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Theories of filmic reality

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.


Modern European cinema and love examines the work of nine European directors working from the 1950s onwards whose films contain stories about and reflections on romantic love and marriage. The directors are: Ingmar Bergman, Alain Resnais, Michelangelo Antonioni, Agnès Varda, François Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer. There is also an opening chapter on Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game. The book is informed by theories on love and marriage proposed by American philosopher Stanley Cavell. Two of Cavell’s main concepts, acknowledgment and remarriage, play key roles in the book. Cavell envisions, especially in his writings on cinema, a notion of marriage that is based on love and mutual equality between the members of a romantic couple. The argument of Modern European cinema and love is that some of the key filmmakers of European cinema after 1950 make themes of acknowledgment and remarriage central to their concerns. The book also engages in extended discussions of Leo Bersani’s writings on Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and others in terms of what Bersani calls connectedness. While the book is ultimately critical of Bersani’s theories, his work nevertheless allows the full scope of the material in Modern European cinema and love to achieve its aims.

Joshua Foa Dienstag in dialogue
Series: Critical Powers

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.

A reply from Saturday Night to Mr. Dienstag
Tracy B. Strong

“Rousseau: Music, Language and Politics,” in Keith Chapin and Andrew Clark, eds . , Speaking of Music (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), pp. 86–100. 5 Stanley Cavell, “The Good of Film,” Cavell on Film , edited by William Rothman (Albany, NY: State

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Clare Woodford

happiness that is the promise of an emancipated perfectionist democracy. 1 Stanley Cavell, Cavell on Film, edited by W. Rothman (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005) p. 11. 2 Jacques Rancière, “The

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
A cinematic response to pessimism
Davide Panagia

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 dangerous contention. 1 Stanley Cavell, Must We Mean

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
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Acknowledgment and connectedness
Richard Rushton

's claims here may have been inspired by the work of fellow French philosopher Luce Irigaray. Across a range of works Irigaray has called for a revolution in relations between men and women, a revolution which she argues must occur ‘first and foremost in the couple’ (Irigaray 1996 , 26). I return to Irigaray's conceptions at some points in this book. I will need to add here, and it will become obvious soon enough, that American philosopher Stanley Cavell can also be added to the list of significant philosophical influences on this book. Cavell proposes a philosophy of

in Modern European cinema and love
Open Access (free)
Thomas Dumm

Dear Joshua, There is little I can offer here in response to your letter to Stanley Cavell 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

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Matt Prout

problem. However, this is complicated by the fact that he also makes this problem a central thematic concern of his story; as I will show, Neal's problems can be understood with reference to the problem of other minds, and specifically with the treatment of this problem that emerges from the later philosophy of Wittgenstein. As noted above, Wittgenstein's aim was to dissolve the problem of other minds by exposing it as a pseudo-problem; however, more relevant to ‘Good Old Neon’, I argue, is the view of one of Wittgenstein's foremost interpreters, Stanley Cavell, who

in Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature
Marilynne Robinson and Stanley Cavell
Paul Jenner

In what follows I trace productive affinities between arguments and ideas in Marilynne Robinson's essays and novels and questions of scepticism and the ordinary explored in Stanley Cavell's philosophical improvisations. At first glance, sufficient broad similarities emerge to encourage reading Cavell alongside Robinson: their shared preoccupations with transcendentalism and with Shakespeare, for instance, or their exceptionalist sounding claims about American culture as neglectful of its intellectual and cultural achievements. It might be felt

in Marilynne Robinson