October 2006

Arts & Letters

‘The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis’ By Jacques Lacan, trans. Russell Grigg

By Justin Clemens
‘Being and Event’ By Alain Badiou, trans. Oliver Feltham

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the philosophical waters, two large French warships turn up off our coastline, aided and abetted by Australian translators. Seminar XVII is the transcript of a series of presentations delivered in 1969-70. Lacan, one of the most important psychoanalytic thinkers after Freud, was never considered an easy listen. Nor is he an easy read, but persisting with this book will be worthwhile for anyone interested in postwar European thought. Calling on examples from the Bible to thermodynamics, Lacan examines the effects that psychoanalytic insights have had on the status of knowledge. As he says of human enjoyment, "once you have started, you never know where it will end. It begins with a tickle and ends in a blaze of petrol." Endlessly controversial but deeply conservative, Lacan can be savage: rebuking unruly students after the May '68 riots, he predicts, "You are looking for a master. Very well, you shall have one."

Badiou is a kind of monstrous descendent of Lacan. Perhaps France's most important living philosopher, he doesn't much care for false modesty, praising his own Being and Event as "a ‘great' book". He's right. The tome spans the history of philosophy from Plato to the present, weaving in stunning reinterpretations of writers such as Friedrich Hölderlin and mathematicians such as Georg Cantor and Paul Cohen. Twentieth-century philosophy divided bitterly into the so-called Analytic and Continental schools, the former obsessing over science, logic and mathematics, and the latter over art and literature. Badiou circumvents the sterility of this non-debate by being at once more mathematical than his Analytic predecessors and more poetic than his Continental bedfellows. It's a difficult book, sure, but brilliant.

Justin Clemens

Justin Clemens writes about contemporary Australian art and poetry. He teaches at the University of Melbourne.

Cover: October 2006

October 2006

From the front page

Image from ‘All Auras Touch’

True colours: ‘All Auras Touch’ at Carriageworks

Work matters in artist Kate Mitchell’s exploration of the fundamental connections between people

Bad news on bad

The economic headwinds are getting stronger

Image of the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne, January 26, 2020

Change the date… but to when?

The time to celebrate Australia will be when it has recognised its First Nations people and become a republic

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller

The prevention state: Part four

In the face of widespread criticism of strip-searches, NSW Police offers a candid defence of preventative policing: You are meant to fear us.


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Thomas Blamey & Douglas MacArthur

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Port Vila For Sale

‘Fast, Loose Beginnings: A Memoir of Intoxications’ By John Kinsella

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Hopper’s Crossing


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Cardi B

Bodak moment: Pop’s decade of superstars

Cardi B delivered the song of the decade as a new league of superstars overcame the significance of bands

Photo of Liam Gallagher

Don’t look back in anger: Liam and Noel Gallagher

As interest in Oasis resurges, talking to the combative brothers recalls their glory years as ‘dirty chancers, stealing riffs instead of Ford Fiestas’

Conversion on the way to Damascus by Caravaggio

Damascene subversion: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘Damascus’

The literary storyteller’s latest novel wrestles with the mythology of Christianity’s founder, Paul the Apostle

Cover of Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ [detail]

Agents of chaos: Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’

The Russian expat journalist wonders if democracy can survive the internet, as social media is used to promote feelings over facts


More in Noted

Utagawa Yoshimori, The Tongue-cut Sparrow [detail]

‘Japan supernatural’

The Art Gallery of NSW’s examination of Japan’s centuries-long artistic traditions depicting the spirit world and the macabre

Cover of ‘The Topeka School’

‘The Topeka School’ by Ben Lerner

The American author’s latest novel canvasses the seething hate speech of the burgeoning alt-right and white-boy rap battles in the Midwest

Image of ‘Wild River, Florida’

‘Civilization: The Way We Live Now’

The beautiful photographs of often grim subjects in NGV Australia’s exhibition raise questions over the medium’s power to critique

Cover of ‘The Testaments’

‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood

The Booker Prize–winning sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is an exhilarating thriller from the “wiliest writer alive”


Read on

Image from ‘All Auras Touch’

True colours: ‘All Auras Touch’ at Carriageworks

Work matters in artist Kate Mitchell’s exploration of the fundamental connections between people

Image of the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne, January 26, 2020

Change the date… but to when?

The time to celebrate Australia will be when it has recognised its First Nations people and become a republic

Image of Scott Morrison

A Pentecostal PM and climate change

Does a belief in the End Times inform Scott Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis?

Image of Scott Morrison

A national disaster

On the PM’s catastrophically inept response to Australia’s unprecedented bushfires


×
×