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.
Francis Bacon produced his final draft of the New Atlantis around the years 1624-1625. Standing at the threshold of early modern thought, Bacon's text operates at the interstices of its contemporary culture and does indeed signal a desire to 'illuminate all the border-regions that confine upon the circle of our present knowledge'. This book presents a collection of essays that show how the New Atlantis negotiates a variety of contexts, namely literary, philosophical, political, religious and social, in order to achieve this. The narrative begins with a standard literary device. When Bacon wrote the New Atlantis, he clearly had More's Utopia in mind as a model. For all his strictures on the use of language for rhetorical effect, Francis Bacon was thoroughly grounded in the Renaissance art of rhetoric. He consciously drew on his rhetorical skill in his writings, adapting his style as occasion demanded. The New Atlantis is a text about natural philosophy which seems to offer connections at almost every point with moral and political philosophy. The book discusses two forms of natural knowledge that Bacon takes up and develops in the New Atlantis: natural magic, and medicine. The modern project is crucially dependent on two fundamental miracles: the miracle of creation and the miracle of divine revelation. The book also analyses Bacon's representations of colonialism and Jewishness in the New Atlantis has revealed. The New Atlantis raises questions concerning the relationship between censorship and knowledge.
This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Heywood and
Richard Brome’s The Late Lancashire Witches. Heywood’s previous interest in
witchcraft (as shown in his previous works Gynaeikon and The Hierarchy of
the Blessed Angels) and other discussion of witchcraft from the period
provide the intellectual context. It is argued that both context and play
demonstrate an increasingly prevalent bifurcation in attitudes towards
witchcraft: individual cases of witchcraft are treated with much greater
scepticism than previously, but belief in witchcraft in general remains an
important cornerstone of religious faith for most orthodox Christians. While
the play maintains the reality of witchcraft as a demonic pact in one
important scene, it also reveals the growing scepticism of the contemporary
malevolent virus, Gothic narratives have escaped the confines of
literature and spread across disciplinary boundaries to infect
all kinds of media … Gothic texts deal with a variety of
themes just as pertinent to contemporaryculture as to the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
these questions aﬀect contemporary political and social dilemmas has
rarely been adequately addressed, because too many recent theories of contemporaryculture have relied on a model in which power or the symbolic order is the
ultimate determining factor in the constitution of modern subjectivity. Although
insertion into language does undermine the notion of a purely spontaneous,
‘immediate’ self, the mediation of the self by language does not per se, as
Schleiermacher shows, obviate the possibility of linguistic innovation and selfdetermination within – and possibly
important role in engaging with virtually
any area of modern society.1
Bowie’s case, that without ‘an orientation towards understanding the truth-potential
in art that is more than ideology, many of the most essential issues concerning the significance of art cannot even be discussed’,2 is, we would like to argue, compelling. Art
is inextricably tied to the politics of contemporaryculture, and has been throughout
modernity. Aesthetic specificity is not, however, entirely explicable, or graspable, in
terms of another conceptual scheme or genre of
Contemporary ‘British’ cinema and the nation’s monarchs
definition colours the way in which these
royal films work – as historical dramas, they take us back to an earlier
period, and sometimes to a pre-industrial space, and rely heavily on a
sense of tradition and convention. But as films, they are part of
the modern industrialised culture of consumption.
How then do these various films function in contemporaryculture? To tackle this question it is necessary to
University of Aberdeen and to be known
from January 2001 as the AHRB Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies in
recognition of an impressive grant from that body) have produced
excellent multidisciplinary research, it would appear that scholars are still
most confident when working with identifiable cross-border connections – such as neglected political networks in Scottish and Irish history,
for example, or in shared cultural frameworks – than tracing intersections in contemporaryculture and literature. We hope therefore that
this book contributes to critical analysis
Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1983 ).
Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory , vol.
1: The Past and Present in ContemporaryCulture (London and
New York: Verso, 1994 ); Raphael Samuel and
Paul Thompson (eds), The Myths We Live By (London and New
James Fentress and Chris Wickham, Social
Memory (Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992 ), 25.
See Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory ,
vol. 1: Past and Present in ContemporaryCulture (London and
New York: Verso, 1994).