Spring 2012- Jouissance: From Culture to the Clinic

Claire Denis is a French filmmaker and professor of film at the European Graduate School in Saasfee, Switzerland. Raised in French colonial Africa, Denis’ childhood experiences are integral to her body of work.

Isabelle Huppert is a world-renowned French actress who plays the role of Maria Vial in White Material. Within psychoanalytic communities she is best known for her portrayal of Erika Kohut in The Piano Teacher/La Pianiste (2001).

Jouissance: From Culture to the Clinic

“Jouissance is evil…because it involves suffering for my neighbor”

-Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis


The Center for Cultural Critique and Intervention (CCCI) invites you to participate in a film seminar on jouissance.  One of the most abstruse, albeit significant, contributions of Jacques Lacan is the notion of jouissance.  Using the film White Material, we will endeavor to make sense of this destructive excess at work in culture and the clinic.  While culture will certainly be part of our discussion, the seminar is not intended to be a simple elaboration of film theory and cultural studies.  Instead, we will use our collective experiences and insights to trace the movement of jouissance throughout the film and into the clinic.  The following questions will be addressed:

  • What is jouissance?
  • What is its role in the clinic? In culture?
  • How can we understand the relationship between racial         conflict and jouissance?

White Material/Matériel Blanc (2009)

White Material follows the story of Maria Vial, a French national who owns a coffee plantation in Western Africa.  With the onset of civil war, rebel forces overrun the country and demand the removal of white residents.  Refusing to relinquish her home, Maria searches for local workers to finish harvesting the coffee.  As the country devolves into chaos, Maria and her family are increasingly caught in the throes of racial conflict, colonialism, and jouissance.  Official Trailer


Participants will be expected to watch White Material prior to the seminar.  The film is available on Netflix instant view and iTunes. While there are no required readings per se, a review of Lacan’s The Ethics of Psychoanalysis may prove a useful guide for film viewing and discussion.


Saturday, March 24th from 10-3 pm.