The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory [1st ed.] 9783030458966, 9783030458973

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The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory [1st ed.]
 9783030458966, 9783030458973

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-x
The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory (Lauren Bliss)....Pages 1-24
Guilty as Charged: Feminist Film Theory and the Early Modern Imagination (Lauren Bliss)....Pages 25-50
“When We Do Not See Something, We Imagine It to Be Much Worse” (Lauren Bliss)....Pages 51-75
Sound and Vision: The Cinematic Figuration of the Virgin Mary in Le livre de Marie and Je vous salue, Marie (Lauren Bliss)....Pages 77-98
Natural and Experimental Births: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Experimental Cinema (Lauren Bliss)....Pages 99-123
Eat the Children! (Lauren Bliss)....Pages 125-141
What Are You Expecting to See? On Childbirth in Visual Culture (Lauren Bliss)....Pages 143-155
Back Matter ....Pages 157-183

Citation preview

The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory Lauren Bliss

The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory

Lauren Bliss

The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory

Lauren Bliss School of Culture and Communication University of Melbourne Melbourne, VIC, Australia

ISBN 978-3-030-45896-6    ISBN 978-3-030-45897-3 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45897-3 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: ‘The works of Ambroise Pare’, 1633 via archive.org Cover design: eStudioCalamar This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

For Francis & Angie

Acknowledgements

Without the people who offered their time and support, and careful and considered thoughts, this project would not have reached completion. As an early career researcher, working in a time of increasingly insecure employment, this book was not simply self-driven but enabled by a network of collegial and social support. In particular, and in no order of importance, I need to express my thanks to my colleagues in the Media and Communication program at the University of Melbourne, especially to Ingrid Volkmer for her encouragement and support. To my original PhD supervisors, Angela Ndalianis, for her direct and encouraging feedback and Timothy Laurie, for his considered and careful reading. To my friend Helen Hughes, for reading the manuscript and offering helpful and insightful criticisms. To Erin Stapleton, for facilitating a community-­building writing group and to everyone who attended for their inspiration and collegiality. And to my friend Tim Coster, for his professional and erudite copy-editing. This project has been enabled by a publishing grant from the School of Culture and Communication, the University of Melbourne. This project would not be possible without the reference points offered by many scholars of cinema, feminist theory, the unconscious, the maternal imagination and the witch-hunt, some of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting and others known to me only through their words and ideas. I especially thank Nicole Brenez, Justin Clemens, Marion Campbell, Joe Hughes, Catherine Grant, Christophe Wall-Romana, Nicholas Chare

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and Adrian Martin. Their works and direct feedback have structured the ideas that have formed The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory. Finally, I must thank my partner and fellow academic, Francis Plagne, whose keen editorial eye and passion for endless discussion about this book ensured it could come to fruition.

Contents

1 The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory  1 1.1 Introduction  1 1.2 Imagining the Imaginary of Film Theory 12 References 19 2 Guilty as Charged: Feminist Film Theory and the Early Modern Imagination 25 2.1 The Proto-Cinematics of Witchcraft: “As Has Been Seen by Many and Is a Matter of Common Report” 28 2.2 Flying Ointment: The Cinematics of the Self-Conceiving Mind 36 2.3 “Because I Fear My Creator I Shall Say Nothing More About These Secrets at Present” 40 2.4 “How Did That Isolated Goblin Get into the Limelight?” Pregnant Illusions of Cinema and Media 44 References 47 3 “When We Do Not See Something, We Imagine It to Be Much Worse” 51 3.1 The Conception of the Ignorant Spectator 53 3.2 The Maternal Imagination of Film Theory 55 3.3 Incomparable Bodies 61 3.4 “I Had Never Seen Myself Before This Way and I Regarded Myself with Horror” 65 References 72 ix

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4 Sound and Vision: The Cinematic Figuration of the Virgin Mary in Le livre de Marie and Je vous salue, Marie 77 4.1 The Image of Virginity 77 4.2 “All of Nature Has Become Corrupt” 79 4.3 “Our Thought May Grow from an Idea that Has Come from Elsewhere, Without Our Knowing Who Has Given It to Us” 85 4.4 “Godard Has Understood Nothing” 90 References 95 5 Natural and Experimental Births: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Experimental Cinema 99 5.1 Water Sark and Experimental Music102 5.2 The Unconscious of Experimental Cinema: “You Want Me to Put My Thing in Your Hole and That Will Be ‘Communication’”108 5.3 Agnès Varda Is Neither Agnès Varda Nor Marie Menken118 References120 6 Eat the Children!125 6.1 Have You Eaten Yet? 你吃了吗?127 6.2 Seeing and Reporting Cannibalism133 6.3 China as “the Less-Than Human”137 References139 7 What Are You Expecting to See? On Childbirth in Visual Culture143 7.1 Childbirth Is No Longer a “Visual Taboo”144 7.2 Rethinking the Temporality of Pregnancy and Childbirth in Visual Culture149 References152 Bibliography157 Index177

CHAPTER 1

The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory

1.1   Introduction The historic power of the pregnant woman’s gaze to distort the imagination is likely as powerful as the male gaze of cinema and visual media, with its perceived ability to objectify, or unconsciously distort, one’s body-­ image. From Greek antiquity until the early twentieth century in Europe and North America, a pregnant woman’s gaze was thought to hold the power to corrupt the bodily appearance of the foetus within and distort paternal perception, effects that were often believed to result from her looking at works of art (Huet 1993; Shildrick 2000; Brownlee et al. 2001; Ellis 2017). The pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles thought that a pregnant woman gazing upon statues could influence the appearance of the foetus; father of modern surgery Ambroise Paré was convinced the pregnant uterus had imaginary power, while subsequent Rationalist and Enlightenment thinkers—including Descartes, Voltaire, Diderot and Hegel—likewise accepted that the maternal gaze could form a literal impression onto the foetus within as a result of gazing at a desired or feared object (Huet 1993; Toor 2007; Terrall 2012). Belief in the reality of the maternal imagination was not universal, however, and debate about their potential was at its height in Europe in the first decades of the eighteenth century, the final stages of the European and American witch-hunts (Shildrick 2000; Toor 2007). The persecution of witches can be linked to belief in the maternal imagination, as their alleged crime was a corruption and manipulation of the victim’s body-image—with the ability to © The Author(s) 2020 L. Bliss, The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45897-3_1

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manipulate and visually castrate a man’s self-image of his penis being one of a witch’s more arresting powers (Sprenger and Kramer 1971; Rodnite Lemay 1992). Concomitant with both the witch-hunts and heightened debate about the theory of the maternal imagination is the rise of proto-­ cinematic inventions including the trick mirror, magic lantern and camera obscura and the hoped-for power of visualising technologies that, like cinema today, could suspend the spectator’s disbelief in an illusion (Stafford 1993). This book will argue that the historic belief in the power of the pregnant woman’s imagination to manipulate and literally impress an appearance onto the foetus, as it intersects with the witch-hunts as well as the rise of proto-cinematic inventions, can be linked to the male gaze and the manner in which film theory has developed psycho-sexual theories of the unconscious to argue that cinematic representation can corrupt and distort the spectator’s body-image, especially in a gendered sense. The maternal imagination and early modern witchcraft are haunted by a literal-mindedness towards images (Stafford 1993). We can find an analogy with this literal-mindedness in the idea that misogynist film and media representations can erase an original body-image perspective and ensure the continuation of the patriarchal unconscious, as succinctly described by feminist poet and political activist Robin Morgan: “We have no bodies…because they are defined, posed, abused, veiled, air-brushed or metaphorised by men” (in Grey 2011). Another perspective onto the totalising power of the patriarchal unconscious is given in the words of feminist film scholar Mary Ann Doane: “The supreme achievement of patriarchal ideology is that it has no outside” (1980: 50). While the psychoanalytic model of feminist film theory has had enormous and important impact on our understanding of cinema and other forms of visual media, both inside and outside the academy, this book will argue against the literal-mindedness of the common sense image of objectification by developing the early modern history of the maternal imagination and the witch-hunt to question the terms on which the patriarchal unconscious has been constructed. Common sense, for Gilles Deleuze, is a category of recognition tied to the philosophical reliance on a sense of the implicit, the presuppositional and the natural (1994). Deleuze thus distinguishes common sense from the act of thinking, where the latter is not a natural given but something that requires theorisation, argument and provocation. His provocation is that we should not assume we are naturally or automatically thinking when we are having thoughts: “It cannot be regarded as a fact that

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thinking is the natural exercise of a faculty, and that this faculty is possessed of a good nature and a good will. ‘Everybody’ knows very well that in fact men think rarely, and more often under the impulse of a shock than in the excitement of a taste for thinking” (132). Deleuze argues that challenging common sense does not, in this respect, come naturally to the mind and that it thus demands questioning on the basis of what is claimed “in principle” and “not on the basis of empirical objections” (135). The prism of the early modern history of the maternal imagination and witchcraft allows us to rethink principled presuppositions about the patriarchal power of cinema and media. Two intersecting common sense principles are called into question here. The first principle, generally taken as a given within film and media theory, is the belief in the ubiquity of visual culture and its pedagogical impact (Jay 2002). In its broadest sense, cinema and media is typically understood to shape perception of reality to the extent that there is no objective reality outside of mediated visual culture (Jay 2002). As described by cultural studies scholar Douglas Kellner, visual culture is a “profound and often misperceived source of cultural pedagogy: [Media] contribute to educating us how to behave and what to think, feel, believe, fear, and desire – and what not to…media are forms of pedagogy that teach us how to be men and women” (2011: 7). In relation to film theory specifically, this opens onto the question of how theories of perception generate presuppositions about the relation between the body of the spectator and the cinematic image (Elsaesser and Hagener 2015). In particular, the principle of a patriarchal ideological power—which can usurp the spectator’s internal perception of their sense of self—intersects with the common sense image of the organising and determinative role that cinema and broader visual culture is thought to play in shaping our perception. Necessitating continued theorisation, debate and discourse to undermine the objectifying power of the male gaze over the body, the study of body-image is a field of inquiry common to both the humanities and the sciences. In the sciences, the notion of objectification exists in psychology and psychiatry as a theory that understands the internalisation of another’s perspective as forming the primary basis for beliefs and views about the self (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997). In the humanities, the theory of the psyche’s image of the body usurped by cinema and media was originally developed through theories of the subject and depends on psychoanalytic theories of the unconscious, as well as the Marxist theory of commodification (Mulvey 1975, 2013; Doane 2013). The limits and problems with

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the use of the psychoanalytic unconscious to surmount the theory of the male gaze have been acknowledged, passionately interrogated and challenged through numerous critical responses, notably in reception theory, which understands the spectator as an individual and as the product of cultural, material and historical forces beyond capture by the psychoanalytic model (Stacey 2013; Staiger 2000); feminist phenomenology, which aims to capture a spectator’s embodied response to a film (Sobchack 1992); and the queer gaze, which troubles the sexed dichotomy of the original male gaze (Evans and Gamman 1995). However, the assumption of an implicit patriarchal power that requires critique arguably remains common sense and unchallenged by the historical perspective offered by the early modern prism of the imagination that can question the terms on which the patriarchal unconscious of cinema, and by proxy visual culture, has been constructed. To question the terms on which this unconscious has been constructed, we can turn to the idea that the external look of the pregnant woman could alter the internal appearance of the foetus, which remained fairly common from antiquity until the advent of embryology in the nineteenth century (Toor 2007; Shildrick 2000; Huet 1993). The belief in the maternal imagination, or alternatively the theory of maternal impressions, is historically significant in studies of art, science, philosophy and medicine and is related to both pregnancy in a corporeal sense and the reproduction of the body in an artistic and technological sense (Buckley 2017; Hanafi 2000). Pregnancy has long provided a literalising metaphor for the relationship between the artist and artwork (Huet 1993). One of the key claims of this book is that the paradigm of the maternal imagination, the history of pregnancy’s imaginary capacity and the imagining of what pregnancy means, both in its historical as well as its modern feminist form, have potential to elucidate a critical theory and history of cinema and visual culture. However, scholarship on cinema and pregnancy more typically considers the lived and thus literal experience of pregnancy and motherhood and how it is represented in specific films or film genres (Oliver 2012; Boswell 2014; Harrington 2017; Creed 2015), producing a slippage between the literal body or lived experience and themes of imagination, figuration and cinematic reproduction (Ellis 2017). To understand and question what has been produced as common sense, this book models theories of the spectator on figures of the maternal imagination, described below. Although this book will borrow from feminist scholarship on the topic of

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literal pregnancy and the maternal where relevant, including where it is both desired and not wanted (Young 1984; Lundquist 2008), the primary point of departure is the early modern concept of the maternal imagination, which is developed as an analogy for themes of figuration and reproduction and as a provocation directed against the common sense assumption of unconscious effects in film theory. Thus, the argument knowingly sits uneasily within the feminist project and feminist discourses about cinema and visual culture. The psychoanalytic unconscious largely scaffolds the feminist aim to point to and expose “the difficulties of difference and desire…the contradictions of femininity, of motherhood and gender, in the production and circulation of images of women” (Cowie 2019: 73). Here, this unconscious is put “on trial” through its resemblance to early modern ideas of the imagination. Rather than psychoanalytic or philosophical theories of the subject, this book will draw a set of figurative analogies between the maternal imagination and film theory. Importantly, these figurative analogies are not developed with a view towards internal, philosophical conversations and the definitions of the figural proposed by certain thinkers (Deleuze 1981; Lyotard 2011; Dubois 2004; Aumont 2005); rather, my focus remains on the potential of figurative analogies to provoke against common sense ideas within film theory. In Chap. 2, Guilty as Charged, the early modern theory of maternal impressions and the legal and theological concept of the witch are read as figurative analogies for common sense assumptions inherited from psychoanalytic feminist film theory of the male gaze. This chapter calls into question the terms of the basic assumption of the male gaze, namely that it is unconscious in its objectification and that a literal link between the psyche of the spectator and the cinema screen can be demonstrated through the theory. To follow this line of questioning, the remaining chapters focus on four other figures of the maternal imagination offering analogies for other common sense assumptions in film theory that produce overly literal understandings of spectatorship. In Chap. 3, “When We Do Not See Something, We Imagine It to Be Much Worse”, the maternal dimension of the alienated spectator (Buck-Morss 1992; Marder 2012) is developed to call into question the supposed power of the image of the foetus. The ultrasound is the modern standard for visualising pregnancy, and the two-­ dimensional foetus is described by some scholars as an icon, or a commodified image, for the origins of human life (Oliver 2010; Taylor 2008;

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Kaplan 2016; Cook 2003; Petchesky 1987). Ultrasound images have been rightly critiqued in relation to their problematic use by pro-life, anti-­ abortion movements to humanise images of the foetus while dehumanising the individual autonomy of the pregnant woman for political purposes (Lupton 2013); however, some scholars go further, claiming that pregnancy is also disembodied or alienated by the ultrasound’s images, as stereotypes of the foetus are thought to subordinate a pregnant woman’s subjectivity and self-perception (Kukla 2005; Duden 1993; Petchesky 1987). An argument against this model of the alienated spectator will be proposed through an analysis of the pro-choice French documentary film Histoires d’A (1974), which assumes a knowing spectator in relation to images of abortion on screen. Importantly, this film contributed to the successful legalisation of abortion in France in the mid-1970s and so offers a renewed perspective onto the limits of conceiving of spectatorship as unconscious or objectified (Lecler 2007). In Chap. 4, Sound and Vision, the Virgin Mary, as she is figured within the dual production Le livre de Marie and Je vous salue, Marie (1985) by Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard, is analysed in terms of the common sense image of virginity as lacking internality or sexual self-­ awareness. This image of virginity is questioned through the two films’ figuration of the myth of the Virgin Mary. Where the Virgin Mary offers a paradigm for the patriarchal image of the virgin/whore dichotomy, my analysis will suggest that these two films figure virginity such that it cannot be lost, objectified or indeed “seen” through the prism of a theory of the unconscious or in the Christian sense in which virginity is given in the image of God. In Chap. 5, Natural and Experimental Births, a comparison between Joyce Wieland’s Water Sark (1964) and Stan Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving (1959) aims to challenge the common sense assumption of an emancipation of perception—or the idea that images of the female body require a counter response to male domination of the female image. Wieland is known for her provocative work and for refusals of the principles of the male gaze (Rabinovitz 2003). I argue that Water Sark resonates with Michael Nyman’s theory of the body of the experimental musician (1999) and can be read in the light of John Cage’s Water Walk (1959), ensuring the film refuses the traditional assumption of the usurped image of the female body in experimental cinema. Finally, in Chap. 6, Eat the Children! the figure of the cannibalised foetus is analysed in a study of Fruit Chan’s Hong Kong horror Dumplings

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(2004). In Dumplings, a Hong Kong actress and Mainland Chinese doctor-­turned-chef cannibalise aborted foetuses. The horror of their cannibalism is taken as an address to the common sense principle of censorship, namely that it prevents internal critique or self-knowledge. The cannibalised foetuses are read as figures of censorship in Mainland China, related through the reliance that censorship has on self-censorship and the individual repression of internal knowledge (Bunn 2015). The cannibal has played an important role in writing on cinema and literature, notably in the work of the modernist Chinese writer Lu Xun (Bachner 2018). Dumplings models its cannibalism on his story Diary of a Madman; but where Lu called on the reader to “save the children” to prevent China from cannibalising itself, Dumplings figures Lu’s call as a horrific, if humorous, address to censorship. Rather than directly seeking to rethink the unconscious through a reworking of theories or models of the psyche, gender or sexuality, here the history and philosophy of the maternal imagination and the witch-­ hunt instead form a lens through which to restage an examination and analysis of the theories and discourses of origins and originality in film theory. The aim of this historical analogy and analysis is to elicit dialogue and show the necessity of a different perspective where subjectivity is not captured in a form regarded as alienated, melancholic, subordinated, oppressed or pathologised, nor relegated to being unthinkable due to some presupposition of an unconscious effect. In each chapter, the maternal figures are developed to show how filmic figuration itself calls into question common sense dichotomies or principles, as well as academically produced—if politically minded—oppositions between sound and image, truth and illusion, knowledge and ignorance, alienation and embodiment and, in some cases, between patriarchy and feminism. Through filmic figuration, we can further call into question how film theory and history has generated its sense of patriarchal origins as well as its ends, directed towards emancipation from those origins. The figural can be taken as an antonym of the literal, where the figural refers to the living and the imaginative sense as opposed to the objective, the material and the measurable (Brenez 1998). Literal-mindedness haunts the history of the maternal imagination and the legal and theological concept of witchcraft during the witch-hunts as well as, I will argue, certain common sense tendencies in film and media theory. Barbara Stafford describes the eighteenth century mentality towards the maternal imagination and the witch-hunts as reinforcing a view of “congenital

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sensory frailty” (1993: 2). In this period, images took on a paradoxical status in that they were central to “the process of Enlightening” while also being seen to be misleading “without the guidance of discourse”. The imagination’s power to impress a literal expression upon the psyche of the foetus is, from this perspective, also a prefiguration of Freudian psychology. Without exploring this angle towards the theory of maternal impressions in depth, Stafford nonetheless describes it as “[a] sort of pre-Freudian fetal psychology [in which] the infant took on the literal shape of the trauma, or the experience that had left a profound negative or positive groove in the psyche” (312). While noting that the theory of maternal impressions may have been somehow largely resolved with the development of embryology and the cementation of a scientific view of human reproduction in the nineteenth century, Margrit Shildrick also suggests that the “motivating anxieties that fueled [belief in the maternal imagination] are with us still” (257) in the subordination of female sexuality and the female body in public discourse. Marie-Hélène Huet studies the emergence of this belief in literary and film aesthetics and likewise argues that it is tied to an assumption of feminine excess and the patriarchal view of “unruly” female desire (1993). Feminine excess refers to the notion that women are “essentially irrational, rooted in a determinate bodilyness, unable to maintain a proper distance between subject and object, and not fully agents of their own will” (Shildrick 2000: 257). While this excess is typically located in patriarchal stereotypes of femininity, such as the femme fatale, as manipulator of men, or the virgin, as the vulnerable woman in need of protection by men, the excess located in this book begins with the provocative analogy between the early modern belief in the maternal imagination and witchcraft and presuppositions about the unconscious, objectifying effects of cinema. To begin to consider this analogy, we can note how both the idea of the maternal imagination and the theory of the male gaze assume that “woman is constructed differently [from man] in relation to processes of looking” (Doane 1982: 80). However, in developing the history of the maternal imagination as a lens through which to question common sense assumptions of unconscious effects, my argument does not intend to model new ways of thinking about gender, sexuality, the psyche or other literal, lived categories of identity or subjectivity; nor is it explicitly addressed to institutional questions of cinematic production, distribution or exhibition. Although the arguments within this book will show a preference for a knowing spectator, as opposed to an unconsciously affected one, this book

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is nonetheless primarily addressed to questions of cinematic reproduction; that is, this book contends that it is necessary to call into question how common sense assumptions are theorised, imagined and thus reproduced in film and media theory, discourse and criticism. Primarily, this position is developed through a provocation against the idea of the totalising power of patriarchal cinema and visual culture, the idea that there is no outside to the unconscious effects of cinema and visual culture. However, it should also be made clear that the arguments in this book do not address many of the important and wide-ranging theorists of the body, gender, technology and perception, such as Donna Haraway, who assumes that any distinction between technology, the body and the world is immaterial (2006). Further, while I will question aspects of the psychoanalytic unconscious, it is important to consider how psychoanalysis has been an especially persuasive form of interpretation not only for feminist film theory but also for the study of the sex-gender-sexuality distinction more generally insofar as it enables us to conceptualise how “human nature” is itself “the product of social relations in interaction with biology” (Flax 1983: 128). Without psychoanalysis we do not have, for example, the now common sense distinction between sex, gender and sexuality, nor can we show that attendant idealisations and stereotypes of gender, sexuality and pregnancy and the body are not natural or tied to biology but are culturally produced and thus able to be questioned and analysed (Flax 1983). For a study of body-image, feminist critique of patriarchal images of gender in cinema and media has shown the norm against which the distortion is measured is based on a patriarchal unconscious and that patriarchal ideology has its roots in the cultural imaginary rather than reality of the natural body (Doane 1982). In other words, norms of sexist imagery and gendered images of the body have also been shown to be culturally and psychologically produced and thus open to analysis and critique. However, the arguments in this book are also not explicitly addressed to theories of the cultural imaginary, or libidinal, psycho-linguistic approaches to gender and sexuality, including the work of Judith Butler. Within Butler’s well-known reworking of the Freudian unconscious, gender is effectively imitated, understood as a simulacrum or a melancholic performance without any essential or materially embodied significance (1995, 2002).1 This ensures that gender is essentially mutable, which for Butler also means it is expressed as a form of grieving for other potential identities one may never achieve (1995). Butler’s theory has been widely

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celebrated but also cautiously critiqued for its “unintentional convergences” (Phipps 2014, pg. 49) with neoliberal constructs of individuality as well as for its “methodological individualism” (Boucher 2006). The paradigm this model of scholarship belongs to is also referred to as the theory of the subject and defined by the linguistic turn in philosophy (Fraser 1995). The linguistic turn is a broad concept that describes a major shift in thinking reality, where reality is seen as the product of culture and language, a belief “opposed to the pursuit of a discernible, retrievable, historical ‘reality’” (Canning 1994: 369). In this respect, while the linguistic turn refers to divergent fields including psychoanalysis, history, anthropology and philosophy, it has been especially celebrated within feminist scholarship for enabling an approach to sexual inequality that shows it is not biological difference but discourse, cultural practices and institutions that shape perceptions of sexual difference and gender (Canning 1994). Despite the importance of the value placed on culture and discourse as sites of mediation for feminist analysis, we can here turn to Nancy Fraser’s “critiques of critiques” of different feminist arguments and her argument that there is no single approach that possesses “everything we need” (Fraser 1995: 164). In her essay “Pragmatism, Feminism, and the Linguistic Turn”, she addresses different arguments from within feminism about the causes of sexual inequality but seeks to show the value of all feminist approaches, however contradictory or at odds with each other. While this approach was characterised by critics as “Polly-­Anna-­ish” (165), I agree with Fraser that there is value to be found in eclecticism and the necessity of admitting “impure” arguments (166). Here, the witch and the maternal imagination offer curious figures through which to call into question the theory of objectification in its unconsciousness. Both eclectic and impure—especially as witch-hunting is the epitome of the patriarchal dominance of women—the figures erected in this book do not reflect a sense of inaccessible historical knowledge or as reference to some primitive, innate idea of sexuality and gender (Bovenschen et al. 1978), but serve as figures of a disorderly tongue. The witch-hunts occurred a time of “intense preoccupation with the power and danger of speech” (Kamensky 2013: 194) and interest in maintaining hierarchies of power through “governing the tongue”. It was not just an imagistic power that defined the witch, but also the scapegoating of its discourse and the idea that, like the slippery mind of the pregnant woman, a witch had a “slippery tongue” (Kamensky 1999) that produced literal effects. Its curses could lead to the failure of crops, the death of

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livestock and widespread sickness in the community. While “her tongue was the weapon…she pronounced the destiny of others and, more unbecoming still, decided her own fate in the bargain” (1999: 162). The witch’s power was nonetheless limited, not simply by way of persecution and execution, but by the early modern preoccupation with promoting “godly speech” as “submission to authority and awareness of hierarchy” (1999: 70). In the spirit of this disorderly tongue, the argument in this book does not defer to the idea that cinema is essentially patriarchal in its power. It often presents itself as eclectic and impure because it finds an analogy between the feminist theory of the male gaze and the European and American witch-hunts. Yet, it seeks to avoid reifying witchcraft, with the maternal imaginary, as forms of innate female power and maintains that the argument is not anti-feminist insofar as it does not question the existence of misogynist cinema and other forms of visual media or the potential for unconscious effects at the psycho-social level that demand feminist analysis. The point of developing this imperfect, disorderly, and perhaps obscene, analogy is more clearly to question the male gaze in its preservation of a literal link between figuration on the cinema screen and the psyche of the spectator. In other words, the problem with the theory of the male gaze is that there is no outside to objectification (Stacey 2013). The disorder produced by this book’s argument is a provocation against what is by now a common sense, but nonetheless academically produced, set of dichotomies of power—between patriarchal and feminist, sound and image, body and screen. Thus, instead of subjectivity as a theorisation of the libidinal drives, linguistic structures or concepts of identity, this book turns instead to the themes of reproduction and the imagination to open up questions for the figured link between spectator and screen. By introducing the history of the theory of maternal impressions and the witch-hunts as a historical and material origin for the supposition of the loss of bodily perspective induced by cinema, there is potential to rethink anew the otherwise monolithic, gendered dimension of cinema’s naturalised excess. That the discourse of the male gaze naturalises patriarchy has been a common critique of feminist film theory (Stacey 2013); however, the notion of the reality of patriarchal power has not been subject to a critique that locates the origins of this reality in the history of the maternal imagination and the witch.

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1.2   Imagining the Imaginary of Film Theory The concept of the imagination is a traditional one, in its modern form derived primarily from Immanuel Kant’s account of the human faculties. In Kant, the imagination is a necessary—as opposed to secondary or derivative—faculty that enables the sense-making creation of the world (1998). In contrast to Lacan’s psychoanalytic imaginary, for example, which must be sublimated or repressed in order for the subject to enter the social world of the symbolic as a realm of meaning, Kant maintains the deep importance of the imagination in its generation of an affective opening towards the world (what makes the world meaningful), which is at once perceived and created and thus not the effect of a traumatic real (Lennon 2015; Rundell 2016; Buckley 2017). In this thesis, images—the basic unit of the imagination—are not secondary or mere copies created out of an absent sensorial original, but are the drivers of meaning. Images within the imagination are, in this regard, generative, and how we conceive of the original properties of the imagination, or the process which Kathleen Lennon (2015) calls the imaginary of the imagination, is thus also the means by which the imagination is shaped.2 Thomas Elsaesser has addressed the terms on which the oppositions between origins and teleological ends have been imagined in film theory (2004). Without directly critiquing the psychoanalytic paradigm in film studies, Elsaesser argues that, because moving image technologies are continuously evolving, it seems as if film theory and history has “operated with notions of origins and teleology that even on their own terms are untenable” (77). In his essay “The New Film History as Media Archaeology”, Elsaesser moves to understand the relationship between early cinema and the digital as one of shifting forms of diegesis or narrative. He argues that how we understand the spectator, whether they “encounter or inhabit…adopting different roles or positions: as viewers, users, visitors, witnesses, players” (112) is organised around the study of “liberation” of narrative made possible through shifts and evolutions in visual mediums. Cinema’s relationship to other forms of media, including to the digital and new media, video art, television, as well as early cinematic forms like the Nickelodeon, is one of convergence: no moving image medium has “yet wholly replaced its predecessors”. This claim echoes similar points made by media scholars like Henry Jenkins, “new techniques do not make older ones disappear” (2004: 112; Jenkins 2014).

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The invention of new moving image technologies does not displace or supersede their predecessors but reinvents them in a process that, for Elsaesser, “emancipates” old forms to usher in new ways of experiencing and constructing our experience. Despite changes to spectatorship ushered in by digital media (Tyler and Baraitser 2013; Jenkins 2014; Mulvey 2013), the common sense understanding of objectification arguably remains within Laura Mulvey’s inversion of the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious for classical cinema and traditional spectatorship (1975). While originally conceived with reference to the narrative codes and identification patterns in classical Hollywood cinema, Mulvey’s theory nonetheless regarded itself as transcending those original codes. In fact, Mulvey herself stated in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” that the theory of the male gaze, as a theory of perception, could also emancipate us from the power of the male gaze. The theory could “free the look of the camera into its materiality of time and space and the look of the audience into dialectics, passionate detachment” (18). Though spawning a political and academic rhetorical strategy and mode of resistance, the limitations of this account of an all-­ encompassing patriarchal gaze have been also widely recognised and interrogated. As noted by Teresa de Lauretis, there is both a “limitation and liability” in feminist thought in the notion that the power of the male gaze over women in film, art, media and culture has a ubiquitous effect on the perception of body-image (1987: 22). As de Lauretis succinctly describes, where we think of images of gender as sites of difference maintained by a patriarchal male gaze, in the sense of the dichotomy between man and woman, we can paradoxically remain bound to a static, recursive logic. From a feminist perspective, one is first and foremost the property of discourse or powerful ideologies that are transcendent of, but can be illuminated by, the theory as well as cinema itself. In other words, the theory of the male gaze is only ever a paradoxical, partial or ironic illumination because “nothing escapes from the discourse of power, nothing exceeds the totalising power of discourse” (35). This view assumes that theorisation through discourse allows for increased awareness and knowledge of patriarchal manipulation. For example, for Kaja Silverman, the narrative logic of Hollywood cinema often maintains coherence of the male psyche at the expense of the female (1998). In this view, the female psyche is “deprivileged”, “denying the woman any possibility of arriving at self-knowledge except through [a man]” (65). While Silverman is analysing the relationship between characters in specific films,

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like Hitchcock’s Marnie, the common sense implication of her position is implicit in her critique: without the male gaze and the discourse it issues, we might not be able to see the subordinated female psyche on screen. In other words, as described by film scholar Lauren Rabinovitz, “there is no escape from patriarchy” (2003: 30), and because of what are believed to be its totalising unconscious effects, we are reliant on film theory and discourse in order to find (in Mulvey’s words) a “political weapon” through which to diminish its power. As many film scholars have noted, the ironic limitation of this view is that it implicitly naturalises and literalises the patriarchal problem it aims to undermine (McGowan 2003; Galt 2011; McGowan 2012; Stacey 2013). Rendering the patriarchal unconscious analogous to the history of the maternal imagination and the status of the image in the witch-hunt should give pause as to the significance of the irony. Its significance can be questioned insofar as patriarchy itself, to return to Deleuze’s conception of common sense, remains both an empirical reality as well as a principle when we think of the idea of the unconsciousness of objectification as common sense. In other words, the theory of unconscious effects appears to ensure the status of patriarchy as a perpetual problem from which there literally is no escape. These concerns are also relevant to the study of racial objectification and racism in cinema and visual culture. While I address the figure of the colonised body in Chap. 6 through an analysis of the Hong Kong horror film Dumplings, in general, the arguments about objectification in this book are not developed as a wide-ranging study of the colonial unconscious as theorised by Franz Fanon (1970), among others. However, I note that a central critique of the male gaze and Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis has been its monolithic focus on gender to the exclusion of race and other categories of identity (McClintock 1995; hooks 2003). While intersectionality has been an important response to this exclusion, we can follow Homi K. Bhabha’s point that questioning and undermining colonial or racist logic likely demands something more complex than simply replacing negative, historical racist images with “new symbols of identity, new ‘positive images’” because these can only work to “fuel an unreflective identity politics” (Bhabha 1991: 207). As Kara Keeling further points out in relation to racial objectification, discourses of the subject normally aim to realise “hidden knowledge” to achieve freedom for those “whose perception had been habituated according to interests that dictated the…group’s enslavement” (2007: 7).

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Nonetheless, while such analytical discourses have remained powerful for conceptualising how dominant forces and ideologies shape systems of representation and perception, Keeling points out how they are also limited by the extent to which they paradoxically reproduce the hegemonic ideology that is the object of their critique. As she suggests, there can be a “blinding” effect in perceiving hegemonic power as totalising as inquiries become limited “to the range of possibilities existing only within the realities that colonial and neocolonial discourses organise” (27). In other words, hegemonic ideology can be ironically preserved by the same model of discourse that tries to critique it (Galt 2011). Thus—while remaining sensitive to the unconscious potential of visual culture—the historical analogies drawn in this book mean that it does not necessarily approach questions of subordination from the perspective of continued subordination or where repression translates into oppression (and vice versa). In that sense, this argument gestures towards an outside to patriarchy, cinema and visual culture. It seeks to provide a new entry point to critical debates about the perceptual effects of cinema and visual culture that does not necessarily seek a paradigmatic shift through a new theory or model of the psyche, subject or spectator but instead aims to open up another perspective onto the original point of departure that spearheaded these debates. The arguments made here are offered as critiques of what are also often persuasive, fruitful and productive discourses about objectification, patriarchy and colonisation. Thus it should be reiterated that I am not questioning the empirical reality of sexist, misogynist or other clearly subordinating representations in film and other forms of visual media. Nor, for that matter, am I necessarily even questioning their potential for unconscious effects. However, I am questioning the principles by which theorisation of cinema constructs, reproduces and thus materialises that unconscious. In this sense, the arguments presented in this book are not immediately politically advantageous. Because this book creates its argument by analogy and provocation, it knowingly produces more questions than it answers. We can turn to consider here the complex role played by witchcraft and the witch-hunts in feminist discourse in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For some, the witch is a rebel figure whose persecution epitomises the scapegoating of female sexuality, as well as the male, patriarchal desire to control both the female body and the female capacity to become pregnant (Guadagnino 2018). Here, some feminists have celebrated the role of the witch and witchcraft in feminism (Goldenberg 2004). For

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others, feminism itself is a witch-hunt, characterised especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement as persecutory, irrational or vengeful (Mumford 2018). The former perspective conforms to a view of femininity as innate, and the latter is simplistic and reactionary. From a post-feminist perspective, however, the witch-hunts offer an opening onto arguments about the role of feminist discourse in the public sphere (Tyler and Baraitser 2013). Developing an analogy between psychoanalytic feminist film theory and the witch-hunts shows the limits of attempts at capturing subjectivity, whether through an academic lens or through public discourse. The witch-hunt is deployed here as a knowing analogy to expose the limits of over-determining the significance of the literal subject in its libidinal or psycho-social sense. Thus, while the theory of objectification has often been fruitful, there is also a need to identify limits to public visual culture’s power to represent the self, address and remedy problems of objectification and inequality and represent or realise the meaning of sexuality and subjectivity more generally. In their article on the problems of the #MeToo movement (2018), Gill and Orgad have carefully and sensitively addressed a need to recognise the limits of conflating visibility and subjectivity with power in visual culture. In popular media, another example of the critique of the proliferation of subjectivity in the public sphere can be found in the saturation of first-­ person stories. This phenomenon has been critically termed the first-­ person industrial complex in Slate and the New Yorker, which describe the ubiquity of self-authored stories as exposing and encouraging voyeurism as much as they seek redemption and healing (Bennett 2015). We also find something similar in the increasing and outsized role of digital media in shaping discourses of the self and one’s private life (Duffy and Pruchniewska 2017). More broadly, a generalised perspective on the limits of the usefulness of the unconscious for feminist thinking is given in the work of sociologist Eva Illouz and her notion of emotional capitalism (2007). For Illouz, the proliferation of private or subjective confessions or discourses of the self in the public sphere are a kind of emotional capitalism, in the sense that emotions are commodified as profitable objects. Without further delving into the idea of emotional capitalism, we can consider how a critique of the psychoanalytic unconscious is crucial to her approach. Psychoanalysis has played a crucial role in feminist film theory and critique because of the strong links it proposes between the limits of knowledge and the limits of looking, as a critical theory of the intersection

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between the desire to know and the desire to look in a voyeuristic sense. Rosi Braidotti describes the psychoanalytic view of desire as fundamentally “ungraspable” because “it is that which propels our thinking in the first place. As such, it will evade us in the very act of constituting us as subjects of knowledge” (2017: 290). However, Illouz (2007) views the Freudian unconscious as synonymous with the feminist mantra that the personal is political, which expresses the view that one’s private, subjective life is unconsciously structured by patriarchy and sees the domestic, personal sphere as inherently public (Fraser 1990). Illouz argues that complex feelings, sexualities and experiences within the private sphere can also be sites of possibility, liberation and potential, rather than something ungraspable in their vulnerability to the effects of patriarchal objectification and ideology. However, she describes how this view of the potential of the private realm remains obscured by the dominant, feminist view that life is structured through unconscious forces. For Illouz, the view that one’s inner life is inherently objectified can also ensure that the private, subjective realm is drained of any personal meaning in favour of displaying and talking the self as an object: “the therapeutic techniques of communication decree that ambiguity is the archenemy of intimacy and dictate that we purge everyday language of unclear and ambivalent statements and of its possible negative emotional inflections and that we reduce communication to its denoted meaning only” (2008: 134). Illouz argues that viewing the individual’s life as structured by unconscious forces risks self-­ objectification “because she is to herself an object and therefore takes herself and her inner life as objects of study” (2008: 122). Borrowing from Foucault’s understanding of subjectivity, she describes how assuming that one’s life is structured unconsciously limits the imagination and ensures thinking remains ironic and circular, as well as punitive. The idea that one’s private life can be reduced to the realm of the political and the public, or that one’s unconscious thoughts are the object of patriarchal ideology and that they thus should be made rational and conscious, also presupposes the necessity of adopting a punitive attitude towards the self. In other words, discourse that conforms to belief in unconscious objectification, that believes the personal is political, also risks presenting itself as either purified or in need of purification, seeking normative transformations and corrections to improve the self. An example of this can be seen in the form of feminist consciousness-raising groups, or other practices of public confession that seek to purge or expel some unconsciously internalised problem (2016). In other words, for Illouz, the total enmeshment

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of political and psychological categories through techniques of self-­ examination and public confession ironically risks self-objectification because it refuses ambiguity, contradiction and non-monolithic imaginings of self. While not addressing the location of the unconscious in the material world or seeing it as a patriarchal construct, psychoanalyst and scholar Christopher Bollas similarly shows how psychoanalysis’ paradigmatic view of the unconscious can nonetheless also become blind to the limits of the construction of the problems it seeks to address (1999). As Bollas argues in his address to the limits of psychoanalysis, “psychoanalysis itself can become…the symptom” (159) insofar as it describes a view of sexuality, neurosis and desire as always displaced by some other real. Bollas laments the poorly recognised limits of his practice and describes how it can create a world view whereby the generation of problems “becomes an end in itself” (158). He describes how the psychoanalytic view of the unconsciousness of desire can, in other words, become a paradigm in which a problem can take on a perpetual life of its own. Psychoanalysis can be seen as limited, in this sense, by its tendency to produce a tautological imaginary. It sustains itself on the view that the means and measure of ones inner life are essentially unknowable except through the circular prism of psychoanalysis.3 Any argument will be based on a set of presuppositions and will also produce a set of derivative aims that result from these presuppositions. For the male gaze, the presupposed unconscious produces the aim of liberation or emancipation from the patriarchal real. While my argument is not issuing a demand for liberation, by calling into question the basic premise of objectification—that it is unconscious—I also acknowledge the validity and importance of prior arguments about objectification, which opened up debate and discussion about the socio-political, psycho-sexual and gendered impact of moving image technologies: “To analyse the image as a site of gendered contestation in its very structures is one of the crucial legacies of Mulveyan theory” (Galt 2011: 256). Nonetheless, through viewing the early modern gendered imagination as an analogy, my argument seeks a new point of departure through which to consider these debates. The provocation offered in this book aims to press “pause” on the perpetual problem of patriarchy or to slow down the conversation. The point in developing the witch-hunts and the maternal imagination as a historical analogy for the male gaze is not simply to theorise strong connections

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between the status of the image in early modernity and in feminist film theory, but to show more clearly that viewing the principle of the patriarchal power of cinema and media as common sense also risks self-­ objectification. Where we presuppose we are unconsciously subject, we risk remaining blind to the terms on which that unconscious has been constructed.

