Indeed, according to Eaken such variation pertains not only to the manner in which chronology is employed within storytelling but also to a range of other characteristics. He offers a wealth of examples of literary works which he reads as autobiographies to support his case; I will briefly describe two as follows. On the basis of research done by developmental psychologist Peggy J.
Miller with the Zuni tribe in New Mexico, Eakin suggests that a collective rather than individ- ual approach to the assimilation of experience into autobiographical form may be relevant in the case of written autobiographies. Eakin postulates that a similar form of self could be read as operating in Storyteller, a collection of photos and tales, published by Leslie Marmon Silko, who 36 Fivush and Reese emphasize that such processes follow the structure of canonical narrative forms, indeed that children learn by means of this process to apply these canonical forms to recollections of earlier origin The author of similar studies, Kenneth Gergen, relates that the following ele- ments can be most often found to belong to a well-told autobiographical account and contribute in a decisive fashion to its degree of plausibility when related: a valued endpoint; the selection of related events; the temporal ordering of events; causal linkages; demarcation signs 91— Eakin comes to the conclusion that narrative is pivotal to identity and thus to autobiography.
He therefore claims that media such as film and photography, while they are suitable as media for self-representation will do so successfully only to the extent to which they are capable of sustaining narrative structure. As will soon become clear, I part ways with Eakin on this point with regards to film, and argue instead that filmic reception depends on a great deal more than the comprehension of narrative. While one can write of the self and include the experience of others in an inclu- sive fashion as Silko does, the opposite, where one can resist using the first person form and nonetheless make reference to experiences had by the self, is also pos- sible, the result being a concept of the self as other.
Nonetheless, for a number of reasons, it has not been uncommon for Kindheitsmuster to be read as an autobiography. Gradually, one might assume. Instructions that are faithfully followed through the years. Avoid certain memories. Suppress words, sentences, whole chains of thought, that might give rise to remembering. I might have. I could have. Done it. Instead I wish to underscore that one must be sensitive to the potential for such expression always and everywhere, indeed that one must be alert to the possibility that even Western selfhood may not necessarily be either as unitary nor as explicitly demarcated as traditional research would suggest.
Texts that do not explicitly identify themselves as autobiographies may nonetheless be productively read as such, revealing forces at work within a culture which may not otherwise be apparent. Yet is it possible for us as readers from diverse backgrounds to recognize that a form such as the one taken by Wolf or Silko may, or indeed ought to, be read as an autobiography? While the possibilities may seem to be limitless, cognitive psychologist Ulric Neisser has proposed a model that seeks to categorize and thus contain the various ontogenetic levels of experience, which may make various contributions to a representation of a given self such as in an autobiography.
Bestimmte Erinnerungen meiden. Nicht davon reden. Bestimmte Fragen unter Altersgenossen nicht stellen. Getan haben. Two volumes in particular offer examinations of both the cultural variability of the notion of the self and further insights into the significance of the ecological and interpersonal selves, entitled respectively, The Perceived Self: Ecological and Interpersonal Sources of Self-Knowledge, and The Conceptual Self in Context: Culture, Experience, Self-Understanding. Both the ecological self and the interpersonal self appear in early infancy while the other selves are the products of later ontogen- etic stages.
In particular, the experiences of the ecological self are pivotal for understand- ing the fashion in which the autos may be conceived of in a visual fashion. Both optical flow the manner in which the world around a self moves in relation to that self and embodiment are significant parts of the ecological self. Neisser states that the hypothesis, that a very young baby cannot differentiate between its environment and itself, can be rejected on the basis of more recent detailed experimentation, indeed that a baby is from birth capable of perceiving the world in much the same way as an adult will.
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Accordingly this self is more attuned to spatial rather than temporal information The model lends itself somewhat more implicitly to aspects of selfhood, which are potentially more visceral in nature such as the ecological, interpersonal and private selves, and which therefore are potentially less available for communication. The conceptual self is also capable of con- tributing to body image; it can, however, be most inaccurate. Although the notion of the autobiography in its filmic form is certainly no less nebulous than its literary counterpoint, the scholarship on the subject tends to address the specifics of the former as a genre with fixed characteristics, only touching obliquely on the effects of its reception.
Nonethe- less, critical texts offering a general overview of the problematics associated with the notion of autobiography in its filmic form that address both its paradoxical unfeasibility and persistence have been rare. In fact, frequently within film schol- arship, no explicit attempt is made to define the criteria by which the body of work selected for analysis has been termed autobiographical, nor do they examine how the filmic and the literary autobiography may differ. Thus the task at hand is to consider the implications that the specific char- acteristics of film reception have for autobiography in this medium.
How is the sense of proximity to another self, which is characteristic of autobiographical reception, different when it is brought about by the reception of a film, as opposed to a written text? Building on that basis, I advance a notion of filmic autobiography and the situation of its reception in particular as based equally in performativity, referentiality and intersubjectivity. Finally, employing a phenomenological approach to the experience of film view- ing — a possibility implied by Bruss but not explored in detail — I suggest a number of ways in which the specifics of filmic reception enable a viewer, who is crucially envisioned as embodied, to take a particularly empathetic and corporeal stance to the particular kind of intersubjective experience filmic autobiography offers.
