Laurence A. Rickels

Laurence A. Rickels

Laurence Arthur Rickels is currently professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Santa Barbara, as well as adjunct professor in the Art and the Film Studies Departments. He is the Sigmund Freud Professor of Media and Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. While his reputation and career seems to traverse a diverse group of interests and institutions, there is at the same time a “continuity shot” to follow throughout in his commitment to psychoanalysis and problems of mourning. Already as a senior at The Lawrenceville School, he pursued an independent study focusing on the pathogenic influence of prevented mourning on the survivors of Nazi German concentration camps, for which he received the Sterling Morton Prize in 1972. That he ultimately supplemented this interest in psychoanalytic theory by training hands-on as psychotherapist corresponds to a longer-term investment in the language in which he conveys, elucidates, and performs the theoretical insights of analysis. Born in Cherokee, Iowa on December 2, 1954, Laurence Rickels earned his Ph.D. in German Literature at Princeton University in 1980. He received his B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. While enrolled at Penn he spent a year abroad at the Free University of Berlin, which he extended by an additional semester at the end of which (in 1973) he passed the Berlin institution's entry examination for graduate study in German literature. In the 1990s Rickels earned a Masters in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University of Southern California and trained and interned as a psychotherapist in Santa Barbara under the supervision of psychoanalyst Lawton Smith.

Laurence Rickels is the author of "Aberrations of Mourning" (1988), "The Case of California" (1991), "The Vampire Lectures" (1999), "Nazi Psychoanalysis, 3 volumes; Only Psychoanalysis Won the War; Crypto-Fetishism; Psy Fi" (2002), "Ulrike Ottinger. The Autobiography of Art Cinema" (2008), and "The Devil Notebooks" (2008), and editor of "Looking After Nietzsche" (1990) and "Acting Out in Groups" (1999). His work’s core is the trilogy “Unmourning” ("Aberrations of Mourning, The Case of California, and Nazi Psychoanalysis"). “Rickels’ work, it is worth pointing out, is reminiscent of Harold Bloom’s "The Anxiety of Influence", both in its command of the contributions of Freud’s early followers to classical psychoanalysis and in its desire to challenge literary studies with a mode of reading that exceeds the boundaries of text-immanent criticism. Rickels is unlike Bloom, however, in his insistence that the psychoanalysis of literature must go beyond the notions of patricidal writing that followed a generation of psychoanalysts’ reduction of Freud’s thought to the Oedipal scenario” (Modern Language Notes 112, 1997: 487). “From the otherness inside the text to the otherness outside the text, Rickels’ precision slips, which are themselves generated by the excessive modernity of his analysis, push the objectivity of language to extremes in order to generate an ethic of subjective interpretation qua communicative interaction. Here the rejection of the ideal of objectivity through a process of excessive reflection, and the consequent presentation of a text that cannot stand apart from the process of transference, pushes Rickels’ work towards the other. However, the spiral of his work, which runs through schizo style and its relation between analysis and slips to the text qua object and the interpretative reader, also moves in an intra-textual direction.Apart from schizo style and the struggle against the totalitarian moment of writing, Rickels’ text also spirals towards a consideration of the relationships between psychoanalysis, modernity, and Nazism. The madness of Rickels’ style is, therefore, informed by the madness that is characteristic of the subject of Nazi Psychoanalysis itself. In this respect the study of the relationships between modernity, psychoanalysis, and Nazism mirrors the exploration of the associations between analysis and the symptom that runs through the structure of the book. Whereas analysis and the symptom are caught in a process of transference at the level of style, so that the hyper-reflexivity of analysis collapses into the symptom, only for the symptom to produce yet more analysis, the content of Rickels’ book shows how modernity, and the drive towards rationality that is characteristic of disciplines such as psychoanalysis, has produced its own forms of hyper-reflexive madness. Thus Rickels’ point is that such pathologies, or the sciences that seek to cope with their existence, cannot be separated from the totalitarian will to closure that is characteristic of modernity itself: Nazism” (, 1/29/2003).

