News & Events



Faculty Research Group in Critical Theory and Practice (CTP) Research Events 2022-2023


1)    Guest Speakers Lecture Series:


Dr Mohamed Tal (psychoanalyst, Beirut / Abu Dhabi, author of The End of Analysis, forthcoming in the Palgrave Lacan Series)

'Neurosis: The Perversion of Perversion'

Wednesday 26th April, 15:00-17:00

HDB.9.02 (in-person audience and chair, with speaker speaking remotely) (event also accessible online, please see Zoom link below) 

For more information, please contact Dr Lorenzo Chiesa (; for information about online access, please contact Emily Monaghan ( 

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Along the many trials Lacan submits anxiety and the object a to in Seminar X, a revision of the concept of neurosis was being operated. Rather than distinguishing neurosis from perversion according to the classical postulate of the acceptance of castration versus its disavowal, Lacan reshuffles this distinction by posing the lack of the object as the object itself, stating that the castration of the complex (which is the object’s exchange) and the identification that unfolds from it are only acceptable for the pervert. As a result, Lacan adopts perversion as matrix (for fantasy at large, as for the Oedipus complex) against which neurosis may be re-defined as a perversion of perversion, or a perversion of the pervert’s use of fantasy.


Dr Cindy Zeiher (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)

‘In/effable Forms… A Curious Encounter between Music and Philosophy’

Wednesday 21st June, 17:00-19:00

[venue TBA]



For most of us music is a trusted companion in life. As the story goes in 1889 thirteen-year-old Spanish musical prodigy Pablo Casals, when out for a walk with his father happened upon a second-hand music shop and discovered a copy of Bach’s cello suites. Pablo took them home, began to play and fell in love for the first time. Nearly a century later in 1968 as Russian tanks rolled into Prague, Rostropovich was billed to perform solo cello with the USSR state symphony. While Tariq Ali was demonstrating outside the venue, Rostropovich’s playing of Dvoƙák’s concerto for cello displayed deep sorrow, grief, and despair at this invasion by his beloved Russia who were soon to strip him of his citizenship. What could or dare not be expressed in words was done through music. 

What kind of relation, if any, do music and philosophy share? Certainly, philosophy can make propositions about musical sensibilities and tastes, or whether music needs to possess meaning beyond itself. A few philosophers with formal musical sensitivities such as Vladimir Jankélévitch, even employ musicality as an orientation to their curiosities, thinking and writing. Conversely, music sometimes philosophises. For example, Bach’s baroque masterpiece, his cello suites pose six questions about the nature of love. Starting with a beautiful prelude which marks the musical intention of the first suite, Bach then sets the cellist to work with his philosophical question: how can love be expressed in all its totality, purity, vulnerability and truth? With only four strings, a bow and hopefully some experience of love and loss, how it is that the cellist might transcend technique to express, note by note, something about the nature of love? Bach gives the cellist freedom within limits with some improvisatory moments in which to solve musical problems in order to traverse a wider horizon. Bach, like the philosopher is here interested in human nature, in what can be ‘said’/expressed as distinct from what is observed and talked about. Bach chooses the cello much like the philosopher chooses words because although difficult to master, both are lucid and versatile instruments which enable human curiosity to range far and wide. 

It is the strange mixture of music’s often perceived casual status and the supposed elevated thinking of philosophy which makes their (non)relation so curious. It seems that music and philosophy are locked into the ambivalence of the speech-act in so far as the philosopher’s will to transcend the word and the musician’s/composer’s will to express that which cannot be spoken both attest to the encounter of listening with curiosity. With this in mind the relationship between music and philosophy can be framed as an ineffable one in which the thing in itself, be it music or philosophy should not be fully articulated with exploratory ease and concision but instead granted an idiosyncratic status akin to Lacanian psychoanalysis, namely the status of curiosity. 

