Why Theory
Why Theory
Todd McGowan & Ryan Engley
Why Theory brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to examine cultural phenomena.
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.
Jan 8
1 hr 17 min
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.
Dec 22, 2021
1 hr 18 min
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.
Dec 11, 2021
1 hr 21 min
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.
Nov 27, 2021
1 hr 14 min
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.
Nov 14, 2021
1 hr 15 min
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.
Oct 30, 2021
1 hr 11 min
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.
Oct 16, 2021
1 hr 19 min
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.
Oct 2, 2021
1 hr 16 min
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.
Sep 18, 2021
1 hr 18 min
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.
Sep 5, 2021
1 hr 14 min
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