that "there is no metalanguage." They address the political implications of this idea and look at various attempts to constitute a metalinguistic position. Finally, they explore the connection between metalanguage and capitalist subjectivity.
1/8/20221 hour, 17 minutes, 44 seconds
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The Christmas Film

Ryan and Todd return to the theorization of the Christmas film by examining three entries in the genre: Meet Me in St. Louis, Holiday Inn, and Christmas in Connecticut. They discuss the Christmas film's depiction of castrated authority, its challenge to cynicism, and its insistence that one must immerse oneself in a fiction to find truth.
12/23/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 19 seconds
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Casablanca

Ryan and Todd delve into the theoretical importance of the 1942 film Casablanca. They examine its critique of cynicism, its intermixing of love and politics, and its enactment of the importance of the barrier. They conclude by exploring how the film figures enjoyment and the political implications of this figuring.
12/12/20211 hour, 21 minutes, 42 seconds
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Retroactivity

Ryan and Todd explore the concept of retroactivity or Nachträglichkeit from its development in Hegel's philosophy to its pivotal status as the basis for freedom in Slavoj Zizek's thought. In between, they discuss how Freud, Lacan, and Laplanche each deploy this central theoretical concept and trace its political implications.
11/27/20211 hour, 14 minutes, 25 seconds
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Id

Ryan and Todd finish their three-episode examination of Freud's structural theory of the psyche with a focus on the id. They discuss the lack of discussion of the id among theorists and try to fill this lacuna. They then explore its cultural resonance.
11/14/20211 hour, 15 minutes, 19 seconds
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Ego

In this second in a series of three episodes, Ryan and Todd discuss the trajectory of the concept of the ego from Freud to Lacan. They investigate how Lacan's critique of the ego reshapes psychoanalytic thinking by distancing the subject from ego.
10/31/20211 hour, 11 minutes, 52 seconds
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Superego

In this episode, Ryan and Todd trace the development of the concept of the superego from Freud's invention of it in the Ego and the Id to Jacques Lacan's development of it through his seminars to Slavoj Zizek's theorizing of it as a political category. They examine the link between superego and social authority, focusing on the role that enjoyment plays in superegoic logic.
10/17/20211 hour, 19 minutes, 26 seconds
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Dialectic of Enlightenment

Ryan and Todd analyze the presuppositions and argument of Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment. They challenge the conception of dialectic that the book proffers and its general condemnation of the culture industry by examining cases that illustrate the culture industry's failures.
10/3/20211 hour, 16 minutes, 34 seconds
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Introduction to Biopower

Ryan and Todd explore the notion of biopower, as first advanced by Michel Foucault and then developed by Giorgio Agamben. They discuss how biopower relates to Marxism and to the dialectical understanding of the law.
9/19/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 52 seconds
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Heidegger and Hegel

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the philosophical divide between Martin Heidegger and Hegel, taking as their starting point Heidegger's conception of Dasein. They explore the relationship between Dasein and subjectivity, as well as the differing relationships to modernity that each philosopher has. The episode also touches on the theoretical tendencies for Heidegger's embrace of Nazism.
9/5/20211 hour, 14 minutes, 20 seconds
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Breaking Bad

Ryan and Todd work through the main ideas in the five seasons of the television series Breaking Bad, with a special focus on the final season. They discuss the show's commentary on capitalism, its conception of evil, and the significance of Walter White's trajectory.
8/22/20211 hour, 19 minutes, 45 seconds
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Twin Peaks The Return

Ryan and Todd offer their interpretation of the television series Twin Peaks: The Return. After Ryan explains the role of the series in peak tv, they explore what the final season of the series has to say about the structure of fantasy and our relationship to the necessity of loss.
8/9/20211 hour, 33 minutes, 14 seconds
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Four Discourses

This episode unpacks the reasons that drove Jacques Lacan to invent the four discourses in Seminar XVII and then analyzes the structure of each discourse. Ryan and Todd also touch on Lacan's development of the capitalist discourse. They conclude the episode with a critique of this turn in Lacan's thinking.
7/25/20211 hour, 17 minutes, 32 seconds
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Read My Desire, Pt. 3: Sex, Difference, Relation

Ryan and Todd devote a third and final episode to Joan's Copjec 1994 classic Read My Desire, focusing the entire time on the final chapter in the book, "Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason." They address Copjec's critique of Judith Butler and work out the philosophical resonance of this chapter.
7/12/20211 hour, 41 minutes
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Read My Desire, Pt. 2: Democracy, Anxiety, Film Noir

In this second of three episode devoted to Joan Copjec's Read My Desire, Ryan and Todd focus on Copjec's insights into the strength through weakness of the populist leader, the role of anxiety in politics, and the role that film noir plays in explaining the retreat from the public sphere.
6/27/20211 hour, 27 minutes, 39 seconds
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Graduate School

In this special requested episode, Ryan and Todd recount their experience of graduate school. They discuss the difficulties of engaging in theory and their attempts to carve out a theoretical path nonetheless. This is a singular episode where theory serves just as a content and not at all as a form.
6/27/20211 hour, 32 minutes, 47 seconds
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Read My Desire, Pt. 1: Gaze and Excess

