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.

A reply from Saturday Night to Mr. Dienstag
Tracy B. Strong

“Rousseau: Music, Language and Politics,” in Keith Chapin and Andrew Clark, eds . , Speaking of Music (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), pp. 86–100. 5 Stanley Cavell, “The Good of Film,” Cavell on Film , edited by William Rothman (Albany, NY: State

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Clare Woodford

happiness that is the promise of an emancipated perfectionist democracy. 1 Stanley Cavell, Cavell on Film, edited by W. Rothman (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005) p. 11. 2 Jacques Rancière, “The

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
A cinematic response to pessimism
Davide Panagia

automatism, or a human something “unlike anything else we know.” 38 The godlike feature of cinema, and its aesthetic and political value, is its capacity to give us something unlike anything else we know . And that , to be sure, is a dangerous contention. 1 Stanley Cavell, Must We Mean

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Open Access (free)
Thomas Dumm

Dear Joshua, There is little I can offer here in response to your letter to Stanley Cavell on film and what you are calling the tragedy of remarriage. (Since I am recently remarried, and find our marriage meet and happy, I have to say that I am not inclined to sympathize with your perspective on The Philadelphia Story .) This is not to say that I

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Letter to M. Cavell about cinema (a remake)
Joshua Foa Dienstag

been endorsed by many but celebrated by one distinguished voice in particular, especially with reference to film, that of Stanley Cavell. It is therefore necessary, once again, to rehearse the opposing view, not out of any dislike for that medium, but out of a greater concern for its corrosive effects on our democracy. Not having found any way to improve on Rousseau’s style of

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Open Access (free)
Joshua Foa Dienstag

In this chapter, the author argues against an optimistic account of the relation between film and democracy. He contests Stanley Cavell's interpretation of The Philadelphia Story, a film that he has said exemplifies the connection between Emersonian perfectionism and the "remarriage comedies" of the 1930s and 1940s. The author turns from The Philadelphia Story to its dark twin The Rules of the Game, a film made at roughly the same time with roughly the same plot but with a much more pessimistic account of the relationship between eros and politics. He considers Cavell's contention that time is a "barrier" between film and audience. The author argues, to the contrary, that time is in fact the medium that forms the aesthetic connection between humans and film, something people can understand better by contrasting cinema with television.

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Open Access (free)
Enthusiasm and audit
David Herd

should read it, don’t you think?’ Modern American writing, in so far as it can be understood to have its foundations in Emerson, had its origins, as he observed, in a fully developed, historically aware, enthusiastic view of the world; that enthusiastic point of departure being crucial, so it has been suggested, to the literature’s mobility, form and subject matter. William Penn identified in George Fox’s experimentalism a desire for ‘nearness’ with the condition of inspiration, the same ‘nearness’ that Stanley Cavell has described as American literature’s preferred

in Enthusiast!
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Reading Beckett’s negativity
Peter Boxall

, Literature (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 12. 18 See Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974); Maurice Blanchot, ‘Where now? Who now?’, in The Siren’s Song, ed. Gabriel Josipovici (Brighton Harvester, 1982); Gilles Deleuze, ‘The exhausted’, in Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Michael A. Greco (London: Verso, 1998), pp. 152–74; Stanley Cavell, ‘Ending the waiting game: a reading of Beckett’s Endgame’, in Stanley Cavell, Must We Mean What We Say? A

in Beckett and nothing
Open Access (free)
Henry David Thoreau
David Herd

to, or borrowed from – the work of two of Thoreau’s major modern commentators: Stanley Cavell, who writes brilliantly about prophecy in The Senses of Walden, and Lawrence Buell, one of whose importantly responsible questions in The Environmental Imagination is (to paraphrase), ‘What is it in Thoreau, or in Walden in particular, that has secured and stirred so many readers?’3 What I want to say – it’s difficult now to propose it – is that thinking about Thoreau’s enthusiasm, and thinking of him as an enthusiast, is a good way of going back to these and other

in Enthusiast!