Kiarina Kordela

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Kiarina Kordela
Portrait of Kiarina Kordela.jpg
Born (1963-07-13) July 13, 1963 (age 54)
Patras, Greece
Other names Aglaia Kiarina Kordela
A. Kiarina Kordela
Alma mater University of Athens
University of Pittsburgh
Cornell University
Notable work $urplus
Being, Time, Bios
Era 20th- / 21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy, Critical Theory
Main interests
Psychoanalysis, political philosophy, literary theory, film theory
Notable ideas
Part of a series of articles on
Freud's couch, London, 2004 (2).jpeg

Aglaia Kiarina Kordela (Greek: Αγλαΐα Κιαρίνα Κορδέλα; born July 13, 1963) is a Greek-American philosopher and critical theorist. She is a professor of German Studies and founding director of the Critical Theory Program at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. She is also Honorary Adjunct Professor at the Writing and Society Research Center, University of Western Sydney, Australia. She writes and teaches on a wide range of topics, notably psychoanalysis, political, literary and film theory, and biopolitics.

Her primary approach and focus is on the relation between economic structures and metaphysics in secular capitalist modernity.[1] Kordela is known for her reinterpretation of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Foucauldian biopolitics using the work of Spinoza. Her philosophical inquiries have ramifications for a variety of contemporary social issues and academic fields of study, including Postcolonial Studies, Critical Race Theory, Critical Terrorism Studies, Comparative Literature, and Film Studies.


Early life[edit]

Kordela was born in Patras, Greece to a middle- to lower-class family of Greek and Italian descent. She moved out of her family's home at the age of 18 (far earlier than is traditional Greek custom), studied filmmaking and worked as a stewardess and bartender. At age 23, she began undergraduate studies in the German Department at the Philosophy School of Athens at the University of Athens. Having fulfilled her degree requirements a year earlier than stipulated, she received a DAAD scholarship for a year of studies at Heidelberg University, Germany. A similar scenario occurred during her graduate studies: "I eventually went to Cornell where I did my PhD. I had six years of financial support at Cornell, but I finished in four years."[2]


Kordela received her B.A. from University of Athens, Greece and her M.A. from University of Pittsburgh. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1998. Kordela has been teaching at Macalester since 1998.

Professor Kordela teaches regularly courses in English toward both the German major/minor and the Critical Theory concentration, such as the core Critical Theory seminars "Dead White Men," and a series of different topics seminars, such as "Metaphysics in Secular Thought," "German-French Dialogues in Critical Theory," Value" (a course on aesthetic theory, in its relation to economic and ethical values), ” "Modernity and the Unconscious," "Modernism-Postmodernism," "A Kafkaesque Century," “Philosophy, Literature, Film,” as well as courses on film theory.

Overview of works[edit]

$urplus (2007)[edit]

In 2007, Kordela published $urplus: Spinoza, Lacan, wherein she maintains that the work of Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan is the correct continuation of thought that runs through Spinoza and Marx.[3] She argues that this line of thought entails a radical reconceptualization of Being or appearance,[4] and further, that this new ontology works "not simply to overturn the Platonic hierarchy but collapses it as obsolete."[5] Kordela challenges certain interpretations of Spinoza (namely, those of Jonathan Israel, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Antonio Negri, and Michael Hardt). Although Kordela criticizes these readings of Spinoza, she also argues that popular criticisms of neo-spinozism (e.g. those of Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou) make the same mistake as those they criticize — both sides ignore the inherent contradictions of Spinoza's work. One of those contradictions, which is central to Kordela analysis of Spinoza and her allegiance to his monism, is his statement that "truth is the standard both of itself and the false."[6] Kordela argues that this ternary concept of truth — truth, itself and the false — reveals Spinoza's break with the binaries of both Platonism and anti-Platonism. Kordela shows that this ternary structure corresponds to Lacan's argument that truth has the structure of a fiction.[7] Kordela traces the emergence of “enjoyment” and “the gaze” out of Spinoza’s theories of God, truth, and causality, Kant’s critique of pure reason, and, drawing on Kojin Karatani, Marx’s pathbreaking application of set theory to economy. The main achievement of $urplus is to move away from the logical impasse of Kant's critique of reason to Lacan's and Marx's theories of surplus by way of set theory.[8]

