Maire Jaanus

Professor of English

Maire Jaanus is Professor of English at Barnard College and the Columbia School of Graduate Studies in the Arts & Sciences, and a former chair of the department.

She completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University in Comparative literature, with a major in English (1400 to 1959) and minors in German and French (from 1750-1959). Her B.A. is from Vassar College. She spent her junior year at the University of Munich in Germany and the year after graduation as a Fulbright scholar at Cambridge University, England.

Her focus and teaching have been on eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth-century comparative literature, especially on the novel and romantic poetry and prose, but always in the context of history, and always in correlation with literary theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and more recently, neuroscience. For the past fourteen years she has been teaching a course on Reading Lacan and Literature at Columbia. She also taught the upper level 19th and 20th century Humanities courses at Columbia College for several decades. Some of the other courses she has developed and taught are: On Happiness; Global Literature in English; Mimesis and Interpretation: The Figure of Christ in Literature, Philosophy, Psychology, the Fine Arts, Music, & Film, for which she received First Prize in the Woodrow Wilson National Humanities Series Proposal Competition in1972; The Human Body in literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, religion, dance, and the fine arts; Body and Language; The City in Literature; The Political Imagination; Modernism; Post-Modern Literature; Postmodern Texts and Theory; Myths and Symbols of Modernity: From Goethe to Jung; Reading Freud and Literature.

In the Fall of  2016, she will be teaching The Junior Colloquium on the Renaissance and a new senior seminar: The Field of the Emotions in Romantic Literature and the Arts, Psychoanalysis, Affective Neuroscience, and Philosophy.

Academic Focus: 

Nineteenth-century romantic literature and novels
Twentieth-century global English literature
Psychoanalytic (Lacanian) literary theory

Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

“The Fields of Pleasure in Kant’s Analytic of the Beautiful and Laclos’ Liaisons dangereuses,” at the   34th International Conference  on Psychology and the Arts,  Pontifica Facolta Teologica di Scilia, Palermo, Sicily, June 28-July, 2017.

“The ‘Black Sounds’ of Ene Mihkelson’s Katkuhaud (Plague Grave) and W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz" Part I, Interlitteraria 2016, 21/2:347-364.

“The ‘Black Sounds’ of Ene Mihkelson’s Katkuhaud (Plague Grave) and W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz" Part II,Interlitteraria 2017 (forthcoming )


Co-Editor-in-Chief with Jacques-Alain Miller, "We Are All Mad Here," Culture and Clinic, Vol. I, Minnesota: The University of Minnesota Press, 2013

Kirg ja Kirjandus: Esseid Eesti ja Euroopa Kirjandusest ja Psühhoanalüüsist (Literature and Passion:  Essays on Estonian and European Literature and Psychoanalysis) (Tallinn, Estonia: Vikerkaar, SA Kultuurileht, 2011). The book was nominated as one of the best six books of 2012 in the general literary category by the Cultural Capital Foundation of Estonia.

(Co-editor) Lacan in the German Speaking World (SUNY Press, 2004)

(Co-editor) Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's Return to Freud (SUNY Press, 1996)

(Co-editor) Reading Seminar XI: Lacan's Four Fundamental Concepts (SUNY Press, 1995), which has been translated into Portuguese.

She - a Novel (Doubleday, 1984) for which she was selected an "Author of Significant Merit" at the 33rd Biennial AAUW Convention, June 9, 1985.

Literature and Negation (Columbia University Press, 1979; Paper Rept., 1988)

Georg Trakl (Columbia University Press, 1974)

Recent & Forthcoming Articles

“Does the discourse of Science leave no place for man?” Keynote at the Psychoanalysis in Our Time research initiative, funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers at the University of Tallinn, Estonia on March 13-15, 2015. Forthcoming.

 "Aristotle and Lacan: What did Lacan do with his philosophy?" at the XIV ISSEI (Images of Europe: Past, Present, & Future) Porto Conference at the Catholic University of Portugal, August 4-8th, 2014, Porto, Portugal. Forthcoming.

"Delusional Bodies" in Freud, Lacan, Goethe's Werther, & Hofmannsthal’s "The Letter of Lord Chandos" at the XII International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, CEU San Pablo University, Madrid, Spain, June 11-13, 2014. Forthcoming.

"Science, Capitalism, and Impossible Desire in Lacan's Seminar VI: Desire and its Interpretation and in The Triumph of Religion,” at the XII the Congress of the New Lacanian School (NLS): "What Cannot Be Said," May 17-19th, 2014
Ghent Belgium. Forthcoming.

“Women and the Impossible: The Discourse of Love and the Four Discourses” at The Miami Symposium:  “What Lacan Knew About Women,” on the Panel Presentation of the releaseCulture/ Clinic, Miami Beach, Florida, May 31- June 2, 2013.  Forthcoming.

“Happiness and Madness,” Culture and Clinic, vol. 1 (2013)                                              

 “Camus’s The Stranger and Miller’s Ordinary Psychosis in Literature in Contexts ed.  Henry Alvin,  (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013)

"Mälu ja Puhastumine: Ene Mihkelsoni Katkuhaud ja W. G. Sebaldi Austerlitz," Vikerkaar, 12/2012, pp. 45-75.  Forthcoming in English: “Memory and Purgation in Ene Mihkelson’s Plague Grave and W. G.  Sebald’s Austerlitz.”

“Freud and Lacan on the Impact of Art: Jouissance and Catharsis,” Sixth International Conference on the Arts in Society, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Berlin, Germany, May 9, 2011.

“Hamlet and Feminine Jouissance” in Eds. Douglas A. Brooks & Shirley Sharon-Zisser,Lacanian Interpretations of Shakespeare (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010)

“Ordinary Happiness in Lispector’s Stream of Life or Beyond the object a, Psychoanalytic Notebooks, 19/ 2009

French translation by Marie Brémond & Yves Vanderveken, “Le bonheur ordinaire dans Stream of Life de Lispector ou au-delà de l’objet a,” Quarto: Revue de psychanalyse publiée a Bruxelles 94-95 (Janvier, 2009).

“Inhibition, Heautoscopy, Movement in the Freudian and Lacanian Body.” The Symptom 10 / –Spring 2009 [reprint]

“Tolstoy and Lacan: Phallic Jouissance and the passage à l’acte in Anna Karenina,” Lacanian Compass (13, 2008).

"A Psychoanalytic Reading of Socrates: Lacan on Plato's Symposium," ed. Ann Ward, Socrates Reason or Unreason as the Foundation of European Identity(Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007)

“Estonia's Time and Monumental Time” and “Estonia and Pain: Jaan Kross's The Czar's Madman” in Baltic Postcolonialism  (Amsterdam-New York: Rodoiphe, 2006). “Estonia's Time and Monumental Time” received the Vilis Vitols Prize as the best 1997 essay in The Journal of Baltic Studies

“Tammsaare and Love,” Interlitteraia (Tartu University Press, 10/2005)

Introduction and Notes for Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004)


402 Barnard Hall

Office Hours: 

Spring 2018


Ph.D., Harvard University
B.A., Vassar College