A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.”
So goes the oft-repeated joke of Slavoj Zizek, repeated (among other places) during his address to Occupy Wall Street.
Slavoj Zizek is often called the “Elvis of Cultural Theory:” detested by some, loved by others. Vice declared that his popularity likely stems from the fact the he is one of the few of his ilk with a sense of humor.
Now, MIT Press is claiming they have collected “every joke cited, paraphrased, or narrated in Žižek’s work in English (including some in unpublished manuscripts).” Clocking in at 168 pages, “Zizek’s Jokes” is slated for release in March, 2014.
Inside Higher Ed’s Scott McLemee (who coined “Elvis of Cultural Theory”) writes in his review of the book:
The other striking feature of Žižek’s Jokes is how grim the experience of reading it quickly proves to be. In accord with Freudian principles, they revolve almost entirely around sex and/or aggression, often involving racist or misogynist sentiments. All of which is fine when they appear as specimens in a cultural critique — where they might even elicit a laugh, given the incongruity of seeing them in a context where Hegel or Heidegger have set the terms for analysis. But running through them one after another, in the service of no argument, is deadening. It ceases to be shocking. It just seems lame. Maybe he should be known as “the Jay Leno of cultural theory?” (If, you know, Leno had Tourettes.)