For more information, please contact Dr Lorenzo Chiesa (


Dr Isabel Millar (GCAS / Newcastle)

‘BLONDE: Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Bombshell’

Wednesday 16th November, 16:00-18:00




The uproarious response to Andrew Dominik's divisive biopic/horror film 'Blonde' imagining the unseen torments of Marilyn Monroe, at once points to the inherently contested nature of Monroe's existence (doe-eyed sacred victim versus shrewd, talented business woman) and more fundamentally to the very question of misrecognition itself: the route by which every speaking subject must come to inhabit existence. Virtually every scene of the film confronts us with a form of doubling, both in Marilyn's own image and in her relationship to us as voracious spectators and adoring fans. Her body is simultaneously deified, adored, invaded, colonized, raped and aborted. A feminist observation so trite as to become barely remarkable. But what is the function of the 'bombshell' today as the force of sexual power under capitalism? A Theory of the Bombshell, a reference to Tiqqun's ‘Theory of the Young Girl’, would attempt to conceptualize the bombshell as that which (in contrast to the entrepreneurial self) embodies the explosive existential potential of Monroe as a fatherless, motherless being who gave birth to itself.

For more information, please contact Dr Lorenzo Chiesa (





Marco Piasentier (Helsinki)

Naturalism, normativity, and critical theory

Wednesday 8th March, 3pm-5pm in HDB.9.02 

PHI9001, MLitt Philosophy; All Welcome


This paper addresses the question of biological normativity in evolutionary theory with a twofold objective. The first is to examine the contemporary debates in philosophy of biology to understand whether evolutionary theory provides the resources required to naturalise biological normativity or if it contributes to envisioning an organic world without norms of nature. The second aim is to discuss the relevance of this debate for contemporary European philosophy, paying particular attention to its implications for critical approaches to biopolitics.

Drawing on selected works in contemporary philosophy of biology, the paper attempts to show that the Darwinian theory does not offer a legitimate ground for vindicating normative notions in biology. In particular, the paper argues that the cost of retaining these notions within a naturalistic framework is to make survival and reproduction the ultimate ends of living beings. Organisms certainly need some capacities to survive and reproduce in a given environment, but this does not mean that the purpose of living is to survive and reproduce.

This philosophical interpretation of modern biology suggests that living beings, including the human animal, are not for anything. The conception of the human being brought to existence without the vehicle of any natural purpose is certainly not extraneous to important strands of European philosophy and critical theory. However, this thesis has often being reached by denying the biological dimension of the human being rather than affirming it. The biopolitical lesson that can be drawn from the proposed interpretation of modern biology is that the void left by the lack of any ultimate end of the living being should not be considered as a lacuna to fill with old or new natural teleologies, but rather as one of the starting points for imagining new ways to place the existence of the human animal at the centre of political intervention.


Sponsored by the Faculty Research Group in Critical Theory and Practice and the Department of Philosophy




2)    Research Workshop:


‘Philosophy and Medicine’ workshop. Participants include Prof Havi Carel (University of Bristol) and Prof Matthew Ratcliffe (University of York)

[Alas, this has had to be scheduled; many apologies to those who were interested: our speakers couldn't in the end make themselves available on the day]

For more information, please contact Dr Michael Lewis (



3)    Critical Theory, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis Reading Group:


Our reading group is continuing in Term 2 

Lacan, Seminar X. Anxiety

Every Wednesday, 17:00-19:00


For more information, please contact Moritz Herrmann ( and Emily Monaghan (, or Dr Lorenzo Chiesa (



4)    Postgraduate Conference:


‘Women in the History of Modern Philosophy, 17th-20th Century’


The British & Irish Postgraduate Philosophy Association (BIPPA) is delighted to announce that we are now inviting submissions of papers to be considered for our Regional Conference for Scotland and the North of England. The theme of the conference is Women in the History of Modern and Contemporary Philosophy, centuries 17th-20th. The conference is scheduled to take place on 9 December 2022, at Newcastle University. The deadline for abstract submission is the 28th of October 2022.

Speakers will be asked to prepare a presentation of around 20 minutes and take friendly and constructive feedback from audience members. To express interest, please fill out this application:

In our form, you will be asked to fill out this information:

  •     Name
  •     E-mail
  •     Latest institution
  •     Title
  •     Abstract (max. 500 words)

We would like to thank the British Society for the History of Philosophy ( for their generous support and the funding provided.

Keynote speakers will be announced shortly. 