Performativity This is the argument put forward by Bruss when she claims, in a much quoted passage that, if film and video do come to replace writing as our chief means of recording, informing and entertaining, and if as I hope to show there is no real cinematic equivalent for autobiog- raphy, then the autobiographical act as we have known it for the past four hundred years could indeed become more and more recondite, and eventually extinct This dramatic statement has usually been taken to mean, simply, that autobio- graphical film is an impossibility.
Lejeune insists that Bruss was simply not aware of the existence of such work due to its underground status however that it indeed exists. Si Elizabeth W. If Elizabeth W. It is a fascinating experience for the spectator to see an autobiographical film, presented by its author before a small audience. The light dims, he appears on the screen, the lights go back on, he appears in the room, as if he were straddling the footlights in the manner of the character from The Purple Rose of Cairo.
This passage offers, among other things, an overly hasty critique of the notion of the subject put forth by Bruss, underestimating its complexity. She comes to similar conclusions as Bruss, claiming that while the first person form in use in fiction and non-fiction literature such as the autobiography can- not be translated into filmic form, the soundtrack and the voice in particular plays a particularly important role in the reception of the autobiographical film.
I will take up the implications of the voice in autobiographical film in greater detail in Chapter Five. However, the focus of that scholarship on isolated characteristics of particular autobiographical works has hindered a considera- tion of the type of reception engendered by filmic autobiography and has instead 43 Michael Renov has been a particularly frequent commentator on the manner in which particular discourses find their way into the public sphere by means of the autobiography in film or video. Unlike Renov who, in the majority of his writings on autobiography, tends to universalize the scope of his analysis, Christof Decker, in his Die Ambivalente Macht des Films.
Explorationen des Privaten im amerikanischen Dokumentarfilm, specifies the ways in which such an evolution may be considered a highly ambivalent expres- sion, indeed a performance, of the participatory promise of the democratic process in the United States. The diary film attempts, in the same way as the literary diary, to record changes that take place over time within consciousness.
In order to do so it must address the fact that filmic images are per se present tense images, which require some form of demarcation to suggest that they represent the past. Thus the diary film is equally concerned to find a means to signify both the transition between past and present consciousness and the identity of that consciousness with that of the filmmaker. The nature of the diary film will be described in greater detail in Chapter Six.
The self- portrait distinguishes itself from the autobiography by means of its non-linear narrative structure and a complete inattention to chronology. At the heart of this type of text is the attempt to con- ceive of the portrait of the self, not as an account of a personality and the means of its formation, but as a particular set of processes of cognition made tangible, processes that are defined and shaped by the culture in which the self comes into being. These forms will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Five. Bruss argues in favour of an approach to autobiography guided by the tenets of Speech Act Theory, suggesting that autobiography is not to be recognized in a particular set of text- ual characteristics but should be viewed as a phenomenon entirely defined by its reception, and thus as performative.
The so-called performative turn comes in the wake of Speech Act Theory which, inaugurated by J. Austin, signifies the shift of focus of analysis, from a given text with constant and verifiable characteristics, that is, as con- stantive whether that text be a linguistic utterance or the notion of gender as a biological fact , to its performance by a speaker within a cultural and historical context.
For the application of Speech Act Theory to a more expansive notion of performativity see issue In Chapter One I made a case for a broader notion of autobiography than that which is common to much of the scholar- ship on either literary or filmic autobiography. She argues that film is, as a medium, incapable in various respects of abiding by these parameters, which are currently central to literary autobiography. Indeed, on what basis is one to judge the truthfulness or sincerity of such films? The act-value of a film is similarly questionable.
Not only is a film more often than not the product of the work of more than one person, it is also the product of an apparatus that is renowned for its ability to operate without the intervention of the artist.
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Indeed Bruss goes so far as to suggest that the experience of film viewing contests the perception that an autobiographical self could be present beyond its filmic representation: The unity of subjectivity and subject matter — the implied identity of author, narrator, and protagonist on which classical autobiography depends seems to be shattered by film; the autobiographical self decomposes, schisms, into almost mutually exclusive elements of the person filmed entirely visible; recorded and projected and the person filming entirely hidden; behind the camera eye In this regard, the reception of filmic autobiography is more disconcerting than reassuring.
The simultaneous identity of the filmmaker both with the apparatus and as a protagonist within the shot a situation that would be the expressed in literature through the simple use of the first person pronoun points to an absence. It is precisely in this gap, which separates the ostensible subject of filmic autobiog- raphy the filmmaker from the subjectivity represented, that Bruss paradoxically locates the power of the filmic autobiography — and its distinction from its literary precursor. Film is uniquely capable of calling the distinction between subject and object, which appears so self-evident in the use of the first and second person in language, into question.
