Political Modernism (cont)

Alex Juhasz responds to my post, and she explains the value she sees in connecting formal self-reflexivity to political critique. One thing I find intriguing is her attempt to see an inadvertant political modernism of examples in contemporary networked nonfiction culture.

To clarify, I don't put Juhasz in the "sneaky" camp. I was drawn to her post because she seemed clear in her political modernism. I think the arguable "sneaking through the backdoor" applies to the new theoretical readings that privilege art cinema or experimental work as a site for a superior kind of spectatorship. One can point to any number of examples, but if I had to pick one, I'd say that Michelle Langford's reading of The Day I Became Woman (Camera Obscura 64) demonstrates this type of reading. Never does Langford directly claim that realist representation lulls the spectator into ideological complicity, but she does argue a) that the value of The Day I Became Woman is not in the explicit or implicit representations of Iran but rather in the complex philosophical state that the film puts the spectator in because of its formal strategies and b) that this philosophical state is a more nuanced and political relevant disposition than learning from any direct message.

What interests me is that a discipline that at first blush seems to have "moved beyond" the 1970s Screen theory style of political modernism has formulated a theoretical variant that in some regards (not others) is not too different.


Anonymous said…
I have to wonder, Chris, what's at stake in our collective assertion that the discipline has "moved beyond" the supposedly homogeneous block of "70s theory"? I agree with you that this is more or less the consensus; but what ideology informs such a claim?

Why are we so quick to refer arguments and claims to disciplinary consensus? Why do we stop short of making evaluative claims about the quality of scholarship, and of the objects it addresses, preferring instead to (implicitly) dismiss certain scholars for being "out of date"?

The desire to continually "move beyond," to progress to the newest and trendiest discourse with the newest and trendiest objects of study: this is "modernist" to the core! Not in the sense Rodowick (via Sylvia Harvey and Fredric Jameson) means by "political modernism", but still, we're talking about the ideology of "making it new" here, regardless of the object of study.

There's a certain self-satisfied entitlement in the assertion that we've "moved beyond" 70s film theory. Obviously, there were problems with things written in the 1970s, but rather than actually deal with those problems through close reading and careful scholarship we dismiss it en bloc and pat ourselves on the back for having "moved on."

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