Carroll-Noel-Prospects-for-Film-Theory

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Unformatted text preview: r2- 2%)} Prospects f0 Fil Teoy: A Personal Assessment Noel Carroll Introduction: The Theory Is Dead, Long Live Theory The rapid expansion of the film studies institutan over the last two decades in the _LInited States was undoubtedly abetted, in one way or another, by something called 'film theory, or, as its acolytes are apt to say, simply Theory — a classy continental umber, centrally composed of elements_ot'Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, and Roland arthes, often with optional features derived, often incongruously, From Michel Foucault, julia Kfisteva, Pierre Bourtliou, Gilles Deleuze, and (majbe sometimes) Ia Lies Derrida, along with contributions from French cinéphiles like Christian 1. I “The director turning die camera on file audience who is watching his film," from Man With A Movie Camera. Vie 2, Raymond Bellour, and Jean—Louis Baurlr)’, although generally filtered, atlheit math- 3 difference, through axe-gems like Stephen Heath, Kaja Silvernian, and Teresa aureus. [1” » ‘rsities regarded film studies programs as an economic: hoon1 liker to spur and. and, in this context, Theory, so called, played an economic role in legitimating _I'_Ination of film programs. For What went by the name of Theory was surel)r e enough to convince an uninformed administrator or a hesitant trustee that film was at least as complex intellectually as string theory, DNA, or hypotheses u massive parallel processing. ' r‘th r it was necessary to enh'anehisu film studies in this way is an open question. i tend to think) market forces alone would haw sufficed to estahlish the in— But, in any case, Theory appears to have played the ideological-institutional afranchiser, evun if the role was ultimately an epiphenomenal one. Further e expectation of gold in “them thar hills” also encouraged too many university tO- Unrest in film publications, especially when the arcane peregrinations of £3 ilitated their rationalization of their relaxation of their traditional role as atekeepers. Hence film studies has been flooded with repetitive decoetions 'n search of‘ thr same market in much the same way that consumers are tla so many marginally differentiated shampoos. Prospectrfir Film Them}! III 11 12 Ill Noel Carroll Interestingly, now that film studies scems ensconced in American universities 7 with TV studies and cultural studies queuing up behind it for legitimation —‘ Theery lOOlis to be on the wane. Certainly people like myself would like to imagine that this is a re, sult of the recognition that the Theory has been soundly refuted, though even 1 would have to concede that more accurate explanations may be that Theory has outlived its academic utility or that it has merely run out of gas (that is, exhausted itself). But, in any case, however the demise of Theory came about, as it continues to petrify, it becomes appropriate to speculate about whether theorizing 7 in a small “t,” not-av proper-name sort of way — is possible. For even if Theory is dead, one wonders Whether theorizing about film has a future. Given these circumstances, it is the aim of this essay to explore the prospects for film theory. In order to approach this subject, I shall begin by sketching [ . . . ] What 1 take to be major obstacles to film dieorizing at present, many of which are legacies of the Theory alluded. to above. It is my conviction that as long as these obstacles continue to grip the imaginations of scholars, fi'uitful theorizing about film will be unlikely. I will also attempt, in a more abbreviated way, to provide a minimal characterization of what I take to be the most useful framework that we might employ for film the— orizing today. Lastly, I Will look at the Consequences of adopting that framework for the leading debates (or, maybe, one (if the only debates) among assessing one of die rivalry between psychoanalytic film theory contemporary film theorists, namely: and cognitive theory. [ . . . ] lmpediments to Film Theorizinq In theory. The history of film theorizing, it seems to me, has i. Monolithic conceptions been dominated by a conception of what a film theory should be in terms of the model which conclusions about of a unified body of ideas with certain core propositions from in various ways, once certain empirical possibilities are con lrn theory foundationalist. thetmy stand in the w ay concrete cases follow sidered. Metaphorically, We might call such a. construal of fi It is my contention that such monolithic conceptions of film of productive theorizing about film, which theorizing might be best construed in terms of producing film theories rather than Film Theory. Film theory, as most frequently