Phenomenology as a modern philosophical discourse came into being during the cinema’s formative years at the turn of the twentieth century. Husserl’s Logical Investigations did not address film directly, but phenomenology’s investigations of the nature of consciousness and its relation to objects, especially those whose knowledge comes to consciousness through sight, overlaps and intersects with so much that the new medium of the cinema was itself struggling to define aesthetically for itself. The philosophers of the 20th century who worked under the rubric of phenomenology—Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, Lyotard, Derrida, Deleuze, to name just a few—all acknowledged that in a post-Cartesian world of uncertainties for consciousness, the relation to the world offered by vision and visual aesthetics recuperated something of the object after a modernist abandonment. Later critics have seen in film the very instantiation of a phenomenological experience in the world. In this, film offers itself not as something to be theorized and analyzed, but perhaps as theory itself.
This spring, we’ll investigate the relation between phenomenology and film, with a special emphasis on the “and” of the equation—meaning, how can we talk about film and philosophy together? How is film constitutive of the very theoretical tools that would be used to analyze it? Can we think about film and philosophy without instrumentalizing one in order to understand the other? How do we put film and phenomenology together in discussion, dialogue, analysis?
Tentative Schedule / Course Plan
There will be four colloquia in the spring on this topic, each based on a brief selection of readings emanating from these questions. The colloquia will convene roughly on the first or second Friday of the month from 2:00-4:00 p.m.
February 8: Prof. Eric Zakim will discuss questions about the very (im)possibility of film (and) theory
March 15: Prof. Caroline Eades will present ideas on the relation of the French New Wave to phenomenological thinking
April 12: Prof. Oliver Gayken will revisit the question of phenomenology and film in the context of Vivian Sobchack’s work
May 3: Prof. Luka Arsenjuk will discuss phenomenology in relation to theoretical orientations that have taken a decisively anti-phenomenological approach (psychoanalysis & Marxism, for instance)
Students will be expected to come to class having read the readings assigned by the professors and viewed the films assigned for the course. In some cases the assigned films will be screened the week before as part of the International Film Series. Students who would like to register for this class may sign up for either SLLC698D and CMLT788D. However, as usual, grad students and faculty / lecturers / staff are welcome to attend any or all of the sessions. Readings will be posted on the course's ELMS page for those who are registered.