Being, Time, Bios (2013)[edit]

Although both share a focus on human life as it is inscribed by power, Foucauldian biopolitics and Lacanian psychoanalysis have remained isolated from and even opposed to one another. In Being, Time, Bios, A. Kiarina Kordela aims to overcome this divide, formulating a historical ontology that draws from Spinoza, Marx, Heidegger, and Sartre to theorize the changed character of being and time under secular capitalism. With insights from film theory, postcolonial studies, and race theory, Kordela s wide-ranging analysis suggests a radically new understanding of contemporary capitalism one in which uncertainty, sacrifice, immortality, and the gaze are central.


To date, Kordela has authored two monographs, co-edited two others, and many articles in academic journals and anthological collections. She has also translated a number of academic texts into Modern Greek.


  • 2013, Being, Time, Bios: Capitalism and Ontology, Albany: SUNY Press (Ed. Charles Shepherdson)
  • 2011, Freedom and Confinement in Modernity: Kafka’s Cages, New York: Palgrave-Macmillan (with Dimitris Vardoulakis)
  • 2007, $urplus: Spinoza, Lacan, Albany: SUNY Press (Ed. Charles Shepherdson)

Forthcoming works[edit]

The following books have been announced, but not yet published.[9]

  • Ontosemiotics: Words, Things, Bios, and (Im)Mortality


in English[edit]

Texts translated[edit]

From English to Greek[edit]

  • 1992, “The Foundings of the Arts. Private Support — Freedom of Expression — Government Responsibility.” Roger Ackling, Arti 3:4 (Winter 1992): pp. 29–38.
  • 1992, “Ideas for a Museum of Modern Art: Following the Example of the Dublin Institute of Modern Art (IMA).” Roger A. Wollen, Arti 3:2 (Summer 1992): pp. 32–40.
  • 1992, “Miltos Manetas and the Greek Modern Art” Paolo Bicco, Arti 3:1 (Spring 1992): pp. 14–21.

From German to Greek[edit]

  • 1992, “Die Konstruktion der Erfahrungswelt: Karnap—Husserl.” Verena Meyer, Deucalion 11:1 (October 1992): pp. 51–68.
  • 1992, “Figura.” Erich Auerbach, Logou Harin 2:2 (January 1992): pp 24–39.
  • 1992, “In the Realm of Free Spirit: Pursuing a Higher Common Element.” Werner Haftmann, Arti 3:4 (Winter 1992): pp. 9–15.
  • 1992, “Vlassis Kaniaris und die Kunst der Gastarbeiter.” Werner Haftmann, Arti 3:1 (Spring 1992): pp. 31–39.
  • 1991, “Alter Wein in neuen Schläuchen: Bemerkungen zum New-Historicism.” Hans-Robert Jauß, Logou Harin 2:1 (September 1991): pp. 12–20.


  1. ^ "A. Kiarina Kordela Faculty Page". Macalester College, Critical Theory. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Interview with Kiarina Kordela" (PDF). Specimen Magazine. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Kordela, A. Kiarina. 2007. $urplus. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 2. ISBN 0791470199
  4. ^ Kunkle, Sheila. "Review: $urplus: Spinoza, Lacan." Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture and Society 22.1 (2010): pp. 157.
  5. ^ Kordela, A. Kiarina. 2007. $urplus. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 46.
  6. ^ Spinoza, Baruch (Benedict de). 1992. Ethics. Transl. Samuel Shirley. Ed. Seymoir Feldman. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Print. Part II, Prop. 43, Scholium 1. pp. 92.
  7. ^ Lacan, Jacques. 2002. Écrits: A Selection. Transl. Bruce Fink. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Print. pp. 684.
  8. ^ Kunkle, Sheila. "Review: $urplus: Spinoza, Lacan." Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture and Society 22.1 (2010): pp. 158
  9. ^ "Publications by Kiarina Kordela". Kiarina Kordela's personal website. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 

External links[edit]