Like Poe and Mallarmé, with whom he has often been compared, Lacan was ahead of his time, having anticipated trends that we now tend to take for granted. Things changed significantly after the dissolution of his own school just prior to his death in 1981: this controversial figure bequeathed a complex theoretical legacy and an even more tangled institutional situation, with numerous schools created in his name throughout the world. Lacan’s famous ‘return to Freud’ stressed the importance of the culture in which psychoanalysis has to work, and indeed his popularity has grown in recent years in the United States, fundamentally as a result of Zizek’s successful attempts to popularise his thought by using Hitchcock, Hollywood and popular culture to explain Lacanian ideas. (See the discussion in the Annotated Bibliography at the end of this book). Zizek has been successful where more classical Lacanians have failed — despite the fact that he does not always avoid repetitiveness and circularity. For Zizek had the productive idea of beginning at the end with Lacan, that is, from the last seminars, taking his cue from a moment when the master was at his most gnomic, speaking enigmatically in mathemes and parables. Zizek managed to make sense of this mode of utterance, illuminating the ‘gists’ and riddles by examples taken from popular culture, to which they in turn provided a deeper meaning in a constant give and take.
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