Notes 1. See also the dialogue between Butler and Adam Phillips in response to this article, which begins with Phillips’ “Keeping it moving: commentary on Judith Butler’s refused identification”. 2. Lennon considers the worth of Castoriadis’ revision of Kant’s thesis, which also worked as a critique of Lacan’s egoistic model. For Castoriadis, the imagination is bound to acts of invention as well as processes of realisation, ensuring it can be approached as something not axiomatically structured by an external reality to which one is passively subject. The imagination is, in this view, a category that can be seen as something that is not in opposition to “reality”; rather, the imagination is the condition upon which reality is generated. Castoriadis’ point was not addressed to film theory but to the limitations of the Marxist world view in the wake of the horrors of Stalinism. His immanent model of the imagination is perhaps another relevant approach here as it aimed to show that the imagination was not inherently structured by power or other ideological forces. 3. See also Patrick Ffrench (2017).

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Petchesky, Rosalind. 1987. Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction. Feminist Studies 13 (2): 263–292. https://doi. org/10.2307/3177802. Phipps, Alison. 2014. The politics of the body: Gender in a neoliberal and neoconservative age. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Rabinovitz, Lauren. 2003. Points of Resistance: Women, Power & Politics in the New  York Avant-Garde Cinema, 1943–1971. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Rodnite Lemay, Helen. 1992. Introduction to Women’s Secrets: A Translation of Pseudo-Albertus Magnus’s De Secretis Mulierum. New York: State University of New York Press. Rundell, John. 2016. Imaginaries of Modernity: Politics, Cultures, Tensions. London: Taylor & Francis. Shildrick, Margrit. 2000. Maternal Imagination: Reconceiving First Impressions. Rethinking History 4 (3): 243–260. https://doi. org/10.1080/136425200456958. Silverman, Kaja. 1998. The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Sobchack, Vivian. 1992. The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Sprenger, Heinrich, and James Kramer. 1971. Malleus Maleficarum. New  York: Dover Publications. Stacey, Jackie. 2013. Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship. London/New York: Routledge. Stafford, Barbara Maria. 1993. Body Criticism: Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine. Boston: MIT Press. Staiger, Janet. 2000. Perverse Spectators: The Practices of Film Reception. New York: NYU Press. Taylor, Janelle S. 2008. The Public Life of the Fetal Sonogram: Technology, Consumption, and the Politics of Reproduction. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Terrall, Mary. 2012. Maternal Impressions: Conception, Sensibility and Inheritance. In Vital Matters: Eighteenth-Century Views of Conception, Life, and Death, ed. Helen Deutsch and Mary Terrall, 109–129. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Toor, Kiran. 2007. ‘Offspring of His Genius’: Coleridge’s Pregnant Metaphors and Metamorphic Pregnancies. Romanticism 13 (3): 257–270. https://doi. org/10.1353/rom.2007.0039. Tyler, Imogen, and Lisa Baraitser. 2013. Private View, Public Birth: Making Feminist Sense of the New Visual Culture of Childbirth. Studies in the Maternal 5 (2): 1–27. https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.18. Young, Iris Marion. 1984. Pregnant Embodiment: Subjectivity and Alienation. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 9 (1): 45–62. https://doi.org/10.1093/ jmp/9.1.45.

CHAPTER 2

Guilty as Charged: Feminist Film Theory and the Early Modern Imagination

Like the witch, cinema has been charged with a crime of the image. In this case, however, it is the crime of the male gaze that turns “woman” into its guilty object. The theory of the male gaze necessitates that “woman” is the passive subject of the cinematic apparatus. “Woman” is absorbed by a patriarchal topography, which envelops spectator and screen, a topography that paradoxically feigns “woman” as threat in order to control and contain. Mulvey describes the male gaze as crystallising the terms of the patriarchal order. Embodying the problem of the persecution of witchcraft, she argues that “woman” is always on the “wrong side of the Law” because of the male, voyeuristic gaze that confines its image: The power to subject another person to the will sadistically or to the gaze voyeuristically is turned on to the woman as the object of both … True perversion is barely concealed under a shallow mask of ideological correctness – the man is on the right side of the law, the woman on the wrong. (1975: 15)

Film scholarship has only made scattered connections between the history of the manipulative and manipulated maternal imagination, witchcraft and the theory of the unconscious (Ellis 2017; Baxstrom and Meyers 2016). While a number of theories and frameworks have been surmounted, discussed and critiqued to question assumptions of psychoanalytic feminist film theory, the notion of unconscious subjection has not been rigorously linked to the historical and material connection between the maternal © The Author(s) 2020 L. Bliss, The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45897-3_2

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imaginary, the crime of witchcraft and the development of proto-cinema, which in this study refers to early modern precursors of cinematic technology (Mannoni 2000). However, rather than approach proto-cinema through specific technologies, such as the camera obscura, the magic lantern and the trick mirror, this study will conceptualise proto-cinema in relation to the discourse of the imagination of the early modern period. This enables an approach to cinema that is not bound by the study of technology, but rather that is open to discourse and the way we imagine, theorise and thus perceive the impact of cinema. In the early modern period, witches and pregnant women were persecuted, scapegoated and reified according to their psycho-sexual capacity to corrupt body-image and the perception of reality. This chapter will show a figurative link between this historical belief and the notion of unconscious subjection in feminist film theory. However, we can begin by emphasising that linking the witch-hunts and the manipulative maternal imagination to the foundational idea of the unconscious patriarchal effects of cinema is not necessarily a move to conform to the popular image of the witch as a rebel, feminist figure. More soberingly, this analogy will be developed to figure productively, rather than reactively, the witch’s status as a scapegoat in terms of its relation to the double bind of the male gaze. The double bind shows how the male gaze has enabled a feminist politics of the visual. This is evidenced by the legacy of the notion of the male gaze, the anchor for feminist studies of how cinema and other forms of media represent, distort and stereotype sexuality and gender. Mulvey’s essay has not only been influential within film theory as it has been extended to interpret the structural positioning of gender and desire within a wide range of academic fields. The notion of the male gaze has been applied to study a diverse range of fields and historical contexts from the poetry of Dante to the socio-ideology of the changing room mirror in department stores (Sturges 2010; Muller 2009). Indeed, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” has achieved inter-disciplinary reach across all fields in the humanities in the quest to develop a weapon against the patriarchal image of “woman”. Nonetheless, the other side to this double bind is that the theory of unconscious subjection is itself bound by the terms of patriarchy (Mulvey 2011). The double bind also refers to a contradictory logic whereby the feminist critique of cinema mirrors the patriarchal structure of cinematic representation that is critiqued. In her seminal text Alice Doesn’t (1984), Teresa de Lauretis calls this double bind the negative position, and it has

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been noted by Jacqueline Rose (1984), Rosalind Galt (2011) and Mulvey herself (2013), among many others. As de Lauretis defines it, in the negative position “woman” is at once “barred from and detained within” cinema by the notion of objectification itself (9). Such a subordinating structure ensures, as Galt has argued, that the cinematic image can only be treated as a site of suspicion and a masquerade of reality that is “too visual to be trusted” (238). This historical form of visual scepticism is also rooted in a sexist denigration of the image, where image and “woman” are interchangeable. As Galt writes, a “feminist reading of the image that lies (because ideology distorts gender)” is folded “into an iconophobic one (in which the image lies by definition)” (249). In this regard, criticism of objectification is limited to the terms on which “woman” is constructed, namely as the body subordinated by a patriarchal image, which the theory of unconscious subjection can point to, but not necessarily transcend. Before moving on to discuss the history of the image of the witch and the maternal imaginary in more detail, we can consider how, despite attempts to problematise the totalising nature of the theory of the male gaze, the idea of objectification—namely that the image of femininity is the mere “signifier for the male other, … as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning” (Mulvey 1975: 8)—continues to be enormously influential, finding application far beyond the boundaries of film studies. Focusing specifically on its incarnation in psychoanalytic feminist film theory, we might ask: what is at stake if cinema, the imitator of the unconscious, is the cause of objectification? While it has been widely noted that the theory of the male gaze mirrors the patriarchal structures it is trying to escape, this double bind already suggests the historical analogy I will argue for. The objectified woman, like the witch of the early modern era (Jackson 1995), is unable to transcend its imposed image of guilt and subordination. The relationship between the male gaze and the history of the deceptive imagination is thus, as outlined in the opening chapter, understood in this argument as a figured one. Developing a figurative analogy between the witch-hunt and feminist film theory can show how the notion of objectification itself objectifies. I will argue that overcoming or undoing film and media’s patriarchal effects means accepting the figured link between spectator and screen, accepting, in other words, that there can be no literal objectification, only an imagined or figured one. While Chap. 3 considers and defines the idea of a figured link between spectator and screen in more detail through the work of film scholar Nicole Brenez, in this chapter, the figured analogy between the male gaze and the early

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modern idea of the deceptive imagination takes the form of an admittedly impure but provocative questioning of the terms on which the patriarchal unconscious has been constructed. In this spirit, my argument should not be taken as a move to dismiss feminist film theory outright or to suggest that it is an irrational, persecutory discourse. To pose witchcraft as an intervention into the male gaze is not to castigate or persecute theorists who have adopted castration and the psychoanalytic unconscious in order to develop a well-accepted and, in some respects, productive thesis. Nonetheless, the totalising nature of the illumination of patriarchy offered by the theory of the male gaze can be seen as analogous to the witch-hunt and the trope of the deceptive maternal imagination. Thus I make this argument heeding Mulvey’s call for curiosity (2013): namely, I imagine a generous but critical reader, hopefully with a well-developed sense of humour, who is neither convinced that sexist and misogynist film and media representations are so totalising as to prevent a questioning and critical response of the kind offered here nor who finds it necessary to circumscribe the unconscious motivations of the writer (myself) as subject. Furthermore, and maintaining a healthy critical view towards psychoanalytic theory, I am not convinced that any potential contradiction or opposition my argument may generate, pose or provoke risks unconscious collusion with patriarchy.

2.1   The Proto-Cinematics of Witchcraft: “As Has Been Seen by Many and Is a Matter of Common Report”1 Early modern witchcraft can be considered to form an interpretative position in relation to the fetishistic structure of persecution. The figurative analogy is in how the persecuted witch and the woman (as a representational category) subject to the male gaze cannot transcend the patriarchal logic that persecutes them; both are trapped within it. To develop this analogy, the relationship between early modern witchcraft, the maternal imagination and the fetishistic structure of persecution is further developed here as proto-cinematic. Proto-cinema, sometimes called primitive cinema, is a diverse and decidedly broad field of study and refers to modern cinema’s technological and artistic antecedents. Filmmaker Werner Herzog, for example, comments in his documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) that the prehistoric painting of a bison with eight legs in

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the Lascaux caves in France, approximately 17,000 years old, can be seen as proto-cinematic because it aims to capture and animate a sense of visual movement. In The Great Art of Light and Shadow, Laurent Mannoni discusses and describes in exhaustive detail the history of moving image technologies from the twelfth century onwards, with particular focus on the flourishing of innovative forms of visual media in the seventeenth century (2000). Proto-cinema is thus especially located in the inventions and thoughts of early modern scientists, who were obsessed with optical inventions and new ways of envisioning the body. Giambattista della Porta (1540–1615), Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) and Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) are exemplary in their experimentation with devices like the trick mirror, magic lantern and camera obscura. Mannoni broadly attributes the driving motivation that served these early scientists to a desire to project a moving image and exactly reproduce the process of the eye itself: “Our crystalline lens takes the place of the aperture, while the retina which lines the back wall of the eyeball is comparable to the screen mounted on the wall opposite the aperture” (4). Martin Kemp likewise emphasises that the desire for a technological device that could exactly reproduce an image of the natural world is a feature of both Renaissance and early modern science and occupies a place in the “striving for intellectual and material progress” (1992: 167). However, as Zakiya Hanafi has shown, these inventors of early modern technologies often believed in the idea of maternal impressions. Porta was especially motivated by the desire to harness the natural powers of the maternal imagination and considered his inventions to be opposed to the diabolical power of the witch (2000). The early modern witch is a figure of ocular deception. A witch acts to “deceive the interior and exterior senses” of the unwitting victim and witchcraft would blind the victim, were the law not able to expose the injustice of this imagistic manipulation (Kramer and Sprenger 1971: 118–120). This absorption of the senses by the illusory practice of the witch was granted reality in both civil and divine law at the height of the witch-hunts from the late fifteenth century until their conclusion in the middle of the eighteenth century (Kieckhefer 1976). Over this period up to 100,000 people—both men and women—were burned and many more had their lives destroyed, forever tainted after being publicly branded witches (Roper 1994, 2004; Jackson 1995; Warner 1981; Rowlands 2009). Because of the lawful reality of the witch-hunt, the witch’s crimes by imitation entailed that their guilt was a foregone conclusion. Except through confession, or through the sentiments of onlookers in response to

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the witch’s torture, there was no possibility for someone branded a witch to transcend the logic by which they were persecuted and made victim.2 The Malleus Maleficarum (the Hammer of Witches), of 1486, argues that a witch intervenes into the natural body through imitating it.3 This text, written by two German inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, is an extreme theological treatise on witchcraft. While it was never accepted into the Catholic Church as doctrine as the authors had hoped and its use in actual witch trials is subject to much questioning (Stephens 1998), it remains an important, if flawed, primary source that highlights the power of witchcraft to imitate the natural body in a way that can be linked to cinema. The authors of this text list the fantastic capacities of the witch to affect the body. At its own fancy, the witch can create demonic children, extinguish the life of the unborn and take possession of the penis. “For a certain man tells that, when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch to ask her to restore it to him” (1971: 122). This ability, perhaps the most astonishing, evokes the utilisation of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of castration as a means to theorise the viewing position of the spectator and the idea of objectification. In what follows, I will develop an interpretation of the witches’ power as proto-cinematic and that prefigures the claim of patriarchal manipulation via cinema. As the Malleus Maleficarum tells us, it was believed that the witch could possess a man’s penis for purposes of causing impotence or inciting excessive pleasure. In addition, the witch could also take the penis to extract semen in order to create demon offspring. The authors contend that a witch could remove and transfer a man’s penis, even collecting penises in large batches of twenty or thirty and holding them in a bird’s nest. Here, the penises took on a life of their own and would feast on oats and corn, “as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report” (121). However, as the authors of this text are at pains to explain and theorise, these acts do not constitute biological or corporeal interventions on the body, as a witch could not commit an act of God. Rather, the witch merely acts on the imagination or changes “the mental images in the inner perceptions”.4 In other words, it was always accepted that a witch did not actually remove the penis but rather possessed it through diabolical imitation. The witch’s crime was never as an injurious assault on the natural body but was what witchcraft scholar Richard Kieckhefer called a “mutilation” of one’s body-image (5). As a mutilator of body-image, the figure of the witch has been understood not simply as a scapegoat, but also as a tragic figure of political

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necessity. Cameron (2012) has studied the relation between the fool and the witch in medieval and early modern societies to determine the nuanced difference between their respective representational formations in the public domain. The fool, epitomised by the court jester and the clown, would publicly perform “sexually ambiguous” tricks that inverted, disrupted and misrepresented social norms. For Cameron, for the most part the performances of the fool are hardly different to the supposed deviant activities of the witch. The fool, however, was integral to society as a representation necessary to the instatement of law: the fool served to “remind society” of the law in fooling and the court fool’s comic deviancy paradoxically upheld the law when performed in the court. Where the fool played at being an idiot, paradoxically speaking a “divine (or devilish) truth” (107), the witch, on the other hand, was a scapegoat for the evils of society and absorbed all matters of deviance through shifting figurations. The witch’s supposed compacts with the devil, a contract granting evil gifts in exchange for “vile deeds”, means it was both “willing perpetrator and duped victim” and thus “the ‘logical’ extension of unchecked femininity” (105). Importantly, however, the fool and the witch are not totally defined by their sex. Indeed, many fools were women, just as nearly twenty to twenty-­ five percent of witches in Europe were men (Rowlands 2009). The authors of the Malleus Maleficarum remark that while most witches are women, men of “weaker character” could just as well be witches. The witch exceeds its status as representation; the witch becomes the representation designated to it. This designation means the witch becomes a scapegoat and society is blind to that status. Cameron summarises this point as follows: “The fool was demonic but … stood as a reminder of divinely ordained hierarchies and structures”, whereas the witch was taken as an “articulation of pure evil” (2012: 107). Despite the witch’s illusions, it was understood that the witch was “not a threat”, in a physical or real sense as witchcraft was cautiously theorised as unable to transcend the Christian model of the relation between the material and immaterial world, but was “taken to constitute [a threat] anyway” for reasons that remain hotly debated by scholars (107). The figures of the witch and maternal imagination form an ideal paradigm through which to restage an examination and analysis of the theories of origins and processes of originality in film theory, enabling a different perspective where the psyche and libidinal desire are not captured in a literal sense and sexual difference is not understood through a simplistic

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dichotomy of opposition (male as powerful, female as subordinated), nor relegated to being “unconscious”. The theory of cinematic objectification is largely founded on the idea of the imagining of castration as at the origins of the psyche and the Freudian model of sexual difference.5 For Freud, the realisation of sexual difference structures the unconscious, according to either penis envy or castration anxiety, which apparently begins when young children first encounter genital difference. In Freud’s words: “She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it” (in Doane 2003: 77). Presuppositions about the powerful role of castration anxiety in structuring gendered spectatorship have thus led to a proliferation of questions about different identifying positions spectators may take, as well as calls for new models of desire that do not succumb to Freud’s phallocentric, patriarchal model of desire, which, in a sense, also forms a psycho-social image of spectatorship motivated by the envy or fear of the image of a removed penis (Kelly 1998). From the inception of cinema in the late nineteenth century, when Freud’s ideas were also beginning to be published and distributed, the problem of cinematic likeness has been normatively framed as one of unconscious, rather than conscious, likeness. The notion that cinema induces unconscious effects traditionally posits that the likeness of film to the real-world effects an illusion of mastery within the mind of the spectator. This is colloquially referred to as the suspension of disbelief, and in film theory its effect is often understood to efface the spectator’s internal sense of their own body (Metz 1982; Baudry 1986). The idea that film’s effect is unconscious, and that this effect seems to precede and transcend the technology itself, ensures that cinematic meaning is produced in what André Bazin referred to as an anterior sense (1967). Bazin’s paradigmatic, mid-twentieth century study of the ontology of the photographic and cinematic image drew together the aesthetic, psychological and metaphysical to understand the unconscious likeness of watching film to the experience of dreaming (Jefferson Kline 2013). Bazin, in this sense, perceived that the distinction between spectator’s imagination and screen was immaterial. However, despite the apparent applicability of the category of the unconscious to cinema, the tradition of applying psychoanalysis to theorise film is nonetheless asymmetrical. As Stephen Heath (1999) discusses, beginning with Freud himself, the majority of psychoanalysts seldom refer to cinema and are typically dismissive of the notion that cinema is an apparatus that mirrors the unconscious or is anything like dreaming. Despite the widespread application of

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psychoanalysis to cinema from the moment of its inception, the traditional rejection of cinema as a viable field for psychoanalytic research on the unconscious is premised upon the representational difference between how cinema makes visible what it represents as opposed to how psychoanalysis seeks to make visible the process of the mind. Compared to Freud, for whom psychoanalysis aimed at an exposure of mental life, cinema has been thought by scholars including Christian Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry and Laura Mulvey to conceal an internal awareness of spectatorship, as the assumption of a suspension of disbelief suggests. In this respect, and in relation to the popular uptake of Freudian (and later, Lacanian) thinking as a means to study cinema, Heath contends that psychoanalysis troubles psychoanalytic film theory. Film theory, as it seeks to understand perceptual effects, should itself also be understood as a technique of vision: “[w]here is cinema being seen from and what is the desire that is assured in seeing it from there and what stands out against that seeing, pushing to the real of such a vision, the vision that seeks to maintain that seeing?” (49). Reminiscent of Heath’s point is the colloquial expression “it was only a movie”, which is synonymous with the phrase “it was only a dream” in the sense that both are suggestive of a symptomatic relation that the dreamer has to the dream as the spectator has to the film on screen. As noted by the early film theorist Jean Epstein, who commented in the early twentieth century on cinema’s potential to alter and reshape the social and individual imagination, whatever difficulties one may have in facing such images, dream-like or cinematic, they are much more than only movies or only dreams to be reassuringly negated or “willed away” by the “only” of the statement (Epstein 2012; Koch 2013). Despite the importance of Freud’s theories for film studies and beyond, the historical ideas of the maternal imagination and witchcraft serve as a kind of model of imagining (rather than a technique of vision), as a means to question discourses of reproduction in film and film theory. The obviously irrational and false idea of witchcraft and the maternal imagination is developed as an analogy to show that there is a dimension of the spectator’s mind and imagination not touched or superseded by the cinema screen. There is no unconscious or libidinal reproduction between screen and spectator that can be captured or seen through a generalised theory. In place of the theory of unconscious influence is the history of the witch and the maternal imagination. As we will see, it is through the power of her uncontrolled and indiscriminate imagination that the pregnant woman imitates the external world to alter the appearance of the unborn within (Huet 1993). The

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witch, on the other hand, transcends the corporeal body. By the legal and theological doctrines of the time, the witch’s manipulation and distortion of reality also ushered in the political necessity of distinguishing between, what can best be called, good and bad images. In this context, Freud expressed an interest in witchcraft, writing to Fliess that he closely read the Malleus Maleficarum. In these letters, Freud remarks that this theory and theology of witchcraft maps onto his idea of a split consciousness, or the unconscious as a foreign body within the self. He writes in a canny and revealing letter that the broomstick was the “great Lord Penis” that the witch rode on for power (2001b: 242). Early modern witchcraft is like the psychoanalytic unconscious in that it is not an empirically observable phenomenon but remains a force thought to be at once transcendent of and immanent to the corporeal body.6 Despite the fact that witchcraft is not empirically observable, meaning it is not falsifiable (except through torture, confession or the whim of a judge), it does not induce incoherence but provides us with a position from which to approach an image that, historically speaking, possesses its own internal logic. Nonetheless, the question as to what witchcraft is, or what causes belief in it is—like the idea of a patriarchal unconscious—left unanswered in this book. In Godly Zeal and Furious Rage (1987), G. R. Quaife suggests that the witch-hunts occurred as a result of the breakdown of society across multiple spectrums both local and continent-wide. These breakdowns relate to a confluence of social and individual problems, the reformation and splitting of the Christian religion, social upheavals occurring across Europe and the terrible effects of the black plague. “In essence the witch rose to prominence, or in many cases was created, by the furious rage of a neighbour anxious to explain his own misfortunes and by the godly zeal of the political establishment fearful for the safety of their regime and of the Christian society they were determined to protect and purify” (4). Quaife’s argument moves to dismiss or problematise a number of other theories including that the witch-hunts were the effect of natural hallucinogens taken by large proportions of the population, the result of widespread and endemic mental illness, the continuation of the inquisition, a consequence of the sexual frustration of the clergy, the rise of real fertility cults in the working classes or misogyny gone wild (11–18). Despite the usefulness of the rationalised prism offered by Quaife as to the psycho-social catalysts of witchcraft, I suggest that this view ignores the ability of the witch to manipulate body-image in its relationship to the maternal imagination.

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Attending to the contemporary currency of witchcraft in his essay “The Meanings of Magic” (2006), Michael Bailey argues that the study of European witchcraft should seek to consider its relevance for contemporary Western modern culture “not as the imposed construct of maniacal religious elites but as a sensible and even useful social structure” (21). He particularly places this within the context of disenchantment, arguing that witchcraft continues to be significant for modern, secular societies: [T]he underlying notion that witchcraft and witch-hunting represent a terrible but essentially completed chapter in human history – itself a Eurocentric concept derived from Enlightenment authorities’ confidence in their ability to promote disenchantment – must be challenged not just in Africanist or Asianist scholarship, reassessed not merely by postcolonial studies or by subaltern studies, but rather must be a focus of genuinely ecumenical scholarship on this topic. (22)

Such a view challenges Quaife’s idea that the witch-hunts were solely a response to radical political and theological social changes of the time, concomitant with the tragedy of the black plague. This view can be convincing in the face of the sensational dimension of the accusations but nonetheless remains limited. However, rather than take an ecumenical focus towards the Christian dimensions of the witch-hunts, my approach remains focused on feminist scholarship and film studies. Like the idea of cinema inducing unconscious effects, the links between witchcraft and cinema are practically as old as cinema itself. The silent Swedish film Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), directed by Benjamin Christensen, is an attempt to cinematically materialise the Malleus Maleficarum (Baxstrom and Meyers 2016). Elsewhere, in Cinema of the Devil, the early film theorist Jean Epstein channelled cinema’s life-­ like imitation of the body into a metaphor of demonic possession (319). Cinema was a machine that turned to take hold over and “reshape” the mentality of the spectator. For Epstein the cinematic machine knowingly plays into its feigned reality through its interaction with the spectator. This is secured by his theory of an immaterial distinction between spectator and screen: one cannot exorcise one’s gaze from the cinematic image because its mechanical perspective is analogous to the human eye. In the brief but dramatically descriptive essays of Cinema of the Devil, the term diabolical is employed to figure this immaterial distinction; in other words, the diabolical refers to how cinema may turn the seer into the seen. Epstein writes

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that cinema possesses a rebellious spirit, and that it creates a “second reality where rational logic may well not suffice”, which he links to a demonic force, or a veritable evil, but one that “should be considered a benefactor to humankind” (318). Epstein laces his essays with metaphors of the witch-hunts. Cinema is “immoral”, a “genuine trial”, “a heresy” and a “monster of novelty”, and he openly declares that “the cinematograph pleads guilty” to the charge that its art is diabolical (327). Before Epstein, Antonin Artaud also linked witchcraft to cinema in his concise essay “Witchcraft and the Cinema” (1972). Artaud suggested that the art of cinema brings us “directly into contact” with the occult. “But”— he cautioned the reader—“we must know how to divine this occult life” (66). Like Epstein, Artaud conjured the inversion of the seer into the seen to raise the question of what one can see of cinema and what cinema can see through its mechanical eye.

2.2   Flying Ointment: The Cinematics of the Self-Conceiving Mind Within the domain of proto-cinema scholarship, the writings of early modern scientist Giambattista della Porta are thought to offer the first image of the cinema screen (Monteiro 2017). As Porta suggested, the frame that distinguishes the medium from one’s imagination should disappear from the spectator’s awareness and the medium will be more meaningful when that spectator becomes less conscious of the screen. Crucially, Porta maintained that this disappearance should be natural rather than artificial or imitative (Monteiro 2017). We can understand this distinction through Kemp’s delineation of the natural from the artificial in the early modern era (1992). Referring specifically to optical devices of the early modern era, such as the magic lantern, he notes that while the desire to exactly reproduce an image of nature was the “aim and achievement” of these devices, the intent was also to simultaneously “transcend” their mechanical base (166). In this sense, the artificial refers to the technical process by which the optical device achieved its illusion. The natural, on the other hand, was in this time closely related to belief in the maternal imagination. For example, Porta was also not immune from the paranoid culture of the period he lived and was called before the Inquisition on the potential charge of witchcraft for his witch’s salve, or “flying ointment”, said to induce hallucinations in the mind of the user (Hanafi 2000). He was not

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charged, as he argued that his magic ointment was natural in that it simply harnessed the “hidden” or secret powers of nature. As Hanafi shows in her study, Porta thought of his art as “a technique to perfect deficient natural processes” (45). The important distinction for Porta was thus not to separate art from nature, but the magical from the demonic. His natural magic reached its limit where he argued for the possibility that pregnant women could harness their imagination and produce the desired image of their child at their own will; in his words “they may think upon those pictures, and have their imagination strongly and earnestly bent thereupon … so shall the child when it is born, imitate and express in the same form which his mother conceived in her mind, when she conceived him, and bare in her mind, which she bare him in her womb.” This “scientific” theory is read by Hanafi as at once “empowering [the woman], allowing her to play the scientist, yet objectivising and instrumentalising her own body and imagination” (58). Porta’s contradictory image of a self-empowered woman, impossibly conceiving the image of her own child through her mind alone, nonetheless remains grounded in a corporeal body. In contrast, witchcraft transcends the corporeality of the pregnant body. The early modern witch is inseparable from his or her persecutor, and this is part of the difficulty of providing a concise definition of witchcraft for the purposes of this study. Witchcraft, as a tradition and myth, has existed across a wide variety of cultures—from Ancient Greece, where it can be found in myths of Sirens, Sibyls and Circe, to present day pagan practices that exist across Western and non-Western cultures (Bailey 2006; Kieckhefer 1989). In a sociological or anthropological setting, witchcraft can be defined as the practice of magic that intends to induce harm or some change in the imagination or body of another person. Witchcraft is designed “to manipulate affections” such as causing another to fall in love (Kieckhefer 1976: 69). Importantly, witch-hunting is not limited to the early modern era, and within this historical framework the question of what caused the exponential rise in witch-hunting from the late fifteenth century is a rich field of scholarly inquiry, but with limited linkage made to the study of proto-cinema. With the exception of the Malleus Maleficarum, my research has been formed through reading contemporary studies rather than primary documents. What I suggest is that the proto-cinematics of witchcraft, or witchcraft as a form of imagistic manipulation, has been overlooked in this modern scholarship around the witch-hunts. By sketching the terms of some of the better received studies, we will see how a study of the

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imagistic power of witchcraft is outside of socio-historical, anthropological or psychologistic fields. Where its history appears analogous to the idea of objectification, we also find a relationship between witchcraft and the supposed power of the maternal imaginary. Several feminist interpretations of witchcraft offer different views of the maternal imagination and patriarchy. As an extreme, it was suggested (first in the 1930s by anthropologist Margaret Murray and again in the 1970s by feminist scholar Ann Oakley (in Harley 1990)) that witches were early feminist medicinal healers persecuted for their dangerous knowledge of female reproductive power. In Secrets of Women, Katherine Park briefly considers the idea that the witch-trials eradicated female-centred gynaecology and obstetrics, a distinctly female-centred tradition of knowledge passed down through generations. “This wishful fiction, which continues to dominate much popular historiography, is merely the inverse of the myth that women were the jealous proprietors of secrets concerning generation and female sexuality that they withheld from men”, and it is an “identification of women with lust and lies” (2010: 257). Furthermore, a number of historians have noted that the idea that female midwives were regularly accused of witchcraft is a myth. Midwives were rarely persecuted for witchcraft, but held an esteemed place in society and were often called upon as witnesses in court. Examining the witch-hunts in Lorraine through the writings of the notorious witch-hunter Nicholas Rémy, David Harley finds no evidence that midwives were ever convicted: [T]he sabbat has been portrayed as a physicians’ conference, the witch hunt as a campaign to exclude women from science, the execution of witches as an attempt to eradicate the old wives’ remedies that constituted a female-­ controlled reproductive care system … Such polemicists would probably be better served by a real history of midwifery and women’s health care in early modern society. Such a history needs to be painstakingly constructed but the truth is likely to be more liberating than any romantic mythology of martyrs. (1990: 21)

However, Silvia Federici’s study considers the culture of persecution through increased surveillance of pregnant women and female procreative power in early modern Europe (2004). This culture meant that midwives in France and Germany were themselves, however unwittingly, sponsors of paranoia and a punitive culture towards pregnancy and childbirth:

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[Midwives] had to become spies for the state, if they wanted to continue their practice. They were expected to report all new births, discover the fathers of children born out of wedlock and examine women suspected of having secretly given birth. They also had to examine suspected local women for any sign of lactation when foundlings were discovered on the Church’s steps. (89)

Federici points out how belief in the imagistic power of witches reflected a new persecutory culture towards pregnancy and female sexuality in the eighteenth century as it entailed that witches absorbed all aspects of deviant sexuality, and that this took on contradictory forms. The witch could be a prostitute, a childless beggar, an abortionist and an eater of the unborn. The witch may have been a demonic mother (the biological mother as witch), or creator of demonic offspring (the witch as mediator through the bodies of others). At its height, Federici insists, the culture of fear of witchcraft was so extensive that in many communities most men would have been unable to distinguish ordinary women or girls from witches. “[W]ho were these witches who castrated men or made them impotent? Potentially, every woman … no man could feel safe and be sure that he did not live with a witch” (188). Scholarly debates about the role of the midwife and the pregnant body can thus be seen to exist within the culture of suspicion and surveillance that marked the witch-hunts. Federici argues that the witch-hunts are at the centre of the origins of capitalist modernity due to their mystification and devaluing of the human body. The hunts were a “state sponsored terror campaign … central to the defeat of the European peasantry, facilitating its expulsion from the lands it once held in common” (63) as well as a campaign that devalued and marginalised women’s procreative function: “procreation was directly placed at the service of capitalist accumulation” (63). While witches were burned, the people who were killed as a result of this label were, of course, not actually witches; yet their bodies were seen to be immaterial and affected by a demonic or diabolical image. However, Federici is offering a sociological, Marxist view, and her argument that the witch-hunts mark the modern beginning of the subordination and commodification of pregnancy is best extended to, for example, the instrumentalisation of women’s literal bodies through “rent a womb” IVF in developing countries or the for-profit culture of IVF itself (Franklin 2013). More specifically, for the purposes of this study, which is limited to cinema rather than to lived bodies, we can explore the links between

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witchcraft and its relationship to the maternal imagination. As described by Marie-Hélène Huet, the belief in the power of the maternal imagination to influence the internal image of the unborn assumed that “[t]he mother’s imagination reproduces what it sees without discrimination” (Huet 1993: 21). Such a belief can be related to two problems of representation considered in relation to witchcraft: first, to feminine self-­ conception and self-representation as a corruption or undermining of patriarchy and, second, to a theory of art in relationship with Nature as read by Huet (1993), and as a theory of art in relation to technology as read by Hanafi (2000). By showing a dichotomy between witchcraft and the corporeal maternal imagination, we can hone in on the witch as artifice or, tentatively speaking, the witch as visual artist. Ultimately, the capacity of the witch to exactly imitate the corporeal body, such that the internal and external senses of the victim are possessed, is, when read in this historical context, also a release of the corporeal imagination of the maternal into the virtual sphere. In other words, insofar as it transcends the corporeality of the maternal look, the witch is proto-cinematic, a figure of the ocular deception of the body itself. We find an analogy with this belief, as I will later demonstrate, in notions of objectification. Cinema can be seen to retroactively fulfil the significance of witchcraft in its supposed collusion with an imagistic, patriarchal power. Rather than turn to conduct an internal critique of psychoanalysis and the model of castration (e.g., through a Deleuzian model), the means by which this deception is represented as a fetishistic logic of persecution will instead be considered in the following chapters in light of the apparent patriarchal visual culture of film and media. Here, we can begin to open up dialogue on the notion of the spectator’s body subordinated by an image, without quarrelling over different models of what constitutes the spectator as subject.

