Professor To Address "Politics of Sacrificial Enjoyment"


Washington and Lee University will host Todd McGowan, professor of English and film studies at the University of Vermont, for a lecture on March 7 at 5 p.m. in Northen Auditorium on the W&L campus.

McGowan’s lecture, which is free and open to the public, is titled “The Politics of Sacrificial Enjoyment: Freud and the Death Drive.”

In his lecture, McGowan will argue that one of Sigmund Freud’s basic claims is that humans find satisfaction through our unconscious self-destruction. McGowan suggest that if humans accept this understanding of the structure of satisfaction, then they can make sense of political situations that seem otherwise indecipherable—specifically, the fact of people acting politically contrary to their own self-interest. His talk will lay out the political implications of the role of self-destructive enjoyment and how our theorizing about politics might take it into account.

McGowan has written widely about film, comedy and contemporary American culture. His recent books include “Only a Joke Can Save Us: A Theory of Comedy”; “Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets”; “Psychoanalytic Film Theory and The Rules of the Game”; and “Enjoying What We Don’t Have: The Political Project of Psychoanalysis.” His newest book, “Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution,” is forthcoming in May.

McGowan’s visit is sponsored by the Washington and Lee Philosophy Department and the Root Lectures Fund.

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