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.
exemplarity to remind us that, for moral perfectionism, the act of interpreting is prioritized over the interpretation. By, then, reading this claim alongside the work of Jacques Rancière, I will emphasize his claim that spectators are always already engaged in such interpretation, but too often do not trust the legitimacy or authority of their own interpretation over that of others
, songs, memoirs, paintings, performances and other narratives in our united states of life. As you also know, I have been deeply influenced by Cavell’s understanding of film, and his understanding of skepticism and its relationship to moral perfectionism. I guess that this background is one reason I have been asked to be a respondent to your letter to Professor Cavell and your
lessons about marriage or moral perfectionism from The Americans , a show in which beautiful super-spies don disguises, fight villains, seduce informants and then return to their normal suburban home to nag their kids about homework and screen time. The premise seems so pulpy that I am sometimes embarrassed to publicly profess my love for the show. The Americans differs
60 61 62 63 64 65 Readings Ibid., p. 67. Ibid., p. 86. Ibid., p. 89. Ibid., p. 24. Ibid., p. 89. Ibid., p. 174. In the convolutions of my phrasing here I am aiming to suggest that American Pastoral belongs to the collection of works which operate in accordance with the idea of ‘moral perfectionism’ as argued for in the writings of S. Cavell, especially his Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990). In Cavell’s tight phrasing of the idea, the field of moral perfectionism is
either thy scar would have been seen or my art misliked.’ Whereby I gather that in all perfect works as well the fault as the face is to be shown. 42 Alexander is depicted constructing an image of bodily and moral perfection, given that physical appearance could be taken as an indicator of moral character in the early modern
This chapter 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 1757, Jean d'Alembert wrote an entry on "Genève" in the seventh volume of the Encyclopédie, the great encapsulation of the Enlightenment, of which he was also one of the general editors. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva, had contributed many entries to the Encyclopédie on music and political economy and was well known as a composer and patron of the theater. Determined to oppose Voltaire's suggestion that theater represented cultural and political progress, he wrote a public letter to his editor and friend. It was published in 1758 as Letter to M. d'Alembert on the Theatre. It provoked an extended public exchange and represented Rousseau's permanent break from d'Alembert, Diderot and all his former Enlightenment allies.