Tracy McNulty



Tracy McNulty, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, received her BA in French and English from U.C. Berkeley and her PhD in Comparative Literature from U.C. Irvine. Her research interests include 20th-century French literature and comparative modernism, psychoanalytic theory (especially Freud and Lacan), contemporary French philosophy, and political theory. In addition to these fields, she regularly teaches interdisciplinary courses on such questions as the origins of language, myth and symbolic thought, eroticism and perversion, and philosophical, scientific, and psychoanalytic theories of subjectivity and human agency. Her first book, The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2007. Her second, Wrestling with the Angel: Experiments in Symbolic Life (a defense of the liberating function of formal and written constraints in psychoanalysis, political theory, and aesthetics), came out with  Columbia University Press in 2014. Currently she is completing two new books. Libertine Mathematics: Perversions of the Linguistic Turn juxtaposes masterpieces of the libertine tradition by the Marquis de Sade, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the Comte de Lautréamont, and Pauline Réage–each of which can be read as promoting a “language of the real” that would allow for an integral transmission of the drive—alongside contemporary theoretical works that have embraced the language of mathematical formalization—or of other non-signifying languages—either as an ultimate extension of, or as a rejection or overturning of, the so-called “linguistic turn” in twentieth century thought: Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and the “speculative realists," and in a different way Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan. A fourth book project, currently nearing completion, is concerned with the role of the body in relaying an unconscious transmission from one person, or one people, to another; it deals with examples from the psychoanalytic clinic, the procedure of the Pass that Lacan invented as a means of guaranteeing that an analysis has reached its term, and the stakes of bodily and affective transmission in mass psychology, revolutionary populism, and political aesthetics.

Research Focus


  • Psychoanalytic theory (especially Freud and Lacan)
  • Contemporary French philosophy (especially theories of the subject)
  • Contemporary French thought
  • Political theory and political aesthetics
  • 18th and 20th century French literature
  • Literature and perversion



Emancipation by Relay: Transmission in Psychoanalysis (nearing completio).

Libertine Mathematics: Perversions of the Linguistic Turn (nearing completion).

Wrestling with the Angel: Experiments in Symbolic Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). 

The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007). 

Edited volumes:

Erin Graff-Zivin and Tracy McNulty, guest editors, Women in Theory?, special issue of diacritics with papers by Maria del Rosario Acosta, Kendra Atkin, Natalie Belisle, Karen Benezra, Valeria Campos Salvaterra, Penelope Deutscher, Norah Fulton, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, Adriana Johnson, Anna Kornbluh, Christina León, Julia Ng, Erin Graff-Zivin, Elissa Marder, and Rocio Zambrana. Diacritics volume 49, no 2 (2021). 

Tracy McNulty, editor, “Constructing the Death Drive,” special issue of Differences with essays by Willy Apollon, Lucie Cantin, Jeffrey Librett, Tracy McNulty, Steven Miller, and Daniel Wilson. Differences 28:2 (Spring 2017).

Jason Frank and Tracy McNulty, guest editors, “Taking Exception to the Exception,” special issue of diacritics with papers by Susan Buck-Morss, Jason Frank, Dominiek Hoens, Bonnie Honig, Jeffrey Librett, Tracy McNulty, Andrew Norris, Kam Shapiro, and Erik Vogt. Diacritics volume 37, nos. 2-3 (Spring 2008).

Journal Articles and Chapters in Books:

“Language, Hors langage, Act, Aesthetics,” in A Psychoanalysis for the Human: Willy Apollon's Renewal of Metapsychology After Freud and Lacan, ed. Lucie Cantin and Jeffrey Librett. Forthcoming 2023.

“Emancipation by Relay: The Transmission of Political Acts in Freud, James, and Kant,"  forthcoming in Theory & Event (2022).

“The Traversal of the Fantasy as an Opening to Humanity,” in Michelle Rada, editor, 
“Psychoanalysis and Solidarity.” Special issue of Differences (Volume 32, nos. 2-3) (2022). 

“The Anxiety at the Heart of Perverse Experience: A Clinical Perspective,” in Lacan’s Cruelty, ed. Meera Lee (London: Palgrave, 2022). 133-161.

“A Mass Psychology Beyond the Ego: Sympathy, Enthusiasm, and Unconscious Transmission in the Age of Revolution,” in a special issue of Psychoanalytische Perspectieven on the centennial of Sigmund Freud’s Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, ed. Alexander Miller (Fall 2021), 555-576.

“Feeling at a Distance, or the Aesthetics of Unconscious Transmission,” in Parallax: The Dialectics of Mind and World, ed. Dominik Finkelde, Christoph Menke, and Slavoj Žižek (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), 227-237.

