Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Cultural Studies, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities


Cultural Studies with Media Studies

Second Concentration

Cultural Studies with Museum Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Joshua Goode

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jennifer Friedlander

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mark Andrejevic

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Seth I Alt


Critical Theory, Cultural Studies, Digital technology, Media Studies, Museum Studies, Psychoanalysis

Subject Categories

Communication | Museum Studies | Philosophy


This dissertation provides a sustained theoretical articulation of core Lacanian psychoanalytic concepts situated within the standing difficulties in the practice and theory of museums. Drawing upon research gathered from site visits, informational interviews, textual analysis, and an extensive engagement with the seminars of Jacques Lacan, I enumerate here a first attempt at what a Lacanian theoretical formation can contribute to museum studies scholarship. Through this research this dissertation shows psychoanalysis to be especially useful for museum studies owing to how the troubles immediately encountered in the everyday material practices of museological work are structurally analogous to the impossibilities experienced on the couch. This work is, additionally, performed with an eye sensitive to the ways in which the use of digital technology within museological spaces is increasingly imagined as the best means for solving, avoiding, or otherwise filling-in the lack, separation, or non-relation that exists between visitors and museums. Through the parallel analyses of a collage of examples curated from new media (virtual reality, 3d printing, videogames, augmented reality applications, and online streaming services) and the interrogation of existing theories within museum studies scholarship (such as participatory and Foucaultian theory) this research pursues a direct confrontation with how the extant theory of the museum cannot speak to what are the increasingly heightened contradictions emergent in the discourses determining museums.Rather than interpret obstacles in museological work as impediments to the successful transmission of knowledge between visitors and museums, I seek to show instead how these barriers are, according to a psychoanalytically informed museum studies, both the bedrock and the object-cause of all museological work. The ultimate goal of this dissertation is to provoke a desire for psychoanalytic theory among those working in museums and a desire for museum studies scholarship among those working in psychoanalysis and media studies.