2.3   “Because I Fear My Creator I Shall Say Nothing More About These Secrets at Present”7 The notion of the maternal imagination as powerful appears, in some sense, to transcend patriarchy and demonstrate a sense of some positive cultural and social perceptions towards the pregnant body. As Caroline Bicks explains of beliefs held across Europe in the early modern era, the capacity of the maternal imagination was related to self-conception and

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corruption of paternal certainty (2006). The maternal imagination was a “self-sufficient” though unruly power that enabled a woman to heal the bodies of others as well as alter the shape and image of the unborn inside her: “For better and for worse, the female imagination allegedly held all of these powers: it could recreate paternity, quicken growing bodies, and conserve ailing ones” (Bicks 2006: 303). The apparent power of the maternal imagination as one of self-conception granted women power over the uncertainty of confirming paternity and the visual reproduction of likeness; in other words, this imagination could control how much children did or did not look like their father. “[F]or while a woman who was ‘quick’ in the early modern period claimed that she could feel a foetus move inside her, she also possessed an agile mind capable of consciously, and sometimes secretly, shaping material forms” (2006: 300). This secretive capacity was emphasised by a treatise composed in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century, Women’s Secrets by Pseudo-Albertus Magnus. This text intends to highlight not simply the supposed moral weakness of women, but also the capacity for deception inherent in women’s bodies, as their genitals are not “visible” like the penis but—in this medieval view—are located internally, thus containing “secrets” that the author himself openly fears: “And if it were right to talk about this, I would say something about them, but because I fear my creator I shall say nothing more about these secrets at present” (Pseudo-Albertus Magnus 1992: n.p.). It is a treatise that intends to rationalise femininity, and, as Helen Rodnite Lemay argues, it also “lays the groundwork” for the Malleus Maleficarum insofar as it identifies women solely with deception in terms of their genitalia and reproductive capacity (1992: 58). In this respect, the manipulative maternal imagination was also perceived as attempting to erase or establish the patrilineage apparent through the resemblance children had to their fathers as “resemblance alone answers for paternity, [the theory of maternal impressions] attempts to close an unbridgeable gap: the distance between fathering and childbirth” (Huet 1993: 34). It was believed that the capacity of the maternal imagination could imprint birthmarks on the baby, marks that mimicked the face of another man. In French, the origin of the word birthmark is connoted in the word envie and the suspicion of maternal infidelity is etymologically related to desire: “For the power of imagination is first of all the power invested in the very force of desire” (16). The cause of birthmarks, for example, are exemplary in this thinking about female desire. Huet notes that from Antiquity birthmarks have been believed to be the mark of

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the mother’s desire. For this reason, I am not convinced by the claim made by scholars such as Finucci that this capacity was one that enabled women to be free of patriarchal structures and that it thus constitutes a politically productive form of deception (2003: 141). Rather, the history of the maternal imagination reinforces the association between manipulation and dangerous female desire (McClive 2002). From another perspective, the maternal imagination also reflects patriarchal anxieties because it corrupts the principles of artistic reproduction (Huet 1993). The non-discriminating maternal imagination takes over the male role of the artist. Where a woman is “overwhelmed by gazing at images or by unchecked desires” and lets “her imagination interfere” (1993: 7) to reproduce what she sees, she also corrupts any possibility of differentiating between the lived body and its representation. As Huet writes: “If Art must imitate Nature, in cases of monstrous procreation Nature imitates Art” (7). Suspending judgement, discrimination, composition and other rules that govern artistic reproduction, the maternal imagination imitates imitation: “Whereas the artist imitates with discernment, the mother’s imagination artlessly reproduces a model that is already an imitation of nature”. The maternal imagination “makes images from images; it is the art of reproducing oblivious to taste and judgment, a disproportionate art of gratuitous resemblances that repeatedly reveals its origins, or reveals that its origins are merely appearances” (26). In this sense, it is dually an erasure of the paternal and a monstrous creation because it is a false appearance premised on imitation. Crucially, in this sense, the power of the maternal imagination was based on a “corporeal link”: Under carefully controlled circumstances, by gazing on images of beautiful male infants, women might intervene consciously and intentionally in the course of generation, to improve their husband’s stock. In other cases, though, the process was unpredictable and less benign; instead of developing into a mirror-image of its father, the foetus might be contaminated by a host of poorly understood factors relating to the messy female nature. (Park 2010: 150)

To understand this notion of the natural or the corporeal maternal imagination as a historical and culturally produced one, it must be further contextualised with the artificial power of witchcraft and the advent of proto-cinematic technologies. Hanafi, who focuses on the early modern

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era in Italy, refers to the relationship between the natural and the artificial in visual technologies (or, in her words, machines) as “the art of making monsters”, where the machine is what reproduces appearance and movement to invert one’s sense of sight, “the locus where man the machine became irrevocably monstrous in his own eyes” (Hanafi 2000: 121). For example, she considers how trick mirrors were also labelled “pregnant” in a 1667 catalogue of the museum of Manfredo Settala, which further described the trick mirror as “uterine”. Settala’s trick mirrors—in their description much like trick mirrors still present at festivals and fetes today—were designed to distort the imagination and blur the distinction between the exterior body and interior mind. While the corporeal contours of the viewer are intact, the mind of the viewer ruptures the interior reflection of those exterior contours by way of visual distortion: “by distorting one’s body one delights one’s mind” (82). Beliefs that the imagination of the natural mother could affect the image of the foetus and that the witch could externalise and displace a victim’s self-image existed within the context of the development of these proto-cinematic technologies. The witch, in this context, is the incarnation of imitation, figuring ocular deception itself. Its craft, to use the words of Jules Michelet, is “so like the original as to cheat the eyes” (1958: xv). Rather than the corporeality of the non-discriminating maternal imagination, which generates and corrupts a monstrous child, the witch not only elides any difference between representation and reality but places this visual elision inside the body. The art of the witch is intrinsically tied to imitation of the natural procreative imagination. The witch is the figure of the miscarried, the abnormal and the aborted. Indeed, as Federici discusses, even the prostitute is associated with the witch insofar as she is the figure of the non-generational (2004). In this sense, we can consider that witchcraft takes on this artistic inversion of the maternal imaginary not only in terms of the historical reality of her persecution, but also as a proto-cinematic position for deception via an image sui generis. We can begin to flesh out the proto-cinematics of witchcraft and the imagined body of the maternal, and its analogy to feminist film theory, by returning to Bailey and Federici’s argument that it is too simplistic to see the end of the persecution of witches as ushering in a realm of greater rationality or Enlightenment. The common sense ideas of the unconscious and cinematic objectification are relevant here because both maintain a sense of bodily subjection premised on an understanding of the patriarchy

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as a natural given. I argue that we can understand this paradox as a pregnant illusion of film and media theory.

2.4   “How Did That Isolated Goblin Get into the Limelight?”8 Pregnant Illusions of Cinema and Media We can consider problems of the theory of objectification within discourses about the corruptive power of images of pregnancy and childbirth. For example, the ultrasound, the modern standard for visualising pregnancy, is sometimes thought to alienate women from subjective self-­ awareness of pregnancy. “[T]hese images and others like it in popular culture have become so pervasive that … [pregnant women] have developed a third-person relationship to their wombs, drawing on ‘a single, canonical fetal genre’” (Kukla in Lupton 2013: 61). The ultrasound’s images have been rightly critiqued in relation to their use by pro-life, anti-abortion movements that dehumanise the pregnant woman and that, in a totalitarian view of gender and the genitals, seek to make female sexuality synonymous with both fertility and maternity (Chemerinsky and Goodwin 2017). However, pregnancy has also been seen more generally as disembodied by scientific images that stereotype the foetus and subordinate the pregnant woman’s subjectivity and self-awareness (Kukla 2005). This mode of feminist analysis has also linked the argued-for effects of the development of the ultrasound and medical screening technologies to the medicalisation of pregnancy more broadly (Cartwright et al. 1998). The ultrasound allows for greater diagnostic capability, gives the mother a chance to “see” and bond with her unborn and offers a tool to track the development of a pregnancy. Yet its effect is sometimes thought to generate a monolithic third-person perspective. As Duden contends in her reading of these images: “The foetuses we live with today were first conceived not in the womb, but in visualising technologies” (1999: 16). This cultural obsession with foetal iconography, and the idea that mediation usurps a subjective perspective of one’s body, has elsewhere been traced back as far as the Renaissance (Newman 1996). However, for Duden, the early modern notion of quickening offers a historical analogy that makes visible the disembodiment effected by the ultrasound and the pregnancy test. As she asks, “How did that isolated goblin get into the limelight? What set of circumstances made the skinning of women acceptable?” (7). Quickening,

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understood by Duden as a potential antidote to the power of foetal imagery and its affective “skinning” of women, is a medieval and early modern legal notion that only a woman’s word that she felt a foetus move within her could confirm pregnancy; at the time, physical signs (such as absence of menstruation, etc.) did not serve as true and lawfully recognised confirmation of pregnancy. Duden develops the idea of quickening and argues that it is a sphere of “publicly recognised and impenetrable female intimacy that has been destroyed” by visualising technologies such as the ultrasound (81). However, viewing quickening as more embodied and productive than what we experience today undermines that quickening only existed within a social and legal landscape that upheld stereotyped connections between the female imagination and deception. The question of what is meant by this “impenetrable” sphere of female intimacy remains an open one that can be thought through the male gaze. Mulvey’s original positioning of the unconscious in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” is the anchoring point to the theory of the male gaze (1975). Psychoanalytic theory dictates that everyone is subject to the law of the unconscious but, without questioning the legitimacy of psychoanalytic theory, Mulvey develops psychoanalysis as a “political weapon” to make the male gaze visible, with the supposition that the spectator is visually excluded or disembodied, in a gendered sense, by way of what is on screen. She asks, in other words, how “the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form” (6). That psychoanalysis has been utilised by many feminist scholars—both in film studies and elsewhere—to describe the function or origins of the patriarchy is of interest here; the questionable aspect of the politicisation of the unconscious in this context is the belief that it is only on this basis of its unconsciousness that the male gaze can be seen or known. While Mulvey attempts to problematise this mode of seeing in many of her later essays, including “Duel in the Sun” and “Fetishism and Curiosity” (1996), the original formulation of the unconscious in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” is one that we have never managed to deviate from in its implicit idea of the inescapable patriarchy. In his likeminded study of the relevance of the theory of maternal imagination for contemporary film studies (2017), Patrick Ellis notes the curious analogy between claims of subordination by technologically produced images and the argument made by suffragette Electra Sparks, in the early twentieth century, about the power of cinema over the unborn child. Sparks, a suffragette seeking the vote for women of the United States, was moved by the theory of

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maternal impressions, writing that pregnant women should see only “good” films, claiming it would produce “an attractive, healthy child” (411). Ellis contends that such a claim for cinema and media’s bodily effects is interestingly analogous to the desire, still powerful in the present day, to ensure visual technologies positively affect the individual and society. The need for film to represent the Good is maintained because, Ellis argues, it remains understood as a medium that is “ubiquitous, its influence profound, felt at the deepest levels of being” (428). Ellis’ prodding against claims of cinema’s generalised effects and its socio-political consequences is largely confined to an analogous reading of early film theory with more contemporary forms, including affect theory and phenomenological film theory. He does not further consider the thorny problem of feminist film theory in this question of cinema’s reproduction or of the need for it to represent the social good. Where we that assume the power of the personification of the foetus also unconsciously structures or affects our perception, we assume some version of the good has been lost or needs to be reclaimed through cinematic images. While the critique of the ubiquity of certain types of images of the pregnant body may undermine their power and expose their distortive personification of the foetus-goblin, this critique should nonetheless not be automatically thought concretely to expose the gaze of the psycho-­ sexual libido, the patriarchal unconscious or the lost sphere of female intimacy. Such exposures effect an inescapable dichotomy between good and evil in a manner analogous to the deceptive logic of the maternal imagination and the early modern witch. A figurative analogy between the history of the maternal imagination, witchcraft and the male gaze serves to illuminate “the objectification of objectification”, that is, to expose the questionable nature of the subjective, unconscious effects of visual culture and the assumption that these effects are felt “at the deepest levels of being” (Ellis 2017: 428).

Notes 1. Kramer and Sprenger (1971). 2. On the torture of witches, Warner writes: “The rule was that if the water rejected the woman, if the pure element spewed her forth, then she was a witch. If she remained under, then she was innocent of a league with the devil. It is a physical law that a body will float, even if clothed … the sufferer

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of the ordeal is dependent on the unconscious leanings of the crowd” (1981: 20). 3. See also Francesco Maria Guazzo’s Compendium Maleficarum (Dover Publications, 1988). 4. Whether and how God permitted the existence of witches and thus of evil is discussed at length by the authors, but not worth delving into here. 5. The degree to which we should accept castration has of course been debated and interrogated; however, this debate arguably has remained within the psychoanalytic paradigm where we still accept the fundamental link between patriarchy and the need to discourse against cinema’s unconscious effects. See Constance Penley (2013). 6. The idea of a psycho-somatic effect is a related, but more complicated topic. The modern incarnation of, what is now called conversion disorder, is in Freud’s theorisation of hysteria where he argued that mental illness “broke the rules” of scientific aetiology as no organic cause could be found. The cause of patients suffering nervous compulsions, tics and bodily complaints was, as he suggests in this essay, an impossible source. Hysteria was a “representational paralysis” insofar as it bore no relation to the anatomy of the sufferer, except that it was important despite its representational status as it was lived and real for the sufferer. He would eventually call the source of this condition the unconscious and would argue that the talking cure (therapy) alleviated the problem (Freud 2001a). 7. Pseudo-Albertus Magnus (1992: n.p.). 8. Duden (1993: 7).

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Muller, Vivienne. 2009. The Dystopian Mirror and the Female Body. Social Alternatives 28 (3): 29–34. Mulvey, Laura. 1975. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen 16 (3): 6–18. https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/16.3.6. ———. 2011. Interview with Laura Mulvey: Gender, Gaze and Technology in Film Culture, with Roberta Sassatelli. Theory, Culture, Society 28 (5): 123–143. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276411398278. ———. 2013. Fetishism and Curiosity: Cinema and the Mind’s Eye. London: British Film Institute. Newman, Karen. 1996. Fetal Positions: Individualism, Science, Visuality. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Park, Katharine. 2010. Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection. New York: Zone Books. Penley, Constance. 2013. Introduction: The Lady Doesn’t Vanish. In Feminism and Film Theory. London/New York: Routledge. Quaife, G.R. 1987. Godly Zeal and Furious Rage: The Witch in Early Modern Europe. Kent: Croom Helm. Rodnite Lemay, Helen. 1992. Introduction to Women’s Secrets: A Translation of Pseudo-Albertus Magnus’s De Secretis Mulierum. New York: State University of New York Press. Roper, Lyndal. 1994. Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Religion and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe. London/New York: Routledge. ———. 2004. Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany. New Haven: Yale University Press. Rowlands, Alison. 2009. Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe. London: Palgrave. Stephens, Walter. 1998. Witches Who Steal Penises: Impotence and Illusion in Malleus Maleficarum. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 28 (3): 495–529. Sturges, Robert. 2010. Visual Pleasure and La Vita Nuova: Lacan, Mulvey and Dante. The Senses and Society 5 (1): 93–106. https://doi.org/10.275 2/174589310x12549020528257. Warner, Marina. 1981. Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism. London: Vintage.

CHAPTER 3

“When We Do Not See Something, We Imagine It to Be Much Worse”

The French documentary Histoires d’A (Histories of Abortion 1973) contains a provocative sequence of a woman receiving an abortion using the revolutionary method developed by Dr. Harvey Karman. Dr. Karman, an abortion activist from the United States, developed a cheap, safe system of abortion that requires no anaesthetic and is still utilised around the world today (Woo 2008). The film shows this method in action in a sequence that is not particularly graphic, nor explicitly didactic in its political agenda. The woman (name unknown) undergoes the procedure while fully conscious, as is normal practice for this operation. The surgical procedure is straightforward, and is juxtaposed with shots of the calm couple, who at times smile together as the procedure takes place. The film was censored in France until November 1974, although illegal screenings were held across the country and it was estimated that some 500,000 people had seen the film before the ban was lifted and the film legally distributed (Belmont and Issartell 1974). At the time, abortion was still illegal in France and while contraception was technically legal for married women, anti-natalist information was outlawed, meaning there could be no public discourse that described or offered information about sexual and reproductive health, as well as the prevention or termination of pregnancy. There remained a strong social taboo towards extra-marital sexual relationships, the use of contraception and abortion, which were all generally considered morally reprehensible (Pavard 2019). Within that context,

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the women’s liberation movement—emboldened especially after the mass public protests of May 1968—became a growing public force that linked ignorance of one’s anatomy and sexuality to patriarchal repression: “The right to access information was put on a revolutionary agenda, as feminists developed the idea that knowing one’s body was a way to reclaim it” (Pavard 2019: n.p.). The other sequences of Histoires d’A are dedicated to an open discussion of the ban on abortion in France and its connection with gender inequality. As Romain Lecler has argued (2007), the filmmakers capitalised on militant filmmaking strategies as well as on the power of public protest. Before 1980, it was not only abortion that was banned in predominately Catholic France but also any provocation to abortion (Pavard 2019). In other words, it was illegal to represent abortion, and it could not be seen in public view. Histoires d’A, as a response to this censorship, premised its significance on the right to know and the right to see. The necessity of knowledge of sexuality, pregnancy and reproductive health in ensuring equality between the sexes was further reinforced by its straightforward representation of abortion. However, the success of the film in overturning abortion law is not simply dependent on its concrete representation of abortion, but needs also to be contextualised with its distribution, exhibition and critical reception. The screenings were a form of widespread and continued civil disobedience as they attracted hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, ensuring sustained news media coverage. In addition, the filmmakers were well resourced to hold a screening to politicians within the Senate, which attracted further public discourse and media representation (Lecler 2007). In this sense, the civil disobedience and media coverage of public but technically illegal film screenings, as well as the calm, individualised, even light-hearted representation of abortion, made visible the punitive attitude of the French government towards sexuality and pregnancy, thus revealing the contradictions between wider French society and those in power (Lecler 2007). In other words, the film was politically successful because it exposed the unequal policies of the French government and that the irrational taboos towards sexuality within French society were not universally held. It was not necessarily a success because it exposed the significance of the abortion for women in general or the woman on screen in particular. On the contrary, as I will later describe, the film figures the experience as private and subjective. Lecler, whose article aims to show how film can be used to achieve strategic ends, argues that the positive

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impact of Histoires d’A reveals the linked relationship between the “film world” and the “political life” in a manner in which the two are not mutually opposed but necessarily intertwined. Serge Poljinsky, the director of another French pro-choice film, Liberté au féminin (1979), which also represented the revolutionary Karman method, noted the necessity of making representations of abortion mainstream: “when we do not see something we imagine it to be much worse” (in Lecler 2007: n.p.). While Histoires d’A was produced to address and reimagine the presupposition of female sexual and bodily ignorance, feminist theories of cinema often perceive bodily autonomy as lost or alienated as a result of modern cinematic technology. Ironically, the maternal and the pregnant body have often provided fixed metaphors through which to conceptualise the perception of lost bodily autonomy. One famous example of this is Jean-Louis Baudry’s image of cinema’s “womb-like” structure, referring to the viewer in a traditional auditorium being seated in a darkened, uterine-like enclosed space. He argued that cinema was a “false” encounter or an illusory engagement with that womb (1986); cinema was thus regressive, the spectator in an infantile state. While Chap. 2 considered analogies between the maternal imagination, witchcraft and the male gaze, in this chapter the notion of unconscious objectification will be linked to maternal metaphors present in dominant strands of thought in film theory, which offer naturalised accounts of the origins of perception and present the spectator as having lost a sense of bodily autonomy. The argument against this imagination will be developed in the spirit of Histoires d’A; the supposition of sexual ignorance will be seen as synonymous with the notion of unconscious objectification. Further, this discussion will move against assumptions of the false effects of cinema, by considering philosophical and theoretical writings on pregnancy alongside writings by French film theorist Nicole Brenez (1998), who argues against the idea that cinema induces unconscious effects or merely reflects external power relations.

3.1   The Conception of the Ignorant Spectator In the Western tradition of representation, the mother is typically positioned as excluded or rendered invisible by the foetus, which succeeds her as it takes centre stage as subject (Tyler 2000; Young 1984). Restaging and reimagining pregnancy to revolt against patriarchal ideology is thus part of a long tradition in feminist scholarship. For first-wave feminist

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Simone de Beauvoir, viewing the pregnant woman in an antagonistic relationship to her own body was a productive means to counter the patriarchal image of pregnancy as the “natural” self-fulfilment of femininity (de Beauvoir 2010). This opposition initially led de Beauvoir to take her views to their logical extreme by claiming that pregnancy was of no individual benefit to the woman. Pointing out that morning sickness is not observed in any non-human animals, she interpreted it as “the revolt of the organism against the invading species” (in Zerilli 1992: 121). On a symbolic level, the productivity of this separation—of a woman from her reproductive function—demonstrated that the nausea of morning sickness was an unconscious act of revolt against the “prey” of the social foetus. Vomiting was seen as a means of resistance to patriarchy or “the species called man” (121). De Beauvoir’s perspective inverts the normative relationship between the pregnant woman and foetus within. In this view, the foetus is foregrounded as an agent, but in parasitic form, in order to expose the subordination of pregnancy within patriarchal ideology. In her account of the importance of de Beauvoir’s thinking for feminism, Linda Zerilli (1992) suggests that it offers an ironic but productive perspective. Responding to criticism that de Beauvoir figured femininity as doomed to the patriarchal worldview, Zerilli argues that the rhetorical images of the parasitic foetus and morning sickness form productively ironic agents of resistance to the idea of pregnancy as an ideal state socially and individually desirable for women. This move was necessary, Zerilli emphasises, to overcome women’s subordination to the dominant, patriarchal view that femininity is fulfilled through pregnancy and motherhood. This is also because de Beauvoir’s view of pregnancy undermines any assumption of the foetus’ individual autonomy. While there is obvious merit in rhetorically undermining the idea that femininity is synonymous with pregnancy and childbirth and showing the female body as a historical idea as opposed to an essential biological entity, Zerilli’s reading is dependent on the notion of the male gaze. Interestingly, she does not make explicit that her analysis of de Beauvoir relies on feminist film theorists such as Teresa de Lauretis (1984), Mary Ann Doane (1980) and Kaja Silverman (1988). These theorists are describing the spectator’s perception effected by a cinematic illusion, rather than a non-­ cinematic form of perception. Zerilli’s argument is marked by a slippage between real feminine subjectivity and representations of feminine subjectivity.

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De Beauvoir’s argument is at the forefront of what is now a long tradition in feminist theory that considers the body as culturally produced through discourse and reflecting power relations (Morris and McInerney 2010; Silverman 1988; Brown and Adams 1979). However, de Beauvoir’s view of morning sickness is itself just as imagined as the notion of unconscious objectification. In other words, patriarchy itself can be considered to be imagined within the domain of feminist thinking about cinema. Typically, this thinking is dependent on a fixed imagining of the maternal and offers no perspective from which to see outside of the slippage between real subjectivity and cinematic illusions of subjectivity, thus, like the male gaze, issuing a sense of the inescapable.

3.2   The Maternal Imagination of Film Theory This paradoxical version of the maternal imagination has emerged in a variety of senses—symbolic, aesthetic and meta-cognitive—as a means to view the thorny relationship between the cinematic and the real. Yet, as I will show, the naturalisation of this maternal imagination is rarely acknowledged. For example, a symbolic approach towards the role of the maternal can be located in an early essay by Lucy Fisher, “The Lady Vanishes” (1979), which studies cinema’s capacity to mechanically bring life to the body through the maternal metaphor. The magical conjuring of images of women in early silent trick films by Georges Méliès (among others) is the particular focus of her study. Trick films exploit cinematic technology through techniques such as multiple exposure or stop motion that make it seem as though the body appears and disappears. Crucially, however, Fisher centres her analysis on early trick films in order to argue that the conjuring of the body occurs from the perspective of the male as magician. Her analysis moves to critique the films as examples of patriarchal ideology: On the most obvious level, the act of the male magician conjuring women is simply a demonstration of his power over the female sex. Woman has no existence independent of the male magician; he can make her appear when he wants her and disappear when … he wishes no longer “to contend” with her. Woman is thus a function of male will. (1979: 31–2)

Fisher proceeds to complicate her argument by hypothesising that the repeated occurrence of the theme of pregnancy and reproduction in these

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early silent films may be related to the power of the female procreative function that the male magician attempts to harness and exorcise: Might it be that in addition to demonstrating the male sense of power over the female, the practice of magic also evinces certain deep-seated male anxieties concerning the female’s power over him? According to this reading the male magician is not so much attempting to demonstrate his potency over the female, as he is to defuse or exorcise her potency over him. (1979: 32)

Both feminist theory and psychoanalytic theory have contended that the maternal body is a source of envy, as well as anxiety for male sexuality. However, in Fisher’s account, cinema remains a false encounter with the womb of the mother, as the reproduction of the body on screen can be linked to the stereotyped male psyche through feminist analysis. The false maternal imagination is shown the theory of patriarchal ideology (1979, 1992, 1996). A likeminded approach can be seen in Elissa Marder’s The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (2013). In this example the maternal imagination instead operates as a theorisation of the real dimension of the trauma of birth and the inaccessibility of the maternal body. Marder contends that we can understand the effect of photography through a theory of the psyche and the act of looking at the photograph is argued to bear a trace of the lost womb: “[the] photographic apparatus simulates mechanisms that are analogous to primal psychic structures” (148). Childbirth and its inextricable relation to the maternal body are read through psychoanalytic concepts of remembering, presence, absence, loss and return. Within this reading, the photograph bears the trace of our relation to our mothers and to our births as both are bound by a simultaneous presence/ absence, based upon an asymmetrical relation to the body of the mother: [T]he very concept of the “Mother” (as bearer of human birth), is haunted, from the beginning, by a radical confusion concerning the possibility of discerning between birth and death, and between presence and absence. However much we might want to lay claim to having a unique relation to the singularity of the event of our own birth, we have no direct access to it. We remain both bound to and exiled from our own birth … the event of our birth is not our own, even if it is profoundly and uniquely addressed to us. (4)

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For Marder, birth leaves a persistent mark on the psyche that automatically returns and re-returns in the form of mechanical reproductions or the automatic dimension of thought. These reproductions emerge as wholly subjective effects that are, nonetheless, paradoxically unknowable to their subject. In this theorisation of the process of subject formation, we return over and over to the moment of childbirth to define and create the self as a subject. Marder applies this structure to the encounter with the photograph, which reproduces an exact likeness of the body such that it entails a mirroring of a primal and inaccessible psychic operation. This mirroring, for Marder, establishes that photography acts as a prosthetic to the production of subjectivity. Notably, however, she does not locate this meaning in the asymmetrical relation between pregnant mother-to-be and child within, but reads the meanings of birth from the retrospective perspective of the newly born, independently growing and separating from the mother’s body. Marder and Fisher’s work are linked by their mutual falsification of the supposed power of cinematic and photographic reproduction. Marder’s reading of the maternal dimension of photography suggests that the photograph acts not as grieving for a “dead” mother but as a “prosthetic mother” that usurps the reproductive function of the maternal body but fails to give birth to subjectivity: “Unlike the biological mother who paradoxically protects the subject from the world, as a prosthetic mother that usurps the maternal function by substituting identity for subjectivity, photography casts the modern subject into a new body that is doomed to be stillborn” (159). This maternal imagination depends on an understanding that the origins of the human psyche can be theorised. Such an imagining is similarly presented by Susan Buck-Morss, who advances a claim for cinema’s alienating and deceptive effects (1992, 1994). She argues that cinema has inherited the patriarchal fantasy of auto-genesis or reproduction without a body such that the spectator’s encounter with film is simultaneously aestheticising and anaesthetising. Two of Buck-Morss’ essays, “Aesthetics, Anaesthetics, Politics” (1992) and “Cinema Screen as Prosthesis of Perception” (1994) outline her approach. Buck-Morss defines aesthetics as the process of bodily encounter with representation, the intersection between the external world and internal mind. Aesthetics is “a form of cognition, achieved through taste, touch, hearing, seeing, smell  – the whole corporeal sensorium. The terminae of all of these – nose, eyes, ears, mouth, some of the most sensitive areas of skin – are located at the surface

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of the body, the mediating boundary between inner and outer” (1992: 6). She terms aesthetics a developmental process that possesses an external history and one that takes root in the infant’s bond with its mother, a bond that existed at a time before language: This physical-cognitive apparatus with its qualitatively autonomous, nonfungible sensors (the ears cannot smell, the mouth cannot see) is ‘out front’ of the mind, encountering the world prelinguistically … The senses maintain an uncivilised and uncivilisable trace, a core of resistance to cultural domestication. This is because their immediate purpose is to serve instinctual needs – for warmth, nourishment, safety, sociability. (6)

Buck-Morss traces the historical development of the human sensorium, mapping its shifting forms of aesthetic mediation “wherein external sense-­ perceptions come together with the internal images of memory and anticipation, the ‘synaesthetic system’” (13). Buck-Morss argues that the invention of cinema and photography present a historical turning point for aesthetic experience and a new relation between body and mind. This is because cinematic technologies ensure that the spectator will automatically generate or reproduce an aesthetic response to what is on screen in lieu of an actual physical encounter. Alienation, in this sense, is premised upon a tripartite split between body, screen and mind: “[S]hocking, hyper-sensory cinema-events are absorbed passively, severing the connection between perception and muscular innervation. In the cinema we endure the most erotic provocations, the most brutal acts of violence, but we do nothing. The continuum between cognition and action is snapped” (1994: 57). Here, Buck-Morss’ analysis is hinged on the absence instituted by the camera. Cinema anaesthetises the viewer, numbing the body to the shock of the affective encounter as cognitive reception is divorced from bodily experience: “The truly autogenetic being is entirely self-contained. If it has any body at all, it must be one impervious to the senses, hence safe from external control” (8). In other words, in the tradition of the Frankfurt school, for Buck-­ Morss cinema effectively acts as a prosthetic to experience while cheating the viewer out of a real experience, which is lost through the usurpation of aesthetic experience by cinematic technology. While Buck-Morss is certainly not the only scholar to have argued that cinema institutes an aesthetics of alienation, her study specifies how this alienation is bound up with the image of modern man as a self-contained

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figure, as creation ex nihilo, and which displaces the maternal body. We can return here to de Beauvoir’s intervention into the social role of pregnancy, which worked to rupture the ideological and cultural notion that a woman’s central social function is natural reproduction. De Beauvoir used violent rhetorical images of the vomiting pregnant woman and the parasitic foetus to question the patriarchal idealisation of pregnancy; however, I also considered how readings of her rhetorical act preserved an unconscious subjection of the body to the psyche, of a body literalised by the parameters of the patriarchal double bind. Likewise, we can see how these different theories of cinematic and photographic technology seemingly displace the false effects of cinematic and photographic representation. This displacement occurs through offering a literal account of how the spectator’s body and mind functions, should function or originally functioned. In other words, whether read as symbolic of the male psyche, through a pre-linguistic sphere, or in terms of the universality of the act of birth itself, we are all imagined to be the doomed subject of cinema. In contrast, Histoires d’A does not engage with the idea that cinema induces unconscious effects nor does it seek to address itself to some notion of a primal or uncivilised psyche in order to signify what abortion means for the woman on screen. Instead, the film figures its subject in a manner more attuned to the view of abortion as the result of some sin, as a form of murder, as a tragedy. By showing abortion as an ordinary operation that a woman can have control over and knowledge of, and without assuming a need to address “primal psychic structures”—the trauma of being born or of a social body motivated by envy of pregnancy—the film instead contrasts the knowing body undergoing an abortion on screen with the ignorance expressed in social, legal and political ideas about women at the time in France. For this reason, Histoires d’A is a good case study to highlight the limitations of opposing the human body to cinema. The “real” maternal imagination, whether related to envy, subjectivity or aesthetic sensation before cinematic reproduction, is continuously imagined as naturally concomitant with cinematic technology through the idea of some pre-existing libidinal or gendered force. The view of cinema as essentially disenchanting is similarly premised on a pre-existing idea of life and is also relevant here. Disenchantment can be characterised as a hallmark of modern experience, understood as an effect of the objectification of human nature and the instrumentalisation of the body. As summarised by Don Slater, disenchantment refers to “the reduction of the knowable world to discrete, observable and measurable facts

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which represent physical particulars” (1995: 221). The cinematic and photographic form of disenchantment is read by Miriam Hansen (2012) to result in enervating social effects and the usurpation of supposedly natural processes of perception. Like Buck-Morss’ argument, this school of thought imagines that technologies like cinema take the place of one’s natural means of perception through their imitation of human nature. Echoing feminist film theory’s claims about the patriarchy, Hansen has written in response to Walter Benjamin’s work on the degradation of the aura effected by cinematic technology that “there is no beyond or outside of technology” (146). Within disenchanted modernity, there is no external position from which we can “conceive of a restoration of the instinctual power of the senses and their integrity that would not take into account the extent to which technology has already become part of the human bodily sensorium” (146). Any attempt at overcoming our bodily ignorance must recognise our limited ability to transcend our own unconscious subjection and instead think through cinema in terms of the technology’s mutable potential: “the issue is … to mobilise, recirculate, and rechannel [technology’s] effects” (146). However, as Jason Josephson-Storm has argued in his reading of what he calls the “single interpretative community” (2017) of the Frankfurt School, this view of disenchantment itself mythologises the idea of life or human nature. For Josephson-Storm, the theory of disenchantment leads not to greater rationality or deeper understanding, but—however ironically—to the objectification of human life.1 Instead of diminishing the apparent problem, the recognition of disenchantment reinstates life as a mythical and thus re-enchanted object of loss (2017). Like the male gaze, the maternal imagination of these models refuse the idea of a fully knowing spectator, and instead attempt to imagine a pre-existing realm further corrupted by modern technology, all the while remaining locked into an unconscious logic from which it appears there is no escape. Leaving aside further discussion of Histoires d’A until the end of this chapter, I want to turn to consider the work of French film scholar, Nicole Brenez, and her figural model of film analysis. Brenez has developed a model of thinking in which it is impossible to call what happens on screen repressive, subordinating, objectifying or disenchanting (1998).2 However, she has not directly addressed the relationship between her model of analysis and, for example, how film and media theory have traditionally worked to undermine normative models of the body on screen by interrogating how and with what socio-political consequences bodies are “made into

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appropriate and accessible subjects” by specific films (Fredholm 2016: 16). Further, it is worth noting that Brenez is primarily a film critic and historian, rather than a theorist as such; however, her arguments have been a source of inspiration for my approach towards the maternal imagination of film and film theory. Thus, although Brenez herself has not attempted to respond to the kinds of questions common in Anglosphere film studies, I read her approach in light of the account of the maternal imagination developed so far, as demanding models of thinking that do not assume the spectator’s ignorance or unconscious subjection. In this specific sense, her figural model can offer an original, though still emerging, approach towards rethinking some common sense assumptions about objectification within film theory.

3.3   Incomparable Bodies Brenez offers an affirmation of the living and inventive capacity of cinema and rejects the idea of objectification (2011). What it means to figure has been renovated within her work, and films are understood to have a singular power to disturb, confound and render “incomparable” the distinction between spectator and cinema screen. Her figural method refuses to infer a direct link between the body on screen and the body before the screen (2011). This is because, for Brenez, cinema complicates notions of its false or distorting effects through its emancipation of the idea of artistic originality. In the opening paragraph of her essay “Incomparable Bodies”, Brenez invokes the story of Dr. Coppelius who, overcome with desire and the force of his imagination, tricked himself into seeing that the doll he had invented was a living woman. Brenez briefly cites this story to suggest that cinema figures rather than makes things real; to see cinema is to return the body to the screen. To quote liberally from this passage: In cinema we must – as a matter of method – remove those glasses which Dr. Coppelius wore to magically transform Olympia the doll into a living, desirable woman; we need to radically distinguish the effigy before us, this dancing silhouette in images, from any real body. … Precisely because the body is not there, there is no need to conclude that we have a loss of substance, or a defection: film multiplies its evidences, and it is exactly because cinema makes something of the body return that it is a living form. (2011: n.p.)

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Brenez argues that the spectator experiences no loss of the real or distortion of perception; rather, cinema figures the body in a plastic, dynamic sense that cannot be captured within a generalised theory that would assume a universal sense of the meaning of subjectivity or of the primacy of the spectator’s subjective response. Cinematic meaning does not emerge from the relationship between the screen and the spectator’s real psychological or unconscious reality; rather, meaning emerges from the film itself (Martin 2012). Brenez’s analysis of the science fiction film Body Snatchers (1993) by Abel Ferrara, based on the 1955 novel Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, offers one of the clearest demonstrations of the significance of the figural inversion, and she has written about this film across at least three publications (Brenez 2005a, b, 2011). In Body Snatchers, sleeping human bodies become infected by parasitic alien hosts. The aliens cause the human body to generate an exact copy of itself, rendering the alien indistinguishable from the human for those humans who are unaffected. The living-dead humans are detached and unemotional, with their only purpose to ensure all humans are copied. As more and more people fall victim to the alien force, the remaining survivors increasingly find themselves trapped in a horrific world where they cannot openly identify what they are seeing take place for fear of exposure of their humanness. Body Snatchers figures the nightmare from which one can never wake. No concrete cause or motive that drives the alien parasites is found, and the original aliens are never actually seen, ensuring that each nightmarish reproduction “never truly affects the source” (2005). For Brenez, the snatchers are visual parasites that figure the “lethal nature of ordinary humanity” as the victims are—in a manner akin to politically and ideologically motivated violence—trapped in a world without a meaningful distinction between material reality and its imagining (2011). Brenez separates the oneiric dimension of Body Snatchers from the idea of the unconscious or the psychological real in a way that allows us to distinguish the notion of cinematic figuration. She suggests that the psycho-­social model of understanding “dresses up a normal, standard situation in an oneiric image capable of opening an access-path to consciousness” (2007: 22). Body Snatchers, on the other hand, exhumes “the latent violence in a standard image (daily life), with the intention of reconstructing its most obscure and least acceptable determinations” (22). In this sense, Body Snatchers is understood to figure the nightmare as nightmare, or fear as fear, in a way that does not fix a sense of what a “nightmare” or “fear” is. Rather the film’s imagery is “incomparable”, without a

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universally knowable referent, but still sustained by “an excess of [the] obvious” (2012: 235). The incomparability in Brenez’s description of the body returning can be simplified as the inversion of the principle of aetiology (see also Auerbach 1959): in Brenez’s approach, the cinematic effect produces the cause, as opposed to the cause producing the effect. To expand, the figural model of analysis as espoused by Brenez forms a tool, rather than a theory, to describe and “think with” rather than “about” what is on screen (2007). Such an approach offers both a prescriptive model (in the sense of how we should watch a film) and a descriptive one (how we do watch a film). Importantly, it demands we resist adopting an externalised point of view on the film. As described of her work by William Routt: The film almost always appears in command; it rarely appears as an illustration of another set of ideas … films do not usually reveal hidden agendas, nor are the figures in them ‘phallic’ or ‘archetypal’ … Systems of ideas emerge from the detailed analysis of the text and some of the multitude of relations that can be inferred from the circumstances of its production and reception: they are neither found beneath it, nor located obviously on the surface. (Routt 2000: n.p.)