Ryan and Todd devote this episode to unpacking Joan Copjec's groundbreaking first book, Read My Desire. In this first part of a two part series, they focus on the first four chapters of the book, devoting most of the episode to an explication of "The Orthopsychic Subject," which is Copjec's critique of apparatus theory in film studies. In so doing, they work through Copjec's understanding of the gaze.
6/13/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 16 seconds
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Sublime Object of Ideology

Ryan and Todd discuss the emergence of Slavoj Zizek's first book in English, The Sublime Object of Ideology. They work through its impact and historical significance. They then work through the ideas of the book as Zizek develops them--a new theory of ideology, fantasy, the quilting point, and the death drive.
5/30/20211 hour, 23 minutes, 3 seconds
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Alexandre Kojeve

In this episode, Ryan and Todd delve into the life and thought of relatively unknown theorist Alexandre Kojeve, who they claim may be the most influential thinker--for better or worse--of the 20th century. Kojeve basically directed the reading of Hegel for almost 75 years and shaped thinkers such as Jacques Lacan, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Georges Bataille. This episode tries to account for his incredible influence while doing just to his thought.
5/17/20211 hour, 24 minutes, 53 seconds
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Psychoanalysis & Narrative

In this episode, Ryan and Todd conceptualize narrative structure in psychoanalytic terms, addressing how the master signifier, the subject supposed to know, the objet a, the object of desire, and the quilting point manifest themselves in the constitution of a narrative. They look at examples such as Hamlet, Memento, Star Wars, and Wandavision.
5/2/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 1 second
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Alienation

In this episode, Ryan and Todd trace the concept of alienation from its theorization by Hegel, through its development in Marx, to its elaboration in Sartre and Lacan. They focus on Hegel's positive twist to this typically negative concept, and then discuss how subsequent thinkers make use of this concept.
4/18/20211 hour, 9 minutes, 45 seconds
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Hegel's Reason

This episode is the fourth in a series of episodes that Ryan and Todd are devoting to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Here, we go through what Hegel understands by the term "reason" and how it develops in this major section of the book.
4/4/20211 hour, 21 minutes, 14 seconds
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Feminism & Psychoanalysis with Mari Ruti

In this episode, Ryan and Todd are joined by guest cohost Mari Ruti to discuss the relationship between feminism and psychoanalysis. Delving into the problems of desire and power, they question how psychoanalysis might contribute to the feminist project.
3/21/20211 hour, 19 minutes, 23 seconds
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Screen Memories

In this episode, Ryan and Todd analyze the theoretical riches of Freud's early text on "Screen Memories." They relate this work to the relationship between fantasy and truth, as well as considering its relevance for contemporary politics.
3/7/20211 hour, 12 minutes, 31 seconds
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Civilization and Its Discontents

In this episode, Ryan and Todd go through Freud's rich late text Civilization and Its Discontents. They discuss the oceanic feeling, Freud's critique of religion, the relationship between death drive and aggression, and other subjects that Freud engages.
2/22/20211 hour, 26 minutes, 19 seconds
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Jouissance

In this episode, Ryan and Todd chronicle the varied evolution of the concept of jouissance in the thought of Jacques Lacan and offer their idea of the best formulation of this concept. They touch on the key moments, from the association of jouissance with transgression in Seminar VII to the identification of jouissance with the failure of the sexual relationship in Seminar XX.
2/6/20211 hour, 20 minutes, 44 seconds
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Lacan's Seminar 2

In their continuing series on Jacques Lacan's seminars, Ryan and Todd devote this episode to Seminar 2, which focuses on the relationship between the imaginary and symbolic registers. They discuss Lacan's early conception of death drive, his reading of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter," and the game of odds and evens, as well as other aspects of the seminar.
1/24/20211 hour, 33 minutes, 3 seconds
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Domestic Terrorism

In this special episode, Ryan and Todd comment on the recent attempted coup in the United States. They address the significance of this act of domestic terrorism for the actuality of Right and Left on the political scene.
1/10/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 9 seconds
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Tenet

In this episode, Ryan and Todd analyze the new Christopher Nolan film Tenet. They discuss the film in terms of the concept of Nachtraglickeit or retroactivity, as well as exploring the conflicted politics that Nolan proposes in the film.
1/2/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 9 seconds
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Popular Music

In this episode, Ryan and Todd investigate the theoretical implications of popular music, focusing on groups such as the Replacements, the Talking Heads, and Roxy Music. They consider how the unconscious, drive, fantasy, and enjoyment manifest themselves in the works from these bands and others.
12/21/20201 hour, 33 minutes, 34 seconds
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German Idealism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the phenomenon of German Idealism through its four primary figures--Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Rather than focusing solely on these figures as thinkers, they delve into the gossip surrounding each of them as well. Focusing on a significant contribution of each, they look to each of them as theorists of the simple and everyday.
12/9/20201 hour, 32 minutes, 42 seconds
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Hegel's Self-Consciousness

This episode is the third in a seven part series devoted to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Ryan and Todd discuss the second major section, Self-Consciousness, with a special focus on the master/slave dialectic. They also explore the transition from Consciousness and then the transition to Reason.
11/24/20201 hour, 15 minutes, 39 seconds
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Election Special

