A professor of English, comparative literature, and media study, Joan Copjec is also director of the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture at the University of Buffalo. Her research concerns the status of sexual difference as a primary (or ontological) rather than a secondary (or ontic) category. Copjec believes that psychoanalysis, as inheritor of German Idealism, provides the only real theory of this category, as she has stated in her books, including the most recent, Imagine There’s No Woman: Ethics and Sublimation (MIT Press, 2002).
During her fellowship year, Copjec plans to study the philosophical, psychoanalytic conception of shame, which has been called an “ontological” affect and associated with women particularly, though not exclusively. She will examine the reasons for this association while contrasting the veiling mechanism involved in shame and in the “system of modesty,” or hejab, imposed by clerics in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This contrast will be drawn through a close analysis of the films of contemporary Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami.
Copjec holds a doctoral degree in cinema studies and often writes about film, but most of her honors have acknowledged her work in psychoanalysis. These honors include her recent promotion to distinguished professor, the provost’s Sustained Achievement Award, and fellowships from the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut in Germany, the Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture at Rutgers University, and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University.