Routt contends that the figural model serves as a means of theorising cinema for criticism (2000), which fleshes out and vivifies a film, as opposed to exposing its “hidden” agenda. Brenez calls this model “visual study” which is, in its simplest formulation, “a study of the image by means of the image itself” (Brenez 2009). In her approach, cinema constitutes a paradoxical presentation read by way of visible likeness. The paradox of any singular film means that whatever meaning it supports is also the meaning that it opposes. In this respect, this figurative model can be understood as a kind of formalism, but one that also critically calls into question certain tendencies in describing spectatorship. Brenez’s approach can be contrasted with other models of figuration, especially as deployed by Delueze and Lyotard. Both Deleuze and Lyotard have considered the figural in relation to art and the unconscious (Lyotard 2011; Deleuze 1981); however, their models are based upon interventions into theories of a pre-linguistic register (in the case of Deleuze) or a re-reading of the concept of desire and transgression (in the case of Lyotard) (Rodowick 2001).3 As Rodowick explains in his text Reading the

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Figural: Philosophy after the New Media, Lyotard and Deleuze are linked in their approach to the unconscious: “Lyotard is a curious ally with Anti-­ Oedipus. To the extent that force is desire, it is not a structure but rather a form, though a highly mobile and unstable one; it does not signify, yet is has ‘sense’. The unconscious is not structured like a language, nor is it even a structure” (9). The basic difference between their version of the figural and the one argued for here is the interest in the “permanent” (Auerbach 1959: 12) or enduring dimension of the human imagination, rather than in Deleuzian or Lyotardian models where the figural is theorised through a plural or open-ended unconscious. In the Deleuzian and Lyotardian models, the body is not signified but creates sense through figuration that is accessed through a libidinal recognition (2001). In this regard, for both Deleuze and Lyotard, the accent of what is figured is broadly situated on the spectator’s (or viewer’s) unconscious experience as opposed to the work itself. Brenez’s modelling of the figural can be made clearer through further discussion of theories of affect and the haptic, which also utilise the thinking of Deleuze and Lyotard on figuration. A summary shows the key differences between affect theory and the figural model of analysis. Despite the emphasis on embodiment in affect theory—the notion that the body is interiorised into the artwork—a reading of key thinkers in affect theory shows how its emphasis tends towards the internal experience of the spectator (MacCormack 2008; Marks 1999, 2004). Affect theory utilises the philosophical and cinematic theory of Deleuze and Lyotard, among others, to argue that the cinema haptically arouses the mind of the viewer, thereby affecting the body beyond language and signification. This perspective demands cinema be interpreted based on bodily response. Affect theory, in this sense, is a theory of thought without representation (or language) and proposes that, by opening up one’s affective register, one can access the Other on screen. Patricia MacCormack, for example, has called upon the spectator to take in the cinema as a lover in a fully masochistic sense (2012). In desiring the cinema, she argues that we must eschew language and refuse to name or give voice to that desire. Similarly, Laura U.  Marks, who was a key scholar to spearhead the field of affect theory with The Skin of Film (1999), combines her subjective response to film with bodily descriptions and Deleuzian theory to argue for the “tactile visuality” of cinema. Rather than a break between subject (seer) and object (seen), Marks proposes that film gets into the skin of the viewer, allowing for new forms of

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knowledge to flow, whether through a shattering of self or through a becoming that has to remain “humble, willing to alter itself according to what it is in contact with” (2004: 80). With regard to such interpretations, grounded in the writer’s bodily responses, I agree with Galt that this model tends to reproduce issues within the theory of the male gaze in its emphasis on the spectator: “the image is still rejected … [affect theory] finds no space for the visual composition of the image” (2011: 252). Affect theory continues to assume the necessity of capturing and generalising the spectator’s experience. A figural model of cinematic analysis, such as argued for by Brenez, instead constitutes a paradoxical presentation read in terms of likeness. This likeness means that cinema is “recognisable, readable and above all interpretable” (1998: 346). The point is not to master the film or find its pre-determined significance, which does not exist, but to show how the work itself can “intimately recognise its own invalidity, its essential incompletion” (346) or as what was earlier described as its incomparability. Like the Body Snatchers of the science fiction film, the figural model of analysis offers a sense in which the body on screen figures itself.

3.4   “I Had Never Seen Myself Before This Way and I Regarded Myself with Horror”4 We can turn to a general theory of this idea of incomparability through the notion of the visual distance between spectator and cinema screen, or—in other words—to the meta-question of how we describe and theorise how the spectator imagines the distinction between film and reality. The work of art historian Georges Didi-Huberman is also useful here as it provides an expanded definition of the idea of visual distance, posed in terms of the relation between the visual, the visible and the invisible (2005). The visible is the simplest dimension of a work, the outline, form and content of a representation. The visual, on the other hand, is the “element … within which images are caught, catch us” (144). The visual is thus not the invisible as such, in the sense of the abstracted dimension of the visible elements of an image or representation; rather it is the aspect of the representation that confuses and ensnares the distinction between spectator and representation. Here, the figural refers to the aspect of a painting that can illuminate its visual aspects or its “agent of disappearance” (146). Didi-Huberman explains this with a simple example of what it means to

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look at a painting. While it may appear that everything is immediately presented to us in the painting and thus that everything is immediately visible, this visibility is dependent on the figurative aspect of the work, namely on our interpretation of what we see as we see it. Neither Didi-Huberman nor Brenez views that this interpretation is simply subjective or individual. For an understanding of cinema, this can be clarified through Brenez’s discussion of the relationship between Walter Benjamin’s notion of the aura and Jean Epstein’s notion of photogénie, both of which are key to figuring a sense of the cinematics of visual distance. Both refer to the experience of looking at either the photograph or the cinematic image in terms of visual distance, formulating their ideas in the early twentieth century to consider how the new technologies would shape and transform both individuals and society at large. Brenez links their theories in her essay “Comme vous êtes” (“As You Are”) (1998) in order to refashion Benjamin’s insistence upon cinema as a degradation of the aura through Epstein’s photogénie, a theoretical notion that insists upon the wild and positive potentiality of cinema. For Epstein, who forms the point of departure for much of Brenez’s thinking in this essay, what is figured on screen is at once concrete and incomparable to the real world, in the sense that what is plainly seen is also simultaneously what escapes from being able to be seen. In “The Senses 1b”, Epstein describes the abstraction of cinema’s mechanical eye as simultaneously connected to and distanced from the spectator before the screen: On the screen we are seeing what the cinema has already seen once: a double transformation, or rather raised to the power of two, since it is multiplied in this way. A choice within a choice, reflection of a reflection … My eye presents me with an idea of a form; the film stock also contains an idea of a form, an idea established independently of my awareness, an idea without awareness, a latent, secret but marvellous idea; and from the screen I get an idea of an idea, my eye’s idea extracted from the camera’s. (1988 [1921]: 244)

This is, in other words, Epstein’s contention that “the cinematographic instrument itself reshapes the mind” (2012a: 320). However, one point of contention raised among many film scholars is the extent to which Epstein’s notion of photogénie, a term to describe how a spectator is influenced and affected by film, can be characterised as a phenomenological encounter, or whether his understanding of cinema posits an “isomorphic” or parallel relationship with human consciousness (Lundemo 2012:

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207). Although Epstein makes repeated references to Freudian theory, Brenez does not approach his work on psychoanalytic terms. Instead, she relates photogénie to Benjamin’s aura and argues that photogénie exceeds ontology in its referral to an immaterial splitting of the body from cinematic representation. Brenez’s examination of photogénie as the development of the aura is a singular reading that points to the figurative capacity of cinema: that cinema figures the body that reproduces itself (1998, 2012). Benjamin’s well-known essays “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and “A Short History of Photography” theorise the original dimension of photography, and with it the cinema, and its relation to the artistic copy (1972, 1999). When read alongside Benjamin, Epstein does not counteract but rather complicates Benjamin’s argument for the aura of art. The radical difference between Epstein and Benjamin is their ideological approach to the cinema and the notion of spectacle and mass entertainment. Benjamin saw the mechanical recording device as opening up possibilities for the masses while also deeming it a potential object of cultural degradation and a motor of fascism (Hansen 2008),5 whereas Epstein is only full of admiration for the technology that can strip away illusion to reveal “the dizziness of one’s inner self” (in Brenez 2012: 235). Epstein is full of praise for this new technology and sees industrialised cinema as a merely stupefied or vulgar version of its potential, whereas Benjamin is well known for theorising the total function of cinema as if its effects could be generalised for all spectators in a meta-­ cognitive sense, similarly to the argument by Buck-Morss and Hansen considered earlier. Brenez’s “Comme vous êtes” provides a reconsideration of the question of the aura through Epstein’s photogénie, where photogénie is understood as the emancipation of the image’s origin. Brenez revises Benjamin’s well-known thesis from “A Short History of Photography” that the static photograph has reversed the status of art; it is not that all photography aspires to be art, but that all art is subsumed by photography because the photograph exactly copies the original to which it refers (in Brenez 1998: 378). No longer does the artist attempt to reproduce the object; rather the camera now fulfils the representation through its exact reproduction. The aura is the remainder of the representation, the unique dimension of each aspect of the artwork and of each encounter with it. In “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, the aura is regarded as what is gradually drained by the operation of the mechanical recording device. The aura is “unique” (1998: 233) and a “spark” (1972: 371). Epstein also describes photogénie as a

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“spark” and an “exception” (1988b: 236); however, I will return to what he meant by this later. As Hansen elucidates, the aura is defined by a spatio-temporal relationship that intertwines the viewer with the artistic image. To quote from Benjamin, the aura is a “peculiar web of space and time: the unique manifestation of a distance, however near it may be” (1972: 21), which is to say that it is “an essential inapproachability and unavailability, related to an irrecuperable absence or loss … within the register of the unconscious” (Hansen 2008: 344). Benjamin grants the photograph an unconscious to understand that our response to mechanical reproduction is libidinal, in the sense that the photograph reproduces the desire to become closer to the likeness of the photographic image (1999: 217). Benjamin figures this internal experience of looking at the photograph as a reproductive loss or a self-­alienation of the viewer. In Benjaminian terms, the mechanically produced image induces a figural illusion via its internalisation of the original (whether person, event or thing) that it refers to (Mules 2007). Brenez, however, rethinks the figural question of the mechanical image as simply illusory. She quotes Epstein, for whom the image similarly possesses an unconscious, but one that promises a kind of awakening: I had never been seen this way before and I regarded myself with horror. I understood those dogs that bark and the apes that fly into a rage in front of the mirror. I thought myself to be one way, and perceiving myself to be something else shattered all the vain notions I had acquired. Each of these mirrors presented me with a perverse view of myself, an inaccurate image of the hopes I had. These spectating mirrors forced me to see myself with their indifference, their truth. (Epstein 2012b: 291 in Brenez 1998: 382)

Photogénie refers to the experience a viewer has when watching a film due to the nature of the filmic apparatus. For Epstein, it is something of a mystical experience, an intensification of ordinary human perception particularly apparent in the close-up of the human body (1988). He makes frequent references to guns, doors, candles, windows, as well as gestures such as smoking, kissing and shaking hands. “The humblest detail sounds the note of drama that is latent” (243). The cinema renders incomparable what one thought was comparable, which for Epstein ensures spectatorship is an intense and ecstatic encounter: “What an adventure is such an

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encounter with the eye of whomever, surrealised by a close-up! The very mystery of body and soul, the very plot of thought and matter, the very knot of the plurality and unity of the self, the very quid pro quo of the real and the unreal, the very play of subjectivity and objectivity are sprawled on the screen” (2012c: 373). As I described earlier, the cinematic specificity of photogénie begins with the fact that the cinema, as an inhuman device, projects with exact likeness while rendering the representation itself estranged from the thing that it represents. Brenez develops Epstein’s notion of photogénie to consider cinema in terms of the contingency of cinematic representation. Cinema reveals that the contingent dimension of reality is not representable: “the advent of photography, in the context of pictorial aesthetics, was first to evidence this phenomenon of something transmitted in photographic reproduction that painting could not claim to render whole, namely the contingent dimension of reality” (1998: 381). The lost original of the photographic object also fulfils the photographic loss of artistic contingency. She considers the aura and photogénie through the metaphor of the filmstrip, reading the aura as the negative for which photogénie gives positive development. “The first reveals what in the contingency of being, its absolute present, resists representation; the second magnifies an essence that can only be disclosed in and by cinematography”. This is due to the movement of the cinema, which allows us to demarcate it from photography. “The image contradicts appearance and the cinema exposes what it is such that it does not appear, but this time there is a temporalisation of the process of the image: the cinematography reveals what it is such that it does not appear again. The image invests of its truth not again received, the imperceptible”: “photogénie succeeds to the aura, the glow of being has been superseded by the light that brings the image to the thing” (380). In Brenez’s terms, the cinema does not dissolve the reality of the material into a realm of mere illusion, where material reality refers to the perception of a concrete aspect of a film or photograph (what Brenez calls the Thing). Rather, cinema in fact preserves and draws attention to something essential about the material that ties its being to its appearance. By dissolving the aura, “the glow of being” that surrounds the original, cinema grasps something essential about it that is occluded by its immersion in everyday contexts and its everyday, natural way of presenting itself. In this sense, instead of adding a false reality, or false origin, Brenez argues that cinema frees the Thing from its auratic prison. Thus, Brenez allows that the Thing can

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emerge in what always was its fundamental relationship to the image. In its virtuality, it emerges within another world (382). Rather than an irrecoverable loss, cinema ushers in the possibility of the figural. Brenez suggests this in the body of her work not through a philosophical study of technology or by systematically posing the problem as phenomenological or psycho-social question, but by developing an account of cinema through the figural as the emancipation of the original. The applicability of the figural model for Histoires d’A can be found in dialogue with the contention of the documentary filmmaker Poljinsky and his already quoted statement “when we do not see something, we imagine it to be much worse”. We can consider how, despite the changes being ushered in by the feminist movement in France at the time of Histoires d’A, it was undoubtedly a brave decision on the woman’s part to be featured in the documentary, which is relatively detailed in its display of the procedure as she undergoes an internal examination and abortion. In addition, it was brave because abortion was not legalised in France until the Veil Law of 1975 (Kaufman-McCall 1983), and she thus risked legal consequences. But it is also brave because she places her subjective agency at the mercy of the doctor and, more importantly, at the mercy of the camera. Where does she position the spectator in relation to her subjection and, to follow Poljinsky’s question, what are we seeing when we watch the abortion? At the time, writers at Cahiers du Cinéma devoted several essays to analysing the film. Critic Serge Daney considered the abortion sequence with reference to its interior point of view of the female experience of abortion. For Daney, the representation of the woman on screen was decidedly internal. She was “successively speaking and being ‘spoken’, acting and being ‘acted’” (Daney in Reynaud 2000: 7), ensuring the abortion took on a complex, rather than unified or predetermined, significance. Fellow Cahiers critic Jean Narboni further considered this as a notion of the inside that was against exposure. For Narboni the inside perspective is “opposed to a point of view which talks about things, which is outside them, in order to expose them, to describe them or even to valorise them” (2000: 144). These critics saw Histoires d’A as constructing its representation of abortion in such a way that the woman on screen appeared to possess autonomy and self-knowledge, but without pointing to what that autonomy necessarily meant. Abortion was represented as a contradiction as it was simultaneously something that happened to her and that she made happen.

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In other words, Histoires d’A avoided posing a simple opposition between the woman’s internal perspective and an externally imposed, patriarchal one. Her internal perspective is obviously implied within the film, but without comparability to the foetus within or to a universal model of femininity. However, while Lecler referred to the need to see abortion—any representation of which was censored at that time in France—the impact and effect of the figuration of an incomparable abortion in Histoires d’A can be contrasted with the more recent intensification in the reactionary representations of abortion in the United States. While abortion is not censored from public view there, global media coverage has highlighted changes to the law in the states of Alabama, Ohio and Georgia that have effectively overturned the right to abortion in all circumstances, including where pregnancy results from rape and incest (Tolentino 2019). Further, US senators have led public discussion—however foolish and medically impossible—about re-implanting ectopic pregnancies from the fallopian tube into the uterus. Proponents are increasingly dogmatic in their naïve idealisation of the foetus as equivalent to human life, emboldened by anti-­ abortion propaganda (Glenza 2019). Feminist film, art and media scholars have focused on demystifying the fictions of foetal imaging technologies and the prevalence of the foetus in film and media (Duden 1993; Newman 1996; Cartwright et  al. 1998). However, such recent cases in the United States demonstrate the urgent need to continue to address the politics of visibility of foetal imaging and abortion in dialogue with the idea of the body affected by the screen. However, rather than focus only on the surface-level content on screen, this also requires an address to the figural powers of cinema, to its “capacity for abstraction” (Brenez 2011) and its generation of an image that exceeds any attempt to be reinforced or straitjacketed by the real or the literal. This model of understanding sees that it is not the spectator who is emancipated by cinema, but cinema by itself.

Notes 1. We find a similar argument in the later work of Jürgen Habermas, whose idea of the “lifeworld”, developed from Husserl and other phenomenologists, aimed make meaningful the subjective aspect of human life for political and social theory.

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2. Unless otherwise referenced, translations from Brenez’s work are my own, with assistance from Adrian Martin and Justin Clemens. 3. Deleuze’s co-authored text with Félix Guattari Anti-Oedipus is instrumental to understanding his theories. While he does not refer to the unconscious as such in his book on the figural, I would follow Conley in suggesting that Deleuze’s work must be understood as a whole. Tom Conley, Film Theory ‘After’ Deleuze, Film Philosophy 5, no. 31 (2001). http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol5-2001/n31conley 4. Epstein (2012b: 291). 5. Benjamin suggests that the cinema is the most powerful agent for the liquidation of cultural value, although this has been differently interpreted by Hansen (2008).

References Histoires d’A. Directed by Marielle Issartel and Charles Belmont. 1973. France. Body Snatchers. Directed by Abel Ferrara. 1993. United States. Abel, Richard, ed. 1993. French Film Theory and Criticism 1909–1939. Vol. 1, 1907–1929. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Auerbach, Erich. 1959. Figura, Scenes from the Drama of European Literature. New York: Meridian. Baudry, Jean-Louis. 1986. Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus and, The Apparatus: Meta-psychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality in the Cinema. In Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Reader, ed. Philip Rosen, 286–318. New York: Columbia University Press. Belmont, Charles, and Marielle Issartel. 1974. Entretien avec Marielle Issartell et Charles Belmont. Cahiers du cinéma: 251–252. Benjamin, Walter. 1972. A Short History of Photography. Trans. Stanley Mitchell. Screen 13 (1): 5–26. https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/13.1.5. ———. 1999. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Pimlico. Brenez, Nicole. 1998. De la figure en général et du corps en particulier: l’invention figurative au cinéma. Paris: De Bœck Universite. ———. 2005a. Abel Ferrara. Trans. Adrian Martin. Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ———. 2005b. Come into My Sleep. Trans. Adrian Martin. Rouge (6). http:// www.rouge.com.au/rougerouge/sleep.html ———. 2007. T.W. Adorno: Cinema in Spite of Itself – But Cinema All the Same. Trans. Olivier Delers and Ross Chambers. Cultural Studies Review 13 (1): 70–88. https://doi.org/10.5130/csr.v13i1.2155. ———. 2009. Harun Farocki and the Romantic Genesis of the Principle of Visual Critique. Trans. Benjamin Carter. In Harun Farocki: Against What Against

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Whom, ed. Kodwo Eshun and Antje Ehmann, 128–142. London: Koenig Books and Raven Row. ———. 2011. Incomparable Bodies. Trans. Adrian Martin. Screening the Past. http://www.screeningthepast.com/2011/08/incomparable-bodies/ ———. 2012. Jean Epstein: Cinema Serving the Forces of Transgression and Revolt. Trans. Mireille Dobrzynski. In Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, ed. Sarah Keller and Jason S.  Paul, 227–244. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Brown, Beverly, and Parveen Adams. 1979. The Feminine Body and Feminist Politics. m/f 3: 33–37. Buck-Morss, Susan. 1992. Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered. October (62): 3–41. https://doi.org/10.2307/778700. ———. 1994. Cinema Screen as Prosthesis of Perception: A Historical Account. In The Senses Still: Perception and Memory as Material Culture in Modernity, ed. C. Nadia Seremetakis, 45–62. Boulder: Westview Press. Cartwright, Lisa, Constance Penley, and Paula Treichler, eds. 1998. The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Gender and Science. New  York: New  York University Press. de Beauvoir, Simone. 2010. The Second Sex. Trans. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2010. First published 1953. Trans. H.M. Parshley. London: Cape. Citations refer to the newer translation. De Lauretis, Teresa. 1984. Alice Doesn’t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Deleuze, Gilles. 1981. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. 2nd edn. 2005. London: Continuum Publishing. Didi-Huberman, Georges. 2005. Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art. Trans. John Goodman. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press. Duden, Barbara. 1993. Disembodying Women: Perspectives on Pregnancy and the Unborn. Trans. Lee Hoinacki. Boston: Harvard University Press. Epstein, Jean. 1988a. The Senses 1b. Trans. Tom Milne. In French Film Theory and Criticism, ed. Richard Abel, vol. 1. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. 1988b. Grossissement (Magnification). Trans. Stuart Liebman. In French Film Theory and Criticism, ed. Richard Abel, vol. 1, 235–240. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. 2012a. Indictment. Trans. Franck le Gac. In Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations. Sarah Keller, and Jason S. Paul, 311-316. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. ———. 2012b. The Cinema Seen from Etna. In Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, ed. Sarah Keller and Jason S. Paul, 284–310. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

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———.2012c. The Delirium of a Machine. Trans. Christophe Wall Romana. In Keller and Paul, Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, ed. Sarah Keller and Jason S. Paul, 373–379. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Fisher, Lucy. 1979. The Lady Vanishes: Women, Magic and the Movies. Film Quarterly 33 (1): 30–40. https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.1979.33.1.04a00060. ———. 1992. Birth Traumas: Parturition and Horror in Rosemary’s Baby. Cinema Journal 31 (3): 3–18. https://doi.org/10.2307/1225505. ———. 1996. Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Fredholm, Tilde. 2016. Digital Figurations: The Human Figure as Cinematic Concept. Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Stockholm. Galt, Rosalind. 2012. Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image. New York: Columbia University Press. Glenza, Jessica. 2019. Ohio Bill Orders Doctors to ‘Re-Implant Ectopic Pregnancy’ or Face ‘Abortion Murder’ Charges. The Guardian, November 29. Hansen, Miriam. 2008. Benjamin’s Aura. Critical Inquiry 34 (2): 336–375. https://doi.org/10.1086/529060. ———. 2012. Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno. Berkely: University of California Press. Josephson-Storm, Jason A. 2017. The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kaufman-McCall, Dorothy. 1983. The Politics of Difference: The Women’s Movement in France from May 1968 to Mitterand. Signs 9 (2): 282–293. https://doi.org/10.1086/494048. Lecler, R. 2007. Le succès d’Histoires d’A,«film sur l’avortement». Terrains travaux, (2), 51–72. Lundemo, Trond. 2012. A Temporal Perspective: Jean Epstein’s Writings on Technology and Subjectivity. In Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, ed. Sarah Keller and Jason S.  Paul, 207–226. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Lyotard, J.F. 2011. Discourse, Figure. Trans. Mary Lyndon and Antony Hudek. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. MacCormack, Patricia. 2012. Cinesexuality. London: Ashgate. Marks, Laura U. 1999. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses. Durham: Duke University Press. ———. 2004. Haptic Visuality: Touching with the Eyes. Finnish Art Review 2: 79–82. Martin, Adrian. 2012. Last Day Every Day: Figural Thinking from Auerbach and Kracauer to Agamben and Brenez. New York: Punctum Books. Michaels, Lynne Marie, and Meredith W.  Morgan, eds. 1999. Fetal Subjects, Feminist Positions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Morris, Theresa, and Katherine McInerney. 2010. Media Representations of Pregnancy and Childbirth: An Analysis of Reality Television Programs in the

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United States. Birth 37 (2): 134–140. https://doi.org/10.1111/ j.1523-536x.2010.00393.x. Mules, Warwick. 2007. Aura as Productive Loss. Transformations. http://www. transformationsjournal.org/journal/issue_15/article_05.shtml Narboni, Jean, with Pascal Bonitzer, Serge Daney, Dominque Villain, et al. 2000. Milestones and Us: Round Table Discussion. In Cahiers du Cinema Vol 4: History, Ideology, Cultural Struggle, ed. Bérénice Reynaud and David Wilson. London/New York: Routledge with the British Film Institute. Newman, Karen. 1996. Fetal Positions: Individualism, Science, Visuality. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Pavard, Bibia. 2019. The Right to Know? The Politics of Information About Contraception in France (1950s–80s). Medical History 63 (2): 173–188. https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2019.4. Patricia MacCormack. 2008. Cinesexuality. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited. Petchesky, Rosalind. 1987. Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction. Feminist Studies 13 (2): 263–292. https://doi. org/10.2307/3177802. Reynaud, Bérénice. 2000. Introduction. In Cahiers du Cinéma Vol 4: History, Ideology, Cultural Struggle, ed. Bérénice Reynaud and David Wilson. London/ New York: Routledge with the British Film Institute. Rodowick, D.N. 2001. Reading the Figural: Philosophy After the New Media. Durham: Duke University Press. Routt, William. 2000. For Criticism: Part 1 and 2. Screening the Past. http:// tlweb.latrobe.edu.au/humanities/screeningthepast/reviews/rev0300/ wr1br9a.ht Silverman, Kaja. 1988. The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Slater, Don. 1995. Photography and Modern Vision: The Spectacle of Natural Magic. In Visual Culture, ed. Chris Jenks. London/New York: Routledge. Tolentino, Jia. 2019. The Messiness of Reproduction and the Dishonesty of Anti-­ Abortion Propaganda. New Yorker, May 17. Tyler, Imogen. 2000. Reframing Pregnant Embodiment. In Transformations: Thinking Through Feminism, ed. Sara Ahmed, Celia Lury, Jane Kilby, Maureen McNeil, and Beverly Skeggs, 288–301. London/New York: Routledge. Woo, Elaine. 2008. Harvey Karman: Creator of Device for Safer Abortions. Los Angeles Times, May 18. Young, Iris Marion. 1984. Pregnant Embodiment: Subjectivity and Alienation. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 9 (1): 45–62. https://doi.org/10.1093/ jmp/9.1.45. Zerilli, Linda M.G. 1992. A Process without a Subject: Simone De Beauvoir and Julia Kristeva on Maternity. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 18 (1): 111–135. https://doi.org/10.1086/494781.

CHAPTER 4

Sound and Vision: The Cinematic Figuration of the Virgin Mary in Le livre de Marie and  Je vous salue, Marie

4.1   The Image of Virginity Within the patriarchal image of female virginity inherited from Christianity, the virgin herself is unable to see virginity (Bynum 1991). The public display of female sexuality is seen to be morally impure not because of some failure on the woman’s part “to protect her own sexuality” but because of a failure “to protect the sexuality of men” (Bynum 1991: 215). For men, the experience of seeing “impure” female sexuality is thought to be akin to seeing the image of death (Polinska 2000). In order to preserve one’s virginity and moral purity, one must cultivate a disembodied sexuality that can “neither tempt nor be tempted” (Polinska 2000: 49). From this perspective, the ideal of virginity can be seen not simply to deprive women of self-awareness and internal sexual knowledge; virginity also forms itself as an image only representable through God or the unknown (Peters 1997). As the archetypal virgin, the Virgin Mary epitomises this view of sexuality (Kainz 1971). In the Christian tradition of belief about sexuality, purity is linked to the female body, extending itself through an absence of flesh signified as virginity and incarnated in the story of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary’s virginity is necessarily formed as an image invisible to the Virgin herself in order to grant Christ his status as God (Warner 1976) and which we also see in traditional depictions of the Virgin and the Angel Gabriel at the scene of the Annunciation (Didi-Huberman 1995). While there have been feminist responses, both secular and Christian, to the patriarchal construct of virginity and female sexuality, the 1985 dual © The Author(s) 2020 L. Bliss, The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45897-3_4

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production Le livre de Marie (The Book of Mary) and Je vous salue, Marie (Hail Mary) by Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard offer a cinematic imagining that reforms the dichotomy of virginity and sexuality through figuring anew the image of virginity. These jointly made productions, which have rarely been interpreted in terms of their relation to each other (White 2013), represent the Virgin Mary in a number of sexualised or embodied scenes, thus threatening her virginity. However, despite the voyeuristic nature of these scenes, I will contend that her virginity is not objectified or indeed seen, nor strictly speaking is it lost. Rather, the films imagine virginity as something that can only be figured by the virgin herself. I have considered how early modern witchcraft and the theory of the maternal imagination call into question the totalising dimension of the male gaze and allow for a reimagining of the common sense view of the patriarchal effects of cinema and media on the spectator’s unconscious. Like the male gaze, the image of virginity can be linked to the historic patriarchal belief in the inherently deceptive nature of the maternal imagination. The difference here, however, is that the myth of the Virgin Mary is less related to “deception” or the unconscious than to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and its relationship to the figure of Eve, as a figure of impurity and sin. Like my study of the maternal imagination, the discussion of virginity is concerned not with virginity in the lived, bodily sense but with the figuration of virginity within the films themselves, as well as with how virginity is imagined and understood in discourse around the two films. In this sense, my argument is addressed to the cinematic figuration of virginity. Virginity in these two films takes the form of a sonic image that is in transcendence of the traditional Christian view of virginity. The Virgin Mary’s power to conceive without sex is an aural power. In the biblical story, Mary conceives Christ “through the ear” in order to preserve her virginity: virginity is heard rather than “seen”, as the preservation of virginity demands an occlusion of vision (Kristeva 1985). Reworking the interior of the Christian myth of virginity, the Mary films represent virginity as prefiguring and fulfilling itself, fashioning a playful and productive analogy between the original and its reproduction. These films figure the myth and dogma of the Virgin Mary’s conception of Christ as a relation between sound and image where the central protagonist Marie is figured as a virgin who, paradoxically, reproduces herself as a virgin.1 In other words, Marie is figured as a virgin who hears herself while remaining a virgin, unseen.

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The significance of a self-reproducing, cinematic virgin will be considered through an analysis of three intersecting aspects of its figuration: first, through the theological significance of the Virgin Mary’s womb; second, through the gendered dimension of virginity; and third, through the sonic dimension of Virgin Mary imagery in relation to theories of sound and image in film theory.

4.2   “All of Nature Has Become Corrupt”2 In Catholic dogma, to which these two films directly refer, virginity takes on a peculiar role. The Virgin Mary must be pure in body and mind but not so pure as to usurp Christ’s function as saviour from Adam and Eve’s Fall (Warner 1976; Kristeva 1985). Her virginity is a feminine sign without subjectivity; to be a virgin is to neither see nor be seen. “Virginity can carry no internal image of itself. But the act of knowing compromises it, as virginity is precisely the unknown” (Peters 1997: 16). Mary’s virginity is, as noted, locked in a purity that enables Christ to achieve the status of both man and God while ensuring that she does not inherit the original sin of the flesh; such a structure also prevents Mary’s access to original sin, the internal knowledge of human sexuality or death (Warner 1976). From this theological perspective, the figure of Mary can only be understood in relation to the figure of Eve. To understand the significance of this relation, and to justify my use of the figural in an argument for the renewal of the image of virginity through the Miéville- Godard films, it is important to describe the distinction between non-Christian and Christian understandings of the figural. This distinction is highlighted in the essay “Figura” by the philologist Erich Auerbach (1959), who maps the Latin and pre-Christian origins of the significance of the figural onto its Christian incarnation as a means of interpreting the change brought about in the Christian era. In both cases, the figural is a means for imagining the origin of human life and the world. Auerbach writes of the pre-Christian etymology of the figural as beginning with the Latin figura, “the notion of the new manifestation, the changing aspect, of the permanent” connoted by a figurative likeness between two objects, persons, things or events (12). For example, the Epicurean poet and philosopher Lucretius utilises figura to describe the manner in which life comes to appear in the world. Lucretius considers, in this fashion, the “resemblance of children to their parents” and the dream image in its relation to the conscious world. His didactic poem De

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rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), written in the first century BCE, fashions a philosophical argument taking the figural as its framework. Lucretius argues for a philosophy of first causes—the origin of the world—that relies not upon the concept of an interventionist God but rather on how the meaningless movement of atoms produces the appearance of life.3 For Auerbach, Lucretius makes the “most brilliant, though not the most historically important contribution” (18) in an “extremely individual, free and significant way” (16) to figura. The figural relates to the primordial origins of the world, what Lucretius calls the “fixed seeds of creation”, and the unintelligible, wholly accidental incidence and generation of life (see passages in De rerum natura: 4, 1223–1287 and 4, 26–89). Without delving further into this system, we can note now that De rerum natura works towards the conjuncture of the poetic with the philosophical, where the poem is written in verse to work as poetic honey to make the bitter medicine of philosophy palatable. In its materialist, pre-­ Christian form, the figural took on a double function. The sweet, poetic rendering of the figural in philosophical verse allowed the reader to swallow and imagine the bitterness of the contingency of life. As Auerbach describes, in the first century CE, this model of the figural underwent a radical shift thanks to the thinking of the early Christian theologian Tertullian, who referred the notion of the Latin figura to the Divine. In the pre-Christian, Epicurean version, life is meaningful only through the atomistic and the contingent; however, as Jonathan Goldberg (2009) describes, in the Christian view life is made in the image of God. For Tertullian, the permanent dimension of the figural after Christ refers to the Divine relationship between Adam and Jesus or Eve and the Virgin Mary, whereby Eve prefigures Mary and Mary fulfils and redeems the original sin of Eve. In this regard, it is also relevant that Tertullian was the first Christian to argue that life began at conception and thus that abortion was a sin akin to the murder of an adult human (Noonan 1967). Without going into further detail about Tertullians’ interpretation, the point is that virginity, and many other patriarchal views of pregnancy, abortion and female sexuality, can be linked back to the Christian version of the figural as it sees “life” and pregnancy as belonging to a Divine plan (Noonan 1967). However, the figural, as a methodological framework, is not limited to its Christian iteration and, in its broadest sense, simply refers to the shift “from the form to its imitation, from model to copy” (Auerbach 1959: 16) where this transition always operates as a return

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fulfilling the original significance of the prefiguring event, person or myth. To continue the discussion from Chap. 3, we can say that, to present it in a simplified form, the figural model of interpretation inverts the principle of aetiology: it is the effect that produces the cause where what is represented at once produces and preserves the original to which it refers. In this respect—and this is relevant for my discussion of cinema and figurations of the maternal imagination—an important consequence of the permanent dimension of the figural is that it is not synonymous with essentialist or patriarchal imaginings of femininity. This can be made clear by considering how, in the patriarchal view of pregnancy and female sexuality, the Virgin Mary is a figure of the other side of the traditional virgin/whore structure. In the traditional story, the serpent’s temptation of Eve is transmitted from Eve to Adam. According to Elaine Pagels in Adam, Eve and the Serpent (1988), it was the interpretation of this in the fifth century CE—particularly by the theologian Augustine—that positioned feminine sexuality as the site of evil and the catalyst for the Fall of Man. In coining the notion of original sin, Augustine linked sexual desire to Adam and Eve’s disobedience. For Pagels, Augustine’s reinterpretation was revolutionary in its political implications: “For what Augustine says, in simplest terms, is this: human beings cannot be trusted to govern themselves, because our very nature – indeed all of nature – has become corrupt” (145). Certainly, the biblical story of the Virgin Mary contributes to this reinterpretation in the sense that Mary’s virginity also redeems the initial assumption made by her husband Joseph that her pregnancy results from adultery (Noonan 1967). Female sexuality is at the locus of the corruptive power of original sin, which can only be overcome through Godly virginity, the absence of flesh and sexuality. As Marina Warner explains, within this narrative about sexuality we find many originary myths that have led to the subordination and denigration of women, as well as pregnancy, through the emphasis on the flesh of the female sex as a site of evil and sin: In this battle between the flesh and the spirit, the female sex was firmly placed on the side of the flesh. For as childbirth was woman’s special function, and its pangs the special penalty decreed by God after the Fall, and as the child she bore in her womb was stained by sin from the moment of its conception, the evils of sex were particularly identified as female. (1976: 57)

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Rather than figure a Virgin Mary who saves us from the sin of Eve’s flesh, we find within Anne-Marie Miéville’s The Book of Mary an autonomous figure avoiding the association of virginity with pregnancy. The Book of Mary offers a fictional, contemporary narrative of the Virgin Mary’s childhood that prefigures Godard’s feature length Hail Mary, which is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Joseph and Mary. To date, few scholars have considered how the films run parallel to and reflect each other, with many either overlooking The Book of Mary or treating the film as an alternative to Hail Mary (Draper, 1993, Moore 1994, White 2013). Their link can be emphasised through describing the manner in which the narrative patterns and motifs of the Mary films repeat and refer to each other. In Miéville’s film, Marie is a child of about ten who struggles to come to terms with her parents’ divorce. This struggle is mirrored within the life of older Marie, as she grapples with the paradox of her virgin pregnancy. The everyday figures of Miéville’s film, which deals with an ordinary divorce, are reproduced as unworldly figures in Hail Mary, as it focuses on a virgin conception. The reproduction occurs on multiple levels. At the macro level, the narratives follow the same chronological trajectory, and many sequences re-present each other. The everyday protagonists in Miéville’s film recur in biblical form in Godard’s film; the young Marie’s two unnamed friends become Eva (analogous to Eve) and Juliette (Joseph’s mistress, with whom he never sleeps). The disheveled man young Marie chats with on the train becomes the Angel Gabriel. Young Marie’s father transforms into Joseph; her mother disappears and Marie is situated somewhere between childhood, motherhood and sexual awakening. Further, motifs are repeated: the sunglasses on Marie’s father and then on Joseph are a sign of obscured vision; the motif of apples—which the young Marie, Eva and the older Marie consume on a number of occasions—symbolises female transgression and recalls the biblical story of Eve. Rather than focus on the relationship between Eve and Marie, my focus remains on the relationship between the two films and their figuration of sound and image. In Catherine Grant’s study (2005) of the joint productions of Miéville and Godard in the 1980s, she cites an interview in which Godard commented on their working relationship. He said, referring to the filmmaking couple Straub-Huillet, that “The Straubs work in tandem, on the same bicycle, him in front, her behind. We have two bicycles” (101). Grant, with White (2013), admits the difficulty of analysing the collaborative efforts of the couple, particularly with regard to parallel projects like the

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Mary films. Godard’s feature caused significant controversy among both Catholics and secular film scholars over the figuration of Mary’s virginity and the meaning it produced. While mentions of Miéville’s film in any critique remain rare, Catholics objected to what was perceived as Godard’s attack on Catholic dogma, while many secular critics took issue with its apparently excessive objectification of femininity and simultaneous departure from a Marxist platform (Cunningham and Harley 1987; Locke 1993). More recently, Lisa Trahair has argued that the two films “make no attempt to speak to each other” (2012: n.p.). Trahair instead regards Hail Mary as a commentary on the automatism of cinema and the role of Godard the filmmaker in revealing reality itself. While I will consider both the Catholic and secular critiques of Hail Mary, I argue that to understand the significance of the image of virginity Godard’s film should be read in terms of its figural relation to the preceding work by Miéville, The Book of Mary. The Book of Mary begins as Marie’s parents separate. For the protagonist, the divorce is not necessarily traumatic but rather awakens her autonomy, as her agency is positioned outside the dyad of mother and father. Despite her youth, she relates to her parents and to herself with a sense of autonomy and avoids assuming a stereotypical childhood innocence. She takes the train by herself, explains her own particular situation to her friends and finds her own way to comfort herself, notably through poetry—particularly the work of Charles Baudelaire, which she reads to her toys on a number of occasions—as well as prayer and dance. Marie seems to acknowledge herself as a subject that assumes multiple forms: a professor or authority figure, a poet, a philosopher and, finally, a child whose means of expression is through the body. Both films particularly reference the work of psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto, whose work is directly quoted or paraphrased on a number of occasions in the scripts. For Dolto, one’s image of one’s own body is intimately related to the unconscious. For Guy Hall, the body in Dolto’s The Unconscious Image of the Body is “neither fixed, nor unique” (2009: 325). For Dolto, each person has a sense of self that, beginning with infancy, is expressed through whatever means are available to them (Boukobza 2009). We see this notion of expressive subjectivity in the interpretative dance young Marie performs in her mother’s living room to Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, a composition that is traditionally understood as a confrontation with mortality and a “farewell” to life (Micznik 1996). Marie’s dance to the symphony reworks the interior of the Christian myth,

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addressing the notion that virginity cannot assume an internal image of itself. Her performance has a psychological presence; there is a naiveté in her movement, and it is clear we are watching a child. Her dance conjures the impression of a young girl dancing with no hint of self-consciousness or of a dancer who has not fully mastered expression. This moment has been considered by Cynthia Erb as “a subtle erosion of the constraining myth that she inhabits but has not produced” (1993: 42), in the sense that Marie conceives and bears the image of her body without herself directly producing it. However, related to the epistemology of the Immaculate Conception, which is considered in the discussion that follows, Marie’s self-knowledge is performed through the camera capturing her dance. Watching her dance, we see that Marie’s autonomy is not negated through a voyeuristic gaze; the naiveté of her movements do not suggest deficiency or a sense of intrusion. Rather, the contradiction between self-assuredness and naiveté provokes the question of her autonomy. Recalling Simone de Beauvoir’s dictum that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”, we see that Marie’s trajectory is mapped out like her dance. The dance and its accompaniment to the majestic symphony ensure the scene is neither a moment of pure revelation nor grim acceptance; rather we know that she dances because she will become the Virgin. While Dolto’s work is primarily concerned with the psychoanalysis of children, she was also one of the few Catholic psychoanalysts to make strong links between psychoanalysis and the Gospels. Dolto’s book The Jesus of Psychoanalysis (1979) highlights how the epistemology of the psychoanalytic subject echoes that of Mary in her knowledge that a birth would take place prior to its announcement. She proposes that Mary’s virginity not only relates to the common masculine fantasy of maternal virginity but also to the paradox of the outside as within: “Our thought may grow from an idea that has come from elsewhere, without our knowing who has given it to us … That is what Mary represents: she is an image, a metaphor of perfect openness” (30). This openness, which Dolto considers in terms of the unconscious, language and lack in its Lacanian sense, is linked to the figuration of Mary/Marie. However, this is not to suggest my analysis of the film is reducible to a psychoanalytic paradigm, in the sense of a subject who, through analysis, becomes better able to grasp reality. Here, we can return to consider how the figuration of Marie in The Book of Mary prefigures the feature film’s playful representation of the Virgin Mary’s struggle to remain a virgin. In the feature film, there are sequences of Marie, alone, struggling to maintain her inner chastity; one

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scene in particular shows Marie fighting the temptation to masturbate, assuming the gestures of Charcot’s infamous photographs of hysterical women (Bergala 1992). It has been documented that Godard originally wanted to make a film on an incestuous relationship between father and daughter (a proposal rejected by lead actress Myriem Roussel) (Bergala 1992). He also briefly considered a film on Freud and Dora but decided instead to film the story of Mary and the Immaculate Conception. Rather than an incestuous father, Freud or God, the figuration of the film character Marie as she bears a “metaphor of perfect openness” to herself is also a myth of aural conception. The film’s figuration of sexuality and virginity is thus linked to the film’s figuration of sound or to its sonic imagery.

