Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 6, No. 1, 1992
Radio - Sound
Edited by Niall Lucy

(How) does film theory work?

Toby Miller


Saturday 25 April 1992
Request Radio Announcer: What are you doing tonight?
Caller: I'm reading Habermas.
Announcer: Haber who?
Caller: Habermas. He wrote The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. It's really boring.
Announcer: Why do you have to have a theory to be modern?


I own a book called Going to the Cinema, by Andrew Buchanan. It is one of a British series from the immediate post-War era that instructs its readers on how to enjoy culture. It tells us that the cinema 'has to cater for millions, and to do so, must make no demands on the public.' Hence the subject heading, 'Films are easy to understand'. This book will offer 'increased powers of perception' guaranteed to maximise the enjoyment of its readers and make them more discerning in their choice of films (13). To help in this, the volume concludes with a list entitled 'Films that everyone should see' (155-57).

Reinforce the tone of moral elevation, and that logic clearly informs film theory. Buchanan pre-empts both the rent-seeking donnee of Christian Metz ('A film is difficult to explain because it is easy to understand' (69)) and the search of Andrew Sarris for 'dedicated moviegoers in the reading public' capable of dealing with the 'adventurous speculations' of his pantheon (17). The task of forming constituencies of public subjectivity and establishing systems of reasoning about cinema described above form the basis for the work of film theory. But there are diachronic and geo-political differences between these constituencies. The public subjectivity envisaged by North American academic film theory is quite different from that envisaged by French cinephilic film theory. I think I prefer the publishing outcomes of the latter. I am seeking here to tie that preference in to some broader comments about academic and pedagogic film culture.

This article considers these differences inside a review of two quite strikingly informative special numbers of Very Important journals: PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America on "Cinema " (106, no.3 of 1991), edited by Teresa de Lauretis, and CinemAction on "histoire des theories du cinema" (no.60 of 1991), edited by Joel Magny and Guy Hennebelle. In so doing, I am comparing like and unalike, in that one periodical is offering a partial step outside its norm, albeit continuing to rely on typically narrow specialist essays, and the other is presenting a comprehensive syncretic survey of its chosen field. The diversity of these approaches, and the relative weightings in professionalism and enthusiasm which animate the market position of the two documents, can tell us something. The information they offer is paradoxical. The professional ideology of acceptability within the narrowest of academicist norms which informs PMLA is masked by the appeal to a non-professional, public activist subjectivity on the part of most of its cinema contributors. By contrast, the warrant provided to proclaim the avowedly cinephilic CinemAction is finally one of a responsible completeness to a series of pedagogically formulated readerships. A note here on some of the differences. In a pyrotechnic demonstration of/against/inside banality in cultural studies, Meaghan Morris points out that the public is a very distant constituency in some instances where it is routinely invoked. She refers to the theoretical abstraction into an 'ideal knowing subject of cultural studies'. This abstract subject is conceived in theory and trained into action in ethnography, the upshot being 'a citing of popular voices ... an act of translation and commentary, and then a play of identification between the knowing subject of cultural studies, and a collective subject, "the people"' (16 going on 17). Now whilst this subjectivity is captured through ethnography in the Morris exemplar, it could be translated a few degrees and instead brought to heel by theory again, with the imagined subject-in-formation-in-the-text as the intellectual warrant and socially disadvantaged groups as the political warrant. I'll even get psychoanalytic about this, after Slavoj Zizek. Zizek refers to the gap which separates how we see ourselves and how we are seen by those whom we wish to impress. The search for approval from a superegoistic gaze is evident in Hegel's couplet 'for-the-other'/'for-itself', in which 'the hysterical neurotic is experiencing himself as somebody who is enacting a role for the other (106). Zizek instances the Dickensian gaze of admiration and concern at the poor and the Stalinist valorisation of the worker (107). It is in these apparent appeals that most of the PMLA pieces find their constituency. And yet the real superegoistic gaze, upon them, is that of the academic invigilator, not any approval by the public constituency invoked. The type of academic invigilation is here to be understood as the specialist research essay-of-exegesis. By contrast, there is a similarly romantic search for the subject wandering around CinemAction. But this one is brought into line by the desired eye of the cinephile, so closely tied to film that theory must be about that topic if it is to be read.

So this is essentially an article about textual-pedagogic technologies. It is concerned to distinguish between publishing contexts for critical practice in different places and at different times. I hope to relate these textual technologies to accounts of public subjectivity that distinguish the modern from the postmodern. Throughout, my interest will be in mechanisms of writing, dispatch and receipt. Before considering the two publications, I want to speculate about the object under which I am seeking to encompass them: this thing called film theory and its present condition. So I shall begin with some syncretic accounts of that condition, to give a backdrop to what will follow. These accounts are principally about English-language institutional training in screen production and criticism.

Film director Alan Parker has stated that 'Film needs theory like it needs a scratch on the negative' (Quoted in Lapsley and Westlake vi). A similar logic animates the official documentation of the National Film and Television School in Britain: 'On the spectrum which has academic education at one extreme and traditional 'on the job' training at the other, we are much closer to the latter' (Quoted in Doyle 20). This is the line of reasoning that says: a) film-makers work with their imagination and practical knowledge; b) film-goers work with common sense; and c) film theorists work to undo the special magic and evacuation of cinema, on the basis of their lack of these three qualities. By contrast, Lapsley and Westlake in their book on Film Theory maintain that 'theory is inescapable'. Here's why:

In watching a film the spectator is not merely a passive receptacle imbibing its meaning, but is engaged in a succession of interpretations which depend on a whole set of background beliefs.... On the basis of such beliefs - or theories, whether formalised or not - the spectator sees faces, telephones, desert landscapes rather than patches of colour; ascribes motives to characters; judges certain actions as good and others as bad; decides that this film is realistic and that one is not; distinguishes the happy from the unhappy ending; and so on. The apparently simple act of spectating thus involves theories of representation, of human nature, of morality, of the nature of reality, of the conditions for human happiness, etc. Similarly, for the filmmaker, however self-consciously intuitive the approach, there is inevitably a comparable set of theories underlying the production of film. (v)

The task of theoretical inquiry is to hold up these presuppositions of meaning, to render them amenable to inspection and thence, perhaps, to reform. This should not be seen, in my view, as a distortion of an otherwise unmovable object called "the magic of cinema", which lays claim to a pure ground of understanding. For even if we were to agree that such a system of interpretation existed in so static and straightforwardly knowable a, form, it would necessarily undergo so many shocks from the apparatus of screen exhibition that it could never be our sole co-ordinate of comprehension. As Ana Lopez asked at a 1985 symposium on film studies organised by the Society for Cinema Studies:

Is Gone With the Wind the same kind of theoretical object on the TV screen today as it was in Radio City Music Hall in 1939? Should we study this phenomenon through a feminist, formalist, semiotic, or hermeneutic methodology? (56-57)

An official from the professional association, the Directors Guild of America, also spoke at that symposium. He stressed that the best film education was founded in an 'interdisciplinary liberal arts approach' (Shephard 43), emphasising the following about media subjects claiming to offer a purely practical, professional certification:

I am aware of schools in which film is taught as a saleable craft in the tradition of some nursing schools, business schools, law schools, and art schools. I do not have any evidence that our industry is greatly impressed by the typical graduates of such film schools. (46)

In the January issue of Cinema Papers this year, Scott Murray has some divergent but apposite points to make on film culture and theory in the course of a "Rumination" on what it is to edit such a publication. Murray's dilemma emerges from the issue of how to behave editorially when the subject of an interview makes a statement which 'is potentially wrong or misleading', even when this is expressed as a matter of opinion rather than as a statement of fact. He gives two examples from the issue he was then compiling. Firstly, the director of Blue Steel and Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow, claims that no women have ever directed action thrillers or been at the centre of them as characters. This is manifestly untrue. Secondly, and more relevant to our concerns here, he has to deal with a statement by David Caesar, director of the acclaimed documentary Bodywork and then at work on his feature debut, Greenkeeping. Caesar comes out with the following about the new picture:

I'm sure semioticians won't be impressed at all. For a start, the characters speak English, live in Australia and don't want to leave. There must be something fundamentally wrong with them, I suppose. They're not depressed all the time, which is another reason the semioticians won't like the film. Semioticians deal with their own problems and blame the rest of the world.

Murray wonders what to do with this assault. Is it ironised? Is it fair? To whom does it refer? Will readers understand it? Asked to elaborate, Caesar had declined. So a worry note is written. But such a distaste for the theoretical can be more engaged, less abstract. David Cronenberg - of whom more later - is also concerned about criticism:

If you're heavily into semiotics, there's always the danger of becoming an image policeman or policewoman....Whenever I talk to ... semioticians, it becomes hopeless. For them, the film has no meaning. (Hickenlooper 6)

The Lopez and Shephard quotations suggest that pedagogic film theory should register its interests in the ethics of subjectivity and in the tools for contemplating those ethics, for engaging in rational debate over them. The Caesar and Cronenberg suggest that it needs to do so in a more film-loving way. How does that sit with the history of academic screen theory?

As if speaking in reply, both to me and to the Davids, I can make Dudley Andrew argue for the value of film theory in the following terms: as 'a verbal representation of the film complex' (3). For him, theory is useful because it injects productive and comprehensive methods into understanding cinema. The non-imagistic verbalism of much of this theory can be attributed to its origins in the partial reformation of university departments of literary studies and their desire to retain and develop student interest and political relevance to the everyday lives of both their students and themselves (4-6). It has been an anti-empirical influence, one that concentrates on metaphor rather than data (9). Andrew divides the aesthetics of film theory before the 1960s from the latter-day equivalent. He argues that, up to 1960, film theorists sought to provide a complete picture, to use every available source of inquiry and have an interlocking set of propositions about, and evaluations of, cinema which could be deployed on request. Now, there is no longer this type of specialised theorising. The contemporary moment lays no claim to an overall account of cinema. It positions readings as conditional and variable, using theory almost as an end in itself, rather than a tool in coming to a full awareness of the films under consideration (11-12). As Andrew puts it:

In the arena of modern film theory, meaning, significance, and value are never thought to be discovered, intuited, or otherwise attained naturally. Everything results from a mechanics of work: the work of ideology, the work of the psyche, the work of a certain language designed to bring psyche and society into coincidence, and the work of technology enabling that language to so operate. (15)

Another way of reading this would be as a distinctly postmodern turn away from the characteristically modern fantasy of constructing a self-legislating intellectual domain and towards a more intertextual, interdisciplinary approach. In the second part of the book, he points out the minimal influence of film theory on production. For whilst it is true that many renowned film-makers have studied the cinema at university or written theory about it (Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, Campion, Godard, Pasolini and Truffaut come to mind), theory is predominantly 'a labor on the activities of reading' (130). Reading can, of course, become writing and rewriting. After making your way through an inspired piece of critical writing on film, the moving text can become an entirely other object for you. Criticism makes its own, new object, which is consistently verified via a reference back to the apparently originating text under analysis, but which draws much of its inspiration from the type of theory informing its activities. But in the eyes of a Dudley Andrew, a relationship between cinema, philosophy and spectator is the animator.

Whilst Concepts in Film Theory is very much a history of ideas, Graeme Turner's Film as Social Practice is clearly situated within cultural studies. It aims to examine cinema both as a material text and a practice of spatial relations. Film theory is situated here as much inside prevailing histories of cinema exhibition and production as prevailing histories of ideas, especially the early search in screen studies for legitimacy, the clarion-cry for films to be seen as art (24-26). Turner traces the notion of film as recorder of reality - and hence as valuable tool - through to a status as a manufacturer of reality and on to that of a prism which is part of our apprehension of reality; that is part of that reality. Film becomes a marker of culture in a wider sense in his tracery of theory:

film is not even the final target of inquiry, but part of a wider argument about representation - the social process of making images, sounds, signs stand for something.... In effect, film theory becomes part of the wider field of disciplines and approaches called cultural studies.(38)

This influence is about the social, political side to cultural theory and its interest in how consciousness and systems of value are constructed and manage to function as a grout, either holding a society together or denying its fissures. This involves a rapid movement between material texts of cultural production (comics, newspapers, advertisements of all kinds, television, radio and so on) and notions of the social text, the ways in which we read the world, if you like. The moral panics about the impact of cinema continue (Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer has just been cut at the instruction of the state's guardians of screen sensibility in Australia and I have recently been called on by the ABC to defend the screening of Cape Fear against the charge that it is corrupting). This should hardly be surprising, as the whole impetus towards the study of film had its origins, as Lopez tells us, in the advent of 'a new form of communication which seemed to have the potential to effect widespread social changes' (57). These range from the capacity for propaganda utilised by totalitarian political regimes, through to the more private world which anticipates that films 'help individuals become better persons' (59). This serves to effect the reconciliation of the divided subject that the critical gaze discovers in modernity and its post-. I shall have more to say on this shortly. For the moment, my summary would be that Film as Social Practice is animated by the political connexions of cultural texts and the social order. It is about "film as instance of...", not "film as constitution of..." (I owe part of this formulation to Tom O'Regan).

Bring these two approaches together and you have the terrain covered by Janet Staiger. Hers is a specifically pedagogic concern. She wants to know about the principles of selection which have determined, and continue to determine, the methods by which films circulate as worthy of study, critique, discussion, emulation and so on. She is interested to know more about the decisions which go into the formulation of a film studies curriculum, whilst pointing out that film-makers also manufacture a canon, of texts that must be known. There is always a politics of exclusion and inclusion at work here, which Staiger contends should be made manifest (4). She demonstrates how the earliest attempts to have film classified as art can be connected not only to a philosophical position on aesthetics, but also to commercial gain and the formation of a profession of criticism (5). This is a point along the continuum that leads to the valorisation of particular texts because of their reference to social conduct outside the text, or what she calls 'models for appropriate or inappropriate behavior' (10). Here, aesthetics is a guide-book to ourselves, to what we are and what we should strive to become. The problem that such an approach necessarily encounters is its implicit assumed capacity to speak universally, to provide an authoritative account (either as cultural critic or film-maker) of what it is to be human (16). It could be better grounded in providing an education in practices of reasoning; but that would lose the call on the search for the subject.