For more information, please contact Zoe Waters (








Term 2

Wednesday 9th February 2022 - Frank Ruda (Dundee), 'The Immanence of Obscurity'


Term 3

Week 1 —Wednesday 27th April 2022 - Tom Greaves (UEA), ‘The Elemental and the Ephemeral’, 5pm–7pm, HDB3.76

Week 2 — Wednesday 4th May - [POSTPONED] Isabel Millar (Global Centre for Advanced Studies), 'Life in Priapalandia', 5pm–7pm, HDB3.76

Week 4 — Wednesday 11th May 2022 - Arthur Bradley (Lancaster), ‘In the Antechamber of Power: Sovereign Divisibility from Schiller to Schmitt’, 3pm–5pm [n.b. the earlier time], HDB3.76


ABSTRACT: Frank Ruda, 'The Immanence of Obscurity'


In one of his seminars, Michel Foucault makes a passing reference to a peculiar form of sovereign figure that, surprisingly, he sees repeatedly emerging throughout almost the entire history of the Western world: the grotesque sovereign. The lecture will mobilize Foucault’s passing remarks and wager that they might help to elucidate from within the political operativity of obscure times and “obscure subjects” (Badiou).


ABSTRACT: In the Antechamber of Power: Sovereign Divisibility from Schiller to Schmitt

In this paper, I offer a political architectonic of what Carl Schmitt calls the “antechamber of power [Vorraum der Macht]” from Friedrich Schiller, through Franz Kafka, to Walter Benjamin. To summarize,  I seek to argue that the antechamber of power has always been a marginal space within the conceptual imaginary of sovereignty, but Schiller, Kafka, Benjamin, and Schmitt re-imagine it as the privileged space of an originary partage, sharing or division of power. In a series of readings of philosophical, historical, and literary representations of the antechamber, I show how the allegedly private chamber of power occupied by the sovereign alone constitutively divides or exteriorizes itself into a --- potentially infinite --- series of new political antechambers occupied by a new class of political bodies: Schiller’s counsellor, Kafka’s bureaucrat, Benjamin’s clerk.


ABSTRACT: Isabel Millar, 'Life in Priapalandia': [POSTPONED to Autumn 2022] 

Life is pornographic, everything is obscene and there is no longer anything left to secrecy. These were some of Jean Baudrillard’s bold ideas in his last work about the final stage of hyperreality and simulation into which we had entered. Despite the ridicule that Baudrillard’s work has attracted, his ideas were far more nuanced than just outlandish metaphysical proclamations designed to puzzle and shock. In 'Forget Foucault' for example, he draws a parallel between the 'disappearance' of sexuality and the constitution of reality itself.

The inexistence of the sexual relation is the foundational concept of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Each subject only ever experiencing sexuality as mediated through a fantasy structure in which they may take up any position in relation to the object. But where (according to Baudrillard) for psychoanalysis there remains the possibility of a ‘non-relation’, giving rise to various forms of jouissance, even the power of this failed sexual rapport is diminishing as the world becomes more transparent, along with the progressive abstraction of sexual exchange value, and the dissolution of desire replaced by something more akin to compulsion and automatic mimesis. This talk will explore the production of reality and the obscenity of the world according to Baudrillard in relation to Foucault, Lacan and Lyotard.


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Other events that may be of interest:

Representing Nonhuman Animals Conference: University of Durham, Monday 25th April 2022, 12midday onwards.


Philosophy Postgraduate Conference


Philosophy PG Conference

The PG conference is a space for PhD students and MLitts to present their current research. It will be held from 10am - 5pm on the 18th of May in HDB G.13.

 Zoe Waters

Caliban, the Witch and the Cuck: Mechanical Philosophy and the Hyper-sexualisation of Women and Black Men in Porn 

10.00 - 10.40 

Nicky Brignell

The Intractable Nature of the Ethical: Adorno on Nietzsche and Nihilism 

10.40 - 11.20 



11.20 - 11.40 

Arne Beswick

Finding Rawls’ Hegel 

11.40 – 12.20 

Holden Rasmussen

The Sound of Death Philosophy: Bataille, Lacan, and the Anxiety that One Is 

12.20 - 1:00 

Dinner break


1.00 - 2.00 


Ignas Zemleckas

Criteria, Judgements and Automated Marking: A Return to Lyotard

2.00 - 2:40 

Jacob Parkin

Stop Making Sense: Autism and Readability in Contemporary French Philosophy 

2.40 - 3.20 




3.20 - 3.40

Fenn Waterston

Between Firestone and Federici: Reproduction, Difference, and Technology 

3.40 – 4.20 

Ben Fricker-Muller

Towards a Critical Medicine: Subject and Healthcare