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Jean Luc Who Cares?

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

dp

Ari

over 3 years ago

@Mike. If in the background of a film like Socialisme is Godard’s view of the contemporary condition of the world, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be addressed. It’s obviously not the only thing that can be addressed but it’s part of a larger package. Sure, you can talk about other aspects of the film but for a complete reading. Let me just quote from James Monaco’s The New Wave – “It is important that we see Godard’s politics not so much as a subject for his films but as a way of making them, indeed a way of life. As always, method and subject were inextricably linked, and the job at hand, he was to discover, was ‘not to make political films but to make films politically.’” In that sense, Godard’s works obviously cannot be reduced to his political views or as political commentary but need to be understood in others ways as well but ways that explicitly engage in a discussion of politics. So we can have those discussions as well. Again, this is why I still watch his films even if some of his views make me uncomfortable. But it doesn’t preclude a possibility of discussing what his views are either (especially when they are objectionable). I don’t mind going deeper – there are obviously many layers there and that’s the point. But this is one aspect that is actually relevant.

My comments weren’t directed at you, incidentally. They were directed at the insulting people who had nothing to contribute to the discussion but jumped in to say that the discussion was pointless and moronic (especially in light of all the real pointless and moronic threads right now on this site), should stop, and had nothing to do with art.

“Thinking beyond the zeitgeist is a good first step.”

But it’s actually this resistance to and rejection of politics (and a desire and belief that it needs to be separated from art) that forms part of the contemporary zeitgeist (as evidenced by the hostile posters here who view political discussions as anathema to art).

Robert – a very nice analysis of those scenes. That’s exactly what I had a hazy memory of when I said that Godard has argued that the Jewish people are fiction in his films. Again, it’s not a problem in and of itself but if you take the humanist view like I do to be found in breaking down barriers between people (yes, insert criticism of Israel here for the separation barrier), Godard is doing the opposite – imposing dichotomies between them (I think the flippancy of Godard’s remark in that interview had nothing to do with the bible but equating Israeli life to RealityTV – and by that he meant unreal, superficial, shallow, the crass- the Heidi Montags of the world so to speak).

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

Here’s the thing about NM – I didn’t uh, consider (?) it as about the conflict, but about the root cause which is the use of cultural language and duality therein.
imposing dichotomies between them
But how else could he do it? snap people out of their cultural bindings?

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

“In that sense, Godard’s works obviously cannot be reduced to his political views or as political commentary but need to be understood in others ways as well but ways that explicitly engage in a discussion of politics.”

And the fact that they have evolved over the years must be taken into account. “Cahiers du Cinema” was quite right-wing when it began. Truffaut’s “A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema” is a truly hysterical right-wing screed, attacking seveerla prominent scritwriters for being anti-Catholic. Areal crime in Truffaut’s eyes. Raymond Durgnat Has in his writings on Godard called “Breathless” neo-fascist. I don’t agree but I take his point in that the anti-hero’s attitude if carried to its logical conclusion would be far from salutary. And yet, right there in the climatci scene he quotes Lenin: “We are all dead men on leave.”

In the 1960’s Godard struck zeitgeist paydirt with “Masculin-Femenin” — which dealt with the then-rising youth movement that was a prelude to May ‘68. Then in “La Chinoise”(1967) he predicted May ’68 itself. The Dziga-Vertov Group films that followed, however, found him dragging behind the times into leftist obscurity. Of that era “Letter To Jane” is the best. Godard went on to regroup, most strikingly with the two TV series — “Six Fois Deux” and “France/Tour/Detour/Des Enfants.” The latter evoked the ire of Truffaut most sharply, as Godard interviewed schoolchildren in an entirely non-condescending manner. This straghtforwardness and lack of sentimentality enraged Truffaut. (Curiously this wasn’t brought up in the otherwise good documentary about their relationship “Two on a Wave.”)

Godards politics now is a lot looser and less doctrinaire. But I’ll wait for Ari to look at “Film Socialisme” before continuing on this score.

