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Joshua Foa Dienstag in dialogue
Series: Critical Powers

This book engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In much of Cavell's writing on film he seeks to show us that the protagonists of the films he terms "remarriage comedies" live a form of perfectionism that he upholds as desirable for contemporary democratic society: moral perfectionism. Films are often viewed on television, and television shows can have "filmlike" qualities. The book addresses the nature of viewing cinematic film as a mode of experience, arguing against Cavell that it is akin to dreaming rather than lived consciousness and, crucially, cannot be shared. It mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre. The book articulates the implications of philosophical pessimism for addressing contemporary culture in its relationship to political life. It clarifies how The Americans resembles the remarriage films and can illuminate the issues they raise. The tragedy of remarriage, would be a better instructor of a democratic community, if such a community were prepared to listen. The book suggests that dreaming, both with and without films, is not merely a pleasurable distraction but a valuable pastime for democratic citizens. Finally, it concludes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.

Open Access (free)
History, legend and memory in John Sayles’ Lone Star

through the community’s ‘stratigraphic landscape’, that ‘conceives historical understanding as an after-life of that which is understood, whose pulse can still be felt in the present’. 4 Through these acts of retrieval, Sayles’ film can be seen as in dialogue with the ‘culture wars’ debates of the 1980s–90s in which issues of identity politics, multiculturalism and the

in Memory and popular film

Philadelphia Story . In this response, I will make a qualified case for the opposite view and suggest that films and even television shows can be texts that encourage reflexivity about moral paradox, political obligation and community. I will do this through a reading of a more recent work in the genre of “the tragedy of remarriage”: the television show The Americans . The

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Open Access (free)
The ethics and politics of memory in an age of mass culture

usually circumscribed by a particular community or group. In contrast to collective memories, which tend to be geographically specific and which serve to reinforce and naturalise a group’s identity, prosthetic memories are not the property of a single group. Rather, they open up the possibility for collective horizons of experience and pave the way for unexpected political alliances

in Memory and popular film
Open Access (free)
Pleasantville and the textuality of media memory

general crisis of morality and values – Pleasantville is focused on the culture war as a political and rhetorical moment . The film is less concerned with controlling the popular memory of America’s recent past than with addressing conservative ‘culture war’ mythologies themselves. Specifically, Pleasantville puts forward a vision of community – tolerant, enlightened, coloured – carried out

in Memory and popular film
Open Access (free)
Memories of cinema-going in the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood

research into the memory narratives of a particular local city press, the study argues that personal memory of cinema is socially constructed by its context to create certain culturally sanctioned discourses, in this case figured around age, community, and city identity. If the last two chapters raised issues of history and memory through particular historical and commemorative texts and events in the 1920s

in Memory and popular film
Open Access (free)
Memory and popular film

generational nostalgia felt towards the place and purpose of cinema in specific communities. Whether this turns on particular exhibition sites, rituals and experiences, or on stars and films themselves, a growing body of work has begun to examine cultural constructions of identity produced through audience memory. 24 If what might be called a ‘political economy of cinematic memory’ has seen new industrial

in Memory and popular film
Open Access (free)

small community of five or six, like the larger one of which we are but a part, will be strengthened by an equal, reciprocal and boisterous conversation and not by a quiet collective viewing, however pleasing the latter might be. I have not, in this response, spent much time on the particulars of the two films I discuss at length in my “Letter to M. Cavell.” While I want to

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism

to be the passive viewer rather than the active critical thinker invests our political and civil ceremonies with more importance and permanence than they should really have. Our dysfunctional society forces the protagonists to seek privacy (whilst they may be wrong to do so, this becomes more understandable given such a society). If we readjust the balance so that we focus

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
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Civil rites of passage

continued to permeate Canton politics and Herring discovered that ‘my struggle with my “role” in the community was not an isolated struggle’. What Herring found most striking was that: No one seemed to be making connections between the election and A Time To Kill and that really surprised me . . . There were vague references to

in Memory and popular film