practiced. heretofore, has been singular; a film was generally conceived to be a rather comprehensive instrument that was sup— theory question you might have about film. This posed to answer virtually every legitimate view naturally contrasts with a View of our arena of inquiry as plural, that is, a that commends thinking in terms of film theories rather than in terms of film theory. than theorizing about every element of film style in light of a set of bout the purported commitment view That is, rather limited theoretical presuppositions 7 for example, a of the medium to a realism or about its inevitable ideological destiny to suture — one might proceed by constructing local theories — for example, of film suspense, of film memphor, of camera movement, or narrative comprehension, and even of the rhetoric of ideology 7 without expecting that these small—scale theories can be collected and g '3 3? unified under an overm‘cbing set of presuppositions about either the nature or function of cinema. [ . . . i This View of film theorizing conflicts sharply with certain of the must tradifional preconceptions of film theory. What is often called classical film theorv not only con- ceptualizes the activity as Film Theory, but as Film Theory 7 that is: as committed to medium specificity in such a. Way that whatever counts as lheorizing about film must be connected to features of the medium that are drought to be uniquely or essentially cinematic. Film Theory must pertain to What is distinctly cinematic, otherwise it shall not count as film Lheory but as somedllng else, like narrative theory. Admittedly, narrow, essentialist views of film theory of this sort are infrequenth voiced nowadays. However, Where they remain influential, as they do in the work the psyd‘ioanalytic film theorist Christian Mth and in the conception of photography of Roland Barthes and his cinematic followers, they are impediments to film theorv and need to be dismantled dialectically. ll Of course, the greatest problem with essentialist film theorv is that it gives everv jndimLion of being false. But at the very least, another problem with essentialist filrfi theory is that it blinkers the theoretical imagination by liJniting what questions are the correct ones to ask about cinema. Yet, especially since cinematic essentialisrn seems philosophically dispensable, there appears to be scant reason to abide its restrictions. instead of thinking of film dieory as a unified, single theory, it might be better to think of it as a field of activity, perhaps like sociological theory, where many different projects theories of homelessness in America, of generic social cohesion, of class con, flict in India, of the resurgence of religious fundamentalism worldwide -- of (fillerent levels of generality and abstraction coexist without being subsumed under a single gen- eral theory. Similarly, film dieoriring today should proceed at varying levels of general- ity and abstraction. I Even if some day, film ilieoriring might be organized into a general theorv (which SeEms unlikely to me), nevertheless we are hardly in a position to frame surlra theorv now, since we know so little at this time. And, in any event, the only way that we shall come to know more is by developing small-scale theories about virtually evcrv imagin- able aspect of film. J J a] FiLmdlheorji-Ejrgg, as I have argued elsewhere, should be piecemeal. But it should 50 e ivers' e . Insofar as theorists a roach film from m r " ‘ different. levels of abstraction and gengfialit ' their will ha:n)tMerfinlhanglesa'fmm multidisciplinary frameworks Som 'll bl HI 6 O Elva emselles 0f toward econoniirs While 0111;“ Fee clues’oons a out rn may send the researcher I I . , quire a look Into perceptual psychology. In other Instances, socrology, political science, anthropology, communications theory lin- guistics, artificial intelligence, biology, or narrative theory may provide the initial which the film theorist requires in order to begin to evolve theories of pch of film. [ . . . 1 m1V:Z1;::ft:ih::l:1::l:ing film theory is that it is a general answer to a general question . nu phenomenon which we think, pretheoretieally, falls into the Prospecrrfor Film Theory ll. 14 ESE Noel Carroll hailiwiek of film. Such inquiry is theoreticai because it is: general, and it is film $001")? since we can ask so many differ- beeause it pertains to [limit practice. Furthermore, lLlI' ~11eral questions about film, there is no common ieature that all of i Sonic theoretical questions about film - for may have answers that primarilv advert to Cine em kinds of gt answers should be expected to share. example, about cinematic perception - rms and ‘structures, whereas other rliilerent answers to dillerent questions ematii: lo some theories may