Patrick Higgins

over 3 years ago

“The insightful critic can discuss It’s a Wonderful Life without reducing it to it simply being a reflection it’s depression era setting. You can and should mine gold from examine the particular eccentricities about human difficulty with expressing personal desires without ignoring social obligations.”

I’m perfectly content to agree to disagree, but a let me address just a couple more things on this topic.

There is enough in a film to allow one to write a decent critique without explicitly delving into the ideological/historical/cultural/social: genre construction, plot development, music, human emotion and conflict. Although I do want to say that all of these things carry with them heavy implications, if not much more than that. As Matt pointed out, these elements of the ideological and the social exist whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. I’d say that if one chooses NOT to acknowledge them, one is leaving some rather crucial stones unturned. (And I should also mention that to view a film is to take a portal into a period of history.)

But that is all just for a critique. How about a discussion? There is where I think my phrase “not possible” was actually necessary. I took a brief look at some of Lord Quas’ past posts to see what kind of discussions of enviable purity he is used to having. I saw posts about Ozu’s sexuality, his views on marriage, and what Japanese society was like in the 30’s; Tsai Ming-liang’s sexuality; He Fengming and the China’s Cultural Revolution, etc. I don’t think he’s wrong for discussing these things. My view holds that these are all very interesting and relevant topics. But is Godard’s views of the Israel-Palestine conflict—and therefore OUR views of Israel-Palestine conflict—any less relevant to Godard’s art and our understanding of it than any of the above matters are to any of the above artist’s works?

To ignore these elements of the cinema is to ignore key reasons for my love of it growing up. Sure, there were universal elements of doubt, suffering, happiness, etc. in the films I was watching from China, Iran, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, etc. But these films also came to me like postcards from around the world, informing me of what was going on in these countries in ways commercialized media could never do.

Interestingly, I was thumbing through Jonathan Rosenbaum’s “Placing Movies” and came across passages that seem to fit right into this discussion. Passages that explain why I have always valued Rosenbaum as a critic and why some seem to find him insufferable. Here’s what he said about “Taxi Driver”: “Great Bernard Hermann score, great performances, the best Scorsese direction to date—turning New York into an expressionist moonscape and another Capital of Pain—all pressed into the service of…what?…But better than Bresson (whom Kael finds ‘perversely academic’), because it also gives you a simulated snuff movie (Scorsese’s endearing monologue) and an exceptionally art My Lai massacre sequence—obligatory to all Serious American Films, because all Serious American Films are about America, right?” I don’t have to agree with Rosenbaum’s assessments of “Taxi Driver” and Scorsese—I don’t—to find his way of looking at movies—relating them to a larger network of phenomena and ideas—stimulating.

“The latter evoked the ire of Truffaut most sharply, as Godard interviewed schoolchildren in an entirely non-condescending manner. This straghtforwardness and lack of sentimentality enraged Truffaut. (Curiously this wasn’t brought up in the otherwise good documentary about their relationship “Two on a Wave.”)”

I always preferred “Les Quatre Cents Coups” to “A Bout De Souffle” because it seemed even more urgent and radical, thematically if not aesthetically. But it’s interesting to see what came of Truffaut. I remember reading in Colin McCabe’s book on Godard about the two filmmaker’s dispute about ‘68. If I remember correctly, Truffaut’s logic for his objection to that year’s events was that he was being forced to choose between the proletariat policemen and “rich kids intoxicated by revolution,” and he felt compelled to side with the former.

El hombre huevo

over 3 years ago

“I took a brief look at some of Lord Quas’ past posts to see what kind of discussions of enviable purity he is used to having.”

Yes, and pretty much all of those posts were in the context of the filmmaker, and the films themselves. I wasn’t arguing over a couple offhand comments in a couple interviews that had been translated two or three separate times.

Oh, and I never claimed to be the example to follow, on this site… just that most of you aren’t. So that, “…enviable purity…” comment is bullshit (but you seem pretty used to that).

“But is Godard’s views of the Israel-Palestine conflict—and therefore OUR views of Israel-Palestine conflict—any less relevant to Godard’s art and our understanding of it than any of the above matters are to any of the above artist’s works?”

