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January 1994


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"Norman N. Holland" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 30 Jan 1994 15:04:09 EST
text/plain (54 lines)
Cal Pryluck raises some interesting points in response to my hasty plea
for a spectator-response approach to film study analogous to reader-response
in literary studies.  Let me answer point by point.
1) I don't think I said anything about psychoanslysis in my remarks, altho
obviously psychoanalytic theories of character would be one useful way of
looking at spectators of film.  But, as long as Cal chooses to plug
psychoanalysis in--
2)  Cal opposes "psychoanalysis" and "experimental," but this is not a
true opposition.  There are substantial books (books, mind you) surveying
the very large literature testing and sometimes confirming, sometimes dis-
confirming, psychanalytic hypotheses.  (See Paul Kline; Seymour Fisher and
somebody Greenberg; the annual survey edited by Joseph Masling.)  The notion
that psychoanalysis is either untested or untestable is a canard circulated
by Fred Crews and his ilk.
3) Cal asks for an explanation of his experimental results, duplicating
Kuleshov.  Alas, I don't have his paper.  Can he supply?
4) Possibly one way of approaching the question would be to ask, What would
an experiment testing Kuleshov from a spectator-response point of view look
like?  Well, I'm going to guess that Cal's experiment did something like
this.  His grad students showed a film that contained feature X.  They then
questionnaired some spectators about X, let's say, how they interpreted it
or how important they thought it.  The experimenters then correlated
the questionnaire results with, say, the number of frames that showed X or
the number of times X appeared.  In other words, they tried correlating
the physical film and the final sense of it in the spectator's mind.
  Suppose we were to take feature X, just as a feature (a woman's
face, say) rather than as so many frames, and correlate that with aspects
of the spectator's personality.  I have a hunch the results would be more
interesting and maybe more conclusive.
  I have in mind an experiment that is going on right now.  It correlates
men's approval of homophobic statements with their response to *subliminally*
presented photos of nude men and nude women.  Not surprisingly, those who
are most enthusiastically homophobic also are most aware of and pleased by
pictures of nude men.  The correlation is very high.  Now suppose we tried
to correlate the enthusiasm for the homophobic statements with the number
of times the statement was presented or how big the printing was or whatever.
It seems to me not nearly as well thought out an idea of how and why dif-
ferent people respond differently to homophobic statements.
   To put the matter in filmic terms, suppose we were interested in how
different people responded to the homosexual kiss in _Philadelphia_.  Which
is likely to be more relevant, the number of frames devoted to the kiss or
the attitudes toward homosexuality of this or that particular spectator?
This is what I meant by a spectator-response approach.
| Norman N. Holland       Marston-Milbauer Professor of English     |
| University of Florida   Gainesville FL 32611  Tel: (904) 377-0096 |
| BITNET: nnh@nervm       INTERNET: [log in to unmask]         |