4.3   “Our Thought May Grow from an Idea that Has Come from Elsewhere, Without Our Knowing Who Has Given It to Us”4 The question of the significance of virginity is suggested not only within Marie but also within the young girl who accompanies the Angel Gabriel in the feature film. The nameless young girl is akin to the pole or empty space that accompanies many depictions of the Annunciation. Within this empty space, in many paintings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Latin sentences signifying the word of the Holy Spirit are drawn in a wavering line into the ear of Mary. This conceptio per aurem (conception through the ear) has been painted numerous times in works including Leonardo da Vinci’s Angel of the Annunciation (1472–1475), Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi’s Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus (circa 1333), Fra Angelico’s Annunciation (1420–40) and Sandro Botticelli’s Annunciation (1489–90). Georges Didi-Huberman (1995) considers the figural structure of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation of Cortona (1434) with regard to the relationship between Mary and the Angel Gabriel. In this painting, perception is contradicted by perspective. The placement of the Virgin is such that she is at once in the centre and to the right of the image. As she is occluded by a column and regressive sense of depth through the image of an open door in front of a window, the cutting off of the farthest pole intends to give the sense of depth, an illusion that she is at the centre. This is read by Didi-­ Huberman as a schema that “opens space only onto the sign of its closure” (138), a structural mechanism of the painting intended to evoke a sense of

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the Divine in figuring, as a visual return, the message that the Virgin is said to have already known before she received it. The placement of the Virgin is interpreted by Didi-Huberman as a “folding back into the visual” (224): “Everything is finally dominated by the phantasm of looking from within at what we see facing us” (227). Godard reconstructs the scene of the Annunciation in Hail Mary, except that he has replaced the pole with a strange young girl whose temperament, intellect and maturity match that of the young Marie in Miéville’s film.5 The young girl speaks to Marie after the Annunciation with confidence. At this moment a break, like the pole or blank space, is drawn between Marie’s childhood and the new knowledge of motherhood. She says to Marie: “Don’t be silly! I know where you’re going and soon you will too”. In other words, to return to Hall on Dolto, her virginity is figured as “neither fixed nor unique”: the parallel structure means that there is always an element of reflection. The figuration of virginity occurs on the basis of a paradoxical presence and absence of what is visible, of mystery and the unknown and of certainty and knowledge. However, I argue that sound is key to understanding the significance of the figuration of virginity in these films. Nonetheless, before moving to develop this argument, the critiques of the gendered significance of virginity in the films are worth discussing in some detail. In an interview, Godard referred to the potential for cinematic images to present what one does not want to see: “Images are like life. And images can show you something in your life you don’t want to see, which is probably why people react violently to Hail Mary” (Dieckmann 1985: 6). Godard’s feature attracted a series of widespread protests around the globe, reactions that stand in marked contrast to the muted response to Miéville’s short. Indeed, Hail Mary is noteworthy insofar as it was publicly criticised by the Pope, who does not often single out works of art for comment (Locke 1993) (although Madonna’s popular 1989 song Like a Prayer is one important example). That Hail Mary contained sequences of Marie naked, sequences where Marie and Joseph come close to having sex and sequences where Marie resists the temptation to masturbate led the Vatican to brand Hail Mary a secular desecration of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception; shortly after the films were released, an article on the front page of the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano proffered the following response to the film:

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Even during a period of secularisation, the fatuousness, nudity and eccentricity of certain sequences desecrate a very high reality of which Godard has understood nothing … Her [the real Mary’s] response to the Archangel … is not the casual unthought-out reaction of a young woman lacking culture and awareness … It is the response of a pre-destined soul who is prepared and who, in the deepest recesses of her Virginal being, is constantly in touch with God and fully ready for this spiritual offering. (in Locke 1993: 4)

The Vatican was likely especially critical because sequences in Godard’s film do draw directly from the Bible, particularly from Matthew 1:19, where Joseph doubts Mary’s story of a virgin conception and considers ending their betrothal (Cunningham and Harley 1987). While Miéville’s film did not receive critique, it nonetheless contains a number of sequences that suggest the embodied nature of young Marie—particularly sequences of her dancing expressively in the living room and sharing a bath with her mother. Neither of these sequences is exceptionally voyeuristic, but both certainly demonstrate the emerging desire of young Marie in relation to her own body. Hail Mary also attracted passionate criticism from secular scholars, including Laura Mulvey (1992, 1993), Constance Penley (1992) and Alain Bergala (1992, 1999), who argued that this was a lamentable departure for Godard from Marxist ideology and that he was instead indulging in a perverse desire to control and objectify the feminine as the “original dimension” of artistic reproduction. Seeing that Godard had attempted to invert the formal structure of virginity, many scholars read Hail Mary through the notion of the auteur in an attempt to uncover Godard’s own subjectivity or sexuality. As Mulvey suggests of Hail Mary: “Cinema and sexuality merge into a condensation that is unashamedly masculine, while also being apologetically impotent. The director’s fever is roused by and through the female body, as though, at the zero moment of creativity, Godard confronts bedrock and finds nothing left except desire for desire” (1992: 82). Mulvey has commented on this in terms of the relationship between continuity and discontinuity in Godard’s representation of the Virgin Mary. Neglecting to consider Miéville’s preceding short, she reads Godard’s film as essentially voyeuristic. Moreover, what she considers to be the film’s “unlimited access to the carnal joy of her image” (1993: 39) is also undone by the film itself. Gesturing to the final shot of Marie’s open mouth, Mulvey writes of the mouth as the gaping black abyss before the camera. She considers this to be Godard’s admission of the “impossibility

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of his own construction” (1993: 52). Mulvey regards this as completing a cycle between death and the fetishistic perfection of the feminine figure, figured as an instrument of illusion from which no material knowledge can be gained. Bergala also overlooks Miéville’s short as he writes of Godard the auteur in terms that attempt to invert the significance of the sexualised sequences of Marie. He refers to this, through the title of his essay, as Godard’s desire to film the “Other side of the Bouquet” (1992). This essay is largely written as though Bergala were the masterful psychoanalyst of Godard. He writes: “Godard tries to film the supposed desire of the Master, a desire that infects him … The young woman who appears in that character for the first time in one of his films will become ‘his’ Virgin” (65). For Bergala, this leads to an effacement of the origin of the image that, in a claim similar to Mulvey’s, raises the question of the impossibility of locating its subjectivity: One image scurries after another, as if there was no way of finding a ‘good’ one among them. The shots of the landscape, of the sun or moon, of animals, also serve this purpose: to efface the attempted images, to return, each time, to a point before images. (1999: 50–1)

For Bergala, this draining of meaning is figured in and through Marie’s response to the camera, which he analyses in the light of her assumption of the classical gestures of the hysteric: “She will twist this body that harbors its inexpressible secret, and respond in her own uncontrollable way, before the camera … to what she assumes to be the request of the Master” (1992: 69). Whatever grain of psychological truth there is in these readings, the relation between the films ensures that neither film is complete without its other. In this sense, the figural structure escapes any attempt by Godard (consciously or unconsciously) to control or efface the image of virginity (Bordwell 2008). While both films toy with the idea that no subjectivity can be seen in the image as it is represented, virginity is instead found in the relationship of film to film, and the figural connection through which Marie retroactively hears her virginity. This figuration of Marie forms an address to the patriarchal stereotype produced by the Christian dogma of the “pure womb” discussed earlier through work by Warner (1976) and Pagels (1988). My suggestion is that reading the originary realm through the Marie of the short film as prefigurement allows for a reconsideration of the gendered readings of Virgin

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subjectivity. Neither controlled nor effaced by figuration, virginity becomes, to return to Dolto, “the metaphor of perfect openness” to itself. This theme recurs in both films in such a way that Marie/Mary can potentially be understood to transcend the theological argument for the Virgin Mary’s recursive womb. The filmic figuration of this openness allows for a questioning of the overdetermined idea of the male gaze. Virginity is figured as virginity without reference to God or to a sense of the unknown, determined by patriarchy. The Virgin Mary remains a virgin through conception and birth and is free from the mark of original sin. As bearer of Christ, Mary’s own conception was theorised by Franciscan scholar Duns Scotus in the thirteenth century as praeredemptio (pre-redemption). If Christ was pure, then, logically speaking, Mary had to be too; however, she could not be so pure in her body as to compare to Christ, fulfilling and overcoming the evils of the Fall (Kristeva 1985). As Julia Kristeva suggests in her essay “Stabat Mater”: “If Mary is prior to Christ, and if he, or at any rate his humanity, originates with her, then must she too not be immaculate?” (1985: 138). Logically, this is what leads her symbolic structure to be recursive, an endless repetition in the absence of difference: “if it is true that it is Christ alone who saves us by his redemption on the cross, then the virgin who bore him can only be preserved from sin ‘recursively’” (138). While we may find examples of Marian piety that break with this structure, such as the painting The Immaculate Conception (1767–68) by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo where Mary’s foot crushes the head of the serpent, Warner (1976) explains that these were an embarrassment for the Catholic church as they implied that Mary overcame the Fall of Man, thereby negating or undermining the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Certainly, Tiepolo’s image is a powerful one, presenting an unyielding and surefooted Mary confident in her crushing of temptation. As noted, Hail Mary is unusual because it attracted public criticism by a Pope. In his analysis of the film as sacrilegious, Pope John Paul II did not take note of what I suggest is its canny address to the original theological status of the Virgin. This is because he only references Godard’s film, a mistake made by the vast majority of interpretations, which neglect the short that precedes the feature. The unusual attention from the Pope may point to a specific tension in figurations of the feminine that Catholicism has traditionally attempted to contain through Eve as figure of the corrupt womb and Mary as figure of the pure womb (Warner 1976). Lending further significance to my study of early modern witchcraft as that which

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undermines the totality of the male gaze, we can recall that the notion of the male gaze paradoxically depends on the belief in an all-encompassing, deceptive illusion caught in the trap of a “double bind” from which it appears irony, or negation, offers the only means of perception and critique (de Lauretis 1984). Likewise, we can consider how the patriarchal significance of the Virgin Mary depends on the recursivity of her womb, as a means to overcome the potential for voyeuristic intrusion as well as the sins of the flesh, and how these films artistically imagine (or reimagine) the terms on which this recursivity is constructed through their figuration of virginity. In figuring the significance of virginity, which is defined as what cannot be seen from an interior perspective, Miéville’s short takes this question of recursivity and gives the originary realm material significance. This could be understood in terms of the psychoanalytic theory of the maternal, or indeed related back to a theological interpretation of the Virgin Mary as usurping the Logos and thus transcending the Catholic Trinity. However, to read the films figuratively, where virginity is what prefigures and fulfils itself as figure, suggests that they break with the recursion of Mary’s figuration with important implications for the idea of the image of virginity and for an understanding of the relationship between sound and image in Miéville-Godard collaborations, as well as in film theory more generally (Grant 2005; White 2013; Fox 2017).

4.4   “Godard Has Understood Nothing”6 The motif of obscured vision is present in the sunglasses worn first by Marie’s father and then by Joseph in two similar sequences where he interrogates Marie about her Immaculate Conception. It is suggested that neither can see what is in front of them, namely, a woman, and in each instance Marie illuminates their distortion of vision through giving voice to her thoughts. We see an example of this structure in the opening sequence of Miéville’s short, where Marie’s parents are experiencing the breakdown of their marriage. The scene is archetypal and plays on the conventions of an ordinary fight between husband and wife. However, their voices are split from the image. At first the sound of their voices is layered over shots of water, flowers and the interior of a middle-class suburban house. When images of the couple enter the screen, they continue to argue, but their voices are not fused with their bodies until the mother abruptly utters, “I don’t agree!”

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As the dialogue is synchronised with the image, their voices rise as they reach the climax of the argument that serves as a meta-reflection on the direction the film will take. The mother cries, “I’ve copied, now I want to invent”, followed by a bitter reply from her soon-to-be ex-husband: “Women don’t invent”. Interrupting their argument, the voice of young Marie begins to lecture her parents; her mother is exasperated by the fight and her father now wears sunglasses. Marie lectures as if she were a surgeon, taking an apple (the symbol for Eve’s transgression and for knowledge) and pretending it is an eye. Holding the apple in her hand and examining the pip, she remarks on the nature of the human pupil: “The pupil floats like a baby in its mother’s belly. When you look at things, it’s because of the pupil, because it floats, and when we move, as you see, it shifts”. As she speaks, her parents look perplexed at the eccentric assurance of the child in front of them, accepting her authority without understanding her message. In this sequence, where young Marie speaks with the knowledge of an adult to stop her parents’ arguing, passivity is reversed and toyed with; Marie is now in the role of the adult, her parents are the children, with Marie in possession of an internal life inaccessible to them. In both films, characters’ gestures are often not directed towards the words that they are speaking (this is particularly the case in the feature; rarely is the movement of the mouth synchronised with the sound of the words being produced). This can be amusing, as in the sequence described above with young Marie, but it is also suggestive of virginity. As in Albertine Fox’s analysis (2017) of sequences in Godard’s Prénom: Carmen (1983), in which sonic figuration is understood as a kind of sculpture, the sonic figuration of virginity is especially clear in one notable sequence in Hail Mary where Marie looks on as her friends are playing basketball. The camera is intently voyeuristic as Marie is warming up to play her game. Bach’s Ave Maria is interlaced with sounds of the basketball game, the direction of her peers and coach. In a stop-start formation, the piano plays the hymn, only to stop abruptly when interrupted by a whistle or the voice of the coach. At other times the hymn and the noise of the basketball match are mixed together. The shots move rapidly, but once Marie’s voice-­ over begins it is never interrupted by the sound of the game or that of the hymn. The voice, addressed to the audience, ponders her future and whether or not she will fall in love. This sequence brings together an internal and external perspective to ask how the viewer gazes at Marie. The relationship between sound and image effects a tripartite relationship, between Marie and the viewer, Marie and her diegetic film world, and the

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external myth of the Virgin Mary and the relationship the films pose to this history. This tripartite dimension of the virgin image can be situated in light of Godard’s infamous use of the black screen. The black screen repeatedly appears in Hail Mary bearing the text “at that time” (en ce temps-là). Brenez argues that Godard’s black screen figures, at once, the past, present and future of cinema as “an art of the presence of the image confronted by its own powers” (2005: 175). The black screen, in other words, stands for the attempt to rupture what cinema paradoxically occludes by way of its supposedly illusory continuum between spectator and screen (Daney 2005). It generates what Godard himself has called a “jouissance”, as the “gap in representation, the off-screen space, the black screen, the white screen, the empty screen … a white hole that classical cinema has always tried to fill” (7). The black screen seeks to mark the unknown aspects of what it means to see, to point out that we can never see everything in it entirely. Virginity takes on a similar role to the black screen through the complex figuration of Marie within the films, and the roles of sound and the voice are crucial to understanding this figuration. Historically, the myth that the first cinema audiences ran from The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat forms a myth of cinematic power over the lived body. However, we can also recall that the inception of cinema is guarded by a myth of silence. Sound was not synchronised with the image until 1927 with The Jazz Singer—a historical precedence often thought to create a hierarchy of the image over sound. However this thirty-year span of so-called silent films has been equally studied as a sphere of sound (Altman 2004; Altman 1996; Berg 1975; O’Rawe 2006; Cavell 1971). Gunning notes in his essay “Doing for the Eye What the Phonograph Does for the Ear” (2001) that the early phonoscope, a device for projecting images invented by Georges Demeny and considered “cinema’s most direct father” (preceding Edison’s kinetoscope), was actually invented to teach processes of speech to deaf children. Gunning’s essay explores the development of early cinema technology, highlighting how “motion pictures began as an image of sound” (41). Without investigating this technological history any further, the fact that the films under discussion here play on the myth of the Virgin Mary so that she “hears” her own virginity provides further avenues through which to consider the work and figuration of sound in a broader sense.

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In her essay “The Voice in Cinema” (1980), Mary Ann Doane considers how the dislocation of the voice from the body—a repeated feature of Godard and Miéville’s films—may allow for access to the interiority of the image: “The voice displays what is inaccessible to the image, what exceeds the visible: the ‘inner life’ of the character. The voice here is the privileged mark of interiority, turning the body ‘inside-out’” (41). However, Doane’s argument—dependent on the notion of the male gaze and unconscious subjection—is limited to the voice-over, voice-off or interior monologue, which are in opposition to a “synchronisation” of the voice with the body. Her argument is premised on the idea that synchronising the voice with the body is deceptive and manipulative: “It is precisely because the voice is not localisable, because it cannot be yoked to a body, that it is capable of interpreting the image, producing its truth” (42). To develop this claim and reject any straightforward opposition between truth and illusion, we can consider Rick Altman’s argument that there is a tendency to privilege sight in studies of both silent cinema and cinema in general, where sound is never granted “autonomous worth”, but only considered when it has “demonstrable, physical, visible effect” (2004: 6, see also Chion 1999). The desynchronisation of the voice from the body (in the sequences where the young Marie lectures her parents, where the older Marie speaks to the mysterious girl who accompanies the Angel Gabriel and where the older Marie plays basketball) instead questions how an image may have “demonstrable, physical, visible effect”. Altman’s argument for an asymmetrical relationship between sound and image in his essay “Moving Lips: Cinema as Ventriloquism” (1980) can help us to understand the significance of virginity in the Mary films and to question an argument like Doane’s. For Altman—renovating Doane’s dichotomy— sound is what develops the image “to serve its own ends” via the image on screen. Whether the speaker is on screen or off is beside the point; rather, the cinematic image for Altman is always what disguises that sound is without a source: At first, image-without-sound and sound-without-image would seem to be complementary and symmetrical situations. In fact, however, two considerations make these configurations quite different. Images call for no action on the part of the auditor. Or, to put it as Bresson has been reported to say, ‘A sound always evokes an image; an image never evokes a sound.’ (73)

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This asymmetrical approach to the relationship between image and sound illuminates the figuration of virginity in the Mary films. Virginity is not limited to its stereotypical significance, in the patriarchal sense of absent subjectivity premised on a transcendence of a morally impure body; rather, virginity becomes the site of its own unknown, forming itself as figure. These films represent the multiple Maries in possession of, and with knowledge of, a sexual body that nonetheless remains something of a mystery to them, as well as being outside or beyond visible capture and objectification by the camera. In the final sequence of Hail Mary, Marie is seated alone within the confines of her car, smoking. Very slightly, the camera zooms in towards her face and softly shakes. The silent but voyeuristic attack of the camera continues as the image cuts and we see that she is hesitating to apply red lipstick. Another cut, and the camera is even closer, but this time sits behind her ear so that, although it is clear she is putting on lipstick, her mouth and the lipstick are out of focus. An abrupt cut spins the frame back to the front of her face, but now the screen is consumed by her gaping mouth: a black hole, framed by the curve of her freshly red lips. The beat of this sequence, its hesitant then rapid pace, mimetic of sex until the point of orgasm, represents the unrepresentability of sex through an ironic lens. While Mulvey referred to this as the “impossibility” of Godard’s film and his recognition of the deceptive power of cinematic illusion, this controversial and seemingly voyeuristic scene cannot be separated from earlier figurations of Marie. The moment young Marie cuts open a boiled egg at the end of The Book of Mary clearly informs this final shot in Hail Mary. At the end of The Book of Mary, young Marie is sitting at the table about to eat dinner. Her mother is leaving her to go on a date and Marie’s confidence and maturity become ironic in itself. She says to her mother, “The hairdo becomes you … You’re a darling really!” As her mother walks out the door for her date, Marie begins to speak to the boiled egg that she is about to eat and tells it that it must be broken open. The egg, like young Marie’s ridiculous commentary or Marie’s mouth in the final shot of the feature film, figures virginity as never “lost” but as existing in a realm of sonic imagery. As in the case of young Marie dancing, or the monologue of the older Marie wondering about her future, her figuration brings to the fore that even if what we see cannot account for what she is, she is nonetheless present by way of her Virgin Image.

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Notes 1. A distinction is made in this discussion between the Virgin Mary and Marie, who is the protagonist(s) in the film. 2. Pagels (1988: 145). 3. For further discussion of this, see Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W.W.  Norton, 2011). Also see Henri Bergson, Philosophy of Poetry: The Genius of Lucretius, trans. Wade Baskin (Philosophical Library, 1959). 4. Dolto (1979: 30). 5. The figure of the young girl accompanying the Angel is also featured in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) and thus is also likely a reference to Pasolini on Godard’s part. In addition, this figure also appears in Christian thinking in the idea that one should turn away from the image of feminine innocence and youth toward Christ (see White 2013). 6. L’Osservatore Romano, 1985.

References Altman, Rick. 1980. Moving Lips: Cinema as Ventriloquism. Yale French Studies (60): 67–79. https://doi.org/10.2307/2930005. ———. 1996. The Silence of the Silents. Musical Quarterly 80 (4): 648–718. https://doi.org/10.1093/mq/80.4.648. ———. 2004. Silent Film Sound. New York: Columbia University Press. Auerbach, Erich. 1959. Scenes from the Drama of European Literature. New York: Meridian. Berg, Charles M. 1975. The Human Voice and the Silent Cinema. Journal of Popular Film 4 (2): 165–177. https://doi.org/10.1080/0047271 9.1975.10661769. Bergala, Alain. 1992. The Other Side of the Bouquet. In Jean-Luc Godard: Son + Image, ed. Raymond Bellour and Mary Lea Brandy, 57–73. New  York: The Museum of Modern Art. ———. 1999. Nul mieux que Godard. Paris: Editions Cahiers du cinema. Bordwell, David. 2008. What Happens Between Shots Happens Between Your Ears. David Bordwell’s Website on Cinema. http://www.davidbordwell.net/ blog/2008/02/04/what-happens-between-shots-happens-betweenyour-ears/ Boukobza, Claude. 2009. The Unconscious Image of the Body. In Theory and Practice in Child Psychoanalysis: An Introduction to the Work of Francoise Dolto, ed. Guy Hall, Françoise Hivernel, and Siân Morgan, 85–100. London: Karnac Books.

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Brenez, Nicole. 2005. The Forms of the Question. In For Ever Godard, ed. Michael Temple, James S.  Williams, and Michael Witt, 160–177. London: Black Dog Publishing. Bresson, Robert. 1988. Notes of a Cinematographer. Trans. Jonathan Griffin. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press. Bynum, Caroline Walker. 1991. Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion. New York: Zone Books. Cavell, Stanley. 1971. The Acknowledgement of Silence. In The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Chion, Michel. 1999. The Voice in Cinema. Trans. Claudia Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press. Cunningham, Stuart, and Ross Harley. 1987. Scandal to the Jews, Folly to the Pagans: A Treatment for Hail Mary. Continuum 1 (2): 31–44. https://doi. org/10.1080/10304318809359335. Daney, Serge. 2005. The Godard Paradox. In For Ever Godard, ed. Michael Temple, James S. Williams, and Michael Witt. London: Black Dog Publishing. De Lauretis, Teresa. 1984. Alice Doesn’t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Didi-Huberman, Georges. 1995. Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration. Trans. Jane Marie Todd. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Dieckmann, Katherine, with Jean-Luc Godard. 1985. Godard in His Fifth period. Film Quarterly 39 (2). https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.1985.39.2.04a00030. Doane, Mary Ann. 1980. The Voice in Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space. Yale French Studies (60): 33–50. https://doi.org/10.2307/2930003. Dolto, Françoise. 1979. The Jesus of Psychoanalysis: Freudian Interpretation of the Gospel. Trans. Helen R. Lane. New York: Doubleday. ———. 1984. L’image inconsciente du corps [The Unconscious Image of the Body]. Paris: Editions du Seuil. Draper, Ellen. 1993. An Alternative to Godard’s Metaphysics: Cinematic Presence in Miéville’s Le livre de Marie. In Hail Mary: Woman and the Sacred in Film, ed. Maryel Locke and Charles Warren, 67–74. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Erb, Cynthia. 1993. The Madonna’s Reproduction(s): Miéville, Godard, and the Figure of Mary. Journal of Film and Video 45 (4): 40–56. Fox, Albertine. 2017. Godard and Sound: Acoustic Innovation in the Late Films of Jean-Luc Godard. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Goldberg, Jonathan. 2009. The Seeds of Things: Theorising Sexuality and Materiality in Renaissance Representations. New York: Fordham University Press. Grant, Catherine. 2005. Home-Movies: The Curious Cinematic Collaboration of Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard. In For Ever Godard, ed. Michael Temple, James S. Williams, and Michael Witt. London: Black Dog Publishing.

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Gunning, Tom. 2001. Doing for the Eye What the Phonograph Does for the Ear. In The Sounds of Early Cinema, ed. Richard Abel and Rick Altman. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Hall, Guy. 2009. Le desir de vivre: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Françoise Dolto. British Journal of Psychotherapy 25 (3): 312–330. https:// doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0118.2009.01125. Hall, Guy, Françoise Hivernel, and Sian Morgan, eds. 2009. Theory and Practice in Child Psychoanalysis: An Introduction to the Work of Françoise Dolto. London: Karnac Books. Kainz, Howard. 1971. Mary the Paradox. Christian Century 88 (35). Kristeva, Julia. 1985. Stabat Mater. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Poetics Today 6 (1–2): 133–152. https://doi.org/10.2307/1772126. Locke, Maryel. 1993. A History of the Public Controversy. In Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary: Women and the Sacred in Film, ed. Charles Warren and Maryel Locke, 1–9. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Lucretius. 2006. De rerum natura. Trans. W.H.D. Rouse, Rev. Martin Ferguson Smith. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Micznik, Vera. 1996. The Farewell Story of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. 19th-century Music 20(2): 144–166. Moore, Kevin Z. 1994. Reincarnating the Radical: Godard’s Je vous salue, Marie. Cinema Journal 34 (4): 18–30. https://doi.org/10.2307/1225653. Mulvey, Laura. 1992. The Hole and the Zero: The Janus Face of the Feminine in Godard. In Jean-Luc Godard: Son & Image, ed. Raymond Bellour and Mary Lea Brandy, 75–89. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. ———. 1993. Marie/Eve: Continuity and Discontinuity in J-L Godard’s Iconography of Women. In Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary: Women and the Sacred in Film, ed. Charles Warren and Maryel Locke, 39–53. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Noonan, John T., Jr. 1967. Abortion and the Catholic Church: A Summary History. Natural Law Forum 126. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajj/12.1.85. O’Rawe, Des. 2006. The Great Secret: Cinema, Silence and Modernism. Screen 47 (4): 395–405. https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjl031. Pagels, Elaine. 1988. Adam, Eve and the Serpent. New York: Random House. Penley, Constance. 1992. Pornography, Eroticism. In Jean-Luc Godard: Son + Image, ed. Raymond Bellour and Mary Lea Brandy. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. Peters, John Durham. 1997. Beauty’s Veils: The Ambivalent Iconoclasm of Kierkegaard and Benjamin. In The Image in Dispute: Art and Cinema in the Age of Photography, ed. Dudley Andrew, 9–32. Austin: University of Texas Press. Polinska, Wioleta. 2000. Dangerous Bodies: Women’s Nakedness and Theology. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 16 (1): 45–62.

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Trahair, Lisa. 2012. Belief in Cinema. Angelaki 7 (4): 193–207. https://doi. org/10.1080/0969725x.2012.747337. Warner, Marina. 1976. Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary. New York: Random House. White, Jerry. 2013. Two Bicycles: The Work of Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

CHAPTER 5

Natural and Experimental Births: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Experimental Cinema

Against the claim made by structuralist filmmaker and theorist Peter Gidal that deeply ingrained, patriarchal stereotypes make it impossible to represent women on the cinema screen (Mellencamp 1990), countless experimental filmmakers, films theorists and critics have sought to capture gender difference and femininity. From an academic perspective, this experimental filmmaking practice is often regarded through the critical framework developed by Claire Johnston in her essay “Women’s Cinema as Counter-cinema” (1973). Johnston argued for an urgent need to demythologise cinematic images of women and to counter patriarchal representation. She contended that undoing mythologised images of femininity could foster new forms of gendered identification between screen and spectator with the potential to generate and liberate, however unpredictably, the desire of an otherwise objectified female body (Johnston 1973). As Johnston wrote, albeit in relation to Hollywood cinema, a counter-­ cinema could ensure new forms of self-representation of women created by women themselves: “The image of women in the cinema has been an image created by men. The emergent women’s cinema has begun the transformation of that image”. While Johnston’s binary perspective has been especially deployed to understand experimental and avant-garde women’s cinema, Robin Blaetz has challenged the assumption crystallised in Johnston’s essay and has called for renewed focus on post-war women’s experimental cinema outside of Johnston’s belief that the cinematic

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representation of women necessitates a counter-response to patriarchal subordination (Blaetz 2006). As Blaetz argues, the concerns that animated many post-war American and European experimental female filmmakers were not necessarily the same as the concerns that have motivated 1970s feminist film theorists on the subject of experimental film (2006). Blaetz also makes this clear in her introduction to Women’s Experimental Cinema. Experimental filmmaking practice of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, she writes, is “neither simply introspectively connected with women’s consciousness raising nor is it derivative of the films of male counterparts” (2007: 8), thus issuing a call for alternative models of scholarship towards experimental cinema from this period. We can develop and reexamine the basic assumption Blaetz questions through an analysis of the figuration of pregnancy in American and European experimental cinema of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Pregnancy and childbirth are key visual subjects of experimental cinema produced by both men and women (Blaetz 1992; Segal 2011). Their representation is typically considered to undo so-called unconscious and mythologised modes of visual bias; such interpretations are governed by the ideal, formulated by Amos Vogel, that experimental cinema can subvert nominally taboo subjects in visual culture and produce new ways of imagining the body (Vogel 1974). European and North American experimental cinema has been celebrated for undermining the taboo around the visual representation of pregnancy and childbirth and ensuring their legitimation as worthy visual subjects (Segal 2011). Spearheaded by Stan Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving (1959) and his theory of “untutored perception” (Brakhage 1978), experimental representations of pregnancy and childbirth are commonly opposed to patriarchal forms of perception and imagination, with the former promising emancipation. Window Water Baby Moving is a silent, experimental film of his then-wife Jane (now Jane Wodening) giving birth in water at her home. Its humanist view onto the beginning of life has often been emphasised by screening the film alongside Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes (1971), a beautiful and startling depiction of human autopsy. However, Window Water Baby Moving has also been subject to passionate, feminist critique for its idealisation and mythologisation of childbirth (Samer 2011). Window Water Baby Moving visually invites us to “know” the power of the female body to give birth through an allegorised, if abstracted, image of Jane’s opening vagina, pushing out the infant in the act of giving birth. Jane’s labour is

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developed through flickering, scratched silent film that transforms her act of giving birth into an abstract vision of the power of experimental cinema (Segal 2011; Barr 1976).1 Rather than focus only on literal pregnant bodies, which would preserve the view of Window Water Baby Moving as a historical paradigm for the representation of pregnancy and childbirth in experimental cinema (Olszynko-Gryn and Ellis 2017; Segal 2011; Samer 2011; Barr 1976), we can instead frame how Window Water Baby Moving resonates with Joyce Wieland’s Water Sark (1964). Where Window Water Baby Moving is an at once graphically explicit and beautifully abstract film of Jane Wodening giving birth in water, Water Sark is a film about neither pregnancy nor childbirth—nor is it necessarily about the material female body. Instead, Water Sark resonates with Window Water Baby Moving because it figures a kind of tongue-in-cheek refusal of the overdetermined significance of the power of the image of the female body in experimental cinema. To “resonate” refers to the sound of music reverberating within a concert auditorium; however, in its figurative use, it refers to the evocation of emotion, similarity or shared feeling. Water Sark is described as resonating with Window Water Baby Moving here to develop a deeper sense of the acoustic significance of the former and to question the primacy of the image of the female body in experimental cinema in creating its meaning. Window Water Baby Moving is a silent film, and this silence can be seen to emphasise the relationship between the image of the vagina opening to give birth and the idea of experimental cinema “opening up” the spectator’s imagination. In contrast, Water Sark seems to poke fun at the idealisation of seeing with imagining through its whimsical use of experimental music by Carla Bley, Ray Jessel and Mike Mantler alongside its indirect reference to the work of John Cage. While Paul Arthur (2007) originally noted the relation between Water Sark and Window Water Baby Moving in terms of the figuration of water and the interest in capturing the meaning of cinema through the image of the female body, a sonic analogy between Water Sark and Cage’s Water Walk (1959) has not yet been considered in scholarship. This comparison allows for a new perspective onto Water Sark, given through the temporality of its experimental music, rather than the sense of “feminist time” characterised by the shift from subordination to emancipation.2 Via Water Sark, the temporality of experimental music will form a paradigm through which to understand post-war images of pregnancy and childbirth in experimental cinema, and an opening onto the

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conceptualisation of what is experimental about experimental cinema. Here we can further consider how figures of pregnancy in experimental films such as Agnès Varda’s L’Opéra-mouffe (1958), Marie Menken’s Hurry Hurry! (1957) and David Perry’s A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly (1968) are often ironic, humorous and self-knowing. Through this analysis, common sense dichotomies between male and female, and feminist and patriarchal, fostered by arguments like Johnston’s, can be shown to be limited by the terms of their own oppositions and thus the sense of time that they issue. Beyond a literal view of pregnancy and childbirth in experimental cinema, this discussion engages with broader theories of experimental cinema’s abstract power while retaining a sceptical distance and gesturing to different interpretations. By showing the limitation of received dichotomies in analysing pregnancy and childbirth in experimental film, I argue for a reconsideration of received, naturalised oppositions in discourses of the experimental. The dissenting and provocative spirit of Water Sark demands a reconsideration of some of the overdetermined, traditional ideals of the political and cultural merits of experimental cinema’s quest to subvert visual taboos and promote new ways of imagining.