It has been the fate of film to have emerged as a popular medium and then as an object of theoretical inquiry at the same moment (the twentieth century) as an explosion in protocols of decipherment. These protocols of decipherment - ways of understanding texts - have appeared as the human sciences (history, sociology, psychology, literature and so on). Such disciplines engage with the notion of the human subject, an entity that is both subjugated by them as knowledge and, simultaneously, manufactured by them. The fact that this article refers to films as texts is indicative of three things:

  • the power of exegesis - or textual analysis on the model of literary and biblical studies - as a system of teaching and research;

  • the notion of the transferability of practical criticism and the formal analysis of language onto the screen; and

  • the emphasis placed in film and television studies generally on the internal workings of texts and their readers, a granting of morphology and interiority which is routinely considered over and above their conditions and techniques of production, distribution and circulation.

  • I do not mean to argue by this that institutional history is absent from screen studies. It has its encyclopaedists. But I do wish to say that film theory is constructed very much around an axis of forming persons in relation to analysing texts. How?

    When we go to First Aid classes, we are told - or at least, we were told twenty years ago, when I last attended them - that there is a distinction between a sign and a symptom. A sign is something that we, external to the patient, can see. It is visible, touchable and clear. Conversely, the realm of the symptom requires the patient to tell us things (to enter a different kind of sign system, one in which the patient gives us an analysis of itself that goes past the visible). We then interpret these hidden elements and produce a diagnosis. This is precisely how the principal, dominant work of screen criticism operates. It is symptomatic; it takes a model and runs with it along the corridors of ether, either to demonstrate that the individual text is a reflection of a particular kind of social problem, disorder or reality, or to encourage us as readers of the critique to reform ourselves and our social practice in the light of the concerns discussed within this social theory. On this account, screen texts become adjuncts, or rather conduits, to social change via a change in consciousness. For a feminist film theorist, for instance, this is part of an attempt to undertake the work of 'revealing the cultural codes of patriarchy', to use a phrase from Virginia Wright Wexman (62). For those on the left, a 'hierarchy of discourses, with its concomitant relations of domination and subjection ... is at stake for film theory' (Lapsley and Westlake 219). For critics concerned to expose how racism operates in the media, film theory provides a way-in to excavating the 'mode of representation of otherness' (Bhabha 304). One could encompass all these lines of inquiry within the sentiments of David Shephard, the person from the Directors Guild of America whom I quoted earlier. For him, film studies should be seeking the status of 'institutions of training for responsible opinion makers' (46). That is also the remit of film studies in my eyes. But those makers of opinion should be overtly given what they are presently handed on a covert basis: tools of reasoning inculcated through the practice of film theorisation, with topics derived from the subject-matter of the film. (I am assuming that their status as popularly read technologies is some anchor to their social relevance.) Such tools should not, perhaps, be masked under the comforting guise of a source of representative demotics for some under-achieved public subjectivity.

    This guise appears to determine the trajectory of decipherment that much current criticism proposes to adopt. This trajectory is, if one wishes to use a clinical model, symptomatic. It seeks to reveal and make visible that which is concealed and invisible, in order that we learn something about the wider lessons available from unlocking the powerful forces that determine cultural and social practice, but which are customarily unavailable for inspection, critique and reform. This is to be achieved by an imbrication of textual and social analysis. The film is to be interrogated both as a discrete material document and also in the context of its production and circulation. This will both inform our apprehension of the audience it was designed to address and tell us something about how it may have been understood by that audience. It is the critical apparatus that makes legible for us such questions as the ethical lack in the characters we read on the screen and provides us with the materials to go forth and better ourselves by contrast. If all the world's a text, and the people in it merely character, then readers too must be inside, and subject to the characterological lack which drives stories.

    Of course, this will to theorise film as a template for life is beset with devices of distraction and direction that go with any form of professionalism. The elderly ugly sibling, literary studies, is always there or thereabouts to invigilate, punish and reward, its notice and approval both deplored and desired in equal measure. And in the English language, there remains a similarly ambivalent sense of indebtedness to France. For where literary studies may be seen to have birthed screen studies, French could be conceived as the language which originated both a high cultural critical uptake of popular art, via the Cahiers route to knowing Jerry Lewis, and as the language which leant credence to world-as-text and text-as-excess. Hence my interest in looking at recent surveys of cinema to be found in, respectively, a leading journal of litterateur record, in PMLA, and a prominent French film theory journal, in CinemAction. The paradox that I identify is that the cinephile-logic of CinemAction is ultimately more overtly and less duplicitously devoted to doctrines of completeness and care than the subjectivity-search of PMLA. Where the former takes care and respect to outline contending positions, the latter utilises an imaginary constituency of oppositional subjectivity and the formation of identity in order to undertake an investigation of identity which in fact conforms to moves associated with conventional litterateur academicism. The banal orthodoxy of professionalism that surprisingly animates the journal of enthusiasm is equally the hidden animator of the writings of would-be oppositional subjects which are housed in a journal of intellection. These are at least paradoxes, and I think we can learn something about the different contexts for the public performance of critical subjectivity that have produced them.

    CinemAction has been appearing on a quarterly basis since 1978. Like Continuum, it specialises in thematic treatments. The topics covered over that period are impressive in their diversity: peasant cinema, migrant cinema, Indian cinema, South African cinema, Arabic cinema, the TV-film relation, world television, contemporary film theory, religious cinema, psychoanalysis and film, auteur studies, twenty-five years of screen semiology, and pornography. Plans are underway for a special issue on Anglo-American feminists, who are described rather wonderfully as 'un complet no man's land en France' by Guy Hennebelle in his General Editor's "Editorial" (6). This CinemAction collection is divided into five sections: film theory from the beginning to the Second War; the 1950s; the 1960s and '70s; contemporary theorists and theories; and a final set of essays that spans the entire period through an examination of theorist-directors. This combination of approaches is very fruitful. We get brief, cogent, scholarly but readable articles on the early years, Soviet montage theory, expressionism and the new objectivity, and Arnheim in "Des origines a la Seconde Guerre mondiale" (12-49). "Les annees 50" (54-91) considers Bazin, neo-realism, Kracauer and the Cahiers before structuralism. The "Les annees 60/70" section (92-129) addresses structuralism, the post-1968 debates on cinema and ideology, and feminism. This diachronic progression closes with "Les theories des theoriciens, aujourd'hui" (130-79), which adumbrates the writings of Mitry, Barthes, Metz, Burch, Bellour and Ferro. CinemAction concludes the survey issue with "Les theories des praticiens" (180-223), covering early experimenters, Grierson, Bresson, Pasolini and Third Cinema. The various writers for the issue include Magny himself - who contributes 7 essays - and such notables as Pierre Sorlin, Francesco Casetti, Ginette Vincendeau and Marc Ferro.