be formal, while others might refer to economic i'nrces. That is, may be social. Our collection of film theories may vcrv well comprise a mixed bag. T here simply is no reason to think that every film theory will have st'nnething to tell us about the same subject — sutli as the way in which each and every aspect. of film figures in the op ssion or emancipation of the film Viewer. lu-l A Framework for Fiim Theorizinq conviction that Criticism is integral to film theorv. In this, i am I have just indicated my but that, like most other forms of theoretical not claiming film theory is distinctive, inquirv, it proceeds dialectically. Theories are framed Lu specific historical eontexts of research for the purpose of answering certain questionsJ and the relative strengths of theories are assured bv comparing the answers they afford to the answers proposed lw alternative theories. This conception of theorv evaluation is pragmatic because: (I) it compares actual, existing rival answers to the questions at hand (rather than overs; logically“ conceivable answer); and (2) because it focus s on solutions to con- text'uallv motivated theoretical problems (rather than searching for answers to an}: conceivable question one might have about, cinema). Speaking as a selfiappointed reii'n‘mer, I wish to emphasize the need For Elm theor- more conscious of its dialectical responsibilities. W'here iiirn theory icing to become blurs into film criticism, there is the ever-present danger that theoretical premises will 1 —- as eiiectivelv inoculated from criticism 7 "rod, once so assumed, be taken as give: then used to generate “interesting” he focused on these premises, that the and that alternative answers to the questions these analyzed. through dialectical comparison with each other. i . . . 1 Theory building (which may be theory-laden). theories. Apprised of the shortcomings in past theor try to find more satisfactory answers to - the questions that drive theoren'eal activity. Sometimes advances involve incremental ' improvements within existing paradigms; sometimes new paradigms are required to. accommodate the lacunae made evident by the anomalies that be questions need to be redefined; sometimes the; interpretations, Mv concern is that more attention v hr: sul'ijected to intense theoretical criticism, theories address be developed and builds on previous histories of theorizing as well as upon data Present theories are formulated in the context of past : , through processes of continued -- scrutiny and criticism, present them set previous theoria-i ing. Sometimes the drivng theoretical need to be broken down into more manageable questions; sometimes these: questions need to be recast radically. And all this requires a tree and open discursive context one in which criticism is not the exception, but the rule. ’ r Methodologically, as [ have already mdicated, I believe that in the present context piecemeal theorizing is the way to go. In many cases, this means breaking down some of the presiding questions o’r'the 'l'heury into more manageable. questioi‘lglor example, about the EOml’irclithit'nl of point-of—view editing, instead of global questions about something vaguely called suture. As compelling answers are developed to smalliscale, delimited questions, we may he in a position to think about whether these answers can be unified in a more comprehensive theoretical framework. The considerations here on behalf oi piecemeal theorizing are practical, not Pllfioe sophiral. For it is my hunch that w e do not yet know enough to heuin to evolve a unified theory, or even the questions that might lead to a unified thetii‘v. So, for the duration, let us concentrate on more manageable, smalliscale tl‘liioi‘izirm: Perhaps one day we will be in a position to Frame a unified or comprehensive theorvbol' film. l have Hi6. no argument to show that this is not possible. But whether our theories are large. eal component. or piecemeal. the process oi theorizing will ale-"M's have a dialer; B}: emphasizing the dialectical dimension of theorizing, one concedes that it is his, torical. For debates will be relative to the (lisputauts involved and the situated ques— tions that perplex them. Thus, film theorizing under the auspices of the dialecticai model does not pretend to the discovery of Absolute 'l‘ruth. The theoretical answvrs it advances are shaped in response to the existing questions it answurs and refines and to the perspectives and theoretical interests that are inscribed in those questions. More over, insofar as a dialectical conception of lihn theorizing admits that tlicoi'izirm evolves over time, the dialectical Him theorist must be aware that his or her theorie: mar be open to revision as the debate matures. [ . . . j d Nevertheless, in conceding the historicity and revisahility of theories, [ have not given up truth as a regulative ideal for film ThCO'L‘lP'lTIg, For the fact that theorizing has a luster)? does not compromise the pass bility of discovering What is the case, since that histor}r may involve, among other things, the stu essive elimination of CI‘L‘or. .. .4. . r r , r ' 1 La .hermoi e, the fact that we are. constantly re Sing our theories in the liuht of cork ’ b tinned cri ' 'sm and new evidence does not preclude the. possibility that our theories are getting closer and closer to the. truth. [ . . . J Moreover, there 1'5 n0 pcrbu’dSiVE reason to concede that we cannot also craft fihn theories in the here and now that are am)!