In formulating a notion of filmic reality, this book offers a novel way of understanding our relationship with cinema. It argues that cinema need not be understood in terms of its capacities to refer to, reproduce or represent reality, but should be understood in terms of the kinds of realities it has the ability to create. The book investigates filmic reality by way of six key film theorists: André Bazin, Christian Metz, Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze, Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Rancière. In doing so, it provides comprehensive introductions to each of these thinkers, while also debunking many myths and misconceptions about them. Along the way, a notion of filmic reality is formed that radically reconfigures our understanding of cinema.
This book engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In much of Cavell's writing on film he seeks to show us that the protagonists of the films he terms "remarriage comedies" live a form of perfectionism that he upholds as desirable for contemporary democratic society: moral perfectionism. Films are often viewed on television, and television shows can have "filmlike" qualities. The book addresses the nature of viewing cinematic film as a mode of experience, arguing against Cavell that it is akin to dreaming rather than lived consciousness and, crucially, cannot be shared. It mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre. The book articulates the implications of philosophical pessimism for addressing contemporary culture in its relationship to political life. It clarifies how The Americans resembles the remarriage films and can illuminate the issues they raise. The tragedy of remarriage, would be a better instructor of a democratic community, if such a community were prepared to listen. The book suggests that dreaming, both with and without films, is not merely a pleasurable distraction but a valuable pastime for democratic citizens. Finally, it concludes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.
“Rousseau: Music, Language and Politics,” in Keith
Chapin and Andrew Clark, eds . , Speaking of Music
(New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), pp.
StanleyCavell, “The Good of
Film,” Cavell on Film , edited by William Rothman
(Albany, NY: State
automatism, or a human
something “unlike anything else we know.” 38
The godlike feature of cinema, and its aesthetic and
political value, is its capacity to give us something unlike
anything else we know . And that , to be sure, is a
StanleyCavell, Must We Mean
happiness that is the promise of an
emancipated perfectionist democracy.
StanleyCavell, Cavell on Film, edited by
W. Rothman (Albany, NY: State University of New York
Press, 2005) p. 11.
Jacques Rancière, “The
There is little I can offer here in response to your
letter to StanleyCavell on film and what you are calling the
tragedy of remarriage. (Since I am recently remarried, and find our
marriage meet and happy, I have to say that I am not inclined to
sympathize with your perspective on The Philadelphia Story .)
This is not to say that I
been endorsed by many but celebrated by one
distinguished voice in particular, especially with reference to
film, that of StanleyCavell. It is therefore necessary, once again,
to rehearse the opposing view, not out of any dislike for that
medium, but out of a greater concern for its corrosive effects on
our democracy. Not having found any way to improve on
Rousseau’s style of
sociological and political
languages for communicating about Palestine–Israel within specific contexts (Lambek
2010; Wittgenstein 1967). Then, by engaging with philosopher StanleyCavell’s reflections on democratic life, I consider how these issues around the languages and truths
of Palestine–Israel crystallise on campus in relation to the question of ‘free speech’.
Cavell’s work, I suggest, opens up the question of voice in relation to these campus conflicts: what does it mean for students engaged with this conflict to have a voice? And
how can democratic relationships
evaluation are sometimes
less a priori, deterministic, and theoretical, than they appear. Bazin was
an accomplished critic observing many films that he thought had substantial
qualities; he then constructed a quasi-theoretical position based on the
evidence. It is arguable that this way of proceeding is also true of later
medium-based theories of evaluation: for example, those presented by
V.F. Perkins in Film as Film (1972) and by StanleyCavell in The World
Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film (1979). These books begin by
presenting a theory of film and then work
Conversation, friendship and democratic possibilities
practices of speaking and listening entailed risk-taking, acknowledgement of the unknown, cultivating trust and care, reflexivity, speaking from
experience, dialogism and the capacity for open-ended relationships. Exploring
this ethnographic material in relation to Foucault’s (2001) account of the ethics
of ‘parrhesiastic’ speech and StanleyCavell’s (1990) insights into the intersubjective, pedagogic dimensions of democratic relationships, I show how these students
taught me ways of engaging with Palestine–Israel politics as an ethical subject.
Towards the end of the