In February, Laurence Rickels stopped by Austin, Texas. Dr. Rickels, who is the Sigmund Freud Professor of Psychoanalysis at the European Graduate School as well as Professor of Art and Theory at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany, was in town as part of the tour for his latest book: Germany: A Science Fiction. During his visit, he also swung by UT-Austin's Digital Writing and Research Lab and was generous enough to sit down for the following interview.
In his new book, Rickels focuses on psychopathy as, quote, "the undeclared diagnosis implied in flunking the empathy test." He does so via an exploration of Germany's role in Cold War-era science fiction: from the Thomas Pynchon novel Gravity's Rainbow to B movies like 1962's The Day of the Triffids to the science fiction of Philip K. Dick. In addition to Germany, Dr. Rickels has written numerous works tracing connections between psychoanalysis, popular culture, critical theory, science fiction, and mourning. His books include The Case of California, The Vampire Lectures, a three-volume series entitled Nazi Psychoanalysis, and Spectre, in which Rickels turns his attention to Ian Fleming's James Bond. He's also the author of a recent article entitled "The Race to Fill in the Blanks: On (Animal) Testing in Science Fiction," which appeared in the 2014 issue of Philosophy & Rhetoric touched on in this podcast's premiere episode.
In our conversation, I ask Dr. Rickels about his use of the term "psy-fi," the impetus behind his new book, the relationship between his work and that of the late media theorist Friedrich Kittler, as well as the puns and juxtapositions that punctuate his pages.