‘ DXlll’ltttt‘, fl'llE . m Hie-dialectical conception of film theory that i am advocating 1'5 E3011 “Hint With h was in the postpositivist philosophy of science. it respects the Kuhnian, mtll)05iti\'ibl. emphasis on the importance of historical and social contexts for inquirv. It is also not , iositivir F ‘ . ‘ .. - ‘ 1 \t u] that it concei .s of the process of theoretieai argumentation as situated as a tltivi‘ .\ -. - - L} L: betWtLu exnstmg rlvals, rather than as a debate between even: conceivable lot). v. m -- . r . t _ 4‘ 1 _ ] Cllt a court, oi hi“)- rational partlclpants, endowed with full information. lam )r - ' . Mn U l ‘3bumlflg that what can be clanned for science rnav be claimed event allv for E No v T .‘ r ‘ * " 1”, Alas does not mean that I think that film theory is a science, or that it Prospects'for Film Theory $59 15 1 6 I I I Noé'l Carroll can he or should be transformed into one, though l do think that there may be CSITalT‘I questions of film theory 7 perhaps concerning perception — that may be pursued scienb ifically. Rather, I invoke discussions about scientific methodology in prostrlytif'lng fDI‘ a dialectical conception of film theory, not because I believe film theory is a natural science, but only because the philowpby of science provides us with some of our best models for understanding theoretical inquiry. Undoubtedly, some will dismiss my suggestions on the ground-s that i an) confuse ing film theory with natural science. Let me say now that this is a misinterpretation. What I am saying is: let us take advantage of the insights derived from reflection on the scientific enterprise in order to think about what the structure of our own practice might be. we should not attempt to slavisth imitate any of the natural sciences. ‘We need to be alert to the special features of our own field of inquiry, and to modiFy our methods appropriately. And yet we may still derive some useful hints about the process of inquiry by listening to sophisticated discussions about science. [ - » - l Nowadays, humanists, including film scholars, express misgivings about science because they claim that: it parades its findings as if they were infallible This is merely a variation on the argument from Absolute Truth. [ . . . J The argument begins by noting, as l have, that scientific theories are historically situated and revisahlc. Hence, again for reasons i have already produced, scientific theories cannot. pretend to Absolute Truth. Therefore, they are arbitrary. In effect, we are presented with a dis- junctive syllogism: either scientific theories are absolutely true or they are arbitrary. They are not absolutely true; so they are arbitrary. And if they are arbitrary, why shouid they or the methodologies that yield them he privileged? But as is always the case with such arguments, the conclusion depends on canvassing all the viable alternatives. And in this instance, it is easy to see that there are over— looked options. One is What is called fallilii'lfsm, which [ would contend provides a much better framework for comprehending scientific practice than the allegation that it aspires to infallibility. The fallibilist agrees that he or she may have to revise his or her theories in light of fittiue evidence or in response to the implications of later theoretical develop, ments, because the fallibilist realizes that theories are at best wellejustified and that. a wellejustified theory may turn out to be false. There is no claim to Absolute Truth here. But that docs not entail that the theories in question are arbitrary. For we are not open to revising our theories in any which way, but only in virtue of the best available, transcultural standards of justification, that is, ones that have a reliable track record. The fallibilist does not believe that we can revise all our theories and methods at once. He or she accepts the possibility that any subset thereof might be revised in the appropriate circumstances, and even that all. our thcories mi ght be revised, but only ad seriatim. Theories and methods are revisahle. They do not yield Absolute Truth. But they are not: arbitrary either. For they are only revisahlc in accordance with practices that, though themselves incrementally revisable, have a reliable_record for tracking the truth. The truth, here, where we do secure it, is approximate truth, in the garden at is valiety sense of the term, not; Absolute Truth. But if we can conceive ofstience in such a way that detaches it from pretensions to Absolute Truth, then taking note of its failure to deliver Absolute Truth should not dispose us to dismiss it as arbitrary. [ . A . 