In this special episode, Ryan and Todd analyze the recent US presidential election. They note that Joe Biden's victory covers over several problems inherent in the moderate politics of the Democratic Party. They also discuss the appeal of Donald Trump to those who do not benefit from his policies.
11/8/20201 hour, 11 minutes, 3 seconds
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Deleuze after Guattari

In the third and final episode devoted to the thought of Gilles Deleuze, Ryan and Todd discuss the Deleuze of the 1980s, the Deleuze after Guattari. Their primary focus in this episode is on the cinema books. They explore the relationship between the movement-image and the time-image, concluding with an assessment of the attempts to marry Deleuze with psychoanalysis. Other media mentioned in the show: Cooper Cherry’s Podcast https://soundcloud.com/podcast-co-coopercherry Ben Hagen’s Reading Difference and Repetition blog https://sketchingapresent.com/2013/06/22/slow-reading-1-1-gilles-deleuze-difference-and-repetition-pg-1/ Short introduction where Andrew Culp explains the aims of his book Dark Deleuze https://alienocene.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/dark-d-to-print.pdf
11/2/20201 hour, 31 minutes, 35 seconds
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Deleuze Before Guattari

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss Gilles Deleuze's early thought, prior to his collaboration with Felix Guattari. They focus primarily on his major works from this period--Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense. Here is the podcast that Ryan mentions in the episode: https://share.transistor.fm/s/488221f4
10/19/20201 hour, 18 minutes, 36 seconds
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Deleuze with Guattari

In this episode, Ryan and Todd analyze the confrontation that Deleuze and Guattari enact with psychoanalytic theory. They think through conceiving desire as production vs. conceiving it as lack, focusing on the the multiple as opposed to the singular, and other issues.
10/5/20201 hour, 39 minutes, 26 seconds
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Imaginary

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the final of Jacques Lacan's three orders--the imaginary. They examine how the concept developed historically and the trajectory of its role within psychoanalytic theory.
9/20/20201 hour, 13 minutes, 27 seconds
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Symbolic Order

In this episode, Ryan and Todd examine the conception of the symbolic order, as developed by Jacques Lacan and those who follow him. They discuss how the symbolic order is structured and look at it in terms of its relationship to the real. They think through the everyday events that reveal the omnipresence of the symbolic structure.
9/6/20201 hour, 17 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Real

In this first of three episodes, Ryan and Todd discuss Jacques Lacan's register of the real. They detail the role that it plays within Lacan's theoretical system, as well as focusing on its importance for thinking about political change.
8/23/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 59 seconds
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Lacan's Seminar 1

In this first episode in a series devoted to Lacan's seminars, Ryan and Todd lay out their reading of Seminar 1. They discuss Lacan's critique of alternative psychoanalytic practices and work through his initial understanding of the relationship between the imaginary and symbolic registers.
8/9/20201 hour, 18 minutes, 45 seconds
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Aura

In this episode, Ryan and Todd analyze Walter Benjamin's famous essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." This dive into the concept of aura that Benjamin focuses on, and then they move to the relationship between fascism and art. They also explain the significance of the differences between the distinct versions of the essay.
7/26/20201 hour, 17 minutes, 5 seconds
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Competing Universalities

In this special episode, Ryan and Todd debate two different conceptions of universality. Ryan locates universality in the quilting point, whereas Todd conceives of universality in terms of constitutive absence. They explore these different ideas alongside Slavoj Zizek's conception of universality as antagonism.
7/14/20201 hour, 21 minutes, 16 seconds
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Interpassivity

In this episode, Ryan and Todd define and explore the implications of interpassivity, a concept developed by Robert Pfaller and popularized by Slavoj Zizek. Through this discussion, they speculate on the possibility of interpassivity as a possible point of collectivization for the Left.
6/28/20201 hour, 17 minutes, 24 seconds
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Big Other (Aphorism 6)

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the Lacanian aphorism, "The big Other does not exist." They try to understand what Lacan means with the notion of big Other, contrasting it with symbolic order and ideology. Then they work out the relationship between time and the recognition of the big Other's nonexistence.
6/14/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 57 seconds
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Capitalism & Racism

In this special episode, Ryan and Todd lay out the relationship between capitalism and racism. They argue for racism's link to capitalism and question the ability of capitalism to survive without it. They consider this relationship in light of the massive protest movement currently going on in the United States. References mentioned in the episode: National Bail Fund Network https://www.communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory National Lawyers Guild https://www.nlg.org Red Library Podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/red-library-a-political-education-podcast-for-todays-left/id1449392577 InForm https://inform.transistor.fm/s2/23 Machinic Unconscious Happy Hour https://soundcloud.com/podcast-co-coopercherry Revolutionary Left Radio https://revolutionaryleftradio.libsyn.com
6/3/20201 hour, 9 minutes, 46 seconds
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Hegel's Consciousness

In this episode of a continuing series on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, Ryan and Todd go over the three subsection of the Consciousness chapter: sense certainty, perception, and force and understanding. They move from a discussion of Hegel's clarity in sense certainty to his opacity in Force and Understanding. They contend that this last section of Consciousness represents one of the major moments in both Hegel's thought and in all of modern philosophy.
5/23/20201 hour, 13 minutes, 18 seconds
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Oedipus Complex

