Mladen Dolar is a senior research fellow in the department of philosophy at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, and a writer on a huge array of cultural topics. Along with Slavoj Žižek and Rastko Močnik, he was one of the founders in the late 1970s of the association popularly known as the “Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis.” The aim of this group is to combine German idealist philosophy, theoretical Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis into an instrument for grappling with the contemporary world. Dolar’s works in English include Opera’s Second Death (co-authored with Slavoj Žižek and published in 2001) and A Voice and Nothing More (2006). His next book, The Riskiest Moment, is forthcoming from Duke University Press.
I met Mladen Dolar for the first time in the autumn of 2013, when he was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago. I attended both of the seminars he gave that quarter, one on the theme of philosophical materialism, and the other on the nature of avarice, which he co-taught with Eric Santner. Last autumn he returned to Chicago to give another class on “creaturely modernism” in Freud, Kafka and Beckett: it was then that the idea for this interview about the state of universities was hatched. It was conducted via email in the early months of 2018. —Ben Jeffery
Ben Jeffery: You’ve published a couple of things in the past year about the modern university and its troubles. I want to talk to you about how you see the relationship between universities and contemporary intellectual life more generally. But first of all I have what might seem like an odd question—would you describe yourself as an intellectual? I’m interested in the term itself. What does it mean to you? Is it something to be embraced?