5.1   Water Sark and Experimental Music Water Sark was produced under the influence of “seven separate acid trips” (Nowell 2001: 236) and is composed of Wieland’s reflection in the mirror, shots of her face, hands, breasts and upper body, as well as her kitchen table and a series of everyday objects on it. The ordinary objects on the table, a vase and a cup, are doubly imagined: they are reflected back to the camera through a mirror, which takes up only a portion of the screen, and in shots that show the mirror resting alongside the object of its reflection, with Wieland’s hand frequently visible as she holds up the mirror to show the other side of the object. The limit of this “representation of a representation” is acknowledged and crystallised by a mirror-­ image shot of the black camera lens, which zooms into its reflection to swallow the whole screen, hollowing out the imagined distance between screen and spectator as if Wieland herself is at once a spectator and creator of her own film. Water Sark’s playful, drug-induced and irreverently experimental self-­ reflection of Wieland’s body and internal domestic setting is magnified by the film’s use of in-camera editing and the filmmaker’s exaggerated and

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satirical gestures towards the lens. On one occasion, when a shot of the filmmaker’s face is in the frame, we are met with the comic sight of plastic wrap pulled taut over her head. When capturing the image of her face and mouth, she distorts both by holding up a looking glass and—recording in short bursts—makes grotesque faces at her own reflection, punctuated by the rapid, disjointed succession of frames. Throughout the film, she splashes at the mirror, letting drops of water blur the image of the table and her reflection. While Wieland did not make an experimental film about pregnancy, she did produce numerous paintings that reflected on her infertility (she was married to fellow experimental filmmaker Michael Snow for over twenty years, but they were unsuccessful in their desire to have a child). Balling (1961), for example, is a green and orange abstract painting which depicts (in her words) “an imprint of my state of mind – my infertility” (in Dale 2019). The significance of Wieland’s infertility, especially in relation to depictions of her own body, has not been subject to a rigorous study; however, the fact she described this work as “sex poetry” (Dale 2019) suggests her infertility had a complex and generative significance for her as an artist. Nonetheless, it is not a literal link between female fertility and experimental film that resonates Window Water Baby Moving with Water Sark. Avoiding a reading that would see Water Sark as a critical response to literal female fertility, we can instead invert the well-repeated idiom, already undermined by the likes of Michel Chion, that most analyses of film privilege the visual and regard sound as serving a subservient function (2019). Wieland’s self-representation is, in this reading, rendered sonorous through the lens of its experimental music.3 The sound of Water Sark is whimsical and often funny. Composed (or perhaps improvised) by free jazz pianist Bley, Austrian jazz trumpeter Mantler and songwriter Jessel, the soundtrack never directly matches the actions occurring on screen. We hear roughly recorded sounds of cymbals or gongs dipped in water, a technique developed in John Cage’s percussion music of the 1930s, alongside what sounds like experimentation with the insides of a piano, the whistle of a reed instrument and barking vocals, generating ambiguity not simply between musical and non-musical instruments—a key trope of experimental music—but also about the sources of the sounds themselves, ensuring that the figurative relationship between the heard sound and the seen image is playful and imaginative.

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The dissonant sound of Water Sark is reminiscent of Cage’s Water Walk, where, much to the amusement of the audience of the 1950s live game show I’ve Got a Secret, the composer played a range of everyday objects including a bathtub, an electric mixer, a watering can, a rubber duck, a piano, a mechanical fish, five radios and a tape recorder. As Cage insisted to the host of I’ve Got a Secret, he was playing music: “I consider music the production of sound. And since, in the piece which you will hear I produce sound, I will call it music” (in Mount 2011). Laughter, as Cage himself suggests at the end of the performance, was not an undesired response from the audience. More importantly, as Mount argues in his essay on the broadcast (2011), Cage’s participation in the game show demonstrated the aesthetic potential of his experimental music. Instead of restricting experimental music to the audience of “high art”, the game-­ show audience of Water Walk—a “low” version of Water Music (1952), composed for performance in a concert hall—was chosen to develop Cage’s project of rendering “the experience of art more like that of everyday living – in his words, the ‘testing of art by means of life’” (2011: 32). We can rely on a study of experimental music, as opposed to cinema, to develop the potential significance of Water Sark as experimental, with a view towards thinking the imagining of Wieland’s body on screen. In Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, Michael Nyman (1999) understands the experimental as a question of the process of the imagination, or what Brian Eno terms in his introduction “a process of apprehending” (1999: xii). For Nyman, Cage’s 1952 experimental piece 4′33″ ushered in the beginning of experimental music. In this piece, the musicians are instructed to perform by sitting silently with their instruments for the titular length of time. Nonetheless, this is not a “silent” piece in the sense that the sounds of the location where the music is performed, the bodies of the musicians, the audience and the world outside ensure 4′33″ is heard anew each time it is performed. 4′33″ crystallises what is original about the experimental, as opposed to the avant-garde, through the manner in which it allows the musician to break free from tradition. Nyman contends that where the avant-garde hallows tradition, rigour, precision and great works of art, experimental music seeks to break free from tradition, exemplified by the manner in which 4′33″ emancipates the musician’s body from subservience to the instrument and musical notation. Rather, the environmental sounds become crucial to the piece and allow for its renewal with each performance. The Western classical structure for the production of music is

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completely inverted within some instances of experimental music, which free musicians from dependence on both remembering and performing musical notation. If we understand music in the Western classical tradition as a time-object “whose materials, structuring and relationships are calculated in advance” (1999: 14), experimental music instead develops a sense of time as unstructured and without precedent or presupposition: “Time in its unstructured existence … how Time exists before we put our paws on it, our minds, our imagination, into it” (Morton Feldman in Nyman 1999: 14). Following the example of 4′33″, experimental music outlines a specific duration or length of time without predetermined content that shapes the response of the artist-musician, or the expectations of the audience, opening up its generative potential. Like an experimental musician, Wieland’s body on screen is not straitjacketed or predetermined by a prior tradition or sense of time. Water Sark resonates with experimental music in that, like the body of the experimental musician, Wieland breaks free from a traditional image of the female filmmaker in the sense rendered paradigmatic by Johnston. Femininity in Wieland’s experimental film and art arguably remains largely defined by the thinking exemplified by Johnston’s essay and the psychoanalytic feminist tradition (Blaetz 2006; Holmes-Moss 2006). This thinking can be distinguished as subscribing to a linear temporality, characterised by Marxist and Freudian models, namely where theorisation and analysis conceptualises the shift from oppression to emancipation (Doane 1987). Nonetheless, the distinction between experimental and the avant-­ garde, which is developed in a temporal sense for music by Nyman, does not exist in any significant sense in the study of cinema (where, arguably, the avant-garde and the experimental are exchangeable ideas). Expanded cinema is also relevant to Wieland’s work, in terms of its engagement between the filmic and the non-filmic and has also been developed to address aspects of Wieland’s broader oeuvre in relation to its Canadian nationalism (Holmes-Moss 2006: 24); however, my analysis of the temporal dimension of Water Sark is taken as it implicitly responds to Window Water Baby Moving and is thus not intended as a comment on her work as a whole. The non-linear and sonorous temporality of Water Sark can be approached through a suggestive analysis of the figuration of Wieland’s body: we can consider how in Water Sark we frequently see Wieland’s own hand, which seemingly serves as an interruption to the shot as she holds

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up the mirror to reflect the other side of an object on her table. Her hand, holding the mirror, ironically appears to contrast with later shots of her breasts, apparently deliberately uncovered or exposed and thus unlike the image of her own hand that seems to accidentally intrude into the frame. Thinking of Wieland’s breast as meaningfully exposed, as opposed to her unintentionally interrupting hand, is obviously ironic when we consider that it was Wieland’s hand that held the camera and produced the film. However, the images of her breasts and hand are figured only through the alternatively screeching and warbling music. The imagery of Water Sark resonates through its experimental music score, as it follows a specific duration but presents an image of the body that is not predetermined or conditioned by a prior interpretation of what we see and what it means. Like Water Walk, the music delights and provokes the imagination to usher in a new temporality of meaning. While Wieland herself did not explicitly make this connection between her film and the aesthetics of experimental music, she explained in an interview with fellow filmmaker Hollis Frampton that she made Water Sark to try to create a purely detached view of everyday objects that were meaningful to her. In particular, her kitchen table, which she traditionally associated with her filmmaking and artistic practice as it was the place where she had created artistically since childhood. She explicitly commented on her use of LSD, rather than music, as means of liberating her perception: “Drugs opened the door to film. It has been a really fantastic thing … Film is about sound and light really; the acid trips have been about sound and light” (Wieland in Elder 1999: 173). Her aim in making films while high was to enable an “innocent rediscovery” of what these objects could mean (172). Nonetheless, many have read Water Sark as a response to patriarchal colonisation of the image of the female body. For example, Kay Armatage (1987) and Lauren Rabinovitz (2003) have focused on the self-referential dimension of Wieland’s oeuvre as an exploration of her bodily identity, reading it in parallel to the feminist liberation movement and feminist psychoanalytic models of the psyche. These approaches understand Water Sark as a mode of self-discovery theorised through the lens of écriture féminine or woman’s writing as developed by Hélène Cixous. Echoing the assumption of Johnston’s essay, in this view Wieland’s “self-discovery” of her own image through Water Sark is regarded to be “not so much an escape from patriarchy (since there is no escape)” but a literalisation of female pleasure, displacing the power of patriarchy and ensuring “total joy or ecstasy in one’s sense of wholeness” (Rabinovitz 2003: 30). Yet, by

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emphasising the film’s experimental representation of Wieland’s body, it is possible to question the notion that Water Sark is a literal exploration of Wieland’s “wholeness” of body and identity in response to the double-­ bind of patriarchy (Zryd 1999). When rendered analogous to Window Water Baby Moving and Cage’s Water Walk, her playful and witty meta-­ self-­reflection seems less about self-discovery and more of a cheeky, somewhat knowing, address to the overdetermination of seeing the female body itself. Wieland’s eclectic and polyvalent work, alongside her comments about her use of LSD, has been considered in different terms to those of Rabinovitz and Armatage. P. Adams Sitney (1999) positioned Wieland within the domain of structuralist filmmakers. For the likes of Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, Peter Gidal and Paul Sharits, among others, the materiality of 8 mm and 16 mm film technology served as the medium, in both form and content, for the structuralist’s immaterial art. Structuralist films are defined by their self-referentiality to filmic technology, as well as techniques that stress their hand-made qualities, such as painting on film or manipulating the chemical properties of the film strip, in order to generate an absolutist perspective on cinema as a medium (Sitney 1974). In Sitney’s reading, Wieland is a singular figure; he emphasises how her sense of humour leaks into the frame. The fact that her work fosters and provokes contradiction led to his aptly titled essay “There Is Only One Joyce”, emphasising the unpredictable trajectory within her work (1999). Sitney’s argument has been adapted by Banning (1999) who considers how her pluralistic use of media means that her work is not reducible to the structuralist model. Elsewhere, Jay Scott (1999: 22) has described Wieland’s films, admittedly in generous terms, as “recklessly fecund” for their apparent eschewal of a consistent or logical response to avant-garde film history. As Zryd discusses in his rigorous article “There Are Many Joyces”, Wieland’s work is not reducible to a singular sense of the feminist tradition or interpretation of what the “wholeness” of the female body would even signify (1999). Particularly noteworthy is that much of her filmmaking of the early to mid-1960s anticipated the double binds of feminist film theory, as well as debates about what constitutes “femininity” itself. Water Sark figures the contradiction between “the ‘eternal feminine’ and femininity understood as a social construction” (1999: 209) by offering no comparable point of departure for what constitutes “femininity” other than the sonic image of the filmmaker-artist. Both perspectives, the “eternal

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feminine” and femininity as a cultural construct, seem relevant in its irreverent humour and its invocation to get to “know” her kitchen table and her body, to which she figures herself as witness by zooming in to erase her own image. Water Sark, in this sense, does not work “on resemblance … but rather on presence” (Brenez 2012: 234) through experimental music and its interest in figuring time anew. Based on my research, it is not clear at what stage, whether before or after the film itself, the lo-fi recording for Water Sark was made. Similarly, it is unclear whether or not Wieland had heard the soundtrack as she recorded the images. But this is a matter of indifference. The playful, imaginative disconnections between the source of the sound and the image seen on screen, and Wieland’s reflexive representation of herself as an artist-spectator, make Water Sark a film whose significance appears anew each time it is screened.

5.2   The Unconscious of Experimental Cinema: “You Want Me to Put My Thing in Your Hole and That Will Be ‘Communication’”4 The environment of experimental music is crucial to ensuring its generative potential. Here, the sonic significance of Water Sark can be related to the common sense idea of spectatorship of experimental film. The environment of experimental cinema has been traditionally determined by the idea that the viewer is—or should be—actively participating in undoing or subverting their unconscious or internalised bias while watching (Vogel 1974). Such a view can be found in comments made by the experimental filmmaker and theorist Hollis Frampton. In his response to a dissenting female audience member, who asked whether his—often visually difficult and demanding—abstract films “communicated to an audience”, Frampton said: “It is only when two people – filmmaker and viewer in this case – can meet as equals that true communication can take place” and not, in his words, when the woman has “the assumption” (as he suggested of her) “that [she] has this hole and [he] has this thing, and you want me to put my thing in your hole and that will be ‘communication’” (In Peterson 1994: 2). Frampton’s response clearly held an aggressive sexual connotation. However, it is worth pausing on what he suggests about an ideal viewer of

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experimental cinema, namely a viewer equivalent to the filmmaker. Because Frampton’s comment assumes a sexual dichotomy between those whose sexuality interferes with their ability to see and understand experimental films and those who have the potential to transcend that sexuality, the audience of an experimental film is defined by a split between those who are included and those who are excluded. Of course, as James Peterson has noted, we are offered no explanation as to how a viewer can achieve the meeting of equals that Frampton alludes to (1994). For Patricia Mellencamp (1990), the visibility and overdetermined significance of the filmmaker-artist in discourses of experimental cinema maintains what she describes as its hermetic tendency. The hermeticism of experimental cinema can be understood as the tendency towards an equation—one Frampton makes in the remarks cited above—of the film’s hoped-for significance with an ideal audience response. Mellencamp has cautioned that cultures of experimental and avant-­ garde cinema are too often deeply idealistic in their view of experimental cinema’s power to change society. Through her experience of the environment of experimental film co-operatives, she argues experimental and avant-garde filmmaking and screening cultures tend to foster a sense of themselves as “secret singularities” under the illusion of free critical discourse. Without referring to Frampton’s comment included above, she writes of how the idealistic tendencies of experimental screening communities can engender a deeply puritan and hermetic world view: “Hovering around the visibly centred artist” experimental cinema too often places itself “outside history, without politics, and thus without social critique, effects larger than the event, and audiences other than committed disciples” (1990: 11). Frampton is not alone in reifying the political power of experimental cinema. The utopian tendency of the experimental filmmaking scene of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States has been described by Zryd as a self-belief in the ability of experimental cinema screenings to incarnate an “authentic autonomous” environment that nonetheless could produce widespread political impact (2006: 22). While this contradiction between autonomy from wider society and desire for a political or cultural impact likely also leads to the hermeticism of experimental film, which becomes socially exclusionary in its quest to demythologise or counter the unconscious influence of visual culture, Zryd is particularly critical of the tendency in discourse about experimental and avant-garde cinema to ignore the role of the academy in ensuring its economic and discursive continuation. Zryd shows how the study and creation of experimental film

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at universities and colleges has especially ensured its success in North America, but the tendency to desire an autonomous but politically potent sphere for avant-garde and experimental cinema has meant this role has been denigrated. The academy is instead often seen as sterile and formulaic by the experimental film world, opposed to the life and passion of experimental film. For Zryd, this has the ironic result for academic approaches to experimental cinema that “to be academic is an insult even for academics” (23). Certainly, Wieland responded critically to the presupposition that filmmaking should be preceded by a politicised, feminist ideological position or academic theory. For Wieland, the link between cinema and feminist theory was not obvious or self-evident: “I don’t know what the hell theory has to do with seeing” (in Scott 1999: 24). Wieland was also something of an outcast, as her work consistently articulated a “refusal of the male gaze” itself (Rabinovitz 2003: 10), in part due to her paintings and films that shocked and scandalised with their frank approach to femininity and sexual difference that did not presuppose a sense of patriarchal subordination (Rabinovitz 2003). To return to Mellencamp’s point (1990) about the hermeticism and internal logics of exclusion embedded within the sexual politics of experimental cinema, we can position Wieland’s hard to place point of view within the tendency to privilege the relationship between filmmaker-artist and their own work at the expense of a dissenting and questioning “outsider” audience. The distanced academic view here is offered in the spirit of the humour of experimental film and its potential for laughter, especially as its comic value is diminished in discourses that idealise or idolise its political, ideological and existential potential. Pregnancy and childbirth play a peculiar role in discourses of experimental cinema that seek to identify audience and film. For example, Brakhage states of his process of editing: “My cutting has always tried to be true to the eyes, to the nervous system and to memory, and to capture these processes, which happen very rapidly” (in Ganguly 2017). Pregnancy and childhood were both prominent subjects through which Brakhage realised his theory and practice, evidencing his humanist mission to use cinema as a medium for the emergence of renewed forms of perception. Marjorie Keller, who was Brakhage’s student, sought to add material context to his perceived idealisation of the female experience of giving birth in Window Water Baby Moving by producing Misconception in 1977, expressing the desire to “come up with a film that would be as strong as if [she]

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asked an audience to experience a childbirth in person” (Keller 1986: 24, Samer 2011). For Keller, feminist models of thinking exemplified by Johnston’s argument for a counter-cinema obfuscated “women’s filmmaking in the name of feminism” (Blaetz 2007: 211). Thus, like Brakhage, Keller sought an abstract link between cinema and childbirth through emphasising the visualisation of the body. Keller argued (Blaetz 2007) that Misconception had the potential to generate a renewed and deepened sense of the viewer’s erotic mind and material body, as well as the process of childbirth itself, without being merely a reactive counter-response to patriarchal subordination. Misconception is unlike Water Sark in that it seeks literal identification with pregnancy and giving birth, as opposed to Wieland’s figuration of the body, which undercuts any such identification. Keller was especially inspired by Brakhage’s lyrical and visually poetic, if obsessive and meticulous, capturing of his family life. Five films were made of Jane labouring and giving birth for each of their five children, although only Window Water Baby Moving and Thin Line Lyre Triangular were included in the Criterion Collection DVD release of Brakhage’s films; the remaining three, with the addition of his film about breastfeeding, are typically overlooked in academic studies (Segal 2011). Window Water Baby Moving was originally made to ensure Brakhage could enter the labour ward to witness the birth of his first child (Segal 2011; MacDonald 2003), which he was forbidden from witnessing as a result of the politics of the time. He successfully argued that its filming could serve medical and educative purposes and was given permission to film the birth within a hospital setting (although, after discussion, the couple decided it would be best to film the birth in their home) (MacDonald 2003). However, Brakhage has stated that it was not just the lack of access for fathers that led to his desire to capture the birth of their first child. Rather, Brakhage wanted to develop an artistic vision of the relationship between cinema and childbirth: It was appalling to me that childbirth was a taboo subject, excluded from human vision, and that women were often barbarously treated in child-­ bearing and ignored as mothers within this culture. So there were political motivations that led me to make the five childbirth films. At the same time, I would add that if in these films I had tried in some conscious way to present a political alternative, I would have falsified the art process. (in Ganguly 2017: 73)

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The question of what is meant by the intersecting artistic and political significance of Brakhage’s oeuvre is a debated topic. Two main strands of critique in relation to Window Water Baby Moving can be identified. The first is directed towards the politics of Brakhage’s representation of Jane, and the second considers how the film set an important precedent in the early 1960s and enabled fathers to witness childbirth. While I will develop these readings in more detail later, Brakhage was not the only experimental filmmaker of this period who turned his camera towards his domestic and sexual life. The 1968 work of Australian experimental filmmaker David Perry, A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly, a two-minute work of his then-­ partner Abigayl Day’s pregnant body, is remarkably similar to Window Water Baby Moving. Shot on 16 mm, the film hones in on Day’s naked body, contrasting the curve of her stomach, breasts and face with abstract images of suburban life. The montage flows from shots of her pregnant stomach to a bursting water balloon and to children running in the street, projecting an electrified aura of her pregnancy. Perry was a key member of the Sydney underground film co-operative UBU, which, like the American and European movements and co-­ operatives of the 1960s and 1970s around the world, was both anti-­ commercial and anti-narrative. The UBU movement actively sought to combine painting and sculpture with filmmaking, and the artists referred to themselves as “filmers”, a merging of the words painter and filmmaker. Perry and his fellow filmmakers experimented with the plasticity of film, deliberately tampering with the chemical construction and physical properties of the film strip to produce visual poetry of image, colour and texture. Just as Window Water Baby Moving attracted some controversy following its initial screenings, in Australia A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly attracted political controversy for its beatified, sexualised and amorous representation of pregnancy. The film was initially banned by the Australian government in 1968 for its provocative content, after it was picked up by customs on return from a screening in Germany; however the ban was overturned in 1970 after public discussion in Australian Parliament drew attention to its artistic merit. Perry himself does not express great distress at its relatively brief censorship in his memoirs—likely because it had already been successfully screened in Australia and because the censorship ensured an increase in the film’s public exposure as (in his words) a “cause célèbre” (2014: 95). In 2009, its removal from an exhibition at the Mosman Art

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Gallery led to the gallery director being accused of censoring the film because of its nudity and erotic content. Although Perry’s film does not depict labour and childbirth, both A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly and Window Water Baby Moving are the product of filmmakers interested in the materiality of film, blending montage and mise en scène with their manipulations of the physical properties of film itself, aiming to intensify and renew the imagining of pregnancy and to memorialise their own lives through artistic creation. While Perry does not film Day’s body in such explicit detail—we see everything including the crowning and birthing of placenta in Window Water Baby Moving— both films contrast naturalised shots of pregnancy with abstract shots of the body. Like A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly, the montage of Window Water Baby Moving pulsates and shifts from the abstract to the explicit: the beauty of Wodening’s body is contrasted with graphic, depersonalised shots of her vagina as it opens and pushes out the infant, and abstracted through odd angles of her stomach, arms and legs. Her body is both fractured and brought together by the rapid succession of frames: elements of water and light, juxtaposed with short shots of her lips, her chest rising and falling with her breath, her sweaty breasts and stomach, all of which work to turn her labouring body eccentric, even alien, through the film. Certainly, there is a sense in which both films have excluded aspects of pregnancy and childbirth related to fear, pain or trauma as they could be approached from an internal and experiential point of view. Jonathan Rosenbaum has described Window Water Baby Moving to be in concert with a patriarchal perspective, both idealising motherhood and claiming ownership of Jane’s body. Rosenbaum calls this the “metaphysical conceit” (1983: 24) of Brakhage’s films, such that their poetic or artistic potential can be reduced to “a list of male possessions: This is my wife, my child, my gun, my dog, my camera, my house, my car, my summer vacation, my life”. Window Water Baby Moving is idealistic, but it still does not shy away from showing in graphic, abject detail the expulsion of blood, tissue and the placenta—objects that I am not convinced could be reduced to Brakhage’s “possessions”. Nonetheless, it is the case that Window Water Baby Moving offers a simplified appeal towards the beginning of a new life. In one sense, the film equates childbirth with a reified sense of nature and thus pictures it as a state without fear or complications. Similar to the idealised scene of childbirth in Gunvor Nelson’s Kirsa Nicholina (1969), there is little to

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suggest a complex, prolonged labour, extensive pain, prolapse or tear, haemorrhage, the need for emergency caesarean, the trauma of miscarriage or stillbirth or an unwanted child (Lundquist 2008)—all of which are common enough and equally natural. Despite its abstraction of the female body, Brakhage’s film, like Perry’s, nonetheless fixes on appealing sexual connotations of pregnancy, the pregnant torso, breasts or the dilating vagina, at the expense of other changes to the body that occur as a result of pregnancy (such as enlarged feet, hands and nose, stretch marks and thicker hair). The midwife who was present at the birth is not a point of focus in Window Water Baby Moving, and we only know through interviews and written documents that a hospital birth was considered but ultimately decided against in favour of producing the film in an intimate home environment without the visual intrusion of doctors. (While the film of the birth of their second child, Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961), took place in a hospital, this is also not a point of visual focus.) It is worth pausing on the notion of so-called natural birth to develop further a critique of Window Water Baby Moving. Michaels’ study of the Lamaze technique (2017, 2014), a 1950s Soviet invention that encourages vaginal birth without anaesthesia or pain-relieving drugs, and the rise of the instructional childbirth film in Western countries around the same time, demonstrates a historical point of mediation in childbirth in the twentieth century, one that produced a new dichotomy between a natural and supposedly unnatural birth. As Michaels makes clear, representations and practices of childbirth are never wholly “natural” but are themselves a discursive phenomenon. For Michaels, our view of childbirth has largely been conditioned by the rise of educational films from the 1950s and the popularisation of various techniques including Lamaze, as well as the ideas of the British obstetrician Dr. Grantly Dick-Read who is credited with coining the term “natural childbirth” and who espoused that “healthy childbirth was never intended by the natural law to be painful” (Caton 1996, Moscucci 2003). Michaels argues (2017) that the idealistic view that has resulted from Lamaze and Dick-Read’s view is that natural childbirth is related to an idealisation of female autonomy and the commodification of choice (a tendency that, as I will return to in the conclusion, some scholars such as Mack (2016) contend remains present in the proliferation of ‘home birth’ videos on YouTube). The natural childbirth movement has privileged both silence (the absence of screams, yells or cries of pain) and the ideal that childbirth should be free from pain and complications. Window Water Baby Moving

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is a document of a natural childbirth in this idealistic sense, as Jane arguably appears ecstatic, rather than in pain, throughout most of this silent film and—given cultural shifts in thinking about childbirth in Western countries in the 1950s documented by medical historians—was more than likely influenced by the idealism of the “natural childbirth” movement (Moscucci 2003). This is not to dismiss important feminist criticisms of the medicalisation of birth in Anglosphere countries, but to further develop my argument that patriarchal domination of the female body is not straightforwardly “reproduced” in visual culture, nor is it total. At this point, however, I want to consider further arguments made about the link between representations of pregnancy and childbirth and experimental film. We can turn to the pointed and provocative comment made by Maya Deren after the first screenings of Window Water Baby Moving, which she thought “permitted men to see what they’re not supposed to see” (in Segal 2011: 2). While we can easily disagree with Deren and find value in the representation of childbirth or the presence of a man during childbirth, there is some merit to her claim in the sense that it points towards the asymmetry of visibility in childbirth. Childbirth is contingent in the sense that its outcome cannot be easily predicted in advance and because there is an asymmetry of visibility between the pregnant person and social, cultural and medical perspectives on their body (Tyler and Baraitser 2013; Lupton 2013). The link between visibility and knowledge in Window Water Baby Moving can be questioned on the terms of this basic asymmetry. Any filmic representation of childbirth offers only an external imagining of pregnancy and childbirth; thus film, whether experimental or documentary, can only offer an incomplete perspective on this contingency and asymmetry. Despite this, the visibility of childbirth in Window Water Baby Moving has received a range of enthusiastic responses. Segal argues (2011), for example, that while the film should be subject to critique, it nonetheless began a tradition of pregnancy and childbirth in experimental film, as well as the home movie, ushering in a “radical potential to transform” and effect a renewed state of vision, undoing the visual taboo on childbirth. Elsewhere, MacDonald went so far to argue that Window Water Baby Moving can be credited with allowing fathers the opportunity to enter the birth room, a suggestion with which Brakhage agreed (2003). However, from at least the mid-1950s it was already commonplace in Western countries, notably the United States, Great Britain, France and Italy, to screen

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documentaries of childbirth to counsel and inform couples (Michaels 2017). As Michaels shows, these documentaries were also global exports. In addition, the use of long playing records of the sounds of women giving birth, with comments and instructions from physicians, was already a common didactic tool in the 1950s. The natural birth movement was also advocating, in texts such as Dick-Read’s book Childbirth without Fear, for the presence of fathers-to-be in the moment of labour (2013). Thus, arguments that Window Water Baby Moving was radical in its breaking of visual taboo can be countered with the fact that it was contemporaneous with other culturally mainstream documentaries of childbirth, as well as wider cultural and political shifts already happening in Western countries. However, both A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly and Window Water Baby Moving are notable examples of representing pregnancy and childbirth as erotic (Huntley 2000). Writing in the 1970s, when the significance of Window Water Baby Moving was passionately and heatedly discussed in feminist circles, Taubin provocatively suggested: [T]he unlimited access [Brakhage] has to his subjects’ lives, an access that is given to him by law … [is] the final distillation of the myriads of footage which he could expose of them and on which he exposed them. It’s an ugly metaphor but I always think that Jane has no right, even if she wanted to, and I’m not claiming that she ever does, to close her legs. (in Samer 2011: n.p)

Certainly, Jane Wodening’s memoir also passionately addresses her former husband’s domineering and egocentric camera wielding (2015). The memoir concludes with an essay by the psychoanalyst and scholar Tony Pipolo, analysing and objectifying Brakhage’s neurosis and egocentrism. Similarly, Perry’s memoir (2014) frequently brags of his sexual encounters, and both writings reveal and illuminate the male-dominated dimension of the private lives of the people in question; however other interviews and scholarly analyses have tried to counter these ideas to redeem the films (Barr 1976; Segal 2011) and Brakhage is especially celebrated for both his humanism and his work towards building a transnational experimental film community. Window Water Baby Moving and A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly are part of the counter-cultural movement that, in Perry’s words, aimed to offend the “prevailing views of decency” (76) and of what could and could not be represented. Like Window Water Baby Moving, A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly represents the eroticism and sexuality of pregnancy to

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challenge its idealised, paradoxically sterile and asexual, stereotyped image (Huntley 2000). A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly creates a startling effect and an estranged sense of uncertainty around the significance of Abigayl’s body. Likewise, the refraction of the labouring body in Window Water Baby Moving is not necessarily equivalent to Brakhage’s self-described search for a “psychic universal” (Keller 1986: 183). As in his other childbirth films like Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961), Brakhage’s chemical manipulation of the physical properties of film can be seen as opposed to a sense of the filmmaker’s or spectator’s patriarchal gaze over Jane’s body on screen and certainly Brakhage was aware and somewhat sensitive to the feminist movement at the time (Segal 2011). In Window Water Baby Moving, images of Jane giving birth are contrasted through the montage that abstracts her body against itself, alongside the scratched and painted-on frames, which are not necessary silent if one includes the clicking, mechanical sound of the 16 mm projector (if the film is watched in its original format) and the sounds of the audience. To develop this idea as belonging to the environment of experimental cinema, it is not necessarily a contradiction to say that while Window Water Baby Moving and A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly should be critiqued for their idealisation of pregnancy and childbirth, their wider significance also evacuates a sense of objective visual mastery over the body on screen (Barr 1976). In other words, the common sense idea that a male filmmaker cannot legitimately produce a cinematic representation of women without conforming to a patriarchal view need not straightforwardly hold in relation to these films. In analysing Window Water Baby Moving and A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly in this way, my point is not simply to defend Brakhage or Perry, but to highlight the limitations and contradictions embedded in seemingly naturalised or common sense oppositions—between patriarchal and feminist, counter-film and normative cinema, male and female—that organise models of thought in film theory and discourse about experimental cinema. In that sense, in their productive eroticisation of the pregnant body on screen, Window Water Baby Moving and A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly can begin to be seen in terms that exceed critical arguments seeking to measure the degree of visible reality or patriarchal subordination represented on screen. Whether the two films are seen as progressive or problematic, I suggest, there is an overdetermined sense of equivalence assumed between screen and spectator at the expense of wider possibilities or imaginings.

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5.3   Agnès Varda Is Neither Agnès Varda Nor Marie Menken Like Wieland’s Water Sark, which has been argued to question the overdetermination of the power of the female filmmaker over the image of the female body, Agnès Varda’s L’Opéra-mouffe (1958) offers a productively alienated view of pregnancy and pokes fun at the idea of finding an equivalence between director and filmic subject, screen and spectator, director and self-image. L’Opéra-mouffe, a short film made at the time of Varda’s first pregnancy, dislocates the belly from any personified image and dehumanises the foetus to form a third-person perspective on pregnancy. A shot of a pregnant woman’s torso is juxtaposed and contrasted with isolated natural objects. The naked woman’s swollen, pregnant stomach— seen from the neck down—precedes a shot of a ripened pumpkin, opened before the camera with a carving knife and the seeds scraped out. Static shots of a pigeon trapped inside a fish bowl, a sprouting cabbage and a limbless doll glued to an iron sculpture of the female body—all suggestions of an unknown developing within—are contrasted with a suggestive sequence of a heterosexual couple having sex in the bedroom of a sunny apartment, images of deep wrinkled faces of elderly shoppers on the Rue Mouffetard in Paris and finally an absurd sequence of a pregnant woman eating the top of a rose. Varda’s film is not entirely light-hearted or merely provocative. Rather, her film disentangles and illuminates the inner psychological state of pregnancy in a way that resists a unified image of what pregnancy means. L’Opéra-mouffe shifts between stasis and movement, between static shots of vegetables and birds and moving images of the sensuous couple wandering naked in a backyard. Likewise, it shifts from the identifiable to the abstract, between the common sight of elderly shoppers and the strangeness of a pregnant woman eating a flower. As Bluher has argued, L’Opéra-­ mouffe is “a pregnant woman’s vision because [Varda] was expecting her first child, and because pregnancy, as she pointed out, can alter the imagination until it is almost neurotic” (2013: 61). However, Varda herself described the film as seen from a “third-person” perspective, and she distanced herself from the idea that the film was a reflexive exercise representing her inner state (2013). Rather, L’Opéra-mouffe is a film about filming pregnancy. The “neurotic imagination” of pregnancy is not psychologised or humanised and made accessible but rather explored through experimental montage,

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inviting the viewer to adopt a third-person perspective that resists congealing into a universal view through its fluctuation between alienation and irony, isolated nature and intimate romance. Gothic images of vegetables, animals and disfigured metal objects on the screen are at once emphasised and undermined through the documentary shots of the eccentric and often inexplicably grumpy faces of shoppers at the market. Thus, while L’Opéra-mouffe appears to be a kind of self-reflection, it is nonetheless playful and deliberately fictive in its figuration as it avoids presenting itself as offering a visible, symbolic equivalent for Varda herself or for pregnancy in general. Neither of the two women who appear in the film (Dorothee Blank and Monika Weber) look anything like Varda. The viewer may know Varda was pregnant at the time of the film’s production, but this still generates an insoluble question: should we make a connection between the pregnancy on screen and Varda, or simply see a “third-person” pregnancy through the abstracted montage and shoppers in the street? Likewise, the social scenes at the market seem to usher in a sense of community and collectivity, to which pregnancy belongs when seen through a humanistic view, but the deeply wrinkled, grumpy faces of the elderly shoppers—inaudibly talking to each other—only further disturb any sense that we are being offered an accessible view of pregnancy. Varda’s film plays with the act of looking at pregnancy as a question of cinematic reproduction, resonating with Marie Menken’s film Hurry Hurry! (1957), in which a magnified view of spermatozoa, seemingly fighting, are seen through a superimposed image of orange and yellow flames. The much caricatured image of mindlessly racing sperm is figured alongside the contrasting analogy with the uterus-like screen. The clearly fake superimposed flames only heighten the comic nature of the thrashing sperm that unknowingly jerk, flounder and “hurry” to a non-existent destination. Jonas Mekas, in admiration of Menken’s work, wrote on her oeuvre’s open and humorous questioning of the relationship between film and reality: “Does Menken transpose reality? Or condense it? Or does she, simply, go direct to the essence of it?” (in Ragona 2007: 29). In response to this question, Melissa Ragona answers that it is not reality Menken’s works aim at, but a “frenetic artifice … of natural events” (25). The contrast between the clearly fake uterine screen and the caricature of sperm humorously resonates with the remarks made by Frampton cited earlier in this chapter. Hurry Hurry! shows us how Frampton, trying to create a vision for the power of experimental film, created a false dichotomy between a model of spectatorship premised on the spectator’s

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apparent “hole” and his idealistic emphasis on an equivalence between spectator and screen. Likewise, in a sense Hurry Hurry! anticipates and responds to notions of patriarchal objectification in that, because it is so obviously faked, it hollows out any sense of the totalising reality of unconscious identification between spectator and screen that demands a counter-response. The image offered here shifts beyond the notion of femininity on screen as subordinated by patriarchy towards emphasising figuration within experimental film itself. Figuration in Water Sark takes a sense of the experimental, in the musical sense, as well as the humorous, in representing Wieland to herself, allowing us to call into question—like the unknown female audience member questioning Frampton—the seriousness of those experimental films that seek to reify and redeem their own political, philosophical and ideological thrust. Rethinking the power of experimental film to figure the female body, in the form of pregnancy and childbirth, means foregrounding the necessity of questioning, as well as laughing about, how we imagine, discourse on and generate oppositions about the impact of visual culture on the imagination.

Notes 1. Carolee Schneemann’s diary-film Fuses (1965) and Barbara Hammer’s Jane Brakhage (1978) are other important responses to Window Water Baby Moving; however, as erotic responses to the figuration of Jane and femininity have been considered in some detail in scholarship, I do not consider these films here. 2. My opposition between experimental music and “feminist time” could also be extended to the idea of a “counter-cinema” that requires critical detachment, proposed in an essay by Peter Wollen (1982) that is often read alongside Johnston’s essay. 3. Her use of LSD is another point of interest to her work, especially as the drug was only just becoming controversial and remained a legitimate field of psychiatric research in Canada in the early 1960s. 4. Frampton in Peterson 1994: 2.

References Natural Childbirth: A Documentary Record of the Birth of a Baby by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read (Westminster Recording, 1957). A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly. Directed by David Perry. 1968. Australia.

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Hurry Hurry! Directed by Marie Menken. 1957. USA. L’opéra-mouffe. Directed by Agnès Varda. 1958. France. Misconception. Directed by Marjorie Keller.1977. USA. Water Sark. Directed by Joyce Wieland. 1964. Canada. Window Water Baby Moving. Directed by Stan Brakhage. 1959. USA. Armatage, Kay. 1987. The Feminine Body: Joyce Wieland’s Water Sark. Canadian Woman Studies 8 (1). Arthur, Paul. 2007. Different/Same/Both/Neither: The Polycentric Cinema of Joyce Wieland. In Women’s Experimental Cinema, ed. Robin Blaetz, 45–66. Durham: Duke University Press. Banning, Kass. 1999. Textual Excess in Joyce Wieland’s Hand-Tinting. In The Films of Joyce Wieland, ed. Kathryn Elder, 129–134. Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group. Barr, William R. 1976. Brakhage: Artistic Development in Two Childbirth Films. Film Quarterly 29 (3): 30–34. https://doi.org/10.1525/ fq.1976.29.3.04a00060. Blaetz, Robin. 1992. In Search of the Mother Tongue: Childbirth and the Cinema. Velvet Light Trap 29: 15–21. ———. 2006. Rescuing the Fragmentary Evidence of Women’s Experimental Film. Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 21 (3 (63)): 153–156. https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2006-0161992. ———. 2007. Amnesis Time: The Films of Marjorie Keller. In Women’s Experimental Cinema, ed. Robin Blaetz, 211–238. Durham: Duke University Press. Blüher, Dominique. 2013. Autobiography, (Re-)Enactment and the Performative Self-Portrait in Varda’s Les plages d’agnès/the Beaches of Agnès (2008). Studies in European Cinema 10 (1): 59–69. https://doi.org/10.1386/ seci.10.1.59_1. Brakhage, Stan. 1978. From Metaphors on Vision. In The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism, ed. P.  Adams Sitney. New  York: Anthology Film Archives. Brenez, Nicole. 2012. Ultra-modern: Jean Epstein, or Cinema ‘Serving the Forces of Transgression and Revolt’. Trans. Mireille Dobrzynski. In Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, ed. Sarah Keller and Jason S.  Paul, 227–244. Amsterdam University Press. Caton, Donald. 1996. Who Said Childbirth Is Natural? The Medical Mission of Grantly Dick Read. Anesthesiology: The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists 84 (4): 955–964. https://doi.org/10.1097/00000542 -199604000-00024. Chion, Michel. 2019. Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. Trans. Claudia Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press.

