About Why Theory
Why Theory brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to examine cultural phenomena.
In their second episode devoted to the classical Hollywood genres, Ryan and Todd explore the western by focusing on some of the most popular and some of the most theoretically compelling. They discuss directors John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Anthony Mann, as well as devoting time to the western 3:10 to Yuma. Their theorization of the western stresses the way that the genre lays out the social antagonism between law and lawlessness, in which the western hero functions as a vanishing mediator.
Ryan and Todd lay out the key points in Jean-Paul Sartre's vast attempt to marry existentialism and Marxism--The Critique of Dialectical Reason. They discuss the best moments of this work and then attempt to clarify how it goes awry. Its huge unspoken influence on more recent French thought is also a topic.
Ryan and Todd delve into Freud's late essay "Analysis Terminable and Interminable." They focus on the role that the death drive plays in this essay and in Freud's later thought. They view this through the lens of Freud's claim in this essay that psychoanalysis represents one of the three impossible professions.
Ryan and Todd discuss the first half of Jean-Paul Sartre's magnum opus Being and Nothingness. They cover the difference between the in-itself and the for-itself, bad faith, temporality, the unconscious, and other important concepts. The next episode will cover the second half of the book.
In an annual attempt to theorize the Christmas film, Ryan and Todd examine the concept of the misfit in three famous stop-motion Christmas films from the 1960s and 1970s: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. They discover the politics of nonbelonging at work in these films as it is figured through the idea of the misfit. Clips: We’re a Couple of Misfits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDHF08vEZTg) The Island of Misfit Toys (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr6GbKciNCY) Silver and Gold (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY-XDQN6ipE) The First Toymakers to the King (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8NSlCUAI4M) My World is Beginning Today (Jessica’s Trippy 2001/ Vertigo song; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSCq34_49Ws) Snow Miser (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPrbccEdI5o) Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (Springsteen; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76WFkKp8Tjs) Father Christmas (The Kinks; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPPCPqDINEk)
Ryan and Todd discuss Todd's latest book Enjoyment Right & Left, which examines the political divide in terms of the different forms that enjoyment takes. They engage with this divide across a variety of issues, from anti-trans violence to the controversy surrounding the World Cup.
This is a special Why Theory episode that was recorded live at the Impakt Festival that took place in Utrecht, Netherlands. Ryan and Todd discuss the theme of the festival--"the curse of smooth operations"--in terms of our relationship to technology. They question how technology provides enjoyment for us. The introduction ends at 4:53, and the question and answer period starts at 57:48.
Ryan and Todd trace the history of how thinkers have dealt with the problem of love--the varying definitions of love, the view of love's role in society, and love's philosophical importance. They begin with Plato's Symposium, touch on the New Testament, explore the role of love in Hegel's thought, discuss Badiou's love event, and conclude with the psychoanalytic conception of love, as developed by Jacques Lacan and Mari Ruti.
Ryan and Todd provide an introduction to the philosopher of contemporary French thinker Alain Badiou. They begin with his insistence on the importance of mathematics and then move on to his understanding of truth in relation to the event. They also discuss the contrast between Badiou and Hegel.
Ryan and Todd conclude their series on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit with a discussion of the Absolute Knowing section. They explore the relationship between this section and the rest of the book as well as considering what this section has to say about the relationship between mediation and immediacy.
In their penultimate episode on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, Ryan and Todd analyze the religion section of the book. They focus most on the comic work of art and the revealed religion sections as they try to make sense of why Hegel gives religion such a prominent place in the Phenomenology. Ryan was recently a guest discussing graduate student conferences, which one can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/lclcoralhistory Barry Manilow’s “misunderstood” Dr. Pepper song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyonMvAh1Bw
Ryan and Todd begin a series of discussions about the classical Hollywood genres with the screwball comedy, a genre that centers on the sexual antagonism. They look at the film that kicks off the genre, It Happened One Night, as well as the high point of the genre, Bringing Up Baby, in addition to others. Ryan was recently a guest discussing graduate student conferences, which one can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/lclcoralhistory
Ryan and Todd are joined for the episode by James Godley, who recently organized a conference on mourning and the pandemic, entitled "In the Wake of the Plague" (which one can access here: https://sites.dartmouth.edu/wake-of-the-plague/), to discuss Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia." They probe the cultural resonances of the text and question the reasons for its massive popularity among Freud's writings.
Ryan and Todd analyze Freud's essay "Wild Psychoanalysis" and delve into the problem of treating symptoms with knowledge rather than addressing the enjoyment that they offer. Even though this is a minor Freud essay, it provides one of the pillars for a psychoanalytic approach to politics.
In this special episode, Ryan and Todd address the newly minted US Supreme Court decision that overturns the nationwide right to abortion access. They delve into the history of the famous decision granting abortion rights and theorize what has changed. During this discussion, they use the so-called abortion episode from the television series "Maude" as a reference point. The works referenced in the episode can be found here: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6e2rff and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv1bmY4Wd34
TV & Film
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