This article traces the "dialogue" between the work of the philosophers Luce Irigaray and Emmanuel Levinas. It attempts to construct a more nuanced discussion than has been given to date of Irigaray's critique of Levinas, particularly as formulated in "Questions to Emmanuel Levinas" (Irigaray 1991). It suggests that the concepts of the feminine and of voluptuosity articulated by Levinas have more to contribute to Irigaray's project of an ethics of sexual difference than she herself sometimes appears to think.
This article reassesses the concept of identification in line with the increased importance phenomenology has taken on in film-philosophy of the 1990s and 2000s. In the 1970s and 1980s, a Lacanian psychoanalytic interpretation of identification dominated film theory and criticism, and spectatorial engagement with elements of films was understood as what psychoanalysis calls secondary identification – the identification with stable subject-positions (characters) in the film-text. But non-Lacanian psychoanalysis and Merleau-Ponty’s existential phenomenology offer film-philosophy a very different understanding of identification as (...) a non image-based, ‘blind’, bodily affective tie that is established between spectators and what Vivian Sobchack describes as ‘the sense and sensibility of materiality itself’ (Sobchack 2004, 65). By first exploring how this more bodily (for psychoanalysis, primary ) identification is theorized by psychoanalysts (Freud, Paul Schilder, Henri Wallon) and by film theorists (Kaja Silverman), the article proposes that film criticism make greater use of it in order to engage more meaningfully with the visible cultural specificities – size, skin colour, age, sex – of the images of bodies viewed on cinema screens. It is not just ‘the’ body that needs bringing back into thinking about film spectatorship, but culturally differentiated bodies , both on the screen and in the auditorium. A psychoanalytic and phenomenological film criticism of embodied cultural identity, one that attends to the materiality of the film and of the body-images and objects on the screen, may be the most culturally and politically useful successor to ‘screen’ theory of the 1970s and 1980s. (shrink)
Through a discussion of Agnès Varda's career from 1954 to 2008 that focuses particularly on La Pointe Courte (1954), L'Opéra-Mouffe (1958), The Gleaners and I (2000), and The Beaches of Agnes (2008), this article considers the connections between Varda's filmmaking and her femaleness. It proposes that two aspects of Varda's cinema—her particularly perceptive portrayal of a set of geographical locations, and her visual and verbal emphasis on female embodiment—make a feminist existential-phenomenological approach to her films particularly fruitful. Drawing both directly (...) on the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and on some recent film- and feminist-theoretical texts that have employed his insights, it explores haptic imagery and feminist strategy in The Gleaners and I, the materialization of space characterizing Varda's blurring of fiction and documentary, and the dialectical relationship of people with their environment often observed in her cinema. It concludes that both Varda's female protagonists and the director herself may be said to perform feminist phenomenology in her films, in their actions, movement, and relationship to space, and in the carnality of voice and vision with which Varda's own subjectivity is registered within her film-texts. (shrink)
This article introduces some contemporary philosophical approaches to vulnerability including that of Judith Butler, while focusing on feminist legal theorist Martha Albertson Fineman's concept of the vulnerable subject, developed out of Fineman's earlier critiques of the autonomous, self-sufficient subject of liberal political philosophy. It then looks closely at the different forms of vulnerability exhibited by the leading protagonists of Mia Hansen-Løve's All Is Forgiven, Father of My Children, Goodbye First Love, Eden and Maya, all of whom except one are men, (...) drawing on Lawrence Schehr's writing about French postmodern masculinities and work by Geneviève Sellier on the changing dynamics of heterosexual gender relations in French cinema in order to forge an account of vulnerable male bodies and masculinities appropriate to the contemporary context of the films discussed. To conclude, it returns to Fineman to suggest that her at least implicitly feminist concept of the vulnerable subject can offer a more persuasive account of the gendered character of vulnerability in Hansen-Løve's films than can Butler's recent ethical writings. (shrink)
This article adds philosopher Judith Butler to the list of thinkers whose work underpins the interest in ethics and/in film that began in earnest in the 2000s. Beginning with Precarious Life: Powers of Mourning and Violence, Butler has published several volumes that blend ethical thinking with moral theory and political philosophy, focusing on the concepts of precariousness and vulnerability. This article suggests that two films directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, Bamako and Timbuktu, as dramas of precariousness and vulnerability respectively, can inform (...) thinking about cinematic ethics: the staging of a trial of global institutions in Bamako dramatizes the possible universalization of an ethic of precarity, while in Timbuktu the condemnation to death of a Tuareg shepherd by Ansar Dine, the militant Islamist group that occupied parts of Mali in 2012, allows Sissako to give full rein to his talent for filming the vulnerability of both victims and oppressors. (shrink)