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Dale, Stephen. 2019. Canadian Frame of Mind: Revisiting Joyce Wieland National Gallery of Canada Magazine, June 28, 2019. https://www.gallery.ca/magazine/your-collection/at-the-ngc/canadian-frame-of-mind-revisitingjoyce-wieland Dick-Read, Grantly. 2013. Childbirth Without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth. London: Pinter & Martin Ltd. Doane, Mary Ann. 1987. The Desire to Desire: Women’s Films of the 1940s. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Elder, Kathryn, ed. 1999. The Films of Joyce Wieland. Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group. Ganguly, Suranjan, ed. 2017. Stan Brakhage: Interviews. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press. Holmes-Moss, K.A. 2006. Negotiating the Nation: “Expanding” the Work of Joyce Wieland. Canadian Journal of Film Studies 15 (2): 20–43. https://doi. org/10.3138/cjfs.15.2.20. Huntley, Rebecca. 2000. Sexing the Belly: An Exploration of Sex and the Pregnant Body. Sexualities 3 (3): 347–362. https://doi.org/10.1177/13634 6000003003004. Johnston, Claire. 1973. Women’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema. In Notes on Women’s Cinema, Society for Education in Film and Television, 24–31. London. Keller, Majorie. 1986. The Untutored Eye: Childhood in the Films of Cocteau, Cornell, and Brakhage. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Lundquist, Caroline. 2008. Being Torn: Toward a Phenomenology of Unwanted Pregnancy. Hypatia 23 (3): 136–155. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.15272001.2008.tb01209.x. Lupton, Deborah. 2013. The Social Worlds of the Unborn. London: Palgrave. MacDonald, Scott. 2003. The Filmmaker as Visionary: Excerpts from an Interview with Stan Brakhage. Film Quarterly 56 (3): 2–11. https://doi.org/10.1525/ fq.2003.56.3.2. Mack, Ashley Noel. 2016. The Self-Made Mom: Neoliberalism and Masochistic Motherhood in Home-Birth Videos on Youtube. Women’s Studies in Communication 39 (1): 47–68. https://doi.org/10.1080/0749140 9.2015.1129519. Mellencamp, Patricia. 1990. Indiscretions: Avant-Garde Film, Video, and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Michaels, Paula A. 2014. Lamaze: An International History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2017. The Sounds and Sights of Natural Childbirth: Films and Records in Antenatal Preparation Classes, 1950s–1980s. Social History of Medicine 31 (1): 24–40. https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkw119. Moscucci, Ornella. 2003. Holistic Obstetrics: The Origins of ‘Natural Childbirth’ in Britain. Postgraduate Medical Journal 79 (929): 168–173. https://doi. org/10.1136/pmj.79.929.168.

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Mount, Andre. 2011. Testing Art with a Live Studio Audience: John Cage at an Intersection of Popular Television and the Avant-Garde. Music and the Moving Image 4 (3): 31–56. https://doi.org/10.5406/musimoviimag.4.3.0036. Nowell, Iris. 2001. Joyce Wieland: A Life in Art. Toronto: ECW Press. Nyman, Michael. 1999. Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Olszynko-Gryn, Jesse, and Patrick Ellis. 2017. ‘A Machine for Recreating Life’: An Introduction to Reproduction on Film. The British Journal for the History of Science 50 (3). https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007087417000632. Perry, David. 2014. Memoirs of a Dedicated Amateur. Sydney: Valentine Press. Peterson, James. 1994. Dreams of Chaos, Visions of Order: Understanding the American Avante-Garde Cinema. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Rabinovitz, Lauren. 2003. Points of Resistance: Women, Power & Politics in the New  York Avant-Garde Cinema, 1943–1971. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Ragona, Melissa. 2007. Swing and Sway: Marie Menken’s Filmic Events. In Women’s Experimental Cinema: Critical Frameworks, ed. Robin Blaetz, 20–44. Durham: Duke University Press. Rosenbaum, Jonathan. 1983. Film: The Front Line. Boulder: Arden Press. Samer, Roxanne. 2011. Re-Conceiving Misconception: Birth as a Site of Filmic Experimentation. Jump Cut 53: 1–5. Scott, Jay. 1999. Full Circle – True Patriot Womanhood: The Thirty Year Passage of Joyce Wieland. In The Films of Joyce Wieland, ed. Kathryn Elder, 21–28. Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group. Segal, Shira. 2011. Home Movies and Home Birth – The Avant-Garde Childbirth Film and Pregnancy in New Media. Unpublished PhD thesis, Indiana University. Sitney, P.  Adams. 1974. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde. London: Oxford University Press. ———. 1999. There Is Only One Joyce. In The Films of Joyce Wieland, ed. Kathryn Elder, 45–50. Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group. Tyler, Imogen, and Lisa Baraitser. 2013. Private View, Public Birth: Making Feminist Sense of the New Visual Culture of Childbirth. Studies in the Maternal 5 (2). Vogel, Amos. 1974. Film as a Subversive Art. New York: Random House. Wodening, Jane. 2015. Brakhage’s Childhood. New York: Granary Books. Wollen, Peter. 1982. Readings and Writings: Semiotic Counter-Strategies. London: Verso. Zryd, Michael. 1999. There Are Many Joyces’: The Critical Reception of the Films of Joyce Wieland. In The Films of Joyce Wieland, ed. Kathryn Elder, 199–211. Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group. ———. 2006. The Academy and the Avant-Garde: A Relationship of Dependence and Resistance. Cinema Journal 45 (2): 17–42. https://doi.org/10.1353/ cj.2006.0023.

CHAPTER 6

Eat the Children!

In the Hong Kong horror film Dumplings (Jiaozi, 餃子 2004), directed by independent filmmaker Fruit Chan and adapted from a novella of the same title by Lillian Lee, the cannibalism of human foetuses grants a more youthful appearance. Mrs. Li (Miriam Yeung) is an actress who turns to Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), a doctor-cum-chef from mainland China whose foetal dumplings restore complexion and vitality. Unsurprisingly, neither of the two female protagonists possess a strong internal moral compass or sense of self-awareness. In a flashback to her wedding day, Mrs. Li is nervously excited and discusses her hopes and dreams for the future. She displays her naiveté and lack of internality when she states that she wants “to always be happy, to always love my husband and have him love me, to always be pretty”. Opposed to this naïve and unreflective figure is the otherworldly Aunt Mei, shameless and unemotional in her production and consumption of foetal dumplings. Appearing eternally youthful as a result of her cannibalism, she is actually in her 60s, having been born in 1940 and coming of age in 1960 in the Maoist era, during the time of the Great Leap Forward and the Great Chinese Famine (Tsai 2016). Through the two protagonists’ shared acts of cannibalism, Dumplings can be understood to look inward towards constructions of “Chineseness” (Chun 1996) in a way that resists monolithic imaginings of “China”. The foetuses are derived from abortions conducted on the mainland at the time of mainland China’s one-child policy. The foetal cannibalism can be understood as a figure of the horror of mainland China’s extensive © The Author(s) 2020 L. Bliss, The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45897-3_6

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censorship, which is not simply “top down” but dependent on self-­ censorship and internal repression (Bunn 2015). This chapter will argue that the horrific image of cannibalised foetuses suggests a widespread stereotype of modern mainland China: the view that its extensive censorship has resulted in total psychological control over its young citizens ever since “the Communists mastered techniques of internal social control” (John Israel in Yan 2014: 498). Horror cinema, as a genre popular among young people, has attracted significant censorship in mainland China since the Cultural Revolution (Pang 2011) and the horrific and affective image of foetal cannibalism in Dumplings offers a means to rethink this image of internal social control. The foetal cannibalism figures the generational qualities of censorship (Bunn 2015), and, in dialogue with discourses of the spectator-screen relationship in horror cinema, this chapter will present the figuration of foetal cannibalism as exceeding any idea of a psycho-­ social, unconscious effect modelled on the psychoanalytic theory of maternal horror exemplified by Barbara Creed (2005). Instead, the foetal cannibalism will be placed in dialogue with the call issued in Lu Xun’s 1918 modernist story Diary of a Madman to “save the children” from cannibalism in Chinese society. Cannibalism is a trope in twentieth-century Chinese literature and art, arguably beginning with Lu’s Diary of a Madman (Lu 1990; Yue 1999). Diary of a Madman presents itself as a found story. After restoring relations with a childhood friend, the narrator relates how the friend hands him the diaries of his younger brother, who has been suffering from insanity. The narrator reproduces passages from the diaries he has read, explaining that he is uncertain as to their truth and has removed all identifying details (while also noting that the characters are “humble villagers” (1990: 29) and of no public significance, even if their names were published). In the diaries, the paranoid younger brother details his fantasies across a series of fragmented entries. He is concerned that the next generation in his village are being cannibalised by older peasants—including his brother— and, after deciding that this cannibalism has occurred in Chinese society for “four thousand years” (41), pleads to the reader to believe what he has seen and to “save the children” (41). Dumplings refers to Lu’s call to prevent Chinese society from cannibalising itself, but through the consumption of foetal (rather than child or infant) dumplings (Bachner 2018; Tsai 2016; Lu 2010; Khiun 2008).1 In writing Dumplings, writer Lillian Lee used the horrific image of cannibalism to reflect on the moral and ethical problems produced by the

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one-child policy: “Is it true that under China’s one-child policy, abortions are so common that people can get foetuses easily and make delicacies to revitalise themselves?” (In Tsai 2016: 110). Importantly, Diary of a Madman was partially made in response to the Western colonial view of China as a cannibalistic culture that ate anything “with four legs”, including humans (Yue 1999; Rojas 2002). Understanding Dumplings in light of Diary of a Madman, alongside studies of spectatorship and horror, I argue that the horror of foetal cannibalism in Dumplings can be considered in terms of the body of the spectator, who is figuratively devoured and cannibalised.

6.1   Have You Eaten Yet? 你吃了吗? To flesh out my argument for the significance of the figuration of cannibalism in Dumplings, the female protagonists and their foetal delicacies should be first placed in dialogue with arguments about how representations of pregnancy, female sexuality and the reproductive cycle in horror cinema have been thought to offer access to an unmediated, unconscious real of sexual difference (Clover 2015; Creed 2015). The significance of the horrified spectator has often been understood through loaded, sometimes conflicting, arguments about what the imagined reproductive link between spectator and screen means. A number of feminist critics such as Mary Ann Doane and Linda Williams have argued that, because it is normally women who are victims of violence on screen, the enjoyment of horror should be read as literally concomitant with murder or violence: “the woman’s exercise of an active investigating gaze can only be simultaneous with her own victimisation” (Doane in Williams 1984: 85). Certainly, natural processes of the female reproductive system figure repeatedly in many horror films (Harrington 2017; Arnold 2016; Creed 2015). Films like The Brood (1979), Dead Ringers (1988), It’s Alive (1974) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) are traditionally read as revealing stereotyped or mythical projections of the patriarchal obsession with the neurotic pregnant woman. Much feminist analysis of horror cinema engages with Barbara Creed’s seminal work The Monstrous Feminine (2015 [1993]), including recent books by Arnold (2016) and Harrington (2017) that seek to trouble particular aspects of Creed’s inquiry—such as its psychoanalytic methodology—but continue to propose that an essential link exists between the cinema screen and patriarchal ideology and thus that horror films

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subordinate the spectator and oppress the maternal (see also Chare et al. 2019). Within this model of scholarship on horror films, Creed discusses how femininity is typically related to the monstrous womb and its progeny to form the linchpin of horror and science fiction. Her analysis of films like Alien (1979) and It’s Alive (1974) is guided by Kristeva’s psychoanalytic theory of the abject and Freud’s theory of castration. Creed connects her feminist reading of psychoanalytic theory with the repetitive, but nonetheless differentiated, emergence of figures of what she calls the “monstrous feminine” across horror, science fiction and psychological thrillers. She reads these figures as myths and symbols of feminine monstrosity, thus allowing for a window onto the social subordination of women. The figure of what she calls the monstrous womb is key to her understanding of the process of abjection in horror films as it is directly linked “to the animal world and to the great cycle of birth, decay and death” (2015: 47), where woman’s biological reproductive capacity is what “places her on the side of nature” rather than language and meaning (47). While Creed is interested in figures of pregnancy in horror where the woman is villain rather than victim, she nonetheless contends that figurations of the monstrous feminine in horror cinema are paradoxically both the threat and the overcoming of the threat. In other words, Creed reads feminine otherness in the tradition of the male gaze, where femininity is represented as a sign of danger only so that it can be controlled and contained. The meaning of horror in this argument is, in other words, that it offers “raw and unmediated glimpses into unconscious fears and desires, especially around sexual difference” (Karlyn 2009: 183). Interestingly, myths of a haunting ghost foetus that returns after a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion are found in East Asian cultures. Marc Moskowitz (2001) offers a sociological study of this phenomenon in Taiwan and claims that the haunting image of the aborted foetus is, in part, a patriarchal projection of socio-cultural anxieties about the individualised sexual excess of women whose abortions expose their non-­ procreative sexuality. The fear of haunting ghost foetuses in Taiwanese culture is traditionally appeased through institutionalised ritual (Moskowitz 2001); the belief in haunting itself is thus argued to serve as a patriarchal reminder of social obligation and the need for sexual self-control. While it is not clear that Dumplings is engaging directly with the ghostly, it is significant that foetal flesh is eaten by women for their own purposes and that the foetuses are neither Mrs. Li’s nor Aunt Mei’s own offspring but usually those of other mainland Chinese women who have procured their

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abortions at the time of China’s one-child policy, also a period of increasing poverty in Hong Kong (Khiun 2008). In this respect, the film’s foetal cannibalism seems to reflect critiques of the psychoanalytic, feminist model of an “unmediated difference” between screen and spectator that offers little scope for imagining different viewing positions, especially in terms of cultural difference, or in the form of a critical, thinking and resistant spectator (Hooks 2003). Dumplings’ richly symbolic and multi-layered images of foetal cannibalism are not simply or literally reflective of authoritarian China or the excess of capitalism (Bachner 2018; Yeh and Ng 2009; Tsai 2016; Lu 2010). Rather, in their reference to the image of “Chineseness”, I argue that the horrific yet comical foetuses offer a figuration of the totalitarian image of mainland China and its apparent mastery of techniques of psychological control over its citizens. The cannibalism is served as an ironic joke about that apparent mastery. The foetal dumplings are both revolting and comical, as they are captured in lush colour and soft focus (thanks to the cinematography of Christopher Doyle, famous for his work with Wong Kar-wai) and figured in the form of a chewing mouth, in bubbles that rise to the top of a bloody bucket of water or in warped by the thick glass of a baking dish. Most typically, they are represented as tiny, pink, prawn-like crescents, tucked inside an otherwise delicious looking dumpling. The hyper-loud munching sound of Mrs. Li’s chewing mouth, as she consumes the aborted foetus to renew her youth, effects a sense of the absurd as well as the grotesque. As Kier-La Janisse (2015) contends, horror cinema is not just invested in pregnancy and sexuality but is also fascinated with women “going crazy”. Certainly, both Aunt Mei and Mrs. Li fully succumb to their crazy desire for cannibalism by the end of the film. After Mrs. Li discovers her husband and his masseuse have been having an affair, and that the masseuse (Pauline Lau) is pregnant, she coolly talks the masseuse into having an abortion for her sake. She then convinces the doctor who conducts the abortion to do so with the curtain drawn open and without use of pain-­ relieving drugs, all so she can voyeuristically watch the procedure and later ingest the foetus in a “purer” state. Likewise, Aunt Mei encourages everyone who visits her apartment to overcome their disgust at cannibalism. Her words of wisdom for her customers suggest that any shame resulting from engaging in the cannibalistic act is inconsequential to the final, externally visible achievement of eternal youth. She tells Mrs. Li “think of the end, not the means”, and to Mr. Li (Tony Ka-Fai Leung) she echoes Lu’s

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claim in Diary of a Madman, namely that the Chinese have never had a strong taboo against consuming human flesh and that love and sexual desire within Chinese culture are akin to cannibalism: “We love people with ‘all our hearts’, we want to take bites and swallow them. We are inside each other”. After eating Mei’s dumplings, Mr. Li succumbs to Mei’s message, and he cheats on Mrs. Li again. The cannibalism is thus perversely tasteless in its lack of distinction between eating and sex. The foetal cannibalism in Dumplings also refers to the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China and of an internal conflict without clear boundaries or symbolic borders (Bachner 2018). For Bachner, Dumplings exceeds anything specifically “Chinese” and figures the inhumanity of global capitalism as both Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese protagonists partake in cannibalism: “Hong Kong literally partakes of Chinese culture, even as both spaces share in a global desire for eternal youth and consumption that commodifies and devours others” (2018: 1148). Reading the film through the lens of biopolitics, for Bachner, the film serves up foetal cannibalism as a “microcosm of globalised capitalism” (1148). Conversely, cannibalism in Diary of a Madman is typically understood as representing the excess of the past and the folly of blindly adhering to tradition (Yue 1999). Lu (2010) develops this understanding and argues that Dumplings’ foetal cannibalism can be seen as a reflection on the excess of mainland Chinese capitalism and the paradoxes of its “socialism”. Lu suggests that the film’s foetal cannibalism is indicative of mainland China’s economic and political system, which reduces the citizens to tools in the pursuit of profit in service of the State (Naughton 2017). Mainland China’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” can be understood in this sense through the paradox of authoritarian capitalism or “state capitalism”. The concept of state capitalism, as originally described by Lenin, understands the preservation of political power as the primary purpose of the economic market (Naughton 2017). Lu argues that Aunt Mei, the producer of the foetal dumplings, is symbolic of modern China in this very sense: [S]he symbolises contemporary China in its amalgamation of excessive ideologies as well as in its ideological vacuum. This incarnation of China has a spectral quality in her ageless youth, emotionless composure, and inhuman invincibility. Unlike the impoverished giant cousin in the past, now she is in

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control of financial, political, and cultural transactions in Hong Kong. (2010: 191)

However, my argument presents a departure from the idea that foetal cannibalism offers an unambiguous symbol of Chinese state capitalism or of the unfettered power of global capitalism. Dumplings demands further discussion in relation to Lu’s original call in Diary of a Madman to “save the children” and its foetal cannibalism brought into figurative dialogue with discourses of the spectator-screen relationship in horror cinema. The perverse tastelessness of Dumplings can be situated in light of bodily approaches towards horror cinema. As described by James B. Twitchell in Dreadful Pleasures, if genre is understood as an intellectual system of classification, categorisation and interpretation, then horror films do not form a genre as such; rather horror is a “collection of motifs” geared towards a “specific physiological effect  – the shivers” (1985: 8). Twitchell notes that the etymology of horror is the Latin horrere, meaning “to bristle”, the word describing “the way the nape hair stands on end during moments of shivering excitement … the most appropriate trope for horror – creeping flesh or, more simply, the ‘creeps’” (10). Philip Brophy’s theorisation of horror cinema as tasteless and perverse offers us an additional opening to digest horror film. Rather than seeing them as inducing unconscious effects or representing unmediated access into the sexual psyche, in his essay “Horrality” (1986), Brophy emphasises that contemporary horror movies are marked by the way that the spectator “plays with the text”: The contemporary Horror film knows that you’ve seen it before; it knows that you know what is about to happen; and it knows that you know it knows you know. And none of it means a thing, as the cheapest trick in the book will still tense your muscles, quicken your heart and jangle your nerves. (5)

In Brophy’s analysis, the autonomic or involuntary response that horror movies induce in a viewer is troubled by the fact that both film and viewer intended this response to occur from the very beginning. As Brophy writes, horror is “a mode of fiction … that in the fullest sense ‘plays’ with the reader. … The gratification of the contemporary horror film is based upon tension, fear, anxiety, sadism and masochism – a disposition that is overall both tasteless and morbid” (1987: 19). Brophy discourages us

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from reading the horror film as affecting the spectator through an unconscious logic of fears and desires, constructs of sexual difference and other seemingly innate categories of identity through which theorisation and analysis can expose and lay bare “operations of capitalism and patriarchy” (Chare et al. 2019: 15). Rather, Brophy sees horror from an individualised, subjective perspective and regards horror as playing with the viewer’s fear “of [their] own body: How [they] control and relate to it” (1986). A horror film reflexively “takes into account how the individual exercises control”, through what Brophy calls “mutual engagement … a willingness to be played with and by a film” (1986). In a simple sense, the figuration of cannibalism in Dumplings plays with the spectator as the characters appear as inhuman, distant, cannibalising others, but the film at the same time represents the desires and needs (for love, wealth or social recognition) that drive their cannibalism. Mei and Mrs. Li eventually open up to each other, and an unlikely friendship develops when they discuss their innermost feelings and thoughts. More compelling, however, is how the cannibalism plays on images of “Chineseness”. In the scene where Mei prepares Mrs. Li dumplings for the first time, close-up shots of foetuses are followed by an image of Mei cleaning pea-­ sized lumps of flesh off the ends of her bloody fingers with a large cleaver. Mrs. Li nervously listens through the wall to the recognisable sound of a knife slicing through flesh. The tension is lifted as Mei appears in the doorway; her chin is coated in flour as she shows chopped flesh to her customer. To help Mrs. Li relax while she eats, Mei sings an adapted version of the Communist Party folk song Wave After Wave on Honghu Lake, a patriotic song about the Red Army fighting against the Nationalists in the Civil War (Tsai 2016). To comic effect, Mrs. Li is seen forcing herself to gulp down the foetal dumplings as Mei issues her rendition of the nationalist song. Mei’s tiny, but homely apartment—complete with peeling wall paint and dirty mirrors—is in stark contrast to the Li mansion. Dumplings regularly refers to the increasing poverty of Hong Kong through images of crumbling apartment buildings that are shot from fantastic, diabolical angles. One example is a repeated shot of the circular apartment building where Aunt Mei lives, which is the well-known public housing estate Lai Tak Tsuen, a remnant of the city’s status as a British colony. The building is one of the many eccentrically designed public housing estates in Hong Kong. An upward shot from an interior courtyard shows the building’s labyrinthine interior—like the diabolical image of circles within a

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circle—which appears to have no point of entry or exit except for the sky above. The city’s political status—at once part of and separate from the anti-democratic mainland—is figured in this shot, as it is through its tasteless, cannibalistic play on the image of “Chineseness”. This is a paradoxical image of closeness and distance: “too close for comfort, fatally entangled, together apart” (Bachner 2018: 1148). The images of Chineseness in Dumplings do not only refer to mainland China’s nationalism, its one-child policy and the increasing poverty and ambiguous political status of Hong Kong; the cannibalism primarily plays on the image of China’s “indiscriminate eating practices” (Yue 1999). While cultures differ in terms of what is acceptable and unacceptable to eat, this perception of difference also feeds into how cultures are perceived as human or inhuman: “people who eat strikingly different foods or similar foods in different ways are thought to be strikingly different, sometimes even less human” (Poon 2014). In Dumplings, all protagonists eventually become “inhuman” as they consume without distinguishing between what is edible and inedible.

6.2   Seeing and Reporting Cannibalism Importantly, the Western imagining of cannibalism and of China’s indiscriminate eating culture largely derives from the attempted colonisation of China by Europeans (Hulme 1986; Yue 1999). The word cannibal was first recorded in documents concerning Columbus’ failed expedition to Cathay (China) (Hulme 1986). Peter Hulme contends that its significance is the result of a triple misrecognition: Columbus thought he had found the people of Cathay when he was really in the Caribbean, and after a mere six weeks in the area felt confident enough that they referred to themselves as “canibales” and were eaters of human flesh. Furthermore, as Hulme explains, the concrete historical record from which the original transcription of these horrific “canibales” derives has been lost and the version in which “canibales” were described as engaging in practices of eating human flesh was made in a transcript produced around 1552—many years after Columbus’ death and the original expeditions. As Hulme writes of cannibalism, “No other word, except perhaps ‘sex’, is so fraught with our fears and desires” (78). In his study of cross-cultural perception between Chinese and Western culture, Carlos Rojas (2002) describes how the figure of the cannibal, like the pregnant woman or the trope of incest, is marked by overdetermined dichotomies of the natural

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and the primitive opposed to the modern and the rational. Rojas argues that fascination with the apparently “primitive” or natural, whether this takes the form of cannibalism, incest or pregnancy, is precisely evidence of its thinkability and that these “discourses and fantasies … occupy a crucial liminal space where the presumptive limits of human society are simultaneously challenged and implicitly reaffirmed” (2002: n.p.). Lu’s 1918 modernist story Diary of a Madman is a key example of the logic analysed by Rojas, as it encourages reflection on and gentle mockery of the colonial image of China as ‘primitive’ and cannibalising. The story is directly referenced in Dumplings, especially in Mei’s monologue to Mr. Li about how Chinese sexuality is cannibalistic (Lu 2010). Diary of a Madman belongs to the May Fourth movement, an anti-imperialist and anti-colonial democratic movement that saw to the beginning of Chinese political modernity (Rojas 2002; Yue 1999). Lu’s oeuvre, in some sense, reflects the May Fourth spirit and the movement’s goals, namely to galvanise and increase China’s economic, cultural and political strength and to intervene into the European colonial image of China as cannibalising and primitive. In some sense, its political project was to ensure the masses were educated as “modern and useful national subjects” (Pang 2011: 13). In Diary of a Madman, education is encouraged through an ironic image of cannibalism. Lu’s image of the narrator-madman and the horror of feasting on the lost future are figured through an ambiguous voice; the narrator recounts the words of the diarist, who quotes his brother admitting to cannibalism (the same brother who has handed the diary to the narrator to expose his younger brother’s insanity). The story’s concluding plea to “Save the children!” carries an ironic potential because it also appears as an address to reader to save themselves from succumbing to belief that Chinese society is “cannibalistic” and primitive. In his critical contribution towards thinking Chinese identity in the wake of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Zhang Longxi (1992) also contends that Lu’s work is important for encouraging self-reflection, through irony and exaggerated caricature, on “what it means to be Chinese” (107). Certainly, Lu addresses monolithic stereotypes of China in Diary of a Madman, where the image of cannibalism can be understood to serve as an intervention into the nineteenth-century colonial image of China as “primitive” and “unthinking” or as the “Sick Man of Asia”. For Rojas (2002), as for Yue (1999) and Zhang (1992), this is clear in the playfully ambiguous language of Lu’s story. We find this playfulness in the manner in which the voice shifts between the narrator-reporter (Lu) to the

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narrator-madman (the absent diarist), who refers to his “cannibalistic” brother, all of which allow for multiple possible interpretations and points of view, a key trope of Lu’s writing denied for political purposes in Maoist interpretation of his work. Mao Zedong later adopted Diary of a Madman as a motto for post-­ revolutionary China, literally interpreting the narrator’s tale of a madman’s vision for his own political ends to redeem Communist China from its “Century of Humiliation” (1839–1949), a term that refers to the economic and cultural losses resulting from its partial colonisation and the Opium Wars of the nineteenth century. From the Maoist perspective, the story represents a call to liberate the “humble villagers” from succumbing to a primitive state. As literary scholar Gang Yue (1999) suggests, Mao’s self-serving adaptation of Diary of a Madman reflects the authoritarian politics of mainland China as it symbolises “an all-powerful monolithic voice that, in the name of the Great Savior, speaks for the masses” (90) and that can overcome this primitive cannibalism through its revolutionary narration, leading “China” towards modernity and progress. Nonetheless, it remains the case that multiple models of interpretation of Lu’s work exist and his writing continues to be seen as politically and culturally vital outside of its anti-imperialist and Maoist interpretations (Rojas 2002; Yue 1999; Zhang 1992). As Yue further argues in The Mouth That Begs, the original metaphorical representation of cannibalism in Lu’s Diary of a Madman has permeated not only the Chinese artistic and literary sphere, but also its political, cultural and social imaginary. Yue extends this further and notes how notions of eating are connoted in everything including everyday vernacular (the greeting “have you eaten?” is akin to “how are you?” in English). The linguistic and grammatical capacity of the Mandarin word chi is far greater than the word “to eat” in English (18), which, Yue explains in his book on the relationship between eating and cannibalism in Chinese literature, suggests that there is a blurred distinction between where “the mouth of eating ends and where the mouth of talking begins” (2). The importance of the playful language in Lu’s story, and the story’s implicit message of the risk of believing in a literal image of cannibalism, can be further considered in light of colonial myths about the linguistic features of Chinese languages. Its ideograms were seen by European colonists to effect a diminished intellectual capacity in the Chinese. As a visiting missionary remarked in the nineteenth century: “In China more than elsewhere we must, in dealing with the people, put plain facts and deeds

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before them if we are to make an impression on the mind at all striking and durable … The Chinese write and speak in pictures” (in Heinrich 2008: 5). In other words, in the Western colonial view, the ideogram was regarded in racist terms as apparently lending itself to a more naive worldview. In this respect, Diary of a Madman’s ambiguous narrator can be seen as playing on and mocking the colonial discourse of cannibalism, which relies on a sense of distanced and objectified looking: “the modern representation of cannibalism is in its origin and nature constructed by the civilized self who ‘sees’ and ‘reports’ the other” (Hulme 1986: 17 in Yue 1999: 71). Many other examples of Lu’s work demonstrate an implicit address to how Chinese identity differentiates itself from its own projected images of the “foreign”, the “Western” or the “European”, and his writing often draws new or unexpected alignments between seemingly opposed views to undermine reactionary antagonism that continues to exist in mainland China’s cultural and political imagining of itself and of the foreign (Riyun 2009; Dai 2001). We can find another example of this in his 1925 essay “On Photography”, where Lu writes of poorly educated Chinese villagers who believed that Western photographic technology literally functioned as a result of the use of Chinese eyes—pickled and preserved for that purpose (Yue 1999: 76; Heinrich 2008: 188). In Lu’s essay, Westerners consume the eyes to enable a photographic impression of reality. Lu was poking fun at the so-called primitive Chinese villagers who held this belief—and reflected that photography affected the Chinese body “like witchcraft” (1996: 198). As a self-reflexive piece, as Larissa Heinrich argues, the essay does not simply mock naive views that photography can have literal effects, but rather intervenes into the historical tendency of Western colonial voices to interpret images of the sick Chinese body as evidence of its “primitive”, diseased, cannibalistic and deficit culture (2008). Lu does this, however, through ironic imagery with the intention of encouraging self-reflection and thinking about colonial stereotypes. In this sense, both Diary of a Madman and “On Photography” can be interpreted as interventions into the imaginary of China as the “Sick Man of Asia”, in force since the attempted colonisation by the Europeans and the Japanese, as well as the monolithic imagining of Chinese eating culture brought about since Columbus’ “canibales of Cathay”. Lu’s writing gently mocks this identification through its ironic and humorous images of cannibalism and witchcraft, disengaging the ideological underpinnings of looking from truth (Zhang 1992).

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6.3   China as “the Less-Than Human” Unlike the relatively free media system in Hong Kong, horror cinema in mainland China has attracted censorship since the time of the Communist Revolution (Pang 2011). Mainland Chinese youth are normally regarded as the prime target of censorship. Young people are “repositories for the ideals of a nation” and “set the stage for democracy’s ebb and flow” (Rhoades in Yan 2014: 493), and thus it is not a coincidence that horror cinema—a genre loved by many young people—is a key subject of political control and repression (Pang 2011). In his essay “Reimagining Repression”, Bunn (2015) calls for an approach to censorship that foregrounds how censorship is, itself, paradoxically subject to discourse and representation. Bunn aims to show the limits of a simplified dichotomy of (Western) transparency versus (non-­ Western) censorship. Approached in this way, it is taken as a given that censorship is never fully effective. This can be considered through the paradox that increased prohibition and censorship leads to an explosion of discourse and an increase in curiosity. Likewise, Bunn maintains that the relationship between power and knowledge is polyvalent and always and necessarily exists beyond its idealised or intended effects (2015). The figuration of cannibalised foetuses in Dumplings can be understood as an image of Chinese censorship. Lu’s call to “save the children”— as an implicit call to challenge the image of “primitive China”—resonates in Dumplings through the foetal cannibalism. In Dumplings, cannibalism is figuratively served up as a playing with the spectator, in the sense suggested by Brophy; the film resists an objective or monolithic view of China that would allow us to see and report from a distanced perspective. Through forming images of “Chineseness” and “China”, Dumplings dishes up an image of mainland China’s extensive censorship system. The foetal cannibalism becomes a playful figure of self-censorship, as the generation of internal knowledge, followed by its self-enforced repression and digestion. We can contrast this figuration with how some scholars have argued that the effects of mainland China’s extensive system of censorship are totalising. Studies of youth knowledge of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, for example, sometimes claim that scores of mainland Chinese youth do not know of its existence and remain unaware that it is globally perceived and celebrated as a challenge to corruption and authoritarianism (Lim 2014; Link in Sarotte 2012; Chen 2009). Nonetheless, there is a tendency

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in these studies to limit knowledge of the events to the singular tank man image. This image, however iconic and worthy of celebration, still does not possess universal significance nor offer its viewer a transparent window onto history (Hariman and Lucaites 2007).2 Likewise, while mainland Chinese censorship is known for preventing criticism and free expression, we can further consider how mainland China’s censorship has been indexed to monolithic metaphors of East and West, where the latter is privileged or celebrated as seeing into the psyche of the former (Nygren 1992). Dumplings suggests that by “eating the children”, we can consume more complex realities and add flavour to otherwise relatively simple, if politically pragmatic, monolithic images of “China”. By playing on the horror of cannibalism without moral internality or self-awareness, it answers the call to “save the children” by prompting reflection on the post-colonial political and economic crises that blight Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as on the colonial and Western stereotypes of Chinese eating culture. This reflection is served up in the figurative form of a cannibalised foetus, whose significance is effected as known, imagined and felt, rather than censored, ignored and unconscious.

Notes 1. There are two versions of Dumplings, a shorter version as part of a 2004 series called Three… Extremes which includes two other horror films by other filmmakers, and a feature version. This chapter will focus exclusively on the feature film. 2. The tank-man photograph appears to position the viewer at an “objective, safe distance, from the scene, as if in a neutral position”, and there is little within this photo to mark that we are seeing a Chinese person: “If you didn’t know this scene was happening in Beijing you could imagine it was any city in the world” (Hariman and Lucaites 2007). There is no large-scale, quantitative study of the knowledge that mainland Chinese students have of important historical events in China like 1989. However, Sheldon Lu’s reference to the “global libidinal economy” (2007) of visual culture can help us to trouble any simplified idea of censorship vs transparency in terms of student knowledge. Pedagogy, which is increasingly globalised, is also affective and libidinal. The global libidinal economy of visual culture also relates to pedagogy and to how history is figured, and how we figure history within the classroom or lecture theatre. As a non-Chinese scholar, but whose student body has been largely comprised of students from mainland China, I

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find effective teaching of the visual history of the 1989 massacre requires acknowledgement of stereotypical images of an unknowing, but patriotic and unquestioning mainland Chinese student and of the “triumphant”, knowing Westerner.

References Arnold, Sarah. 2016. Maternal Horror Film: Melodrama and Motherhood. London: Palgrave. Bachner, Andrea. 2018. From China to Hong Kong with Horror Transcultural Consumption in Fruit Chan’s Dumplings. Interventions 20 (8): 1137–1152. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801x.2018.1460217. Brophy, Philip. 1986. Horrality. Screen 27 (1–2): 2–13. https://doi.org/10.1093/ screen/27.1.2. ———. 1987. This Isn’t a Film: It’s a Disease. Cinema Papers 62 (March): 18–22. Bunn, Matthew. 2015. Reimagining Repression: New Censorship Theory and After. History and Theory 54 (1): 25–44. Chen, Jian. 2009. Tiananmen and the Fall of the Berlin Wall: China’s Path Toward 1989 and Beyond. In The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989, ed. Jeffrey A. Engel. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chun, Allen. 1996. Fuck Chineseness: On the Ambiguities of Ethnicity as Culture as Identity. Boundary 2 23 (2): 111–138. https://doi.org/10.2307/303809. Clover, Carol J. 2015. Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Creed, Barbara. 2015. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. London/New York: Routledge. Dai, Jinhua. 2001. Behind Global Spectacle and National Image Making. Positions: east asia cultures critique 9 (1): 161–186. https://doi. org/10.1215/10679847-9-1-161. Hariman, Robert, and John Louis Lucaites. 2007. No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Harrington, Erin. 2017. Women, Monstrosity and Horror Film: Gynaehorror. London/New York: Routledge. Heinrich, Ari Larissa. 2008. The Afterlife of Images: Translating the Pathological Body Between China and the West. Durham: Duke University Press. Hooks, Bell. 2003. The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators. In The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, ed. Amelia Jones, 94–105. London/ New York: Routledge. Hulme, Peter. 1986. Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492–1797. London: Methuen.