You want to discuss Godard’s views on the Israel-Palestine conflict? Fine. There’s plenty to discuss in his films, and nothing to discuss in most interviews.

That’s my objection. That’s what I was “whining” about. It’s actually an incredibly legitimate complaint seeing as almost no one has even mentioned a single Godard film on this thread (kudos to Robert for actually relating this back to his films).

But yes by all means keep arguing about Palestine and Israel and justify it by loosely relating it to some offhand comments Godard may or may not have made. Keep arguing over the interpretation of a meaningless interview as if it means more than actually watching and discussing his films. It certainly is a way to prove how much you know and how smart you are, right?

Matt Parks

over 3 years ago

-The insightful critic can discuss It’s a Wonderful Life without reducing it to it simply being a reflection it’s depression era setting. You can and should mine gold from examine the particular eccentricities about human difficulty with expressing personal desires without ignoring social obligations. The poor but popular cultural studies approach diminishes the difficult but rewarding artistic examination for an easy historical-political reading so that those who are uncomfortable with ambiguity can nail another Christ to the cross and mark off checks for each boring signpost a work supposedly contains that reduces its threat to static understanding. You’re a good guy Ari, but you and others would do well to try to “talk about the film and NOT mention socialism” because that might force you to see deeper into the art than its surface cultural importance to our times and more correctly assess what it has to offer for all times. Thinking beyond the zeitgeist is a good first step.-

^ Ideological position . . . which is fine, I’m not even suggesting it’s a bad one, or one that leads to a critical approach any less flawed than any of the others, but it’s a product of bourgeoisie society, and the less aware of this one is, the more subsumed by bourgeoisie ideology the art becomes.

-I guess it’s which period Godard we’re referring to. In this case, it was the Dziga Vertov Group Godard which became more didactic with overdetermined meanings like the one I used as an example.-

I think Here and Elsewhere is doing something different from what the Vertov films are doing, though. It can easily be read as a sort of deconstruction of the whole Vertov Group project, actually, and it seems to me more of an essay on the images, propaganda, and people’s self-perception.

Here’s an intro to the film written by Serge Daney:

“The film consists of 3 parts, and it’s important to understand the movement animating these 3 parts.

1. The film was undertaken in 1970. At the request of the PLO, JLG goes to the Middle East and shoots several hours of rushes. He returns to France. After the Amman massacres (Sept 1970***), he starts wanting to edit the film. But he discovers he can’t do it.

The first part of the film is composed of the images that JLG went looking for in the Palestinian camps. Eventually, he retains only 5 of them, which are like the image force**** of the PLO’s politics. These images are those that the PLO wants to see broadcast in France. In that sense, they are the images of any propaganda movie. This is the material the film is going to work with.

2. Between 1970 and 1975, Godard tries to come up with an order to edit his film, but he can’t find one. He is very conscious of the fact that many of those he has filmed are now dead and that, as a filmmaker and survivor, he has their image at his disposal. Instead of giving up, he modifies the film and adds other images to the pictures of Palestine, images of France. Mainly of an average French family (the father is unemployed) who watch television. In France, the Left is in a period of retreat and assessment (many dreams have crumbled). It’s also a period where more questions are being asked about the media and their effect on people, about advertising, propaganda, etc.

The second part of the film, the longest and the most complex, cannot be summed up here. It’s an analysis of the “chains of images” in which we are all caught. One of its conclusions is what Godard denounces as “playing the sound too loud” (including the the Internationale), i.e. covering one sound with another, thus becoming incapable of simply seeing what’s in the images.

3. The third part of the film returns to the images of the beginning. But with a dialectical change. There’s no longer one but two voices-over who take the time to watch the images again (like on an editing table) to see both what they are really saying and what’s wrong, to listen to these images. This part is therefore a kind of critique of the first part because it criticises any propaganda, if propaganda means – for a filmmaker – using the image of others to make this image say something else than what the others are saying in it. So what’s at stake is the engagement of a filmmaker as a filmmaker. For it’s in the nature of cinema (delay between the time of shooting and the time of projection) to be the art of here and elsewhere. What Godard says, very uncomfortably and very honestly, is that the true place of the filmmaker is in the AND. A hyphen only has value if it doesn’t confuse what it unites."