In this episode, Ryan and Todd trace the history and development of the Oedipus complex, as well as its relationship to the entirety of the psychoanalytic project. They question its centrality and discuss the merits of its continued importance.
5/9/20201 hour, 15 minutes, 37 seconds
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Missing Signifier

In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore the concept of the missing signifier. Rooting this discussion in Alenka Zupancic's book What IS Sex?, they delve into the theoretical and political ramifications of the missing signifier. Following Zupancic, they argue that this signifier is the point of primary repression and marks where enjoyment forms in the social order.
4/24/20201 hour, 11 minutes, 24 seconds
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Zaddy Fascism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore Ryan's concept of Zaddy fascism, a concept that focuses on the erotics of the fascist leader. They discuss the possibilities for conceiving of the difference between the fascist leader and the leftist alternative.
4/18/20201 hour, 9 minutes, 41 seconds
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Penis Envy

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the implications of Mari Ruti's book Penis Envy and Other Bad Feelings. Following Ruti, they explore the notion of penis envy from a feminist perspective. Then, they trace the book's other theoretical movements, including Ruti's take on pornography.
4/4/20201 hour, 10 minutes, 14 seconds
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Coronavirus and Its Discontents

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the political implications of the coronavirus pandemic. They lay out the differences between a natural disaster and an emergency that has a clear enemy. They explore the implications that the response to virus has for the concept of biopower and the idea that we have been reduced to bare life today. From listener and clinician Conor McCormack: Structures are key to Lacanian practice and the parameters of differential diagnoses and can currently be nicely discerned in reactions to Coronavirus. Melancholia: It doesn't matter, I'm already dead Schizophrenia: I hadn't noticed Paranoia: I knew this was going to happen Obsessional Neurosis: We'll all be ok if we follow the rules Hysteria: Who's in charge here anyway?
3/21/20201 hour, 17 minutes, 38 seconds
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Unconscious (Aphorism 5)

In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore Lacan's aphorism, "the unconscious is structured like a language." They discuss the misunderstandings that this aphorism has produced and debate whether or not it represents a good point of entry into Lacan's thought. They also consider various examples the illustrate the idea expressed in the aphorism.
3/11/20201 hour, 14 minutes
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Kant and Freedom

In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore the radicality of Immanuel Kant's notion of freedom, which he ties to our ability to give the moral law to ourselves. This paradox that the law is the source of our freedom serves as the basis for a discussion that touches both Kant's place in the history of philosophy and his relationship to psychoanalysis.
2/23/20201 hour, 20 minutes, 6 seconds
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Mirror Stage

In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore Lacan's famous concept of the mirror stage. They discuss the role that this concept has in the popular understanding of Lacan's thought in contrast with the part that it plays in the theory itself, while also working through a detailed reading of Lacan's essay on this topic.
2/8/20201 hour, 25 minutes, 47 seconds
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New Materialisms

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss new materialisms, exploring their rejection of epistemology and their embrace of a flat ontology. After laying out the basic position of new materialism and its rejection of the priority of the subject, they attempt to prove that this is ultimately an untenable theoretical position to champion. They make reference to Todd's essay that critiques this position in light of Hegel: https://www.academia.edu/9832109/On_the_Necessity_of_Contradiction_Hegel_with_the_Speculative_Realists And to Joan Copjec's excellent essay on sexual difference for a similar line of thought: https://www.politicalconcepts.org/sexual-difference-joan-copjec/
1/23/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 8 seconds
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Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics

In this episode, Ryan and Todd work through the possibilities for a psychoanalytic theory of aesthetics. Starting with the concept of sublimation, they discuss how psychoanalytic ideas might give us the tools for understanding and judging aesthetic value.
1/8/20201 hour, 19 minutes, 34 seconds
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objet a

In this episode, Ryan and Todd try to pin down Jacques Lacan's elusive and crucial concept of the objet a. They offer different ways of thinking about and give various examples before identifying the point at which it emerges in Lacan's trajectory.
12/24/20191 hour, 37 minutes, 55 seconds
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Psychoanalysis and Existentialism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the possibilities for the marriage of psychoanalysis and existentialism, including the ideas that might render this marriage ultimately untenable. They explore how psychoanalysis and existentialism each provides a critique of the other, touching on Jacques Lacan's critique of Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre's version of existential psychoanalysis.
12/7/20191 hour, 17 minutes, 14 seconds
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Hegel and Race

In this episode, Ryan and Todd examine Hegel's critique of racism and analyze the charge of racism leveled against him. They discuss his championing of the revolting slaves in Haiti, as well as his comments about Africa in the Philosophy of History.
11/18/20191 hour, 12 minutes, 7 seconds
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Defending Freud (side B)

In this continuation of the previous episode, Ryan and Todd spell out the common criticisms launched against Freud and psychoanalysis. In each case, they try to show how these critiques ultimately come up short and either secretly rely on Freud's own psychoanalytic method when criticizing him or miss the aim of the psychoanalytic project. In this part, they confront the charges of Freud's heteronormativity and his sexism, while also speculating about why critiques stick to Freud and not to other theorists.
11/7/20191 hour, 11 minutes, 48 seconds
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Defending Freud (side A)