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Janisse, Kier-La. 2015. House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films. Surrey: Fab Press. Karlyn, Kathleen Rowe. 2009. Scream, Popular Culture and Feminism’s Third Wave’. In Motherhood Misconceived: Representing the Maternal in US Films, ed. Heather Addison, Mary Kate Goodwin-Kelly, and Elaine Roth. New  York: SUNY Press. Khiun, Liew Kai. 2008. Fracturing, Fixing and Healing Bodies in the Films of Fruit Chan. New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film 6 (3): 209–225. https://doi.org/10.1386/ncin.6.3.209_1. Lee, Siu-yau. 2016. Surviving Online Censorship in China: Three Satirical Tactics and Their Impact. The China Quarterly 228: 1061–1080. https://doi. org/10.1017/s0305741016001454. Lim, Louisa. 2014. The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. New York: Oxford University Press. Lu, Xun. 1990. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ———. 1996. On Photography’ (1925) in Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893–1945. In, ed. Kirk A. Denton, 196–203. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Lu, Sheldon H. 2007. Chinese Modernity and Global Biopolitics: Studies in Literature and Visual Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Lu, Tonglin. 2010. Fruit Chan’s ‘Dumplings’—New ‘Diary of a Madman’ in Post-Mao Global Capitalism. The China Review 10 (2): 177–200. Moskowitz, Marc L. 2001. The Haunting Fetus: Abortion, Sexuality, and the Spirit World in Taiwan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Naughton, Barry. 2017. Is China Socialist? Journal of Economic Perspectives 31 (1): 3–24. Nicholas Chare, Audrey Yue and Jeanette Hoorn, eds. 2019. Re-reading the Monstrous Feminine: Art, Film, Feminism and Psychoanalysis. London/New York: Routledge. Nygren, Scott. 1992. Blood in the Square: Representations of Democracy in China. Jump Cut 37: 37–43. Pang, Laikwan. 2011. The State against Ghosts: A Genealogy of China's Film Censorship Policy. Screen 52 (4): 461–476. Poon, Shuk-Wah. 2014. Dogs and British Colonialism: The Contested Ban on Eating Dogs in Colonial Hong Kong. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 42 (2): 308–328. Riyun, Cong. 2009. Nationalism and Democratization in Contemporary China. Journal of Contemporary China 18 (62): 831–848. https://doi. org/10.1080/10670560903174663. Rojas, Carlos. 2002. Cannibalism and the Chinese Body Politic: Hermeneutics and Violence in Cross-Cultural Perception. Postmodern Culture 12 (3).

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———. 2015. Homesickness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Sarotte, Mary Elise. 2012. China’s Fear of Contagion: Tiananmen Square and the Power of European Example. International Security 37 (2): 156–182. https:// doi.org/10.1162/isec_a_00101. Tsai, Yun-Chu. 2016. You Are Whom You Eat: Cannibalism in Contemporary Chinese Fiction and Film. Unpublished PhD dissertation, UC Irvine. Twitchell, James B. 1985. Dreadful Pleasures: An Anatomy of Modern Horror. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Williams, Linda. 1984. When the Woman Looks. In Re-Vision: Essays in Feminist Film Criticism, ed. Mary Ann Doane, Patricia Mellencamp, and Linda Williams, 83–99. Frederick: University Publications of America. Yan, Xiaojun. 2014. Engineering Stability: Authoritarian Political Control over University Students in Post-Deng China. The China Quarterly 218: 493–513. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0305741014000332. Yeh, Emilie Yueh-yu, and Neda Hei-tung Ng. 2009. Magic, Medicine, Cannibalism: The China Demon in Hong Kong Horror. In Horror to the Extreme: Changing Boundaries in Asian Cinema, ed. Jinhee Choi and Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano, 145–159. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Yue, Gang. 1999. The Mouth That Begs: Hunger, Cannibalism, and the Politics of Eating in Modern China. Durham: Duke University Press. Zhang, Longxi. 1992. Western Theory and Chinese Reality. Critical Inquiry 19 (1): 105–130. https://doi.org/10.1086/448665.

CHAPTER 7

What Are You Expecting to See? On Childbirth in Visual Culture

Cinema “has always been reproductive” (Olszynko-Gryn and Ellis 2017) in the sense that themes of reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth have been present since the earliest instances of moving images. However, representations of childbirth and pregnancy have been particularly prominent over the past decade, especially on digital media and reality television (Cummins 2019; Yam 2019; Das 2018; Mack 2016; Tyler and Baraitser 2013). Across social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram, increasing celebration and dignity afforded to graphic images of abortion, miscarriage and the event of crowning demonstrate that childbirth is no longer a visual taboo (Tyler and Baraitser 2013). Social media can be distinguished from traditional mediums like cinema by its rapidity and widespread distribution, and its participatory convergence (Jenkins 2014; Khamis et  al. 2017). However, both cinema studies and media studies share the view that, on the whole, pregnancy and childbirth tend to be objectified and under-represented (Yam 2019) and scholars continue to call for more realistic representations to increase awareness of complexity and diversity (Luce et al. 2016). Such a view also derives from, as noted in the introduction, the broader belief that visual culture, the proliferation of screens, mediating devices and moving images, shape our perception of reality, culture and gender such that there is no objective reality outside of mediated visual culture (Kellner 2011; Jay 2002). The recent proliferation of images of pregnancy and childbirth thereby can generate questions about how we imagine the effect of this visual culture, as this conclusion © The Author(s) 2020 L. Bliss, The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45897-3_7

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will consider that there is contradiction in scholarship between a celebration of change alongside an assumption that change is yet to occur. This conclusion will offer an analysis of two popular examples of pregnancy and childbirth in social media, the Instagram account @empoweredbirthproject and the viral YouTube video Birth in Nature: Natural Birth. While these examples appear to reinforce the ideas that there has been a measurable change in representation of pregnancy and childbirth, and that more likeminded representations are necessary, I will adopt a cautious approach through foregrounding the temporality of both social media and cinema. Bringing the study of cinema into dialogue with the study of social media through their contradictory temporality, this conclusion will argue that any celebration of these images should not overdetermine the effect of representation on the spectator nor unproblematically subscribe to the belief that visual culture induces measurable change.

7.1   Childbirth Is No Longer a “Visual Taboo” Tyler and Baraitser have argued that the proliferation of images of childbirth is evidence of a marked shift in the meaning of pregnancy and childbirth (2013). As they describe: If, as both European philosophical and psychoanalytic traditions have variously argued, maternal origin – the fact of our birth – is the obscene ‘open secret’, which we must psychologically disavow in order to emerge as distinct and bounded subjects … then the new graphic visibility of birth within public culture is suggestive of a significant historical and psychosocial shift that bears close examination. (1–2)

Although philosophical and psychoanalytic thought are dependent on metaphors and references to generation and reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth have traditionally been a site of disavowal. As described by Tyler in an earlier article: “persistently within its long history, philosophy has thrived upon using metaphors of gestation for the renewal of masculine models of being and creativity, while simultaneously and repeatedly disavowing maternal origin in its theories and models of subjectivity” (2000: 293). Psychoanalytic theory also places the mother at the centre of its theory but understands subjectivity as formed through a traumatic encounter with her sexuality. Classically developed through the Oedipus complex, this model of the psyche has been reread and reinterpreted by

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other psychoanalytic theorists such as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous (Grosz 1989).1 Without delving further into a discussion of these models, however, Tyler and Baraitser develop Iris Marion Young’s claim (1984) that the pregnant body can be thought and represented rather than subjugated to the realm of the unthinkable or the unconscious. Importantly, this approach towards the thinkability of pregnancy and childbirth is not only made in response to Western philosophy and psychoanalysis, but to the historical and traditional model of health. This model, well documented in historical medical literature, is premised on the temporality of the healthy body as an unchanging one (Young 1984). For Young, the pregnant body is more like a “source and participant in a creative process” (54) that is continuously changing and contingent rather than static (see also Lupton 2013; Petchesky 1987). While Young’s positive account of pregnancy is one designed for a chosen pregnancy, Caroline Lundquist has responded by pointing to the need to foreground unwanted, denied and rejected pregnancies, and has argued for greater need to discuss pregnancy in its diversity, including where it results from rape. However, she similarly claims that it is an inherently unique and subjective experience: “There is no lived experience comparable to pregnancy” (2008: 140). Lundquist calls for greater inclusion of the images and expressions of ambivalence and doubt towards continuing and completing pregnancy, which also remain relatively rare. This feminist approach towards modelling the temporality of pregnancy is notable insofar as it seeks to show how pregnancy can be returned to women, but in a way that resists “capitulating to ideologies that reduce women to a maternal essence” (Petchesky 1987: 288; see also Oliver 2010). In this light, Tyler and Baraitser argue that the recent widespread circulation of images of pregnancy and childbirth “has transformed previous notions of beauty, taste and disgust around reproductive bodies and practices” (7) and is an important step in generating more empowered visual cultures of pregnancy and childbirth. To explore these ideas, we can consider two well-known and widely liked examples @empoweredbirthproject and Birth in Nature: Natural Birth. Both of these examples demonstrate the idea that childbirth and pregnancy are no longer a visual taboo nor a site of disavowal and should thus be celebrated to a certain extent. However, I will conclude by showing that there are links between these social media examples and discourses about cinema spectatorship that demand further consideration.

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@empoweredbirthproject is a popular Instagram account that is managed and curated by registered nurse Katie Vigos, but which includes examples of images of childbirth and pregnancy from netizens around the world. It seeks to include images and videos of the spectrum of pregnancy and childbirth, including miscarriage, breech birth, abortion, transgender pregnancy, childbirth after IVF and childbirth through caesarean section. Importantly, @empoweredbirthproject managed to overturn Instagram’s censorship policies on graphic images of childbirth, allowing for explicit images, such as the moment of crowning or a miscarried infant in the arms of the mother, to be shown (Yam 2019). @empoweredbirthproject is especially defined by the assumption that our knowledge of childbirth is conditioned by the medical model of childbirth and image captions regularly address the need to show images of childbirth, alongside miscarriage, breastfeeding of infants as well as children and pregnancy as normal rather than pathologised. @empoweredbirthproject aims to foreground the birthing person and normalise all forms of childbirth, including those usually deemed medical emergencies like breech birth, and its function is thus both political and pedagogical. Importantly, the graphic imagery on @empoweredbirthproject is explicitly addressed to the apparent idealisation of motherhood and childbirth in visual culture. Rather than an idealised vision of motherhood, “the images on @empoweredbirthproject depict bodily fluids, vaginas, and bloated feminine bodies that are commonly associated with the grotesque” and by showing these often bloody and abject images as at once normal and “awe-inspiring”, the account seeks to renew public discourse and affect in response to the birthing body (Yam 2019: 96). Another likeminded example can be found in the YouTube video Birth in Nature: Natural Birth. This viral video, which has gained over 85 million views, features Melbourne-based doula Simone Thurber giving birth to her fourth child without assistance in a remote creek in Australia’s Daintree Rainforest (albeit with the knowledge from her professional life as a doula and from previously giving birth to three children). Like the images of @empoweredbirthproject, Thurber—rather than the newborn— remains the main focus throughout the video. Her agency and self-literacy in her labouring body are emphasised through intertitles where she explains the process and her feelings about what is happening: “I felt fine, contractions were easy, it all just felt very slow.” Like @empoweredbirthproject, Birth in Nature can be understood as belonging to a culture of digital participation where users curate their own representations of self.

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Maintaining control over the production itself, Thurber and her partner scouted for the creek location, and she shifts location during her labour, moving from an outdoor bath into the more natural, picturesque creek setting. Both examples offered here possess something of the quality of cinema spectatorship in that they seek to provide a shared audience experience, grounding a common meaning for pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. Certainly, both @empoweredbirthproject and Birth in Nature appear informed by the legacy of feminist theory and implicitly respond to a belief that representations of childbirth—like gendered bodies more generally—are objectified by visual culture. However, where feminist film theory of the 1970s and 1980s, alongside Marxist approaches, emphasised the need to unveil the “means of production” of images in order to dispel the potential for objectification (de Lauretis 1994), these social media representations tend to display a self-serving presumption of authenticity. Because they are generated by individuals, they tend to represent themselves, however ironically or shortsightedly, as existing in an antagonistic relationship to mainstream digital media (Duffy and Hund 2015; Duffy and Pruchniewska 2017). It is unlikely that either creator would concede that their images were merely marketing childbirth or obscuring other possible avenues for representation and analysis (Duffy and Pruchniewska 2017; Khamis et al. 2017; Mack 2016). Yet, the marketability and profit-­ generating potential of childbirth for social media platforms and influencers alike can be seen in their use of branding strategies like agency, autonomy and self-empowerment (Khamis et al. 2017; Sundstrom 2013). As Duffy and Hund have shown, themes of authenticity and self-­ empowerment are common to both social media and feminist discourse. They see this commonality as evidence of a problematic conflation of “gender and consumerism” (Duffy and Hund 2015). Ashley Mack (2016) augments this view in her study of recent social media representations of childbirth by cautioning against their celebration of individual autonomy, as if that autonomy were innate or pre-given. In examples like those described, “individual subjects are marked as naturally autonomous and self-sufficient, as the agents of change in a given context or set of power relations” (53), foreclosing opportunities to represent the complexity of childbirth from both an individual and social perspective. Ranjana Das (2018) also demonstrates how examples like @empoweredbirthproject and Birth in Nature can be criticised for equating autonomy in childbirth and pregnancy with mid-twentieth century ideals of childbirth as natural

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(Michaels 2017). As Das argues, these representations “offer up carefully curated ‘lay’ perspectives on maternal subjectivities that achieve the good birth as they promote endurance, self-governance, sacrifice, selflessness, and an individualised narrative of maternity that keeps reproducing and glorifying intensive and all-natural mothering” (2018: 79). However, while I agree with these criticisms, my critical interest in these kinds of examples is focused instead in their divergences, as well as their shared meaning, with the study of cinema. The study of social media can also be linked to cinema studies in their mutual interest in exposing, as well as resisting, social norms through representation. As noted, coinciding with the recent proliferation of representations of pregnancy and childbirth in visual culture, there have been calls for more realistic representations of pregnancy and childbirth to increase awareness of their complexity and diversity (Cummins 2019; Yam 2019; Luce et al. 2016; Wu Song et al. 2012; Morris and McInerney 2010; Bak 2004). This tendency to argue for greater realism in cinema, television and social media is built on the assumption that audiences today generally lack sufficient knowledge of childbirth and pregnancy and thus that cinema and media will primarily shape perception, knowledge and understanding of them (Cummins 2019; Yam 2019; Wu Song et al. 2012; Morris and McInerney 2010; Bak 2004). These arguments productively critique representations that reinforce the medical model of childbirth, discussed in Chap. 5, where childbirth is represented as performed on a woman, rather than an act that a woman herself performs and where the physician and technological intervention are seen as the primary agents in the birthing process (Luce et  al. 2016). However, these studies also tend to adhere to an effects model of spectatorship (Luce et al. 2016), in which cinema and media are seen as possessing a power greater than one’s subjective capacity or imagination. This approach, in other words, develops an asymmetrical view of the relationship between spectators and visual culture and assumes spectators are thus unimaginative about pregnancy and childbirth. In this sense, emphasis on the power of visual culture over childbirth and pregnancy, as well as the idealisation of the power of social media platforms with cinema to induce change, demands further critique.

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7.2   Rethinking the Temporality of Pregnancy and Childbirth in Visual Culture While Tyler and Baraitser argue that there has been a social change in how pregnancy and childbirth are represented, and that they are no longer a visual taboo, we can contrast this change with the apparent absence of durational representations of childbirth. Interestingly, there seem to be very few examples, cinematic or otherwise, that have sought to capture the temporal dimension of labour and childbirth. My research has found that most visual representations of childbirth are short films (Window Water Baby Moving is a mere twelve minutes), documentaries under one hour, still images on social media pages or YouTube videos of relatively short duration. In contrast, childbirth lasts on average eight hours or more. While the affordances of specific platforms like YouTube and Instagram limit the length of videos that can be uploaded, the expediency with which images of pregnancy and childbirth can become visible on social media can be brought into dialogue with the idea of slow or durational cinema. Durational cinema is a genre characterised by an interest in capturing ordinary, often mundane, quotidian or uneventful actions and includes examples of films whose running time extends to twelve  hours or more. Examples of slow cinema include Wang Bing’s Mrs Fang (2017), a documentary of the final stages of a rural Chinese woman’s life; Sharon Lockhart’s Double Tide (2009), which shows a woman fishing for clams at both high and low tide in the mudflats along the coast of Maine in the United States; Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman (1978), about a single mother and sex worker house-keeping; and Abbas Kiarostami’s Shirin (2008), which captures the emotional expression of spectators watching an Iranian film. Critics have argued that slow cinema, or durational film, offers an increasingly important avenue for contemporary cinematic spectatorship, thought to have been displaced by digital technologies and social media platforms (de Luca 2016). Some commentators have argued that the proliferation of screens, in the form of smart phones, digital television and other mobile cinemas, has led to the disappearance of the auditorium as a shared, collective space important for what Miriam Hansen called the “cinematic public sphere” (1983). Slow cinema is often placed in critical opposition to the phenomenon of the speed of modernity, as well as new media platforms like YouTube and Instagram, and is thought to intervene into how the temporality of visual culture transcends subjective time, or the time of the

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everyday (de Luca 2016; Doane 2002: 33). However, as Tiago de Luca describes, the “measured pace, minimalist mise en scène, opaque and laconic narratives, and … adherence to the long take” (24) of slow cinema has also led to accusations that it is ‘boring’ and elitist, especially as examples of slow cinema can stretch as long as twelve hours or more, often without intermission. However, de Luca sees slow cinema as valuable for its “sustained perceptual engagement with the audiovisual elements on-­ screen” (26). Certainly, the idea of sustained engagement can be brought into dialogue with the proliferation of representations of pregnancy and childbirth on social media but with the notable absence of durational works. Here, while social media representations of pregnancy and childbirth appear to have common interests with cinema studies, in generating shared audience experience, the idea of durational film as a counter to the rapidity of social media exposes contradictory ideas on which this “shared” experience is based. In gesturing to the absence of a durational film of childbirth, I do not intend to point to the necessity of its material existence, imply that someone should consent to being filmed and exhibited or imagine the kind of spectator who would desire to experience such a film in its duration. However, where scholars have celebrated the new wave of pregnancy and childbirth in social media (Tyler and Baraitser 2013; Das 2018; Yam 2019; Mack 2016; Cummins 2019), and emphasised the power of visual culture to create change, the absence of the representation of childbirth, in a temporal sense, is rarely considered. Likewise, the temporal dimension of the length of engagement with any of these representations, in the qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) sense as suggested by the arguments about durational cinema, is also rarely reflected on. In her essay “The Tortoise and the Hare” (2016), Karen Beckman contends that we should problematise the belief that cinema and digital media should induce change that is visible, measurable and immediate. “Change often occurs gradually, imperceptibly, in different ways, and at differentiated speeds within and among individual members of any audience”; from this perspective, maintaining that cinema or media should elicit an immediate and visible change is a “terribly shortsighted” way to understand its significance (127). Certainly, the social media examples analysed here implicitly suggest that their viewing carries the potential to alter one’s subjective perspective, as if—as suggested—that subjectivity lacks the imaginative capacity to adopt a perspective beyond visual culture.

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From another point of view, we can consider the need to celebrate images of childbirth like those analysed in response to rigid views of pregnancy from within feminist discourse, such as in the work of Andrea Dworkin. To counter patriarchal power, Dworkin (1983) emphasised the need for female bodily integrity. For Dworkin, the vagina is “split”, and sexual intercourse is thus “the entry into her, the key to women’s lower human status” (Dworkin 1983: 43 in Huntley 2000: 353). In this argument, the pregnant body can be characterised as intruded upon; the pregnant woman possesses “a lesser integrity of the body, a lesser sense of self, since her body can be physically occupied and in the occupation taken over’” (Dworkin in Huntley 2000: 353). Rebecca Huntley has described Dworkin’s argument as managing “a tremendous act of denial, severing the act of intercourse from the act of impregnation” (353). This denial, which directs the existential purpose and significance of both sex and pregnancy towards the parasitic unborn within, is similarly present within the work of Shulamith Firestone (2015). Without delving further into these outmoded, but academically interesting, ideas of femininity and pregnancy, we can return to the point made by Tyler and Baraitser: any supposed “universality” of fear of the maternal is not reflective of “some pre-historic, unchangeable fact”. Rather, they highlight that it is “‘disciplinary norms’ that have been established through processes of reiteration” that reinforce our understanding of the meaning of pregnancy and childbirth (Tyler and Baraitser 2013: 4; see also Irigaray 1985; Butler 1993). The expectation of change effected by cinema or media on the subject of pregnancy and childbirth can be seen to rely on disciplinary norms, or the study of representations, that reinforce an asymmetrical, or unimaginative, model of the spectator. Where many scholars have claimed pregnancy and childbirth are not accurately enough represented in way that reflects subjective experience of pregnancy (Cummins 2019; Yam 2019; Das 2018; Mack 2016; Tyler and Baraitser 2013; Tyler 2000; Michaels and Morgan 1999; Cartwright et al. 1998; Newman 1996; Duden 1993; Petchesky 1987), there is a notable lack of serious consideration of the idea that the spectator can themselves know or have greater knowledge than the representation on screen. The analogy between objectification, the maternal imagination and witchcraft, developed in Chaps. 1 and 2, sought to critique the modelling of cinema on the psychoanalytic unconscious and questioned the original terms on which objectification was constructed. Importantly, this analogy left the idea of subjectivity—of how exactly to model the spectator—as an

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open question. Chapter 3 developed a study of the French documentary Histoires d’A (1973) and forwarded the idea that the film implied a knowing spectator, with the analysis showing how cinema can represent issues like abortion without needing to rely on problematic philosophical or psychoanalytic models of the spectator noted earlier with reference to Tyler and Baraitser (2013). Likewise, Chaps. 4, 5 and 6 considered distinct figurations of pregnancy and the maternal in the cinema of Miéville-Godard, as well as experimental and horror cinema, and respectively argued that these figurations exceeded and called into question common sense assumptions about spectatorship as “unimaginative”. While the social media examples analysed here demonstrate a progressive shift in the public representation of pregnancy and childbirth, we can also question the idea that they offer the means for visible change and think through the idea that the temporality of cinema and media is in either an antagonistic or productive opposition to a spectator with a lacking imagination. Understanding the meaning of representations of pregnancy and childbirth may mean taking the long road in showing both that cinema and media can have the power to change, but that this change should accept the possibility of a spectator whose imagination need not be reduced to the visible, the lacking, the unconscious or to the screened.

Note 1. Tyler and Baraitser develop the philosophy of Hannah Arendt, theorising subjectivity in terms of natality. They justify this approach, which is beyond the scope of this conclusion to develop in detail, through the view that the new wave of representations of childbirth and pregnancy demonstrate the need to problematise models that over-subscribe the maternal to trauma, disavowal, displacement or patriarchal repression in the manner suggested by Dworkin.

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Index1

NUMBERS AND SYMBOLS @empoweredbirthproject, 144–147 #MeToo movement, 16 A Abortion, 6, 51–53, 59, 70, 71, 80, 125, 127–129, 143, 146, 152 pro-life, 44, 71 The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971), 100 Affect theory, 46, 64, 65 Akerman, Chantal, 149 Alienation, 7, 58, 119 Altman, Rick, 92, 93 The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895), 92 Artaud, Antonin, 36 Arthur, Paul, 101 A Sketch on Abigayl’s Belly (1968), 102, 112, 113, 116, 117 Auerbach, Eric, 63, 64, 79, 80

Augustine, 81 Authenticity, 147 Autonomy bodily, 53 individual, 6, 54, 147 B Bailey, Michael, 35, 37, 43 Baudry, Jean-Louis, 32, 33, 53 Bazin, André, 32 Beckman, Karen, 150 Benjamin, Walter, 60, 66–68, 72n5 concept of aura, 67 Bergala, Alain, 85, 87, 88 Bhaba, Homi K., 14 Bicks, Caroline, 40, 41 Bing, Wang, 149 Birthmarks, 41 Blaetz, Robin, 99, 100, 105, 111 Bley, Carla, 101, 103 Body-image, 1–3, 9, 13, 26, 30, 34

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.

1

© The Author(s) 2020 L. Bliss, The Maternal Imagination of Film and Film Theory, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45897-3

177

178 

INDEX

Body Snatchers (1993), 62, 65 Bollas, Christopher, 18 Botticelli, Sandro, 85 Braidotti, Rosi, 17 Brakhage, Stan, 6, 100, 110–117 Breastfeeding, 111, 146 Brenez, Nicole, 7, 27, 53, 60–71, 72n2, 92, 108 The Brood (1979), 127 Brophy, Philip, 131, 132, 137 Buckley, Jenifer, 4, 12 Buck-Morss, Susan, 5, 57, 58, 60, 67 Butler, Judith, 9, 10, 19n1, 151 C Cage, John, 101, 104 Cahiers du Cinema, 70 Cannibalism, 7, 125–127, 129–138 Castoriadis, Cornelius, 19n2 Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), 28 Censorship, 7, 52, 112, 126, 137, 138n2, 146 in China, 7, 126, 137, 138 Chan, Fruit, 6, 125 Childbirth in experimental cinema, 99–120 medical attitudes toward, 146, 148 natural, 114, 115, 147 as visual taboo, 102, 115, 116, 143–149 witnessing of, 111, 112 China authoritarianism, 137 May Fourth movement, 134 one-child policy, 125, 127, 129, 133 relationship between mainland and Hong Kong, 130 Chion, Michel, 93, 103 Cinema durational, 149, 150 early, 12, 92

expanded, 105 experimental, 6, 99–120 Hollywood, 13, 99 horror, 126–129, 131, 137, 152 structuralist, 99, 107 unconscious effects of, 9, 32, 35, 47n5, 53, 59, 131 Cixous, Hélène, 106, 145 Columbus, Christopher, 133, 136 Common sense, 2–9, 11, 13, 14, 19, 43, 61, 78, 102, 108, 117, 152 Convergence, 10, 12, 143 Counter-cinema, 99, 111, 120n2 Creed, Barbara, 4, 126–128 D Da Vinci, Leonardo, 85 Daney, Serge, 70, 92 Das, Ranjana, 143, 147, 148, 150, 151 de Beauvoir, Simone, 54, 55, 59, 84 de Lauretis, Teresa, 13, 26, 27, 54, 90, 147 Dead Ringers (1988), 127 Deception, 29, 40–43, 45, 78 Deleuze, Gilles, 2, 3, 5, 14, 63, 64, 72n3 della Porta, Giambattista, 29, 36, 37 Deren, Maya, 115 Descartes, René, 1 Diary of a Madman (1918), 7, 126, 127, 130, 131, 134–136 Dick-Read, Grantly, 114, 116 Diderot, Denis, 1 Didi-Huberman, Georges, 65, 66, 77, 85, 86 Disenchantment, 35, 59, 60 Doane, Mary Ann, 2, 3, 8, 9, 32, 54, 93, 105, 127, 149 Dolto, Françoise, 83, 84, 86, 89 Double Tide (2009), 149

 INDEX 

Doyle, Christopher, 129 Duden, Barbara, 6, 44, 45, 71, 151 Dumplings (2004), 6, 7, 14, 125–134, 137, 138, 138n1 Duns Scotus, 89 Dworkin, Andrea, 151, 152n1 E Ellis, Patrick, 1, 4, 25, 45, 46, 101, 143 Elsaesser, Thomas, 3, 12, 13 Embryology, 4, 8 Empedocles, 1 Eno, Brian, 104 Epstein, Jean, 33, 35, 36, 66–68 concept of photogénie, 66, 67, 69 Erb, Cynthia, 84 F Fanon, Frantz, 14 Federici, Silvia, 38, 39, 43 Feldman, Morton, 105 Feminism and experimental cinema, 111 and horror cinema, 127, 128 and pregnancy, 54, 145, 151 and temporality, 145 Ferrara, Abel, 62 Figura, 79, 80 Figuration, 4–7, 11, 31, 62–64, 71, 77–94, 100, 101, 105, 111, 119, 120, 120n1, 126–129, 132, 137, 152 Figurative, 5, 26–28, 46, 63, 66, 67, 79, 101, 103, 131, 138 Film theory affect, 46 feminist, 2, 5, 9, 11, 16, 19, 25–46, 60, 107, 147 figurative, 5, 27

179

maternal imagination of, 1–19, 55–61 psychoanalytic, 2, 5, 16, 25, 27, 33 sound, 92, 93, 101, 103 Firestone, Shulamith, 151 Fisher, Lucy, 55–57 Foetus, 1, 2, 4–8, 41–46, 53, 54, 59, 71, 118, 125–129, 132, 137, 138 Foucault, Michel, 17 4’33” (1952), 104, 105 Fox, Albertine, 90, 91 Fra Angelico, 85 Frampton, Hollis, 106–117, 119, 120 Fraser, Nancy, 10, 17 Freud, Sigmund, 30, 32–34, 47n6, 85, 128 G Galt, Rosalind, 14, 15, 18, 27, 65 Gender, 5, 7–10, 13, 14, 26, 27, 44, 45, 52, 99, 143, 147 distinction from sex, 9 Ghosts, 128 Gidal, Peter, 99, 107 Godard, Jean-Luc, 6, 78, 79, 82, 83, 85–94, 95n5, 152 Goldberg, Jonathan, 80 Grant, Catherine, 82, 90 Grantly, Dick-Read, 114 Gunning, Tom, 92 H Hall, Guy, 83, 86 Hanafi, Zakiya, 4, 29, 36, 37, 40, 42, 43 Hansen, Miriam, 60, 67, 68, 72n5, 149 Haraway, Donna, 9 Harley, David, 38 Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), 35

180 

INDEX

Health, 38, 51, 52, 145 Heath, Stephen, 32, 33 Hegel, G.W.F., 1 Heinrich, Larissa, 136 Herzog, Werner, 28 Histoires d’A (1974), 6, 51–53, 59, 60, 70, 71, 152 Hitchcock, Alfred, 14 Hong Kong, 6, 7, 14, 125, 129–133, 137, 138 relation to mainland China, 130 Huet, Marie-Hélène, 1, 4, 8, 33, 40–42 Hulme, Peter, 133, 136 Huntley, Rebecca, 116, 117, 151 Hurry Hurry! (1957), 102, 119, 120 I Ideology, 9, 13, 15, 17, 27, 53–56, 87, 127, 130, 145 hegemonic, 15 pedagogy, 3 See also Cinema Illouz, Eva, 16, 17 Images, 2, 25, 27, 29, 30, 33, 42, 44, 53, 77–79, 99, 126, 143 Imaginary, 1, 4, 9, 11–19, 26, 27, 38, 43, 135, 136 Imagination, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19n2, 25–46, 53, 61, 64, 100, 101, 104–106, 118, 120, 148, 152 maternal, vii, 1–19, 25, 26, 28, 29, 31, 33, 34, 36, 40–43, 45, 46, 53, 55–61, 78, 81, 151 Instagram, 143, 144, 146, 149 Irigaray, Luce, 145, 151 It’s Alive (1974), 127, 128 IVF, 39, 146

J Janisse, Kier-La, 129 The Jazz Singer (1927), 92 Jeanne Dielman (1978), 149 Jenkins, Henry, 12, 13, 143 Jessel, Ray, 101, 103 Je vous salue, Marie (1985), 6, 77–94 John Paul II, Pope, 89 Johnston, Claire, 99, 102, 105, 106, 111, 120n2 Josephson-Storm, Jason, 60 K Kant, Immanuel, 12, 19n2 Karman, Harvey, 51, 53 Kar-wai, Wong, 129 Keeling, Kara, 14, 15 Keller, Marjorie, 110, 111, 117 Kellner, Douglas, 3, 143 Kemp, Martin, 29, 36 Kepler, Johannes, 29 Kiarostami, Abbas, 149 Kieckhefer, Richard, 29, 30, 37 Kircher, Athanasius, 29 Kirsa Nicholina (1969), 113 Kramer, Heinrich, 29, 30 Kristeva, Julia, 78, 79, 89, 128, 145 L Labour, 100, 111, 113, 114, 116, 147, 149 childbirth, 111, 113, 116, 149 Lacan, Jacques, 12, 19n2 Lecler, Romain, 6, 52, 53, 71 Lee, Lillian, 125, 126 Le livre de Marie (1985), 6, 77–94 Lemay, Helen Rodnite, 2, 41 Lennon, Kathleen, 12, 19n2 Liberté au féminin (1979), 53 Linguistic turn, 10

 INDEX 

Lockhart, Sharon, 149 Longxi, Zhang, 134 L’Opéra-mouffe (1958), 102, 118, 119 L’Osservatore Romano, 86 Lu, Xun, 7, 126, 129–131, 134–137 Lucretius, 79, 80 Lundquist, Caroline, 5, 114 Lyotard, Jean-François, 5, 63, 64 M Madonna, 86 Magic, 35–37, 56 Magnus, Pseudo-Albertus, 41 Male gaze, 1–6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 18, 25–28, 45, 46, 53–55, 60, 65, 78, 89, 90, 93, 110, 128 double bind of, 26, 27, 90 Malleus Maleficarum, 30, 31, 34, 35, 37, 41 Mannoni, Laurent, 26, 29 Mantler, Mike, 101, 103 Mao, Zedong, 135 Maoist period, 125, 135 Marder, Elissa, 5, 56, 57 Marks, Laura U., 64 Marnie (1964), 14 Martini, Simone, 85 Marxism, 3, 19n2, 39, 83, 87, 105, 147 Mary, see Virgin Mary Maternal body, 43, 55–57, 59 horror, 126 imagination, vii, 1–19, 25–29, 31, 33, 34, 36, 38, 40–43, 45, 46, 53, 55–61, 78, 81, 151 impressions, 4, 5, 8, 11, 29, 41, 46 Media digital, 13, 16, 143, 147, 150 social, 143–145, 147–150, 152 Mekas, Jonas, 119 Méliès, Georges, 55

181

Mellencamp, Patricia, 99, 109, 110 Memmi, Lipo, 85 Menken, Marie, 102, 118–120 Metz, Christian, 32, 33 Michelet, Jules, 43 Midwives, 38, 39 Miéville, Anne-Marie, 6, 78, 82, 83, 86–88, 90, 93 Miscarriage, 114, 128, 143, 146 Misconception (1977), 110, 111 Morgan, Robin, 2 Moskowitz, Marc, 128 Motherhood, 4, 5, 54, 82, 86, 113, 146, 147 idealisation of, 146 Mrs Fang (2017), 149 Mulvey, Laura, 3, 13, 14, 25–28, 33, 45, 87, 88, 94 Murray, Margaret, 38 Music, 101, 103–106 experimental, 101–108, 120n2 N Narboni, Jean, 70 Nelson, Gunvor, 113 New Yorker, 16 Nyman, Michael, 6, 104, 105 O Oakley, Ann, 38 Objectification, 2, 5, 10, 11, 13–18, 27, 30, 32, 38, 40, 43, 44, 46, 53, 55, 59–61, 83, 94, 120, 147, 151 See also Male gaze P Pagels, Elaine, 81, 88 Paré, Ambroise, 1

182 

INDEX

Park, Katherine, 38, 42 Paternity, 41 Patriarchy, 7, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 26, 28, 38, 40, 43, 45, 47n5, 54, 55, 60, 89, 106, 107, 120, 132 Penley, Constance, 47n5, 87 Perry, David, 102, 112–114, 116, 117 Peterson, James, 108–117 Photography, 56–58, 67, 69, 136 Pipolo, Tony, 116 Poljinsky, Serge, 53, 70 Pregnancy in experimental cinema, 99–120 and medical attitudes toward, 44, 71, 146 representation of, 100, 101, 112, 144, 152 as visual taboo, 145, 149 Prénom: Carmen (1983), 91 Pro-choice, 6, 53 Pro-life movements, 6, 44 Proto-cinema, 26, 28, 29, 36, 37 Psychoanalysis, 9, 10, 14, 16, 18, 32, 33, 40, 45, 84, 145 Q Quaife, G. R., 34, 35 Quickening, 44, 45 R Rabinovitz, Lauren, 6, 14, 106, 107, 110 Ragona, Melissa, 119 Reproduction artistic, 42, 87 biological, 128 cinematic, 4, 9, 59, 119 Rojas, Carlos, 127, 133–135 Rose, Jacqueline, 27 Rosemary’s Baby (1968), 127

Rosenbaum, Jonathan, 113 Roussel, Myriem, 85 Routt, William, 63 S Scott, Jay, 107, 110 Settala, Manfredo, 43 Sharits, Paul, 107 Shildrick, Margaret, 1, 4, 8 Shirin (2008), 149 Silverman, Kaja, 13, 54, 55 Sitney, P. Adams, 107 Slate, 16 Slater, Don, 59 Snow, Michael, 103, 107 Sparks, Electra, 45 Spectator as ignorant, 53–55 internal experience of, 64 Sprenger, James, 29, 30 Stafford, Barbara, 2, 7, 8 Subject, 3, 5, 8, 10–12, 14–17, 19, 19n2, 25, 28, 40, 45, 53, 57, 59, 61, 64, 83, 84, 100, 110, 111, 115, 116, 118, 134, 137, 144, 147 theory of, 10 Subjectivity, 6–8, 11, 16, 17, 44, 54, 55, 57, 59, 62, 69, 79, 83, 87–89, 94, 144, 148, 150, 151, 152n1 alienated, 6, 7 T Technology, 2, 9, 12, 13, 18, 26, 29, 32, 40, 42–46, 53, 55, 58–60, 66, 67, 70, 71, 92, 107, 136, 149 Television, 12, 143, 148, 149 Tertullian, 80 Thin Line Lyre Triangular (1961), 111

 INDEX 

Thurber, Simone, 146, 147 Tiananmen Square Massacre, 134, 137 Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista, 89 Trahair, Lisa, 83 Twitchell, James B., 131 U Ultrasound, 5, 6, 44, 45 Unconscious, vii, 2–9, 11, 13–19, 25–28, 32–35, 43, 45, 46, 47n2, 47n5, 47n6, 53–55, 59–64, 68, 72n3, 78, 83, 84, 93, 100, 108–117, 120, 126–128, 131, 132, 138, 145, 151, 152 V Vagina, 100, 101, 113, 114, 151 Vaginal birth, 114 Varda, Agnès, 102, 118–120 Vigos, Katie, 146 Virginity, 6, 77–79, 81–94 Virgin Mary, 6, 77–94 annunciation, 86 immaculate conception, 78, 84–86, 90 relation to Eve, 78–80, 82 Visual culture, 3–5, 9, 14–16, 40, 100, 109, 115, 120, 138n2, 143–152 political effects of, 109 Vogel, Amos, 100, 108 Voltaire, 1

183

W Warner, Marina, 29, 46n2, 77, 79, 81, 88, 89 Water Sark (1964), 6, 101–108, 111, 118, 120 Water Walk (1959), 6, 101, 104, 106, 107 White, Jerry, 78, 82, 90 Wieland, Joyce, 6, 101–108, 110, 111, 118, 120 Window Water Baby Moving (1959), 6, 100, 101, 103, 105, 107, 110–117, 149 Witches and art, 40 and body-image, 26, 34 early modern period, 26 feminist accounts of, 38 Witch-hunts and cinema, 2, 16, 27, 35, 36 causes of, 10, 29, 34 Wodening, Jane, 100, 101, 113, 116 Women, 3, 26, 51, 77, 99, 127, 145 representation of in cinema, 99, 117 Y Young, Iris Marion, 5, 53, 145 YouTube, 114, 143, 144, 146, 149 Yue, Gang, 126, 127, 130, 133–136 Z Zerilli, Linda, 54 Zryd, Michael, 107, 109, 110