Summary: This paper investigates the significance of filmic analysis in the contemporary theoretical paradigm inspired by Slavoj Žižek, which we term ‘Transcendental Materialism’. After characterising its distinct peculiarities within the history of psychoanalysis and film theory, we demonstrate the limitations of previous (possible) answers, arguing they are partly formulated in response to confrontations with other paradigms. Our own approach is then informed by a study of another popular object of analysis in Transcendental Materialism – the joke. We show how Freud’s understanding of the joke was adapted by the paradigm and supported further by certain philosophical insights by (among others) G.W.F. Hegel. Finally, we demonstrate how parallels can be drawn between this adaptation and the significance of the filmic form within Transcendental Materialism, inspired in part by Alain Badiou’s reading of Hegel.
In 1905 Freud published Three essays on the theory of sexuality and Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. He wrote these two works simultaneously. According to Ernest Jones, “Freud kept the manuscript of each on two adjoining tables and wrote now on one and now on the other as the mood took him” (Jones, 1964: 315). But, while Three essays has become one of the classics of psychoanalysis, Jokes has often been considered as a philosophical diversion in the margin of Freud’s serious work. Freud himself seems to have been of this opinion because, while he added new insights and revised many passages in all the later editions of Three essays and the other early classics, The interpretation of dreams (1900) and Psychopathology of everyday life (1901), there are no important additions or changes in the later editions of Jokes. These different vicissitudes have obscured the thematic affinities between Jokes and the first edition of Three essays. Therefore, a combined reading of Jokes and Three essays may shed new light on Freud’s early theory of sexuality.