The Mystical and the Material: Slavoj Žižek and the French Reception of Mysticism
This paper will argue that the work of Slavoj Žižek can be fruitfully understood as a response to mystical theology as it has been received in two strands of 20th century French thought—psychoanalysis and phenomenology—and that Žižek's work in turn offers intriguing possibilities for the re-figuring of mystical theology by feminist philosophy of religion. Twentieth century French psychoanalysis is dominated by the work of Jacques Lacan and by his students Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. All three of these figures engage in significant ways with mystical theology—particularly with the works and figures of female mystics—as a crucial resource for theorising gender and subjectivity. A second strand of the 20th century French reception of mystical theology is the phenomenological tradition, specifically the work of Jacques Derrida. This paper will argue that, drawing on and challenging both of these elements of recent French engagement with mystical theology, Žižek's work offers a materialist ontology which seeks to locate transcendence within immanence and materiality, offering to feminist philosophy of religion the resources for re-thinking the relationship of the mystical to the material.