She writes, since autobiography is predicated on sole authorship, the classical definitions no longer seem to fit. Indeed, it is hard to know what to call such an effort, especially if we continue to accept the traditional division between self and other, and remain convinced that one and the filmic autobiography. This model will be taken up at greater length in Chapter Five. Precisely this uncertainty with regards to the integrity of both the subject and object is what is highlighted by film reception: if the clarity of the distinction between self and other is considered a necessary prerequisite for autobiography, such an uncer- tainty would require that the filmic autobiography be regarded as untenable.
However Bruss proceeds differently here: the result of this blurring of sub- ject and object is not utter chaos for the viewer. On the contrary, film offers the viewer a fundamentally new perceptual opportunity. It is precisely this aspect of her analysis that has been often overlooked, and its repercussions are fundamental to my own notion of the way filmic autobiography functions as a means of locat- ing subjectivity in time and space.
Merleau-Ponty suggests here that the experience of film presents a unique chal- lenge to notions of subject and object, indeed that film dissolves the emotional and experiential hermeticism of the subject and object. To be sure, while this quality of film is key to my study of filmic autobiography, this possibility is never expanded on by Bruss, who simply mentions it.
She writes, more than any other medium of human communication, the moving picture makes itself sen- suously and sensibly manifest as the expression of experience by experience. A film is an act of seeing that makes itself seen, an act of hearing that makes itself heard, an act of physical and reflective movement that makes itself reflexively felt and understood. However it is particularly in this sense that the reception of a filmic autobiography must be considered a radically different kind of phenomenon to that offered by the reading of a literary autobiography. And yet, if that film is always intersubjective, it is not possible to claim that the other of film, or as Sobchack refers to it, the body of the film, is identical to that of the filmmaker: the notion that the filmmaker is herself present in the film is hindered at the same time that the intersubjectivity which is generally inherent to film and its connection to a given time and place is highlighted.
She closes with the suggestive assertion that film autobiography must be representative of structures familiar to us as humans, or else they would not be comprehensible to us: One thing is therefore certain: if film is gradually displacing other modes of communica- tions, it is no alien invasion. The popularity of film and video could only come about because the way they position us in relation to each other and to our common world is somehow familiar to us, closer to the way we live than the linguistic and literary practices they sup- plant — autobiography in particular.
They must make sense of us or we could not make sense of them I would most heartily agree with Bruss on this point; indeed it remains to be seen how it is that the viewers of film manage, nonetheless, to experience a film as autobiography. The notion of a performative approach to autobiography, which has otherwise been largely neglected by film studies, has only been taken up again recently in a limited fashion by Jim Lane, although he does not point out his debt to Bruss. A short overview of this more current work affords me the opportunity to consider the significance of the second term of relevance, referentiality, for the reception of filmic autobiography.
While the indexicality of the filmic image is often named as a significant aspect of filmic autobiography, its repercussions for the reception of autobiography are seldom considered. Furthermore, the precise manner in which film makes reference to the world is oftentimes considered self-evident when it is anything but. This definition captures in essence the criteria for selection described in the catalogue to the show although the particular quotation cited here hails from a later text Lane thus arrives at a set of characteristics found in the films in question that provide a text-based definition of autobiography, but explicitly find their origin in the specific historical and cultural context in which the American autobiographical documentary from the late s to the present evolved.
A recent study by Scott MacDonald, The Garden in the Machine, examines the significance of landscape in American cultural history arguing that it is a central feature of American self-representation. It is, however, comparatively rare to see analyses of filmic autobiographies recognize the significance of cultural and historical specificity. Lane writes, in the films and videos I discuss here, the voice is typically ascribed to individuals, including the documentarist, who live in the world represented in the documentary.
Is only the filmic rep- resentation of the autobiographical world a construct? And yet, despite his emphasis on documentary film, he does not explore the mean- ing of the indexicality of the image for the filmic autobiography. However, if the viewer of filmic autobiography believes she is accessing some aspect of human life in a fuller manner than that which is afforded to her by the viewing of other non- autobiographic films, what, precisely does this belief mean?
What role is played by referentiality in filmic autobiography and what is the significance of the particular aesthetic quality of the film image for the reception of filmic autobiography? Referentiality Given the centrality of referentiality for a reading of a particular literary text as an autobiography, a significant aspect of the lure of filmic or photographic auto- biography lies in its promise of indexical referentiality. Indeed, in the following section I pursue the fol- lowing question: who or what is ostensibly made tangible to the viewer by the filmic autobiography?
Barthes, of course, examined this claim at some length in his final study, Camera Lucida. Film and photographic images do share a basis in a technical process that is defined by the interaction of light beams reflected off an object that must in turn have been materially present before a lens with the surface of a negative coated with a silver halide emulsion, thus pro- ducing a sign with indexical properties.