    It is the irony of so carefully systematic a treatment that it should commence with a piece of writing by Magny entitled "Plaisir du theorie" (8-11). In this preamble to the issue, he identifies numerous determinations on the choice of material to be covered. In place of the constitutive abstraction of 'the best of its kind, whatever the kind' which animates PMLA's "A Statement of Editorial Policy" (388), Magny specifies particular technologies for imagining a readership: the outcome of requiring a form of pedagogy which could deliver film theory in such a way that it would be taken up by university students and a film-going public. So selection policies excluded submissions which were of high quality but belonged in the domain of the nitpicking exegete/non-homeostatic hermeneut. Magny then addresses squarely a sense of dependency on the object of analysis. This approach refreshes, confronting as it does the conventional accusation that good theories bear no relationship to making good movies. Theory is ultimately to be offered to students, to the readers of the journal, as variously: a solicitation of the spirit (the aesthetic address); as a training in rationality (the pedagogic); and as a supplementary pleasure, consubstantial to the joys of cinema itself (9-11). Now while this is summed up as the romantic integration of the anomic subject's reconciliation of body with spirit that so dogs textualists, it is quite clear that, as per usual, such imaginary reconciliations are carefully subordinated to the other imperatives enumerated, those which are actionable: the trainings in argumentation that should underpin such work. In short, along the line of authority that Deleuze and Guattari present (the immanent plane provides imperatives, philosophy conceptualises those imperatives, and other disciplines operationalise them into functioning techniques) CinemAction quickly moves into the domain that can be implemented. It will presently be seen that contributors to PMLA are less easily manoeuvred.

    Magny opens the first section of the issue with his survey of "Premiers ecrits: Canudo, Delluc, Epstein, Dulac" (14-25). He finds significant continuities in the concerns of film theory from the 1890s to the present. From the first, questions were posed about the ability of cinematographic machines to recreate reality and a drive was evidenced towards innovation in the direction of additional verisimilitude. These were principally technical rather than generic concerns: colour and sound were called for very early. A second, and related question, asks about the capacity of these machines to act as illusionists and to prolong reality beyond its organic death. These queries remain the worries of screen research: whether the reproduction of appearances, or the illusions of a subjective view, animate the cinematic processes of manufacture and reception. We might reconceive this difference as a description of polarities which oppose a determination of technology with a determination of textual interpretation. C)ne organises film theory in terms of its developing technical apparatus, the other in terms of its developing audience apparatus (16).

    Magny also stresses the work of legitimacy that is described by the apparent troubles set up by such issues. A critical apparatus, not a technological or subjective apparatus, has continued to utilise these anxieties to set up a space of authority for itself. Criticism it was that would have to claim artistic possibilities for cinema, to adjudicate within and between the claims to verisimilitude and the claims to fantastic manufacture as tests of the cultural significance of the medium. This was the apparatus that would pronounce upon cinema's facility to record faithfully, as against its facility with imaginatively re-phrasing (16).

    It is this trope of re-phrasing that ties us in to the concept of film as language to which I alluded in the earlier part of this article. For that decision, to seek after a perceptual and communicative model for the screen, firmly sets the subject at the centre of theory. It ushers in the coming-in to consciousness of non-human forms as per models of the acquisition of language. Riccioto Canudo coined the phrase 'film as language' in 1911. It bespoke his sense that cinema added to the subject's ability to make sense of its surroundings and to express this sense across the boundaries of geography and natural language. And for Louis Delluc, cinema was the offspring of the mechanical world and the world of human thought (Magny 17). On the realist plane, this assumed that social processes could be re-possessed and re-presented. On the avant-garde plane, the assumption was that perceptual processes could undergo the same manipulation, thanks to the figurative field and transformative potential provided by cinema. The urgency with which people have approached this question envies the hold on analogous poetic and psy-subtleties maintained by literature and art (20).

    Barthelemy Amengual's "1917-1934: Les Sovietiques: Koulechov, Poudovkine, Vertov, Eisenstein, la FEKS" (26-39) traces the developing search for a film language, the conduit to critical approbation. This language-search was redolent with a capital "P" politics, as per the Screen desires of the 1970s. Soviet theory is characterised here by: its political engagement; its imbrication of theory with practice; and its ambition to deport film from traditional points of reference in theatrical staging, literary narrative and photographic composition. In place of that, film was to appear as a signifying, rather than a representational, practice (28). It made its own meanings. It did not merely describe other meanings in a more or less competent manner. This in itself is written up as the maturation of cinema, a maturation to be understood in the sense of a credible claim to artistic significance. The idea that there was a vertical and horizontal aspect to cinema's means of signification, a diachronic referent to its language that relied on a history of assumptions and a synchronic referent that was again specific to the medium, was critical to the emergence of the doctrine of montage. For Kuleshov, this was the uniqueness of film. It was to be found in a rhythmic succession of shots, or short still fragments, that made meaning. This function was analogous to those of the desired relatives (paintings via colour, music via harmonies) (30). In keeping with the rigorous anti-humanism of the time, however, Taylorism was to be imported from American production lines and imposed on acting. Actors were regarded as mobile mannequins to be manipulated through montage. Human expression was conceived alongside physical space as infinitely mechanically malleable. Like verbal language, it was to come under the effect of formalist doctrines that denied a necessary meaning to given words outside their combination with others: memorably, of course, wideopen windows with a peering populace watching the arrival of an army could suggest either a public holiday commemorating the installation of electric light services, or occupation of a town by enemy forces. Or in Pudovkin's formulation, shots of a face by turns animated with laughter and terror could be juxtaposed with a shot of a revolver to create the sense of either a coward or a hero (31). Again, these moves were as much driven by a striving for critical correctness as for political regard. A nexus, an inexorable intertwining, obtained here, that bound practices of film manufacture, film theory and social critique together for a moment in film history. Since that time, this drive towards synthesis has been displaced by a different, more humanistic, direction to criticism.

    Although I shall go on to give an account of all the articles on cinema in the special PMLA issue, I want to move away now from an exegesis of CinemAction and instead catalogue it symptomatically, to argue that what I have just written serves to reinforce the points made above about subjectivity and criticism with reference to the early sections of the issue. The history of film theory is rightly presented here as a set of practices sharing two aspects throughout their sometimes discontinuous lives, apart from the apparent referent in film: firstly, a dedication to legitimising and professionalising cinema and its study; and secondly, an annexation of an extra-cinematic public subject as the intra-textual source of this legitimacy. The first move is increasingly intra-mural to critical halls, although film culture continues to exist outside them. It involves the processes of academicisation of knowledge, as per PMLA. The university supplants a less overtly embodied aesthetics as the desired source of approval and sustenance. The second move is made by writing under the sign of the representative. This representative is not the subject of disciplinary orders of critical discourse, from either the aesthetic or employment registers. Rather, it stands in for the absent subject of history, a subject-in-process that is formed through the critical act, the act of writing about fictional texts in a way that speculates on the factual material called up. This is the terrain that finds the theorist adjudicating on, say, an account of life in wartime in terms of its ability to interpellate the spectator, although this ability to interpellate is knowable only through various brands of social theory - not filmic practice - available to the critic writing. This availability of a conceptual apparatus is invoked in terms not of the critic's profession, then; nor is it invoked in terms of cinematic texts; rather, its locus classicus emerges from a study of incomplete subjectivities in the social text whose lack is to be pointed to in the filmic text's devices via the deployment of currently sustainable (which is to say, publishable) academic protocols. These protocols will not be chosen from the available array of sociological, historical, anthropological, geographic, psychological or political knowledges. Instead, they will be chosen from the array of knowledges portrayed in textual criticism. Such knowledges may emerge from the fields of neglect I have listed, but their actual use within criticism will not result from a scanning of those fields, but from how they have already been scanned and utilised by other critics. The fact that this manifests a vertical professionalism within criticism, not a horizontal search for the social and the textual, is irrelevant to the technology of criticism. For this technology owes debts only to the subject lacking, the subject-in-process-one-trusts-will-never-arrive that underpins the history of critique. The articles I have subjected to banal exegesis in CinemAction clearly reference these trends. But their desire for completeness within the tiny domain presented (viz., what did these people say and how might we understand them?) is finally more modest and honest than is suggested by the initially grand claims about pleasure and subjectivity. In real terms, the journal addresses the film intellectual. This intellectual may be an opinion-maker or administrator in training, in a university context. Or it may be the lover of film, the person who wishes to wander into theoretical discourse on film for the pleasure of reading. I see this as an outcome engendered by the essentially limited cultural settings animating the overall project of the volume: namely, the provision of a tutelary technology. This task has outweighed the fancies of the general intellectual, with all its ability to speak for subjects in need of restructuring. As will be seen below, I do not find such modesty in most of the pieces appearing in PMLA.