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

a product of bourgeoisie society = It’s a Wonderful Life

less aware of this one is, the more subsumed by bourgeoisie ideology the art becomes

Not sure about that logically, in terms of the unawareness reinforcing bourgeoisie tendencies in the reading.

Your answer is that one can not escape one’s bourgeois education.

I want to say one adopts a different system of reading the art.

Matt Parks

over 3 years ago

-Not sure about that logically, in terms of the unawareness reinforcing bourgeoisie tendencies in the reading.-

1.Ideology shapes what we value.
2.As readers, we look for instances of what we value in the work.
3.Finding instances of what we value in the work reinforces the initial ideology.

Lack of awareness makes this a closed system.

-Your answer is that one can not escape one’s bourgeois education-

My answer is that one cannot fully escape one’s bourgeois education (formal or otherwise), but can learn to recognize it when one sees it (a little self-reflexivity goes along way).

-I want to say one adopts a different system of reading the art.-

Yeah, so do I most of the time, if for no other reason than for simplicity’s sake, but saying it doesn’t make it so.

Mike Spence

over 3 years ago

So Matt, you’re saying that the idea of interpreting art without focusing on political or cultural associations is the product of a bourgeois society?

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

but saying it doesn’t make it so

That’s right, the bucket must hold water. It can weep at the seams and some might be spilled, but it must be a perceived as holding water i.e. the argument must have universality (what it has to offer for all times).

Can we move from the word ideology to philosophy? Wouldn’t a cohesive world view override an inculcated ideology? couldn’t a personal philosophy override an education?

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

per Matt:
ideological positions are not hats, you can’t put them on and take them off. Insisting on treating a work of art as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic object isn’t really purging all ideological concerns from aesthetics, for example, it’s just accepting (or maybe turning a blind eye) to the dominant ideology/social narrative, but just because the ideology is not acknowledged doesn’t mean it’s not there, or that it doesn’t have actual effects on both the work and our reading of it. You may think you’re standing still, but the train car you’re standing inside is moving down the tracks.

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

" Truffaut’s logic for his objection to that year’s events was that he was being forced to choose between the proletariat policemen and “rich kids intoxicated by revolution,” and he felt compelled to side with the former"

Pasolini took the same point. But Truffaut was no Pasolini. Truffaut wanted the Cannes Film Fesitval to go on. Godard — and he was scarcely alone in this — wanted to shut it down. It was impossible for Godard and his allies at that time to let Cannes go forth as if everything in France was norml — which it wasn’t.

Godard’s later and more severe break with Truffaut came as a result of “Day For Night” in which he argued that Truffaut was creating the very sort of film he had objected to when he was younger and trying to break into the industry. It’s a point well-taken. The Truffaut of “The 400 Blows” and the Truffaut of “Day For Night” are two entirely different men who don’t appear to be related to one another in any way.

Godard then went the Extra Snark and declared the entire film was made so Truffaut could score with Jackie Bissett.

As if no one had ever done this before — especially Godard.

Matt Parks

over 3 years ago

-So Matt, you’re saying that the idea of interpreting art without focusing on political or cultural associations is the product of a bourgeois society?-

Sort of, yes. What I’m really saying, I think, is that the idea that one can read from a position outside of all political/cultural associations is a product of bourgeois society (though perhaps not exclusively so). It’s a symptom of cultural hegemony. Louis Althusser:

“what thus seems to take place outside ideology (to be precise, in the street), in reality takes place in ideology [….] That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, "I am ideological.""

At the same time, Mike, I agree with you insofar as I don’t think it’s always appropriate or useful to focus on the common types of ideology-based reading. One can and should be aware of ideological contexts, even if one is not focused on them.