“The Bond Uniting Pleasure and Pain,” special issue of Syndicate on Nathan Brown’s Rationalist Empiricism: A Theory of Speculative Critique, ed. Robert Lehman (October 2021).

“What if the Fetish could Speak?,” special issue of Syndicate on Jacques Lezra’s On the Nature of Marx’s Things, ed. Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz (July 2020).

“Untreatable: The Freudian Act and its Legacy,” in Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda, editors, “Jacques Lacan: Psychoanalysis, Politics, Philosophy and Science.” Special issue of Crisis and Critique, Volume 6, issue 1 (April 2019), 227-251.

“Psychoanalysis and Law,” in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities, ed. Maksymilian Del Mar, Bernadette Meyler, and Simon Stern (London: Oxford University Press, 2019), 163-180.

“Beyond the Oedipus Complex: Dora, Antigone, and the Gift of the Symbolic Father,” in Ahnki Mukherjee, editor, After Lacan: Literature, Theory and Psychoanalysis in the 21st Century (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 58-73.

“Hysteria," in Jeffrey Di Leo, editor, The Bloomsbury Handbook to Literary and Cultural Theory (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2018).

“Unbound: The Speculative Mythology of the Death Drive,” Differences 28:2 (2017), 86-115.

“Constructing the Death Drive,” Differences 28:2 (2017), 1-4.

“Speculative Fetishism,” Konturen VIII (2015), 99-132. Special issue on “The Thing.”

“Modernist Political Theologies: Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology and Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’,” in Jean-Michel Rabaté, editor, 1922: Literature, Culture, Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 248-260.

“The New Man’s Fetish,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy, Volume 51, Spindel Supplement (2013), 17-39.

“Desuturing Desire: The Work of the Letter in the Miller-Leclaire Debate,” in Peter Hallward and Knox Peden, editors, Concept and Form Volume II: Interviews and Essays on the Cahiers pour l’Analyse (London: Verso, 2012), 89-104.

“Enabling Constraints: Toward an Aesthetics of Symbolic Life,” Umbr(a) (2010), 35-63.

“Demanding the Impossible: Desire and Social Change,” Differences Volume 20, no. 1 (Spring 2008), 1-39.

“The Event of the Letter: Two Approaches to the Law and its Real” [on Alain Badiou], Cardozo Law Review Volume 29:5 (April 2008), 2209-2238.

“The Gap in the Law and the Border-Breaching Function of the Exception” [on Carl Schmitt and Jacques Lacan], Konturen volume I, 2008. (

“The Commandment Against the Law: Writing and Divine Justice in Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’,” diacritics volume 37, nos. 2-3 (Spring 2008), 34-60.

“Weibliche Liebe und der Paulinische Universalismus,” in Verschränkungen von Symbolischem und Realem. Zur Aktualität von Lacans Denken in den Kulturwissenschaften, eds. Jochen Bonz, Gisela Febel, Insa Härtel (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2006).

“Mit dem Engel ringen,” in Wieder Religion ? Christentum im zeitgenössischen kritischen Denken (Lacan, Zizek, Badiou u.a.), eds. Marc De Kesel and Dominiek Hoens (Wenen: Turia + Kant, November 2005), 66-80.

“Feminine Love and the Pauline Universal,” in Alain Badiou: Philosophy and its Conditions, ed. Gabriel Riera (Albany: SUNY Press, 2005), 185-212. 

“Hospitality after the Death of God” [on Pierre Klossowski], diacritics volume 35, no. 1 (Spring 2005), 71-98.

“The Exceptional Father,” in (a): a journal of culture and the unconscious, volumes I and II (2005), 23-33. 

“Wrestling with the Angel” [on Emmanuel Lévinas and Saint Paul], Umbr(a), 2005, 73-84.

Signed, Dionysus: Nietzsche’s Lost Letter to Freud,” (a): a journal of culture and the unconscious, Volume II, no. 1, Fall 2002, 7-24.

“Solving the Sexual Impasse: Female Orgasm, Viagra, and the ‘Natural Law’ of Jouissance,” Savoir Volume 5, no. 1, September 2000, 75-100.

“Klossowski, ce soir,” (a): a journal of culture and the unconscious, Volume I, no. 1, Spring 2000,  81-103.

“Israel as Host(ess): Hospitality in the Bible and Beyond,” Jouvert: A Journal of Post-Colonial Studies, Volume 3, issues 1 and 2, 1999 (unpaginated).  

“The Other Jouissance, a Gay Sçavoir,” in Qui Parle, Volume 9, No. 2, Spring/Summer 1996, 126-159.

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