steven miller is an associate professor of English at the University at Buffalo (suny), where he is director of the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture. He is the author of War after Death: On Violence and Its Limits (Fordham University Press, 2014) and has translated from French many books and articles on psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature, and art. His most recent translations are Catherine Malabou’s The New Wounded: From Neurosis to Brain Damage (Fordham University Press, 2012) and Étienne Balibar’s Citizen Subject: Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology (Fordham University Press, 2016).
This essay discusses the minor art form of high-wire walking in order to show that the agency of the death drive manifests itself by adding rather than removing something from the symbolic order. The essay focuses primarily on the work of Philippe Petit, especially the clandestine walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, on August 6, 1974; Petit’s own writings about his “coup”; and the testimonies of the impact of this act on those who witnessed it that are captured in James Marsh’s film, Man on Wire (2008).