In this episode, Ryan and Todd spell out the common criticisms launched against Freud and psychoanalysis. In each case, they try to show how these critiques ultimately come up short and either secretly rely on Freud's own psychoanalytic method when criticizing him or miss the aim of the psychoanalytic project. In this part, they address the image of Freud as a cocaine addict, as a pervert, and as a charlatan. In the next episode, they will confront the charges of Freud's heteronormativity and his sexism.
10/23/20191 hour, 11 minutes, 21 seconds
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Psychoanalysis and Capitalism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd argue for a psychoanalytic understanding of capitalism's appeal and staying power. They reflect on the possibilities for a psychoanalytic critique of capitalism and ponder its abilities to offer alternatives, rather than just serve as a source of critique.
10/9/20191 hour, 15 minutes, 22 seconds
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Psychoanalysis and Disability

In this episode, Ryan recounts his own disability as a way of framing the discussion that he and Todd have about the relationship between psychoanalysis and disability. They explore the implications of disability for the status of the Other and the role that it plays in fetishistic disavowal. They conclude with an investigation of how disability runs counter to the structural logic of capitalism.
9/20/20191 hour, 15 minutes, 9 seconds
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Mad Men

In this episode, Ryan and Todd dissect the television series "Mad Men" in political and psychoanalytic terms. They look at the characters Don and Peggy as ethical figures, as well as discussing the critique of capitalism that the series levels. They explore in depth the episode entitled "The Suitcase" as an example of the theoretical concept of the bottle episode.
9/1/20191 hour, 24 minutes, 52 seconds
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Incels, Misogyny, and Castration

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the Incel phenomenon and its relationship to the logic at work in misogyny. They frame the question in terms of how symbolic castration functions in contemporary society. The discussion turns to how the phenomenon of the Incel actually sheds light on many other aspects of today's capitalist universe.
8/14/20191 hour, 21 minutes, 57 seconds
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Signifier Vs. Sign (Aphorism 4)

In this episode, Ryan and Todd unpack Jacques Lacan's famous aphorism about the signifier--"the signifier represents the subject to another signifier." This aphorism focuses on the role of the desiring subject in signification and highlights the contrast between meaning and signification. Ryan and Todd contrast this definition of the signifier with the sign and explore what's at stake in this distinction. They wrap up the podcast by interpreting some current cultural signifiers and explain why we need to see them as signifiers.
7/30/20191 hour, 27 minutes, 28 seconds
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Contradiction

In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore the problem of contradiction, especially as it appears in Hegel's philosophy. In doing so, they work through the argument of Todd's new book on Hegel, "Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution." They debate the thesis of the book--that the end point of Hegel's philosophy is reconciliation with contradiction--while pondering the ramifications of contradiction for politics.
7/8/20191 hour, 23 minutes, 3 seconds
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An Afternoon with Slavoj Zizek -- Hegel

In the third of a series of three special episodes featuring Slavoj Zizek, Ryan and Todd respond to Todd's interview with Slavoj concerning his relationship to Hegel. Slavoj brings up questions about Todd's interpretation of Hegel in his new book, specifically the claim about the end of history and the idea that Hegel argues for political freedom. Building on the interview, Ryan and Todd ponder how we might think of progress in Hegelian terms.
6/24/20191 hour, 38 minutes, 22 seconds
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An Afternoon with Slavoj Zizek -- Lacan

In the second of a series of three special episodes featuring Slavoj Zizek, Ryan and Todd respond to Todd's interview with Slavoj concerning his relationship to Lacan. They cover what Slavoj thinks is the key Lacanian concept and seminar, as well as Slavoj's assessment of trans theory. Ryan questions Slavoj's written interventions on this issue for not highlighting the way that the psychoanalytic theory of subjectivity speaks directly to the trans position.
6/10/20191 hour, 22 minutes, 36 seconds
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An Afternoon with Slavoj Zizek -- Marx

This special episode includes Todd's discussion with Slavoj Zizek about Marxism, conducted just before his debate with Jordan Peterson. Todd and Slavoj discuss why one might insist on the moniker "Marxist" today and why one might call it into question. Ryan and Todd then delve into the issues raised by Slavoj's responses. They focus Marx's relationship with Hegel and the implications of this relationship for politics.
5/29/20191 hour, 21 minutes, 20 seconds
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Immediacy

In this special episode recorded at the 2019 LACK Conference, Ryan and Todd talk with theorist Anna Kornbluh about the proliferating sense of immediacy in contemporary society. Building on her talk at the conference, Kornbluh sketches the growing absence of evidence of mediation in a heavily mediated world. Ryan, Todd, and Anna then speculate on the signs of this absence and how we might combat it.
5/14/20191 hour, 10 minutes, 42 seconds
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A Signifier for the Left

Ryan and Todd are joined by theorist Paul Eisenstein to discuss the most appropriate signifier for the Left. They weigh several possibilities, including "progressivism," "socialism," and "communism," among others. They contend that the signifier for the Left must evoke contradiction and avoid the promise of future harmony.
5/7/20191 hour, 16 minutes, 28 seconds
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Us