Following a stint as Department Chair, Rickels opened the gates to his extreme student following in Santa Barbara. For his series of classes on occult and technical media, he soon filled the two largest halls on campus, ranging thus from around 500 to around 800 students, depending on which venue was available. In consideration of the work of transference to which this success rate is owed, Rickels began documenting the series in books like "The Vampire Lectures" and "The Devil Notebooks".

The strong art-world reception of his second book, "The Case of California", resulted in a series of encounters with contemporary art (interviews, first hesitant catalogue essays, membership on the Byrd Hoffman Board of Directors), whereby he gradually learned how to find an “art word” in which he in the meantime regularly seeks to make “first” contact with contemporary artworks (hopefully beyond the journalistic monopolization of this valuable connection). It is in this spirit that he edits ArtUs, a bi-monthly art journal based in Los Angeles. His study of Ulrike Ottinger owes its infrastructure to this Bildung as art writer. For the new millennium Rickels again fell in love with Berlin where he currently attempts to live at least part-time. During a good portion of this quality time he completed his newest book "I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick".


2008, Author - "The Devil Notebooks". University of Minnesota Press

2008, Author - "Ulrike Ottinger: The Autobiography of Art Cinema". University of Minnesota Press

2007, Author -"Ulrike Ottinger. Eine Autobiografie des Kinos". b_books

2007, Author - "Vampirismus Vorlesungen". Brinkmann & Bose

2004, Co-editor (with Thomas Kniesche) – "Die Kindheit überleben. Festschrift zu Ehren von Ursula Mahlendorf". Königshausen & Neumann

2002, Author - "Nazi Psychoanalysis", 3 Volumes: "Only Psychoanalysis Won the War, Crypto-Fetishism, Psy Fi". University of Minnesota Press

1999, Editor - "Acting Out in Groups". University of Minnesota Press

1999, Author - "The Vampire Lectures". University of Minnesota Press

1994, Co-editor (with Ursula Mahlendorf) - "Poetry Poetics Translation: Festschrift in Honor of Richard Exner". Königshausen & Neumann

1991, Author - "The Case of California". The Johns Hopkins University Press Reprinted with University of Minnesota Press, 2001.

1990, Editor - Gottfried Keller, "Jugenddramen". Ammann Verlag

1990, Editor - "Looking After Nietzsche". State University of New York Press

1990, Special Issue Editor - “Voice Over: On Technology,” "SubStance" 61

1989, Author - "Der unbetrauerbare Tod". Edition Passagen

1988, Author - "Aberrations of Mourning: Writing on German Crypts". Wayne State University Press

elected Articles

"Wishful Needs." "EXPENDITURE". Busan Biennial 2008: 53-58

“Politics and Psychosis.” "The Germanic Review", Vol. 83, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 25-41.

"Sounds of Satan." "The Dreams of Interpretation: A Century down the Royal Road." Ed. Catherine Liu, John Mowitt, Thomas Pepper, and Jakki Spicer. University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

"Dem Schleier gleich." "Äther: Ein Medium der Moderne." Ed. Albert Kümmel-Schnur and Jens Schröter. Transcript, 2007.

“Endopsychic Allegories.” "Postmodern Culture". Vol. 18, no. 1 (September 2007).

“Second Death.” "between two deaths". Ed. Ellen Blumenstein and Felix Ensslin. Hatje Cantz 2007: 94-105.

“Going Ape: On Ulrike Ottinger’s Prater.” "artUS", no. 18 (2007).

“Katy Crowe.” "artUS", no. 16 (2007).

“The Body of His Work” / ”Il corporo della sua opera.” "Meneghetti. Opere/Works 2000-2006". Ed. Achille Bonito Oliva. Electa, 2006: 51-59. [Contribution to the catalogue accompanying a retrospective exhibition held Summer 2006.]