    This is partly to do with the differences between the two journals and partly to do with the design and desire of these particular numbers. For whereas CinemAction devotes the entire contents to a history of film theory, PMLA (which, to repeat, stands for Publications of the Modern Language Association) has cinema as a special topic in an issue which is also pleased to offer "Divide and Conquer: Augustine in the Divine Comedy", "Gawain and the Gift" and "Feminine Knots and the Other Sir Gawain and the Green". PMLA's special topic occupies 58 of the 238 pages of the May 1991 edition. Guest editor Teresa de Lauretis problematises the very enterprise that bears her name in her "Introduction: On the Cinema Topic" (412-18). Almost alone among the celebrants of the self who characterise the industry of academic film theory, de Lauretis' personal histories have an obvious point outside her own experience when they are offered to the reader. She traces in this way the remarkable efflorescence of screen studies in American colleges over the last two decades, from the scarcity of doctored scholars then to the over-elaborated academicism of now, remembering the times when this 10w-prestige work carried the stigma of bread-and-butter courses and enrolment getters'. Teaching film courses required a mechanism for coping with the ressentiment generated in litterateurs doubly hurt: by the popularity of the new object and its study (412); and then by its emergent arcana (414). But the circumstances also offered a new freedom from the old object's careful policing of method, politics and general 'rules of propriety' and the new object's affiliations with marginal groups and groovy theory (413-14). (I leave it in the lap of symptomophilic readers to determine the value of an origin for film studies which ensured that 'No one said Freud was not an acceptable source for reading film texts' (414).)

    The inevitable onset of professionalism involved the appearance of infrastructures of academic neediness: the conference, the journal, the association, the publisher (412-13). One might add to this the prefecture called the job guide. Valuable though de Lauretis' tracery may be, though, it typifies the extraordinary sense of the MLA as a gossip shop of critics, the one-stop shop for discussion of the most concentratedly intra-mural kind imaginable. What are the circumstances which can lead to the introduction to a special topic on cinema being devoted to twenty years of academic history of a North American theoretical vanguard? Precious little to do with cinema, much to do with establishing a niche of significance, and especially so in the eyes of the monarch of the humanities (the L-word). And yet, PMLA is properly commodified in best cinematic style: how many academic journals, I wonder, carry an "Index of Advertisers" (553)?

    It is the paradox of intra-muralism of this kind that it offers the space for dialogue and debate. de Lauretis poses significant questions about: how film and literature intersect as bodies of knowledge; the marginality of screen studies within the MLA; the comparatively few submissions for the issue; and the future of the Association's fifteen hundred-strong Division on Film (413 and 417). She notes that the four essays selected for this issue of the journal are there 'to educate the literary reader', produced in obvious prose. She had 'no say' in establishing the overall criteria for selecting work or procedures of choice. Her one area of direct agency involved the right to solicit. It is with some surprise that she is 'pleased to find that the four extant essays are very interesting in their own right, though hardly representative of the field of film and cinema studies in its current state' (415). The requirement for contributors to be paid-up members of the MLA, and the essentially literary-critical inspector's gaze that organises the refereeing process of the journal, left her dissatisfied, nevertheless (417). (It has been demonstrated that peer review systems now in place in academic journals would have precluded Nature from publishing Watson and Crick's 1953 letter announcing the molecular structure of DNA (Maddox "Where"). (A propos, the debate on processes of scholarly production and journals continues. See Chiva, Hargens and Herting, Laband, both Maddox pieces and Willis and McNamee. Bodies such as the International Congress on Peer Review in Biomedical Publication are currently emerging.) de Lauretis is left to ask whether there should continue to be such a beast as a Division on Film within the Association, even to wonder why anyone would bother contributing to a periodical that is read by people literate in other fields (418). It's a very impressive exercise in querying one's own status and worrying away at the needy cry for recognition, which is so often mixed with a cross sense of unrecognised superiority, that characterises film academics' relationship to litterateurs. Such concerns are not, however, evident in most of the contributions which follow.

    For the divide between literature and film in PMLA may not be so great. The first essay, Anne Friedberg's "Les Flaneurs du Mal(l): Cinema and the Postmodern Condition" (419-31) makes startling, arrhythmic dashes between theoretical and disciplinary categories and motifs. It is the burden of Friedberg's project to translate Benjamin and Zola, strolling and windowshopping, into Eco and Fiske, zipping and resisting. For where Benjamin sought to capture the modern as a domain of unprecedented human manufacture that brought forward new kinds of people, she hopes to capture the postmodern and its ability to form the subject anew.

    Friedberg starts from Benjamin's contention that the depersonalised work of the mechanical reproduction of art removes the aura from cultural forms which are artisanal in their manufacture and intimately proxemic in their circulation and consumption. Where the close-up in cinema creates a closeness of vision and interpretation that seems village-like, the play with duration in cinema is much more akin to the organised but non-organic turmoil of the city. Having established this basis to modernity, she then seeks to translate it to explain 'the role of the cinema in postmodernity'. This involves understanding two axes: space and time. Space is defined in terms of mass distribution and reception. Time is to be known as repetition, a characteristic of mechanical reproduction (419).

    Film and television have deposited a residue of non-history into the fabric of postmodern consciousness, based on the activities occurring around these axes. They produce an 'implicit time travel' inside their spectators. Friedberg is, then, reversing Marx's understanding that the modern saw the triumph of time over space, arguing that the postmodern space of the screen offers a shift in the co-ordinates of geo-consciousness. This transformation cannot be accorded a precise moment, a gateway from modernity to the postmodern. Instead of a neat periodisation, Friedberg prefers the format of 'a gradual and distinct epistemological tear'. This tear is that of imagined space and time constituted within the cinematic glance; it is not a tear as in that shed by the viewer at this annihilating compression, but the homonymous tear made by a gradual ripping along a page of historical division (420).