We explore the theoretical resonance of the Jordan Peele film Us (2019), focusing particularity on the relationship between the individual psyche and collective politics. We also delve into what the film might have to say about fetishistic disavowal and commodity fetishism, key terms from Freud and Marx, respectively.
4/20/20191 hour, 23 minutes, 29 seconds
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Cynicism (Aphorism 3)

Cynicism functions as perhaps the most prevalent form of subjectivity in the contemporary landscape. In this episode, Ryan and Todd trace the origins of cynicism, locate its presence in today's society, and try to understand its appeal. The cynical position involves violating Jacques Lacan's famous aphorism, "The non-duped err." The cynic fails to believe in the symbolic fiction and imagines that it is possible to accede directly to the truth. This refusal to be duped results in an inability to recognize the necessity of political struggle and facilities disengagement.
4/5/20191 hour, 9 minutes, 9 seconds
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Conspiracy Theories

Todd and Ryan discuss the structure of conspiracy theories, how their internal logic logic works and their ultimate reliance on imagining what Lacan would call "the other of the other."
3/21/20191 hour, 16 minutes, 46 seconds
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Sexuation (Aphorism 2)

In this episode, Todd and Ryan come to grips with another of Lacan's many aphorisms: "there is no sexual relationship." After first defining Lacan's idea against the dominant ideological notion of complementarity in the romantic tie (i.e. "You complete me"), Todd and Ryan sketch out when and where the phrase appears in Lacan's oeuvre, how it develops, and what contemporary relevance the idea has. As with the first Aphorism episode, this podcast ends with a film recommendation that helps explain the concept.
3/4/20191 hour, 10 minutes, 34 seconds
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Ethics of Psychoanalysis (Aphorism 1)

The first in what will be a series of podcasts on the key aphorisms of Jacques Lacan, this podcast addresses the dictum, "Don't give ground relative to your desire," which Lacan articulates in Seminar VII. Ryan and Todd unpack this formulation of what Lacan calls the ethics of psychoanalysis, imagine how it might be enacted, reflect on its contemporary relevance, and consider where it belongs in the whole of Lacan's work.
2/10/20191 hour, 14 minutes, 46 seconds
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Psychoanalysis and Racism

Ryan and Todd discuss the encounter between psychoanalytic theory and the problem of racism. They focus on the role that enjoyment plays in racism and why racism is necessary for the survival of capitalist society. They also address the problem of white privilege as a signifier. During this discussion, they deal with two outstanding books on racism, Racecraft by Barbara and Karen Fields, and Trauma and Race by Sheldon George.
1/26/20191 hour, 14 minutes, 39 seconds
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Preface to Hegel's Phenomenology

This episode provides an introduction to the preface to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Ryan and Todd explore key issues from the notoriously difficult preface, including Hegel's own claim that one should not write prefaces to philosophical works. They argue that the preface provides the key to jumping in to all of Hegel's philosophy. The episode aims to lead listeners either to read the Phenomenology for themselves or to help them act as if they have read it at parties.
1/8/20191 hour, 14 minutes, 55 seconds
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Secular Morality

Ryan and Todd address the peculiar rise of a new secular morality that they find much more exacting than contemporary religious morality. This secular morality manifests itself in a strict limitation on any speech that appears to violate norms of fairness. In investigating this problem, Ryan and Todd note the emphasis that secular morality places on speech rather than act and on how it individualizes political questions.
12/30/20181 hour, 11 minutes, 52 seconds
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Theoretically Christmas (side B)

In this conclusion of their discussion of the Christmas film, Ryan and Todd begin with the film Die Hard and the problem of racism, move to an analysis of White Christmas as an anti-war film, and conclude with a celebration of Ernst Lubitsch's underrated Shop Around the Corner, as the ultimate Christmas film. Its great achievement is that it reveals how the depiction of the symbolic father's castration opens the path from the logic of cynical capitalism to love. This episode interprets these three films at length and wraps up Ryan and Todd's discussion of the Christmas film as a distinct genre.
12/16/20181 hour, 14 minutes, 34 seconds
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Theoretically Christmas (side A)

In this episode, Ryan and Todd explore the idea of the Christmas film through psychoanalysis and Hegel. They begin by theorizing the Christmas film as such and then focus on two (of five total that they will analyze)--"Three Days of the Condor" and "It's a Wonderful Life." Rather than engage in an ideological critique of the Christmas film, this episode looks at its hidden radicality.
12/12/20181 hour, 13 minutes, 54 seconds
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(Neo)liberalism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd debate the political viability of the term "Neoliberalism." They explore what neoliberalism signifies and whether or not this signifier can function as a building block for the contemporary Left. The episode also delves into the terms used for leftism--like progressivism and emancipatory politics--in order to understand which might be most appropriate.
11/21/20181 hour, 17 minutes, 33 seconds
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Das Ding

Quick note: This episode was distance recorded in a way different from other Why Theory episodes. Technology was not our friend before this recording, so the audio quality may be somewhat lesser than other episodes. We apologize for that. We do not, however, apologize for the content, which benefited from the presence of theorist Richard Boothby, who added his expertise to a discussion of the concept of das Ding. Ryan, Todd, and Rick probe the ethical and political implications of das Ding, as well as locating its place in the development of Lacan's thought.
11/12/20181 hour, 10 minutes, 52 seconds
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Rupture