However, despite the technical kinship of these two media film and photography , it does not follow that they produce the same viewing experience phenomenologically. It is the static nature of the pose of the subject as captured by a photograph that lies at the heart of its affective capacity, while the filmic experience is defined by its transi- ence and variability He contends that, in the photograph, something has posed in front of the tiny hole and has remained there forever that is my feeling ; but in cinema, something has passed in front of this same tiny hole: the pose is swept away and denied by the continuous series of images: It is a different phenomenology, and therefore a different art which begins here, though derived from the first one Thus a phenomenology of film reception must address the fact that the viewer is not in a situation of contemplation, as with the photographic image, but rather one defined by the perception of an ephemeral movement.
This passage highlights the unavoidable immersion of the viewer in the temporal momentum of the filmic image. The experience of cinematic viewing is contingent on both spatial and temporal flow. I will first address the manner in which the spatial protension of the filmic image suggests a representation of the bios.
What is, in fact, made visible by the image; to what precisely does it refer? Certainly photographs are not capable of resolving the problematic state of the autos within autobiog- raphy. Nevertheless, several studies have, in recent years, attempted to examine the manner in which photographs function within literary autobiographies.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, Photography and Autobiography, Linda Hav- erty-Rugg contrasts the autobiographical accounts of figures such as Mark Twain and August Strindburg, who were intent on documenting themselves both photo- graphically and in writing, with the accounts of Walter Benjamin and Christa Wolf, who write in their autobiographies of key photos of past selves that have gone missing. Haverty-Rugg suggests that, rather than affirmation, the photograph offers a unique challenge to any simple notion of identity as it asks the reader to see the subject as simultaneously both embodied and culturally constructed.
And yet the power of the photograph within that context resides in its apparent capacity to soothe the sense of paradox that accompanies the reception of a text as autobiographical. In this regard, Haverty-Rugg calls attention to the authority of the photograph as an anchor that binds the self to the world, with some degree of constancy, in the range of documents issued by the state, which have the power to verify the identity of the individual, no matter how far she travels from home. On the other hand, photographs in an autobiographical context also insist on some- thing material, the embodied subject, the unification, to recall the autobiographical pact , of author, name, and body The photo thus gains its power through its ability to locate the self as a construct in a given time and at a given place and, simultaneously, as embodied; indeed for Haverty-Rugg what is at issue in a photograph of the autobiographical subject pertains less to the substantiation of the existence of the individual body than to its situation.
In her study, Autobiography: Toward a Poetics of Experience, published in , Janet Varner Gunn prefigures much of what critics have only taken up again in recent years, with regards to the meaning of referentiality for the reception of 55 To underscore the power held by the photograph in this respect, it is important to consider the manner in which identity was ascertained prior to the invention of the photographic process.
Valentin Groebner has examined the history of documents and practices of identity and identifi- cation prior to the advent of photography. While her survey does not address the function of photos or film in autobiography directly, it emphasizes the fundamental importance of the ref- erential effect of autobiography in the act of situating the self, an aspect that is central to a theory of filmic autobiography.
In an effort to distinguish older debates from her own perspective on reference, Gunn specifies the act of reading rather than the act of writing as the significant moment within that which she calls the autobiographical situation. The effort made by such a reader, as an embodied entity, who seeks to orient herself in time and space, is at the centre of her concept of autobiography. She writes, in the very act of bringing life to language, the autobiographer discloses the ground that makes autobiography possible in the first place.
The effort to transcribe this orientation of the self into language, defined as it is by its temporal and spatial constraints, leaves a trace of those constraints, or that particular perspective, one that is defined both by the cultural codes of that particular place and time and by the repercussions of time and space themselves. The bios of autobiography thus pertains not to an attempt to situate the individual within the flow of events that have contributed to the formation of a given per- sonality; instead, according to Gunn, the bios calls attention to the significance of location.
She writes: 56 Referentiality is traditionally assumed to be present in the act of writing. Similarly, the assump- tion that the consciousness of the filmmaker is somehow indexically represented within the selections made such as the framing of the shot or its temporal length while shooting footage is not uncommon within scholarship on film autobiography.
That reality, that specific detail, in the first place, attracted my attention because of my memories, my past. I singled out that specific detail with my total being, with my total past. Another often quoted commentator on the filmic autobiography, Catherine Portuges, makes similar claims with regards to the recovery of the past. Understood as the story of Antaeus, the real ques- tion of the autobiographical self then becomes where do I belong?
But let us return to the notion, suggested by Barthes, that the experience of film viewing is protensive. If, as Barthes claims, the protension of the filmic image prevents it from being nostalgic, how does autobiography in its filmic form take up the temporal flow of existence? The filmic image is always per se a representa- tion in the present tense, that is, of the diegetic present, unless a formal device, such as the flashback, demarcates the edges of a particular segment and codifies them as images of the past.
As such, film would seem to be rather ill-suited to subjective contemplations of the past, in that such a conjunction of subjectivity and the past tense would require a multitude of devices of demarcation. While films that attempt to represent a subjective recollection of the past, using such demarcations, indeed exist in quantity, it is important to note that that which is commonly achieved by the literary autobiography is not second nature to filmic autobiography. Indeed, according to P. Hercules finally conquers him by lifting him into the air.