“Devil Father Mine.” "Lust for Life. On the Writings of Kathy Acker". Ed. Amy Scholder, Carla Harryman, and Avital Ronell. Verso Press, 2006: 78-98.

“Zwölf Filme.” "Ulrike Ottinger. Bildarchiv". Verlag für moderne Kunst Nürnberg, 2006.

“Twelve Films.” "Ulrike Ottinger. Image Archive". Verlag für moderne Kunst Nürnberg, 2006: 495-509.

“Totem Taboo.” "artUS", no. 11 (2006).

“The Case of Oscar Wilde.” "Le Voyage interieur. Paris-London", ed. Alex Farquharson and Alexis Vaillant, Espace EDF Electra (exhibition catalogue, 2005).

“Alle-Gory.” "Alle-Gory", Mandarin Gallery, 2005 [The catalogue accompanied the group show curated at Mandarin Gallery, Los Angeles, under the same title, December 3, 2005 - January 14, 2006] .

“Delay in the Machine Age. Part I.” "artUS", no. 10 (2005).

“Sue de Beer: Visitation Rites.” "artUS", no. 9 (2005).

“David Askevold.” "artUS", no.9 (2005).

“The Portrait Under Surveillance.” "artUS", no. 5/6 (2005).

“Haunts of Assimilation.” "David Deutsch. Photographs/Paintings". 2 volumes. Twin Palms Publishers, 2005.

“Das Hund.” "Flashforward". Film by Eva Meyer and Eran Schaerf, 2004. Seven artists and writers (including Elfriede Jelinek) contributed either a text (and reading) or a performance as quilting points within the film.

“Brad Spence.” "artUS", no. 4 (2004).

“Metropolis, California.” "artUS", no. 3 (2004).

“Alexis Smith.” "artUS", no. 2 (2004).

“Memory and Disappearance: Recent Thai Art.” "artUS", no. 1 (2004).

“Satan and Golem, inc.” "parallax", Issue 30 (2004): 49-57.

“My Last Interview with Ulrike Ottinger: on Southeast Passage and Beyond.” "Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film", ed. Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour, The MIT Press, 2004.

“Eran Schaerf: All of the Above.” "The Promise The Land. Jewish-Israeli Artists in Relation to Politics and Society". O. K Centrum für Gegenwartskunst Oberösterreich. Folio, 2004: 146-149.

“Gross und Gross, Inkorporiert.” "Die Gesetze des Vaters: Hans Gross, Otto Gross, Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka", ed. Gerhard Dienes and Ralf Rother, Böhlau Verlag, 2003: 196-209.

“Many Eternal Returns.” "Cultural Shift Hatter. Cody Choi 1986-2003". Seoul: Paradise, 2003: 72-82.

“Lyle Ashton Harris.” "artUS", Inaugural Issue (2003).

“Tom Allen. Becoming Ruin.” "art / text", vol. 78 (2002).

“Middlebrowbeat.” Literary Paternity. Ed. Gerhard Richter. University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

“Marlene McCarty.” "art / text", vol. 77 (2002).

“North by North by Laurence Rickels. On John Boskovich.” "art / text", vol. 77 (2002).

“Suicitation: Benjamin and Freud.” "Benjamin’s Ghosts". Ed. Gerhard Richter. Stanford University Press, 2002: 142-53, 326-29.

“Recognition Values: Seeing "The Sixth Sense" Again for the First Time.” "Other Voices 2", 2 (March 2002).

“Theory on TV: ‘After Thoughts.’” "Religion and Media". Ed. Hent De Vries and Samuel Weber. Stanford University Press, 2001.

“Stephanie Taylor.” "art / text", vol. 74 (2001).

“Floyd Claypool.” "art / text", vol. 73 (2001).

“Dean Sameshima: Secret Agency.” "art / text", vol. 72 (2001).

“Ulrike Ottinger: Glass Walls.” "art / text", vol. 71 (2000).

“The Emperor’s New Closure.” "art / text", vol. 70 (2000).

