Rickert hones in incisively on the weakness of the various pedagogies that poststructuralism has spawned, especially as they have been translated into the composition classroom. Relying primarily on Slavoj Zizek's mode of neo-Lacanian psychoanalysis and his own notion of jouissance, Rickert offers a transformative corrective, one I am persuaded by at every turn, and some of which is quite delightfully unexpected.
Why are today's students not realizing their potential as critical thinkers? Although educators have, for two decades, incorporated contemporary cultural studies into the teaching of composition and rhetoric, many students lack the powers of self-expression that are crucial for effecting social change. Acts of Enjoyment presents a critique of current pedagogies and introduces a psychoanalytical approach in teaching composition and rhetoric. Thomas Rickert builds upon the advances of cultural studies and its focus on societal trends and broadens this view by placing attention on the conscious and subconscious thought of the individual. By introducing the cultural theory work of Slavoj Zizek, Rickert seeks to encourage personal and social invention–rather than simply following a course of unity, equity, or consensus that is so prevalent in current writing instruction. He argues that writing should not be treated as a simple skill, as a nau00efve self expression, or as a tool for personal advancement, but rather as a reflection of social and psychical forces, such as jouissance (enjoyment/sensual pleasure), desire, and fantasy-creating a more sophisticated, panoptic form. The goal of the psychoanalytical approach is to highlight the best pedagogical aspects of cultural studies to allow for well-rounded individual expression, ultimately providing the tools necessary to address larger issues of politics, popular culture, ideology, and social transformation.
"Acts of Enjoyment puts the work of Slavoj Zizek into dialogue with composition studies, a dialogue that's been resisted for far too long. Rickert insists that we focus on the materiality of language and of the 'body' of the writer, and understand that writing resists the writer as much as writers resists writing. It's a bold book that isn't afraid to complicate and upend some of the most dearly-held pieties of the field."
Rickert offers a belated dialogue between Zizek and composition studies, one that productively theorizes an ethics of writing without nostalgically bemoaning the loss of the unitary subject.
A provocative book whose major contribution is, unquestionably, the lucid distillation of key psychoanalytic concepts.