Rhetoric, Truth, and Enjoyment: Cicero Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Lecture (in English) with

Paul Allen Miller


Thursday, June 20, 2024, at 19 h

Library of Psychoanalysis at the Sigmund Freud Museum


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This talk presents an overview of the book I am completing during my Fulbright. It offers a psychoanalytic re-examination of the relation between truth and embodied enjoyment as understood in the traditional confrontation between rhetoric and philosophy in Cicero. His simultaneous advocacy of classical rationality and continued emphasis on the importance of performativity and enjoyment in language situates him at the crossroads of reason and the unconscious.  Where the modern, post-Cartesian concept of truth abstracts it from the experience of the speaker and the hearer, for Cicero truth is inseparable from our experience. This talk examines the problem of enjoyment (jouissance) as central to understanding the ongoing argument, between rhetoric and philosophy. I distinguish “pleasure” from “enjoyment,” with pleasure always being balanced by the constraints of the reality principle and hence always open to rational substitution and deferral. Jouissance, however, is a drive that leads beyond the utilitarian calculus of balancing pleasure against unpleasure, seeking a form of radical experience that can be both sublime and destructive.
(Paul Allen Miller)


Paul Allen Miller is Carolina Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina and Distinguished Guest Professor of English at Ewha Womans University. He specializes in exploring intellectual relations between the ancient world and modern philosophy and theory, with an emphasis on psychoanalysis.

Professor Miller is editor emeritus of Transactions of the American Philological Association. He is the author of Lyric Texts and Lyric Consciousness (1994), Latin Erotic Elegy (2002), Subjecting Verses: Latin Love Elegy and the Emergence of the Real (2004), Latin Verse Satire (2005), Postmodern Spiritual Practices: The Reception of Plato and the Construction of the Subject in Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault (2007), Plato’s Apology of Socrates (2010) with Charles Platter, A Tibullus Reader (2013), Diotima at the Barricades: French Feminists Read Plato (2015), Horace (2019), and Foucault’s Seminars on Antiquity: Learning to Speak the Truth (2021). He has edited fifteen volumes of essays and has published more than 100 articles. His latest book, Theory Does not Exist: Comparative Ancient and Modern Explorations in Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis and Rhetoric will be published this spring.

For four months beginning in March 2024, he will serve as the Fulbright-Freud Visiting Lecturer of Psychoanalysis during which he will teach the course “The Subject of Enjoyment in Antiquity” at the Institute for Classical Philology at the University of Vienna and finish research on his new book, Truth and Enjoyment in Cicero: Rhetoric and Philosophy Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the first major psychoanalytic treatment of the subject.


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