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July 1997, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mike Frank <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 20 Jul 1997 11:48:31 -0400
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
TEXT/PLAIN (55 lines)
steven anderson writes:
  "Without some explanation of why Mike Frank finds it "sinister" to question
 the authority of a text, his post contributes nothing to this discussion"
and i certainly apologize to steven and to anyone else my post puzzled; i
thought, presumptuously no doubt, that its premises were all too evident . . .
let me be more clear . . .
liz weis wrote:
  "There is no definitive sound track . . . "
-- which suggests that there is not, and in principle there cannot be, any
one single absolute definitive version of a film that counts as foundational
and to which all commentaries have to turn for validation . . .
thus i wrote that the implication of this fact, which i do not for a moment
doubt, is that
 "the whole notion of an authoritative text makes no sense . . . i know i
 shouldn't but i find this a touch sinister"
in saying this i was hardly disagreeing with liz, merely mocking the
predilection of some students of film [including me] who, because of the kind
of training we had, tend always to look to and for the authoritative texts as
the wellsrping of our work . . . it's what we have instead of [or--perhaps--in
addition to] god . . .
now, as is all too well known, everything that's happened in criticism since
may of 1968 has aimed at destroying not only all foundations but the very
notion of a foundation as the authoritative source of anything . . . indeed it
has worked to eliminate the very idea of the "authoritative" which surely died
and was buried along with the author . . .
. . . all liz, who knows much more about these things than i do, did was point
to one indisputable "fact" that provides more evidence of the impossibility of
the quest for certainty . . . what, to me, is sinister about this is that
it throws a powerful inquisitorial light on the whole enterprise of
criticism . . . the uncertainty and instability that results is appealing to
some people . . . unfortunately because of some no doubt terrible flaw of
character i myself really don't like it very much at all . . .
i do hope that steven will forgive me for the hubris of sharing my own
peculiar idiosyncratic weakness with the list, perhaps in the desperate hope
that someone out there shares it with me
mike frank
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