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In this chapter, Kornbluh contends that Slavoj Žižek’s psychoanalytic project of reading the Real, the third and most notoriously elusive of Lacan’s three orders of psychic experience, can serve as the groundwork for an altogether new type of materialist literary criticism, a criticism whose essential posture, not unlike that of the analyst, entails perspicuity about form, renunciation of mastery, and enthusiasm for the ironies and impossibilities of metadiscourse. Focusing on the distinction Žižek frequently draws between a “Real Lacan”—a Lacan of the Real—and the poststructuralist Lacan with which the majority of literary critics are most familiar, Kornbluh plots the coordinates of a Žižekian literary materialism that attends not only to the confluence of different levels of the Symbolic within literary works but also, and most crucially, to the non-sensical, traumatic kernels of the Real that overdetermine or disrupt these symbolizations, necessitating the work of analysis and interpretation.

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