In a similar fashion to Barthes, he identifies in the filmic image a different ontology from that of the photograph. However, that ontology, when tied to the question of representation in the context of auto- biographic cinema, produces, according to Sitney, a situation in which the film viewer commits herself to an effective illusion, upheld by the image itself. Making the comparison between the literary and the filmic autobiography, he writes, more specific to the cinema is the fact that all continuous images on film are illusions.
If being, or presence, is no longer than the atomistic division of filmic continuity, one twenty- fourth of a second, then it has the ontological status of a single still photograph. Indeed it is precisely this state in which the film viewer finds herself, as the sub- ject of a voluntary illusion, that is at issue in a theory of autobiographical recep- tion. Such a reception could be considered illusory. In The Cinematic Body, Steven Shaviro critiques the tradition of psychoanalytic film theory and its emphasis on the illusory nature of film reception, one that is based on the assumption of a misapprehension on the part of the viewer.
Sitney first and foremost addresses the specifics of the filmic autobiography in the con- text of the American avant-garde, which reduces its applicability to other cultural and historical contexts. Cinema produces real effects in the viewer, rather than merely presenting phantasmatic reflections to the viewer The viewer of autobiographical films is in the paradoxical position of experien- cing a kind of visceral empathy with another subject, even if the viewer is scep- tical about the viability of the subject and its accessibility in the form of a film.
I argue that the pleasure of the autobiographical text is rooted in its appeal as a phenomenological experience and the paradoxical state of exhilaration combined with proximity caused by the cinema. The responses registered in the body of the viewer are real. Thus, what Shaviro suggests here is a more expansive notion of involvement with the filmic image than character-based theories of empathy are normally thought to imply. While it is a self-evident fact that a human figure is visible in photographs that accompany literary autobiog- raphies, such as those described by Haverty-Rugg, this is not necessarily the case in filmic autobiography.
Intersubjectivity Such a sense of proximity has two sources, which are potentially present in all films: first, the engagement with another human who may or may not be visible in the image; and second, the proximity to the body of the film itself, as suggested by Sobchack. Both sorts of empathetic response are possible within autobiograph- ical film.
In the former case one is free to empathize with a figure, whether that figure is visible in the image or only suggested as an organizing consciousness, in the same way that one empathizes with a fictional character. However the latter possibility, which is inherent in the experience of proximity to the filmic image, and which is, of course, possible in any kind of film viewing experience, takes on particular connotations in the case of a film that is perceived as autobiographical.
Finally, I con- sider what the repercussions of such inclusive models of intersubjectivity must be for the notion of autobiography in film. While two recent studies of filmic empathy by Ed S. Tan and Murray Smith focus their attention explicitly on the manner in which the viewer feels for a fic- tional character, they each make reference to an understanding of empathy that considers non-figural aspects of empathetic experience. In his Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine, Tan primarily examines the manner in which fictional figures focus emotion in narrative films; however he also considers the way in which various aesthetic elements of narrative film may move the viewer.
It is a capacity innate to human beings, one with broad impli- cations. Instead, the relationship between the movements and expres- sions of the face, and the kinaesthetic image are learned; Lipps continues, it is only in the manner in which such impulses as these have an effect, that is, in that they cause corresponding movements and impressions of movement to emerge, that a linkage of such impulses with the corresponding impressions of movement come into being. In this fashion the impulse, which was heretofore blind, gains a content; its operation and effect is 59 I will quote Lipps at some length here, since his writings in German are both plentiful and lengthy and have only been translated into English in a fragmentary and limited fashion.
The presence of such neurons would go a long way to accounting for the manner in which complex systems such as language are acquired phylogenetically. Such mirror neurons would account for the inclina- tion of humans to experience empathy in both fictional and non-fictional contexts. The nature of our particular achievement, however, consists in the production of cer- tain operations in the muscles, sinew, joints and finally the skin as well. Of the completed action in its entirety we retain, in short, only a kinaesthetic image.
At the turn of the 20th century in Vienna, a heated debate was underway about the manner in which the subjectivity of perception could be contained; accord- ingly, the risk of solipsism and its repercussions for perception concerned a variety of disciplines. These two modes of vision work together to integrate subjective and objective knowledge. By alternating between the attempt to validate the existence of objective reality and a subjective point-of-view, a viewer may distinguish between the two realms and, in turn, validate that which is perceived subjectively.
Thus, the impression of palpability, ascertained purely on the basis of vision, is sufficient for an intersubjective relationship with an object. He sought to validate artistic images by tracing their formal attributes to the optical and tactile senses. If the viewer could be convinced that he could touch an object, he would believe in its reality, and hence its abil- ity to enter into a n optical relationship The viewer does not only seek to assume a state of attentiveness with regards to the work; she expects it from the work in return. Riegl makes this argument most explicitly in his study of The Group Portraiture of Holland; the notion that a painting may demonstrate a state of attentiveness to the viewer may not seem inconceiv- able in the case of portraiture.
