Responding to the ongoing “objectal turn” throughout contemporary humanities and social sciences, the eleven essays in Subject Lessons present a sustained case for the continued importance—indeed, the indispensability—of the category of the subject for the future of materialist thought.
Various neovitalist materialisms and realisms currently en vogue across a number of academic disciplines (from New Materialism and actor-network theory to speculative realism and object-oriented ontology) advocate a flat, horizontal ontology that renders the subject just another object amid a “democracy of objects.” By contrast, the dialectical materialism presented throughout Subject Lessons maintains that subjectivity is crucial to grasping matter’s “vibrancy” and continual “becoming” in the first place. Approaching matters through the frame of Hegel and Lacan, the contributors to this volume—many of whom stand at the forefront of contemporary Hegel and Lacan scholarship—agree with neovitalist thinkers that material reality is ontologically incomplete, in a state of perpetual becoming, yet they do so with one crucial difference: they maintain that this is the case not in spite of but rather because of the subject.
Incorporating elements of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary and cultural studies, Subject Lessons contests the movement to dismiss the subject, arguing that there can be no truly robust materialism without accounting for the little piece of the Real that is the subject.
“Think of it as 'object ontology' meets 'objet a ontology.' In this volume of superb essays, the 'new materialism' associated with figures like Harman, Meillassoux, Bennett, and Bryant finds a Lacanian rejoinder well spoken for by Hegel’s famous line: 'Not only as substance but also as subject!' An invaluable exchange between two major currents of contemporary theory.” —Richard Boothby, author of Freud as Philosopher: Metapsychology after Lacan
“A band of new materialists has come after the subject, knives drawn. In what ways do these thinkers differ from materialists past? From each other? What do they mean when they speak of materialism, of objects, or subjects? By confronting these basic questions directly, the essays in this collection cut through the babble of confused debate to offer clear accounts of the issues at stake.” —Joan Copjec, author of Imagine There’s No Woman