BN.com Gift Guide

Wrestling with the Angel: Experiments in Symbolic Life

Overview

Wrestling with the Angel is a meditation on contemporary political, legal, and social theory from a psychoanalytic perspective. It argues for the enabling function of formal and symbolic constraints in sustaining desire as a source of creativity, innovation, and social change.

The book begins by calling for a richer understanding of the psychoanalytic concept of the symbolic and the resources it might offer for an examination of the social link and the political sphere. The ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (10) from $21.31   
  • New (9) from $21.31   
  • Used (1) from $29.99   
Wrestling with the Angel: Experiments in Symbolic Life

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$16.49
BN.com price
(Save 45%)$29.99 List Price

Overview

Wrestling with the Angel is a meditation on contemporary political, legal, and social theory from a psychoanalytic perspective. It argues for the enabling function of formal and symbolic constraints in sustaining desire as a source of creativity, innovation, and social change.

The book begins by calling for a richer understanding of the psychoanalytic concept of the symbolic and the resources it might offer for an examination of the social link and the political sphere. The symbolic is a crucial dimension of social coexistence but cannot be reduced to the social norms, rules, and practices with which it is so often collapsed. As a dimension of human life that is introduced by language--and thus inescapably "other" with respect to the laws of nature--the symbolic is an undeniable fact of human existence. Yet the same cannot be said of the forms and practices that represent and sustain it. In designating these laws, structures, and practices as "fictions," Jacques Lacan makes clear that the symbolic is a dimension of social life that has to be created and maintained and that can also be displaced, eradicated, or rendered dysfunctional. The symbolic fictions that structure and support the social tie are therefore historicizable, emerging at specific times and in particular contexts and losing their efficacy when circumstances change. They are also fragile and ephemeral, needing to be renewed and reinvented if they are not to become outmoded or ridiculous. Therefore the aim of this study is not to call for a return to traditional symbolic laws but to reflect on the relationship between the symbolic in its most elementary or structural form and the function of constraints and limits.

McNulty analyzes examples of "experimental" (as opposed to "normative") articulations of the symbolic and their creative use of formal limits and constraints not as mere prohibitions or rules but as "enabling constraints" that favor the exercise of freedom. The first part examines practices that conceive of subjective freedom as enabled by the struggle with constraints or limits, from the transference that structures the "minimal social link" of psychoanalysis to constrained relationships between two or more people in the context of political and social movements. Examples discussed range from the spiritual practices and social legacies of Moses, Jesus, and Teresa of Avila to the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt and Jacques Rancière. The second part is devoted to legal and political debates surrounding the function of the written law. It isolates the law's function as a symbolic limit or constraint as distinct from its content and representational character. The analysis draws on Mosaic law traditions, the political theology of Paul, and twentieth-century treatments of written law in the work of Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Pierre Legendre, and Alain Badiou. In conclusion, the study considers the relationship between will and constraint in Kant's aesthetic philosophy and in the experimental literary works of the collective Oulipo.

Columbia University Press

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jean-Michel Rabaté

In Wrestling with the Angel, Tracy McNulty examines the political theologies of the 'exception,' ranging from Carl Schmitt to Walter Benjamin, from Alain Badiou to Giorgio Agamben. She shows how they contradict themselves if they avoid grappling with the Symbolic order. Arguing that the force of the Symbolic must be experienced concretely via positive constraints, McNulty pushes Lacanian theory to an unprecedented sophistication and highlights its relevance for ethical activism. Wrestling with the Angel is a major book that redefines the foundations of contemporary political theory.

Julia Reinhard Lupton

This provocative and original defense of law and the symbolic order in psychoanalysis is distinguished by McNulty's attention to clinical work, her supple readings of both Freudian and literary texts, and the trenchant case she makes for the ongoing relevance of psychoanalysis to the practice of human freedom, action, and creativity today. McNulty's command of the notoriously complex and difficult Lacanian corpus is matched by the fluency of her engagement with adjoining and competing discourses, including political theology; experimental poetics and aesthetics; political theory and critical legal studies; and religious studies and the legacy of Judaism. Arguing that novelty, invention, and renewal occur not despite but because of processes of symbolization, Wrestling with the Angel recalls us to our limits to remind us of our capacities.

Jonathan Strauss

In Wrestling with the Angel, McNulty shows how the traditional reduction of Lacan's symbolic register to the Oedipus complex falsifies the complexity and disturbing incompleteness inherent to this crucial aspect of his theory. Her insight opens the way for a fundamental reassessment and reunderstanding of Lacan's work, and is, by itself, worth the price of admission. But she goes much farther, tracing out the implications of her rereading on a series of social thinkers, notably the influential conservative German political theorist Carl Schmitt, the German cultural critic Walter Benjamin, the philosopher Immanuel Kant, and the French Marxist philosopher, Alain Badiou. With the exception of Carl Schmitt, these analyses revolve around two principal collections of seminal legal texts: the Hebrew Decalogue and Saint Paul's discussions of the "new law" of Christianity. Essentially, she argues that in each case an imaginary version of the law is juxtaposed to a more complex and "liberatory" symbolic version of it. Rich, densely thought, and provocative, this book will reorient studies on Lacan and will excercise an enduring influence on how his writings are used in other fields and disciplines.

CHOICE

As a reading of the French psychoanalytic thinker Jacques Lacan, the book makes an invaluable contribution to the rich discussion of the symbolic register and its relation to the real.

Adrian Johnston

A stellar piece of scholarship whose timely intervention into controversies at the very heart of today's theoretical humanities undoubtedly will draw the admiring attention of large audiences in multiple fields.

Elizabeth Weed

A very exciting book, stunningly intelligent and beautifully written. It makes strong, original interventions in a number of current debates and engages with theoretical arguments in a way that is always rigorous and wonderfully lucid and accessible.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Tracy McNulty is professor of French and comparative literature at Cornell University and the author of The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity.

Columbia University Press

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Enabling ConstraintsPart 1. Reinventing the Symbolic1. Inventions of the Symbolic: Lacan's Reading of Freud2. Demanding the Impossible: Desire and Social ChangePart 2. Political Theology and the Question of the Written3. Wrestling with the Angel4. The Gap in the Law and the Unwritable Act of Decision: Carl Schmitt's Political Theology5. The Event of the Letter: Two Approaches to the Law and Its Real6. The Commandment Against the Law: Writing and Divine Justice in Walter Benjamin's "Critique of Violence" and Immanuel Kant's Critique of JudgmentCoda: Toward an Aesthetics of Symbolic Life7. Freedom Through Constraints: On the Question of WillNotesIndex

Columbia University Press

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)