I propose that the most productive approach to the phenomenon of inter- subjectivity in the cinema in general, and the autobiographical film in particular, must take into consideration both the breadth of situations offering empathetic experience, as suggested by Lipps, and the kind of reciprocal attentiveness that is suggested by Riegl. Their notions of empathetic experience and reciprocal atten- tiveness both depend on the relationship between vision and the tactile capacities of the human body, which are in turn embedded within the body and depend on its surface, the skin.
The notions of the haptic, the kinaesthetic, and the proprio- ceptic, and their repercussions for aesthetic experience, also attracted a great deal of attention in Central Europe in the early years of the 20th century. Although the two latter terms are often subsumed under the general term of the haptic, or that which is perceived by tactile sensation on the surface of or within the body, it would be prudent to consider the manner in which they each function separately.
Proprio- ception is transmitted by means of receptors on muscles, joints, and tendons that offer data about the position of the body in space, its relationship to gravity, and its general connectedness. However, it is not necessary that our bodies come into direct contact with matter; our vision is fundamentally influenced by and capable of recollecting the experiences of the other senses. In this regard, Sobchack suggests, my sense of sight, then, is a modality of perception that is commutable to my other senses, and vice-versa. My sight is never only sight — it sees what my ear can hear, my hand can touch, my nose can smell, and my tongue can taste.
My entire bodily existence is implicated in my vision Thus it would follow that the sensation of embodied selfhood, which is so contin- gent on haptic, kinaesthetic and proprioceptic impressions, would also be repro- duced in film by means of haptic visuality. He likens the impact of film images on the viewer indeed, the quality of this new medium on the whole to that of a bullet, thereby lending the medium itself a tactile quality Benjamin continues that the shock produced by this experience in the case of film reception exceeds that with which he was initially comparing it: the effect produced by the Dadaist work of art.
Following Benjamin, I suggest that the experience of film viewing is, in essence, a tactile one that enables a situation of proximity to an other, whether that other be taken for a historical subject — as I argue is the case with autobiographical recep- tion — or not. In her Atlas of Emotion. Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film Bruno charts an entirely different type of emotional experience from that focused on by the scholars of empathy noted above.
In The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses, Laura Marks points out an additional manner in which the filmic image may be haptic: that which is depicted within the film image may be blurred or otherwise represented in such a fashion as to suggest that it is at such close proximity to the viewer that she may not be able to make out its representational content. In her book The Skin of the Film Laura Marks glosses over this matter entirely, never aligning herself explicitly with either side. Indeed, her account suggests it would be prudent to consider the specific manner in which filmic autobiography is perceived as such by the viewer, and what repercussions the filmic medium itself have on the notion of autobiography.
Much of what is usually considered filmic autobiography, represented here by both Lane and the brief overviews of the work of Renov and James, functions on the basis of conventions of representation that allow the filmmaker to illustrate her recollection of the past and its impact on the present. As I have pointed out, while these acts of consciousness may be depicted convincingly on the basis of several types of standardized tools of demarcation one cannot make a case for the referentiality of such formal devices.
Nonetheless, there is a type of referentiality in operation within the filmic auto- biography that pertains not to the specificity of the autos, but to the bios depicted there. However it is, as Hav- erty-Rugg argues, as capable as the photograph of locating the subject in time and space — whether or not the subject is present in the image.
Thus, in film the bios — or, the notion that life is represented in autobiography — may be understood to be present in the image itself, in the way in which a historical time and place leave their indexical traces on the image as signifiers of the ramifications of life in that precise situation. The viewer is immersed in the protension of the filmic image, in the precise manner in which a given film extends itself forward tem- porally and spatially, and is thus absorbed within the experience offered by that particular moment.
If, as Bruss has claimed, the autobiography is predicated on the distinction between the self and the other and the empathetic relationship that the reader willingly enters into with that other, then film offers an alternate kind of inter- subjective experience. As Sobchack suggests, the film experience not only represents and reflects upon the prior direct perceptual experi- ence of the filmmaker by means of the modes and structures of direct and reflective experi- ence, but also presents the direct and reflective experience of a perceptual and expressive existence as the film.
In its presence and activity of perception and expression, the film tran- scends the filmmaker to constitute and locate its own address, its own perceptual and expres- sive experience of being and becoming As a medium capable of offering a particular set of corporeal sensations, such as the haptic, the kinaes- thetic, and the proprioceptic, film leads the viewer back to those perceptions that are essential to her own sense of being an embodied subject.
In the case of auto- biographical film, one is offered the opportunity not only to enter into a situation of intersubjectivity with a filmic body, but to locate the subjectivity implied in that body in a given time and space as a historical subject. The precise repercussions of such an act of location will be taken up throughout the remainder of this book. Visible behind him, passers-by stop and stare. His face is marked by a look of pained detachment from the world around him, and he seems to be equally troubled by, and oblivious to, its life.
