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Independent Reading Groups

Winter 2012 Series

Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek: Politics, Religion and Philosophy

Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou are two of the foremost thinkers of our time. Their thought expands to fields as diverse as politics, religion, philosophy, mathematics, law, and film. Yet, studying their thought in depth in an academic setting may prove to be a challenge.

Building on the success of two previous readings groups in which we have studied Slavoj Žižek’s work (The Sublime Object of Ideology and The Ticklish Subject), our third reading group will study Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek in parallel. The group provides a relatively smooth introduction to Badiou’s and Zizek’s thought. In the long term, it lays the groundwork for studying their more demanding work, notably Badiou’s Being and Event and Žižek’s The Parallax View.

We will study Badiou’s and Žižek’s views on three interrelated themes. Those themes are politics, religion and philosophy. The readings are organized mainly around Badiou’s three works: we will begin our exploration with Badiou’s political work The Communist Hypothesis. It will be followed by his ground-breaking religious work Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. In conclusion, we will study his philosophical work Second Manifesto for Philosophy.

Each of Badiou’s three works will be accompanied by one or more texts written by Žižek, which we will choose collectively as a group, as we are getting conversant with the central issues. We can draw on a large pool of Žižek’s relatively short writings. They include the introduction and afterword to Revolution at the Gates, the introduction to Terrorism and Communism, “Repeating Lenin,” “Leninist freedom” from his On Belief, his interview in Marx Reloaded, selections from Living in the End Times, the first chapter of Monstrosity of Christ, as well as “Philosophy is not a Dialogue,” in Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek, Philosophy in the Present.

No previous experience of Badiou and/or Žižek, or of philosophy – or of the reading-group format – is required. The group is interdisciplinary. The expected attendance consists of faculty and students at McGill University.

Reading List

jonathan [dot] widell [at] mail [dot] mcgill [dot] ca (Contacts): Jonathan Widell (Law), Richard Janda (Law), Benjamin Inch (Math), Blair Major (Law), Cayley Sorochan (Art History and Communication Studies)
Meetings: 2:00-4:00pm, Wednesdays: 11, 18, 25 January; 1, 8, 15 February; 7, 14, 21, 28 March; 4 April
3610 McTavish St., room 21-6