Graduate Courses, Summer 2012

Times and locations of class meetings are subject to change. Consult the UF Schedule of Courses for an explanation of the class period abbreviations.

Summer Session B

Course no. Time(s) Course title Instructor
downENG 6137 TBA Film Theory: Lyotard Nygren

ENG 6137

Film Theory: Lyotard

Scott Nygren

This seminar will consider film in relation to the theoretical project of Jean-François Lyotard, who is best known for his concept of the postmodern. However, the significance and impact of his work far exceed this.

Lyotard’s project enables us to think of film as a mode of inscription where conceptual and propositional capacities intersect with figural, libidinal and productive effects. Through his texts, we will engage with fundamental issues in the current theorization of film and video, from gender theory and postcoloniality to historiography and heterology.

Lyotard’s work remains radically under-recognized in English language scholarship. Part of this shortcoming is due to the curious limitations and timing of his translation into English, so that his major works appeared out of sequence, and Discourse, Figure from 1971 has only been released in English this year. The seminar will work through available works in English to recover Lyotard’s process of thought. Readings will extend from his earliest book on Phenomenology to his last works on Augustine and Malraux, two figures who for Lyotard come to represent the beginning and end points of the Western metaphysical tradition.

Theoretical work will be mobilized 'next to' a series of filmic texts, to paraphrase Deleuze. In other words, theory will operate as neither hierarchically superior to film as explanatory narrative nor secondary to the text as if a passive interpretation of it, but as a parallel project in different terms. Accordingly, we will proceed by viewing films in relation to texts, to consider how each may inform a reading of the other. Pontecorvo’s film Battle of Algiers will be considered next to Lyotard’s political writings in opposition to France’s war against Algeria. Other films, from Brakhage’s Dog Star Man to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s City of Sadness, will be similarly mobilized in relation to texts from Libidinal Economy to The Differend: Phrases in Dispute.

A broad range of historical, international, documentary, avant-garde and early cinema will be screened as part of the seminar, to extend the parameters of how film is addressed. The complex relationship of avant-garde film with political activism will be of special interest, in order to think through the possibilities of textual agency in a postnational information economy.

Lyotard’s strategies intersect productively with the work of Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Irigaray, Jameson and Deleuze, among others, and some of those intersections will be discussed. However, students are not expected to have read any of the theoretical texts before now, although participants will be encouraged to begin reading this summer before the seminar begins. Lyotard’s work will be presented as both an introduction to theoretical work for new students, and as advanced material for those already conversant with theory.

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