1 l have spent so much time sparring with contemporary academic skepticism about science for two reasons: first, because in the current context of debate, any proposal, lilte mine, that a framework for aesthetic theorizing might profit from thinking about scientific theorizing is apt to elicit an infemperate rejoinder on the basis of one or more of the considerations 1 have just attempted to undercut; and second, because it is frequently alleged that cognitivism . . . l is an attempt to turn film theory into scie enee, and, therefore, cognitivism can be "refitted" handily by the preceding skeptical arguments about the integrity of science. But i contend that these arguments refute nothing. [ . . . } Many of these arguments begin, as 1 do, with an acknowledgment of the insights of postpositivist philosophy of science. However, where many humanists and film scholars often take these insights to imply the arbitrariness of science, 1 try to exploit them in favor of a view of science as a dialectical, incremean process for securing approxim— ate truths tlTu'ough practices of, among other things, error elimination and criticism. Furthermore, this very broad conception of inquiry may be fruitful to our thinking about fihn theory. In order to test its usefulness and to descend from the preceding perhaps unduly rarefied stratosphere of abstraction, 1 shall apply this conception of die dialectical fi'amework for fihn theory to a contemporary question, namely, the issue of cognitivisrn. Cognitivism versus Psychoanalysis Psychoanalysis, conjoined with Marxism and later blended with various other radical, political perspectives, has dominated film theorizing for two decades. in the eighties, an approach to film theorizing, labeled cognitiv‘ism, began to take shape as an alteme afive to psychoanalysis. Cognitivism is not; a unified theory. Its name derives from its tendency to look for alternative answers to many of the questions addressed by or raised by psychoanalytic. film theories, especially with respect to film reception, in terms of cognitive and rational processes rather than irrational or unconscious ones. This might involve explicit reference to cognitive and perceptual psychology or to AngloeAInericau-st'yle linguistics rather than to psychoanalysis. Or the hypotheses might be more homemade. l - a - l Cognitivisrn is not. a unified theory, not; only because the theoretical domains cognib ‘ ivists explore differ, but because cognitivist film theorists, like cognitive psychologists, may disagree about which proposals of the competing cognitiv‘ist proposals best suit the data, So, once cognitivists stop arguing with psychoanalysts, they will have to argue with each other. And this is why it: is a mistake to imagine that cognitivism is a single, unified theory. it is a stance. Proxpecscfar Film Them)? III 17 However, it is a stance that has increasingly come to define itself as an alternative to psychoanalysis in film studies. It advances its hypotheses, as diverse and as discordant- 35 they may be, by claiming to characterize or to explain phenomena better than extant psychoanalytic theories. Cognitivists have increasingly come to conceptualize thitil“ project dialectically. Cognitivists take their task to be a matter of answering certain quest-ions about film, especially about film reception and comprehension, most of which questions have already been asked or at least acknowledged by psychoanalytic film theorists. Hut cogrritirrists claim that they do a better job answering those questions than psychoanalytic film theorists have. [ . . . ] [ A . , ] Theories compel assent, at least provisionally, by demonstrating that they provide certain explanatory advantages and solutions to certain anomalies lacking in their opposing number. This View of theory should not surprise psychoanalytic film theorists. For they should recall the way in which Freud argues for his own theory of dreams. Prior to Freud, dream research regarded dreams as purely somatic phenomena, the reaction of a mental organ veritably sunk in the state of sleep in response to environmental stimuli which partially activate it. By examiningI the content of certain dreauns, Freud showed that this theory