    Friedberg proposes a way of knowing this spectator. The modern spectator - the one whose sense of time was lost in space - is the boy flaneur: the fop strolling down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in his medieval hand. This dandy lion wanders, by turns amiably and darkly, around the streets of the nineteenth-century metropolis, promenading in search of the surface-knowledge afforded by the act of glancing. This promenade is transformed with the emergence of the girl, the flaneuse, whose advent occurs in the translation from arcades to department stores. Hers is a more motivated, less distracted look, animated by the desire to consume which is itself structured into the architectonics of her persona and the stores she frequents. That translation itself undergoes a further twist, finding 'a unique apparatical sequel: the cinema'. The twist turns around on itself with the postmodern move that enwraps the store into a shopping mall and the cinema into a multiplex inside that very mall. The casual glance, the consuming gaze and the cinematographic look are now at work inside the same building (420).

    How does Friedberg know all of this? How does she know how these meanings can be attributed to inanimate objects, moving objects, and human objects? Let's consider her sources. The significance of the late nineteenth-century store is to be known from reading a novel by Zola (422). Why Zola? Why that novel? Who read it when it came out? How many read it? How was it received critically? What evidence is there for an articulation between his vision and that of architects, social critics, women's groups, working people? If that set of questions is insufficiently literary, in the sense that it desires a referent beyond the empirical microdomain of textual criticism, then why is Benjamin cited? He occupies the critical cross-benches, I suppose, straddling the traditions of the great non-fiction essayist and the lyric bellelettrist in anticipation of cultural studies. But why do these people matter? Benjamin has an account of the institutions of modernity, their effectivity in materialising new relations of self to social. And Zola? Well, naturally, he wrote novels, and litterateurs are aware - miraculously, at one and the same time - that reflectionism and realism are problematic and that novels can be cited in the same format as documents which claim to present the truth. Perhaps it is more relevant that Zola is being written about now, reconstructed as a vanguard figure who wrote in advance about currently fashionable concerns within literary studies. In other words, the readership of Zola * finally critical for Friedberg: an empirical readership of contemporary university-department fashion, not a nineteenth-century readership of department-store fashion.

    Let me be fair about this. Friedberg makes a number of interesting observations about panoramas and dioramas, the mid-nineteenth century progenitors of moving film that gave participants an unprecedented sense of immobile tourism and history (remember the travels in Letter From an Unknown Woman?). The reorientation of the world, as something that could be visited, planned for and consumed, is usefully connected by her to the world of tourism, and thence on to the backwards move in the postmodern. Where these pre-cinematic dispositifs set up the pre-conditions for tourism, which then emerged, the post-cinematic dispositifs of time-shifting video and television (and perhaps the altered states of Total Recall) establish the relinquishment of any need for such activity to be experienced personally. Looking at these 'tours in space and time' (424) moves her on to museums and the full gamut of simulation (424-26). And this domain is established via an attention to the physical architecture and mise-en-scene of such spaces, the plans which went to make them and so on. So we have some consideration of the materials of sociology and history applied to these topics. But the sliding to-and-fro between texts which say they tell the truth, such as personal testimonies by architects, and texts which say that they tell a story, such as novels by writers, is achieved ineffably. There are no seams to this shift, no shedding of epistemological tears or uncovering of ruptures. A text is a text, it seems. As if to underscore this shift, the article concludes with references to two films that are tacked on, sans effective exegesis, production history or exhibitionary detail, but given a touch of each. In keeping with the sense that the present deserves careful documentation, then, such moves are gestured at. But in keeping with the view that the past does not deserve this attention, and in keeping with the world of so much film theory, it is fitting that Friedberg should conclude with an underachieved textual analysis. Where Benjamin addressed the modem self as the person of the city, Friedberg addresses the postmodern self as the person of literary studies, for all her evident reference elsewhere; the methodology, the selections of material from the past, are intra-mural. Symptomatic readings that differentiate between the modern and the postmodern in terms of senses of self that do not encounter selves outside libraries are always the most medicinally comforting, are they not?

    This symptomatology is outside the field of play that interests the second PMLA piece, Leonard J Leff's "The Breening of America" (432-45). His article is categorically inside 'cinema history' (432). "The Breening" seeks to interrogate the validity of the popular narrative 'that pits heroic writers and directors against philistine industry executives' in the form of the Production Code Administration (PCA). The PCA policed the morals of the screen for three decades after the Depression, to the derision of self-contrastingly enlightened critics and historians. Leff knows that this derision has serviced the romanticisation of author-functions, in the shape of directors, via its comprehensive demonisation of cop-functions, in the shape of Joseph Ignatius Breen, titular head of the Administration until 1941. The revisionist descends like a wolf from the fold on PCA archives to re-write this understanding (432-33).

    Leff traces Breen's career from his time as aide-de-camp to Will Hays, noting his early concern with the shimmying lines of division between privacy and publicness in the lives of the stars. These involved sexual jokes, sexual connexion outside the prescriptions of god, and a general air of promiscuity. Breen is quoted as deploring the manners of a party he attended where 'name cards at the dinner were condrums for the men and cotex, on which was a dash of ketchup, for the women' (434). This early recognition of markings of sexual difference concerned him greatly. He named Hollywood 'the madhouse of the universe' (435). Contradictory pressures on the studio system developed through the decade, as dwindling audiences encouraged sensate topicality even as a galvanising religiosity and psychologism were engendering a doctrinal moralism. This extended to Breen's requirements for studios to preclude intra-marital inter-racial touching before the camera and to require suffering or repentance on the part of evil-doers (435).

    At the same time, Leff alerts us to the need to go beyond some blithely symptomatic reading of Breen's edicts if we are to know how the PCA operated. Domains of statement have their own trajectories, personal and otherwise, which may fail to offer an adequate understanding of the actual dynamics of operation they are said to describe what Leff calls this 'the give-and-take of code-office practice' that always made the licensing of texts an outcome of compromise. Such negotiations frequently resulted in the circulation of films which used sex for fun and society for critique (435). It could hardly have been otherwise given the Production Code's characteristic censor's appetite for articulating in more-than-suggestive detail precisely what it was that endangered others' morals or obedience. The Code elaborated 'Repellent Subjects' in a pr(o)(e)scriptive close reading that amounted to a directive for the studios to consider topics which helped to give those topics a discourse, offering them an effective technology of self-propulsion into orthodox film planning (436).

    In the area of social comment, explicitness of conduct was harder to specify. It was easier to point to misdemeanours of affiliation that clearly associated films with what Breen called 'Communistic propaganda' (438). But workerist texts from the 1930s are easy for Leff to unearth as evidence of Hollywood's capacity to argue for audience appeal over ideological rectitude. Where Breen found the redemption of 'positive elemtns [sic]', he could accept conflictual social realism (439). Hays and Breen were in some conflict, the Eastern moralism of an emerging industrialists' logic opposed to the Western liberalism of Hollywood's occasional interest in art-as- criticism (440-41). The PCA was, in fine, 'institutionalized ... ambivalence' (443). Leff revises the simplicities of any history which lays claim to American film censorship of the time as an unambiguously silencing technology. And he avoids the polymorphous uncertainty of over- or under-investing in undifferentiated sources of knowledge that emblematises the uneasy tread of textual criticism into the terrain of the social.

