Discussion /
“Lacan on Laughter—The new LOL,” with Simon Critchley, Patricia Gherovici, Dany Nobus, Manya Steinkoler, and Jamieson Webster

Date: Friday, 3 March 2017, 7–9 pm
Location: Cabinet, 300 Nevins Street, Brooklyn (map and directions here)
FREE. No RSVP necessary
Facebook Event

Listen to an audio recording of this program, or download here.
00:00 / 00:00

Please join us to celebrate the recent publication of Lacan, Psychoanalysis, and Comedy (Cambridge University Press, 2016), the second collaboration between Patricia Gherovici and Manya Steinkoler. The evening will feature buffoonery by the editors, one-liners and witticisms by contributors Simon Critchley, Dany Nobus, and Jamieson Webster, and a surprise appearance by Dr. Jacques Lacan.

The book, which features essays by Geoff Boucher, Simon Critchley, Marcel Drach, Patricia Gherovici, Sigi Jöttkandt, Dany Nobus, Carol Owens, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Molly A. Rothenberg, Matthew Sharpe, Manya Steinkoler, Jamieson Webster, and Alenka Zupančič, explores laughter, humor, and the comic from a psychoanalytic perspective.

How to fight a situation that seems farcical? When reality reaches absurdity, the subversive power of laughter steps in. Laughter is never innocent; it happens to us, at times inappropriately and inauspiciously.

Psychoanalysis is well known for having shed some light on the perennial mysteries of what we do not control—dreams, parapraxes, symptoms, and sexual problems. But while the Freudian slip and the bungled act have become part of Western culture’s lingua franca, it is less commonly known that psychoanalysis provides revelatory insights about the mechanisms of jokes, comedy, humor, and their effects. Many people today would happily admit to their Oedipus Complex, but few would feel comfortable reflecting on why they laugh at the humiliation of their coworker, titter at an ethnic or sexist remark, or realize that like jokes, their dreams are made out of puns, witticisms, and one-liners. Few note, as Freud did, that dreams were “insufferably witty,” revealing an annoying predilection for bad puns. And fewer have noted, as Lacan did, that comedy allows privileged access to the unconscious.

The book proposes a paradigm swerve, a Freudian slip on a banana peel. If psychoanalysis has long been associated with tragedy, there is a strong warrant to take up comedy as a more prescient productive model. Jokes and the comic have not received as much consideration as they deserve, given the fundamental role they play in our psychic lives and how they unite productively the fields of aesthetics, literature, and psychoanalysis.

Libidonuts will be served.

More information on the book is available here.

About the Participants
Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research. His books include Very Little…Almost Nothing (Routledge, 1997), Infinitely Demanding (Verso, 2007), The Book of Dead Philosophers (Vintage Books, 2009), and The Faith of the Faithless (Verso, 2012). Recent works include a novella, Memory Theatre (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2014); a book-length essay, Notes on Suicide (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2015); and a book on David Bowie (OR Books, 2014). He is series moderator of “The Stone,” a philosophy column in the New York Times, and coeditor of The Stone Reader (Liveright Publishing, 2016). He is also 50 percent of an obscure musical combo called Critchley & Simmons. Ponders End, their new album, was recently released.

Patricia Gherovici is a psychoanalyst and author of The Puerto Rican Syndrome (Other Press, 2003), which received a Gradiva Award and a Boyer Prize; Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism (Routledge, 2010); Lacan On Madness: Madness, Yes You Can’t (with Manya Steinkoler; Routledge, 2015); and Lacan, Psychoanalysis, and Comedy (with Manya Steinkoler; Cambridge University Press, 2016). Her new book, Transgender Psychoanalysis: A Lacanian Perspective on Sexual Difference, will be published by Routledge in 2017.

Dany Nobus is a Lacanian psychoanalyst in London and professor of psychoanalysis at Brunel University, London, where he also directs the MA Program in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society. In addition, he is the chair of the Freud Museum in London. He is the author of Jacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2000); Knowing Nothing, Staying Stupid: Elements for a Psychoanalytic Epistemology (Routledge, 2005); and The Law of Desire: On Lacan’s “Kant with Sade” (Palgrave, 2017), as well as numerous papers on the history, theory, and practice of psychoanalysis.

Manya Steinkoler is a professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, and a practicing psychoanalyst in New York. She is a member of Espace Analytique, Paris. She has co-authored Teaching Literature in Community College Classrooms: Traversing Practices (with Margaret Barrow; McGraw-Hill, 2013), Lacan on Madness: Madness, Yes You Can’t (with Patricia Gherovici; Routledge, 2015) and Lacan, Psychoanalysis, and Comedy (with Patricia Gherovici; Cambridge University Press, 2016). She is currently working on a new book with Jessica Datema titled Uncoming Communities: Re-visioning Holocaust and Post-War Cinema.

Jamieson Webster is a psychoanalyst in New York. A graduate of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, she teaches at Eugene Lang College at the New School. She is the author of The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis (Karnac, 2011) and Stay, Illusion!—The Hamlet Doctrine (with Simon Critchley; Pantheon Books, 2013). She is currently working on The Cambridge Introduction to Jacques Lacan and a book titled Conversion Disorder (Columbia University Press, 2017).