He neither looks in the camera directly nor at the others on the street. He is intent on his motion through that space. He speaks to no one, until the end of the 8- minute film, when he is seen to speak a few words to someone standing beyond the edges of the frame; subsequently he is handed a bratwurst, which he proceeds to consume.
With that act of submission to the needs of the body, a film otherwise marked by a distinct sense of otherworldliness and disembodiment, ends. This short film highlights a set of oppositions fundamental to many of the films at issue in the following chapters, between observation and participation, between engagement and analytical detachment. Can the situation of the self be separated from the manner in which self and other interact?
Can one ever view oneself in utter isolation? Paul John Eakin has suggested that there is no iden- tity that is not relational, and conversely, that every identity is contingent on the manner in which the self is upheld in the web of relationships with other selves in its proximity. However, as these selves are indeed products of a particular time and place, the manner in which relational identity is regarded and represented varies widely. On the basis of the films at issue in the following chapters, I suggest that rela- tional identity is a particularly fraught issue in the German context.
Many of these works ponder how the self may interact with the world as it moves through the space of that world, indeed, how self and other meet within the space they are obliged to share? Furthermore, the form taken in such interaction between self and other may also vary. On the basis of the evidence suggested by the body of films at issue here, I also suggest that the link between corporeality and identity has long been of particular significance within German culture and that a closer examination of the nature of that link clarifies what is at stake in these works.
In fact, as I suggested earlier, the autobiographical film takes on a particular form in Germany, one which largely abandons the investigation of the manner in which the autos has evolved in favour of a focus on the bios. Such films repeatedly offer an immersion into the manner in which an individual body produces meaning within its own particular temporal and spatial parameters. In this second part of my study, I approach a range of films as autobiographies that all attempt, in various ways, to situate the individual and her perception of self in relation to an other within the context of 20th century Germany.
The particu- lar form taken by the filmic autobiography in Germany offers access to a range of discourses of ongoing significance within that culture, discourses that may other- wise have remained intangible. These works act as a hinge between an assort- ment of virulent and suggestive issues, including the tension between the private and the public, between the obligation to remember and the urge to forget, and between the relative significance of the individual and that of the group; finally, they mediate the distinction between here and there, now and then.
Given that the notion of filmic autobiography that was set forth in Chapter 2 is contingent on performativity, referentiality and intersubjectivity rather than on the identification of a set of textual markers by which one may identify a given work as autobiographical, I will not argue that the films in question here display a particular set of formal characteristics, nor that they necessarily have been con- ventionally viewed as autobiographical.
In keeping with the arguments put forth in my previous chapters, I will also not argue that the referentiality of filmic auto- biography pertains to the life of an empirical author, nor that these films offer privileged access to the consciousness of that author, a concept that has been pivotal in discussions of New German Cinema. Thus, the films under investigation in the following chapters offer insights into the fraught nature of intersubjectivity, embodiment and empathy within German culture.
The manner in which these virulent issues find representation filmically offers a par- ticularly ambivalent kind of engagement, both with the body of the film and with the historical subjects depicted within it. Both within these works and within German culture at large, the body and cor- poreal experience play a prominent role in the negotiation of selfhood, providing the most fundamental anchor for the self to its situation in time and place.
Indeed this anchoring is effected both on the levels of representation and reception. While most literature on the significance of corporeal experience in German culture tends to focus on post-World War II West Germany, Uli Linke argues in German Bodies: Race and Representation After Hitler that the German body has been key in a var- iety of cultural practices that have facilitated the differentiation of self from other throughout the 20th century. She writes, 71 As mentioned previously in the Introduction, I will not be including fictional films in my analysis here.
The distinction between the fictional and the non-fictional realms are, of course, as con- tentious as the distinction between the autobiographical account and the purely fictional. For a treatment of the distinction between fiction film and the documentary, which is analogous to my description of the autobiographical, see Odin.
I am concerned in this book to trace such markers with regards to the viability of the notion of autobiography in German film. While Scarry focuses in her own study, The Body in Pain: The Making and the Unmaking of the World, on the significance of pain in a variety of social and historical contexts, the substantiation she describes here need not only have negative experiential connotations, but may well also enlist more pleasurable corporeal capacities.
Indeed, in an enormously influential text published in West Germany in , Erfahrungshunger. Initially, literature seemed to offer a remedy to the problem of visceral atrophy and the distance from reality, which that atrophy seems to imply. Rutschky depicts the complex emotional state characteristic of that period as follows: The seventies are a time of fog, not a cold one but rather a warm one. Something is sought which might drive this fog away. Perhaps terror or pain might act as indices of the truth. Or to put it more precisely: perhaps reality would appear in their midst.
What was at issue was the gaining of experience — with questions of morality or appropriate behaviour suspended. And it was writing that was to offer this experience; writing seemed to be the only activity which was worth undertaking. Es wird etwas ersehnt, das ihn vertreibt. Vielleicht sind es Schrecken oder Schmerz, als der Index der Wahrheit, genauer: in ihnen erschiene endlich die Wirklichkeit.