    This is proper history, and I ought to like it by contrast with my critique of Friedberg. And I do. In doing so, I am apparently making the error for which Patrice Petro has brought film historians to the bar, the error of drawing a dividing line between 'history proper' and 'theoretical speculation'. Her accusation is that this line is drawn between historians and feminists, and furthermore that the latters' efforts are unfairly placed in 'the realm of interpretation' (9). I think that the empirical alibi of reading film texts as a warrant for extrapolation into social analysis is suspect in general, whether this performance is undertaken by censors, psychologists, feminists, historians or myself, unless it is accompanied by an apparatus for articulating such a movement. I have not been presented with one in the inspection of film theory undergone for this piece of writing.

    An altogether different history is canvassed in "Retrieving History: Margarethe von Trotta's Marianne and Juliane" by Susan E Linville (446-58). Linville sets von Trotta up as an historiographer who brings into question 'liberal humanists and the radical Left'. von Trotta's clumping together of the personal with the political, of private history with its counterpart, is juxtaposed with the insufficient radicalism of other histories and found to be worthy because of its capacity to overturn conventional leftist criticisms of the psy-complexes. Feminism is a synchronised optic in this account, so successfully co-ordinated that it 'is itself the lens through which history is examined - deconstructed and re-visioned'. This 'feminism is nonessentialist (ie., historical)' (446). So we are simultaneously told that this autotelic optical device both examines history and is itself historical; it both interrogates an outside object and subjects itself to that object's inspection and direction. Accreditation is giving someone something they say you haven't got to give and they claim not to desire. How can feminism be said to deconstruct and revision a practice when its own hold on legitimacy is dependent on what it shows to be lacking? What is the account of feminism that allows its political savvy to emerge from its critique of history and its theoretical savvy to rely on history? No such questions are posed.

    These conceptual problems aside, Linville is of course conducting a necessary rescue operation for women hidden from history. She shows how the archivists of New German Cinema have crassly marginalised von Trotta's extraordinary talents in their writings, either by ignoring her or subsuming the work under bourgeois humanism, to the neglect of feminism (446-47). This is equally valid as a generalisation in the area of film historiography more widely, which characteristically falls silent over gender (Petro 9). So like both Friedberg and Leff, Linville is successfully partaking in the professional academic path of identifying other academics as lacking in order to establish one's own work in critical esteem. As with this paper you are now reading, film becomes insufficient in itself to discuss, either as cinematic or social object; film must be miscast by critics in order to be available for recuperation by the good and the beautiful - the aesthetic of any writer that relies on the errors of another writer.

    The article moves beyond political anchors and into academicism, of course. It establishes Marianne and Juliane superbly as a critical object. von Trotta is shown to tackle the intersection of public with private, of self with other, of present with past, and of recollection with fragmentation, in a distinctively enunciative mode, one with a protagonist that embodies her story. The story's imbrication with the Red Army Fraction makes it tellingly verisimilitudinous for critics, which is to say that its critical worth can be decided on the basis of its realism. This realism may be of a mirror-image variety, in that it is said to reflect what really happened to elements of that group. Or it may be of a refractive kind, which goes beyond the intimacy of material on record and into the complex distance of understanding, of interpretation. This vision, combined with the personalised narrative, becomes insufficiently dialectic for many readers; Linville carefully notes their reservations. The psychologising move is routinely decried for interiorising/exteriorising moves which are said to trivialise social strains. It is Linville's contention that the high melodramatic mode in which the film finds itself is nevertheless an engaging one for spectators, and one that sees them insert their own lives into the narrative, hence politicising them (448). This is in part an outcome of what she calls 'von Trotta's political and narrative strategies of ambiguity', strategies which serve to ambiguate the spectator's comprehension of political action. A thriller animated by subjective and repetitive flashback, that is also a melodrama which presents an inconclusive ending, is impeccably indeterminate and hence antiauthoritarian (449). You will feel confused. Unlike most film analysis, this article actually establishes a transfer of the audio-visual into the literary that acknowledges the original status of its critical object as a creature of mobile images and dynamic sounds. The textual analysis (449-56) makes the film read like a film. For all that I might quibble at the meta-critique which Linville says can be made of history by history, this article is exemplary for its discussion of spectatorial positioning in textual inscription. In other words, it takes up the sense of centrality of the moving image to the formation of persons that was of such concern to both Benjamin and Friedberg.

    It is that very purchase on subjectivity which recently led Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (160) to claim for the screen an extraordinary hold on significance ('The history of the cinema is the history of the 20th century'). What such writers might consider further is the exclusion of questions of production, circulation and training from such world-historical psychologising. Stephen Bann is quite right to argue that cinema can be understood as 'a recognizable time-space continuum ... exploiting the gullibility of the human eye' (60). There are assuredly such things as 'a new regime of indexicality' (Bann 60-61). But there are many forms of indexicality and gullibility at play in the acts of encoding as well as its opposite. These need to be elaborated by investigation, by something in addition to adding up the different views available via a computer search of articles on a topic and the careful recitation or rebuttal of their positions. That is the facile empiric of the litterateur, oddly unself-reflexive in its presumption that the theoretical apparatus used is itself void of the requirement for a symptomatic reading. Theory tells truths, films conceal them, in this application. Where Linville essays no more than an account of a film and its critique, the grand librarian's sweep of the modern and its post- should be attended by a similarly careful discussion of the status of the different types of truth parlayed by different forms of writing. This grand sweep seeks to encompass what Fredric Jameson, cited by Patrice Petro, sees as the path of the subject as opposed to the path of the object (10). Yes, but the distinction between objects that claim fictitiousness and those that claim factuality is equally important to observe, because they almost always fall into different paths of interpretation by the subjects concerned. The formalism versus culturalism bifurcation which Petro sets up, between an institutional or genre-driven history and a symptomatic or stitched-subject history, is a neat one. But it requires further differentiation along the lines I have indicated; especially if Petro's admirable call for a film history that elucidates 'identity and difference' (11) is to become manifest.

    Marcie Frank's account of "The Camera and the Speculum: David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers" (459-70) concludes the PMLA "Cinema" number; appropriately enough, as it stands in for the long haul of film studies in its burden of seeking to 'address subjectivity' in search of what Mary Beth Haralovich calls 'the possibilities of multiple spaces for meaning production in film' (5). Frank's concern is with the twinning that makes the film and how that twinning can be read as a means of 'reflecting on the acquisition of male identity' and the implications for women of their representation by the camera. This is 'the camera as a gynaecological instrument' that is also a mirroring speculum: it both unsettles and represents (459).

    This speculum is a penetrative, inquisitive tool of knowledge and domination that works to divide women as different from men, both a type of medical instrument and a means of forming and forcing subjectivity. Psychoanalytic accounts of manufacturing persons, and film theory accounts of manufacturing spectators through identification with on-screen characters, are hence at stake here. Frank tellingly problematises the seductive textual analyst's referent: 'Are film and psychoanalysis both media in which subjects are represented? Or are they both theories of the subject?'. But having asked whether academic critics are making life easy by locating the terrain of research into persons in material objects which they can read in lounge-rooms and offices, she abandons this query in favour of a search for instruments of symptomatic homology: will examining the gynaecological and filmic devices in Dead Ringers enable a better comprehension of the relationship between cinema and psychoanalysis (460)?