was not comprehensive — it did not cover a great many facts presented by the data and that it: was unable. to provide any functional biological account of why we dream. [ , . . ] Freud's own theory not only supplied the wherewithal to aceount for the anomalies ignored by Previous dream research but was also able to identify a candidate for the function of dream, namely, that it was the guardian of sleep. It has been the burden of subsequent researchers to see how well Freud’s theory squares with the data and to develop alternative hypotheses to accormnodate the anomalies in the data that erupt from the. collision between the evidence and Freud's famous generalizations, such as the hypothesis of wish fulfillment Staging the debate between psychoanalytic film theory is too elaborate a task. [ . . . ] One reason for this is that, since cognitivism often proposes piecemeal theories, a thorough confrontation would require facing off each cognitivist theory — of narrative comprehension, of cinematic perception, of the horror film, of melodrama, of film music, and so on W with. its psychoanalytic counterparts, Where there are counterparts. [ . . . ] Nevertheless, it is still possible to offer some overarching comments about the rivalry between cognitivism and psychoanalysis. [ . . . ] [ . . . l Psychoanalysis [ . . . ] kicks in [when] there is an apparent breakdown in the normal functioning of our cognitiveeperceptual processing, our capacities for rational calcula- ti on and decision making, our conative and emotional behavior, our motor capabilities, and so on, which breakdowns cannot be explained either organically or in virtue of the structural features of the processes in question. if i cannot walk because i have lost my legs in a car accident, there is no call for psychoanalysis. But if I am biologically sound, and no rational motive can be supplied for my inaction, psychoanalysis is appropriate. it i am angry Wilt-U 1 3m muggecl: 1.8 I'- Nué'l Carroll ceteris par‘ihus, that is a rational response, where psychoanalysis is out of place. But if i consistently explode whenever a teacher asks me a question, we think about psycho— analysis. [. . .] In short, there is a conceptual constraint on psychoanalysis; it is restricted to dealing with phenomena that cannot be explained by other means. Moreover, this has interesting consequences for the debate between cognitirist and psychoanalytic lilm theories. Namely, wherever a plausible cognitivist theory can be securctl, the burden of proof is shifted to the psychoanalytic theorist. For a plausible cognitivist theory precludes the necessity for psychoanalysis. The mere plausibility of a cognitivist theory gives it a special advantage over psychoanalytic theories of the same pl'JCIlUIIICIlOIL It is not generally the case that the mere plausibility of one scientific theory excludes a respectable, competing theory from the field. But insofar as psycl‘manalysis is defined as just what explains What otherwise has no plausible explanation, psychoanalytic explanation starts with a disadvantage where plausible cognifir-"ist theories are available. Contemporary filrn theorists, like Judith Mayne in her recent book Cinema and Spectatorsiiip, tag cognitivist theorists with the complaint that they simply bracket the psychoanalytic approach, as if willfully. What such criticism fails to comprehend is that where we have a convincing cognitiyist account, there is no point whatsoever in look- ing any further for a psychoanalytic account. It is not the case that psychoanalysis is being unfairly or inexplicably bracketed. it is being retired, unless and until good reasons can be advanced to suppose otherwise. Psychoanalytic theories face a special burden of proof when confronting cognitivist theories. For a psychmuialytic theory to reenter the debate, it must be demonstrated that there is something about the data of which given cognitivist (or organic) explana— tions can give no adequate account, and which, as well, cannot be explained by some other cognitive theory, which remainder is susceptible to psychoanalytic theory alone. I have no argurn out to prove conclusively that no psychoanalytic theory will ever be able to cross this hurdle. But, at the same time, I think it is also fair to say that psycho— analytic tilrn theorists behave as though they are unaware of this obstacle and, in any event, they have failed to meet it even once in their skirmishes will] cognitivists, Because of this special burden of proof, the possibility of pluralistic coexistence between cognitivism and psychoanalysis is never a foregone conclusion. Confronted by cognitivist hypotheses about the perception of the cinematic image, the psycho- analytic critic must Show that their: is something about the phenomena