Es ging darum, endlich eine Erfahrung zu machen — dabei ist die Frage nach der Wahrheit eigentlich ebenso suspendiert wie die nach der Moral, dem richtigen Handeln. This fog, however, is not the product of disillusion- ment with a particular political approach but rather with the potential of theoriza- tion or generalization per se.
Rutschky describes this dilemma: No one can say precisely what it was that we lost in the Seventies. What I have described as a utopia of theoretical generalizations was not the result of a conviction produced by means of a particular theory, but rather by the unspecific faith in the capacity to theorize itself, or to generalize about every one of my own impulses completely and utterly until it yielded a universal truth.
Accordingly, the relationship between self and other becomes shrouded; indeed the self becomes lost, according to Rutschky, within such generalizations.
Technology and Culture
He continues: And this utopia has a dark flip side: every one of my impulses is actually something gener- alizable, and for that precise reason I cannot trust any of my impulses to be my own. The socialized individual dissolves into a mass of teeming, threatening discourses.
Such a dis- solution causes one to search for self-actualization and self-determination beyond the realm of language, in perception and sensuality, in the body, indeed, if necessary, in horror and pain. Finally, it is only the cinema that offers the kind of experienced longed for but ultimately not found within literature. It was not only Eugen for whom the cinema opened up this possibility in the seventies to go beyond the realm of generalized concepts, which could still the hunger for experience, and calm the urge for the many diffuse quests.
More accurately, one could speak of different sensibilisms being con- structed through different filmic means. They are distinct from each other not by their degree of realism or fantasy, but chiefly by the degree of melancholy, fatalism, pathos, irony or loss and what these came to signify I too am less concerned to distinguish between these inclinations in German films, than to point out both the surprising manner in which these ostensibly very dif- ferent impulses display subtle similarities with regards to the significance of the self and its relationship to the other, and the manner in which such a subtle play between empathy and inscrutability is made tangible in the various forms taken by a broad range of German films that attempt to broach this divide.
In an attempt to find a form that would allow workers to speak for themselves in an unmediated manner and armed with a tape recorder, Runge interviewed a number of working class Germans about their lives and transcribed these interviews directly to paper. As such, intervention by the author was kept to an absolute minimum in order to maximize the impression of objectivity. Yet empirical analysis neglected to take gender relations, subjectivity, and the personal into account Indeed, by the early s the documentary text was faulted for those same claims to objectivity.
In its stead the autobiographical text had come to hold particular promise, for it alone seemed to offer the hoped-for immediacy and the access to visceral experience, without raising the spectre of ethnographic arrogance, which came to be seen as a risk implicit in the documentary form.
By Runge would state that she wished she had made her own position as author and subject within the situation documented by the Protokolle more tangible. I was not capable of it, although I had the need to do it. I wanted to speak of myself, my own wishes and difficulties, but I was afraid to expose myself Runge qtd. Morgan, USA. Biennale Apollo by Sylvano Bussotti, Italy.
Roth, USA. Exitus by Krassimir Krumov, Bulgaria. Idomeneo by Michael Kreihsl, Austria. Kindergarten by Jorge Polaco, Argentina. Kuduz by Ademir Kenovic, Yugoslavia. Le porte-plume by Marie-Christine Perrodin, France. Les raboteurs de Caillebotte by Cyril Collard, France. Meteo by Andras M. Monory, Hungary. Mir wam: Sholom Friede sei mit Euch by V. O Susanna, wie ist das Leben Positiv Positive by R. Recsk Gyarmathy, Hungary.
Return Home by Ray Argall, Australia. Rikyu by Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japan. Riggs, USA. Atlantic Rhapsody by Katrin Ottarsdottir, Faeroes. Chronik der Ereignisse am 9. Die Marquise von O. Kuleschow, Nina Agadshanova, Russian Federation. Es lebe die R How Much Is Really True? Hugo by Yair Lev, Israel. In Berlin, Strachwitz, USA. Kameradschaft Solidarity by G.
Pabst, Germany through Koma by A. Konitz by Robert Daudelin, Canada. Leibzig im Herbst by A. Kroske, Germany GDR to Pink Ulysses by Eric de Kuyper, Netherlands. Roadkill by Bruce McDonald, Canada. Sao Bernado by Leon Hirszman, Brazil. Seated Figures by Michael Snow, Canada. Siddheshwari by Mani Kaul, India. Stalin s nami?
Step Across The Border by N. Untama-Giru by Go Takamine, Japan. Zazie by Go Riju, Japan. Bulten by Lennart Gustafsson, Sweden. Chorus by Mrinal Sen, India. Der letzte Akt by G. Pabst, Austria. Diva by Jean-Jacques Beineix, France. Geschichte der Nacht by Clemens Klopfenstein, Switzerland. Giorni di gloria Tage des Ruhms by G.