David Bordwell vs Slavoj Žižek
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
These are July 2006 notes on David Bordwell vs Slavoj Žižek.
David Bordwell and Slavoj Žižek criticize each other. David Bordwell rejects hermeneutic (interpretive) approaches such as structuralism and Lacanian psychoanalytical film theory and proposes a different approach: neoformalism. Slavoj Žižek dislikes neoformalism. Judging by the meaning of formalism in literary theory which by its very nature focuses more on form and style rather than content and context, and the fact that formalism somewhat parallels the theories of cultural pessimist F. R. Leavis I'm inclined to dislike neoformalism as well. But it is too soon to judge David Bordwell, from what I've read of him on genre theory he seems well-informed and spoken.
One can understand David Bordwell in his criticism of some of the language used by those he rejects.
In this article which reviews Slavoj Žižek's The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory (London: BFI, 2001), Bordwell attacks the opaqueness of Screen theory:
- "The problem is to understand the terms of the construction of the subject and the modalities of the replacement of this construction in specific signifying practices, where "replacement" means not merely the repetition of the place of that construction but also, more difficultly, the supplacement-the overplacing: supplementation or, in certain circumstances, supplantation (critical interruption)-of that construction in the place of its repetition. --Ben Brewster, Stephen Heath, and Colin MacCabe, "Comment," Screen 16, 2 (Summer 1975), 87. "
Try wikifying that!
But my defense here is for Slavoj Žižek. The documentary which I've mentioned in a previous post is interesting. And the best bit about Žižek is that he uses films as examples of his theories. I know of no other philosopher or cultural critic that uses films to the extent that he does. Other scholars stick to books to explain the human condition. And today, how sad that may be for the book world, if you want to refer to common fictional experiences, you almost have to use films rather than books. How many people all over the world have seen Psycho, or at least the shower scene? How many people have read American Psycho? Much less. How many have seen it? A lot more. It makes you wonder whether there is a case to be made for the hegemony of visual culture.
Trying to analyze the differences between Bordwell and Žižek, would it be possible that Bordwell represents the "analytical" side of film theory and film philosophy and Žižek the "continental philosophy" side?
Or is this conclusion untenable in the light that the distinction between analytical and continental philosophy is worthless. The the subject matter of continental philosophy is capable of being studied using the now-traditional tools of analytic philosophy. If this is true, the phrase "analytic philosophy" might be redundant, or maybe normative, as in "rigorous philosophy". The phrase "continental philosophy", like "Greek philosophy", would denote a certain historical period or series of schools in philosophy: German idealism, Marxism, psychoanalysis qua philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, and post-structuralism.