“Larry Johnson.” "art / text", vol. 69 (2000).

“Katy Schimert: Blind Spot and Insight.” "art / text", vol. 68 (2000).

“Resistance in Theory.” "Material Events. Paul de Man and the Afterlife of Theory". Ed. Tom Cohen, Barbara Cohen, J. Hillis Miller, and Andrzej Warminski. University of Minnesota Press, 2000: 153-179.

“Bridge Isn’t Falling Down.” "Laura London: After School Special". Los Angeles: works on paper, inc., 2000.

“Midlife Criticism and the Teen Age.” "Förtechning över Swedish Department". Riksustall-Ningar / Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, 2000.

“Just a Test.” "Mike Kelley". Magasin. Centre National d’Art Contemporain, 1999: 29-36.

“American Psychos: The End of Art Cinema in the ‘90s.” "art / text", vol. 67 (1999).

“Art/Journalism.” "X-TRA", vol. II, no. 4 (Summer 1999). [accompanied the exhibition “Art/Journalism” curated at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica, Summer 1999]

“Toto-lization.” "Jeremy Blake. One Hit Wonder". Los Angeles: works on paper, inc., 1999.

“Mine.” "Terminals". Ed. Connie Samaras and Victoria Vesna. Delta Graphics, 1999: 63-86.

“Matthew Antezzo.” "Nach-Bild", vol. 25 (1999).

“T.J. Wilcox. The Loss Generation.” "art / text", vol. 64 (1999).

“Scream IV.” "Space, Site, and Intervention: Issues in Installation and Site-Specific Art". Ed. Erika Suderburg. University of Minnesota Press, 1999: 209-219.

“Kim Yasuda: The Canyon That Took the Place of a Couch.” "Art in General" (1999).

“Giving Up the Ghost of a Fetish: Between the Couples Theory of Marxo-Freudianism and Nazi Psychoanalysis.” "The South Atlantic Quarterly", 97, 2 (1998): 297-325.

“Phantoms of Opera.” "art / text", vol. 63 (1998).

“Die Prüfung Unica Zürns.” "Unica Zürn. Bilder" 1953 – 1970, 1998: 193-98.

“Bite Sighs. A Eulogy for Martin Kippenberger.” "Martin Kippenberger. Hotel Drawings". 1988 - 1990. Los Angeles: works on paper, inc., 1998.

“Landscape from LA.” "Spring Journal" 1, 1 (1998).

“Cryptology.” "Hi-Fives: A Trip to Semiotics". Ed. Roberta Kevelson. New York, 1998: 191-204.

“Already Given at the Office: On Techno Feminism.” "parallax", 5 (1997): 69-78.

“Tot’s Tomb.” "aRude" 3. 1 (Spring 1997).

“Silent Reading.” "Larry Johnson", ed. Scott Watson. Vancouver: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia, 1996. 25-32.

“Digging Psychoanalysis.” "Freud and the Passions", ed. John O’Neill. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. 201-229.

“Wall-Eyed Ghosts.” "Lari Pittman Drawings", ed. Elizabeth A. Brown. Seattle/London: University of Washington, 1996. 102-105. “Psy Fi Explorations of Out Space: On Werther’s Special Effects.” "Outing Goethe & His Age", ed. Alice A. Kuzniar. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. 147-173.

“Theory on TV: Gadget Goes to Florida - Laurence A. Rickels Talks with Gregory Ulmer.” "Artforum" (January 1996).

“Dragula.” "aRude" 1.2 (Fall 1995).

“Theory on TV: Making a Killing - Laurence A. Rickels Talks with Michel Serres.” "Artforum" (April 1995).

“Psy Fi.” "Alphabet City" 4/5 (1995): 96-102.

“Heil Homosexuality.” "GLQ A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies" 2.1-2 (1995): 36-63.

“The Art of Psy Fi.” "Narcissistic Disturbance". Los Angeles: Otis College of Art and Design, 1995: 16-25.

