Friday, May 25, 2007


Henri Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious
53-74 Gassner and Mesmer. Enlightenment rationalism emerging in challenge to Gassner's "preternaturalist" explanation of "possession"; Mesmer's "rational"explanation of "animal magnetism." Mesmer's obscure involvement in politics 1785-1815. The notion that slave rebellion and thus Haitian independence were inspired by a mesmeric fad.
(Curiously, I dreamt of Haiti last night before reading about this this morning:
I am sitting in on a class at the Corcoran. The instructor doesn't know I'm also an instructor, and I'm appalled by her behavior: She keeps the class waiting while she finishes a personal phone during class time; she seems unsure and unconcerned about requirements and due dates; she seems to have a superficial grasp of her subject. Cory Hixson, Bob Devers, and Richard Wilkerson are sitting there, too, and all sort of acknowledge this isn't good but also "what can you do?" The instructor switches on a television for us to watch a video. On the screen I see a report about poverty, hunger, and political unrest in Haiti. There is an image of a kind of sculpture: a wooden board that has a largish metal bomb mounted on it pointing downwards, a bullet-shaped bomb with a tail, like a cartoon bomb dropped by a plane, very rusty, surmounted by a smaller bomb of the same shape, also pointing downwards. Mounted above the bomb are some leaves and vines, other things like twine, making a pattern that suggests a loincloth, like the bombs represent a cache-sexe holding a very large penis. The title is "Il met son front sur le fronton," and I understand that this means that the sculpture is a daring political joke about the military dictator, who has a phallic idea of power.
BTW, I immediately associate the loincloth with watching Walkabout last night, and the dictator (partly through the leaves and vines) with Bush, and my feeling that he is all balls, all nerve, with nothing else to back it up.
After I wake up, I don't know what the French phrase means. I have to look it up to get the sense it could mean "He puts his face (forehead) on a monument."
77-101 German Romantics - Clemens Brentano's book of the visions of Katharina Emmerich - The Seeress of Prevorst (von Eschenmayer?) - Kerner's inkblots (which could be a key precursor of the uncanny use of photography) - spiritualism - Bernheim against Charcot
Chapter 3 110-174 Multiple personalities, doubles (dipsychism)
Chapter 4 The philosophical and ideological background

The point of this is to depict the growth of cinema and psychoanalysis not just as coincident and changing the cultural conception and place of images in similar and related ways, but to see both as growing out of changing assumptions in the previous centuries--about the nature of perception, imagination, ansd representation--and particularly to emphasize the contribution of "fringe" phenomena - hypnotism, spiritualism, secret societies, esoteric knowledge, the faddish ideas both Freud and Jung took up - as a kind of popular avant-garde in signifying and even bring about change.
(It's just because of the failure to recognize the significance of such movements that liberal democrats and academics failed to understand the power of Christian fundamentalism, or that a fathead like Fukuyama was able to declare history done with even as Islamic fundamentalism was gathering momentum. The issue is a continuing profound inability to appreciate the role of the irrational in political and cultural life, and thus to understand cultural change in terms of the role of the unconscious. What is usually done is [still] hand-wringing over reason confronting unreason, as if one side were more reasonable than the other, as if one side was not subject to unconscious motivation, as if [with Freud] the id could be replaced by ego.)
As with politics and culture generally, a real appreciation of the unconscious changes understanding of the nature of cinema fundamentally, and not according to the specious models of Metz, Baudry, or Eberwein.

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