-Can we move from the word ideology to philosophy? Wouldn’t a cohesive world view override an inculcated ideology? couldn’t a personal philosophy override an education?-

I’m not sure I’d phrase it in quite those terms, but I think that a sense of our philosophy/world view/education as conditional and contingent goes a long way toward accomplishing this (though I’m not sure I’d put it in exactly those terms) because it’s the beginning of us being able to evalute our own vocabularies, even if this doesn’t actually override it.

Mike Spence

over 3 years ago

“One can and should be aware of ideological contexts, even if one is not focused on them.”

I’m not denying that, say, Shakespeare’s works are a part of Elizabethan culture. I just think that what makes them great is the ways in which they diverge from the dominant culture and provide us with this one gifted writer’s perceptions of his world, and ours. The political cultural reading is more reductive and a symptom of the contemporary need for specific cultural homogenization.

I remember seeing Spike Lee on Oprah or Donahue or something a while back. He was there with the Hudlin brothers, Mario Van Peebles and I think another black filmmaker who makes straight commercial films. Lee’s work is actually pretty commercial in it’s own way but i remember thinking that his work would be more comfortably compared with Scorsese than with the maker’s of House Party and Posse.

Similarly, when articles are written wherein Lee, Charles Burnett and Melvin Van Peebles are all thrown into the blender known as african-american culture more important aspects of their work is lost than whatever knowledge is gained. As with everything else it seems to me that the cultural studies approach is so popular because it’s so easy.

Patrick Higgins

over 3 years ago

“He makes the point in Notre Musique. I forget the exact part but during the interview with the Palestinian writer. It actually provoked Jean Narboni to question him on it…”

Robert did a nice job of breaking down what is actually in the movie. The opening of the film—that stunning succession of war images—sets things up for Godard’s lecture on the text and the image. On the one hand, there is no distinction made between the images of “reality” and the images of the cinema, with Robert Aldrich’s “Kiss Me Deadly” finding itself seamlessly slipped in among images of, among other things and places, the war in former Yugoslavia (if I remember correctly). On the other hand, fictions become realities, realities become fictions, all in that space Godard calls the “void”—the space beside the camera. The veracity of these transitions is established when they are caught in images, i.e. the Palestinians and the Israelies descending into the River Jordan and the shot, reverse-shot of the “juif” and the “musulman,” both of whom are emaciated and suffering.

The other set-up for Godard’s lecture is the scene you mention, Ari. It is important to note that the “Palestinian writer” is the great poet Mahmoud Darwish, who spent his life, among other things, grueling over the issue of the “land,” or of why the tangible area of Palestine means so much to the Palestinians. This is partially explained in the scene, when Darwish notes that even though his people have always existed, they are thought to have just emerged from thin air by the rest of the world, because (and this is my addition) of what people like Golda Meir (as I mentioned somewhere earlier in the thread), Joan Peters (probably a myth of a person), and Saul Bellow have had to say about them. An identity means something to him, because a lack of one seems to enable the abuse of his people by the powers that be. The world still seems totally unaware of who the Palestinians are. The Jews have been anointed with a “question,” whether they want one or not. The Palestinian Question cannot be understood, because few people (in the West, and that is what seems to matter unfortunately) have acknowledged that there is a question, save for Edward Said, who is now dead. But in this scene, Darwish is introducing the “fiction”—victory—and the “documentary”—defeat—before Godard has even entered the film to give his lecture. In doing so, he is also introducing the concept of the shot—the Israeli journalist interviewing him, whose people are the victors, saying things like “You’re talking like a Jew”—and the reverse-shot—himself, a member of the defeated, saying things like “You know why we Palestinians are famous? Because you are our enemy.” If I’m remembering right, Godard shoots the scene accordingly.

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

I trust I’m not the only one to recall the cold contempt Edward Said was held in by the Western status quo during his lifetime and most especially after his death.

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

The original question was: can one read (act) outside of ideology.

Here’s what I was getting at semantically:
Philosophy is something projected out from an individual onto society.
Ideology is something projected out from society onto an individual.

The axiomatic truths are saying we are inescapably locked into an environmental ideology (as if an environment is an ideology).
can read from a position outside of …. political/cultural associations is a product of bourgeois society
In essence, the bourgeois are apolitical/acultural – they are acted upon ideologically and are unaware of this fact.