In this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss the theoretical idea of rupture. Further topics include: the difference between rupture and event; the difference between Badiou and Zizek (which might be the difference between event and act); and the political implications of thinking through rupture. As always, thank you all so much for listening.
10/29/20181 hour, 21 minutes, 8 seconds
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Surveillance, Punishment, Crime

On this episode, Todd and I discuss the interrelated terms of surveillance, punishment, and crime. We try to work through these terms from psychoanalytic theory (focusing on enjoyment, of course) against the more common Foucauldian understanding of these terms (which is always through a notion of power). Thanks so much for listening! We hope you enjoy the conversation.
10/12/20181 hour, 12 minutes, 8 seconds
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Dialectics

In this episode, Todd and I discuss dialectics (as the title of the episode implies). After charting the historical development of the term, we focus on the different roles dialectics play for Kant and Hegel. Later, we finish the episode by talking about how Lacan's dialectical thinking manifests itself in his theory. This was a listener suggested episode. Shout outs to Ken in Birmingham and Sean in Dublin. Thanks so much for listening!
10/5/20181 hour, 5 minutes, 35 seconds
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Desire & Drive

In this episode, Todd and I work through two of psychoanalytic theory's most fundamental terms: desire and drive. Despite how fundamental these terms are there exists a fair amount of disagreement. Far from being generally agreed upon first principles, desire and drive are consistent sites for some of psychoanalysis's most interesting interventions (e.g. Alenka Zupancic's What is Sex? and Lee Edelman's No Future, both discussed in this episode). As always: thanks so much for listening! We very much appreciate it.
9/15/20181 hour, 2 minutes, 50 seconds
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Political Enjoyment

On this episode, Todd and I discuss enjoyment in contemporary politics. Working through enjoyment as a psychoanalytic idea, this episode focuses on the appeal of Trump, the lack of enjoyment in the Democratic party position, and how constricting secular morality is for the left, as opposed to the paradoxically less dogmatic religious morality of the right.
8/31/20181 hour, 6 minutes, 16 seconds
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Master Signifier

Thanks for tuning in to Why Theory. On this episode, Todd and I discuss three interrelated terms: the master signifier, the quilting point, and the universal. Our conversation starts with a discussion of Lacan’s development of the master signifier and his curious abandonment of the quilting point. In the middle portion of the episode, we get stuck in to the different ways the master signifier has been articulated as a political term before concluding with a discussion about the universal that harkens back to our previous episode. Lots of moving parts in this episode but I think it’s our most comprehensive to date. As always, thanks for listening and we hope you enjoy the conversation.
8/16/20181 hour, 6 minutes
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The Universal and The Particular

In this episode, Todd and Ryan theorize the universal and particular as political concepts. The particular aims at aggregating an "all" and accepts the political situation or sphere for what it is. The universal confronts how the existing political sphere is even constituted. This episode urges a recalibration for the American left around universalist movements like Black Lives Matter--which confronts how constitutive racism is of both American society and capitalism in general--and against "whack-a-mole" politics (i.e. that which is typically aimed at holding individual perpetuators of inequality responsible for their actions without addressing the larger structure (capital) that keeps that inequality in tact.) Suggestions for Further Reading: Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic (Cambridge currently refers to this by the accurate but clunky AF title: Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline Part I: Science of Logic) Francois Julien, On the Universal Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History Alenka Zupancic, What is Sex? Alain Badiou, Theory of the Subject Todd McGowan, (Forthcoming essay. Will update this shortly.)
7/27/201856 minutes, 30 seconds
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Where to Start 3: Heidegger, Badiou, Agamben, Butler, Derrida

On this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss the following thinkers: Martin Heidegger (Start to 18 minutes) Recommended: Being and Time Alain Badiou (18 min to 35) Recommended: Philosophy and Event, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, Theory of the Subject Giorgio Agamben (35 to 43:40) Recommended: Homo Sacer, Means Without Ends Judith Butler (43:55 to 55ish) Recommended: Gender Trouble, Subjects of Desire Jacques Derrida (56 to End) Recommended: Specters of Marx, Positions, "Freud and the Scene of Writing"
7/14/20181 hour, 3 minutes, 57 seconds
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Sports: Ideology, Enjoyment, Contradiction

Just in time for the World Cup to have already started comes this episode of Why Theory on Sports, Ideology, Enjoyment, and Contradiction. Todd and I are huge sports fans and teased an episode on sports and theory all the way back in our first episode on theories of comedy. We hope this conversation is worth the wait. As always, thanks so much for listening.
6/17/201858 minutes, 51 seconds
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Where to Start 2: Hegel, Marx, Fanon, Deleuze, Foucault

Discussed in this episode: Hegel, Marx, Fanon, Deleuze, Foucault Recommended in this episode: Hegel Preface to Phenomenology of Spirit; Lesser Logic; Introduction to History of Philosophy Marx "The Commodity" from Capital vol. 1; Grundrisse; The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte Fanon Black Skin, White Mask; The Wretched of the Earth Deleuze "The Death Instinct" from Coldness and Cruelty; Difference & Repetition; Spinoza: Practical Philosophy Foucault Discipline & Punish Listen to hear what is NOT recommended!
5/18/20181 hour, 8 minutes, 22 seconds
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Where to Start 1: The Psychoanalytic Theorists

