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February 1994


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Dirk Eitzen <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 2 Feb 1994 10:56:58 -0500
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>> You wish to deny that you and I (the receiver and sender of this
>> message) are separate beings?  Or are you one of those folks who insist
>> that you are no more than a product of your culture--a sign, if you will?
>> If so, what do you do about that bundle of cells you call a body?
>No Dirk, I am quite happy to admit that you and I are separate beings.
>What I mean is that in terms of a model of how film signifies, or of how
>texts in general do I thing the sender message receiver paradigm is
>useless. In my veiw when I am engaged with a text as receiver I am
>partially constituted by the text itself. This is merely a nice
>phenomenological view.
It's clear we're into serious philosophical differences here that will not
be resolved on Screen-L.  My view is that we (film scholars) have become
rather too comfortable with a model of communication that is just as
limited and limiting (perhaps more apt terms than 'untenable') as the
"naive" sender - message - receiver paradigm (which is, anyway, like the
"positivism" you deride, kind of a straw man).
What does it mean to say that, "when I am engaged with a text as a receiver
I am partially constituted by the text itself"?  Is that something like
saying that when I eat broccoli I am partially constituted by it?...
Actually, I _know_ what it means.  Don't explain.  The problem is that I
find it patently oversimple--as oversimple as the old sender - message -
receiver paradigm-- yet, while no one would dream of bandying about "naive"
terms like "message" without qualification, we too frequently have no
trouble saying things like "subjects are constituted in and through
discourse."  While I have no doubt that discourse does have an important
impact on subject-formation, both in the short term of textual reception
and in the long term of personality development, I am one who nevertheless
categorically denies that subjects are "constituted" in textual reception
or, even, in social discourse.  Subjects are always, in large part
_pre_constituted by their genes, among other things.  Our innate
predisposition to learn language, the shape of the body with which we
interact with the world, the chemical constitution of our brain..., these
are things that are "constituted" before any particular "reading"-- indeed,
before any social interaction.
I am not saying you are wrong, Louis.  I'm just saying let's not be too
sure of ourselves or too reliant upon accepted jargon. How we model
communication depends, in part, upon what we are trying to accomplish.  The
semiotic, culture-centered model is useful for certain things but it is
very limiting if we want to examine, for example, how texts come to "mean"
particular things in specific discourse situations.  For that, new versions
of the old "naive" process-based model (such as sociolinguistics and
ordinary language philosophy) are far more useful.
>>  Phenomenology and cognitive science are interested in
>> the register of experience.  For psychoanalysis, experience is not to be
>> taken at face value....
>This analysis of Phsychoanalysis sounds like it was taken from a text
Thank you.
>Ever read Lacan?
Yes indeed.  Regrettably, I cannot count it as one of the more formative
"experiences" of my life.  I don't buy a great deal of psychoanalytic
theory but I do take it seriously and acknowledge the importance of the
avenues of research and reflection that it has opened up for film scholars.
 (In case you happen to be interested in a more lengthy discourse on my
opinions about psychoanalytic film theory, I invite you to read my article
in the forthcoming issue of PostScript.)
>Psychoanalysis posits *Eperienec* such that it need not be felt by the
>subject undergoping it, Freaud's famous pleaure that is not felt.
A kind of unexperienced experience, if you will.  I don't call this
experience.  Neither, for that matter, does Webster.  (I just checked.)  On
the other hand, I don't doubt that there is all kinds of stuff beneath the
surface of awareness that contributes to our _felt_ experience-- perhaps
even pleasure that is not felt.  Is this distinction (between felt
experience and unfelt experience) a "reduction" of experience, as you say,
or a useful distinction?  I suppose it depends, again, on what one wishes
to discover.  My impression is that until recently, most film scholars have
been relatively uninterested in the question of felt experience.  I
understand why this is: an interest in ideology, in exploring the
unacknowledged roles that power plays in discourse....  Still, I see the
result as a rather large hole in recent film scholarship that merits some