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Lecturer ties ‘Lost’ to famous theorists

Kayla Byler / Lantern photographer

Fans of the television show “Lost” are finally getting some answers to some of the show’s mysteries.

Professor Giancarlo Lombardi, from the College of Staten Island, delivered his lecture, titled “‘Lost’ in Theory: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About ‘Lost’ But Were Too Afraid to Ask Derrida, Foucault, and Lacan,” to about 30 students in the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Film/Video Theater on Monday.

Lombardi used the philosophic works of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan to flesh out some of the symbolism buried within the plot of “Lost.”

“I hope you were not lost,” Lombardi said jokingly to an audience member.

The ABC show, “Lost,” aired from 2004 to 2010. It followed the lives of 48 plane crash survivors who are stranded on a mysterious island in the South Pacific, according to ABC’s website for the program.

“‘Lost’ can read on several different levels,” Lombardi said. “It’s a constant game of Chinese boxes where you’re constantly opening something.”

Instead of narrowing his lecture down to the series finale, Lombardi used examples from most of the six seasons.

He compared Foucault’s idea of panopticism to the lighthouse that was featured in the season five finale of the show.

A panopticon is a tower placed in the center of a prison yard that allows prison guards to monitor the surrounding area, without the prisoners knowing when they’re being watched. Lombardi said the lighthouse represents the idea of a guardian who is secretly watching over the stranded survivors.

Lombardi also showed how Derrida’s ideas on “pharmakon” related to an episode in the sixth season when Sayid Jarrah comes back to life after temporarily dying from a gunshot wound.

He said the Greek word “pharmakon” can be divided into two terms, one meaning remedy and the other poison. In this episode, Jarrah was given a pill when he came back to life, which turned out to be poison. However, this pill allowed him to defeat the villain of the series and restore favor with some castaways.

Lombardi said this medicine represented the split meaning of “pharmakon” because the pill both helped and hurt Jarrah.

He also related Lacan’s “Name of the Father” concept to one of the few commonalities of the characters on the island.

Lacan’s concept says humans need to have a powerful, symbolic father figure in a community to influence the creation of rules and facilitate order.

“‘Lost’ portrays a universe that is heavily male centered,” Lombardi said.

He said that many of the characters on “Lost” are either fatherless or dealing with the death of their fathers. For this reason, Lombardi said the protective character, Jacob, assumes the symbolic paternal role for the island society.

Lombardi discussed the effects that “Lost” has had on the academic world and the average television viewer.

“There’s got to be 10 books on ‘Lost’,” Lombardi said. “It’s got very philosophical undertones.”

Dana Renga, an assistant professor in the French and Italian Department at Ohio State, organized this lecture.

“I watched every single show from beginning to end,” said Renga.

She said Lombardi’s lecture demonstrates the merging of midbrow and highbrow culture.

Evonne Segall, a marketing coordinator for Express, said she skipped work to come hear Lombardi speak about her favorite television show. She said “Lost” has opened up another venue for education in her life.

“There were alot of things that you can read into and educate yourself,” Segall said. “It’s a neat opportunity.”

Lombardi has received both his master’s and doctoral degrees from Cornell University, and he is currently head of the Italian program at CSI: CUNY.

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