How does the ‘new’ come about? Where does change or progress come from?
It must originate with an individual’s awareness given the axiomatic truths. The ideology, change through conformity, happens later.
If so, then an individual can act (read an artwork) ex-ideology. But it would take a philosophic structure for the individual to do that – is what I want to suggest.
Isn’t that how criminals are depicted? – they are acting on internal philosophy – their power dynamics are ex-ideology. e.g. In the film, Bonnie & Clyde have the Robin Hood ideology placed on them by society.

Nonetheless, if you want to tell me nothing has significantly or fundamentally changed, that all of human existence has been nothing more than variations on the same theme……I’m listening.

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

A “philosphic structure”? Why go so far? An intelligent individaul should be one aware of the ideological matrix AND ways that he or she can challnge it . Certainly artists are of considerable import in this.

Godard was born into the upper middle-class, and in the process of becmoing the artist that he is broke away from it. His life — as I’ve suggested in previous posts — includes furhter breaks and shifts reaching the point where he is today.

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

Well yes, but a structure allows the philosophy to be tested, to have the cohesiveness or universality be provable.

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

Also, one of the problematic points in this discussion is going to be the use of philosophers and sociologists who aren’t primarily concerned with individuals, being that individuals are a bundle of random beliefs.
For example, an artist’s belief might be:
An artist needs to know, by way of their creation, they are alone in the world.
(Based on a reaction Mann had to Hesse’s Magister Ludi. )

There is a philosophical belief, but it can’t be practically turned into a philosophy for the creation of art. Society on the other hand ideologizes that belief when seeking out ‘uniqueness’.

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

Well that opens the discussion onto a much larger fron than Godard alone.

He has, of course, otuched on philosphical ideas over the years just as he has touched on things relating to art, music, drama, literature and film history.

In “Vivre sa Vie” a key scene finds philosopher Brice Parian talking in a cafe with Anna Karina

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

Robert W Peabody III

over 3 years ago

Right there in that clip Parian is mentioning asceticism, which would be a philosophical way away from bourgeois ideology.

gojira

over 3 years ago

This is one of the best discussion threads I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. My thanks to all of you.

Matt Parks

over 3 years ago

-How does the ‘new’ come about? Where does change or progress come from?
It must originate with an individual’s awareness given the axiomatic truths. The ideology, change through conformity, happens later.
If so, then an individual can act (read an artwork) ex-ideology. But it would take a philosophic structure for the individual to do that – is what I want to suggest.
-

I’m hesitant to use the term “philosophy” and its derivatives because of the presumption of a objectivity—god’s-eye view. Change comes about because people aren’t clockwork oranges, so to speak.

More to say on this, I’ll be back when another window time opens up for me.

Matt Parks

over 3 years ago

-For example, an artist’s belief might be:
An artist needs to know, by way of their creation, they are alone in the world.
(Based on a reaction Mann had to Hesse’s Magister Ludi. )
There is a philosophical belief, but it can’t be practically turned into a philosophy for the creation of art. Society on the other hand ideologizes that belief when seeking out ‘uniqueness’.
-

-Where does change or progress come from?-

To me, Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, & Solidarity is helpful here, (forgive me for the piecing-together that follows . . . I don’t have the book in front of me):

Dennis Dutton:
“For Rorty, the history of science, politics, and morals is a history of successive redescriptions, and the more redescriptions and re-redescriptions we experience, the less hold any of them has on us. He remarks that “it somehow became possible, toward the end of the nineteenth century, to take the activity of redescription more lightly than it had ever been taken before . . . to see redescription as a tool rather than a claim to have discovered essence . . . The One Right Description” . . . the ironist is content to see his language, conscience, morality, and highest hopes “as contingent products, as literalization of what once were accidentally produced metaphors.” It is such a “self-identity which suits one for citizenship” in Rorty’s liberal utopia.” (Dennis Dutton)

Rorty:
“We redescribe ourselves, our situation, our past . . . and compare the results with alterate rediscriptions with the vocabularies of other figures. We ironists hope, by this continual redescription, to make the best selves for ourselves that we can.”

