I wanted to put in a little plug here for Read My Desire by Joan Copjec, a 1994 work of theory that has been re-issued under Verbo Books’s Radical Thinkers series.
The key thinkers that Copjec is interpreting in this book are Foucault and Lacan (also with healthy doses of Freud), and her knowledge of them is excellent. She’s able to discuss the nuances of their key ideas and nomenclature with a high degree of specificity and authority. She’s very knowledgable of the enormous discourses around these two thinkers, and she’s able to talk about what other interpreters of these two have gotten right and wrong (in her opinion, of course) in ways that make her arguments quite striking and original.
At heart, what this book is about are Foucault’s and Lacan’s ways of seeing reality. To grossly generalize, for Foucault (per Copjec), the modern ideologies leave no space for the individual. There’s simply no evading the control of the various power sources embedded in our world (e.g., history, language, laws), and we simply exist as a subject of this world. There is a key difference with Lacan, which is that our existence is always in relationship to an utterly unknowable Other, which provides an escape from the steel grip of the Foucaldian world.
The initial chapters flesh out this idea, and then Copjec proceeds to apply it to specific spheres. In particular, there is a large dose of film theory in this book, as well as an excellent chapter on the colonial photographs of G.G. de Clérambault (which gets in to both colonial theory and the politics of clothing/fashion). The photos in this chapter (which were made during de Clérambault’s time in Morocco) are amazing.
If you have an interest in the theories of these two thinkers, in particular Lacan’s approach to psychology, I would definitely recommend this book. Copjec’s ideas are fascinating and well-wrought. She’s definitely an interesting interpreter of their writings and an interesting thinker in her own right.
As an added bonus, I just learned on the Web that Copjec is working on a book about the filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. Given the thoughts in this book, I’d be eager to learn what she has to say about his films.