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Eccentric Subjects: A Symposium in Honor of Teresa de Lauretis

Teresa de Lauretis


The Department of Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore College Presents:

Eccentric Subjects: A Symposium in Honor of Teresa de Lauretis

November 4-6, 2015

Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore PA, 19081

With their bravura readings of critical theory from the perspective of a semiotician and film scholar, Teresa de Lauretis’s books Alice Doesn’t and Technologies of Gender helped make feminist film theory one of the humanities’ most dynamic fields in the 1980s. Next, her provocation in linking the terms “queer” and “theory” in 1991, was met with astonishing critical productivity by interdisciplinary scholars who set terms for cultural critique into the new millennium. Across this work, she understands the complex interplay between subjectivity and a changing social-symbolic field through a radical engagement with the work of Sigmund Freud and his critics, most notably the French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche. In her most recent book, Freud’s Drives, she shows in luminous critical prose how literary and cinematic texts including Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood and David Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly figure this interplay between inner and outer and help us understand its political stakes today.

Teresa de Lauretis, Distinguished Professor Emerita of the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is the author of ten books in English and Italian. Since retiring from UCSC, de Lauretis has conducted seminars in Europe and Latin America, with an upcoming appointment at the Freie Universität in Berlin. She is currently working toward a theory of reading and spectatorship based on figurality and the psychoanalytic concepts of transference, seduction, and the drive. The symposium represents a rare US appearance, where she will present some of this work in the context of a tribute from her former students.

Organized by Patricia White (Film and Media Studies, Swarthmore), editor of Teresa de Lauretis’s book Figures of Resistance: Essays in Feminist Theory, and author of the recent Women’s Cinema, World Cinema: Projecting Contemporary Feminisms.

Schedule of events:

November 4, 4:15-6pm, Science Center 199, Swarthmore College

“Figures of Sound in Val Lewton’s Cat People”

Val Lewton’s Cat People, like the other eight films with which he redesigned the horror genre in the 1940s, is about the presence in human life of an otherness that is not an emanation of Evil or preternatural powers but comes from a place of darkness, an alterity, within the human. Irena fears that her body, under the sway of sexual emotions, will transform into a panther. While refusing to visualize the transformation, the film materializes her fear for the spectator by the innovative use of sound, creating the cinematic figure of a “pantherness,” an internal force that compels and transforms Irena. Followed by a reception and a screening of the film at 7pm.


November 5, 6-7:30pm

Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (215) 701-4627

University of Pennsylvania Cinema Studies and Penn Humanities Forum present:

“The Queerness of the Drive”

One of Freud’s original contributions to 20th century epistemology is the notion of “polymorphous perverse” infantile sexuality. Revisiting Freud, Jean Laplanche reformulates it as the specific character of human sexuality, which he calls “le sexual” and defines as distinct from and even in conflict with love (attachment). He proposes that the sexual drive, unlike the sexual instinct, is not innate or endogenous but is constituted as an effect of seduction, repression and translation. Thus only the drive pertains to the domain of the sexual. In the context of Laplanche’s metapsychology, the lecture asks, in what sense can it be said that the drive is queer?

Co-sponsored by the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program and the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania


November 6, 3pm, Science Center 199

Swarthmore College

Panel: “Eccentric Subjects: The Work of Teresa de Lauretis”

Presentations by former students of de Lauretis, including Patricia White, Film and Media Studies, Swarthmore College; Jerry Miller, Philosophy, Haverford College; and Jonathan Hall, Media Studies, Pomona College

The panel will be preceded by a faculty seminar with Professor de Lauretis

Presented with assistance from the Hungerford Faculty Support Fund and co-sponsored by the Philosophy Department at Haverford College, the Departments of English Literature and Philosophy, and the Programs in Interpretation Theory and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Swarthmore College

Events are free and, with the exception of the faculty seminar, open to the public,