Scott Holland:
“Rorty thinks we should have a profound curiosity about the stories of others. He suggests that the most interesting intellectual becomes familiar with as many language games and vocabularies as possible through reading novels, poetry, ethnographies, journalism and criticism. In fact, he contends that literary criticism has become the presiding intellectual discipline for those seeking moral advise beyond the universalizing temptations of philosophy and the moralizing tone of theology. Through reading other people’s stories and by attending to the play of intertextuality the careful critic may see traces of one text in another. He may observe how one story displaces a prior narrative in one context yet in another context supplements it. Rorty suggests that nothing can serve as a criticism of the temptation to stop at a final vocabulary except another such vocabulary. There is no answer to a description but a redescription; there is no answer to a redescription but a “re-redescription.” (”Scott Holland":http://www.crosscurrents.org/hollandwinter2004.htm )

Rorty again:
“Such comparisons . . . is the principal activity now covered by the term “literary criticism.” Influential critics . . . are not in the business of explaining the real meanings of books, nor of evaluating something called their “literary merit.” Rather, they spend their time placing books in the context of other books, figures in the context of other figures. This placing is done in the same way as we place a new friend or enemy in the context of old friends and enemies. In the course of doing so, we revise our opinion of both the old and the new. Simultaneously, we revise our own moral identity by revising our own final vocabulary. Literary criticism does for ironists what the search for universal moral principles is supposed to do for metaphysicians.

For us ironists, nothing can serve as a criticism of a final vocabulary save another such vocabulary; there is no answer to redescription save a re-re-description . . . our doubts about our characters or our own cultures can be resolved our assuaged only by enlarging our acquaintance. Ironists are afraid that they will get stuck in the vocabulary in which they were brought up if they only now people in their own neighborhood, so they try to get acquainted with strange people . . . strange families . . . and strange communities."

Scott Holland:
“This critical recognition that vocabularies, individuals and communities are contingent products of time and place does not mean that one must live without personal convictions or social commitments. On the contrary, a thinker like Rorty is deeply committed to social hopes. In his words, he has passionate hopes for “a global, cosmopolitan, democratic, egalitarian, classless, casteless society.”17 Yet he insists one must understand the place of “private irony” alongside such “liberal hopes.” What is private irony? It is the recognition that one must doubt the finality of the vocabulary which anchors one’s convictions and commitments. It is holding a final vocabulary with a certain lightness of being, recognizing it is a strategic rather than a static source of moral advise. This is because the ironist has been also impressed by other quite different vocabularies taken as final, which she has encountered in people of character, in books and in art.”

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

Godard was very much opposed to successive descriptions. There’s a grat interview he gave to Vahiers at the time “La Chinoise” was released in whcih he takes exception to the way “The Reverend Doctor Foucault” describes history — secioning it off into periods that Godard felt were marked far too distinctively. IOW as if one went to bed in one philosophical era and woke up the next day in another.

Matt Parks

over 3 years ago

Yes, David, . . .

“If I’m not so fond of Foucault, it’s because he’s always saying, ‘During this period, people thought ’A,B,C’; but, after such and such a precise date, it was thought, rather, that ‘1,2,3’.’ Fine but can you really be so sure?”

. . . but isn’t it the surety of Foucault’s critical propositions that Godard is taking issue with (“can you really be sure?”)? Rorty’s answer to “can you really be sure?” would be that no, of course you can’t be (“one must doubt the finality of the vocabulary which anchors one’s convictions and commitments”), but what you do with these propositions, if they seem to be the most useful ones available, is use them contingently until something more useful comes along (“tool rather than essence”). So, for Rorty, knowledge is not like a a series of layers that one can neatly dig through as it was for Foucault, but more like a matrix of related propositions that changes with each new proposition that is introduced.

David Ehrenst​ein

over 3 years ago

It’s also a matter of temperament.Godard and Foucault didn’t hang in the same circles — to put it mildly.