Avital Ronell


    One of the astonishing disclosures in Jacques Lacan’s ethics of psychoanalysis concerns the crucial desire of man, which the analyst views as an insatiable craving for privation. The troubadour of medieval epics, who must submit to debilitating protocols of desire in his courtship of the Lady, is, for Lacan, exemplary of a persistent pursuit of forms of self-denial. As it turns out, literature would remain faithful, long after Malory, to the splendor of negative cravings. Perhaps the principal exponent of the self-mutilating drive in the realm of fiction was Franz Kafka. Kafka threw us mortals

  • Reading 9-11-01

    IN THE DAYS immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, titles that promised answers in the face of the disaster threatened to keep retired General Electric CEO Jack Welch's straight-talking memoir out of the top slot on best-seller lists. Studies of the Taliban movement, Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, and the ill-fated twin towers themselves predictably climbed the charts, but according to the New York Times, king of the hill was Nostradamus: At the online bookshop Amazon.com, three editions of the prophesies of the sixteenth-century mystic, into whose

  • Learning From Los Angeles

    THE NEWS CAMERAS HAVE RETREATED and South Central has faded from general public consciousness, back into the simmering void of preriot political neglect. Yet, as the following contributions from Michael Tolkin, Peter Sellars, and Avital Ronell suggest, the Rodney King event has become a signpost in our intellectual and political imaginations. For Los Angeles social archaeologist Mike Davis, writing in The Nation, the King case, as the “symbol that links unleashed police racism in Los Angeles to the crisis of black life everywhere, . . . may be almost as much of a watershed in American history

  • Avital Ronell

    CHANNEL 12 Media technology has made an irreversible incursion into the domain of American “politics.” The crisis that has ensued concerns not so much the nature of fictioning—politics has always been subject to representation, rhetoric, artifice—as the newly intrusive effects of law. This is not to say that the law has ever been zoned outside of us, but thanks to the media, different maps of arrest have been drawn: the subject is being arrested according to altogether new protocols of containment. And practically everybody in homeless America is under house arrest. Few episodes have exploded