Tuesday, June 10, 2008


by J J Cohen

This looks intriguing.

Patricia MacCormack, Anglia Ruskin University, UK

Cinesexuality explores the queerness of cinema spectatorship, arguing that cinema spectatorship represents a unique encounter of desire, pleasure and perversion beyond dialectics of subject/object and image/meaning; an extraordinary 'cinesexual' relationship, that encompasses each event of cinema spectatorship in excess of gender, hetero- or homosexuality, encouraging all spectators to challenge traditional notions of what elicits pleasure and constitutes desiring subjectivity.

Through a variety of cinematic examples, including abstract film, extreme films and films which present perverse sexuality and corporeal reconfiguration, Cinesexuality encourages a radical shift to spectatorship as itself inherently queer beyond what is watched and who watches. Film as its own form of philosophy invokes spectatorship thought as an ethics of desire. Original, exciting and theoretically sophisticated – focusing on continental philosophy, particularly Guattari, Deleuze, Blanchot, Foucault, Lyotard, Irigaray and Serres – the book will be of interest to scholars and students of queer, gender and feminist studies, film and aesthetics theory, cultural studies, media and communication, post-structural theory and contemporary philosophical thought.

Contents: Series editors' preface: for the love of cinema; Spectatorship: an inter-kingdom desire; A cinema of desire: cinesexuality and asemiosis; Cinemasochism; Baroque cinesexuality; Baroque becomings; Zombies without organs; Necrosexuality; The ecosophy of spectatorship; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author: Patricia MacCormack is Senior Lecturer in Communication and Film at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Her principal research interests are in continental philosophy, particularly the works of Deleuze, Guattari, Irigaray, Foucault, Bataille, Lyotard and Blanchot and she has published extensively in these areas. She has also written on a diverse range of issues such as body modification, post-human ethics, performance art, monster theory and particularly Italian horror film.

'In film and cultural theory, we have lived too long in the age of signification and identification. In her brilliant and challenging book, Cinesexuality, Patricia MacCormack brings us into the era of intensity and becoming. Offering an Anti-Oedipus for image theory, MacCormack has produced a completely original approach to spectatorship as a corporeal and material distribution of desire beyond dialectics. For many readers, this will be an intensely liberating book.'
D.N. Rodowick, Harvard University, USA

'MacCormack is the ultimate third millennium sexual radical: she subverts discussions about the gender of the gaze with bold insights into the ethics and the erotics of contemporary spectatorship. She swaps linguistic regimes of signification for corporeal perspectives, semiotics for affect, identifications for hybrid contagions and exemplary cases for productive anomalies. This is a wickedly clever trans-disciplinary analysis of who we are in the process of becoming.'
Rosi Braidotti, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Extracts from this title including a full contents list, Chapter 1 - Spectatorship: an inter-kingdom desire, and the index are available to view here.


Karl Steel said...

Being a poisonous old coot, I say, yes, this looks interesting (Zombies without organs: that tickles my brains), but in reading this--even with knowing next to nothing about film theory--I get a kind of "finally! of course!" feeling: despite Eileen's recent hospital post, we're overall turning--or is this just the ITM trend?--away from analyses of nastiness, closure, and impossibility and towards more affirmative, affective engagements that discover communities (and love affairs) of text and reader (MacCormack speaks of "Deleuze and Guattari’s differentiation between a will to truth and a will to possibility" (15)). So I'm hitting the same schematic points I made in my comments on EJ hospital material, and I wonder again about the possibilities of irresponsible scholarship, or if it's just to call our affirmative scholarship "irresponsible."

I also wonder about "Through a variety of cinematic examples, including abstract film, extreme films and films which present perverse sexuality and corporeal reconfiguration." I want (ha) to imagine that this is just the publisher talking: after all, it wouldn't do to emphasize a queer engagement with, say, total failures like Under Capricorn, pretentious masculinist midlife fantasies like Seconds (or American Beauty or Fight Club etc.), or forgotten shock comedies like The Loved One. And perhaps it's just marketing that slips in MacCormack's interest in Italian horror.

But the deliberately, maybe mannered interest in the self-consciously outré reminds me of queer engagements with the Pardoner that offer the Pardoner up as the most queer of pilgrims. (Warning: possible strawman approaching). As I complained before, no doubt stealing this idea from someone else, there is no such thing as normative sexuality (if there were, it'd be monstrous: pure rape or pure victimhood, or, at best, something like Augustine's prelapsarian sexuality, viz., intent without desire). Which of the pilgrims exhibits a sexuality without excess? Probably only the virtually asexual pilgrims (Parson and Plowman); even the "normative" Guildsmen go astray at the end of their portrait, which envelops them in the social desires of their wives. What I'm saying, then, is that I want MacCormack (et al.) to discover the pollution of queering in all movies.

An ideal book for me might be one on queer children in film. One could include the obvious options (The Bad Seed, Fanny and Alexander, Kids, Forbidden Games, The Shining, any number of other 'creepy children' horror films, probably even Kubrick's Lolita as an example of excessive caution), but I'd like it to start with one of my favorite scenes, in Nothing Sacred Fredric March is a reporter come from NYC to some small town. People are pretty hostile there, but none so much as the little kid who sneaks up on him, bites him in the calf, and then runs off. This is about 10 second of joke, the kid never (iirc) appears again, but I can't get it out of my head: it's probably the most hilarious and creepy moment I've ever experienced with a film outside of the ))<>(( joke in Me and You and Everyone We Know (if you don't know what this symbol represents, please ask an adult). Less obvious movies for inclusion in my fantasy book include Sparrows, Peter Ibbetson, and Village of the Damned.

....NEW POLL PLEASE! (I call dibs on poll position after the Book Club poll).

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I hope that affirmative deleuzoguattrian modes aren't just an ITM trend because I'd like to think I've been riding them since c.1992. Irresponsible, perverse, preposterous ... there are many words for the mode (though I am really liking your "irresponsible" because it does get away from that accountability demand -- in its worst form, to that internalized censor that a famous historian was preaching on behalf of at Kzoo).

Karl, GREAT point about the Pardoner and the Canterbury pilgrims. There's been some work that attempts this (Burger, Bowers) but not enough acknowledgment by most that the Pardoner does not -- despite Harry's threat -- stand alone.

Bad Seed is my favorite monster-child film, followed by Pet Cemetery, in which the signifier of the zombie child's vast evil is his top hat.

And thank you as well for providing the emoticon for "Sheela na Gig."