    The twins fail to manifest separate identities, or to be one and the same. They are split but connected. They operate a fertility service and a specialism in separation, of mother from child. The film takes the implements of gynaecology not as mechanisms for exploring women, but for exploring the Mantle twins and the absence of their mother, she who produced them and from whom they remain undivided (and hence both divided and undivided amongst their various selves). The boys' proclivity for devising technology to divide women, and then recuperating outmoded technology to designate physiologically incompetent women, provides both a sign and, ultimately, a device of self-destruction, so abject is their projection of inadequacy between themselves and their patients. The woman who comes between them is their potential salv/separ/ation through a personal differentiation that was never achieved professionally. But women serve to divide but not service them properly, a task fated by the work they do, which always already defines this potential saviour as herself lacking (461-63).

    Now this inability either to divide or become whole is mirrored, or re-expressed, in the technology which allows a known actor, Jeremy Irons, to be two people in one and the same frame, a seamless weave technically but a seam-laden one thespianically: everybody knows there's only one Jerry Irons. The soft-matte composition achieved in the edit suite cannot achieve the image of twins walking together, as was managed in the retrospective footage provided of real twins as the reel twins in early life; this definite division - managed just because one man is two - plays up the structured nature of the image and the personality, and commandeers attention to facets of filmic and identity production, of vision-mixing and woman-dividing devices that elaborate the boys (464).

    The paranoia, homosexuality and misogyny which Frank identifies in this text are then positioned by her in the same field of writing as Freud and Lacan (465-7). Two very particular forms of understanding human interiority are hence privileged, without any attempt at a consideration of alternative methods of examining interiority or any justification for presenting film analysis alongside psychoanalysis. Why these modes? Why not consider other psy-complexes? Why are paranoia and misogyny not examined via sociology, or other therapies? None of this, it seems, need be covered, even though the article has quite explicitly commenced with claims about male identity. It seems textual analysis must be canonical in nodding at non-textualists who are in fashion with litterateurs, but may not consider methods that are more theoretical or less textual in their empiricism than are these people.

    Haralovich's search for spaces of meaning, surely, is where the postmodern jump stars from the modem: not in the displacement of a subjectivity called into play through film's new role as a source of electronic information, but a subjectivity called into play through theory's new role as a sector of that information via certain publishing technologies. The announcer in my opening lines was right: to be modern you need not theorise that state. But to engage in the search for public subjectivity, you must engage with textual technologies, of the pedagogic/syncretic or professional/research kind. To be modern is, in John Frow's words, to rupture 'the field of the same' (131). Indeed, to do other than to cultivate the field of the literary, would find you left at the poste restante. Try the next post-: the tenured post that you are advertising yourself for each time you write like this. Constructing corridors of self-exclusivity is the central concern of space-making and time-binding in the postmodern academic world. Following these precepts guarantees that there will be an endlessly iterable component to each of your envois: a destination of the academic fashion parade that claims its rectitude in one of two locations - a subjectivity inside this postal system, a subjectivity of an already achieved professionalism that is to be reinforced; or a subjectivity allegedly located outside, in an oppositional status that seeks unification and to which your writing is a contribution - this location denies any connexion to the first, whilst drawing its money and status from that other in a way that behaves with obedience to canonical academia, not imaginary movements of social identification. Beware the grand claims for criticism made by the WJT Mitchells of this world ('Our understanding of ourselves as subjective beings or social beings is being restructured' (quoted in Hartley 73). Turn back to Going to the Cinema. Turn back to an ethics of a training in rationality, based on objects derived from a popular culture industry. By their very status as a commodity form, that series of objects engages with the concerns of the public imagination far more compellingly than could any cultural criticism in the thrall of the literary-critical.


    Thanks to Tom O'Regan and Alec McHoul for comments on various drafts of this article.


    Works Cited

    Andrew, J. Dudley. Concepts in Film Theory. Oxford, New York, Toronto and Melbourne: Oxford U P, 1984.

    Bann, Stephen. "The Odd Man Out: Historical Narrative and the Cinematic Image." History and Theory 26 (1987): 47-67.

    Bhabha, Homi K. "The Other Question ... The Stereotype and Colonial Discourse." Screen 24 (1983): 18-36.

    Buchanan, Andrew and Stanley Reed. Going to the Cinema. London: Phoenix House, 1957.

    Chiva, Isac. "Scholarly Periodicals: Their Strengths and Weaknesses." International Social Science Journal 26 (1974): 377-92.

    Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Qu'est-ce que la Philosophie? Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1991.

    Doyle, Terence. "Making Film-Makers." Films and Filming 393 (1987): 20-22.

    Frow, John. "Postmodernism and Literary History." Theoretical Issues in Literary History. Ed. David Perkins. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard U P 1991. 131-42.

    Hargens, Lowell L. and Jerald R. Herting. "A New Approach to Referees' Assessments of Manuscripts." Social Science Research 19 (1990):1-16.

    Haralovich, Mary Beth. "The Social History of Film: Heterogeneity and Mediation." Wide Angle 8 (1986): 4-14.

    Hartley, Kate. "Interview with W.J.T. Mitchell, Editor of Critical Inquiry." Antithesis 2 (1988): 71-77.

    Hickenlooper, George. "The Primal Energies of the Horror Film: An Interview with David Cronenberg." Cineaste 17 (1989): 4-7.

    Laband, David N. "Is There Value-Added from the Review Process in Economics?: Preliminary Evidence from Authors." Quarterly Journal of Economics 1 5 1990): 341-52.

    Lapsley, Robert and Michael Westlake. Film Theory: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester U P, 1988.

    Lopez, Ana. "From Photoplays to Texts: Film Theory, Film Studies, and the Future." Cinema Journal 24 (1985): 56-61.

    Maddox, John. "Can Journals Influence Science?" Nature 339 (29 June 1989): 657.

    Maddox, John. "Where Next with Peer-Review?" Nature 339 (4 May 1989):11.

    Metz, Christian. Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema. Trans. Michael Taylor. New York: Oxford U P, 1974.

    Morris, Meaghan. "Banality in Cultural Studies." Discourse 10 (1987-88): 3-28.

    Murray, Scott. "An Editor's Rumination." Cinema Papers 86 (1992): 2-3.

    Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. "On History and the Cinema." Screen 31(1990):160-71.

    Petro, Patrice. "Feminism and Film History." Camera Obscura 22 (1990): 8-27.

    Sarris, Andrew. The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968.

    Shephard, David. "Film Study and Filmmakers." Cinema Journal 24 (1985): 43-47.

    Staiger, Janet. "The Politics of Film Canons." Cinema Journal 24 (1985): 4-18.

    Turner, Graeme. Film as Social Practice. London and New York: Routledge, 1988.

    Wexman, Virginia Wright. "Evaluating the Text: Canon Formation and Screen Scholarship." Cinema Journal 24 (1985): 62-65.

    Willis, Cecil L. and Stephen J. McNamee. "Social Networks of Science and Patterns of Publication in Leading Sociology Journals, 1960 to 1985." Knowledge 11 (1990): 363-81.

    Zizek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London and New York: Verso, 1989.


    New: 7 March, 1996 | Now: 21 March, 2015