“The Kings and I: Laurence A. Rickels talks with Klaus Theweleit.” "Artforum" (September 1994).

“Speaking Djaman: An Interview with Kiki Smith.” "Thresholds: Viewing Culture" 8 (1994).

“Act Out/Turn On.” "Artforum" (April 1994).

“Insurance for and against Women: From Nietzsche to Psychotherapy.” "Nietzsche and the Feminine", ed. P. Burgard, University Press of Virginia, 1994: 257-286.

“Body Bildung: Laurence A. Rickels talks with Kathy Acker.” "Artforum" (February 1994).

“It’s a Wound-erful Life: Laurence A. Rickels talks with Rosa von Praunheim.” "Artforum" (December 1993).

“Faust, Freud, and the Missing Entries into War.” "assemblage" 20 (1993): 64-65.

“Opportunistic Diagnosis - Laurence A. Rickels on Jean Baudrillard’s Transparency of Evil.” "Artforum" (Summer 1993).

“Camp.” "Modern Language Notes" 108 (1993): 484-499.

“Real Time Travel: Laurence Rickels talks with Ulrike Ottinger.” "Artforum" (February 1993).

“Mickey Marx.” "Lusitania" 1.4 (1993): 205-215.

“Mummy’s Curse.” "The American Journal of Semiotics". 9.4 (1992): 47-58.

“Spooky Electricity: An Interview with Friedrich Kittler.” "Artforum" (December 1992).

“California Buildin’.” "Semiotexte Architecture", 1992. 6 pages.

“Eating Bambi.” "1-800 Magazine". 2 (1991): 47-49, 69-71.

“Missing Marx: or, How to Take Better Aim.” Strategies 6 (1991): 70-92. Reprinted in "Strategies for Theory: From Marx to Madonna". Ed. R. L. Rutsky and Bradley J. Macdonald. State University of New York Press, 2003: 249-267.

“Alex.” "The American Journal of Semiotics". 7.3 (1990): 53-61.

“Dear Diary.” "Stendahl Syndrome: The Cure". New York: Andrea Rosen Gallery and Techne Group, 1990.

“Psychoanalysis on TV.” "SubStance" 61 (1990): 39-52.

“Music Phantoms: Uncanned Conceptions of Music from Josephine the Singer to Mickey Mouse.” "SubStance" 58 (1989): 3-24.

“Kafka and Freud on the Telephone.” "Modern Austrian Literature" 22.3/4 (1989): 211-225.

“Subliminalation.” "Qui Parle" (Paranoia/Schizophrenia) 2.1 (Spring 1988): 18-42.

“Friedrich Torberg.” "Major Figures of Modern Austrian Literature", ed. Donald G. Daviau, Ariadne Press, 1988: 397-422.

“Psychoanalysis and the Two Orifices of Film.” "The American Journal of Semiotics". 5.3/4 (1987): 419-445.

“Kafka and the Aero-Trace.” "Franz Kafka and the Contemporary Critical Performance: Centenary Readings", ed. Alan Udoff, Indiana University Press, 1987: 111-127.

“The Road Belong Cargo.” "Qui Parle" 1.2 (Spring 1987): 26-36.

“Friedrich ‘Nichte.’” "SubStance" 52 (1987): 3-20.

“"Die Blechtrommel": Zwischen Schelmen- und Bildungsroman.” "Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik" 20 (1985/86): 109-132.

“Stifter’s "Nachkommenschaften": The Problem of the Surname, the Problem of Painting.” "Modern Language Notes" 100, 3 (April 1985): 577-598.

“Deception, Exchange, and Revenge: Metaphors of Language in "Emilia Galotti.” Lessing Yearbook" 16 (1984): 37-54.

“Writing as Travel and Travail: "Der Prozess" and "In der Strafkolonie.” Newsletter of the Kafka Society of North America" 5, 2 (1982): 32-40.

ee also

*List of psychoanalytical theorists

External links


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