Professor and Director of Film and Television Studies

Todd is committed to the idea that theoretical exploration of questions about existence, the psyche, and society can contribute in tangible ways to the creative process. His classes often focus on major theoretical figures like Hegel, Marx, or Freud and delve into how their ideas manifest themselves in the most important films, television series, and other media texts. He has written books on comedy, capitalism, and various filmmakers, such Only a Joke Can Save Us: A Theory of Comedy, Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets, and The Impossible David Lynch. His work on psychoanalytic film theory has provided a new way of thinking about the relationship between the spectator and the filmic image as founded on desire rather than identification. The unifying thread of all these projects is the belief that theory has the ability to shed fresh light on what seems firmly established and that it can enrich both our lives and our creative endeavors. This is reflected in classes such as “Noir Marx,” “Existentialism and the Teen Film,” “The Psychoanalytic François Truffaut,” and “Atemporal Cinema.”


Selected Publications and Presentations:

Universality and Identity Politics
Columbia University Press, July 2020
cover of Emancipation After Hegel by Todd McGowanEmancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory RevolutionColumbia University Press, 2019
Only a Joke Can Save Us: A Theory of Comedy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2017.
Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
Psychoanalytic Film Theory and The Rules of the Game. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015.
Spike Lee. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2014.
Enjoying What We Don't Have: The Political Project of Psychoanalysis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013.
Rupture: On the Emergence of the Political. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2012 (with Paul Eisenstein).
The Fictional Christopher Nolan. Austin: University of Texas Press. 2012. Translated into Japanese.

Out of Time: The Ethics of Atemporal Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

The Impossible David Lynch. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
The Real Gaze: Film Theory After Lacan. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007. Translated into Turkish, Polish, and Persian.
The End of Dissatisfaction?: Jacques Lacan and the Emerging Society of Enjoyment. Albany: State University of New York, 2004.
Lacan and Contemporary Film. Co-editor. New York: The Other Press, 2004.
The Feminine NO Psychoanalysis and the New Canon book coverThe Feminine No
State University of New York Press, November 2000


Associations and Affiliations

American Imago, editorial board member
Badiou Seminar Translation Project, advisory board member
Ecranosphere, editorial board member
International Journal of Žižek Studies, editorial board member
Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, editorial board member
Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies, Brill Press, editorial board member
World Picture, board member

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Hegel, psychoanalysis, and existentialism, and the intersection of these lines of thought with the cinema.


  • Ph.D. Ohio State University, 1996


Office Location:

431 Old Mill

Courses Taught

  • Seminar in Film and Television: Noir Marx
  • Seminar: Hegel's Phenomenology
  • Seminar: Buckham Honors Seminar in Slavoj Zizek
  • Seminar: Literary and Cultural Theory
  • Seminar: Ethics and Film
  • Seminar: Existentialism and French Cinema
  • Seminar: Contemporary Cinema
  • Seminar: Godard and Badiou
  • Seminar: Major Author; The Films of Alfred Hitchcock
  • Seminar: Major Author; Shakespeare, Film, and Philosophy
  • Film and Television Genre and Auteur: The Political Film
  • Film and Television Genre and Auteur: Shakespeare and Film
  • Film and Television Genre and Auteur: Truffaut and Psychoanalysis
  • Film and Television Genre and Auteur: Teen Film
  • Film and Television Genre and Auteur: Science Fiction Cinema
  • Modern American Novel: Hemingway and Faulkner
  • Modern American Novel: The Paranoid Novel
  • Global Studies in Film and Television
  • Topics in Critical Theory: Hegel's Aesthetics
  • Topics in Critical Theory:Psychoanalytical and Queer Theory
  • Master's Thesis Research
  • Special Readings and Research
  • Internship
  • Origins of Cinema: 1895-1930
  • Classical Cinema 1930-1960
  • Contemporary Cinema 1960-2000
  • Survery of Literary Theory and Criticism
  • Film and Television Theory
  • Advanced Film/TV Theory: Agamben and the Disaster Film