that is alien to Cogtutivist theorizing. That is why it is not enough for psychoanalytic theorists, like Richard W’ollheirn and Richard Allen, to merely tell a coherent, psychoanalytic story about pictorial perception; they must also establish that there is something about the data that eognitivists are tunable to countenance before they, the psychoanalysts, postulate the operation of unconscious psychic mechanisms like projection. For if their cognitivist competitors can frame a coherent, comprehensive account of the data without resorting to unconscious mechanisms, postulating unconscious ones is a nonstarter. Dialectical arguments are primarily matters of shifting the burden of proof between rival theories that are grappling with roughly the same questions. Quite frequently Prospecnfbr Film Theory III 1.9 (most Frequently?) it is difficult to find a Completely decisive refutation of rival thcon les. That is one reason why we must fall hack on the laborious processes of removing the burden of proof from ourselves and redistributing it amongst our competitors. The preceding argument has not shown that psychoanalytic theories of film will never be admissible, At best, what it may Show is that the burden of proof is now With the psychoanalysts. Perhaps they will rise to the occasion. However, if [ am correct in maintaining that Psychoanalytic film theorists have ilOL yet even recognized that they have this burden of proof, then that indicates that, at present, the ball belongs to the cognitivisis. Psychoanalvtic film theorv mav succeed in countering this argument dialectically, but unless it duels, the cantinuhd elaboration of the psychoanalytic paradigm, conducted in isolation from cognitivist challen Ues reprcs ents an evasion of film theory, not a contribution to it. I: l {m} Concluding Remarks l ~ - - l The prospects for film theory hinge on critical drbate. In the best of circumstances the participants of that discussion will include cognitivists, psvchoanalvsts and unaligned scholars. In my view, over the last two decades, film studies has sqluanaclercd What may turn out to have been a once—inanelifetirne opportunity bv ellectivclv stilling debate between Theory and alternative paradigms. ‘thther film theory- has algenuine futtue depends on its becoming truly dialectical ' Can Scientific Models of Theorizing Help Film Theory? Malcolm Turve] And we run, not advance (in)! kind of theory. Thurs must not lit: anything hypothetical in our considerations. . . . The problems are solved, not by giving new infirmatinn, but in! arranging What we have always known. . . . Since everything lies open to View there is nothing to explain. For who! is hidden . . i ii‘ nfna interest to us. Ludwig ‘Wit‘tgcnstein, Philosophical Investigations §109, §126 0v er the last forty years, the prestige of themjx as a method or form of explanation has grown exponentially Within humanistic disciplines. W'hcn scholars of literaturc and the arts want to lcnow what something is or to explain something — a genre, for example, or narrative they are now apt to claim that a theory is needed. Film studies is no CKCCPHOILl Film theory has ( ted almost since the (inema's invention in the 18905. However, it has proliferated since the 19605, when film scholars began following the load of Claude lséviristrauss, Roland Barthes, and utilch in France. who adapted and applied the “structuralU theory of language to a number of cultural forms in the hope of explaining all types of representation, not just language, by the same underlying structure. This theoretical paradigm, known as semiology or semiotics (“the science of Signs”), was quickly extended to the cinema, as were a number of others in the years following, including psychoanalysis, a variety of linguistic and philosophical theories, and (:ngnitivism. VVbile these paradigms vary considerably, their application is pre— mised on the same assumption: that traditional humanistic methods 7 understanding the intentions of filmmakers, interpreting the meanings of their films, identifying the formal and Stylistic conventions they are employing and the iniu'ivations, if any, they are introducing — are insufficient if not misguided in the absence of theoretical explanations,2 Indeed, the prestige of theory has been so great that few within the humanities haw: stopped to a.le whether theoryr is an appropriate method for explaining humanistic subject matter. Things are different elsewhere. In the social sciences, history, philo- sophy, and the natural sciences, there has been a Wide variety of debates since the eighteenth century about whether there is something unique to humanistic subject 20 Ill "1 (3 0e (mall Scientific Models Theorizinfi III 21 ...
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