Thanks for joining us on Why Theory. In this episode, Todd and I give a few recommendations on where to start and where not start introductory readings from six psychoanalytic theorists: Freud, Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, Joan Copjec, Alenka Zupancic, and Mari Ruti. This is the first iteration of what will hopefully be a mini series on where to start and where not to start with different thinkers. We both think this is a fine start but who are we to judge. Thanks for listening, as always. We hope you enjoy the conversation. Recommended in this episode: Freud: "A Note Upon the Mystic Writing Pad," "Negation," "Fetishism," The Interpretation of Dreams Lacan: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Anxiety Zizek: Looking Awry, The Plague of Fantasies, The Fright of Real Tears, The Parallax View, Less Than Nothing Copjec: "The Orthopsychic Subject," "Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason" Zupancic: The Odd One In, Ethics of the Real Ruti: The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living; Between Levinas and Lacan: Self, Other, Ethics; The Ethics of Opting Out
5/9/20181 hour, 28 minutes, 41 seconds
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CGI, Anxiety, The Last Jedi

As Freud famously said to Jung upon their arrival in the United States for a lecture series at Clark University, “They don’t realize we are bringing them the plague.” Now, lots of people say Freud never said this, upon seeing the Statue of Liberty, referring to psychoanalysis as “the plague,” but Lacan said that Jung said that Freud said it, and who among us is going to let a possibly dodgy game of telephone get in the way of a good story? Either way, bringing the plague to your ears is this episode of Why Theory. Recorded with special guest Hugh Manon of Clark University, the only place Freud ever lectured in America, we discuss CGI, Anxiety, The Last Jedi and a whole bunch of other stuff. Get excited. Get the plague and, as always, thanks for listening.
4/19/20181 hour, 14 minutes, 15 seconds
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The Oscars in 2018 and Beyond

On this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss the Oscars. They make an argument for the importance of this oftentimes maddening awards ceremony by going over famous slights in Oscars history, like Citizen Kane not winning best picture, while Todd makes the claim that 1989 might be the greatest year in film history. The latter half of the episode sees us give extended takes on a number of the best picture nominees from 2017, with the most substantive conversation centering on The Shape of Water and Get Out.
2/28/20181 hour, 11 minutes, 49 seconds
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Ideology

On this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss ideology and ideology critique. They begin with basic definitions and move on to cultural political analyses of ideology today. They end with a brief discussion of race and racism and a full throated endorsement of Karen and Barbara Fields’ 2014 book Racecraft. In fact, don’t listen to this podcast. Buy that book instead. Thanks for listening. We hope you all enjoy the conversation.
2/1/20181 hour, 2 minutes, 53 seconds
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Seriality

On this episode, Todd gives Ryan the floor to discuss my dissertation research on seriality. The conversation focuses on the effects of the serial form, the trouble with endings, and the unexplored resonances that the serial form has with psychoanalytic theory. A lot of these ideas are in development so listen to Ryan move from being totally articulate and professional to saying “like” as though it was machine gun fire while he tries to bridge one thought to the next. Again, thanks for listening. Hope you all enjoy the conversation.
1/9/20181 hour, 5 minutes, 28 seconds
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Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be

In this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be. After a brief-ish plot run through, Todd and Ryan talk about the radicality of Lubitsch's film and how it offers an effective and theoretically rich gloss on issues of the copy and authenticity(among other things). They attempt to justify the claim that this film is the greatest comedy in the history of cinema.
12/26/201755 minutes, 59 seconds
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Fake News

In this episode of Why Theory, a podcast that brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to explain cultural phenomena, Todd and Ryan discuss "fake news"...without ever talking about fake news. More specifically, this episode looks at the psychic and philosophical structure that undergirds seeing certain news as fake, distrusting information outside of the self entirely, and what to do with "bias." (Apologies for the audio issues in the early part of this episode.)
12/5/201756 minutes, 35 seconds
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LACK 2017: Social Tie, Universality, Plus, Arrival

In this "state of the theory" podcast, Todd and Ryan talk about the recently completed LACK conference held from October 19-21 in Colorado Springs. We discuss the major themes of the conference, which include discussions of the social tie, the master signifier, the universal and the particular (as it relates to race and sexuality especially), and a searing defense of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival.
11/11/20171 hour, 13 minutes, 14 seconds
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Blade Runner 2049

In this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049. The conversation centers around how the film depicts ideology and what we mean when we say "ideology"; how the film conceives of desire ensuring subjectivity; and how the relationship between police and capital in the film exposes a link to how the two function in everyday life.
10/23/20171 hour, 23 minutes, 21 seconds
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Theories of Comedy

In this first episode, Todd and Ryan stamp out a provisional definition of theory (as we'll be employing it) and discuss Todd's new book, Only A Joke Can Save Us: A Theory of Comedy.
10/23/20171 hour, 7 minutes, 34 seconds