Signatures of the Visible
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"The visual is essentially pornographic," writes Fredric Jameson, "films ask us to stare at the world as though it were a naked body." In Signatures of the Visible, one of America's most influential critics explores film and the culture surrounding it, interrogating the relationship between the imaginative screen world and the historical world onto which it is projected. By seeking the historical dimension of the visual, Jameson evaluates the power of the filmic form as a vehicle for the critique of culture and the diagnosis of social life. Jameson pursues this investigation through readings of politics, class, allegory, magic realism, and "the historical" in such films as Diva, The Shining, and Dog Day Afternoon. Throughout the book, he is concerned with the relationship between the achievements and limits of contemporary film theory itself, "a relationship," he argues, "which allows one to take the temperature of history itself."
influence in American life which such representations attribute to it. The function of the Mafia narrative is indeed to encourage the conviction that the deterioration of the daily life in the United States today is an ethical rather than economic matter, connected, not with profit, but rather "merely" with dishonesty, and with some omnipresent moral corruption whose ultimate mythic source lies in the pure Evil of the Mafiosi themselves. For genuinely political insights into the economic
"The soul is a vast landscape into which we flee." One can thus seek one's paradise, as the historic Karl May did, in so many trips and voyages to the real sites of his fantasies, thereby knowing ultimate failure as May himself did in his breakdown.... Karl May transposed all his problems and his enemies into the figures of his adventures in the wild West and in an orient that extended all the way to China. [In the film] we return them to their origins and see his filmic life as the projected
to suggest is something I already tried to demonstrate in the concluding section of The PrisonHouse of Language, namely that where for whatever historical or ideological reason such "concrete" criticism was impossible, the resultant formalism would attempt to correct itself by an operation which I described as the projection of form onto content, or better still, the transformation of a formal structure or feature into a type of content in its own right. Nor is it necessary to be particularly
technicolor. Fever, meanwhile, dwells if anything even more obsessively on violence and in particular on assassination as a political weapon: in the anarchist tradition of "terrorism," or of propaganda by the deed, in the spirit of the assassination attempts on the Czars, of the bande a Bonnot or the Haymarket, of Conrad's Secret Agent, or of the IRA well up into our own time. The film is in fact the story of a bomb, whose intricate itinerary and destiny we witness from its construction by a
longer exists, is no longer historically or formally possible; or on the other hand takes on unexpected new and transgressive forms. Ill This description of realism in terms of the un- or not-yet-spoken— a description which includes the social, insofar as it necessarily implies the originating presence of a group whose experience has been thus linguistically "repressed" and "marginalized" (terms not quite appropriate for a kind of experience that never knew expression in the first place)—can