Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek visited SHU on Oct. 24 to give a presentation as part of the university’s Poetry-in-the-Round series.
Žižek, who is internationally recognized and is one of the “Top 100 Global Speakers,” according to Foreign Policy, gave a talk called “Samuel Beckett as the Writer of Political Abstraction; or, What Can Beckett Tell Us about the Alt-Right and Political Correctness?” in the Jubilee Hall auditorium.
According to Russell Sbriglia, a professor of English who co-authored several essays with the philosopher, Žižek is arguably the most recognized academic in the world.
Žižek started his talk by honoring smaller scale universities and their devotion to making breakthroughs throughout the world. “My experience is that big universities think they are the center of the world,” Žižek said. “However, marginal places are where breakthroughs are taking place today. Marginal places are much more open to discoveries in Humanities.”
Sbriglia said that encounters with students and faculty asking him to bring Žižek to Seton Hall pushed him to make it happen. “I wanted to bring Slavoj to Seton Hall because he is such an influential, internationally known figure, and I knew that, were I able to bring him to SHU, it would be a very special event for the community,” Sbriglia said.
Sbriglia explained that he first met Žižek in 2006 during his first semester as a Ph.D. student and since then, they have come to know each other very well. Žižek went on to mentor Sbriglia and the two eventually became colleagues and collaborators.
Sbriglia said the talk took two years to coordinate in order to make sure that it fits with everyone’s schedule. “Slavoj came up with the topic,” he said. “All I told him was that it was going to be part of the English Department’s Poetry-in-the-Round series and that it would be great if he could do something on literature.”
“Poetry-in-the-Round was the perfect venue for hosting him,” he said. “I mean, there’s a reason why so many people across the globe come out to see and hear him speak. We had one attendee who flew in all the way from Salt Lake City.”
Nicole Langford, a sophomore public relations major, said that the talk was exactly what Seton Hall needed. “I thought it was extremely provocative in terms of topics that are prevalent within society today but it was something the students of Seton Hall needed to hear and be exposed to,” Langford said.
She added that the talk was extremely heavy at some points. “I got lost at some points during his explanations but I understood his stance on most points,” she said.
Tristan Miller-Lammert, a senior history major, said he was already familiar with Žižek. “My dad really liked him and bought me some of his books so I knew about him beforehand,” Miller-Lammert said.
“Even though he’s so smart and I barely understood his books, I think him and his ideas are cool.”
Miller-Lammert said that although the talk was heavy at some points, he wouldn’t change a thing about it. “I think what’s cool about him is that anybody no matter their background/education can listen to him and probably hear at least one nugget of good advice or something that really makes you think deep about the world around you,” he said.
Langford said she enjoyed the talk. “We need more people who are going to be outright about their views on things so people feel like they have a network of beliefs, if you agree with what he had to say, of course,” she said.
Zoey Dotson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.